Reformed expositions of the Second Commandment (Part 2)...
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 2 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...
Question 49: What 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."
(Vincent did not comment on this question.)
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. How doth the worship required in this second commandment differ from the worship required in the first commandment?
A. The worship required in the first commandment hath a respect unto the object of worship, whereby we are bound to worship the true God, and none else: the worship required in the second commandment hath a respect unto the means of worship, whereby we are bound to worship God according to the way and means of his own appointment, and no other.
Q. 2. What is the way and means which God hath appointed for his worship?
A. The only way and means which God hath appointed for his worship, are his ordinances, which he hath prescribed in his Word.
Q. 3. What are the ordinances which God hath appointed in his Word, to be the means of worship, and to be observed by his people ?
A. The ordinances which God hath appointed in his Word, to be the means of his worship, and to be observed by his people, are -- 1. Prayer unto God with thanksgiving, and that publicly in assemblies, privately in families, and secretly in closets. "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."-- Phil. 4:6. "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."-- Eph. 5:20. "And the whole multitude of people were praying." -- Luke 1:10. "Pour out thy fury upon the families which call not upon thy name."-- Jer. 10:25. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which. is in secret, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." -- Matt. 6:6. 2. Reading and searching the Scriptures. "For Moses is read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day."-- Acts 15:21. "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me."-- John 5:39. 3. Preaching and hearing of the word. "Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine."-- 2 Tim. 4:2. "Hear, and your soul shall live."-- Isa. 55:3. 4. Singing of psalm.. "Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints."-- Ps. 149:1. "Is any merry? let him sing psalms." -- James 5:13. 5. Administration and receiving of the sacraments, both of baptism and the Lord's supper. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."-- Matt. 28:19. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I have delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which lie was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."-- 1 Cor. 11:23-25. 6. Fasting. "But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days."-- Luke 5:35. 7. Instructing of children and household in the laws of the Lord. "For I know him, that he will command his children, and his house-hold after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord." -- Gen. 18:19. "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children."-- Deut. 6:6, 7. "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring thera up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."-- Eph. 6:4. 8. Conference and discourse of the things of God. "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it."-- Mal. 3:16. "Thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."-- Deut. 6:7. 9. Meditation. "I will meditate of all thy works."-- Ps. 77:12. "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear unto all."-- 1 Tim. 4:15. 10. Vows to the Lord. "Vow and pay unto the Lord."-- Ps. 76:11. 11. Swearing by the name of the Lord, when lawfully called. "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.-- Deut. 6:13. 12. Exercise of Church discipline. "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican."-- Matt. 18:15-17.
Q. 4. What doth God require in the second commandment, in reference to his ordinances and means of worship?
A. God, in the second commandment, doth require, in reference to his ordinances and means of worship -- 1. The receiving of them. 2. Observing of them. 3. The keeping them pure and entire.
Q. 5. What is it to receive God's ordinances?
A. The receiving God's ordinances implieth an approving of them with the mind, and embracement of them with the will.
Q. 6. What is it to observe God's ordinances?
A. The observing God's ordinances, implieth a doing what is required in them, a making use of them, and attending upon God in them.
Q. 7. What is it to keep pure and entire God's ordinances?
A. The keeping pure and entire God's ordinances implieth a doing what in us lieth to preserve the ordinances from corruption, not suffering any thing to be added to them, or taken away from them. "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it."-- Deut. 12:32.
Q. 8. How doth it appear that the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed, is required in the second commandment, when it doth only forbid: "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image," &c?
A. God's forbidding the making of any graven image, and worshipping it, doth clearly imply-- 1. That God must be worshipped by some means. 2. That it is a sin to worship God by graven images. 3. That, by consequence, it is a sin to worship God by the means which he hath not appointed. 4. That therefore it is a duty to worship God by the means which he hath appointed, which being his ordinances, they must be received, observed, and kept pure and entire.
WSC Question 51: 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. What is the first reason annexed unto the second commandment?
A. The first reason annexed unto the second commandment is, God's sovereignty over us, in these words, "I the Lord."
Q. 2. What is the force of this first reason?
A. The force of this first reason is, because God is the great sovereign King over us, and hath the sole or only authority to make laws for the way of his worship, therefore we ought, by virtue of our allegiance, as we are his subjects, to observe his laws and ordinances, and to worship him no other way than he hath appointed in his Word. "Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lerd is a great God, and a great King above all gods."-- Ps. 95:2, 3.
Q. 3. What is the second reason annexed unto the second commandment?
A. The second reason annexed unto the second commandment is, God's propriety in us, in these words, "Thy God" -- " I the Lord, thy God."
Q. 4. What is the force of this second reason?
A. The force of this second reason is, that because we belong unto the Lord, therefore we ought to keep close unto him and his appointments, and take heed especially of idolatry and superstition, which do alienate the heart from him. "O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker."-- Ps. 95:6, .7. "They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. They forgat God their Saviour."-- Ps. 106:19, 21
Q. 5. What is the third reason annexed unto the second commandment?
A. The zeal which God hath to his own worship, is his jealousy, whereby, out of love to his own worship and institutions, he is highly offended with those that turn aside from them unto their own inventions. "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." "Thou shalt worship no other God; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."-- Exod. 34:14.
