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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 adoration, 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 general sense is evidently in opposition to the practice. 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, accuses 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" woṛshipping 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 dispensation 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 recorded 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 little 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 Moses) are men
2 Kings, xviii. 4.
§ Gen. xxv. 19, 20.
+ Numbers, xxi, 8, 9.
tioned 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.
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 prohibition" 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;† in which the prefixed particle signifies "towards." But the Doway translation, following the vulgate, has it-" Adore his footstool:" applying 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,‡ and being press
Adv. Marcion, lib. 2.
He numbers it the ninety-eighth, as does the Doway
ed by the difficulty of a seeming contradiction to the worship of one only God, he considers the earth as the footstool; it being elsewhere so called: and then, our Lord having taken from the earth his body, it is considered as the object of worship to which the psalm incites. However unnecessary this circuitous interpretation, it is evidence of the distance of the mind of the Father from creature worship. The Doway Bible, besides its imperfect translation of the passage of scripture, applies in a note the comment of St. Austin to the worship of the body and the blood of Christ, in the Eucha rist. But the Father has explained himself by de claring, that his interpretation is to be taken in a spiritual sense; and by introducing Christ announcing to his disciples, that the body and the blood of which he spake in the sixth chapter of St. John, were not what were to be offered on the cross!
The explanation of St. Ambrose, who is also referred to by the translation of Doway, is not materially different from that of St. Austin. Both of these fathers were conducted to their comments, by their wish to reconcile the verse of the psalm with the positive prohibition of creature-worship. They were unnecessarily perplexed on this point, by conforming themselves to the vulgate. This is one of the many instances which prove, in contrariety to the decision of the council of Trent, that the said translation, however respectable, requires the check of the Hebrew. The Septuagint is to the same effect, in the translation of the verse in question: but neither should the latter version be uncontrolled by the original.
From the New Testament also, there have been endeavours to fetch authorities for the same mistaken species of worship. John the Baptist's expressing of veneration for the latchet of our Lord's shoes, has been thought to the purpose. More stress has been laid on the name of Jesus: it being
thought to be declared,* that Christians are to bow at the mention of it. Such an expression of reverence, is not the offering of it to an image; but to the original, as contemplated by the mind. The passage, however, may more properly be translated"In the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow."+ Besides, it is not probable that this name, which the adorable author of our religion bore in common with many of his countrymen, should have been announced as challenging more reverence than the name of Christ (that is, the Anointed) which was peculiar to himself.
This blessed person found no reason to upbraid his countrymen with image worship: for their captivity and their other calamities had purged them of that errour. But when the gospel began to be preached to the Gentiles, we find unequivocal reproofs of it from the apostles. These reproofs, it will be said, were of the worship of the images of false gods. But is it possible that St. Peter, who forbad Cornelius to worship him, saying "I myself also am a man,"‡ would have endured to be worshipped and invoked through the medium of an image? Or is it possible that St. John, who, overpowered by the wonders which he had seen in vision, fell down to worship at the feet of the angel, but received a check on that account, would have sanctioned the like worship in his more recollected moments? Perhaps his yielding to human infirmity in this instance, may have been permitted by the providence of God; in order to close the sacred volume with an explicit protest against an errour, which
* Philip. ii. 3.
†The preposition " At" seems to have crept into the present translation, from the English Bible of Geneva, published in 1567. Archbishop Cranmer's and that of the Reign of Elizabeth called the Bishop's Bible, have-« In." So has the Roman Catholick version of Doway.
+ Acts x. 26.