Archive for the ‘Fisher’s Catechism’ Category

Westminster Confession: Cessationist as to Revelatory Gifts

May 27, 2016

The Westminster Confession of Faith is explicitly cessationist, at least with respect to the revelatory gifts. It states:

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;[1] yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation.[2] Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;[3] and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;[4] which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary;[5] those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.[6]

[1] ROM 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. PSA 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. ROM 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

[2] 1CO 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

[3] HEB 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.

[4] PRO 22:19 That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. 20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, 21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? LUK 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. ROM 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. MAT 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. ISA 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

[5] 2TI 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2PE 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.

[6] HEB 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.

Yet there is apparently doubt in the minds of some that this confession is explicitly cessationist with respect to the revelatory gifts. While the text itself is rather clear on its face, it may be worth considering what Reformed commentators have said in their commentaries on the Confession or related catechisms.

It will be noted that the Confession sharply contradicts the view popularized today by the neo-Pentecostal movement. In essence this view would have us believe that we can have the same charismatic gifts today– such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing — that we read occurred in the age of the apostles. This is a very serious error. In essence it is a result of a failure to grasp the biblical teaching concerning the history of salvation. The Bible itself makes it clear that there are many things in the history of redemption that cannot, and will not, be repeated. There will never again by a universal flood, or a crossing of the Red Sea, or a virgin birth. Never again will there be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit such as took place on the day of Pentecost. The sending of the Holy Spirit is just as much an unrepeatable event as the birth of Christ was. It is for this reason that the miracles — the signs and wonders — that we read of in the Bible were not constantly occurring but, rather, centered on the major events in the process of revelation. Note, for instance, how few the miracles are in the Bible until we come to the time of Moses (the author of the first part of the Bible). Note also how the signs and wonders that we read of in the book of Acts are always associated with the presence of the apostles. For these, and similar facts, there is a reason. The reason is that these signs and wonders were given by God to attest and confirm that these men were his spokesmen. And since this process came to completion in the finished work of Christ, and the testimony of these men is now deposited in the Scriptures, the Bible alone is God’s present revelation.

G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith: For Study Classes, pp. 4-5 (link)

Quest. III. “Are these former Ways of God’s revealing his Will unto his People now ceased?”
Yes.
Well then, do not the Enthusiasts and Quakers err, who maintain, That the Lord hath not ceased yet to reveal his Will as he did of old?
Yes.
By what Reasons are they confuted?
1st, Because God who at sundry Times, and in divers Manners, spake in Times past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hat in these last Days spoken unto us by his Son. Heb. 1:1-2. The Apostle calls the Time of the New Testament the last Days, because under the same, there is no more Alteration to be expected, but all Things are to abide without adding, or taking away, as was taught and ordained by Christ, until the last Day; See also Joel 2:18, Acts 2:17. The Ways and Manners of old were first by Inspiration, 1 Chron. 15:1, Isai. 49:21, 2 Pet. 1:21. Secondly, By Visions, Num. 12:6,8. Thirdly, By Dreams, Job 33:14,15, Gen. 40:8. Fourthly, By Urim and Thummim, Num. 27:21, 1 Sam. 30:7,8. Fifthly, By Signs, Gen. 32:24, Exod. 13:21. Sixthly, By Audible Voice, Exod. 20:1, Gen. 22:15. All which do end in Writing, Exod. 17:17, 14 which is a most sure and infallible Way of the Lord’s revealing his Will unto his People.

David Dickinson, Truth’s Victory over Error (a commentary on the WCF), pp. 31-32 (link)

Q. 26. Why are the scriptures from Matthew to the end of the Revelation, called the New Testament?

A. Because they contain the most clear and full revelation, and actual ratification of the covenant of promise, by the death of Christ the Testator, who is also the living Executor of his own testament, Rev. 1:18 — “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore.” John 14:19 — “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

Q. 27. Will this New Testament dispensation of the grace of God ever undergo any other alteration?

A. No; it will remain new and unalterable, till the second coming of the Lord Jesus, Mat. 26:29.

Q. 46. Is the light within men, or the Spirit without the word, which is pretended to by the Quakers, and other enthusiasts, to be used as any rule for our direction?

