excerpted from his
EXOD. 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.[See Also]
THE second command comes now to be explained; and this is it, though the Papists will not allow it to be so: And it is so plain against them, that they leave it out of their catechisms and books of devotion which they put into the people's hands, joining the reason of it, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, &c. unto the first command; and so they count the third the second, the fourth the third, &c. and split the tenth into two (to make up the number), though the apostle expresses it in one word, 'Thou shalt not covet.' And indeed they have reason to hide it; for if they should let it come to the light, it would open the mystery of their iniquity among their blinded people, and spoil the most part of their devotions, whereof idols and images have the largest share.
As the first command fixeth the object of worship, so this fixes the means and ways of worship. The scope of it is to bind us to the external worship of God, and that in the way that he himself has instituted, and that we may be spiritual in his worship. We may take it up in two things.
1. The command itself. 2. The reasons annexed.
The command itself we have, ver. 4. and part of ver. 5. I shall consider the command.
The command is proposed negatively; and two things are here expressly forbidden.
First, The making of images for religious use and service, Lev. 26.1. And that it is thus meant, and not of civil or political images is plain from this, that it is a command of the first table, and so relates to divine worship. And our God is very particular in this point.
1. Graven images are forbidden particularly, that is, images cut or carved in wood, stone, or the like, called statues. These are particularly expressed, not only because they were the chief among idolaters, but because they do so lively represent men, beasts, &c. in all their parts and members, that nothing seems to be wanting in them but life; and so people are most ready to be deceived by them. But that we may see it is not these only that are abominable to our God.
2. Every similitude whatsoever for religious use and service is forbidden, whether it is done by casting in a mould, painting, weaving, or made any way whatsoever, though it be merely by the imagination, and not by the hand; for the words are universal, any likeness. How particular is this command in things themselves, whereof idolaters would have the images.
1st, No graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, must be made for religious worship. By the heavens above, is meant the air, and all to the starry heavens, and the seat of the blessed. In the visible heavens are the birds, sun, moon, and stars. No likeness of these is to be made; and therefore, to paint the Holy Spirit as a dove is idolatrous. In the seat of the blessed are God himself, angels, and saints, i.e. the spirits of just men made perfect, all invisible; so that it is impiety, yea, and madness, to frame images of them.
2dly, No graven image or likeness of any thing that is in the earth beneath is to be made for religious service, whether they be on the surface, or in the bowels of the earth. Now, in the earth are men, beasts, trees, plants, the dead bodies of men, &c. No likeness of these is to be made for religious worship.
3dly, No graven image, or likeness of any thing that is in the water under the earth, is to be made. Now, these are fishes whatsoever the rivers and seas do produce. But no likeness of these is to be made for religious service.
But why so particular? This is deservedly inquired, when the first command, and most of the rest, are in so very few words.
1. Because the worship of God commanded here is not so much natural as in the first command, but instituted; and so nature's light can be of less service than in the first: for though the light of nature teacheth that God is to be worshipped, it cannot tell us how he will be worshipped, or in what particular way.
2. Because there is a special proneness in the nature of man to corrupt the worship and ordinances of God. Of old the worship of God was corrupted with vile idolatries and superstitions all the world over, but among the Jews, and frequently among them too. Ye will often read of the Jews falling in with the worship of the nations; but of any nation falling in with theirs, never, Jer. 2.11. And so is it at this day among the Papists, yea, and other churches, as the church of England, and the Greek churches; and there are few Protestant churches, where these ordinances are not changed in greater or lesser measure.
3. There is a peculiar bias in corrupt nature to idolatry. It is natural for men to desire to see what they worship, Rom. 1.23. Exod. 32.1. and to have a pompous worship. There is a natural weakness in the corrupt minds of men, whereby they are easily impressed by idols and images for religious service, ready to fancy something of divinity in them.
4. There is a peculiar hellish zeal that accompanies idolatry, to multiply gods, and to be most keen in the worship of them; like as it is seen in corporal adultery in those who have once prostituted their honour, Jer. 50.38. If you ask, what can put Papists, being men and not devils, on those horrid practices, of which we spake on the fast-day1? I answer, Their idolatrous religion inspires them with that hellish fury, 1 Kings 18.28. Psalm 106.36,37,38. So doe sit on multiplying them; for this particularity shews that almost from every part of the universe the heathens fetched their idols. And as the heathens had, so the Papists have, their idols and images of things in heaven, of God, angels, saints; and want not their queen of heaven, as well as the Pagans had. The earth furnishes them with an image of the cross, and with reliques and images of the dead. Remarkable is that which the author of the apocryphal book of Wisdom, which to the Papists is canonical scripture, chap. 14.15. gives as the original of idolatry, to wit, That a father, in bitterness for his son's death, made an image of his dead son, and first honoured him as a dead man, at length as a god, &c. And as the Pagans had their gods to be applied to by persons of several callings, countries, diseases, &c. so the Papists are well nigh even with them in that. The Pagans had their gods for the seamen, shepherds, husbandmen, &c.; so the Papists have St. Nicholas for the seamen, St. Wendolin for the shepherd, St. John Baptist for the husbandman, St. Magdalene for the whore, as the Pagans had Flora. The family and country gods are a prodigious number, St. Andrew for Scotland, St. George for England, St. Patrick for Ireland, St. Denys for France, St. James for Spain, &c. And that god-making power that is in the Pope and his Cardinals to canonize any deceased person they think worthy, may fill the world with them. Gods they have almost for every disease. What wonder then that the command is so particular?
