Reformed expositions of the Second Commandment (Part 1)...
Realizing some of our good readers are Lutheran and others Roman Catholic or Orthodox, I trust them to understand that both my brother, David, and I (as well as the officers of both churches we serve) subscribe to the Westminster Standards as containing the system of doctrine taught by Scripture. "The Westminster Standards" is the comprehensive label for three documents--the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Also, here is a page of harmonies of reformed catechisms.
Here then is Part 1 of compilation of expositions of the Second Commandment by reformed men taking as their starting point Questions 49-51 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Although I've changed some of the formatting, this text is from the Westminster Shorter Catechism Project, a web site I highly commend...
Beattie, Francis R.; The Presbyterian Standards
This command is much longer in its terms than the first, and has some important reasons attached to it. It is as follows: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything 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; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity 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."
It will be observed that this command indicates the true mode of worship, just as the first pointed out the only object of worship. The right manner in which the true God is to be properly worshipped is a matter of much importance, for many who believe in the one true God err in the mode in which they worship him. This command, therefore, is of much practical value.
1. The Duties Required. In general, this command requires us to receive, observe, and keep pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in his word. The Larger Catechism says, further, that particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ, the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word and the administration of the sacraments, are to be regarded as parts of worship. Under this command, also, the observance of the government and discipline of the church, and the maintenance of the ministry thereof, are said to be required by this command. Religious fasting, swearing by the name of God, and making lawful vows to God, are also to be approved. All false modes of worship are to be disapproved, detested, and opposed by the requirements of this command. And all monuments of idolatry are to be removed as far as possible. Here the sphere of foreign missions is open before our eyes.
2. The Sins Forbidden. In a general way, this command forbids the worshipping of God by images, or in any other way not appointed in his word. The Larger Catechism further explains this to include the forbidding of the devising, using, or approving in any way, any religious worship not instituted by God himself. So, also, the making of any representations of God, or of any of the persons of the Trinity, either in the mind or by any outward image or likeness of any creature whatever, and the worshipping of such image as God, or worshipping God by means of it, is condemned. The making of any false deities, and all worship or service of them, is forbidden also. Further, all corruption of worship of the true God by superstitious devices, all human additions to the worship of God, or the omission of what is enjoined in the Scriptures by God, whether invented by ourselves or received by tradition from others, no matter how ancient or widely observed, are condemned by this command. Finally, in connection with the mode of worship, all simony and sacrilege, all neglect and contempt for the worship and ordinances required by God's word, are equally forbidden by the scope of this commandment.
It will be seen that the exposition given in the Standards, both of this command and of the first, is pointed against the doctrines of Rome. The first is directed against its idolatry, and the second against the use of images, and its unscriptural additions to religious worship. But the Standards do not enter into any controversy upon these questions, so that the present explanation need only point out the fact above indicated in regard to the attitude of the Standards in relation to Rome.
3. The Reasons Attached to this Command.
These reasons are found in the latter part of the command, and are summed up under three heads in the Catechisms.
First, There is God's sovereignty over us. He is our creator, and we are dependent upon him for our being, and all our blessings. He is also our moral governor, and has a right to require of us whatever is in harmony with the conditions of the moral government under which we are placed. That we should worship him in the way he appoints, and in no other, naturally follows from this. Secondly, God has propriety in us. He has made us with the moral nature which we possess; and, having giving it to us, it is proper that the return of homage and service which that nature can make should be given to him. This divine ownership of us is a strong reason for the claim which God makes upon us for worship. And, Thirdly, God has a zeal for his own proper worship. This being the case, all false worship, or anything which does not honor the requirements of God, as to worship, must be distasteful to him, who will have no other to even share the homage which he alone claims exclusively for himself. And he will surely punish those who hate and dishonor him, and richly reward those who love and worship and serve him aright.
Fischer, James (and other pastors); The Assembly's Shorter Catechism Explained, By Way of Question and Answer; In Two Parts
WSC Question 49: Which is the Second Commandment?
Answer: The Second Commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any 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: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity 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.
WSC Question 50: What is required in the Second Commandment?
Answer: The Second Commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.
Q. 1. What is the opinion of the Papists respecting this commandment?
A. They allege that it is not a distinct precept from the first, but only an appendix, or supplement to it, by way of illustration.
Q. 2. What is their practice, in consequence of this opinion?
A. They constantly leave it out in their mass books and other liturgies of their church, lest the people should observe the manifest contrariety of their image worship, to what is here so expressly forbidden.