A. No; because whatever light or spirit is pretended to, without the word, it is but darkness, delusion, and a spirit of error, 1 John 4:1, 6.

Fisher’s Catechism (The Shorter Catechism Explained) at Question 2 (link)

Q. Why doth not God still work miracles for the confirmation of the scriptures? A. Because they were only necessary to establish truth at first, and to awaken the world to consider and receiver it; and if always wrought, be esteemed common things, and make no impression on the minds of men, Exod. iv.–xiv. &c.

John Brown, “An Essay Towards and Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism” (link)

The idea of the completeness of Scripture also implies that nothing is to be added to or taken from them at any time. The canon of Scripture is complete and closed, and all that men need for faith and life is therein contained. Hence no supposed new revelations of the Spirit are to be added, and the opinions and traditions of men are to be excluded.

Francis Robert Beattie, The Presbyterian Standards, p. 49 (link)

These are “the ONLY rule to direct us.” We have seen that they are a rule, but now we see there is none other.

William Paton Mackay, Notes on the Shorter Catechism, pp. 5-6 (link)

The fourth proposition asserts, that this revelation has been committed to writing until the time of Moses, or for a period of two thousand five hundred years, no part of the sacred books was written. God then communicated his will to the Church by immediate revelation; and the long lives of the patriarchs enabled them to preserve uncorrupted what was so revealed, and to transmit it from generation to generation. Two persons might have conveyed it down from Adam to Abraham; for Methuselah lived above three hundred years while Adam was yet alive, and Shem lived almost a hundred years with Methuselah, and above a hundred years with Abraham. But after the lives of men severe shortened, and revelation was greatly enlarged, it pleased God that the whole of his revealed will should be committed to writing, that the Church might have a standing rule of faith and practice, by which all doctrines might be examined, and all actions regulated,–that sacred truth might be preserved uncorrupted and entire,–that it might be propagated throughout the several nations of the earth, and might be conveyed down to all succeeding generation. Though, in the infancy of the Church, God taught his people without the written Word, yet now that he former ways of revealing his will to his people have ceased, the Holy Scripture, or written Word, is most necessary. Without this the Church would be left to the uncertainty of tradition and oral teaching; but the written Word is a sure test of doctrines, and a light in a dark place, both of which are most necessary.–Isa viii. 20; 2 Pet. i. 19.

Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith

Hence, the Confession teaches in this section —
3. That consequently it has pleased God, of his sovereign grace, to make, in various ways and at different times, a super natural revelation of himself and of his purposes to a chosen portion of the human family. And that —
4. God has been pleased subsequently to commit that revelation to writing, and it is now exclusively embraced in the Sacred Scriptures.
Since, as above shown, the light of nature is insufficient to enable men to attain such a knowledge of God and his will as is necessary for salvation, it follows — (1.) That a supernatural revelation is absolutely necessary for man; and, (2.) From what natural religion alone teaches us of the character of God, it follows that the giving of such a revelation is in the highest degree antecedently probable on his part. Man is essentially a moral agent, and needs a clearly revealed rule of duty; and a religious being, craving communion with God. In his natural state these are both unsatisfied. But God is the author of human nature. His intelligence leads us to believe that he will complete all his works and crown a religious nature with the gift of a religion practically adequate to its wants. The benevolence of God leads us to anticipate that he will not leave his creatures in bewilderment and ruin for the want of light as to their condition and duties. And his righteousness occasions the presumption that he will at some time speak in definite and authoritative tones to the conscience of his subjects. (3.) As a matter of fact, God has given such a revelation. Indeed he has in no period of human history left himself without a witness. His communications to mankind through the first three thousand years were made in very “diverse manners”– by theophanies and audible voices, dreams, visions, the Urim and Thummim, and prophetic inspiration; and the results of these communications were diffused and perpetuated by means of tradition.

