Archive for the ‘Second Commandment’ Category

The Worship of the High Places

August 18, 2011

When we read in Scripture about the worship in the “high places,” some of us may automatically assume that this is a reference to pagan worship. That assumption is not fully justified. Although the people of Israel were not commanded to worship God in “high places,” nevertheless it seems that they did.

The first clear reference to this practice can be seen in the softly negative comment about Solomon.

1 Kings 3:1-4

And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days. And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.

The exception to following the statutes of David was that Solomon sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. This, in combination with the reference to the fact that people sacrificed in the high places before the temple was built show – or at least suggest – that this was worship to the Lord.

The second reference to this practice is more clearly negative, and is connected with the Jeroboamic worship, which we have previously explained was an aberrant form of worship of the Lord.

1 Kings 13:1-5

And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.

And again, at the end of the same account:

1 Kings 13:29-34

And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him. And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother! And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones: for the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass. After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.

The use of the high places returned to Judah after Solomon. We see testimony about this at various times, including one curious time that involves Jehoshaphat.

1 Kings 22:42-43

Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.

2 Chronicles 17:3-6

And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance. And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.

2 Chronicles 20:31-33

And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah: he was thirty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.

One explanation for this apparent contradiction (between 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings and internally within 2 Chronicles) may be found in another account:

2 Chronicles 33:10-18

And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only. Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel.

So, the solution with respect to Jehosophat is that he took away the high places of Baalim, but not those of Lord. Thus, the high places were not eradicated entirely, though those for Baalim were eradicated.

Hezekiah, however, was apparently more thorough. In fact, Hezekiah is praised this way:

2 Kings 18:1-6

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.

This zeal, however, lead to an interesting argument from the invading Assyrian general, Rabshakeh. Arguing to the people of Jerusalem, he stated:

2 Kings 18:22 But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?

2 Chronicles 32:12 Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?

Rabshakeh mistakenly thought that Hezekiah had insulted the Lord by destroying the places where the Lord was worshiped. He knew that Hezekiah had removed the high places that were used to worship the Lord, but he did not realize that this was required in order to purify the worship of the Lord in accordance with the law of Moses.

Further evidence that these were high places for the Lord come from the theme of several praising passages for the kings of Judah. Asa, Jehoshaphat (already discussed above), Amaziah, and Jotham are all praised as having done that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and yet are criticized for not removing the high places. Given the harsh condemnation that came upon those who permitted Baal worship, it is reasonable to suppose that these are instances of Jewish inappropriate worship of the Lord, as opposed to purely pagan practices.

1 Kings 15:11-14

And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron. But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.

1 Kings 22:42-43

Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.

2 Kings 14:1-4

In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah. He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places.

2 Kings 15:32-35

In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign. Five and twenty years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the LORD.

What should these passages teach us? First, they should teach us that God values the purity of his own worship. Hezekiah is highly praised for the purity of his worship, and even other righteous kings are criticized for failing to purify the worship of the Lord. Second, they should teach us charity. If even those with impure worship can be said to have done “right in the eyes of the Lord,” we should be charitable toward our brethren who have modern-day high places in their worship. We may rightly encourage them to purify their worship, but we ought not to try to suggest that they are not Christians, simply because of an error of this category.


Baal vs. Golden Calves – Part 3

July 31, 2011

In two previous posts (post 1post 2) I have advocated for the idea that the golden calves represent a deficient worship of the LORD (one that like Roman worship purports to worship the living God through dead images) not Baal worship or the worship of an equivalent non-existent pagan deity.

There’s at least one further powerful demonstration of this thesis:

2 Kings 10:15-31

And when he [that is, Jehu] was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”

And Jehonadab answered, “It is.”

“If it be, give me thine hand.”

And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot.

And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” So they made him ride in his chariot.

And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the LORD, which he spake to Elijah.

And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, “Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live.”

But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.

And Jehu said, “Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal.”

And they proclaimed it.

And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another.

And he said unto him that was over the vestry, “Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal.”

And he brought them forth vestments.

And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, “Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.”

And when they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, “If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him.”

And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, “Go in, and slay them; let none come forth.”

And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal. And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.

Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.

Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.

And the LORD said unto Jehu, “Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.”

But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.

Jehu’s attempt to exterminate Baal-worship was extensive and amazing. He tricks the Baal-worshipers into thinking he is the biggest fan of Baal ever, gets all of the Baal-worshipers in one place, orders them to expel any worshipers of the Lord from the place, dresses them distinctively to make them easy targets, puts them in an enclosed place with limited ways of escape, threatens death to those charged with guarding the exits if they fail in their duty, and then attacks them at the moment when the house is full of smoke but before they have eaten.

Yet despite all that, he continues to worship the LORD using the improper means set up by Jeroboam, namely the golden calves and the unauthorized priesthood and all that went with that. His sin, like that of Jeroboam, was not in failing to worship the Lord (he plainly distinguishes between the worshipers of the Lord and the worshipers of Baal) but in worshiping the Lord in a way that is out of accord with the way that the Lord wants to be worshiped.

The worship of the golden calves was very wicked, and it was the reason that Jeroboam’s entirely family was wiped out. But the worship of a false god, Baal, was even more wicked, such that God rewarded Jehu for wiping out Ahab’s family and the false god that he had re-introduced into Israel under the influence of his wife Jezebel.

Within a decade, under the reign of the boy-king Jehoash (and particularly under the influence of Jehoiada the high priest) Baal worship was suppressed in Judah as well, though it is noted that the high places were not destroyed.


Distinguishing Baal-Worship from Jeroboamic Idolatry

June 14, 2011

There are at least two additional passages (beyond those we last discussed) that provide us with further evidence of the distinction between Baal-worship and the institution of the golden calves of Jeroboam, which were intended in service to the God who brought Israel up out of Egypt.

1 Kings 22:51-53

Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.

2 Kings 3:1-3

Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.

Notice that in the first one of these two, one might think that “For he served Baal,” might refer back to “the way of Jeroboam.” However, when you see the ending of the sentence in the first passage, you see it is connecting back to what Ahab did. That becomes even more clear in the second passage.

In the second passage, Jehoram is (to a degree) commended because he did not go to the extent of sin that Ahab and Jezebel went. Nevertheless, he still did what Jeroboam did, and worshiped God in violation of the second commandment.


Ahab vs. Jeroboam | 1st Command vs. 2nd Commandment

June 6, 2011

Not all sins are equally heinous in God’s eyes. The sin of Jeroboam was to set up a rival worship of God according to his own imagination, with his own priests, and images, namely golden calves. He set up one of those in Dan and the other in Bethel.

1 Kings 12:28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

God condemned this evil.

1 Kings 14:9 But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back:

You will notice in our English translation that it says “gods” in both of the verses above. The Hebrew word is “elohim,” which can either mean “gods” or “God.” In this context, there are two images, so the plural translation seems to make sense. Nevertheless, the reference to “which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” seems to be a reference to a very specific divinity, namely Jehovah.

This was a horrible sin in God’s eyes and God wiped out Jeroboam’s family for it.

But the following kings of Israel not only copied and continued Jeroboam’s bad practices, they did something worse. Read what is said of Ahab:

1 Kings 16:25-33

But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities. Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he shewed, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.

And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

Notice that it is Ahab (via his wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal) that brings Baal-worship to Israel.

It wasn’t the first time Baal-worship had come to Israel. Jerubbaal (aka Gideon) had wiped out Baal-worship in Israel during his time as judge. But then, later, Samuel had found it necessary to purge the land of Baal-worship again, because as soon as Gideon was dead, the people went right back to Baal-worship (Judges 8:33). And you may recall that Baal-worship goes back to the time of the exodus, where Moab seduced many of the Israelites into Baal-worship apparently through the use of prostitutes (see Numbers 25).