Q. 6. Wherein doth this zeal and jealousy of God for his own worship show itself?
A. The zeal or jealousy of God for his own worship doth show itself-- 1. In his accounting the breakers of this commandment those that hate him, and threatening to punish them unto the third and fourth generation: "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." 2. In his esteeming the keepers of this commandment such as love him, and promising mercies unto thousauds of them: " Showing mercy unto thoijsands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."
Q. 7. How can God in justice visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children?
A. 1. If children do not walk in the steps of the same sins with their parents, God doth not punish them for their sins. " If he beget a son that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, aud considereth, and doeth not such like, lie shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live."-- Ezek. 18:14, 17. 2. If God doth visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children, it is when the children are guilty of the same iniquity, and so fill up the measure, and the punishment of them is most equal and righteous. "Are not my way equal? Are not your ways unequal ?"-- Ezek. 18:25.
WSC Question 52: What is forbidden in the second commandment?
Answer: The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed ill his word.
Q. 1. What is the first great sin forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The first great sin forbidden in the second commandment, is the sin of idolatry
Q. 2. How doth the idolatry forbidden in the first commandment differ from the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The idolatry forbidden in the first commandment hath a respect to the object, when we give that worship and honour, which arc due only to God, unto another; the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment hath a respect unto the means, when we worship God by images.
Q. 3. How many ways may persons be guilty of idolatry in their worshipping of God by images?
A. Persons are guilty of idolatry in worshipping of God by images-- 1. When they worship feigned and false gods (apprehending them to be true) by images and representations. Such was the heathen's idolatry in worshipping Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Diana, and other feigned gods and goddesses, by their images in their idolatrous temples. 2. When they worship the true God in or by any image or representation of him, whether it be any thing in heaven, or the earth, or the waters, as in the commandment: "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, or the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them." "Take ye heed, therefore, to yourselves (for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb), lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image." -- Deut 4:15, 16. "They have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it; and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."-- Exod. 32:8. 3. When they have in their worship carnal imaginations, and representations of God in their minds; as if he were an old man sitting in heaven, or the like.
Q. 4. Why may we not make use of images for a help in our worship of God?
A. 1. Because God has absolutely forbidden it. 2. Because images are not a real help, but a hindrance of devotion, they tending to lessen God in our esteem, who, being the living God, and superlatively excellent, and infinitely removed above all his creatures, cannot, without great reflection of dishonour upon him, be represented by a dead image.
Q. 5. Is it not lawful to have images or pictures of God by us, so we do not worship them, nor God by them?
A. The images or pictures of God are an abomination, and utterly unlawful, because they do debase God, and may be a cause of idolatrous worship.
Q. 6. Is it not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, he being a man as well as God?
A. It is not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, because his divine nature cannot be pictured at all; and because his body, as it is now glorified, cannot be pictured as it is; and because, if it do not stir up devotion, it is in vain--if it do stir up devotion, it is a worshipping by an image or picture, and so a palpable breach of the second commandment.
Q. 7. What is the second great sin against this second commandment?
A. The second great sin against this second commandment is superstition.
Q. 8. What is the superstition forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The superstition forbidden in the second commandment, is the worshipping of God in any other way, or by any other means, than what he hath appointed in his Word, and thus adding human inventions unto God's institutions; which is will-worship, and condemned by the apostle. "Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using), after the commandments and doctrines of men? which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship."-- Col. 2:20-23.
Q. 9. May nothing be added in the worship of God but what is prescribed in the Word of God?
A. Nothing may be added in the worship of God, as parts of worship, but what is prescribed or appointed in the Word of God; because, without divine institution, it is but vain worship, neither pleasing to God nor profitable unto them that worship. "But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." -- Matt. 15:9.
Q. 10. Are not significant ceremonies allowable, that the dull minds of men may be quickened unto the more devotion?
A. 1. The ceremonies which God himself did appoint under the law are not lawful, much less the ceremonies of men's appointment, which are parts of worship. 2. Significant teaching ceremonies, were they appointed by God, would be the parts of true worship therefore, such significant teaching ceremonies as are not appointed by God are parts of false worship, or of worship so far corrupted as they are used. 3. The significancy of teaching ceremonies without God's institution, which carrieth with it God's blessing, is insignificant and ineffectual to convey and confer any grace.
Q. 11. May not the Church, by virtue of that command, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40), appoint ceremonies for decency and order's sake?
A. The Church may and ought, by virtue of this command; to see that there is no indecency and disorder in the worship of God; that is, they may order that things appointed by God be done decently and in order, in reference to conveniency of time and place, and the like, which the Word of God doth virtually include in appointing worship itself, which, without such circumstances, cannot be performed; but here is no liberty given unto the Church to introduce and appoint new parts of worship, as significant teaching ceremonies are proved to be; neither may such things be called decent in God's worship which the idolatrous Church of Rome use, without any warrant from the Word of God.
Q. 12. What is the idolatry and superstition of the Church of Rome in the worship of God?
A. The idolatry and superstition of the Church of Rome in the worship of God, is their idolatrous kneeling at the sacrament, asserting that the bread is turned into the real body of Christ; their idolatrous worshipping of Christ by the crucifix; their idolatrous pictures and images of God, which they bow before; their idolatrous bowing at the altars and towards the east; their idolatrous praying to angels and saints, especially to the Virgin Mary; their offering up the unbloody sacrifice of the host; their superstitious fastings and abstaining from flesh in Lent; their superstitious holidays; their superstitious priests' surplice.; their adding cream, oil, and spittle to the wafer, and signing with the cross in baptism; their baptizing of bells; their praying upon beads; and many more superstitious customs, for which there is not the least command in the Scripture.