Lastly, Because the Lord has (so to speak) a particular zeal for his own worship, and against idolatry. Thus he pursues them out of all their starting-holes. He will not allow them an image of any thing in the heaven above, of any thing under heaven, or in the earth, or of any thing in the waters under the earth. Where then shall they have them but from hell, where the devil and damned spirits are?
Secondly, The worshipping of them is forbidden.
1. The very bowing to them is forbidden, whether it be the bowing of the whole body, bowing the knee, or bowing the head, and much more prostrating ourselves before them, and so consequently uncovering the head. Men may think it a small thing to use such a gesture before them, if they do not pray to them, &c. but our jealous God forbids, the lowest degree of religious worship to them, and for civil worship they are not capable of it, Gen. 23.7.
2. The serving of them. This implies whatsoever service the true God required of his worshippers, or the Pagans gave to their idols. So the serving of them lies in these things, setting them up on high, carrying them in processions, erecting temples, chapels, altars to them, making vows to them, praying to them, offering incense to them, and dedicating days to them. All which the Papists do to their idols.
The Papists will tell you, they do not worship them absolutely, but relatively; not ultimately, but mediately; whereby they beguile unstable souls. But the command strikes through all these fig-leaf covers, and says absolutely we must not worship them, nor give them the lowest degree of worship: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, &c.Thou shalt not bow unto them, nor serve them.
But we have not the full meaning of the negative part of this command. Does it only forbid the making and worshipping of images? No. Remember the rule, That where one sort of sin is expressed in a command, all others of that kind are included. When in the seventh command adultery is forbidden, all manner of uncleanness is forbidden, though one of the grossest sort only is named. So here, when the corrupting of the worship of God by images is forbidden, all other corruptions whatsoever of God's worship are included.
The matter of this command is the worship of God and his ordinances; and it says to every man, Thou shalt not make any thing whereby thou wilt worship God. And as the seventh command meets him that defiles his neighbour's wife, saying, Thou shalt not commit adultery; so this meets the church of Rome, and says, Thou shalt not make any graven image, &c. But as the seventh says also to the fornicator, Thou shalt not commit uncleanness; so this says also to the church of England, thou shalt not make crossing in baptism, kneeling, bowing to the altar, festival days, &c.And to every sort of people, and to every particular person, it says, thou shalt not meddle to make any thing of divine worship and ordinances out of thy own head.
All holy ordinances and parts of worship God has reserved to himself the making of them for us, saying, with respect to these, Thou shalt not make them to thyself. Men are said, in scripture, to make a thing to themselves, when they make it out of their own head, without the word of God for it. But when they make any thing according to God's word, God is said to do it, Matt. 19.6. If there be not then a divine law for what is brought into the worship and ordinances of God, it is an idol of men's making, a device of their own. And so Popery, Prelacy, ceremonies, and whatsoever is without the word, brought in God's matters, is overturned at once by his word. Thou shalt not make, be thou Pope, King, Parliament, minister, private person, synod, or council. So ye see it is not only the making of images, but worshipping and serving them, that is forbidden.
Next, by the same rule, whereas this command forbids not only the making of images, but bowing to them, and serving them, though they be made by others, that is not all that is included in that. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them. But the meaning of it further is, Whatever any make without the word, in the matter of God's worship and ordinances, thou shalt not comply with it, approve of it, or use it. So that to thee they must be as if they were not made at all, make them who will, under whatever pretence, whether of decency or strictness, seeing God has not made them. To the law and to the testimony, be of what party they will, if they speak not according to this word, fear them not to comply with them in what they advance in God's matters, that is not according thereto. So much for the negative part of this command.
The positive part of it is implied, according to the rule, That every negative implies an affirmative part. It consists in these two things.
1. Thou shalt worship the Lord, and him shalt thou serve; worship him with external worship. This is implied in that, Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them. This says, But thou shalt bow down to me, and serve me. Even as due benevolence betwixt married persons is implied in that, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Internal worship is the worship required in the first, external in the second command. There is a generation that do not worship images, but they lie fair for it, if it were once come in fashion; it is those that do not worship God, they do not bow down to him, nor serve him. They say, God looks to the heart, and they hope and trust in him, and give their hearts to him, though they do not go about the outward worship as some others do, but their hearts are as true with God as theirs for all that. These, I say, lie fair for worshipping images; for if the devil were come, their house is empty, swept, and garnished. They may worship idols, for they do not worship God in secret, or in their families. If the book-prayers of England, and the idolatrous prayers of Rome, were come to their hand, there is no other worship to be put out for them, for they have no other.