Although God was very angry with Jeroboam for his sin, God was even more angry with Ahab for his sin. Why is that? Part of the explanation may lay in the fact that Ahab had seen the destruction of Jeroboam and Baasha (and their families) for the sins of Jeroboam related to the golden calves. Ahab could look back at the warning of Ahijah the Shilonite and Jehu the son of Hanani (among others) given respectively to those kings.

Another part of it, though, is that Jeroboam and Baasha only engaged in second commandment idolatry: worshiping God by illicit and unauthorized means, especially by means of an unauthorized priesthood and golden calves.

In contrast, Ahab worshiped a false god – first commandment idolatry. Elijah made it plain on Mt. Carmel that Baal was a false deity and that the LORD was the True and Living God – the God who answers with fire.

These things are negative examples for us.

1 Corinthians 10:5-11

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

  1. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
  2. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
  3. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
  4. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

As to (1), see Exodus 32:6, regarding the golden calf. This is an example of the “second commandment idolatry” I mentioned above, though with the original golden calf, not with Jeroboam’s golden calves.

As to (2), see Numbers 25:1 (and 9), regarding fornication in connection with Baal-worship, which we also discussed above under the topic of “first commandment idolatry.” It was a combination of spiritual and physical fornication. The women were not their wives, and Baal was not their spiritual husband (though “Baal” can have that meaning).

As to (3), see Numbers 21:5, regarding Israel complaining against God’s provision for them. It is interesting to note that this is one of many testimonies to the divinity of Christ. It is plain from the text of Numbers 21 that the people complained against God, and here Paul is warning us not to tempt Christ as they did. That means, unmistakably, that Christ is God.

As to (4), see Numbers 14 or 16, with the destruction either being the general destruction of the people of Israel in the wilderness or the special quick destruction of Korah.

Likewise, when it comes to Jeroboam and Ahab, learn from these evil examples. Do not worship like Jeroboam did, according to the worship that “he had devised of his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33) but instead imitate David the Psalmist who worshiped God as God commanded (cf. 1 Kings 14:8).

– TurretinFan

Sins of the Fathers Upon the Children – The Case of Abijah

May 30, 2011

1 Kings 14 provides a very sad story of Jeroboam and his family:

1 Kings 14:1-18

At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said to his wife, “Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people. And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child.”
And Jeroboam’s wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see; for his eyes were set by reason of his age.
And the LORD said unto Ahijah, “Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman.”
And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said,

Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; but hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.

Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.

Moreover the LORD shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now. For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger. And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.

And Jeroboam’s wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died; and they buried him; and all Israel mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by the hand of his servant Ahijah the prophet.

In this sad story we see Jeroboam trying to get some good news about his son. Jeroboam seems to have a mistaken or confused notion about the power of prophets. Jeroboam seems to think of prophets as magicians, people with their own power or at least with some control over God’s power.

Thus, Jeroboam thinks about the only prophet he’s ever run into that was nice to him, gets his wife to bring what would presumably be a pretty generous gift for an average person, and instructs her to go and ask the prophet for good news regarding the son. Of course, Jeroboam know that he’s out of favor with the Lord, so he tells his wife to disguise herself so that the prophet won’t know whose wife she is.

It’s all carefully calculated, and somewhat silly. Ahijah the prophet is, by this time, blind from old age. He can’t see and so the disguise is a waste of time. At the same time, he’s a seer. He gets revelation from God, and God isn’t fooled by Jeroboam or his wife. God knows that the wife is coming before she gets there.

Moreover, the prophet is a true prophet of the Lord. What the Lord tells him, he tells to Jeroboam’s wife. He doesn’t make up good news to cheer a grieving mother. He tells “heavy tidings” to her. He informs her that when she gets back her son will die.

Moreover, he informs her that her whole family is going to be destroyed. The colorful metaphor that the Lord uses is that Jeroboam’s family is going to be removed “like dung.” How much dung do you leave around the house if your child or pet has an accident? None, of course. You scrub until the site and smell of it are gone. The same went for Jeroboam’s family.

The son who died was the lucky one. He got mourned by all Israel and buried in the family grave. His brethren died more miserably – killed and left to be eaten by wild animals. They received an undignified and humiliating death.

Why was Jeroboam’s family to be utterly wiped out? God’s answer is clear:

for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam

This is a fulfillment of God’s threat for violations of the second commandment:

(Exodus 20:4-6)
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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Deuteronomy 5:8-10)
Thou shalt not make 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 waters beneath the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto 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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

This is not the only instance of this sort of thing in the Bible, but it is one example. Because of Jeroboam’s sins, his family was wiped out.

Because of Solomon’s sins, the kingdom was rent from Rehoboam and ten tribes were given to Jeroboam, yet God showed mercy to the line of David. Recall that it is written regarding Abijam (not Jeroboam’s son who died, but one of David’s great-grandchildren):

1 Kings 15:1-5
Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah. Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David’s sake did the LORD his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem: because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

This example of God’s favor to David’s children on account of David’s righteousness is something that leads believers to have a hope that God will show favor to their children. It is not that we have a righteousness that deserves or merits favor, but that God is still pleased to bless even the very imperfect righteousness of those who, like David, trust in the Lord.

Moreover, the federal principle even applied to the nation. Notice that Israel’s future destruction is prophesied by the prophet. Whereas Judah was chastised by God, but then restored to the land.

The federal principle, you see, is not only for judgment but also for blessing. That is why Abraham was called to circumcise his sons and why we baptize our children. It is why all those in Adam died, but all those in Christ will be made alive.


Further Response to Mr. Albrecht Regarding Debate on Veneration of Images

December 24, 2010

In a new video (audio + slideshow only), Mr. Albrecht has responded to the comments in my post (link to post) regarding the debate. This is in addition to the comments he submitted to me by email, and which are already addressed in the original post via an update to that post. I’ve provided the following written response and a largely-overlapping video response (just audio), below.

Mr. Albrecht responded to the comments on my blog by way of video. He stated that I didn’t heavily emphasize the Old Testament prohibition on the veneration of images – his justification for this claim was simply his assertion that the Old Testament doesn’t prohibit the veneration of images. This assertion is patently false. I highlighted many passages which specifically prohibit the veneration of images, such as Exodus 20:5, which states: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

Or Leviticus 26:1, which states: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”

In point of fact, Mr. Albrecht barely engaged the text of Scripture. Instead he focused his time in other areas.

One of his main arguments to attempt to distinguish away the Old Testament texts was to assert that “There is, however, a clear distinction between idolatry and veneration.”

Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction in the Bible? No, he cannot.
Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction from the fathers of the first century? No, they don’t make that distinction.
What about the fathers of the second century? No, they too say nothing helpful to him.
He basically has to jump forward in time many hundreds of years to find anything like this distinction being brought out.

He refers to the latria/dulia distinction that Rome is fond of making. He and I debated that topic some time ago. He could not find the distinction in Scripture then – and he still cannot find it now. Even if he could find that distinction eventually enunciated in some father or other after some time, as we brought out in the debate the 2nd Council of Nicaea did not make the distinction that he would like to see.

Mr. Albrecht again appeals to Dura Europos. He states: “There was much stronger evidence to prove the early Christian church venerated images, statues. The Dura Europos is a clear-cut example of this.” During the debate we exposed this error. Nobody knows what sect worshiped in that church. Nobody knows how the images were used – whether just for decoration, for teaching, or for (as Mr. Albrecht claims) veneration. In fact, no one knows even whether the church was ever used.

He claims it is a Christian church from earlier than the mid-200’s. His assertion is empty and untrue.

He claims that I “have to fall back on the assertion that this church is not typical.” Listen to the debate. First he asked me whether I knew of Dura Europos, then he asked me whether it was typical. I told him it was not. That’s hardly me “falling back” on that position.