A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary

As miracles are now ceased, so such a method of confirming divine revelation is not necessary in all succeeding ages: God did not design to make that dispensation too common, nor to continue the evidence it affords, when there was no necessity thereof.

Thomas Ridgeley, A Body of Divinity, p. 115

-TurretinFan

BONUS (on the topic, but not directly addressing what the standards say):

2. After the faith of Christ was sufficiently confirmed, miracles ceased; and it was fit they should cease, for God doth nothing unnecessarily. The Christian doctrine is the same that it was, and is to be the same till the end of the world; we have a sure and authentic record of it, which is the holy scriptures. The truth of Christ’s office and doctrine is fully proved, and cometh transmitted to us by the consent of many successions of ages, in whose experience God hath blessed it to the converting, comforting, and saving of many a soul. Look, as the Jews, every time the law was brought forth, were not to expect the thunderings and lightnings, and the voice of the terrible trumpet, with which it was given at first on Mount Sinai (one solemn confirmation served for after ages); they knew it was a law given by the ministry of angels, and so entertained it with veneration and respect; so Christianity needed to be once solemnly confirmed (after ages have the use of the first miracles); for the apostle compareth these two things, the giving of the law and the gospel: Heb. 2:2-4, ‘For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward: how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him?’ we must be contented with God’s owning it now only in the way of his Spirit and providence.

Thomas Manton, Seventh Sermon on 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 2, (link)

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Fisher’s Catechism on the Second Commandment

August 16, 2010

James Fisher, Ralph Erskine, and Ebenezer Erskine produced a meta-catechism, a catechism designed to explain and explicate the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It was originally released in 1753, though it was revised and ultimately released in the form below by James Fisher in 1765. As explained in the introduction, while these three men were involved, they were not alone in preparing the materials that ultimately were compiled into what has become known as “Fisher’s Catechism” (link to intro). Without further ado, here’s Fisher’s Catechism on the Second Commandment:

QUESTION 49. Which is the Second Commandment?

ANSWER: The Second Commandment is, 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.

QUESTION 50. What is required in the Second Commandment?

ANSWER: The Second Commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.

Q. 1. What is the opinion of the Papists respecting this commandment?

A. They allege that it is not a distinct precept from the first, but only an appendix, or supplement to it, by way of illustration.

Q. 2. What is their practice, in consequence of this opinion?

A. They constantly leave it out in their mass books and other liturgies of their church, lest the people should observe the manifest contrariety of their image worship, to what is here so expressly forbidden.

Q. 3. In what then does the Second Commandment differ from the first?

A. The First Commandment respects the object, and requires that we worship the true God for our God, and no other: the second respects the means of worship, and requires that the true God be worshipped in such a way only, and by such ordinances as he has appointed in his word, in opposition to all human inventions.

Q. 4. What is meant by religious worship?

A. That homage and respect we owe to a gracious God, as a God of infinite perfection; by which we profess subjection to, and confidence in him, as our God in Christ, for the supply of all our wants; and ascribe the praise and glory that is due to him, as our chief good, and only happiness, Psalm 95:6, 7.

Q. 5. What are these religious ordinances, which God has appointed in his word?

A. They are “prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word, the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God; and vowing to him.”[59]

Q. 6. Is prayer a moral duty founded in the law of nature?

A. It certainly is; the necessary dependence of the rational creature upon its Creator, plainly proves it to be so. Hence we find the very Heathens practising it, when reduced to straits, Jonah 1:14.

Q. 7. How does it appear to be an instituted means of worship?

A. From a variety of scripture texts enjoining the practice of it, in all cases and circumstances, Psalm 50:15; Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17.