Q. 3. In what then does the Second Commandment differ from the first?
A. The First Commandment respects the object, and requires that we worship the true God for our God, and no other: the second respects the means of worship, and requires that the true God be worshipped in such a way only, and by such ordinances as he has appointed in his word, in opposition to all human inventions.
Q. 4. What is meant by religious worship?
A. That homage and respect we owe to a gracious God, as a God of infinite perfection; by which we profess subjection to, and confidence in him, as our God in Christ, for the supply of all our wants; and ascribe the praise and glory that is due to him, as our chief good, and only happiness, Psalm 95:6, 7.
Q. 5. What are these religious ordinances, which God has appointed in his word?
A. They are "prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word, the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God; and vowing to him."
Q. 6. Is prayer a moral duty founded in the law of nature?
A. It certainly is; the necessary dependence of the rational creature upon its Creator, plainly proves it to be so. Hence we find the very Heathens practising it, when reduced to straits, Jonah 1:14.
Q. 7. How does it appear to be an instituted means of worship?
A. From a variety of scripture texts enjoining the practice of it, in all cases and circumstances, Psalm 50:15; Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17.
Q. 8. What is acceptable prayer?
A. It is an asking in Christ's name, what God has promised to give, John 14:13; with a full persuasion that he hears, and will answer, Mark 11:24; James 1:6.
Q. 9. How manifold is religious thanksgiving?
A. TWOFOLD; stated and occasional.
Q. 10. What is stated thanksgiving?
A. It is not only the thankful acknowledgment of mercies daily received, which is a branch of prayer; but likewise the singing the praises of God with the voice, which is a stated act of worship, distinct from prayer, though ejaculatory prayer ought always to be joined with it, Psalm 57:7.
Q. 11. How do you prove that singing with the voice is a stated act of worship appointed under the New Testament?
A. From the example of Christ and his apostles, who, after the first supper, sang a hymn, (or psalm, as on the margin,) Matt. 26:30; and from the injunction laid upon all Christians to be employed in this exercise, as a stated duty, Eph. 5:18, 19; James 5:13.
Q. 12. What should be the subject matter of our praises to God?
A. The psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, which are dictated by the Spirit of God in scripture; and not any human composure whatever, Eph. 5:19.
Q. 13. In what manner should these be sung?
A. "With grace in our hearts to the Lord," Col. 3:16.
Q. 14. What is it to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord?
A. It is to have our hearts going along with our voice, in suitable acts of faith, and elevated affections, Psalm 57:7.
Q. 15. Are not the Psalms of David, as we sing them in our language, of human composure?
A. The translation in metre is human, but the sense and meaning are the same as the original.
Q. 16. What is occasional thanksgiving?
A. It is the setting some time apart for giving thanks to God, on account of some remarkable mercy and deliverance, respecting either churches and nations in general, Neh. 12:27; or ourselves and families in particular, Eph. 5:20.
Q. 17. How ought we to engage in this duty?
A. With an humble sense of our utter unworthiness of the least of all God's favours, 2 Sam. 7:18.
Q. 18. Are reading, hearing, and preaching of the word, acts of worship?
A. Although they are not acts of such immediate worship as prayer and praise, in which God is immediately addressed; yet being the instituted and ordinary means of salvation, they ought to be practised and attended with that reverence and regard which is due to the great God our Saviour, who is present in them, Matt. 28:20; Acts 10:33.
Q. 19. How are the administration and receiving of the sacraments acts of worship?
A. As in them, by the sensible signs of divine appointment, Christ, and his benefits, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers, Gal. 3:26; 1 Cor. 11:26.
Q. 20. In what sense are church government and discipline to be ranked among the ordinances of divine worship?
A. In as far as they are exercised in the name of the Lord Jesus, the alone head of the church, according to the rule of his word, by church judicatories lawfully constituted, Matt. 18:20.
Q. 21. Why are the ministry and the maintenance of it placed among religious ordinances?
A. Because, as a standing ministry in the church, till the end of time, is of express divine institution, Eph. 4:11-13; so the suitable and comfortable maintenance of it, is as expressly appointed, not only in the Old Testament, Num. 18:21, 24; but likewise in the New, 1 Cor. 9:13, 14 -- "Do ye not know, that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."
Q. 22. What is religious fasting?
A. "A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out, till the fast be ended,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights." Josh. 7:6; Judges 20:26.
Q. 23. Is bodily fasting, or bare abstinence from food, any part of religious worship?
A. Not properly in itself; but as it is a mean of divine appointment, for fitting and disposing us for more spiritual and solemn exercises.