He then asks who am I to make an assertion that Dura Europos is not typical. Well, he asked me – so I told him. Why would anybody think that Dura Europos was typical? Mr. Albrecht does not give us any good reasons to think so.

He then states that he’s not aware of any scholars who say that unorthodox people worshiped there. I’m not sure what his ignorance of the subject is supposed to prove. Are there any scholars who claim orthodox Christians worship there? If so, who are these scholars? What is there basis for the claim? Mr. Albrecht can’t tell us, because Mr. Albrecht doesn’t know.

Mr. Albrecht claims that he showed that not a single father interpreted the key Biblical texts in the same way in which I interpreted them. There was not time for Mr. Albrecht to show anything remotely resembling that. All Mr. Albrecht did was assert such a thing. He did quote a small handful of fathers who neither explicitly supported nor explicitly condemned the position I took.

Then Mr. Albrecht tries to explain why his unproven assertion is true. His proposed reason why is “the fathers knew the difference between idolatry and true religious veneration.” But, of course, Scripture does not make that distinction and Mr. Albrecht cannot identify any church fathers that make that distinction. It’s another assertion on Mr. Albrecht’s part, but not one he can support with facts.

Mr. Albrecht tried to argue that Ancient Judaism is not on my side. This was another one of his blunders. He quotes Jacob Milgrim who indicates that in the mid-third century there starts to appear in Judaism a “grudging recognition of Jewish art” and that people began to paint pictures on the walls in that time. This just proves my very point. (Read the article for yourself!)

Mr. Albrecht then cites to a pseudographic Jewish Targum that specifically permits for carved stone columns as long as they are not worshiped. This Targum, however, dates to somewhere between the eighth century and the 15th century. It’s hardly representative of ancient Judaism.

And even if it were, it is simply distinguishing between having the images and venerating them.

Mr. Albrecht claims that his quotation from Basil is a “contested quotation.” That’s not true. It’s a spurious quotation. The consensus of scholarship agrees – both among Roman Catholic scholars and non-Roman Catholic scholars.

I pointed out that Mr. Albrecht was relying on a secondary source. I probably should have mentioned that his comments about Judaism were similarly drawn from a secondary source, which is probably why he didn’t realize the pseudographic Targum he quoted was so late.

Mr. Albrecht asserted that he relied on as secondary source “just as everything else Turretinfan relies on in scholarly works on the Biblical or patristic texts are secondary sources.” I’m not sure why this is particularly relevant. There’s no scholarly source that Mr. Albrecht has turned to that says anything other than what I’ve said – his quotation from Basil is spurious.

Mr. Albrecht goes on to argue with one of the patristic scholars who notes that the term “theotokos” became popular later than Basil. Mr. Albrecht misunderstands what the scholar wrote and goes off on a diatribe about how the term theotokos was used early.

Mr. Albrecht makes a serious blunder by alleging that the term theotokos was used “close to two centuries before Basil’s time” by citing a prayer found in a papyrus that was “dated by papyrologists to the mid-200’s.” The mid-200’s would be about 100 years before Basil (330-379). And frankly, given Mr. Albrecht’s numerous mistakes about dates and so forth, I would want to see what his source was regarding this prayer as well rather than just accepting it (though it may be correct).

Mr. Albrecht points out that work was probably not written by the Greek iconoclasts. One of the works that I quoted from does say “It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts,” which is clearly wrong. So, Mr. Albrecht is quite right to point out the editor’s mistake in using the word “Iconoclast” instead of “Iconodule.” I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht read the other notes, which indicated what this quotation obviously meant, which was that the work had been created during the Iconoclastic controversy. Nevertheless, I fully agree with Mr. Albrecht that it was not the iconoclasts, but the iconodules, who forged this particular letter.

Mr. Albrecht also suggests that many more “m s s” (as he calls them) have been discovered at a later date. I don’t know of any scholarly support for Mr. Albrecht’s assertion, and he does not provide any.

Mr. Albrecht then tries to bolster his position regarding Basil by quoting Basil’s statement that the honor paid to the image passes on to the prototype. This is very interesting, of course, because Basil is talking about worship of Jesus passing on to the Father. I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht grasps the impact of his seizing on this phrase from Basil. Is his worship of Jesus the same as his worship of images? Does he really want to compare his worship of man-made images to his worship of the true image of the Father?

Basil certainly did not make that comparison. Basil was simply pointing out that by worshiping Jesus was are not becoming tritheists – we remain monotheists, because the worship given to Jesus is not only given to Jesus but to the Father. Basil did not compare the worship of Jesus to the worship of painted boards or statues.

Mr. Albrecht speaks with great emphasis on the word “Image” but he doesn’t seem to realize that Basil is speaking of the Son of God, not some carved stone column or other lifeless idol. I will grant him this – the veneration of Jesus is perfectly acceptable. There is no problem worshiping Jesus. It is man-made images that are the problem. Remember that Scriptures “thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image or any likeness,” it does not prohibit us from worshiping the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Albrecht says that in the authentic Basil quotation, the use of “icon” in its proper Christian usage is shown. I heartily agree. The one icon we can worship is Jesus himself. Not a picture of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the image of the Father. That’s the proper Christian worship of an icon – and it is the only worship of an icon supported by Basil.

Mr. Albrecht again repeats his statement that “Christianity has always been able to distinguish between proper religious veneration and idolatry.” Yet, as we’ve noted each time – Mr. Albrecht’s assertion is just not supported by any evidence.

Mr. Albrecht next turned to the issue of the Vienna Genesis. He admitted he made a mistake in saying that the Vienna Genesis was dated to the 300’s, and asserted that it was dated to the 400’s. Actually, while some people have placed it in the late 400’s, it appears that the consensus is for the early 500’s.

Mr. Albrecht then claims that he really meant to refer to the “Cotton Genesis.” But Bruce Metzger (who Mr. Albrecht cited during the debate) also tells us that the “Cotton Genesis” is from the 500’s and John Lowden tells us that some scholars (citing Weitzmann and Kessler) date this to the late 400’s (John Lowden, “The Beginnings of Biblical Illustration” in “Imaging the Early Medieval Bible,” John Williams editor), p. 15. The same work indicates the sixth century for the Vienna Genesis (p. 17).

Mr. Albrecht tries to argue that he has provided positive evidence for the veneration of images in the early church, but he has not. The most he has done is to point out that in some instances some of the ancient churches had images in the churches.

Veneration of Images Debate with William Albrecht

December 3, 2010

On December 2, 2010, William Albrecht and I debated the topic: “Is the Veneration of Images Sinful?” I took the affirmative position and Mr. Albrecht took the negative position. Below I’ve provided the Youtube version and mp3 of the debate, as well as some very important notes.

(link to mp3 for the debate)

I relied heavily on the Old Testament prohibitions on the veneration of images, as well as on the New Testament confirmation of the Old Testament moral law. One of Albrecht’s main attempts to distinguish his practice from idolatry was his claim: “Ancient Christianity knew how to differentiate between idolatry and true religious veneration.”

But when challenged to produce such evidence, there was no evidence of any of the church fathers actually talking about religious veneration of images. Instead, they simply made the distinction between having images and venerating them.

Moreover, Mr. Albrecht was able to document some instances of ancient churches having images, and of people worshiping nearby images (Albrecht characterized it as people having no problem “worshiping with images around them”), but never any instances of ancient Christians actually venerating the images. The same was brought up with respect to the Jews. Some allegedly permitted the carving of a stone column, as long there was no worship of them – so again, no Jewish permission to venerate images.

There was one exception – one patristic quotation on which Mr. Albrecht tried to support his claim that the early church venerated icons, specifically there was a quotation allegedly taken from a letter of Basil the Great.

He mentioned it and relied on it (beginning at around 3:30 of part 6 below), but when asked to identify it, he seemed to have trouble giving me any kind of helpful citation.

