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Indeed some of the Popish Writers tell us, that they do not worship their Images. Yet others of them, who have never been condemned for it, say quite the contrary, that they do worship them; and with the very fame Degree of Worship, which they pay to the Persons represented by them. Nay, their public authorized Books of Prayers and Ceremonies not only appoint the Crucifix to be adored, but in Form declare, that divine Adoration is due to it. And accordingly they petition it, in so many Words, expressly directed to the very Wood, as their only Hope, to increase the Joy and Grace of the godly, and blot out the Sins of the wicked
But let us suppose them to pay only an inferior Honour to Images, and to worship the holy Trinity and the Saints by them. Having no Ground, or Permission to pray at all to Saints departed, they certainly have none to use Images for enlivening their Prayers. If any Words can forbid the Worship of God, his Son and Spirit by Images, this Commandment forbids it. And if any Excuses or Distinctions will acquit the Papists of transgressing it, the same will acquit the ancient Jews and Heathens also. For if many of the former mean only, that their Adoration should pass through the Image, as it were, to the Person, for whom it was made; so did many of the Pagans plead, that the Meaning was just the same P: yet the Scripture accuses them all of Idolatry. And if great Numbers of the Pagans did absolutely pray to the Image itself; fo do great Numbers of the Papifts too : and some of their own Writers honestly confess and lament it.
But further : Had they little or no Regard, as they sometimes pretend, to the Image ; but only to the Pere son represented by it: why is an image, of the blessed Virgin luppose, in one Place, so much more frequented,
° See Dr. Hickes's Collection of controversial Discourses; vol. 1. p. 47.
P See a remarkable Proof of this produced in an Epistle to Mr. War. burton, concerning the Conformity of Rome Pagan and Papal : printed. for Roberts, 1748, 8vo. p. 21.
than another in a different Place, and the Prayers made before it thought to have so much more Efficacy?
Upon the Whole therefore, they plainly appear to be guilty of that Image-Worship, which Reason and Scripture condemn. Nor do they fo much as alledge either any Command or express Allowance for it. And yet they have pronounced a Curse upon all who reject it.
But let us go on, from the Prohibition, to the Reafons given for it in the Commandment. The first is a very general, but a very awful one. For the Lord thy God is a jealous God: not jealous for himself, left he should suffer for the Follies of his Creatures : that cannot be: but jealous for us, for his Spouse the Church ; left our Notions of his Nature and Attributes, and consequently of the Duties which we owe to him, being depraved, and our Minds darkened with superstitious Persuasions, and Fears, and Hopes, we should depart from the Fidelity which we have vowed to him, and fall into those grievous Immoralities, which St. Paul, in the Beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, describes as the Consequences of Idolatry, and which have been its Consequences in all Times and Places.
The second Reason for this Prohibition is more particular: that God will visit the Sins of the Fathers upon the Children, unto the third and fourth Generation of them that bate him. For, observe, worshipping him irrationally, or in a Manner which he hath forbidder, he interprets to be hating him : as it must proceed, wholly or in Part, from a dishonourable Opinion of him, and tend to spread the like Opinion amongst others. Now we are not to understand by this Threatening, that God will ever, on Account of the Sins of Parents, punith Children, in the strict Sense of the Word, punish, when they deserve it not". But in the Course of Things, established by his Providence, it comes to pass, that the Sins of one Person, or one Generation, lead those, who