Q. 8. What is acceptable prayer?

A. It is an asking in Christ’s name, what God has promised to give, John 14:13; with a full persuasion that he hears, and will answer, Mark 11:24; James 1:6.

Q. 9. How manifold is religious thanksgiving?

A. TWOFOLD; stated and occasional.

Q. 10. What is stated thanksgiving?

A. It is not only the thankful acknowledgment of mercies daily received, which is a branch of prayer; but likewise the singing the praises of God with the voice, which is a stated act of worship, distinct from prayer, though ejaculatory prayer ought always to be joined with it, Psalm 57:7.

Q. 11. How do you prove that singing with the voice is a stated act of worship appointed under the New Testament?

A. From the example of Christ and his apostles, who, after the first supper, sang a hymn, (or psalm, as on the margin,) Matt. 26:30; and from the injunction laid upon all Christians to be employed in this exercise, as a stated duty, Eph. 5:18, 19; James 5:13.

Q. 12. What should be the subject matter of our praises to God?[60]

A. The psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, which are dictated by the Spirit of God in scripture; and not any human composure whatever, Eph. 5:19.

Q. 13. In what manner should these be sung?

A. “With grace in our hearts to the Lord,” Col. 3:16.

Q. 14. What is it to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord?

A. It is to have our hearts going along with our voice, in suitable acts of faith, and elevated affections, Psalm 57:7.

Q. 15. Are not the Psalms of David, as we sing them in our language, of human composure?

A. The translation in metre is human, but the sense and meaning are the same as the original.

Q. 16. What is occasional thanksgiving?

A. It is the setting some time apart for giving thanks to God, on account of some remarkable mercy and deliverance, respecting either churches and nations in general, Neh. 12:27; or ourselves and families in particular, Eph. 5:20.

Q. 17. How ought we to engage in this duty?

A. With an humble sense of our utter unworthiness of the least of all God’s favours, 2 Sam. 7:18.

Q. 18. Are reading, hearing, and preaching of the word, acts of worship?

A. Although they are not acts of such immediate worship as prayer and praise, in which God is immediately addressed; yet being the instituted and ordinary means of salvation, they ought to be practised and attended with that reverence and regard which is due to the great God our Saviour, who is present in them, Matt. 28:20; Acts 10:33.

Q. 19. How are the administration and receiving of the sacraments acts of worship?

A. As in them, by the sensible signs of divine appointment, Christ, and his benefits, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers, Gal. 3:26; 1 Cor. 11:26.

Q. 20. In what sense are church government and discipline to be ranked among the ordinances of divine worship?

A. In as far as they are exercised in the name of the Lord Jesus, the alone head of the church, according to the rule of his word, by church judicatories lawfully constituted, Matt. 18:20.

Q. 21. Why are the ministry and the maintenance of it placed among religious ordinances?

A. Because, as a standing ministry in the church, till the end of time, is of express divine institution, Eph. 4:11-13; so the suitable and comfortable maintenance of it, is as expressly appointed, not only in the Old Testament, Num. 18:21, 24; but likewise in the New, 1 Cor. 9:13, 14 — “Do ye not know, that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”

Q. 22. What is religious fasting?

A. “A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out, till the fast be ended,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights.”[61] Josh. 7:6; Judges 20:26.

Q. 23. Is bodily fasting, or bare abstinence from food, any part of religious worship?

A. Not properly in itself; but as it is a mean of divine appointment, for fitting and disposing us for more spiritual and solemn exercises.

Q. 24. How does fasting appear to be a mean of divine appointment?

A. From the practice of the saints under the Old Testament, Esth. 4:16; Dan. 10:2, 3; from the testimony of Christ, Matt. 6:17, 18, and 17:21; and the example of his apostles under the New, Acts 13:3; and 14:23.

Q. 25. What are those spiritual and solemn exercises for which fasting is designed to dispose us?

A. Deep humiliation of soul before the Lord on account of sin, Ezra 9:6; free confession of it, Dan. 9:20, and turning from it, Joel 2:12, as the genuine fruits of our taking hold of God’s covenant, Jer. 50:4, 5; together with an importunate requesting of our gracious God, for that which is the particular occasion of the fast, Psalm 35:13.

