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OF THE WORSHIP OF IMAGES.*
Second Commandment.--The Israelitish History.-The Jews
in our Lord's day. The Primitive Church. The Origin and the Progress of the Practice.-An erroneous Con. struction of the Commandment.-Aggravation in the Unlawfulness of the Object.-Cessation must precede the Conversion of the Jews.
In the lecture, there is a caution against image or creature worship in any shape. In truth, the author considers it as a branch of the sacred trust committed to every minister of the gospel, to hold up to his flock the importance of the present point, as involved in the integrity of Christian faith.
Although the second commandment, in that its proper place, speaks more emphatically than when removed, and made an appendage to the first; yet in either case, it is plainly to the point of faulting the making of graven images, with the view of worshipping them. And this prohibition is without regard to difference of grade in worship: a distinction of times comparatively modern; devised for the purpose of palliating a departure from the practice of the early ages of the Church.
But it is said, that by a graven image is meant an idol. Certainly because there came under this name whatever was contemplated as a sensible object of religious worship. Still, the original word signifies a graven image, and nothing more: although doubtless, only in the view of its being designed as an object of worship. But a distinction is further taken, between wor,
* See Lecture III.
ship offered relatively to the image, and that intend. ed terminatively; which may be to the object thereby represented. This is the very matter, against which the command was levelled: as may appear from the following amplification of it in Deutero. nomy, iv. 15—19.—“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, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that fieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto hea. ven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations un. der the whole heaven." It is evident from the con. nexion of the fifteenth verse with the verses which follow, that the danger contemplated was the worshipping of God, under certain material represen. tations of him. The Egyptians, whose manners must have been well known to the Israelites, offer. ed their worship to the images of beasts, and birds, and fishes, contemplated as representing figurative. ly certain operations of God in nature. And as to the sun, the moon, and the stars; although the more ignorant of their worshippers may have thought them endowed with intelligence; it might be shown from early records, that the design originated in the contemplating of them as representative of the beneficence of the Deity.
The whole history of the ancient Jews, may be considered as a comment on the second commandment, and as explanatory of its meaning. In all the admonitions, the remonstrances, and the denuncia. tions of the prophets concerning idol worship, its
being offered to wood and stone in any sense, is the subject of their reprobation: and there is not the least intimation, that there was a species of adora. tion, which might be innocently offered to these material objects.
And yet, in comparatively modern times, there have been urged a few passages in favour of image worship, from the Old Testament; much as its ge. neral sense is evidently in opposition to the prac. tice. The passages alluded to, shall be noticed.
What we read in Heb. xi. 21, of Jacob's “wor. shipping on the top of his staff," has been construed to the sense of his making of it the object of his worship. The Doway translation of the bible, in a note, accuse's Protestants of corrupting the text; because in the common translation, the Patriarch is described "Leaning on the top of his staff.” The word rendered “leaning" in the English version, is not in the original, and therefore always printed in italicks; as is the case with many other words, put in to accommodate to the genius of our language. The original strictly signifies wor. shipping on the top of his staff.” To have worshipped the staff itself, would have been very unlike the conduct of the patriarch, when he manifested so much zeal, to drive out of his family the images which they had contrived to bring away with them from Syria; as is related in Genesis, xxxv. 2.
It is worth while to remark the liberties taken, in order to deduce a sanction for image worship from this place. First, the translation of the Seventy must be taken, instead of the original Hebrew, which is not alleged to contain any such matter. Now although St. Paul's quoting of the Septuagint is presumptive of its being to the purpose for which he wrote -Jacob's exercise of faith in a dispensa. tion to come; yet this would not warrant the using of his authority, to rank the translation above the original; especially as to a point, which made no part of his subject. But even this will not serve the purpose, without restraining the sense of the Greek preposition;* which commonly signifies “upon,
," although it sometimes signifies * towards:" the sense exacted by the use made of it on the other side. Whether it were “on” or “towards,” the worship might have been performed, without its being even relatively offered to the staff: and yet, the contrary seems presumed. All this would not do without another license—that of making the staff or reed of Joseph, to which adoration is supposed to have been directed, in some way significative of the sceptre of the kingdom of the Messiah: but how the analogy was constituted, is not said. After all, the meaning of the place seems to be simply, that the dying patriarch put forth an effort of his remaining strength, in the last act of adoration which he was to perform in his earthly pilgrimage.
It is recordedt that Moses, by divine command; made a brazen serpent; and that on the looking at it, those of the people who had been bitten by the plague of serpents, were healed. This has been construed into an act of worship: but with what lit, tle reason, may appear from another place in which we find, that the good king Hezekiah brake it in pieces, because the children of Israel burnt incense to it. Not only so, to show his contempt of it as an object of worship, he called it " Nehushtan:” which, from its resemblance to a word signifying a bit of brass, is supposed to intimate that it was this and nothing more. Hence it appears, that what might have been thought a venerable relick on account of its original destination, was more fitly broken to pieces, when it had become abused to idolatry. This act of the pious king is recorded as one of the instances, in which he “ did right in the sight of the Lord, as David his father had done." The two cherubims made by Mosesý are mentioned to the same effect. Now these were in the Holy of Holies, into which the people were not admitted. The high priest went into it once a year. When the glory of the Lord appeared in that sacred place, it was not in the cherubims, but above the mercy seat, over which their wings extended.
† Numbers, xxi, 8, 9. 12 Kings, xviii. 4. Gen. xxv, 19, 20,
* Επι. .
Both this subject and that of the brazen serpent seems to have occurred to Tertullian, as what might perhaps be' objected to, on the ground of the commandment against idolatry. But his comment. on them is similar to the distinction here taken: for he remarks, * that they do not come under the pro, hibition-thou shalt not adore nor serve them." This ancient writer seems to have had no concep tion of the distinction between absolute worship, and that which is called relative.
There is also mentioned from the Old Testament, the veneration enjoined to the temple and to the ark., No doubt is raised, as to relative respect to be paid to these material objects. But the question turns on the worship alleged to be due to them: that is, in any expression of dependence, or the looking to them for benefit of any sort. The same applies to any other object, supposed to be addressed in worship paid to it relatively: it being acknowledged to be not an object of worship in itself.
Another authority set up, is Ps. xcix. verse. 5. -"Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy:" For thus the text stands in the common version, agreeably to the Hebrew;t in which the prefixed particle signifies “towards.” But the Doway translation, following the vulgate, has it" Adore his footstool;" apply. ing the term, as is reasonable, to the mercy seat. There is something worthy of notice, in St. Austin's comment on this psalm. Following the same standard in his commentary on it, f and being press* Adv. Marcion, lib. 2.
He numbers it the ninety-eighth, as does the Doway Bible,