The most popular edition of the fathers, the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers has the letter in the second series, volume 8 (NPNF2, Volume 8) at page 316. The page presents the full text of the letter (Letter 360 – the title given is “Of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the invocation of Saints, and their Images.”)

The editors, at that same page, provide a note about this letter:

This letter is almost undoubtedly spurious, but it has a certain interest, from the fact of its having been quoted at the so-called 7th Council (2d of Nicæa) in 787. Maran (Vit. Bas. xxxix.) is of opinion that it is proved by internal evidence to be the work of some Greek writer at the time of the Iconoclastic controversy. The vocabulary and style are unlike that of Basil.

The editors go on to provide several examples:

  • at “I adore and worship one God, the Three,” the editor comments “Neuter sc. πρόσωπα, not ὑποστάσεις, as we should expect in Basil.”
  • at “I confess to the œconomy of the Son in the flesh,” the editor comments “ἔνσαρκον οἰκονομίαν, an expression I do not recall in Basil’s genuine writings.”
  • at “was Mother of God,” the editor comments “Θεοτόκον, the watchword of the Nestorian controversy, which was after Basil’s time.”

And the letter is only a paragraph or two long, so it’s not as though these indicia are spread out over a large amount of writing.

Elsewhere in the volume there are similar comments about this letter:

Even Letter CCCLX., which bears obvious marks of spuriousness, and of proceeding from a later age …

NPNF2, Vol. 8 St. Basil: Letters and Selected Works, p.lxxiii

N.B. The letters numbered CCXII.-CCCLXVI. are included by the Ben. Ed. In a “Classis Tertia,” having no note of time. Some are doubtful, and some plainly spurious. Of these I include such as seem most important.

NPNF2, Vol. 8 St. Basil: Letters and Selected Works, p. 316

The letter can also be found in other patristic series. The Fathers of the Church series, in the introduction to volume 1 of Basil’s letters, explains the situation:

The chronology of the letters and their order and arrangement into three classes according to the Benedictine editors have been retained. In the arrangement the first class includes all the letters adjudged by them to have been written before St. Basil’s episcopate, in the years from 357 until 370, Letters numbered 1 to 46; the second, those written during his episcopate, from 370 until 378, Letters 47 to 291; and the third, letters of uncertain date, doubtful letters, and those clearly spurious, numbered Letters 292 to 365. Three more, Letter 366, included by Mai and also by Migne in their editions, and Letters 367 and 368, lately discovered by Mercati, have been added in the translation.

Another edition of Basil’s letters provides this note:

This letter is clearly spurious. It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts. The vocabulary, particularly that employed in the Trinitarian controversy, and the style are not Basil’s. Furthermore, it is missing in all the MSS. of St. Basil’s letters.

Basil: Letters, Volume IV, Letters 249-368. Address to Young Men on Greek Literature. (Loeb Classical Library No. 270), p.329 (Roy J. Deferrari and M. R. P. McGuire, translators)

It’s the problem one runs into when one researches from unreliable secondary sources (such as this one). The second source puts it this way:

St. Basil the Great died 24 years earlier than Epiphanius, in 379. Schaff cites this Father:

“….I receive also the holy apostles and prophets and martyrs. Their likenesses I revere and kiss with homage, for they are handed down from the holy apostles, and are not forbidden, but on the contrary painted in all our churches.” (Basil, Epist 205, Comp his Oratio in Barlaam, Opp 1, 515 cited in Schaff, ibid, page 567; and similar expressions in Gregory Naz, Orat 19).

Albrecht also alleged (see part 10 of the debate, around 6 minutes into that part) that Gregory of Nyssa quoted from this, or said something similar to this. The reason is (we presume) reliance on a secondary source like the one above (coupled with a conflation between Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa), because there is nothing like that in either Gregory’s authentic writings (that I could find). You’ll notice that Albrecht mentions an “Oration Barlaam” which is what the secondary source says should be compared to the actual work.

What made matters much worse, in my opinion, was that around 8 minutes into my second cross-examination of Mr. Albrecht (part 10 below), he indicated that no one had contested the validity of this work, he claimed it was cited by Schaff (which it was, the tertiary source I quoted from above is quoting from the secondary source of Schaff), Bickham (his source regarding Dura Europos), and “numerous Protestant authors,” and he continued by stating: “I didn’t find one – one author – contesting its validity – so I imagine its valid.”

And then in his conclusion (part 11 below), Albrecht made the Basil quotation his leading argument – presumably because during the cross-examination period, Mr. Albrecht had acknowledged that he was not aware of any other patristic writings speaking about the veneration of images. He alleged that my opposition to the quotation was because it was so damaging to my position. And then after some other discussion he came back to it again and claimed that it had to be “pushed aside” because of its weight.

But it arguably got still worse, because Albrecht – in his conclusion – went on to complain about the authenticity of certain canons of the Council of Elvira (which I did not bring up) and of other allegedly spurious patristic writings (which I did not bring up), even while admitting that I did not bring them up. It would seem appropriate that perhaps Mr. Albrecht should check the authenticity of his own patristic works before questioning the authenticity of those that support but weren’t even cited by other side.

Finally, Albrecht brought Basil back up again in his concluding remarks.

Albrecht also made an allegation about the Vienna Genesis manuscript, which is a very luxurious high-end manuscript copy of Genesis. He claimed it was dated from the 300’s by “Hans” and that Metzger puts it in the “400’s” (in his first cross-examination of me) fourth century, but Metzger puts it in the fifth or sixth centuries (see here) and Hans Gerstinger had dated it to the late fifth or early sixth century as well (see discussion here) but subsequent evidence suggested to him that it could be dated no earlier than the sixth century (as reported here). He’s the only “Hans” that Metzger references (see the page linked above) – though “Hans” is a very common name, and so it possible that there is some guy named “Hans” out there who dates it earlier.

I don’t believe that Mr. Albrecht was intentionally relying on wrong dates and pseudographic evidence, but without such evidence, there is really no ancient support for the distinction he is trying to make. There is no evidence that he provided for the fathers of the first five centuries venerating images. He tried to paint Calvin as ignorant of early church history for suggesting such a thing, but with all due respect I think that while some additional archaeology has come to light, John Calvin was more familiar with the authentic writings of the fathers than Mr. Albrecht is (although Calvin also was fallible and capable of making mistakes – and we have even more manuscripts now than Calvin did).

Parts of the Debate

  1. Affirmative Constructive Part 1 (TurretinFan)
  2. Affirmative Constructive Part 2 (TurretinFan)
  3. Negative Constructive Part 1 (Albrecht)
  4. Negative Constructive Part 2 (Albrecht)
  5. First Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative – Part 1 (Albrecht cross-examining TurretinFan)
  6. First Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative – Part 2 (Albrecht cross-examining TurretinFan)
  7. First Affirmative Cross Examination of Affirmative – Part 1 (TurretinFan cross-examining Albrecht)
  8. First Affirmative Cross Examination of Affirmative – Part 2 (TurretinFan cross-examining Albrecht)
  9. Second Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative (Albrecht cross-examining TurretinFan)
  10. Second Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative (TurretinFan cross-examining Albrecht)
  11. Negative Conclusion (Albrecht)
  12. Affirmative Conclusion (TurretinFan)


Mr. Albrecht has provided a comment by email, which I reproduce below:

” I want to thank Turretinfan for the notes he has sent me and I have surely looked deeper into this subejct. Whereas I am unwilling to grant that the quotation on Basil is definitively spurious, I am willing to say that we can dismiss it wholly if need be. I believe that through a thorough examination of Basil’s works(that are not contested) we can clearly see he believed in proper religious honor being passed on to the person whose image is being venerated. I also want to apologize for not being more careful in regards to my comments on the Vienna Genesis. It would seem that in my constant fumbling of notes, I should have been clear that the Vienna Genesis is dated to the 400s and it is the COTTON Genesis dated to the 300s. The names are quite similar and it’s quite easy to confuse the two! I hope this helps clear up certain things and I wish everyone that reads this blog a HAPPY HOLIDAY season!”