Q. 24. How does fasting appear to be a mean of divine appointment?
A. From the practice of the saints under the Old Testament, Esth. 4:16; Dan. 10:2, 3; from the testimony of Christ, Matt. 6:17, 18, and 17:21; and the example of his apostles under the New, Acts 13:3; and 14:23.
Q. 25. What are those spiritual and solemn exercises for which fasting is designed to dispose us?
A. Deep humiliation of soul before the Lord on account of sin, Ezra 9:6; free confession of it, Dan. 9:20, and turning from it, Joel 2:12, as the genuine fruits of our taking hold of God's covenant, Jer. 50:4, 5; together with an importunate requesting of our gracious God, for that which is the particular occasion of the fast, Psalm 35:13.
Q. 26. Is religious fasting an occasional or a stated duty?
A. It is merely occasional and extraordinary, to be observed as the call of Providence may require and direct.
Q. 27. What are the occurrences in providence, which are a call to this extraordinary duty?
A. "When some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people," Dan. 9:3, 12-14, "or apparently imminent," 2 Chron. 20:2-4; "or, by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved," 1 Sam. 7:3, 6; "as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained," ver. 5, 8, 10.
Q. 28. Is swearing by the name of God an act of immediate and instituted worship?
A. It is undoubtedly: and that either when we devote ourselves to God in a covenant of duties, Deut. 6:13, or declare the truth upon oath, when called thereto: because, in both cases the name of God is solemnly interposed and invoked, Jer. 4:2.
Q. 29. To whom are vows to be made?
A. To God alone, as the only party and witness in the making and performing of them, Psalm 76:11 -- "Vow and pay unto the LORD your GOD."
Q. 30. What should be the subject matter of our vows to God?
A. Nothing except what may tend either to promote the practice of commanded duty, Psalm 119:57, or prevent the commission of any sin to which we are more ordinarily inclined and addicted, verse 106.
Q. 31. What does this commandment require, with respect to all those ordinances, and parts of worship, which God has appointed in his word?
A. The receiving and observing them; and keeping them pure and entire.
Q. 32. What is it to receive God's ordinances?
A. It is to approve of, and embrace them, as bearing the stamp of his authority upon them, Psalm 84:1, 2.
Q. 33. What is it to observe them?
A. It is to set about the practice of them, or to be actually employed in them, Psalm 55:17, and 119:164; Luke 2:37.
Q. 34. What is it to keep the ordinances of God pure?
A. It is to contribute our utmost endeavour to preserve them from all mixture of human invention, Deut. 12:32.
Q. 35. What is it to keep them entire?
A. It is, in the exercise of faith, to attend upon each of them in its proper season, so as that one duty may not jostle out another, Luke 1:6.
Q. 36. What does God require of us in this command, with reference to all false worship?
A. He requires "the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship, Psalm 16:4; and according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry, Deut. 7:5."
WSC Question 51: What is forbidden in the Second Commandment?
Answer: The Second Commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
Q. 1. What are the leading sins forbidden in this commandment?
A. Idolatry and will-worship.
Q. 2. What is the idolatry here condemned?
A. The worshipping of God by images: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," &c.
Q. 3. What is an image?
A. It is a statue, picture, or likeness of any creature whatever.
Q. 4. Is it lawful to have images or pictures of mere creatures?
A. Yes, provided they be only for ornament; or the design be merely historical, to transmit the memory of persons and their actions to posterity.
Q. 5. Can any image or representation be made of God?
A. No; it is absolutely impossible; he being an infinite, incomprehensible Spirit, Isa. 40:18 -- "To whom will ye liken God? or, what likeness will ye compare unto him?" If we cannot delineate our own souls, much less the infinite God; Acts 17:29 -- "We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."
Q. 6. What judgment should we form of those who have devised images of God, or of the persons of the adorable Trinity?
A. We should adjudge their practice to be both unlawful and abominable.
Q. 7. Why unlawful?
A. Because directly contrary to the express letter of the law in this commandment, and many other scriptures, such as, Jer. 10:14, 15; Hos. 13:2, and particularly Deut. 4:15-19, 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," &c.
Q. 8. How is it abominable?
A. As debasing the Creator of heaven and earth to the rank of his own creatures; and a practical denial of all his infinite perfections, Psalm 50:21.
Q. 9. May we not have a picture of Christ, who has a true body?
A. By no means; because, though he has a true body and a reasonable soul, John 1:14, yet his human nature subsists in his divine person, which no picture can represent, Psalm 45:2.