Q. 26. Is religious fasting an occasional or a stated duty?

A. It is merely occasional and extraordinary, to be observed as the call of Providence may require and direct.

Q. 27. What are the occurrences in providence, which are a call to this extraordinary duty?

A. “When some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people,” Dan. 9:3, 12-14, “or apparently imminent,” 2 Chron. 20:2-4; “or, by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved,” 1 Sam. 7:3, 6; “as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained,”[62] ver. 5, 8, 10.

Q. 28. Is swearing by the name of God an act of immediate and instituted worship?

A. It is undoubtedly: and that either when we devote ourselves to God in a covenant of duties, Deut. 6:13, or declare the truth upon oath, when called thereto: because, in both cases the name of God is solemnly interposed and invoked, Jer. 4:2.

Q. 29. To whom are vows to be made?

A. To God alone, as the only party and witness in the making and performing of them, Psalm 76:11 — “Vow and pay unto the LORD your GOD.”

Q. 30. What should be the subject matter of our vows to God?

A. Nothing except what may tend either to promote the practice of commanded duty, Psalm 119:57, or prevent the commission of any sin to which we are more ordinarily inclined and addicted, verse 106.

Q. 31. What does this commandment require, with respect to all those ordinances, and parts of worship, which God has appointed in his word?

A. The receiving and observing them; and keeping them pure and entire.

Q. 32. What is it to receive God’s ordinances?

A. It is to approve of, and embrace them, as bearing the stamp of his authority upon them, Psalm 84:1, 2.

Q. 33. What is it to observe them?

A. It is to set about the practice of them, or to be actually employed in them, Psalm 55:17, and 119:164; Luke 2:37.

Q. 34. What is it to keep the ordinances of God pure?

A. It is to contribute our utmost endeavour to preserve them from all mixture of human invention, Deut. 12:32.

Q. 35. What is it to keep them entire?

A. It is, in the exercise of faith, to attend upon each of them in its proper season, so as that one duty may not jostle out another, Luke 1:6.

Q. 36. What does God require of us in this command, with reference to all false worship?

A. He requires “the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship, Psalm 16:4; and according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry, Deut. 7:5.”[63]

QUESTION 51. What is forbidden in the Second Commandment?

ANSWER: The Second Commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

Q. 1. What are the leading sins forbidden in this commandment?

A. Idolatry and will-worship.

Q. 2. What is the idolatry here condemned?

A. The worshipping of God by images: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” &c.

Q. 3. What is an image?

A. It is a statue, picture, or likeness of any creature whatever.

Q. 4. Is it lawful to have images or pictures of mere creatures?

A. Yes, provided they be only for ornament; or the design be merely historical, to transmit the memory of persons and their actions to posterity.

Q. 5. Can any image or representation be made of God?

A. No; it is absolutely impossible; he being an infinite, incomprehensible Spirit, Isa. 40:18 — “To whom will ye liken God? or, what likeness will ye compare unto him?” If we cannot delineate our own souls, much less the infinite God; Acts 17:29 — “We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”

Q. 6. What judgment should we form of those who have devised images of God, or of the persons of the adorable Trinity?

A. We should adjudge their practice to be both unlawful and abominable.

Q. 7. Why unlawful?

A. Because directly contrary to the express letter of the law in this commandment, and many other scriptures, such as, Jer. 10:14, 15; Hos. 13:2, and particularly Deut. 4:15-19, 23 — “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,” &c.

Q. 8. How is it abominable?

A. As debasing the Creator of heaven and earth to the rank of his own creatures; and a practical denial of all his infinite perfections, Psalm 50:21.

Q. 9. May we not have a picture of Christ, who has a true body?

A. By no means; because, though he has a true body and a reasonable soul, John 1:14, yet his human nature subsists in his divine person, which no picture can represent, Psalm 45:2.