I reply:

1) I don’t know why one wouldn’t grant what scholarship universally affirms.

2) The issue about the honor given to an image reaching the prototype is the way that John of Damascus quoted Basil (and Aquinas interestingly quotes not Basil himself but John of Damascus quoting Basil). But what John of Damascus does is to rip Basil out of context. In context, Basil is speaking about veneration of the Son (Christ) who is the image of the Father being veneration passed on to the Father (view the original quotation from Basil in context here and also see here for a similar discussion).

3) As discussed in the post, the best date for the Vienna Genesis is the 6th century, i.e. the 500’s – although it may possibly date to the late 400’s according to some scholars.

4) The Cotton Genesis is also 5th or 6th century according to Metzger (see this link to Metzger’s Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: an introduction to Greek palaeography, p. 45). Metzger even states that the Vienna Genesis is slightly later in date than the Cotton Genesis, which reaffirms the 6th century date I identified above.

5) You’ll also notice on that same page of Metzger that Metzger confirms that the earliest New Testament Manuscript with minatures date from the 6th century. This confirms the point I made during the debate that the illumination of manuscripts became progressively more elaborate into the later periods of church history. It also tends to undermine Mr. Albrecht’s seeming attempts to make this practice of adorning Biblical manuscripts a more ancient or perhaps apostolic tradition.

– TurretinFan

James Gall on the Second Commandment

November 17, 2010

The following is excerpted from “A Key to the Shorter Catechism” by James Gall.

Q. 49. Which is the second commandment ?

A. 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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.


What are we not to make to ourselves? Who are not to make any graven image? Of what are we to make no likeness? What is here said to be above ? (Heaven. ) What are we not to do to any thing that is in the heaven above? What is here said to be beneath? (The earth.) What are we not to do to any thing that is in the earth beneath? What is here said to be under the earth? (The waters.) What are we not to do to any thing that is in the waters? What are we here forbidden to do to images, or idols, when they are made? (We are not to bow down ourselves to them, nor serve them.) What are we not to bow down? (Ourselves, or our bodies.) To what are we not to bow down ourselves? (To the image, or likeness of any thing.) What are we not to do to images or idols, besides not bowing down to them? (We are not to serve them.) What are we not to serve? Who are not to serve idols?

What does God here declare himself to be to all his creatures? (Their Lord.) What does God here say he is to us? (Our God.) What does God here say he is in himself? (A jealous God.) What does God here say with respect to the iniquity of the fathers? (He visits them upon the children.) Upon whom does God visit the iniquity of the fathers? What does God visit upon the children? Whose iniquities does God visit upon the children? Who visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children? To what extent is it here said that God will visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children? What dispositions have these generations towards God? (They hate him.) What does God do to the generations of those who hate him? What does God do to those who love him? Who shews mercy unto those who love God? To whom does God shew mercy? To how many does God here say he shews mercy? Whom do they love? What do those who love God do to his commandments? Whose commandments do they keep? What does God do to those who love him and keep his commandments?


Graven image, Hewn, cut, or carved representation.

Bow, Bend.

Serve them, Perform the ceremonies which may belong to their worship.

A jealous God, A God exceedingly watchful and suspicions in any thing relating to my worship.

Visiting, Inflicting the punishment due to.

Iniquity, Sins.

Third and fourth generation, Grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Shewing mercy, Granting forgiveness, and shewing kindness.

PARAPHRASE Formed. The second commandment is, Thou shall not make unto thee any [hewn, cut, or carved representation,] 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. Though shalt not [bend] down thyself to them, nor [perform the ceremonies which may belong to their worship;] for I the Lord thy God am [a God exceedingly watchful and suspicious in any thing relating to my worship,] [inflicting the punishment due to] the [sins] of the fathers upon the children unto the [grandchildren and great-grandchildren] of them that hate me; and [granting forgiveness and shewing kindness] unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Q 50. What is required in the second commandment ?

A. 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.

EXERCISE. What hath God in his word appointed to he observed? (Religious worship and ordinances.) Who hath appointed religious worship and ordinances to be observed? In what hath God given directions regarding his worship and ordinances? Who are to receive the ordinances of God as appointed in his word? What are we to observe as well as to receive? (The worship and ordinances of God.) What are we to do with respect to the worship and ordinances of God, besides receiving and observing them? (We are to keep them pure and entire.) What are to be kept? How are these ordinances to be kept? (Pure and entire.) What are to be kept pure? How are they to be kept, besides being kept pure? (They are to be kept entire.) What worship and ordinances are to be kept pure and entire? Where are these ordinances appointed? In whose word are they appointed?

How many things are here mentioned as having been appointed by God ? (Two.) What is the first thing here mentioned as having been appointed by God? (Religious worship.) What is the second thing here mentioned as having been appointed by God? (Religious ordinances.) Where has God given directions regarding his worship and ordinances? (In his word.) How many things are here required of us, in respect to God’s worship and ordinances? (Four.) What is the first duty here required of us? (Receiving God’s worship and ordinances.) What is the second duty here required of us? (Observing God’s worship and ordinances.) What is the third duty here required of us? (Keeping God’s worship and ordinances pure.) What is the fourth duty here required of us? (Keeping God’s worship and ordinances entire.) How much of God’s worship is to be received, observed, and kept pure and entire? (All such as he has appointed.) How many of God’s ordinances are to be received, observed, and kept pure and entire? (All.) What commandment requires the keeping of God’s ordinances pure and entire?


Receiving, Accepting as a gift.
Observing, Doing what is enjoined.
Pure, Free from mixture.
Entire, Not taking any thing from.
Ordinances, Holy observances.
Appointed, Directed to be performed.

The second commandment requireth the [accepting as a gift,] [doing what is enjoined,] and keeping [free from mixture] and [not taking any thing from,] all such religious worship and [holy observances] as God hath [directed to be performed] in his word.

DOCTRINES Separated And Proved.

227. Religious worship is to be paid to God—Psal. xlv. 11. He is thy Lord; and worship thou him.

228. God has appointed certain religious ordinances to be observed in his worship.—Lev. xviii. 4. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.

229. We are required to accept of and esteem the worship and ordinances of God.—Psal. cxix. 103. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.

230. We are required to observe God’s worship and ordinances.—Mat. xxviii. 20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you

231. We are required to keep God’s worship and ordinances pure.—Deut. xii. 32. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

232. We are to keep God’s worship and ordinances entire Luke i. 6. They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment ?

A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.


Who is not to be worshipped by images? By what is God not to he worshipped? What is not to be done by images? What commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images? Where has God given directions regarding his worship? Whose word gives directions regarding the worship of God? What are we not to do in any other way than that which has been appointed by God? (Worship God.)


Images, Likenesses, or representations.


The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by [likenesses, or representations,] or any other way not appointed in his word.

DOCTRINES Separated And Proved.

233. We are not to worship God by images Deut. iv. 15, 10. 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,) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image.

234. We are not to worship God in any way not appointed in his word—Deut. iv. 2. Ye shall not add unto, the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.

Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment ?

A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.


Who has the sovereignty over us? What has God over us? Over whom has God the sovereignty? Whose property are we? What is it here said that God has in us? (A propriety, or property.) In whom has God a propriety? For what is God zealous? For whose worship is God zealous? Who is zealous for God’s worship? What hath God for his own worship?

How many reasons for keeping the second commandment are annexed to it? (Three.) What is the first reason annexed to the second commandment? (God’s sovereignty over us.) What is the second reason? (God’s propriety in us.) What is the third reason? (The zeal which God has for his own worship.) To what commandment are these reasons annexed?

