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Thomas Vincent’s "The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture" on the Second Commandment

August 28, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Thomas Vincent’s “The Shorter Catechism Explained” (Question 49)(Question 50)(Question 51)(Question 52)

XLIX. Ques. What is the second commandment?
Ans. The second commandment is, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath% or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

Vincent had no specific comment on this question.

L. Ques. What is required in the second commandment?
Ans. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.

Q. 1. How doth the worship required in this second commandment differ from the worship required in the first commandment?

A. The worship required in the first commandment hath a respect unto the object of worship, whereby we are bound to worship the true God, and none else: the worship required in the second commandment hath a respect unto the means of worship, whereby we are bound to worship God according to the way and means of his own appointment, and no other.

Q. 2. What is the way and means which God hath appointed for his worship?

A. The only way and means which God hath appointed for his worship, are his ordinances, which he hath prescribed in his Word.

Q. 3. What are the ordinances which God hath appointed in his Word, to be the means of worship, and to be observed by his people?

A. The ordinances which God hath appointed in his Word, to be the means of his worship, and to be observed by his people, are —

  1. Prayer unto God with thanksgiving, and that publicly in assemblies, privately in families, and secretly in closets. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”— Philippians 4:6. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”— Ephesians 5:20. “And the whole multitude of people were praying.” — Luke 1:10. “Pour out thy fury upon the families which call not upon thy name.”— Jeremiah 10:25. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which. is in secret, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” — Matthew 6:6.
  2. Reading and searching the Scriptures. “For Moses is read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day.”— Acts 15:21. “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.”— John 5:39.
  3. Preaching and hearing of the word. “Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine.”— 2 Timothy 4:2. “Hear, and your soul shall live.”— Isaiah 55:3.
  4. Singing of psalms. “Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.”— Psalm 149:1. “Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” — James 5:13.
  5. Administration and receiving of the sacraments, both of baptism and the Lord’s supper. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”— Matthew 28:19. “For I have received of the Lord that which also I have delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which lie was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”— 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.
  6. Fasting. “But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”— Luke 5:35.
  7. Instructing of children and household in the laws of the Lord. “For I know him, that he will command his children, and his house-hold after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.” — Genesis 18:19. “And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”— Deuteronomy 6:6, 7. “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”— Ephesians 6:4.
  8. Conference and discourse of the things of God. “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it.”— Malachi 3:16. “Thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”— Deuteronomy 6:7.
  9. Meditation. “I will meditate of all thy works.”— Psalm 77:12. “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear unto all.”— 1 Timothy 4:15.
  10. Vows to the Lord. “Vow and pay unto the Lord.”— Psalm 76:11.
  11. Swearing by the name of the Lord, when lawfully called. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.— Deuteronomy 6:13.
  12. Exercise of Church discipline. “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”— Matthew 18:15-17.

Q. 4. What doth God require in the second commandment, in reference to his ordinances and means of worship?

A. God, in the second commandment, doth require, in reference to his ordinances and means of worship —

  1. The receiving of them.
  2. Observing of them.
  3. The keeping them pure and entire.

Q. 5. What is it to receive God’s ordinances?

A. The receiving God’s ordinances implieth an approving of them with the mind, and embracement of them with the will.

Q. 6. What is it to observe God’s ordinances?

A. The observing God’s ordinances, implieth a doing what is required in them, a making use of them, and attending upon God in them.

Q. 7. What is it to keep pure and entire God’s ordinances?

A. The keeping pure and entire God’s ordinances implieth a doing what in us lieth to preserve the ordinances from corruption, not suffering any thing to be added to them, or taken away from them. “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”— Deuteronomy 12:32.

Q. 8. How doth it appear that the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed, is required in the second commandment, when it doth only forbid: “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image,” &c?

A. God’s forbidding the making of any graven image, and worshiping it, doth clearly imply—

  1. That God must be worshiped by some means.
  2. That it is a sin to worship God by graven images.
  3. That, by consequence, it is a sin to worship God by the means which he hath not appointed.
  4. That therefore it is a duty to worship God by the means which he hath appointed, which being his ordinances, they must be received, observed, and kept pure and entire.