Q. 10. Why ought all pictures of Christ to be abominated by Christians?
A. Because they are downright lies, representing no more than the picture of a mere man: whereas, the true Christ is God-man; "Immanuel, God with us," 1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 1:23.
Q. 11. Is it lawful to form any inward representation of God, or of Christ, upon our fancy, bearing a resemblance to any creature whatever?
A. By no means; because this is the very inlet to gross outward idolatry: for, when once the Heathens "became vain in their imaginations, they presently changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things," Rom. 1:21, 23.
Q. 12. What is it to worship God by images, according to the idolatrous practice of Papists?
A. It is either to make use of images, as pretended helps to devotion; or, to worship God before the images of saints, as intercessors with him.
Q. 13. Can any feigned image of God, or of Christ, be helpful in devotion?
A. No; it is the Spirit only who helpeth our infirmities in all acts of spiritual devotion, Rom. 8:26; and that faith which is necessary for acceptance in duty, fixes upon the word of the living God, as its sole foundation, and not upon dead images, Luke 16:31.
Q. 14. Will it excuse any from the charge of idolatry, that they pretend to worship the true God before images, or by them, as means of worship, and not the very images themselves?
A. Not at all; because this is a mean of worship expressly forbidden in this commandment, which prohibits all bowing down before images, upon whatever pretext it be -- "Thou shalt not BOW DOWN thyself to them, nor serve them."
Q. 15. Do they worship images who bow down before them, even though it be the true God they intend to worship by them?
A. In scripture reckoning they do; Isa. 2:8, 9 -- "Their land is full of idols: they worship the work of their own hands. The mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself."
Q. 16. Was it the ultimate intention of the Israelites in the wilderness to pay divine worship to the golden calf itself; or, to JEHOVAH, by it, and before it?
A. It was undoubtedly their ultimate intention to worship JEHOVAH, the true God, before that image; as appears from Ex. 32:5 -- "When Aaron saw it, he built an altar BEFORE IT; -- and said, "To-morrow is a feast to the Lord," (or JEHOVAH, as it is in the original.) And yet, because they did this, so directly contrary to the very letter of this commandment, they are charged with worshipping the image itself, verse 8:-- "They have made them a golden calf, and have worshipped IT," &c.
Q. 17. Do not they who honour the picture of a prince, honour the prince himself?
A. If the prince forbid the making of his picture, it is a contempt of his authority to have it. God has strictly prohibited all images for religious purposes, and therefore it is impious to have or use them for these ends, Lev. 26:1, 30.
Q. 18. May images be worshipped at all, upon their own account?
A. No; because they are the work of man's hands: far inferior in dignity to man himself, Isa. 45:9-18.
Q. 19. May they be worshipped on account of their ORIGINALS; or those whom they are designed to represent?
A. They may not; whether designed to represent God, or the saints.
Q. 20. Why may they not be worshipped as they are designed to represent God?
A. Because he never put his name in them; but declares his greatest hatred and detestation of them, Jer. 44:2-9.
Q. 21. Why may they not be worshipped as they are designed to represent eminent saints?
A. Because saints, however eminent, are only mere creatures; and therefore cannot be the objects of worship, either in themselves, or by their images, Acts 14:14, 15.
Q. 22. Can saints in heaven be intercessors for sinners on earth?
A. No; because intercession being founded on satisfaction, none but CHRIST can be the intercessor, as none but he is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1, 2.
Q. 23. Is it lawful, as some plead, to have images or pictures in churches, though not for worship, yet for instruction, and raising the affections?
A. No; because God has expressly prohibited not only the worshipping but the MAKING of any image whatever on a religious account; and the setting them up in churches, cannot but have a natural tendency to beget a sacred veneration for them; and therefore ought to be abstained from, as having at least an "appearance of evil," Isa. 45:9-18. 1 Thess. 5:22.
Q. 24. May they not be placed in churches for beauty and ornament?
A. No; the proper ornament of churches is the sound preaching of the gospel, and the pure dispensation of the sacraments, and other ordinances of divine institution.
Q. 25. Were not the images of the cherubims placed in the tabernacle and temple, by the command of God himself?
A. Yes; but out of all hazard of any abuse, being placed in the holy of holies, where none of the people ever came: they were instituted by God himself, which images are not; and they belonged to the typical and ceremonial worship, which is now quite abolished.
Q. 26. Are our forefathers to be blamed for pulling down altars, images, and other monuments of idolatry, from places of public worship at the Reformation?
A. No; they had Scripture precept and warrant for what they did, Num. 33:52, and Deut. 7:5 -- "Ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire."