Q. 10. Why ought all pictures of Christ to be abominated by Christians?

A. Because they are downright lies, representing no more than the picture of a mere man: whereas, the true Christ is God-man; “Immanuel, God with us,” 1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 1:23.

Q. 11. Is it lawful to form any inward representation of God, or of Christ, upon our fancy, bearing a resemblance to any creature whatever?

A. By no means; because this is the very inlet to gross outward idolatry: for, when once the Heathens “became vain in their imaginations, they presently changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things,” Rom. 1:21, 23.

Q. 12. What is it to worship God by images, according to the idolatrous practice of Papists?

A. It is either to make use of images, as pretended helps to devotion; or, to worship God before the images of saints, as intercessors with him.

Q. 13. Can any feigned image of God, or of Christ, be helpful in devotion?

A. No; it is the Spirit only who helpeth our infirmities in all acts of spiritual devotion, Rom. 8:26; and that faith which is necessary for acceptance in duty, fixes upon the word of the living God, as its sole foundation, and not upon dead images, Luke 16:31.

Q. 14. Will it excuse any from the charge of idolatry, that they pretend to worship the true God before images, or by them, as means of worship, and not the very images themselves?

A. Not at all; because this is a mean of worship expressly forbidden in this commandment, which prohibits all bowing down before images, upon whatever pretext it be — “Thou shalt not BOW DOWN thyself to them, nor serve them.”

Q. 15. Do they worship images who bow down before them, even though it be the true God they intend to worship by them?

A. In scripture reckoning they do; Isa. 2:8, 9 — “Their land is full of idols: they worship the work of their own hands. The mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself.”

Q. 16. Was it the ultimate intention of the Israelites in the wilderness to pay divine worship to the golden calf itself; or, to JEHOVAH, by it, and before it?

A. It was undoubtedly their ultimate intention to worship JEHOVAH, the true God, before that image; as appears from Ex. 32:5 — “When Aaron saw it, he built an altar BEFORE IT; — and said, “To-morrow is a feast to the Lord,” (or JEHOVAH, as it is in the original.) And yet, because they did this, so directly contrary to the very letter of this commandment, they are charged with worshipping the image itself, verse 8:– “They have made them a golden calf, and have worshipped IT,” &c.

Q. 17. Do not they who honour the picture of a prince, honour the prince himself?

A. If the prince forbid the making of his picture, it is a contempt of his authority to have it. God has strictly prohibited all images for religious purposes, and therefore it is impious to have or use them for these ends, Lev. 26:1, 30.

Q. 18. May images be worshipped at all, upon their own account?

A. No; because they are the work of man’s hands: far inferior in dignity to man himself, Isa. 45:9-18.

Q. 19. May they be worshipped on account of their ORIGINALS; or those whom they are designed to represent?

A. They may not; whether designed to represent God, or the saints.

Q. 20. Why may they not be worshipped as they are designed to represent God?

A. Because he never put his name in them; but declares his greatest hatred and detestation of them, Jer. 44:2-9.

Q. 21. Why may they not be worshipped as they are designed to represent eminent saints?

A. Because saints, however eminent, are only mere creatures; and therefore cannot be the objects of worship, either in themselves, or by their images, Acts 14:14, 15.

Q. 22. Can saints in heaven be intercessors for sinners on earth?

A. No; because intercession being founded on satisfaction, none but CHRIST can be the intercessor, as none but he is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1, 2.

Q. 23. Is it lawful, as some plead, to have images or pictures in churches, though not for worship, yet for instruction, and raising the affections?

A. No; because God has expressly prohibited not only the worshipping but the MAKING of any image whatever on a religious account; and the setting them up in churches, cannot but have a natural tendency to beget a sacred veneration for them; and therefore ought to be abstained from, as having at least an “appearance of evil,” Isa. 45:9-18. 1 Thess. 5:22.

