« AnteriorContinuar »
or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.” 1 How injurious also to that most excellent nature must it be to frame and expose to view such, not only homely and mean,
but in respect of the Divine nature, most foul and ugly portraitures of him, which cannot but tend to vilify him in men's conceit. He that should form the image of a serpent or a toad, and exhibit it as the simili. tude of a king, would surely derogate much from his majesty, and beget very mean and unbeseeming conceits of his person in their minds whom he should persuade to take it for such. Infinitely more must he detract from the dignity and diminish the reverence due to that Immense, Almighty, Allwise, most pure and perfect Being, who shall presume to present any sensible, any finite, any corruptible thing as a resemblance of him ; "changing” (as St Paul expresseth it) “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things:"2 as the Israelites are said to have changed their glory” (that is, their glorious God) “into the similitude of an ox, that eateth
No wonder was it that they, who used such expressions of their religion, had so low opinions concerning those supposed deities whom they worshipped; that they 'supposed them liable to such passions, fathered such actions upon them, described them as vile in their dispositions and their doings, as they represented them in their shape. Most reasonable therefore is this prohibition of making any resemblance of what kind soever in order to religious adoration, and yielding to them any such signification of respect, which the custom or consent of men hath appropriated to religion, as bowing, falling down, lying prostrate before them, or the like. Most reasonable, I say, for since there is but one proper and allowable object of our worship, as the first commandment declares, the making an image of any other existent in nature, or devised by our own fancy in order to the worship thereof, is but a pursuance of that unreasonable and unjust superstition there forbidden; adding some absurdity in the manner to the pravity in the substance of such worship.
s Psal. cvi. 20,
Acts xvii, 29.
* Rom. i. 23.
And as for that one true object of our devotion, the Eternal, Immense, and all perfect God; the glorious excellency of whose nature doth infinitely transcend our comprehension, and consequently of whom we cannot devise any resemblance not infinitely unlike to him and unworthy of him, it must be therefore a profane folly to pretend the representing him by any image; and the doing of it is upon such accounts in many places of Scripture forbidden; and that it is so here, according to the intent of this precept, is plain by that place in Deuteronomy, where Moses reports the ground of this prohibition : "Take ye therefore ” (saith he), "good
s 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 you corrupt, and make
you a graven image.” 1 No shape representing God did appear at his utterance of these laws, to prevent their framing any resemblance of God, and taking occasion to practise this sort of worship thereby implied to be unreasonable. And the prophet Isaiah having in sublime language and discourse set out the incomparable greatness, power, and majesty of God," who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance; before whom the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of a balance: yea, before whom all nations are as nothing, and are counted to him less than nothing and vanity; who sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in,"2_having, I say, in this and more such language endeavoured to describe the might and majesty of God, he infers: “To whom then will ye liken God: or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" and thereupon he proceeds to discourse against making images for religious use. Like whereto is the discourse of St Paul to the Athenians: “God” (saith he) “who made the world, and all things that are therein, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; nor is worshipped by the hands of men, —we therefore being the offspring of God, ought not to
| Deut. iv. 15.
2 Isa. xl. 12-25.
think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, the engravement of art, and man's device;"1 in which place, as the forming any image to represent divine things is manifestly prohibited, so the reasons which we touched against such practice are discernibly enough insinuated.
Neither should we omit that this law is confirmed in the New Testament, and there made a part of God's new law; for we are therein often commanded to flee idols, not to be idolaters, to shun idolatry as a most heinous crime of the highest rank, proceeding from fleshly pravity, inconsistent with good conscience, and exposing to damnation ;? for the meaning and notion of idolatry in which places, why should we understand it otherwise than according to the plain sense of the word, which is the worship of images or resemblances? why should we take it otherwise than as opposite to God's law then in force? why should we otherwise expound it than according to the common notion and acceptance of God's people at that time? The word idolatry was unknown to other people than the Jews; among the Jews it signified the violation of the second commandment; wherefore the observance of that commandment is established and enforced by the apostles. The Jews detested the worshipping any images; their detestation was grounded on this law, they therefore, who earnestly
1 Acts xvii. 24-29.
1 Cor. v. 10, 11; vi. 9; X. 7, 14; Gal. v. 20; 1 John v. 21; Rev. ix. 20; xxi. 8 ; xxii. 15.
exhort them to continue in detestation thereof, do confirm and enforce the obligation of this law, nor can we reasonably suppose any distinction or reservation for any idolatry, or any worshipping of images, as lawful or allowable to Christians; since the apostles as they found it universally prohibited to the Jews, so they continued to charge Christians against it. This discourse hath more force, considering that the same reason upon which this law was enacted doth still apparently continue; men still unmeasurably affecting this fanciful way of religion, being apt in the exercise thereof (if not curbed by a law) to dote upon sensible representations ; being averse from raising up their minds to the only true object of worship, as endued with intelligible and spiritual perfections. This the experience of men's wild eagerness for images, relics, and other such foolish trinkets, which had almost quite oppressed our religion (as in many ages the best and wisest men did observe and complain), doth plainly evince.
We may add, that if the common tradition and consent of the ancient Church is in any case a ground of persuasion or rule of practice to us, we are thence obliged to disapprove and decline the worshipping images, for nothing can be more evident than that all such worship was not only carefully eschewed, but zealously detested by the primitive Christians. This is manifest from most express words of the fathers generally impugning and condemning all worship of images, which are as applicable to that worship, which hath been