What they talk of their hearts towards God, therein they join with the Papists, who put the second command out of the number of the ten. For the worship of God which they slight on that pretence, is the very worship required in this command. Now, let us try whether ye that will hold with the worship of the heart, or this command that requires outward bodily worship too, has most reason on your side.
1st, Is not God the God of the whole man, the body as well as the soul? Christ has redeemed the body as well as the soul; the Spirit dwells in the bodies of his people as well as their souls. The whole man, soul and body, is taken into the covenant. The body shall be glorified in heaven as well as the soul, or burn in hell as well as the soul. Is it not highly reasonable, then, that we worship God with outward bodily worship, as well as with the inward worship of the heart?
2dly, God will not only be worshipped by us, but glorified before men, Matth. 16.24. But our inward worship cannot do that, for that is what none can know but God and our own souls. Therefore outward worship is necessary. If men will be accounted God's servants, why will they not take on his badge?
3dly, Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh in other cases, and why not in this? The apostle says grace in the hearts appears by the mouth to the honour of God, Rom. 10.10. And though outward worship may be performed where there is no inward in the heart, yet if the heart be a temple to God, the smoke will rise up from the altar, and appear without in outward worship.
Lastly, Outward worship is not only a sign of the inward, but it is a help and furtherance to it. Prayer is a blessed mean to increase our love to God, sorrow for sin, faith, hope, and other parts of heart-worship. So, the partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, another part of external worship, in the profane neglect of which many live, is not only a mean appointed, whereby we publicly profess ourselves engaged to the Lord, but is the mean to strengthen faith, and confirm our union and communion with him.
2. Thou shalt fall in with and use the external worship and ordinances which God has appointed. This is implied in that, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, &c. They are made already, God has made them, and ye must use those that God has made, that worship, and those ordinances. And thus, by this command we are bound to all the parts of God's worship, and to all his ordinances appointed in his word. If we neglect any of them, it is at our peril. It is not enough to leave idolatrous or superstitious worship and ordinances, but we must inquire what are the Lord's statutes, that we may do them.
I come now to that question, 'What is required in the second commandment? 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.'
In handling this point, I shall shew,
I. What is that religious worship, and those ordinances, which God hath appointed in his word.
II. What is our duty with reference to those ordinances.
I. I shall shew what is that religious worship, and those ordinances which God hath appointed in his word. That God has appointed that religious worship, and those ordinances, whereby we are outwardly to glorify him, is evident from this, that God will be so honoured by us, yet has forbidden us to make any thing that way, consequently they are made by himself in his word. These ordinances appointed in the word are,
1. Prayer, whereby we tender to him the homage due from a creature to his Creator, acknowledging our dependence on him as the Author of all good. The parts of it are petition, confession, and thanksgiving. And that public in the assemblies, Acts 2.42; private in lesser societies, particularly in families, Jer. 10.ult; and secret, every one by himself, Mat. 6.6. none of them to justle out another. In these we are tied to no form.
2. Praises in singing psalms, whereby we give him the praise due to him. And this is appointed, both publicly, Psalm 149.1. and privately, Jam. 5.13. This is to be done in all simplicity becoming the gospel, singing them with grace in the heart, Col. 3.16; not playing them on musical instruments, of which there is not one word in the New Testament.
3. Reading God's word, and hearing it read, both publicly, Acts 15.21. and privately, John 5.39; whereby we honour God, consulting his oracles.
4. The preaching of the word, and hearing it preached, 2 Tim. 4.2. 2 Kings 4.23. And consequently the ministry is an ordinance of God, Rom. 10.15. Eph. 4.11,12. and the maintenance thereof, 1 Cor. 9.14. by an ordinance of God, though there should be no ordinance of the state for it.
5. Administration and receiving of the sacraments, to wit, baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Matt. 28.19. and the Lord's supper, 1 Cor. 11.23, &c. both which are left us in much gospel-simplicity. By these we solemnly avouch ourselves to be the Lord's, and receive the seals of the covenant, getting our faith of covenant-blessings confirmed.
6. Fasting, or extraordinary prayer with fasting, when the Lord by his providence calls for it, as when tokens of his anger do in a special manner appear. And this is public, in the congregation, Joel 2.12,13. and private too, as in families, 1 Cor. 12.5. and secret, Matth. 6.17,18. See Zech. 12.12,13,14. The same is to be said of extraordinary prayer, with thanksgiving.