Q. 13. How may we further offend and sin against the second commandment?
A. We offend and sin against the second commandment, not only by idolatry and superstition, but also when we are not zealous for pure worship, according to God's institution, not endeavouring what in us lieth, in our places, the reformation of worship, according to the pattern in the Word; as also, when we disuse and neglect, especially when we contemn and oppose, any of those ordinances which God hath appointed to be the means of worship. "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." -- John 11.17. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is."-- Heb. 10:25. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites I for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven a ainst men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."-- Matt. 23:13. "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved, filling up their sins alway." -- 1 Thess. 2:16. "And the next Sabbath-day came almost the whole city together, to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Palil and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles."-- Acts 13:44-46.
Sermon on WSC Question 51 as it deals with The Second Commandment
'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 o jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of then that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.' Exod 20:4-6.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
In the first commandment worshipping a false god is forbidden; in this, worshipping the true God in a false manner.
'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.' This forbids not making an image for civil use. 'Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, It is Caesar's.' Matt 22:20, 21. But the commandment forbids setting up an image for religious use or worship.
'Nor the likeness of any thing,' &c. All ideas, portraitures, shapes, images of God, whether by effigies or pictures, are here forbidden. 'Take heed lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make the similitude of any figure.' Deut 4:15, 16. God is to be adored in the heart, not painted to the eye.
'Thou shalt not bow down to them.' The intent of making images and pictures is to worship them. No sooner was Nebuchadnezzar's golden image set up, but all the people fell down and worshipped it. Dan 3:7. God forbids such prostrating ourselves before an idol. The thing prohibited in this commandment is image-worship. To set up an image to represent God, is debasing him. If any one should make images of snakes or spiders, saying he did it to represent his prince, would not the prince take it in disdain? What greater disparagement to the infinite God than to represent him by that which is unite; the living God, by that which is without life; and the Maker of all by a thing which is made?
 To make a true image of God is impossible. God is a spiritual essence and, being a Spirit, he is invisible. John 4:24. 'Ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake with you out of the midst of the fire.' Deut 4:15. How can any paint the Deity? Can they make an image of that which they never saw? Quod invisibile est, pingi non potest [There is no depicting the invisible]. Ambrose. 'Ye saw no similitude.' It is impossible to make a picture of the soul, or to paint the angels, because they are of a spiritual nature; much less can we paint God by an image, who is an infinite, untreated Spirit.
 To worship God by an image, is both absurd and unlawful.
(1) It is absurd and irrational; for, 'the workman is better than the work,' 'He who has builded the house has more honour than the house.' Heb 3:3. If the workman be better than the work, and none bow to the workman, how absurd, then, is it to bow to the work of his hands! Is it not an absurd thing to bow down to the king's picture, when the king himself is present? It is more so to bow down to an image of God, when God himself is everywhere present.
(2) It is unlawful to worship God by an image; for it is against the homily of the church, which runs thus: 'The images of God, our Saviour, the Virgin Mary, are of all others the most dangerous; therefore the greatest care ought to be had that they stand not in temples and churches.' So that image-worship is contrary to our own homilies, and affronts the authority of the Church of England. Image-worship is expressly against the letter of Scripture. 'Ye shall make no graven image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone to bow down unto it.' Lev 26:1. 'Neither shalt thou set up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth.' Deut 16:22. 'Confounded be all they that serve graven images.' Psa 97:7. Do we think to please God by doing that which is contrary to his mind, and that which he has expressly forbidden?
 Image worship is against the practice of the saints of old. Josiah, that renowned king, destroyed the groves and images. 2 Kings 23:6, 24. Constantine abrogated the images set up in temples. The Christians destroyed images at Baste, Zurich, and Bohemia. When the Roman emperors would have thrust images upon them, they chose rather to die than deflower their virgin profession by idolatry; they refused to admit any painter or carver into their society, because they would not have any carved state or image of God. When Seraphion bowed to an idol, the Christians excommunicated him, and delivered him up to Satan.
Use one. The Church of Rome is reproved and condemned, which, from the Alpha of its religion to the Omega, is wholly idolatrous. Romanists make images of God the Father, painting him in their church windows as an old man; and an image of Christ on the crucifix; and, because it is against the letter of this commandment, they sacrilegiously blot it out of their catechism, and divide the tenth commandment into two. Image worship must needs be very impious and blasphemous, because it is giving the religious worship to the creature which is due to God only. It is vain for Papists to say, they give God the worship of the heart, and the image only the worship of the body; for the worship of the body is due to God, as well as the worship of the heart; and to give an outward veneration to an image is to give the adoration to a creature which belongs to God only. 'My glory will I not give to another.' Isa 42:8.
The Papists say they do not worship the image, but only use it as a medium through which to worship God. Ne imagini quidem Christi in quantum est lignum sculptum, ulla debetur reverentia [Not even to a statue of Christ is any reverence owed, since it is only a piece of carved wood]. Aquinas.