LI. Quest. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
Ans. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed ill his word.

Q. 1. What is the first great sin forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The first great sin forbidden in the second commandment, is the sin of idolatry

Q. 2. How doth the idolatry forbidden in the first commandment differ from the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The idolatry forbidden in the first commandment hath a respect to the object, when we give that worship and honor, which arc due only to God, unto another; the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment hath a respect unto the means, when we worship God by images.

Q. 3. How many ways may persons be guilty of idolatry in their worshiping of God by images?

A. Persons are guilty of idolatry in worshiping of God by images—

  1. When they worship feigned and false gods (apprehending them to be true) by images and representations. Such was the heathen’s idolatry in worshiping Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Diana, and other feigned gods and goddesses, by their images in their idolatrous temples.
  2. When they worship the true God in or by any image or representation of him, whether it be any thing in heaven, or the earth, or the waters, as in the commandment: “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, or the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.” “Take ye heed, therefore, to 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.” — Deuteronomy 4:15, 16. “They have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it; and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”— Exodus 32:8.
  3. When they have in their worship carnal imaginations, and representations of God in their minds; as if he were an old man sitting in heaven, or the like.

Q. 4. Why may we not make use of images for a help in our worship of God?

A.

  1. Because God has absolutely forbidden it.
  2. Because images are not a real help, but a hindrance of devotion, they tending to lessen God in our esteem, who, being the living God, and superlatively excellent, and infinitely removed above all his creatures, cannot, without great reflection of dishonor upon him, be represented by a dead image.

Q. 5. Is it not lawful to have images or pictures of God by us, so we do not worship them, nor God by them?

A. The images or pictures of God are an abomination, and utterly unlawful, because they do debase God, and may be a cause of idolatrous worship.

Q. 6. Is it not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, he being a man as well as God?

A. It is not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, because his divine nature cannot be pictured at all; and because his body, as it is now glorified, cannot be pictured as it is; and because, if it do not stir up devotion, it is in vain—if it do stir up devotion, it is a worshiping by an image or picture, and so a palpable breach of the second commandment.

Q. 7. What is the second great sin against this second commandment?

A. The second great sin against this second commandment is superstition.

Q. 8. What is the superstition forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The superstition forbidden in the second commandment, is the worshiping of God in any other way, or by any other means, than what he hath appointed in his Word, and thus adding human inventions unto God’s institutions; which is will-worship, and condemned by the apostle. “Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using), after the commandments and doctrines of men? which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship.”— Colossians 2:20-23.

Q. 9. May nothing be added in the worship of God but what is prescribed in the Word of God?

A. Nothing may be added in the worship of God, as parts of worship, but what is prescribed or appointed in the Word of God; because, without divine institution, it is but vain worship, neither pleasing to God nor profitable unto them that worship. “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” — Matthew 15:9.

Q. 10. Are not significant ceremonies allowable, that the dull minds of men may be quickened unto the more devotion?

A.

  1. The ceremonies which God himself did appoint under the law are not lawful, much less the ceremonies of men’s appointment, which are parts of worship.
  2. Significant teaching ceremonies, were they appointed by God, would be the parts of true worship therefore, such significant teaching ceremonies as are not appointed by God are parts of false worship, or of worship so far corrupted as they are used.
  3. The significance of teaching ceremonies without God’s institution, which carries with it God’s blessing, is insignificant and ineffectual to convey and confer any grace.

Q. 11. May not the Church, by virtue of that command, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), appoint ceremonies for decency and order’s sake?

A. The Church may and ought, by virtue of this command; to see that there is no indecency and disorder in the worship of God; that is, they may order that things appointed by God be done decently and in order, in reference to convenience of time and place, and the like, which the Word of God doth virtually include in appointing worship itself, which, without such circumstances, cannot be performed; but here is no liberty given unto the Church to introduce and appoint new parts of worship, as significant teaching ceremonies are proved to be; neither may such things be called decent in God’s worship which the idolatrous Church of Rome use, without any warrant from the Word of God.