7. Church government and discipline. Christ has appointed a government in his church, and has not left it to men to dispose of it, Heb. 3.5,6. 1 Cor. 12.28. He has appointed his officers, which are pastors and doctors, Eph. 4.11. ruling elders and deacons, 1 Cor. 12.28. And besides these the scripture knows no ordinary church-officers. The three first are, by his appointment, church-rulers. They have the power of discipline, Matth. 18.17,18. to rebuke scandalous offenders publicly, 1 Tim. 6.20. to excommunicate the contumacious, 1 Cor. 5.4,5. And amongst these officers of the same kind there is a parity by divine appointment, excluding both Pope and Prelate, Matth. 20.26. There is also a subordination of judicatories, Acts 15. which is the government we call Presbyterial.
8. Instructing and teaching in the ways of the Lord, not only by ministers, but by masters of families, who are to teach their families, Gen. 18.19. Deut. 6.6,7.
9. Lastly, Spiritual conference, Mai. 3.16. Deut. 6.7. and swearing, of which we shall treat in the third commandment.
II. I shall shew what is our duty with reference to these ordinances. It is fourfold.
1. We must receive them in our principles and profession. We must carry them as the badge of our subjection to our God, Micah 4.5.
2. We must observe them in our practice, Matth. 18.20. For what end do we receive these ordinances, if we make no conscience of the practice of them? We will be in that case as the servant that knew his master's will, but did it not. So here there is a number of duties laid on us by this command. It requires us also to pray, ministers to pray publicly and the people to join; masters of families to pray in their families, and the family to join with them; and each of us to pray in secret. It requires all of us to sing the Lord's praises, privately and publicly. It requires church-officers to exercise church discipline, and offenders to submit thereunto, &c. &c.
3. We must do our duty to keep them pure, that nothing of men's inventions be added to them, and that whatever others mix with them, we adhere to the purity of ordinances, 1 Cor. 11.2.
4. We must do our duty to keep them entire, that nothing be taken from them, Deut. 12.ult. for both adding and paring in these matters are abominable to the Lord.
Finally, It requires us, in consequence of this, to disapprove, detest, and oppose, according to our several places and stations, all worship that is not appointed of God, whether superstitious or idolatrous, and, according to our several places and stations, to endeavour the removal of the same, Acts 17.16,17. Deut. 7.5.
I proceed to consider what is forbidden in the second commandment. Ans. 'The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.' The sum of the second commandment is, That we worship God according as he has appointed in his word, and no otherwise. Hence there are two ways in the general, whereby this command is broken, viz. by irreligion and false worship.
FIRST, Irreligion is the not shewing a due regard to, and not duly complying with the worship and ordinances appointed by God in his word, Job 15.4. It is a sin against this command in defect, as false worship is in excess. It is a not worshipping of God with external worship and by means appointed, as false worship is worshipping in a way not appointed. And it is as much forbidden in this command, as to have no God at all is in the first. There are several sorts of that irreligion all here forbidden.
1. The not receiving, but rejecting the worship and ordinances of God, Hos. 8.12. This is the sin, (1.) Of atheists, who, as they have no reverence for God, seeing they deny him, do also reject his worship. (2.) Of Quakers, who throw off almost the whole external worship and ordinances of God, under the pretence of worshipping him in spirit. (3.) Of all those who do not receive, but reject any one ordinance of God whatsoever, as some do singing of psalms, others the sacraments, others the government instituted by Christ, &c.
2. All neglect of God's worship and ordinances, in not observing them in their practice. The neglect of these, though men do not professedly reject them, is very offensive, Exod. 4.24,25. So in this command is forbidden,
1st, The neglect of prayer, Psalm 14.4. How can they read or hear this command without a check, who do not bow a knee to God? This command forbids,
(1.) The neglect of public prayer in the congregation; whereof people are guilty when they unnecessarily absent themselves from the public ordinances, or, through laziness or carelessness, the prayers are over ere they come; or unnecessarily go away and leave public prayers; or do not in their hearts join and go along with the speaker in them.
(2.) The neglect of family worship, and prayers particularly, Jer.10.ult. Christian families should be churches, wherein God should be worshipped. It is the sin of the whole family, especially of the heads thereof, when it is neglected. I say the whole, because it must needs be offensive to God, that while his worship lies neglected in a family, there is none there willing to take it up, and supply the defect. Besides, there is a neglect of it, where it is performed, viz. when any members of the family neglect to join therein, but unnecessarily absent themselves, or being present do not join in their hearts with the speaker.
(3.) The neglect of secret prayer. It is a positive ordinance of God, Matth. 6.6. and the neglect of it, as it will not readily be the sin of those exercised to godliness, Cant. 7.11. so it is a sad sign of little desire of communion with God.
2dly, The neglect of singing the Lord's praises, whether in public or in private. There are some who sit mute like fishes in the congregation praising God, who are ready enough to rant in the congregation of drunkards. There are no psalms sung in their families, for they are strangers to spiritual mirth; but they can laugh and sing to express their carnal mirth.