Reasons, Motives to induce us to keep it.
Annexed, Added.
Sovereignty, Supreme power and authority.
Propriety in us, Being our only master and owner.
Zeal, Warm and passionate concern.

The [motives to induce us to keep it] [added] to the second commandment, are, God’s [supreme power and authority] over us, his [being our only master and owner,] and the [warm and passionate concern] he hath to his own worship.

DOCTRINES Separated And Proved.

235. God is our Lord and Sovereign.—Isa. xxxiii. 22. The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

236. We are the property of God.—Psal. xcv. 7- He is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

237. God is very zealous for the purity of his worship. Exod. xxxiv. 14. For thou shalt worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Thomas Ridgley on the Second Commandment

August 30, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Thomas Ridgley’s, “A Body of Divinity, wherein the doctrines of the Christian religion are explained and defended: being the substance of several lectures on the Assembly’s Larger catechism” (pp. 328-335 of Volume 2 of the 1855 edition)


Question CVII. 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 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 CVIII. What are the duties required in the second commandment?

Answer. The duties required in the second commandment are the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religions worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in bis word, particularly 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 unto him; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship, and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Question CIX. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer. The sins forbidden in the second commandment, are all devising, counselling, commanding, using, and any ways approving any religious worship not instituted by God himself, tolerating a false religion, the making any representation of God, of all, or of any of the three Persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly, in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever, all worshipping of it, or God in it, or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them, all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others; though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever, simony, sacrilege, all neglect, contempt, hindering and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.

Question CX. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment the more to enforce it?

Answer. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities 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,” are, besides God’s sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom, accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations, and esteeming the observers of it, such as love him, and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.

Difference between the First and the Second Commandment.

Before we proceed to consider the matter of this commandment, we shall premise something, in general, concerning the difference between it and the first commandment. The first commandment respects the object of worship; the second, the manner in which it is to be performed. Accordingly, the former forbids our not owning God to be such an one as he has revealed himself to be in his word, and also the substituting of any creature in his room, or acknowledging it, either directly or by consequence, to be our chief good and happiness; the latter obliges us to worship God, in such a way as he has prescribed, in opposition to that which takes its rise from our own invention. These two commandments, therefore, being so distinct, we cannot but think the Papists to be chargeable with a very great absurdity, in making the second to be only an appendix to the first, or an explanation of it. The design of their doing so seems to be, that they may exculpate themselves from the charge of idolatry, in setting up image-worship, which they think to be no crime; because they are not so stupid as to style the image a god, or make it a supreme object of worship. This commandment, however, in forbidding false worship, is directly contrary to their practice of worshiping God by images.

The method in which this commandment is laid down, is the same with that of several others; we have an account of the duties required, the sins forbidden, and the reasons annexed to enforce it.

The Duties Enjoined in the Second Commandment.

We shall first consider the duties commanded. These are contained in two Heads.

1. We are under an obligation to observe, or attend upon, such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed. Religious worship is that whereby we address ourselves to God, as a God of infinite perfection; profess an entire subjection and devotedness to him as our God; put our trust in him for a supply of all our wants; and ascribe to him that praise and glory which is his due, as our chief good, most bountiful benefactor, and only portion and happiness. As for the ordinances, our attendance on them depends on a divine command, to which God has annexed a promise of his gracious presence, whereby our expectations are raised that we shall obtain some blessings from him, when we engage in them in a right manner. In this respect they are instituted means of grace, and pledges of that special favor which he designs to bestow on his people. This is that which more especially renders a duty enjoined an ordinance. Accordingly, our Savior says, ‘ Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ [Matthew 18:20] Now, these ordinances are either solitary or social; such as we are obliged to perform, either in our closets, [Matthew 6:6] in our families, or in those public assemblies where God is worshiped. They are particularly mentioned in this Answer; and they are prayer, thanksgiving, reading, preaching and hearing the word, the administration and receiving of the sacraments, to which we may add, praising God by singing. All these will be insisted on in a following Answer, and therefore we pass by them at present.

Now, as these are duties which are daily incumbent on us, so there are other duties or ordinances, which are to be performed only as the necessity of affairs requires. One of these is religious fasting, whereby we express public tokens of mourning and humiliation, and perform other duties corresponding with these, when God is provoked by crying sins, or when his judgments are upon us and our families, or the church of God in general. Thus the prophet Joel, when speaking concerning several desolating judgments to which Israel was exposed, commands them ‘to sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly; and to weep between the porch and the altar; and say, Spare thy people, 0 Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach.’ [Joel 2: 15, 17] This is not to be done at all times; but only when the providence of God calls for it. Hence, we have no warrant for the observance of annual fasts, when that which was the first occasion of them is removed; much less for those weeks of fasting which the Papists observe, which they call Lent. No sufficient reason can be assigned why Lent should be observed at the season fixed on by the Papists, rather than at any other time of the year. Nor can their fasting on certain days of the week be vindicated, much less their doing so without joining other religious duties to it; or their abstaining from some kinds of food, while they indulge themselves in eating others which are equally grateful to the appetite. This is a ludicrous and superstitious way of fasting.—Again, another occasional duty or ordinance, is our setting apart time for thanksgiving to God for deliverances from public or national calamities, or those which more immediately respect ourselves and families. In observing this ordinance, those religious duties are to be performed which tend to express our spiritual joy and thankfulness to God, who is the Author of our deliverances; and, at the same time, we are to pray that he would enable us to walk as those who are hereby laid under renewed engagements to be his. Thus the Jews observed some days of thanksgiving for their deliverance from Haman’s conspiracy. [Esther 9:20, et seq.] Such public thanksgiving for providential deliverances, is to be religiously observed ; and so it differs from that carnal joy which is generally expressed by those who receive mercies, but do not give glory to God, the sole author of them.

But besides these occasional ordinances, there is another mentioned in this Answer, namely, vowing to God. Thus the psalmist says, ‘ Vow and pay unto the Lord.’ [Psalm 76:11] This language either, more especially, respects God’s ancient people entering into a solemn obligation or promise to give something which was to be applied to the support of the public and costly worship which was performed under the ceremonial law, on which account it is said, in the following words,’ Bring presents unto him;’ or it may be considered as to the moral reason of the tiling, as including our resolution to set apart or apply some portion of our worldly substance, as God has prospered us in our secular affairs, to the maintaining and promoting of his cause and interest in the world. But we ought, at the same time, to devote ourselves to him, whereby we acknowledge his right to us, and all that we have. Thus the apostle says, concerning the churches of Macedonia, not only that they devoted their substance to God, but that they ‘ gave themselves’ also ‘unto the Lord.'[2 Corinthians 8:5] This duty does not include our resolving to do those things which are out of our own power, or that we will exercise those graces which are the special gift of the Spirit of God; but it is rather a dedication of ourselves to him, in hope of obtaining that grace from him which will enable us to perform those duties which are indispensably necessary to salvation, and inseparably connected with it. This is such a vowing to God, as will not have a tendency to ensnare our consciences, or detract from his glory who is alone the Author of all grace. Nor does it contain the least instance of presumption; but is a duty which we ought to perform by faith, to his glory and our own edification.

We might notice another ordinance, mentioned in this Answer; namely, swearing by the name of God. This, as we have elsewhere expressed it, includes a swearing fealty to him, and our consecrating and devoting ourselves to him. [See more of this in the Section ‘The Covenant of Grace as made with Man,’ under Question 31] As to swearing, as a religious duty to be performed in subservience to civil duties, we shall have occasion to speak of it under the third commandment; and therefore we pass it over at present.