Q. 24. May they not be placed in churches for beauty and ornament?

A. No; the proper ornament of churches is the sound preaching of the gospel, and the pure dispensation of the sacraments, and other ordinances of divine institution.

Q. 25. Were not the images of the cherubims placed in the tabernacle and temple, by the command of God himself?

A. Yes; but out of all hazard of any abuse, being placed in the holy of holies, where none of the people ever came: they were instituted by God himself, which images are not; and they belonged to the typical and ceremonial worship, which is now quite abolished.

Q. 26. Are our forefathers to be blamed for pulling down altars, images, and other monuments of idolatry, from places of public worship at the Reformation?

A. No; they had Scripture precept and warrant for what they did, Num. 33:52, and Deut. 7:5 — “Ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.”

Q. 27. What do you understand by will-worship, the other leading sin forbidden in this command?

A. It is the worshipping God in any other way not appointed in his word.

Q. 28. Should there be an express appointment in the word for every part of divine worship in which we engage?

A. Undoubtedly there should; otherwise we are guilty of innovating upon the worship of God, and prescribing rules to the Almighty, which is both displeasing to him, and unprofitable to ourselves, Matt. 15:9.

Q. 29. Who are they that are guilty of innovating upon the worship of God?

A. All they who presumptuously annex their own superstitious inventions to the divine institutions, under pretence of their being teaching significant ceremonies; as they of the Popish and Episcopal persuasions do.

Q. 30. What are these significant ceremonies which they add to the instituted ordinances of God’s worship?

A. The sign of the cross in baptism; kneeling at receiving the sacrament of the supper; erecting altars in churches; and bowing at the name of Jesus, are a few of many.

Q. 31. Why may not such ceremonies be used, when they are designed for exciting devotion, and beautifying the worship of God?

A. Because God has expressly forbidden the least addition to or abatement from the order and directions he himself has given in his word concerning his own worship, Deut. 12:30-32 — “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not ADD thereunto, nor DIMINISH from it.”

Q. 32. Were there not significant ceremonies in the Jewish worship, under the Old Testament?

A. Yes; but they were of express divine appointment; and by the same appointment abolished in the death and resurrection of Christ, Heb. 9:1-15.

Q. 33. May not significant ceremonies be founded on 1 Cor. 14:40 — “Let all things be done decently and in order?”

A. No; because that text speaks only of the decent and orderly observance of the ordinances of God already instituted, and not in the least of any thing new to be added as a part of worship.

Q. 34. Is reading of sermons or discourses from the pulpit an ordinance of God appointed in his word?

A. So far from it, that we find the contrary practised by our Lord while he was here upon earth, Luke 4:16, 23; where, after reading his text out of the prophet Esaias, it is said, he CLOSED the book, and “began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears,” &c.

Q. 35. How may we be further guilty of a breach of his commandment, than by idolatry and will-worship?

A. When we neglect, Heb. 10:25, contemn, Matt. 22:5, hinder, chap. 23:13, or oppose the worship and ordinances which God has appointed in his word, 1 Thess. 2:16; or tolerate those who publish and maintain erroneous opinions or practices, Rev. 2:14, 15, 20.

Q. 36. What is the doctrine of our Confession concerning the tolerating of those who publish and maintain erroneous opinions or practices?

A. That “for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation, or to the power of godliness, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the church, and by the power of the civil magistrates.”[64]

[59] See Larger Catechism, Question 108.

[60] It is scarcely necessary to say that the Presbyterian Church in the United States, under the sanction of the General Assembly, celebrate the praises of God in hymns of human composure, expressing evangelical sentiments, and there are convincing arguments in favour of this practice and against the restricted one recommended in the following answer.

[61] Directory for the public worship of God, in the article, Concerning public solemn Fasting.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Larger Catechism, Question 108.

[64] See Confession of Faith, chapter 20 § 4, and the Scriptures there quoted.


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