3dly, The neglect of reading, and hearing the word read, in public, private, or secret. Has God commanded to search the scriptures, and will men be such neglecters of it? What irreligion is it thus to neglect the word of life, our Father's testament, the book of God that teaches the way to eternal happiness?
4thly, The neglect of preaching the word is the sin of ministers, 2 Tim. 6.1,2. This is to starve souls, instead of feeding them, which will make a dreadful account. So this command condemns, (1.) The practice of the lordly prelates, the least of whose work is preaching the gospel. They will needs have Timothy a bishop: with what face can they read, then, that solemn charge, 2 Tim. 4.1,2. 'I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ;preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season,' &c. who (as if they would give us the perfect reverse of John the Baptist's character) are found more in the palace than the pulpit? Matth. 11.7,8. (2.) Their devolving this work upon their curates and parsons, who often devolve it again upon their hirelings. Ezek. 44.8. (3.) Ministers having plurality of benefices and charges, whereby it is rendered impossible for them to feed them as is necessary unless they could be in several parishes at once. (4.) The non-residence of ministers, whereby they are under the same incapacity. (5.) All negligence of ministers, whereby they lightly, and without weighty grounds, leave their flocks destitute of the preaching of the word, shorter or longer time.
5thly, The neglect of hearing the word. People are thus guilty when they totally absent themselves from the public ordinances, Heb. 10.25. It is lamentable to think how God is dishonoured, and graceless people hardened, by the prevailing of this among us. Whatever religion men place in this, this command makes it irreligion. If we be in our duty to preach, people are out of their duty that neglect to hear. Thus are people also guilty, when without any necessity they do at any time absent themselves, and when they rove and wander, and do not attend to the word preached when present.
6thly, Ministers neglecting the administration of the sacraments. God has joined them together with the word in their commission, and therefore the neglect of any of them must be their sin. Christ has ordered the sacrament of his supper to be often celebrated, 1 Cor. 11.26. though he has not determined how often. I know no church so guilty in this point as our own.
7thly, People's neglecting of the sacraments, to receive them. Thus people bring guilt on themselves, by slighting and neglecting the ordinance of baptism, Luke 7.30. unduly delaying the baptism of their children; and also in slighting the sacrament of the Lord's supper, 2 Chron. 30.10. Is it not a strange thing how men get their consciences satisfied, while they neglect one opportunity after another, and live in the avowed neglect of an uncontroverted ordinance?
8thly, The neglect of the duty of fasting and prayer, when the Lord by his providence calls for it, whether public, or private, or secret. The neglect of public fasting and prayer is the sin of the church of Scotland at this day, seeing that our melancholy circumstances do evidently hold forth the call of providence thereto. And for family-fasts, how is that duty absolutely neglected in most families though there is no family but sometimes has a private call thereto, by some stroke threatened or lying on them, &c.? And how many are absolute strangers to secret personal fasting and prayer, though they want not calls thereto, either from their temporal or spiritual case? Matth. 7.21. Thus may the church, families, and particular persons, be guilty in the neglect of thanksgiving for mercies.
9thly, The neglect of the exercise of church-discipline by church-judicatories, greater or lesser, in order to the purging of the church of scandalous members, Rev. 2.14. This has been and is the sin of the church of Scotland, for which God may justly take his keys out of our hand. And now matters are come to that pass in most congregations, through the land, and has ever so been in this congregation since I knew it, that the vigorous exercise of discipline cannot be to edification2, Gal. 5.12. the disease being turned too strong for the cure. May the Lord convince them powerfully, and check them effectually, that make it so!
10thly, The neglect of catechising and instructing the weak. Thus ministers are guilty when they are not at pains to catechise; and those who will not be at pains to wait on diets of examination, but shun it time after time, and will rather enjoy their ignorance than come to learn. So masters of families are guilty who are at no pains to instruct their wives, children, and servants, in the principles of religion; and such as neglect that opportunity of family-catechising. You want not good helps to this; why may ye not take a Catechism, such as Allein's &c. and ask the questions, and cause them to answer? It would be a good spending of the Sabbath, profitable to you and them too.
Lastly, The neglect of spiritual conference, when God puts an opportunity in our hands, especially on the Lord's day, when our talk in a special manner is required to be spiritual, and we have the advantage of speaking of the Lord's word, which we have heard.
3. All curtailing and mincing of God's worship and ordinances, not keeping them entire, Deut. 12.ult. Men are guilty of this,
1st, When they reject any part of an ordinance instituted by Christ, and so leave it defective and lame, as the Papists in taking away the cup from the people, and the reading of the scriptures in private, &c.
2dly, When they receive some of Christ's ordinances, but not all. Thus,
(1.) Churches sin, when they receive his doctrine and worship, but not the government and discipline appointed in his house. A sad defect in some churches since the reformation, where all Christ's ordinances could not get place; as if it had been left to men what to take and what to refuse of his institutions.