(1) Where has God bidden them worship him by an effigy or image? 'Who has required this at your hands?' Isa 1:12. The Papists cannot say so much as the devil, Scriptum est: It is written.
(2) The heathen may bring the same argument for their gross idolatry, as the Papists do for their image-worship. What heathen has been so simple as to think gold or silver, or the figure of an ox or elephant, was God? These were emblems and hieroglyphics only to represent him. They worshipped an invisible God by such visible things. To worship God by an image, God takes as done to the image itself.
But, say the Papists, images are laymen's books, and they are good to put them in mind of God. One of the Popish Councils affirmed, that we might learn more by an image than by long study of the Scriptures.
'What profiteth the graven image, the molten image, and a teacher of lies.' Hab 2:18. Is an image a layman's book? Then see what lessons this book teaches. It teaches lies; it represents God in a visible shape, who is invisible. For Papists to say they make use of an image to put them in mind of God, is as if a woman should say she keeps company with another man to put her in mind of her husband.
But did not Moses make the image of a brazen serpent? Why, then, may not images be set tip?
That was done by God's special command. 'Make thee a brazen serpent.' Numb 21:8. There was also a special use in it, both literal and spiritual. What! does the setting up of the image of the brazen serpent justify the setting up images in churches? What! because Moses made an image by God's appointment, may we set up an image of our own devising? Because Moses made an image to heal them that were stung, is it lawful to set up images in churches to sting them that are whole? Nay, that very brazen serpent which God himself commanded to be set up, when Israel looked upon it with too much reverence, and began to burn incense to it, Hezekiah defaced, and called it Nehushtan, mere brass; and God commended him for so doing. 2 Kings 18:4.
But is not God represented as having hands, and eyes, and cars? Why nay we not, then, make an image to represent him, and help our devotion?
Though God is pleased to stoop to our weak capacities, and set himself out in Scripture by eyes, to signify his omniscience, and hands to signify his power, yet it is absurd, from such metaphors and figurative expressions, to bring an argument for images and pictures; for, by that rule, God may be pictured by the sun and the element of fire, and by a rock; for he is set forth by these metaphors in Scripture; and, sure, the Papists themselves would not like to have such images made of God.
If it be not lawful to make the image of God the Father, yet may we not make an image of Christ, who took upon him the nature of man?
No! Epiphanius, seeing an image of Christ hanging in a church, brake it in pieces. It is Christ's Godhead, united to his manhood, that makes him to be Christ; therefore to picture his manhood, when we cannot picture his Godhead, is a sin, because we make him to be but half Christ - we separate what God has joined, we leave out that which is the chief thing which makes him to be Christ.
But how shall we conceive of God aright, if we may not make any image or resemblance of him?
We must conceive of God spiritually. (1) In his attributes - his holiness, justice, goodness - which are the beams by which his divine nature shines forth. (2) We must conceive of him as he is in Christ. Christ is the 'Image of the invisible God' as in the wax we see the print of the seal. Col 1:15. Set the eyes of your faith on Christ-God-man. 'He that has seen me, has seen the Father.' John 14:9.
Use two. Take heed of the idolatry of image-worship. Our nature is prone to this sin as dry wood to take fire; and, indeed, what need of so many words in the commandment: 'Thou shalt not make any graven image, or the likeness of anything in heaven, earth, water,' sun, moon, stars, male, female, fish; 'Thou shalt not bow down to them.' I say, what need of so many words, but to show how subject we are to this sin of false worship? It concerns us, therefore, to resist this sin. Where the tide is apt to run with greater force, there we had need to make the banks higher and stronger. The plague of idolatry is very infectious. 'They were mingled among the heathen, and served their idols.' Psa 106:35, 36. It is my advice to you, to avoid all occasions of this sin.
(1) Come not into the company of idolatrous Papists. Dare not to live under the same roof with them, or you run into the devil's mouth. John the divine would not be in the bath where Cerinthus the heretic was.
(2) Go not into their chapels to see their crucifixes, or hear mass. As looking on a harlot draws to adultery, so looking on the popish gilded picture may draw to idolatry. Some go to see their idol-worship. A vagrant who has nothing to lose, cares not to go among thieves; so such as have no goodness in them, care not to what idolatrous places they come or to what temptations they expose themselves; but you who have a treasure of good principles about you, take heed the popish priests do not rob you of them, and defile you with their images.
(3) Dare not join in marriage with image-worshippers. Though Solomon was a man of wisdom, his idolatrous wives drew his heart away from God. The people of Israel entered into an oath and curse, that they would not give their daughters in marriage to idolaters. Neh 10:30. For a Protestant and Papist to marry, is to be unequally yoked (2 Cor 6:14); and there is more danger that the Papist will corrupt the Protestant, shall hope that the Protestant will convert the Papist. Mingle wine and vinegar, the vinegar will sooner sour the wine, than the wine will sweeten the vinegar.