Q. 27. What do you understand by will-worship, the other leading sin forbidden in this command?
A. It is the worshipping God in any other way not appointed in his word.
Q. 28. Should there be an express appointment in the word for every part of divine worship in which we engage?
A. Undoubtedly there should; otherwise we are guilty of innovating upon the worship of God, and prescribing rules to the Almighty, which is both displeasing to him, and unprofitable to ourselves, Matt. 15:9.
Q. 29. Who are they that are guilty of innovating upon the worship of God?
A. All they who presumptuously annex their own superstitious inventions to the divine institutions, under pretence of their being teaching significant ceremonies; as they of the Popish and Episcopal persuasions do.
Q. 30. What are these significant ceremonies which they add to the instituted ordinances of God's worship?
A. The sign of the cross in baptism; kneeling at receiving the sacrament of the supper; erecting altars in churches; and bowing at the name of Jesus, are a few of many.
Q. 31. Why may not such ceremonies be used, when they are designed for exciting devotion, and beautifying the worship of God?
A. Because God has expressly forbidden the least addition to or abatement from the order and directions he himself has given in his word concerning his own worship, Deut. 12:30-32 -- "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not ADD thereunto, nor DIMINISH from it."
Q. 32. Were there not significant ceremonies in the Jewish worship, under the Old Testament?
A. Yes; but they were of express divine appointment; and by the same appointment abolished in the death and resurrection of Christ, Heb. 9:1-15.
Q. 33. May not significant ceremonies be founded on 1 Cor. 14:40 -- "Let all things be done decently and in order?"
A. No; because that text speaks only of the decent and orderly observance of the ordinances of God already instituted, and not in the least of any thing new to be added as a part of worship.
Q. 34. Is reading of sermons or discourses from the pulpit an ordinance of God appointed in his word?
A. So far from it, that we find the contrary practised by our Lord while he was here upon earth, Luke 4:16, 23; where, after reading his text out of the prophet Esaias, it is said, he CLOSED the book, and "began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears," &c.
Q. 35. How may we be further guilty of a breach of his commandment, than by idolatry and will-worship?
A. When we neglect, Heb. 10:25, contemn, Matt. 22:5, hinder, chap. 23:13, or oppose the worship and ordinances which God has appointed in his word, 1 Thess. 2:16; or tolerate those who publish and maintain erroneous opinions or practices, Rev. 2:14, 15, 20.
Q. 36. What is the doctrine of our Confession concerning the tolerating of those who publish and maintain erroneous opinions or practices?
A. That "for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation, or to the power of godliness, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the church, and by the power of the civil magistrates."
WSC Question 52: What are the reasons annexed to the Second Commandment?
Answer: The reasons annexed to the Second Commandment, are, God's sovereignty over us, his propriety in us and the zeal he hath to his own worship.
Q. 1. Why does our Catechism make mention of REASONS ANNEXED to this and the three following commandments?
A. Because God himself has been pleased to subjoin to each of these precepts, the reasons, arguments, or motives, that should influence our obedience to them.
Q. 2. How many reasons are annexed to this Second Commandment?
A. THREE; contained in these words, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."
Q. 3. Which is the first of these reasons?
A. It is God's sovereignty over us, in these words I THE LORD; or, I JEHOVAH.
Q. 4. What do you understand by God's sovereignty over us?
A. It is his absolute supreme power, or right of dominion over us, as his creatures, Rom. 9:20, 21, by which he can dispose of, ver. 22, 23, and prescribe to us as seems to him good, Deut 6:17.
Q. 5. In what lies the strength of this first reason for worshipping God by means of his own appointment?
A. It lies in this, that being our sovereign Lord, it must be his sole prerogative to prescribe to us the means of his own worship; and, consequently, that it must be our duty to make his pleasure in this, both the rule and reason of our punctual observance of what he enjoins, Psalm 95:2, 3.
Q. 6. What is the SECOND reason annexed to this commandment?
A. It is his propriety in us, in these words, T HY God.
Q. 7. What other propriety has God in us than by right of creation.
A. He has a propriety likewise by right of redemption, intimated in the preface to the commands, "I am the Lord T HY God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," Ex. 20:2.
Q. 8. Is it his propriety by right of creation, or by right of redemption, that constitutes the federal relation between him and us?
A. It is his propriety by right of redemption, Isa. 43:1 -- "I have REDEEMED thee; I have called thee by thy name: thou art MINE."
Q. 9. What influence should his propriety in us, as his people, have upon our receiving and observing the ordinances of his worship?
