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a very different memorial of himself, the Sacrament of his body and blood; and we ought to think that a sufficient one. These others can serve no good purpose, but what, by due meditation, may be attained as well without them. And there is great and evident danger of evil in them, from that unhappy proneness of mankind to fix their thoughts and affections on sensible objects, instead of raising them higher, which if any one doth not feel in himself, he must however see in others. But particularly in this case, long experience hath given sad proof, that from setting up images of our gracious Redeemer, the holy Virgin, and other saints, to remind persons of them and their virtues, the world hath run on to pay such imprudent and extravagant honours to the figures themselves, as by degrees have arisen to the grossest idolatry.
Indeed some of the Popish writers tell us, that they do not worship their images. Yet others of them, who have never been condemned for it, say quite the contrary, that they do worship them; and with the very same degree of worship, which they pay to the persons represented by them. Nay, their public authorised books of prayers and ceremonies not only appoint the Crucifix to be adored, but in form declare, that divine adoration is due to it. And accordingly they petition it, in so many words, expressly directed to the very wood, as "their only hope, to increase the joy and grace of "the godly, and blot out the sins of the wicked." But let us suppose them to pay only an inferior honour to images, and to worship the Holy Trinity and the Saints by them. Having no ground or permission to pray at all to Saints departed, they certainly have none to use images for enlivening
(5) See Dr. Hicks's collection of controversial discourses, vol. 1. p. 47.
their prayers. If any words can forbid the worship of God, his Son, and Spirit, by images, this Commandment forbids it. And if any excuses or distinctions will acquit the Papists of transgressing it, the same will acquit the ancient Jews and Heathens also. For if any of the former mean only that their adoration should pass through the image, as it were, to the person for whom it was made; so did many of the Pagans plead, that their meaning was just the same: yet the Scripture accuses them of idolatry. And if great numbers of the Pagans did absolutely pray to the image itself; so do great numbers of the Papists too; and some of their own writers honestly confess and lament it.
But further, had they little or no regard, as they sometimes pretended, to the image, but only to the person represented by it; why is an image, of the blessed Virgin suppose, in one place, so much more frequented, than another in a different place, and the prayers made before it thought to have so much more efficacy?
Upon the whole, therefore, they plainly appear to be guilty of that image worship, which reason and Scripture condemn. Nor do they so much as allege either any command or express allowance for it. And yet they have pronounced a curse upon all who reject it.
But let us go on, from the prohibition, to the reasons given for it in the Commandment. The first is a very general, but a very awful one. "For "the Lord thy God is a jealous God;" not jealous for himself, lest he should suffer for the follies of his creatures; that cannot be but jealous for us, for his spouse the Church; lest our notions of his nature and attributes, and consequently of the
(6) See a remarkable proof of this produced in an epistle to Mr. Warburton, concerning the conformity of Rome, Pagan, and Papal; printed for Roberts, 1748, 8vo. p. 21.
duties which we owe to him, being depraved, and our minds darkened with superstitious persuasions, and fears and hopes, we should depart from the fidelity which we have vowed to him, and fall into these grievous immoralities which St. Paul, in the beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, describes as the consequences of idolatry, and which have been its consequences in all times and places.
The second reason for this prohibition, is more particular; that God will visit the sins of the "fathers upon the children, unto the third and "fourth generation of them that hate him." For, observe, worshipping him irrationally, or in a manner which he hath forbidden, he interprets to be hating him; as it must proceed, wholly or in part, from a dishonourable opinion of him, and tend to spread the like opinion amongst others. Now, we are not to understand by this threatening, that God will ever, on account of the sins of parents, punish children, in the strict sense of the word punish, when they deserve it not. But in the course of things, established by his providence, it comes to pass, that the sins of one person, or one generation, lead those, who come after, into the same, or other, perhaps greater, sins; and so bring upon them double sufferings, partly the fruits of their predecessors' faults, partly of their own. And when successive ages follow one another in crimes, besides the natural bad effects of them, which punish them in some measure, God may justly threaten severer additional corrections, than he would else inflict for their personal transgressions; both because it may deter men from propagating wickedness down to their posterity; and
(7) Rom. i. 21, 32.
(8) Against this wrong imagination, Cotta, in Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. 3. § 38, inveighs vehemently.
(9) See Sherlock on Providence, p. 382, 390.
because if it doth not, inveterate evils demand a rougher cure. Accordingly, here the Israelites are forewarned, that if they fell into idolatry, they and their children would fall, by means of it, into all sorts of abomination; and not only these would of course produce many mischiefs to both, but God would chastise the following generations with heavier strokes, for not taking warning, as they ought to have done, by the misbehaviour and sufferings of the former. Denouncing this intention beforehand, must influence them, if any thing could; because it must give them a concern, both for themselves and their descendants too; for whom, next to themselves, if not equally, men are always interested. And, therefore, visiting sins upon them to the third and fourth generation, seems to be mentioned; because either the life, or, however, the solicitude, of a person may be supposed to extend thus far, and seldom further.
The threatening, therefore, was not only just, but wise and kind, on the supposition, which, in general, it was reasonable to make, that in such matters children would imitate their wicked progenitors. And whenever any did not, either their innocence would avert the impending evils, or they would be abundantly rewarded in a future life, for what the sins of others had brought upon them in the present.
But if God hath threatened to punish the breach of this precept, "to the third and fourth genera
tion," he hath promised to "show mercy unto "thousands;" that is, so long as the world shall endure, to "them that love him, and keep his "commandments." To the Jews he fulfilled this engagement, as far as they gave him opportunity, by temporal blessings. And amongst Christians there is ordinarily a fair prospect, that a nation, or a family, pious and virtuous through successive ages, will be recompensed with increasing happi
ness in every age; which is a powerful motive, both for worshipping God in purity ourselves, and educating those who are placed under our care, to do so too. Yet, it must be acknowledged, that neither the rewards foretold, nor the punishments denounced in this Commandment, are so constantly distributed on earth under the Gospel dispensation, as they were under that of the law. But still our Maker as certainly requires, as ever he did, since he "is a Spirit, to be worshipped in "spirit and in truth ;" and the inducement to it is abundantly sufficient, that the idolators, amongst other sinners, "shall have their part in the lake, "which burneth with fire and brimstone.' Not that we are to be forward in applying so dreadful a sentence to the case of those, whether Christians or others, who in this, or any respect, offend through such ignorance or mistake, as, for aught we can tell, is excusable. May our heavenly "Father forgive them; for they know not what they do."3 But we should be very thankful to him for the light which he hath caused to shine upon us; and very careful to walk in it as becomes the "the children of light, having no fellowship "with the unfruitful works of darkness."4
(1) John iv. 24.
(2) Rev. xxi. 8.
(3) Luke xxiii. 34.