(4) Avoid superstition, which is a bridge that leads over to Rome. Superstition is bringing any ceremony, fancy, or innovation into God's worship, which he never appointed. It is provoking God, because it reflects much upon his honour, as if he were not wise enough to appoint the manner of his own worship. He hates all strange fire to be offered in his temple. Lev 10:1. A ceremony may in time lead to a crucifix. They who contend for the cross in baptism, why not have the oil, salt, and cream as well, the one being as ancient as the other? They who are for altar-worship, and will bow to the east, may in time bow to the Host. Take heed of all occasions of idolatry, for idolatry is devil-worship. Psalm 106:37. If you search through the whole Bible, there is not one sin that God has more followed with plagues than idolatry. The Jews have a saying, that in every evil that befalls them, there is uncia aurei vituli, an ounce of the golden calf in it. Hell is a place for idolaters. 'For without are idolaters.' Rev 22:15. Senesius calls the devil a rejoicer at idols, because the image-worshippers help to fill hell.
Use three. That you may be preserved from idolatry and image-worship. (1) Get good principles, that you may be able to oppose the gainsayer. Whence does the popish religion get ground? Not from the goodness of their cause, but from the ignorance of their people. (2) Get love to God. The wife that loves her husband is safe from the adulterer; and the soul that loves Christ is safe from the idolater. (3) Pray that God will keep you. Though it is true, there is nothing in an image to tempt (for if we pray to an image, it cannot hear, and if we pray to God by an image, he will not hear), yet we know not our own hearts, or how soon we may be drawn to vanity, if God leaves us. Therefore pray that you be not enticed by false worship, or receive the mark of the beast in your right hand or forehead. Pray, 'Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.' Psa 119:117. Lord, let me neither mistake my way for want of light, nor leave the true way for want of courage. (4) Let us bless God who has given us the knowledge of his truth, that we have tasted the honey of his word, and our eyes are enlightened. Let us bless him that he has shown us the pattern of his house, the right mode of worship; that he has discovered to us the forgery and blasphemy of the Romish religion. Let us pray that God will preserve pure ordinances and powerful preaching among us. Idolatry came in at first by the want of good preaching. The people began to have golden images when they had wooden priests.
II. I the Lord thy God am a jealous God. The first reason why Israel must not worship graven images is, because the Lord is a jealous God. 'The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.' Exod 34:14. Jealousy is taken,  In a good sense, as God is jealous for his people.  In a bad sense, as he is jealous of his people.
 In a good sense; as God is jealous for his people. 'Thus saith the Lord, I am jealous for Jerusalem, and for Zion, with a great jealousy.' Zech 1:14. God has a dear affection for his people, they are his Hephzibah, or delight. Isa 62:4. They are the apple of his eye, Zech 2:8, to express how dear they are to him, and how tender he is of them, Nihil carius pupilla oculi [Nothing is dearer than the apple of the eye]. Drusius. They are his spouse, adorned with jewels of grace; they lie near his heart. He is jealous for his spouse, therefore he will be avenged on those who wrong her. 'The Lord shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; he shall roar, he shall prevail against his enemies.' Isa 42:13. What is done to the saints, God takes as done to himself (2 Kings 19:22); and the Lord will undo all that afflict Zion. 'I will undo all that afflict thee.' Zeph 3:19.
 Jealousy is taken in a bad sense, in which God is jealous of his people. It is so taken in this commandment, 'I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.' I am jealous lest you should go after false gods, or worship the true God in a false manner; lest you defile your virgin-profession by images. God will have his spouse to keep close to him, and not go after other lovers. 'Thou shalt not be for another man' Hos 3:3. He cannot bear a rival. Our conjugal love, a love joined with adoration and worship, must be given to God only.
Use one. Let us give God no just cause to be jealous. A good wife will be so discreet and chaste, as to give her husband no just occasion of jealousy. Let us avoid all sin, especially this of idolatry, or image-worship. It is heinous, after we have entered into a marriage covenant with God, to prostitute ourselves to an image. Idolatry is spiritual adultery, and God is a jealous God, he will avenge it. Image-worship makes God abhor a people. 'They moved him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, he was wrath, and greatly abhorred Israel.' Psa 78:58, 59. 'Jealousy is the rage of a man.' Prov 6:34. Image-worship enrages God; it makes God divorce a people. 'Plead with your mother, plead; for she is not my wife.' Hos 2:2. 'Jealousy is cruel as the grave.' Cant 8:6. As the grave devours men's bodies, so God will devour image-worshippers.
Use two. If God be a jealous God, let it be remembered by those whose friends are popish idolaters, and who are hated by their friends, because they are of a different religion, and perhaps their maintenance cut off from them. Oh, remember, God is a jealous God; better move your parents to hatred, than move God to jealousy! Their anger cannot do you so much hurt as God's. If they will not provide for you, God will. 'When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.' Psa 27:10.
III. Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Here is the second reason against image-worship. There is a twofold visiting. There is God's visiting in mercy. 'God will surely visit you:' that is, he will bring you into the land of Canaan, the type of heaven. Gen 50:25. Thus God has visited us with the sunbeams of his favour; he has made us swim in a sea of mercy. This is a happy visitation. There is God's visiting in anger. 'Shall I not visit for these things?' that is, God's visiting with the rod. Jer 5:9. 'What will ye do in the day of visitation?' that is, in the day when God shall visit with his judgements. Isa 10:3. Thus God's visiting is taken in this commandment, 'visiting iniquity,' that is, punishing iniquity.
Observe here three things.
 That sin makes God visit. 'Visiting iniquity.' Sin is the cause why God visits with sickness, poverty, &c. 'If they keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgressions with the rod.' Psa 89:31, 32. Sin twists the cords which pinch us; it creates all our troubles, is the gall in our cup, and the gravel in our bread. Sin is the Trojan horse, the Phaeton that sets all on fire; it is the womb of our sorrows, and the grave of our comfort. God visits for sin.