(2.) Families sin, mincing God's worship and ordinances. Some will sing and read, but not pray; some pray, but do not read and sing. Some will worship God in their families in the evening, but no morning-sacrifice can get room there for their throng. Some will do all, but neglect family catechising or instruction.
(3.) Particular persons sin. How men pick and chuse the institutions of God? Some wait on public ordinances, but make no conscience of private ordinances. Some, again, go about the private exercises of religion, but slight public ordinances. Some hear the word ordinarily, but they are habitual neglecters of the sacrament. Some pray in secret, but they pray not in their families; some in their families, but they have nothing to say to God, but what they can say
before all their family; their family-prayers justle out their secret prayers. Is this to keep God's worship and ordinances entire? How can men answer to God for this way of it?
(4.) Contempt of God's worship and ordinances, Matth. 21.5. Mal. 1.7. This is a crying sin of our day, that is like to fill up our cup to the brim, 2 Chron. 36.16. God has a special zeal for his own worship and ordinances, and therefore contempt of them must be dangerous to a degree. There are several sorts of this contempt of God's worship and ordinances, whereby men are guilty.
1st, Inward irreverence, when we come to or are at ordinances without due fear of God on our spirits, Eccl. 5.1; when we rush into the presence of God, in public, private, or secret duties, without that composure of spirit which an approach to the great God requires; when we do not prepare to meet with God in his ordinances, but stand [hesitate] not to touch the holy things of God with unholy, unsanctified hands.
2dly, Outward irreverence in holy ordinances, which is a plain contempt cast on them, Mal. 1.12,13. Such are all foolish gestures in the time of divine worship, talking one with another, and much more laughing, whether in the church or the family. They are foolish, void of discretion, as well as the fear of God, that give up themselves to these things, and know neither God nor themselves. And those are also guilty of irreverence who sleep at ordinances, public or private, Acts 20.9.
3dly, An open and avowed contempt of God's ordinances, Job 21.14,15. O what guilt is on the generation this way! They do not worship God in his ordinances, and they are not ashamed of it. They do not pray, and they will not avow it. It is below them to bow a knee to God, especially in their families. They neglect the hearing of the word, and they glory in it. If we offer to touch them any manner of way, they will not come to the church again. They will loiter at home for months together, and think it no fault. They never communicate, and they are not ashamed of it. Contempt of ordinances has been a crying sin in Ettrick these seven years, whatever it was before.
4thly, Contumacy, in not submitting to the discipline of Christ's house. People are not ashamed to sin and give scandal; they think not that below them; but they will commit their scandalous offences, get drunk, swear, revel, fight one with another, as if they would regard the laws neither of God nor man. But whatever be their scandals, if it be not fornication or adultery, they contemn and slight the discipline of Christ's house. With what contempt do many entertain church government at this day!
5thly, Mocking those who make conscience of God's worship, Is. 28.22. Dreadful is that contempt where God's ordinances are made a jest of, and a man is treated like a fool, because he makes conscience of his duty towards God. Mock at preaching and praying as men will, the day will come when they will change their note.
Lastly, Simony, Acts 8.18. It is a desire of buying or selling spiritual things, or things annexed to them, whether the bargain succeed or not; as buying or selling of baptism, &c. or an office appointed by Christ in his house. This prevails in corrupt times of the church, especially under patronages, is oft-times the sin of those that are getting into the ministry, and of such as are concerned about them, when they take indirect methods, by themselves or friends, to get into charges by Simoniacal pactions, whether by gifts from the hand or from the tongue. And somewhat of this nature is the sin of scandalous curates, and of those that deal with them, who will for money marry people without testimonials, basely prostituting God's ordinance.
5. Hindering God's worship and ordinances, Matt. 23.13. Thus men are guilty of the breach of this commandment.
1st, In hindering God's public worship; which may be done many ways. As, (1.) By the magistrates' laws or force against ministers preaching the word, and going about other duties of their station, Acts 4.18. (2.) By sacrilege, taking away any thing that is necessary for the maintenance of God's worship, and which has been devoted for that end, as the maintenance of ministers and the like, Rom. 2.22. (3.) By discouraging ministers by calumnies, reproaches, and all hard usage, which may make them drive heavily in their work. (4.) Putting in and keeping scandalous men in the ministry, 1 Sam. 2.17. (5.) Men's keeping back those that are under them from attending the public worship. If any be so tied to their worldly affairs that there is no way to relieve them on the Lord's day for many Sabbaths together, it is their sin that tie them so, and theirs that tie themselves so; though I am apt to believe it is but an excuse that some godless creatures make for themselves.
2dly, Hindering family-worship; which may be done many ways; as by a too eager and unseasonable pursuit of worldly business, till neither time nor strength is left for it; shuffling it off by this and the other thing that is to be done, and not watching the season for it; strife and contention in families, especially betwixt husband and wife, 1 Pet. 3.7. any member of the family drawing back, and creating disorder.