A. If we are his people: we are ransomed by the blood of his only begotten Son, and so under the strongest ties of duty and gratitude, to cleave to the precise manner of worship prescribed in his word, rejecting all other modes and forms whatever, Josh. 24:24.
Q. 10. What is the THIRD reason annexed to this commandment?
A. It is the zeal he hath to his own worship, in these words, -- I AM A JEALOUS GOD.
Q. 11. In what sense is God said to be a jealous God?
A. Jealousy is ascribed to him (after the manner of men,) to denote that he puts no confidence in his creatures, Deut. 5:29 that he has his eye upon them; and is highly offended when they slight him and bestow that love upon any other, which is due to him alone, chap. 32:15-26.
Q. 12. What is it for God to have zeal for his own worship?
A. It is to have Such a regard for the ordinances of his own institution, as highly to resent or revenge any addition to, or alteration of them; of which there is an awful instance in Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire before the Lord, Lev. 10:1-4.
Q. 13. In what does God manifest his zeal for his worship?
A. Both by way of threatening, and by way of promise.
Q. 14. What does God threaten as a testimony of his zeal for his worship?
A. To visit "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation of them that hate" him.
Q. 15. What is it to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children?
A. It is to inflict punishment upon the children for the faults and offences of their fathers.
Q. 16. Are there any scripture examples of God's doing so?
A. As to temporal punishments there are: Seven of Saul's sons were hanged before the Lord, for his offence in slaying the Gibeonites, 2 Sam. 21:8, 9; and for the sins of Jeroboam, his whole house was utterly extinguished, 1 Kings 15:29, 30.
Q. 17. Is this thought just and equal among men?
A. Yes; as appears by the common practice of disinheriting the children of traitors and rebels for the treasonable practices of their fathers, in order to create a greater detestation of these crimes in others.
Q. 18. Whether are temporal judgments only, or spiritual and eternal plagues also, intended in this threatening?
A. Spiritual and eternal plagues are also intended, Matt. 25:41.
Q. 19. How does it appear that spiritual and eternal judgments are included in this threatening?
A. It appears from this, that the punishment threatened should bear some proportion to the mercy promised; so that if the mercy promised be of a spiritual and eternal nature, the judgments threatened must be of the same kind.
Q. 20. How does the scripture illustrate this?
A. By the issue of the final sentence at the great day, which is, that the wicked "go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal," Matt. 25:46.
Q. 21. How does it consist with the justice of God, to inflict spiritual and eternal judgments upon children for the sins of their parents?
A. It is entirely consistent with it; because the children punished with spiritual and eternal judgments, are only such as have shown themselves heirs to their fathers' sins, either by copying them, Jer. 31:29, 30, or not disapproving of and mourning for them; by which means their fathers' sins become their own, Psalm 49:13.
Q. 22. How can the visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children be reconciled with Ezek. 18:20 -- "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.
A. This passage in Ezekiel is to be understood of the son who does not tread in the steps of his wicked father; as is evident from ver. 14, 17 -- "If he beget a son that seeth all his father's sins, and doth not such like, he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live;" whereas the threatening in this commandment respects wicked children, who copy after the example of their graceless parents, as Nadab the son of Jeroboam did, who "walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to Sin" I Kings 15:26.
Q. 23. How does it appear from the threatening itself, that this is the meaning?
A. Because the children on whom God visits the iniquity of their fathers are expressly said to be "the third and fourth generation of them that HATE him."
Q. 24. Why does God threaten to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation only, of them that hate him; and not to all succeeding generations of such children?
A. Not but that the haters of God to all generations shall meet with deserved punishment; but the threatening is limited to the third and fourth generation, for a greater judgment upon wicked parents, some of whom may live to see their posterity of these generations, and to read their own sin in the punishment of their offspring whom they have seduced; as Zedekiah, for his wickedness, saw his sons, and the princes of Judah, slain before his eyes, Jer. 52:3, 10.
Q. 25. What if such wicked parents should die, before they see their third and fourth generations?
A. In that case, if their consciences are not quite seared, they will die under the dread and fear of the judgments here threatened, befalling their children, Hos. 2:4; as well as of the fiery indignation which shall devour themselves, Heb. 10:27.
Q. 26. May not God sometimes visit the iniquities of the breakers of this commandment upon their godly children?
A. He will never visit the iniquities of the fathers upon their godly children with spiritual and eternal judgments, though sometimes he may do it with temporal calamities: as no doubt many pious Israelites were carried captive to Babylon for the sins of their fathers, Lam. 5:7; which, nevertheless, was for their real good, Jer. 24:5.