 One special sin for which God's visits, is idolatry and image-worship. 'Visiting the iniquity of the fathers.' Most of his envenomed arrows have been shot among idolaters. 'Go now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it.' Jer 7:12. For Israel's idolatry he suffered their army to be routed, their priests slain, the ark taken captive, of the returns of which to Shiloh we never read any more. Jerusalem was the most famous metropolis of the world; there was the temple. 'Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord.' Psa 122:4. But for the high places and images, that city was besieged and taken by the Chaldean forces. 2 Kings 25:4. When images were set up in Constantinople, the chief seat of the Eastern empire, a city which in the eye of the world was impregnable, it was taken by the Turks, and many cruelly massacred. The Turks in their triumphs at that time reproached the idolatrous Christians, caused an image or crucifix to be carried through the streets in contempt, and threw dirt upon it, crying, 'This is the god of the Christians.' Here was God's visitation for their idolatry. God has set special marks of his wrath upon idolaters. At a place called Epoletium, there perished by an earthquake 350 persons, while they were offering sacrifice to idols. Idolatry brought misery upon the Eastern churches, and removed the golden candlesticks of Asia. For this iniquity God visits.
 Idolatrous persons are enemies not to their own souls only, but to their children. 'Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children.' As an idolatrous father entails his land of inheritance, so he entails God's anger and curse upon his children. A jealous husband, finding his wife has stained her fidelity, may justly cast her offend her children too, because they are none of his. If the father be a traitor to his prince, no wonder if all the children suffer. God may visit the iniquity of image-worshippers upon their children.
But is it not said, 'Every man shall die for his own sin; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father?' 2 Chron 25:4, Ezek 18:20. How then does God say, he 'will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children?'
Though the son be not damned, yet he may be severely punished for his father's sin. 'God layeth up his iniquity for his children' (Job 21:19); that is, God lays up the punishment of his iniquity for his children - the child smarts for the father's sin. Jeroboam thought to have established the kingdom by idolatrous worship, but it brought ruin upon him, and all his posterity. 1 Kings 14:10. Ahab's idolatry wronged his posterity, which lost the kingdom, and were all beheaded. 'They took the king's sons, and slew seventy persons.' 2 Kings 10:7. Here God visited the iniquity of the father upon the children. As a son catches an hereditary disease from his father, the stone or gout, so he catches misery from him: his father's sin ruins him.
Use one. How sad is it to be the child of an idolater! It had been sad to have been one of Gehazi's children, who had leprosy entailed upon them. 'The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and unto thy seed for ever.' 2 Kings 5:27. So it is sad to be a child of an idolater, or image-worshipper; for his seed are exposed to heavy judgements in this life. 'God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children.' Methinks I hear God speak, as in Isa 14:21, 'Prepare slaughter for his children, for the iniquity of their fathers.'
Use two. What a privilege it is to be the children of good parents. The parents are in covenant with God, and God lays up mercy for their posterity. 'The just man walketh in his integrity, his children are blessed after him.' Prov 20:7. A religious parent does not procure wrath, but helps to keep off wrath from his child; he seasons his child with religious principles, he prays down a blessing on it; he is a loadstone to draw his child to Christ by good counsel and example. Oh, what a privilege is it to be born of godly, religious parents! Augustine says that his mother Monica travailed with greater care and pains for his new birth, than for his natural. Wicked idolaters entail misery on their posterity; God 'visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children;' but religious parents procure a blessing upon their children; God reserves mercy for their posterity.
IV. Of them that hate me. Another reason against image-worship is, that it is hating God. The Papists, who worship God by an image, hate God. Image-worship is a pretended love to God, but God interprets it as hating him. Quae diligit alienum odit sponsum, 'she that loves another man, hates her own husband.' An image-lover is a God hater. Idolaters are said to go a whoring from God. Exod 34:15. How can they love God? I shall show that image-worshippers hate God, whatever love they pretend.
 They who go contrary to his express will hate him. He says, you shall not set up any statue, image, nor picture, to represent me; these things I hate. 'Neither shalt thou set up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth.' Deut 16:22. Yet the idolater sets up images, and worships them. This God looks upon as hating him. How does the child love his father that does all it can to cross him?
 They who turned Jephthah out of doors hated him, therefore they laboured to shut him out of his father's house. Judges 11:7. The idolater shuts the truth out of doors; he blots out the second commandment; he makes an image of the invisible God; he brings a lie into God's worship; which are clear proofs that he hates God.
 Though idolaters love the false image of God in a picture, they hate his true image in a believer. They pretend to honour Christ in a crucifix, and yet persecute him in his members. Such hate God.
Use one. This confutes those who plead for image-worshippers. They are very devout people; they adore images; they set up the crucifix; kiss it; light candles to it; therefore they love God. Nay, but who shall be judge of their love? God says they hate him, and give religious adoration to a creature. They hate God, and God hates them; and they shall never live with God whom he hates; he will never lay such vipers in his bosom. Heaven is kept as paradise, with a flaming sword, that they shall not enter in. He 'repayeth them that hate him to their face.' Deut. 7:10. He will shoot all his deadly arrows among idolaters. All the plagues and curses in the book of God shall befall the idolater. The Lord repays him that hates him to his face.