9 Rom. i. 21–32.
Against this wrong Imagination, Cotta in Cic. de Nat. Deor. l. 3. 6. §. 38. inveighs vehemently,
come after, into the same, or other, perhaps greater Sins; and so bring upon them double Sufferings, partly the Fruits of their predecessors Faults, partly of their own. And when successive Ages follow one another in Crimes, besides the natural bad Effects of them, which punish them in some Measure, God may juftly threaten severer additional Corrections, than he would else inAlict for their personal Transgreflions:: both because it may deter Men from propagating Wickedness down to their Pofterity; and because, if it doth not, inveterate Evils demand a rougher Cure. Accordingly here the Ifraelites are forewarned, that if they fell into Idolatry, they and their Children would fall, by Means of it, into all sorts of Abominations: and not only, these would of Course produce many Mischiefs to both, but God would chastise the following Generations with heavier Strokes, for not taking Warning, as they ought to have done, by the Misbehaviour and Sufferings of the former. Denouncing this Intention beforehand muft influence them, if any Thing could : because it must give them a Concern, both for themselves, and their Descendants too; for whom, next to themselves, if not equally, Men are always interested. And therefore visiting Sins upon them to the third and fourth Generation seems to be mentioned ; because either the Life, or however the Solicitude, of a Person may be supposed to extend thus far, and seldom further.
This Threatning therefore was not only juft, but wise and kind, on the Supposition, which in general it was reasonable to make, that in such Matters Children would imitate their wicked Progenitors. And whenever any did not; either their. Innocence would avert the impending Evils; or they would be abundantly rewarded in a future Life for what the Sins of others had brought upon them in the present.
But if God hath threatened to punish the Breach of this Precept to the third and fourth Generation, he hath
s See Sherlock on Providence, p. 382390.
promised to Mew Mercy unto thousands, that is, so long as the World hall endure, to them that love him and keep bis Commandments. To the Jews he fulfilled this En. gagement, as far as they gave him Opportunity, by temporal Blessings. And amongst Christians there is ordinarily a fair Prospect, that a Nation, or a Family, pious and virtuous through successive Ages, will be recompensed with increasing Happiness in every Age: which is a powerful Motive, both for worshipping God in Purity ourselves, and educating those, who are placed under our Care, to do so too. Yet it must be acknowledged, that neither the Rewards foretold, nor the Punishments denounced, in this Commandment, are so constantly distributed on Earth under the Gospel-Dispen, sation, as they were under that of the Law. But still our Maker as certainly requires, as ever he did, since he is a Spirit, to be worshipped in Spirit, and in Truth' : and the Inducement to it is abundantly sufficient, that the Idolaters, amongst other Sinners, fall have their Part in the Lake, which burneth with Fire, and Brimstone" Not that we are to be forward in applying fo dreadful a Sentence to the Case of those, whether Christians or others, who, in this or any Respect, offend through such Ignorance or Mistake, as, for ought we can tell, is excusable. May our heavenly Father forgive them: for they know not what they do w. But we thould be very thankful to him for the Light, which he hath caused to shine upon us; and very careful to walk in it as becomes the Children of Light, having no Fellowship with the un, fruitful Works of Darkness *.
L E C T U RE XX.
HE first Commandment having provided that we
should worship only the one true God; and the second prohibited worshipping him in a Manner so unworthy and dangerous, as by Images; the third proceeds to direct, that we preserve a due Reverence to him in our whole Conversation and Behaviour. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain. Under these words are forbidden several Things which differ in their Degrees of Guilt.
1. The first, and highest Offence is, when we swear by the Name of God falsely. For Vanity in Scripture frequently means, something, which is not what it would appear. And hence using God's Name in vain, or to Vanity, principally signifies, applying it to confirm a Falsehood. Doing this deliberately, is one of the most fhocking Crimes of which we can be guilty. For taking an Oath is declaring solemnly, that we know ourselves to be in the Presence of God, and him to be Witness of what we speak: it is appealing to him, that our Words express the very Truth of our Hearts; and renouncing all Title to his Mercy, if they do not. This it is to swear : and think then what it must be, to swear falsely. In other Sins Men endeavour to forget God: but Perjury is daring and braving the Almighty to his very Face; bidding him take Notice of the Fallehood that we utter, and do his worst.
Now of this dreadful Crime we are guilty, if ever we swear, that we do not know or believe what indeed we do; or that we do know or believe, what indeed we do not; if ever, being upon our Oaths, we mislead those,