Q. 27. What may we learn from this threatening to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children?
A. That as nothing can be more cruel than for parents to set a bad example before their children, Jer. 9:14, 15; so the example of forefathers will not vindicate their posterity in the way of sin, particularly in the practice of any corrupt or false worship, Ezek. 20:18, 21.
Q. 28. What is it, on the other hand, that God promises as an evidence of his zeal for his worship?
A. To show mercy to thousands of them that love him, and keep his commandments.
Q. 29. Who are they that truly love God?
A. They who, from a faith of his own operation, have complacency and delight in him as their own God and portion, Psalm 5:11.
Q. 30. What is it to keep his commandments?
A. It is to essay a uniform and self-denied obedience to the law as a rule, because Christ has fulfilled it as a covenant, Rom. 7:4.
Q. 31. What mercy does God show to them that love him, and keep his commandments?
A. He shows strengthening, Psalm 94:18, comforting, Psalm 31:7, directing, Ex. 15:13, and persevering mercy to them, 2 Sam. 7:15.
Q. 32. Does God show mercy to children because they are the offspring of godly parents?
A. No; but merely because so it pleases him, Rom, 9:15 -- "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy."
Q. 33. What benefit then have the children of godly parents beyond others?
A. They have the privilege of a religious education, Gen. 18:19; are the children of many prayers, Job 1:5; and may plead the promise, "I WILL be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee," Gen. 17:7.
Q. 34. Why does the threatening run only to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him, and yet the promise to thousands of them that love him?
A. To show that God has far greater pleasure in the exercise of mercy, than in the venting of wrath, Ezek. 33:11; and likewise for an encouragement, both to parents and children, to aim at "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," Luke 1:6.
Flavel, John; An Exposition of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism
WSC Question 49: Which is the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment is, [Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any 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: 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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.]
WSC Question 50: What is required in the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment requireth, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances, as God hath appointed in his word.
WSC Question 51: What is forbidden in the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
WSC Question 52: What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
Answer: The reasons annexed to the second commandment, are God's sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.
Henry, Matthew; A Scripture Catechism in the Method of the Assembly's
WSC Question 49: What is the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment is, Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any 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 shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity 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.
1. Does the second commandment concern the ordinances of God's worship, as the first object of it? Yes: Therefore ye shall keep mine ordinances, Lev. 18:10. Was it requisite there should be a law concerning them? Yes: Lest ye say, How did these nations serve their gods? so will I do likewise, Deut. 12:30. Is this binding to us now? Dearly beloved, flee from idolatry, 1 Cor. 10:14. Are we Christians forbidden to worship images? Yes: That they should not worship idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, Rev. 9:20.
2. Does this commandment forbid the making of images for a religious use? Yes: Cursed be the man that maketh any graven image, Deut. 27:15. Does it forbid the making an image of what is in heaven above? Yes: Lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, shouldst be driven to worship them, Deut. 4:19. Or on earth, beneath? Yes: As they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox, Ps. 106:20. Or in the waters under the earth? Yes: As they made the likeness of creeping things, Rom. 1:23.
3. Does it forbid us to bow down to them? Yes: Shall I bow down to the stock of a tree? Isa. 44:19. Or to worship them? Yes: Thou shall worship no other God, Exod. 34:14. Or to show any respect to them? I will take away the names of Baalim out of their mouth, Hos. 2:17. Was it requisite this commandment should be thus enlarged? Yes: Precept must be upon precept, and line upon line, Isa. 28:10. And that it should be backed with many reasons? Yes: for they are mad upon their idols, Jer. 50:38.
WSC Question 50: What is required in the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in his word.
1. Is it our duty solemnly to worship God? Yes: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, Matt 4:10. Do we thereby honour him? Yes: we give unto him the glory due unto his name, Ps. 29:2. Does the light of nature teach us to worship God? Yes: they cried every man unto his god, Jonah 1:5. But does it teach us sufficiently how to worship him? No: Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Acts 17:23. Has God in his word appointed us in what way to worship him? Yes: for this was ordained in Joseph for a testimony, Ps. 81:5. And must we worship him in the appointed way? Yes: See thou make all things according to the pattern showed thee, Heb. 8:5.
2. Are we to receive such ordinances as God has appointed? Yes: The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey, Josh. 24:24. Should we labour to understand them? Yes: What mean ye by this service? Exod. 12:26. And are we to observe them? Yes: Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, Matt. 28:20. And to observe them duly? Yes: as the duty of every day requires, Ezra 3:4.