3dly, Hindering secret worship; as not allowing people time to seek the Lord in secret, mocking or discouraging those that do so, &c. To which we may add, our not doing what we can to further the worship of God in public, private or secret; for it is not enough that we do not hinder it, but what do we to further it? Heb. 10.24,25; the not stirring up the lazy and careless, and putting them on their duty.
Lastly, Opposing God's worship and ordinances, public, private, or secret. This is more than to hinder them, Acts 13.44,45. So are guilty, (1.) Persecutors, Acts 4.18. (2.) Those that are fond of their own inventions, set themselves to cast out, or hold out, God's true worship and ordinances out of the church: the sin of many at this day. (3.) Opposing the settlement of parishes with gospel-ministers called according to the word, which, on prejudices and mistaken points of honour, has been and is the sin of many in the land. (4.) Lastly, All such as any way set themselves against God's worship, in public, in congregations, families, or secret. This will be found, whatever people think of it, a fighting against God, Acts 5.39.
SECONDLY, I come now to speak of false worship and ordinances, which is worship and ordinances not instituted or appointed by God himself. And this is expressly forbidden, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, &c. Deut. 12.ult. It is not only a sin not to worship God, and not to regard his ordinances, but to worship him in a way which he has not instituted, to bring in ordinances that bear not his stamp. Of this there are two sorts.
First, Idolatry. There is a sort of idolatry forbidden in the first command that respects the object of worship, when we worship any other than the true God. But the idolatry here forbidden respects the means of worship, when we make use of idols or images in worship, even though we intend ultimately the worshipping of the true God. And here is condemned,
1. All religious imagery; for of images and pictures for a civil or political use merely, the command is not to be understood; for the command being of the first table, plainly respects religion, Lev. 26.1; and the art of cutting, carving, &c. is a gift of God, Exod. 31.3-5; and has had God's allowance for the exercise of it, 1 Kings 6.29. Now, under this article of religious imagery is forbidden,
1st, The making any representation or image of God in our mind, all carnal imaginations of him, as to conceive of him like a reverend old man, &c. Acts 17.29. for God is the object of our understanding, not our imagination, being invisible. This is mental idolatry, which the best are in hazard of.
2dly, The making any outward representation of God by any image. Remarkable is the connection of the first and second command: Thou shalt have no other gods before me: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, &c. It is impossible to get any bodily likeness that can truly represent God as he is; and therefore men that, over the belly of reason and God's own will, will needs have representations of God, are fain to betake themselves to images of some corruptible thing, the very thing condemned in the heathens, Rom. 1.23. And therefore it is abominable imagery, and highly injurious to the great God, to represent him any manner of way. Such abominations are the representing of God by a sun shining with beams, with the name JEHOVAH in it or over it, as in several Bibles: the representing of the Father by an image of an old man, the Son by that of a lamb, or a young man; or the Father by large shining sun, the Son by a lesser sun shining, and the Holy Ghost by a dove, as in some Great Bibles from England. It is lamentable to think how frequent of late the blasphemous pictures of Christ hanging on the cross are grown among Protestants, by Rome's art, no doubt to fit the nations for their idolatry. All these are directly contrary to God's word, Isa. 40.18. Deut. 4.15,19.
Though Christ be a man, yet he is God too, and therefore no image can nor may represent him. Yea, what image can there be of his body now, seeing he never sat for it? He is now glorified, and so cannot be pictured as he is even in his human nature. There is nothing more ready to beget mean thoughts of Christ, Hab. 2.18; and if it should stir up devotion, that is worshipping by an image, which is idolatry here forbidden.
3dly, The having of these images, though we do not worship them. For if it be a sin in itself to make them, how can they be innocent that keep them? Deut. 7.5. It is a strange inconsistency in some to pretend to abhor images, and yet themselves will keep them. They may be a snare to others, and therefore should be removed, blotted or torn out of books, if in them. For their very being is an injury to the great, invisible, and incomprehensible Majesty.
4thly, Images of false gods, such as the heathens worshipped, and of such angels and saints as the Papists worship, we should beware of, because of the danger of idolatry, Exod. 32.8. Hezekiah destroyed the brazen serpent, that had been abused to idolatry. A zeal against them as God's rivals, which have got the worship due to him, is very natural to a child of God touched with God's honour, Psalm. 16.4.
5thly, Images of God, Christ, angels, or saints, ought not to be set up in churches or places of worship, though men do not worship them. (1.) Because they are monuments of idolatry, that ought to be removed, Deut. 7.5; and destroyed, Exod. 23.24. (2.) Hezekiah is commended for breaking the brazen serpent, because the children of Israel burnt incense to it, 2 Kings 18.4. (3.) It is stumbling, as an occasion of idolatry, and as it prejudices Turks and Jews against the Christian religion, and grieves the hearts of tender Christians.