Use two. Let it exhort all to flee from Romish idolatry. Let us not be among God-haters. 'Little children, keep yourselves from idols.' 1 John 5:21. As you would keep your bodies from adultery, keep your souls from idolatry. Take heed of images, they are images of jealousy to provoke God to anger; they are damnable. You may perish by false devotions as much as by real scandal; by image-worship, as by drunkenness and whoredom. A man may die by poison as much as a pistol. We may go to hell by drinking poison in the Romish cup of fornication, as much as by being pistoled with gross and scandalous sins. To conclude, 'God is a jealous God,' who will admit of no co-rival; He will 'visit the iniquities of the fathers upon their children;' he will entail a plague upon the posterity of idolaters. He interprets idolaters to be such as hate him. He that is an image-lover is a God-hater. Therefore keep yourself pure from Romish idolatry; if you love your souls, keep yourselves from idols.
V. Showing mercy unto thousands.
Another argument against image-worship, is that God is merciful to those who do not provoke him with their images, and will entail mercy upon their posterity. 'Shewing mercy unto thousands.'
The golden sceptre of God's mercy is here displayed, 'shewing mercy to thousands.' The heathen thought they praised Jupiter enough when they called him good and great. Both excellencies of majesty and mercy meet in God. Mercy is an innate propensity in God to do good to distressed sinners. God showing mercy, makes his Godhead appear full of glory. When Moses said to God, 'I beseech thee, show me thy glory;' 'I will,' said God, 'show mercy.' Exod 33:19. His mercy is his glory. Mercy is the name by which he will be known. 'The Lord passed by, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious.' Exod 34:6. Mercy proceeds primarily, and originally from God. He is called the 'Father of mercies' (2 Cor 1:3), because he begets all the mercies which are in the creature. Our mercies compared with his are scarcely so much as a drop to the ocean.
What are the properties of God's mercy?
(1) It is free and spontaneous. To set up merit is to destroy mercy. Nothing can deserve mercy or force it; we cannot deserve it nor force it, because of our enmity. We may force God to punish us, but not to love us. 'I will love them freely.' Hos 14:4. Every link in the golden chain of salvation is wrought and interwoven with free grace. Election is free. 'He has chosen us in him according to the good pleasure of his will.' Eph 1:4. Justification is free. 'Being justified freely by his grace.' Rom 3:24. Say not I am unworthy; for mercy is free. If God should show mercy only to such as deserve it, he must show mercy to none.
(2) The mercy which God shows is powerful. How powerful is that mercy which softens a heart of stone! Mercy changed Mary Magdalen's heart, out of whom seven devils were cast: she who was an inflexible adamant was made a weeping penitent. God's mercy works sweetly, yet irresistibly; it allures, yet conquers. The law may terrify, but mercy mollifies. Of what sovereign power and efficacy is that mercy which subdues the pride and enmity of the heart, and beats off those chains of sin in which the soul is held.
(3) The mercy which God shows is superabundant. 'Abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands.' Exod 34:6. God visits iniquity 'to the third and fourth generation' only, but he shows mercy to a thousand generations. Exod 20:5, 6. The Lord has treasures of mercy in store, and therefore is said to be 'plenteous in mercy' (Psa 86:5), and 'rich in mercy' (Eph 2:4). The vial of God's wrath drops only, but the fountain of his mercy runs. The sun is not so full of light as God is of love.
God has mercy of all dimensions. He has depth of mercy, it reaches as low as sinners; and height of mercy, it reaches above the clouds.
God has mercies for all seasons; mercies for the night, he gives sleep; nay, sometimes he gives a song in the night. Psa 42:8. He has also mercies for the morning. His compassions 'are new every morning.' Lam 3:23.
God has mercies for all sorts. Mercies for the poor: 'He raiseth up the poor out of the dust.' 1 Sam 2:8. Mercies for the prisoner: he 'despiseth not his prisoners.' Psa 69:33. Mercies for the dejected: 'In a little wrath I hid my face from thee but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee.' Isa 54:8. He has old mercies: 'Thy mercies have been ever of old.' Psa 25:6. New mercies: 'He has put a new song in my mouth.' Psa 40:3. Every time we draw our breath we suck in mercy. God has mercies under heaven, and those we taste; and mercies in heaven, and those we hope for. Thus his mercies are superabundant.
(4) The mercy of God is abiding. 'The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.' Psa 103:17. God's anger to his children lasts but a while (Psa 103:9), but his mercy lasts for ever. His mercy is not like the widow's oil, which ran awhile, and then ceased (2 Kings 4:6), but overflowing and everflowing. As his mercy is without bounds, so is it without end. 'His mercy endureth for ever.' Psa 136. God never cuts off the entail of mercy from the elect.
In how many ways is God said to show mercy?
(1) We are all living monuments of his mercy. He shows mercy to us in daily supplying us. He supplies us with health. Health is the sauce which makes life sweeter. How would they prize this mercy who are chained to a sick-bed! God supplies us with provisions. 'God which fed me all my life long.' Gen 48:15. Mercy spreads our tables, and carves for us every bit of bread we cat; we never drink but in the golden cup of mercy.