Q. 12. What is the idolatry and superstition of the Church of Rome in the worship of God?

A. The idolatry and superstition of the Church of Rome in the worship of God, is their idolatrous kneeling at the sacrament, asserting that the bread is turned into the real body of Christ; their idolatrous worshiping of Christ by the crucifix; their idolatrous pictures and images of God, which they bow before; their idolatrous bowing at the altars and towards the east; their idolatrous praying to angels and saints, especially to the Virgin Mary; their offering up the unbloody sacrifice of the host; their superstitious fastings and abstaining from flesh in Lent; their superstitious holidays; their superstitious priests’ surplice.; their adding cream, oil, and spittle to the wafer, and signing with the cross in baptism; their baptizing of bells; their praying upon beads; and many more superstitious customs, for which there is not the least command in the Scripture.

Q. 13. How may we further offend and sin against the second commandment?

A. We offend and sin against the second commandment, not only by idolatry and superstition, but also when we are not zealous for pure worship, according to God’s institution, not endeavoring what in us lieth, in our places, the reformation of worship, according to the pattern in the Word; as also, when we disuse and neglect, especially when we contemn and oppose, any of those ordinances which God hath appointed to be the means of worship. “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” — John 11.17. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.”— Hebrews 10:25. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites I for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”— Matthew 23:13. “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved, filling up their sins alway.” — 1 Thessalonians 2:16. “And the next Sabbath-day came almost the whole city together, to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”— Acts 13:44-46.

LII. Ques. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
Ans. 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.

Q. 1. What is the first reason annexed unto the second commandment?

A. The first reason annexed unto the second commandment is, God’s sovereignty over us, in these words, “I the Lord.”

Q. 2. What is the force of this first reason?

A. The force of this first reason is, because God is the great sovereign King over us, and hath the sole or only authority to make laws for the way of his worship, therefore we ought, by virtue of our allegiance, as we are his subjects, to observe his laws and ordinances, and to worship him no other way than he hath appointed in his Word. “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”— Psalm 95:2, 3.

Q. 3. What is the second reason annexed unto the second commandment?

A. The second reason annexed unto the second commandment is, God’s propriety in us, in these words, “Thy God” — ” I the Lord, thy God.”

Q. 4. What is the force of this second reason?

A. The force of this second reason is, that because we belong unto the Lord, therefore we ought to keep close unto him and his appointments, and take heed especially of idolatry and superstition, which do alienate the heart from him. “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”— Psalm 95:6, .7. “They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. They forgat God their Saviour.”— Psalm 106:19, 21

Q. 5. What is the third reason annexed unto the second commandment?

A. The zeal which God hath to his own worship, is his jealousy, whereby, out of love to his own worship and institutions, he is highly offended with those that turn aside from them unto their own inventions. “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” “Thou shalt worship no other God; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”— Exodus 34:14.

Q. 6. Wherein doth this zeal and jealousy of God for his own worship show itself?

A. The zeal or jealousy of God for his own worship doth show itself—

  1. In his accounting the breakers of this commandment those that hate him, and threatening to punish them unto the third and fourth generation: “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.”
  2. In his esteeming the keepers of this commandment such as love him, and promising mercies unto thousands of them: ” Showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

Q. 7. How can God in justice visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children?

A.

  1. If children do not walk in the steps of the same sins with their parents, God doth not punish them for their sins. ” If he beget a son that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, lie shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.”— Ezekiel 18:14, 17.
  2. If God doth visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children, it is when the children are guilty of the same iniquity, and so fill up the measure, and the punishment of them is most equal and righteous. “Are not my way equal? Are not your ways unequal ?”— Ezekiel 18:25.
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Love of the Unseen Christ (and other Sermons) – Thomas Vincent

June 3, 2009

Thomas Vincent was a Puritan preacher (1634-1678) who allegedly had the whole New Testament and the Psalms memorized. Whether or not this account of his prodigious memory is correct, he wrote some very powerful sermons. Here are links to a few, together with a little sample material from each, to whet your appetite.

