Page images
PDF
EPUB

him for sending them to us; and if we do this with a humble, grateful heart, we shall be sure to love them sufliciently, without detracting froin what is due to the Author of all our blessings; to whom our first and chief love belongs of prior right, and whom it is our highest wisdom, duty, and interest to believe, love, and fear with all our heart, soul, and strength : “ to worship

him, and put our whole trust in himto pay " the honour due unto his name and to serve him truly all the days of our life." To him be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen.

LECTURE XXIII.

SECOND COMMANDMENT.

EXODUS, xx. 4, 5, 6. 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.

It must be evident to any one who reads and considers the contents of the first and second commandments with attention, that they are entirely distinct commandments: they are written by Him who doth nothing in vain, for the purpose of establishing separate laws, and setting forth various articles relating to the purity of the worship to be paid to the ONE TRUE. GOD.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

In the first commandment we are positively enjoined to own but one God. The precept is levelled against what the ancients called polytheism; that is, entertaining a belief that there are more Gods than one; the falsehood of which, and the incomprehensibility of his nature, God at the same time declares, in this solemn title, to his servant Moses. Upon his asking by what name he should announce the Lord God of a people to whom he was sent, I AM THAT I AM, was the reply; which signified, I am that eternal Being, that very God, who is self-existent, having neither beginning nor ending: in short, I am the God over all, by whom and for whom all things were made—1, that Almighty Being, have sent you unto them; and, in condescension to their weakness, and to engage their faith and gratitude, he adds, Ye shall say, The God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob hath sent you. So that, by the first commandment, the doctrine of many gods is forbidden, because it destroys the very notion of God.

But under this second commandment we plainly perceive several other precepts included. God knew the weakness, vanity, and depravity of the human heart, how very low the people were in their progress towards spiritual faith and worship; and, withal, having the foreknowledge of all things at one view, his wisdom saw it ex

pedient to give them a law, both to warn them against the sins to which they were peculiarly inclined by education, as likewise to be the rule by which their disobedience should be judged, and himself justified in the condemnation of their disobedience-for where there is no law there is no sin. He knew likewise, that their vanity, and the strong taint of idolatry that infected them, would soon induce them to transgress, as we read they actually did, as soon as ever Moses had left them to the trial of their own wicked and faithless thoughts: this second law, therefore, became positively expedient to caution and secure them in future.

Men might be inclined to acknowledge there was only one God, from the powerful effect of divine revelation, and the miracles that confirmed that information. But as no man hath seen God at any time, as the proud curiosity of the creature was the first motive that ensnared his innocence, and as the weakness of the human mind, through want of faith, might occasionally require some object to keep up its dependence and engage its worship, God knew that men would be induced by these degenerated principles, to follow their own vain imaginations, by fancying and forming some visible object to place before them. To prevent this, and declare the great sin attending such a practice, is clearly the design of this precept we are now

considering : and surely nothing can be more full and explicit than the particular parts of which this commandment is composed. It differs from the first, in that, being already instructed concerning the object of our worship, this relates chiefly to the manner of it, that so'we may not only serve the one true God, but do it exactly in the way he has judged right to require, and as it certainly becomes us to do accordingly.

Let us now consider the meaning of the first member of this law: “ Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the

earth beneath, or in the water under the earth:_by which we are taught that it is unlawful for us to make any image of God at all, however plausible our design may be in so doing. And, of course, if this would be wrong, as being highly presumptuous, and leading to idolatry, so it would be much more so to set up the image of any other being, with an intention to honour or worship it, because this would be idolatry itself. And to convince us that it is utterly unlawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to make any image or likeness at all of God, it is expressly forbidden, as being highly dishonourable to the infinite nature and pure majesty of the Most High, and of great harm and danger to ourselves, in provoking his anger, and rendering us still more corrupt and liable to trans

« PreviousContinue »