2. We proceed to observe that the religious duties or ordinances which we have noticed, and all others which God has enjoined, are to be kept pure and entire. As we are not to cast off the ordinances of God in general, so we must take heed that we do not, while we perform some, live in the neglect of others; for that is not to keep them entire. Thus private duties are not to shut out those which are social in our families or the public assemblies, nor intrench on that time which ought to be allotted for them; and, on the other hand, it is not sufficient for us to worship God in public, and, at the same time, cast off all secret duties. This reproves the practice of some modern enthusiasts, who pray not, unless moved by the Spirit, as they pretend; and deny their obligation to observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper. Moreover, as we are to keep the ordinances of God entire, we are also to keep them pure, that is, to allow, or practice nothing but what is warranted by the rules which God has given us in his word; in opposition to those who corrupt his worship, by intruding those ordinances into it which are of their own invention, and pretending that, though God has not commanded these, yet the service which we perform, which can be no other than will-worship, will be acceptable to him.

The Sins Forbidden in the Second Commandment.

We now proceed to consider the sins forbidden in this commandment. The general scope and design of the commandment, as to the negative part of it, is God’s prohibiting all false worship, either in our hearts, or in our outward actions or gestures, whereby we adhere to our own imaginations rather than his revealed will, which is the only rule of instituted worship. The things forbidden in this commandment may be reduced to three Heads.

1. A not attending on the ordinances of God with that holy, humble, and becoming frame of spirit which the solemnity of the duties themselves, or the authority of God enjoining them, or the advantages which we may expect to receive by them, call for. When we do not seriously think what we are going about before we engage in holy duties, or watch over our hearts and affections, or when we worship God in a careless and indifferent manner; we may be said to draw nigh to him with our lips, while our hearts are far from him.

2. We farther break this commandment, when we invent ordinances which God has nowhere in his word commanded; or think to recommend ourselves to him by gestures, or modes of worship, which we have no precedent or example for in the New Testament. This is what is generally called superstition and will-worship. Thus we read in the degenerate age of the church, that ‘ the statutes of Omri were kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab; [Micah 6:16] referring to that false worship which was practiced by them. Here we cannot but observe, that there are many things in which the Papists are chargeable with superstition and will-worship, if not with idolatry. For example, they worship the bread in the sacrament, supposing it to be the real body and blood of Christ, and not merely the sign of him. They understand the words of our Savior when instituting this ordinance, ‘This is my body,’ [Matthew 26:26] in a literal sense, though they ought to be understood in a figurative sense.—Again, they lift up the bread in the sacrament, pretending that their doing so is a real offering of Christ; and, at the same time, the people are obliged to show all possible marks of sorrow, such as beating their breasts, shaking their heads, &c, as though they really saw Christ on the cross. But it is a profaning of the Lord’s supper, to say that Christ is really and visibly offered in it by the hands of the priest; and is contrary to what the apostle says of his having been but ‘once offered to bear the sins of many.’ [Hebrews 10:28] —Moreover, they use several superstitious ceremonies in baptism, which have, indeed, a show of religion, but want a divine sanction, and are no other than an addition to Christ’s institution. Thus they use spittle, salt, and cream, besides the water with which the child is to be baptized; and anoint it with oil, and use exorcism, commanding the unclean spirit to depart out of it, and signing it with the sign of the cross; at which they suppose the devil to be so terrified, that he is obliged to leave it, being by this means, as it were, frightened away. The principal reason, however, which they give for their adding this ceremony to Christ’s institution, is to signify that the child is hereby obliged to fight manfully under Christ’s banner. But this ceremony neither increases nor diminishes the child’s obligation; and it is a sign which Christ makes no mention of.—We may mention also their frequent crossing of themselves, as a preservative against sin, and as a means to keep them from the power of the devil, and to render their prayers acceptable in the sight of God; the splendor and magnificence of their churches, and especially the shape and figure of them, as accommodated to that of Solomon’s temple, and their situation east and west; also their bowing to the altar, which is placed in the east,—a practice for which there is not the least shadow of argument in scripture, or example in the purest ages of the Church; the ludicrous and unwarrantable ceremonies used in the consecration of churches, and the reverence which every one must show to places thus consecrated, even at other times than that of divine worship. We may add, that there are many superstitious ceremonies in consecrating all the vessels and utensils which are used in their churches. Yea, the very bells are baptized, or, as they express it, consecrated, in order that the devil may be afraid of the sound of them, and keep his distance from those places of worship in which they are fixed. But such charms can be reckoned only the sport of the powers of darkness, or looked on by them with contempt.—Again, the Papists ascribe a divine, yea, a meritorious virtue, to the frequent repeating of the Lord’s prayer in Latin, commonly called ‘ Pater noster,’ and the angel’s salutation of the Virgin Mary, [Mentioned in Luke 1:28] called ‘Ave Maria.’ The words of this salutation they put a corrupt sense upon, contrary to their proper meaning and the recitation of them; and whether they be understood or not, it is reckoned acceptable service.—We may mention likewise the distinction of garments, and the relative holiness of the persons who wear them, as signified by that distinction. We may mention, too, the canonical hours which are appointed for the performing of divine service; especially if we consider the reason which they allege for the practice, namely, that there was something remarkable done or suffered by Christ at those hours in the day. These things argue them guilty of superstition.—We might take notice also of the many things which they make merchandise of, as consecrated bread, wax-candles, &c. They ascribe to these a spiritual virtue, or some advantage to be received by those who purchase them; and so they advance the price of them. There are also the relics which they call the church’s treasure, or those rarities which they purchase at a great rate; though some of the wiser Papists have made but a jest of them.— We pass by, for brevity’s sake, many other superstitious ceremonies used by them, and observe only their bowing at the name of Jesus. This practice can hardly be vindicated from the charge of superstition, especially as no extraordinary expression of reverence is made at the mention of those incommunicable attributes of God which are ascribed to him; nor, indeed, do they bow the knee at the mentioning of the word ‘Savior,’ ‘Christ,’ or ‘Emmanuel,’ or when any other divine characters are given him. The only scripture they make use of to vindicate this practice, is Philippians 2:10, ‘That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.’ But it is plain that this ‘bowing the knee’ does not signify a bodily gesture, but only a subjection of soul to Christ, as ‘angels, authorities, and powers’ are said to be ‘made subject unto him.’ [1 Peter 3:22] These, indeed, are a very considerable part of the inhabitants of heaven, but they have no knees to bow; and as for ‘things under the earth,’ that is, the powers of darkness, they do not bow to him in a way of worship, but are subjected to him as conquered enemies.

3. We now proceed to consider that they are guilty of the breach of this commandment, who frame an image of any of the persons of the Godhead, or of any creature in heaven or earth, as a means or help made use of in order to their worshiping God. Here it must be inquired whether the making of images, absolutely or in all respects, be unlawful. It is generally answered that, if pictures representing creatures, either in heaven or earth, be made with no other design but, in an historical way, to propagate the memory of persons and their actions to posterity, the making of them seems not to be a breach of this commandment. But the sin forbidden in it, expressed in those words, ‘Making to ourselves the image or likeness of creatures in heaven or earth,’ is committed when we design to worship God by the images. Accordingly, the using of bodily gestures to them, such as those which were used in the worship of God, as bowing, uncovering the head, &c, wherein a person designs an act of worship, is idolatry. Even if nothing else is intended but the worshiping of God by the images, the use of them can hardly be excused from at least the appearance of idolatry; so that, according to one of the rules before laid down for understanding the ten commandments, it is to be reckoned a breach of the second commandment; which is what we are now considering. [see page 312] —Again, it must be inquired whether it be unlawful to represent any of the persons in the Godhead, by pictures or carved images? We answer, that, God being infinite and incomprehensible, it is impossible to frame any image like him. [Isaiah 40:18; 46:5; Acts 17:29] Moreover, he assigns as a reason why Israel should make no image of him, that ‘they saw no manner of similitude when he spake to them in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire;’ and adds, ‘lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image.’ [Deuteronomy 4:15, 16] And the apostle styles the representing of God by an image, an offering the highest affront to him, when he speaks of some who ‘changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man.’ [Romans 1:23] But there are some who, though they do not much care to defend the practice of making pictures of God, yet plead for describing an emblem of the Trinity, such as a triangle, with the name Jehovah in the midst of it. Now, I would observe concerning this practice, that if the design of it be to worship God by the emblem, it is idolatry; but if not, it is unwarrantable, and, indeed, unnecessary; since a Trinity of persons in the unity of the divine essence, is to be understood as revealed in scripture, and not brought to our remembrance by an emblem, which is an ordinance of our own invention. It is farther inquired whether we may not describe our Saviour, as he sometimes is by the Papists, in those things which respect his human nature? whether we may not portray him as an infant in his mother’s arms, or as conversing on earth, or hanging on the cross? The Papists not only describe him thus, but adore the image or representation of Christ crucified, which they call a crucifix. But whatever of Christ comes within the reach of the art of man to delineate or describe, is only his human nature, which is not the object of divine adoration; so that the practice of describing him in the way mentioned tends rather to debase, than to give us raised and becoming conceptions of him as such.