(2) God shows mercy in lengthening out our gospel-liberties. 1 Cor 16:9. There are many adversaries; many would stop the waters of the sanctuary that that they should not run. We enjoy the sweet seasons of grace, we hear joyful sounds, we see the goings of God in his sanctuary, we enjoy Sabbath after Sabbath; the manna of the word falls about our tents, when in other parts of the land there is no manna. God shows mercy to us in continuing our forfeited privileges.
(3) He shows mercy in preventing many evils from invading us. 'Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me.' Psa 3:3. God has restrained the wrath of men, and been a screen between us and danger; when the destroying angel has been abroad, and shed his deadly arrow of pestilence, he has kept off the arrow that it has not come near us.
(4) He shows mercy in delivering us. 'And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion' (viz., Nero). 2 Tim 4:17. He has restored us from the grave. May we not write the writing of Hezekiah, 'when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness?' Isa 38:9. When we thought the sun of our life was setting God has made it return to its former brightness.
(5) He shows mercy in restraining us from sin. Lusts within are worse than lions without. The greatest sign of God's anger is to give men up to their sins. 'So I gave them up to their own hearts' lust.' Psa 81:12. While they sin themselves to hell, God has laid the bridle of restraining grace upon us. As he said to Abimelech, 'I withheld thee from sinning against me.' Gen 20:6. So he has withheld us from those sins which might have made us a prey to Satan, and a terror to ourselves.
(6) God shows mercy in guiding and directing us. Is it not a mercy for one that is out of the way to have a guide?  There is a providential guidance. God guides our affairs for us; chalks out the way he would have us to walk in. He resolves our doubts, unties our knots, and appoints the bounds of our habitation. Acts 17:26.  A spiritual guidance. 'Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.' Psa 73:24. As Israel had a pillar of fire to go before them, so God guides us with the oracles of his word, and the conduct of his Spirit. He guides our heads to keep us from error; and he guides our feet to keep us from scandal. Oh, what mercy is it to have God to be our guide and pilot! 'For thy name's sake, lead me and guide me.' Psa 31:3.
(7) God shows mercy in correcting us. He is angry in love; he smites that he may save. His rod is not a rod of iron to break us, but a fatherly rod to humble us. 'He, for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.' Heb 12:l0. Either he will mortify some corruption, or exercise some grace. Is there not mercy in this? Every cross, to a child of God, is like Paul's cross wind, which, though it broke the ship, it brought Paul to shore upon the broken pieces. Acts 27:44.
(8) God shows mercy in pardoning us, 'Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?' Mic 7:18. It is mercy to feed us, rich mercy to pardon us. This mercy is spun out of the bowels of the free grace, and is enough to make a sick man well. 'The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.' Isa 33:24. Pardon of sin is a mercy of the first magnitude. God seals the sinner's pardon with a kiss. This made David put on his best clothes, and anoint himself. His child was newly dead, and God had told him the sword should not depart from his house, yet he anoints himself. The reason was that God had sent him pardon by the prophet Nathan. 'The Lord has put away thy sin.' 2 Sam 12:13. Pardon is the only fit remedy for a troubled conscience. What can give ease to a wounded spirit but pardoning mercy? Offer him the honours and pleasure of the world. It is as if flowers and music were brought to one that is condemned.
How may I know that my sins are pardoned?
Where God removes the guilt, he breaks the power of sin. 'He will have compassion: he will subdue our iniquities.' Mic 7:19. With pardoning love God gives subduing grace.
(9) God shows his mercy in sanctifying us. 'I am the Lord which sanctify you.' Lev 20:8. This is the partaking of the divine nature. 2 Pet 1:4. God's Spirit is a spirit of consecration; though it sanctify us but in part, yet it is in every part. 1 Thess 5:23. It is such a mercy that God cannot give it in anger. If we are sanctified, we are elected. 'God has chosen you to salvation through sanctification.' 2 Thess 2:13. This prepares for happiness, as the seed prepares for harvest. When the virgins had been anointed and perfumed, they were to stand before the king (Esth 2:12); SO, when we have had the anointing of God, we shall stand before the King of heaven.
(10) God shows mercy in hearing our prayers. 'Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.' Psa 4:1. Is it not a favour, when a man puts up a petition to the king, to have it granted? So when we pray for pardon, adoption, and the sense of God's love, it is a signal mercy to have a gracious answer. God may delay an answer, and yet not deny. You do not throw a musician money at once, because you love to hear his music. God loves the music of prayer, but does not always let us hear from him at once; but in due season gives an answer of peace. 'Blessed be God, which has not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.' Psa 66:20. If God does not turn away our prayer, he does not turn away his mercy.
(11) God shows mercy in saving us. 'According to his mercy he saved us.' Titus 3:5. This is the top-stone of mercy, and it is laid in heaven. Here mercy displays itself in all its orient colours. Mercy is mercy indeed, when God perfectly refines us from all the lees and dregs of corruption; when our bodies are made like Christ's glorious body, and our souls like the angels. Saving mercy is crowning mercy. It is not merely to be freed from hell, but enthroned in a kingdom. In this life we desire God, rather than enjoy him; but what rich mercy will it be to be fully possessed of him, to see his smiling face, and to lay us in his bosom! This will fill us with 'joy unspeakable and full of glory.' 1 Peter 1:8. 'I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.' Psa 17:15.