The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ

Part 1

The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ. Without love to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life—as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life. Faith without love to Christ is a dead faith, and a professor without love to Christ is a dead professor, dead in sins and trespasses. Without love to Christ we may have the name of Christians—but we are wholly without the nature of Christians. We may have the form of godliness—but are wholly without the power of godliness. “Give me your heart!” is the language of God to all people, Proverbs 23:26; and “Give me your love!” is the language of Christ to all His disciples.

Part 2

The second sort of motives to excite your love to Christ, may be drawn from the consideration of Christ’s love unto true Christians. If you are Christians indeed, Christ loves you:

(1) with the freest love;

(2) with the truest love;

(3) with the strongest love;

(4) with the surest love.

Christ’s manifestation of Himself unto those who love Him

“He who loves Me shall he loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21

We read in Luke 4:22, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” Never did such gracious and sweet words drop from the lips of any man who ever lived, as those from the lips of Christ when He was here upon the earth; and of all Christ’s words, those which He spoke to His disciples in His last sermon, before His last suffering, in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John, are superlatively sweet, and none more sweet in this sermon than the words of my text read unto you, “He who loves Me shall he loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” In the former part of the verse, we have the character of one who truly loves Christ, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me.” In the latter part of the verse, which is my text, we have the privilege of one who truly loves Christ; and that is in three promises which Christ makes unto him:

(1) he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father;

(2) and I will love him;

(3) and will manifest Myself to him.

Fire and Brimstone in Hell, to Burn the Wicked

The flames and fiery streams, which were rained down from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah formerly, and which issued forth from the earth in the eruptions of Mount Aetna lately, are but shadows of the future flames, and like painted fire in comparison, with the streams of fire and brimstone, which in hell shall burn the wicked eternally. For as the glory of heaven (while we are in the dark vale of this world) does far exceed all conception, and therefore cannot be set forth in full by any description; but as one says, whoever attempts to speak of an heavenly state, while himself is upon the earth, his discourse of that must needs be like the dark dreams and imaginations of a child, concerning the affairs of this world, while itself is yet swaddled and cradled in the womb; and the Apostle Paul himself, though he had been taken up unto the third heaven, and had such discoveries made unto him there, that he lacked words to utter what they were, as II Corinthians 12:2, 3, 4, yet acknowledges that he understood like a child, and had but dark views of this glory, even as through a glass, I Corinthians 13:11, 12. So also the torment of hell through that fire and brimstone, which shall burn the wicked, is beyond all thought to imagine, or words to express. And when we have strained our conceptions unto the highest pitch, when we have made use of the most dreadful and tremendous things that ever came to our eyes or ears, or any way to our understanding to help us in forming notions to ourselves of the horrible punishment, which the damned shall endure in the unquenchable flames of hell-fire; all does fall beneath and far short of the thing, all our views hereof by any representations, being like our sight of colours in the night, which if not in whole, yet in the greatest part do fly from our sight and disappear.

The Only Deliverer from the Wrath to Come!

“Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come!” 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Past pains may easily be forgotten. Future pains are not easily believed. Present pains in extremity are so grievous and afflicting that all the wealth and honor in the world cannot countervail them—and, oh, how welcome is such a physician who can give ease and remove them! But if people believingly apprehended what horrible pains and torments the wicked must endure in the unquenchable flames of hell fire, where they can have no ease, and their misery shall have no end; if they apprehended how fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God, and to be swallowed up by His wrath, which pursues all who are out of Christ, and who will certainly come and may quickly seize upon them—surely they would use their utmost diligence now to escape—surely they would, with the greatest inquisitiveness, seek out a place of refuge from the fiery tempest of God’s vengeance!

This text, which makes a revelation of the only Deliverer from the wrath to come, would sound with most transcendent sweetness in their ears; and the glad tidings thereof, concerning what Jesus has done for His people, would, above all things, be most welcome in their hearts. “Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come!”

***

May God edify the reader of these powerful sermons!

-TurretinFan


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