As God is sometimes represented as having a body or bodily parts, and as the prophet Daniel describes God the Father as ‘the Ancient of days;’ [Daniel 7:9] some suppose that it is not unlawful for them to make such representations of him by images. But God’s being described by the parts of human bodies, is in condescension to the weakness of our capacities, or agreeable to human modes of speaking; according to which the eye signifies wisdom, the arm power, the heart love, &c. We are, notwithstanding these modes of expression, to abstract, in our thoughts, every thing which is carnal or applicable to the creature, when conceiving of God; and therefore not to give occasion to any to think that he is like ourselves, by describing him in such a way. The Papists not only plead for making such images, but set them up in churches, calling them the laymen’s books, with a design to instruct them in those things which the images represent. But such a method of instruction is without any warrant from scripture, as well as contrary to the practice of the purest ages of the church; who always thought that the word of God was sufficient to lead them into the knowledge of himself, without making use of a picture for that purpose.— Yet though this color is put on the practice of setting up such images in churches, there are some of the Papists who plead for the worship of images only with this distinction, that it is a subordinate or a relative worship which they give to them, while, at the same time, the highest worship is given to God only. But they cannot thus exculpate themselves from the charge of idolatry. Indeed, in some of their books of devotion, we find the same expressions used when they address themselves to the creature, as if they were paying divine adoration to God; particularly in the book, which is well known among them, called the Virgin Mary’s Psalter, in which her name is often inserted instead of the name of God, which is the highest strain of blasphemy. Thus when it is said,’O come let us kneel before the Lord our Maker,’ [Psalm 95:6] instead of ‘the Lord,’ they put ‘the Virgin Mary;’ and when it is said, ‘Have mercy upon me, 0 God,’ [Psalm 51:1] they pray, ‘Have mercy upon me, O Lady,’ &c. These expressions cannot be read without detestation ; and there are in that book many more of a similar kind. When this has been objected against them as a specimen of their idolatry, all the reply they make is, that the book was written by a private person as an help to devotion, but not established by the authority of the church, which is not to be charged with every absurdity which some of their communion may advance. We reply, that the church of Rome has been very ready to condemn better books, written by those who were not in her communion; while she has never publicly condemned this book, but rather commended it as written with a good design. Besides, there are many blasphemous expressions given to the Virgin Mary, in their Breviaries and Missals, which are used by public authority. Thus she is often addressed in such characters as these,—’the mother of mercy,’ ‘the gate of heaven,’ ‘the queen of heaven,’ ‘the empress of the world;’ and sometimes she is desired not only to pray her son to help them, but, by the authority of a mother, to command him to do it. At other times, they desire her to help and save them herself; and accordingly they give her the title of Redeemer and Savior, as well as our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes also they profess to put their trust and confidence in her. Now, if this be not idolatry, where is there any to be found in the world?

We may notice, likewise, that idolatry which is practiced by them in their devotion to the images of other saints. Every saint in their calendar is called upon in his turn. Among those, indeed, some were good men, as the martyrs, who refused to be worshiped while on earth; how much soever the Papists worship them now that they are in heaven. But there are others whom the Popes have canonized as saints, who were little better than devils incarnate, while they were upon earth; and others were rebels and traitors to their king and country, and suffered the just reward of their wickedness. Such as these are found among those whom they pay this worship to. There are also others whom they worship as saints, concerning whom it may be much questioned whether there ever were such persons in the world. These may be called fabulous saints; yet images are made to their honor, and prayers directed to them. There are also things worshiped by them which never had life, as the picture of the cross, and many pretended relics of the saints. Upon the whole, therefore, we cannot but think that we have, in this mode of worship, a notorious instance of the breach of the second commandment; and we cannot but conclude that, in rendering this worship, they have apostatized or turned aside from the purity of the gospel.

It may be observed, that the church, for the first three hundred years after Christ, had comparatively but little superstition and no idolatry. But in the fourth century, superstition began to insinuate itself into it. Then it was that the pictures of the martyrs, who had suffered in Christ’s cause, were first set up in churches, though without any design of worshiping them; and the setting of them up was not universally approved of. As for image-worship, it was not brought into the church till above seven hundred years after Christ; and then there was a considerable opposition made to it by some. This kind of worship was set up in one reign, and prohibited in another; but afterwards it universally prevailed in the Romish church, when arrived at that height of impiety and idolatry, without opposition, which it maintains at this day.

The Reasons annexed to the Second Commandment.

We now proceed to observe the reasons annexed to this Commandment. These are taken from the consideration of what God is in himself: ‘I am the Lord,’ or ‘Jehovah.’ This being a name never given to any creature, is expressive of all his divine perfections, which render him the object of worship, and oblige us to perform that worship which he requires, in such a way as is agreeable to his character. He also styles himself a God to his people: ‘I am thy God.’ Hence, to set up strange gods, or to worship him in a way not prescribed by him, is a violation of his covenant, as well as not performing the duty we owe to him, and would render us unfit to be owned by him as his people. Moreover, they who thus corrupt themselves, and pervert his worship, are styled haters of him, and therefore can expect nothing but to be dealt with as enemies. This he gives them to understand, in his styling himself ‘a jealous,’ or sin-revenging God, ‘visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children.’ For understanding this language, let it be considered that, though God does not punish children with eternal destruction for the sins of their immediate parents, yet these often bring temporal judgments on families. Thus all the children of Israel who murmured and despised the good land, so far bare their fathers’ iniquity, that they wandered in the wilderness nearly forty years. Again, these judgments fall more heavily on those children who make their parents’ sins their own. This was the case of the Jews. Hence, our Savior tells them that ‘all the blood that was shed upon the earth, should come upon them, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar.’ [Matthew 23:35] They approved and committed the same sins which their fathers were guilty of, and consequently are said to have ‘filled up the measure of their sins.’ Hence, the judgments of God which they exposed themselves to, were most terrible. Further, whatever temporal judgments may bo inflicted on children for their parents’ sins, shall be sanctified, and redound to their spiritual advantage, as well as end in their everlasting happiness, if they do not follow their bad example. Accordingly, it is farther observed that God ‘shows mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments.’ These are very great motives and inducements to enforce the observance of all God’s commandments, and this in particular.

Jonathan Cross on the Second Commandment

August 29, 2010

Jonathan Cross’ “Illustrations of the Shorter Catechism” has a section on the 2nd commandment (link to work). These illustrations are anecdotes. Presently, Google is permitting this book to be downloaded in pdf and epub format, so this might be something to download to place on your child’s Kindle or other book-reading device.

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