3. Are we to keep God's ordinances? Yes: That good thing which was committed to thee, keep, 2 Tim. 1:14. Are we to keep them carefully? Yes: Keep them as the apple of thine eye, Prov. 7:2. Must we keep them pure without corruption? Yes: Add thou not to his words, Prov. 30:6. And entire, without diminution? Yes: We must walk in all the ordinances of the Lord, Luke 1:6. May we neither add nor diminish? No: Thou shalt neither add thereto nor diminish from it, Deut. 12:32.
4. Must we worship God in the spirit? Yes: We are the circumcision that worship God in the spirit, Phil. 3:3. Must we be inward with God in every service? Yes: for bodily exercise profiteth little, 1 Tim 4:8. Is ignorance the mother of devotion? No: for if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? Mal. 1:8. Is it the mother of destruction? Yes: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, Hos. 4:6.
5. Ought we to have an eye to the word of God in our religious worship? Yes: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom. 1:23. And to glorify God in it? Yes; I will be sanctified in them that come nigh unto me, Lev. 10:3. And ought we to shun all idolatrous worship? Yes: For I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils, 1 Cor 10:20.
WSC Question 51: What is forbidden in the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
1. Is it a sin to worship the true God by images? Yes: for it changes the truth of God into a lie, Rom.1:25. Are not images laymen's books? No: for an image is a teacher of lies, Hab. 2:18. Is it possible to make an image of God? No: we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device, Acts 17:29. Do we know what to represent God by? No: To whom then will ye liken God? Isa. 40:18. Do they that pretend to it put a great affront upon him? Yes: for they change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, Rom. 1:28.
2. May we worship Christ by an image? No: For though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more, 2 Cor. 5:16. Is it idolatry to worship the consecrated host? Yes: for it is bread which we break, 1 Cor. 10:16. Is it idolatry to pray to saints and angels? Yes: See thou do it not, but worship God, Rev. 19:10. and 22:9.
3. Must we be careful to avoid all appearances of idolatry? Yes: Take ye therefore good heed to yourselves, lest ye corrupt yourselves, Deut. 4:15. Should we choose to die rather than worship images? Yes: But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up, Dan. 3:18.
4. Is it a sin to worship God in any way not appointed in his word? Yes: In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men Matt. 15:9. May we ourselves invent ordinances of worship? No: They went a whoring with their own inventions, Ps. 106:39. Is it not enough if what we invent is not forbidden? No: They offered a strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not, Lev. 10:1. Is it a sin to despise any of God's ordinances? Yes: Ye said also Behold what a weariness is it! Mal. 1:13. Or to be careless in our attendance upon them? Yes: Cursed be the deceiver that hath in his flock a male, and vows and sacrifices to the Lord a corrupt thing, Mal. 1:14. Are they spiritual idolaters who make images of' God in their fancy? Yes: they are vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart is darkened, Rom. 1:21.
WSC Question 52: What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
Answer: The reasons annexed to the second commandment, are God's sovereignty over us, his property in us, and the zeal he has to his own worship.
1. Is there good reason why we should take heed of idolatry? Yes: Turn ye not to idols, neither make to yourselves molten gods, I am the Lord your God, Lev. 19:4. Has God a sovereignty over us? Yes: for he is a great God, and a great King above all gods, Ps. 95:3. Ought we therefore to worship him, as he has appointed us? Yes: O come let us worship, and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, Ps. 95:6. And not to worship idols? Yes: for they can do neither good nor evil, Isa. 41:23.
2. Has God a property in us? Yes: for we are the people of his pasture, Ps. 95:7. Ought we therefore to worship him? Yes: He is thy Lord, and worship thou him, Ps. 45:11. And not to worship other gods? Yes: for hath a nation changed their gods? Jer. 2:11.
3. Is God jealous in the matters of his worship? Yes: The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, Exod. 34:14. Is he much displeased with those who corrupt it? Yes: They provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities, 1 Kings 16:13. Do those who do so hate him? Yes: Idolaters are haters of God, Rom. 1:25, 30. Will he visit their iniquity? Yes: In the day m when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them, Exod. 32:34. Will he visit it upon the children? Yes: Our fathers sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities, Lam. 5:7. And is it just with him to do so? Yes: for they are the children of whoredoms, Hos. 2:4. But will he visit it for ever? No: but to the third and fourth generation, Exod. 34:7.
4. Will those who love God keep his commandments? Yes: If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, John 15:10. Will he show mercy to such? Yes: for he hath said, I love them that love me, Prov. 8:17. Will he show mercy to thousands of such ? Yes: for the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, Ps. 103:17.