2. All idolatrous worship is forbidden here as abominable idolatry, Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. The sorts of idolatry forbidden here, are,
1st, Worshipping false gods by images, as the heathens did their Jupiter, Apollo, and the rest. Such was the worship of Baal among the idolatrous Israelites, Rom. 11.4.
2dly, Worshipping the images themselves of God, Christ, and saints, which is contrary to the very letter of this command. See Lev. 26.1. The Papists are most abominable idolaters in this respect bowing to stocks and stones. Their principles allow them a worship more than civil, which they call service, and that for the images themselves properly; contrary to the express words of this command, Thou shalt not serve them, Gal. 4.8. And the images of God and Christ get the most plain divine worship, though some distinguish, they get it not for themselves, but for what they represent. But get it as they will, it is plain they do get it, and that therefore the Papists are as real idolaters as ever the Pagans were, worshipping the work of their own hands. And accordingly they bow down to images, kiss them, offer incense to them, pray to them, &c.
3dly, Worshipping God in and by an image. The Papists wipe their mouth, and say, they have not sinned, when they do not believe the image to be God, and do not terminate their worship on the image itself, but worship God in and by it. And when they have said this, what say they more than what the heathens had to say, and did say to the Christians of old? Did they believe that their images were the very gods they worshipped? Nay, they made many images of one god, as of Jupiter; and when they grew old, they cast them off, and got new ones. But did they change their gods? No, Jer. 2.11. Were not the Israelites abominable idolaters in the worship of the golden calf? Psalm. 106.19,20. Yet they did but worship Jehovah by it, Exod. 32.5. So Jeroboam's golden calves were intended but as means whereby to worship the true God, 1 Kings 12.26. So the calf-worship remained after Baal's worship was destroyed out of Israel by Jehu. The same was the case with Micah's idolatry, Judg. 17.13. and 18.6.
4thly, The worshipping of a man for some relation to God, of the Pope as God's vicar on earth. They call him their Lord, and a God upon earth. And when he is new made, he is twice set upon the altar, and worshipped by the cardinals. And he does not only admit the kissing of his feet, but expects and requires it as Christ's vicar. He is carried in procession, as the heathens carried their idols, and they themselves the sacrament, which they account God, great and small worshipping him as a God, if they think the honour redounds to God, so did Cornelius, Acts 10.25,26.
Lastly, The same idolatry is in their worshipping angels, saints, reliques, the cross, bread in the sacrament, though they think the honour redounds to God. As if saints and angels had some deity in them, or God were present in the cross or reliques, and heard prayers better than any where else.
Secondly, There is superstition and will-worship; that is, whatever (though not idolatry) is brought into religion as a part of it, which God hath not appointed in his word. The command says, Thou shalt not make, &c. that is, but thou shalt receive the worship and ordinances as God hath appointed them, and not add to them of men's inventions, Deut. 12:29-32. As irreligion regards not God's ordinances, so superstition brings in others; by irreligion men take away from the ordinances of God, by superstition they add to them. Both are hateful to God. Under this head are forbidden,
1. All making of things to be sin or duty which God hath not made so, Matth. 15.2. Whatever be men's pretences in this, it is an invading of the power and authority of the great Lawgiver, an accusing of his word of imperfection, and very dangerous, Prov. 30.6. This is the great occasion of sad divisions and schisms in the church, while men, not content with plain duty appointed of God, make the conceptions of their own hearts sins and duties, which God never made so, and impose them on others as terms of Christian communion, which superstition can never be sanctified by their fathering it wrongously on the scripture, Prov.30.6.
2. Religiously abstaining from any thing which God does not require us so to abstain from. Men will have their ordinances as God has his; and O how hard is it to keep men from religious inventions of their own! Col. 2.20,21. This is sinful in itself, religiously binding up ourselves where God has left us free, as if that could be acceptable service to God, which, like Jeroboam's feast-day, 1 Kings 12.ult. is devised of our own heart. But much more is it so when it justles out plain commanded duty, Matth. 15.5,6. Such is the withdrawing from the public ordinances dispensed by Christ's sent servants lawfully called, and not mixed with men's inventions.
3. All unwarrantable observations and expectations of effects from causes which have no such virtue from God, either by the nature he has given them, or by any special appointment of his. Of this sort of superstitions ignorant people are full, being the yet unpurged dregs of Popery and Paganism. Such as,
1st, Looking on such or such accidents as lucky or unlucky, whereby they are filled with fear or hope, as if these things were a part of the bible; as if a hare or a cat cross their way, the salt fall on the table, if they sneeze in the morning when they go out, or stumble in the threshold, the ear tingle, &c.
2dly, Looking on certain days as lucky or unlucky to begin or do a work upon; because there are such days of the week, or of the year, that are called dismal days, or that they are such and such holidays, as some will not yoke their plough on Yule-day, Deut. 18.10.
3dly, Carrying useless things about them for safety from devils, witches, temptations, or dangers: as Papists use to carry the reliques of some saints about their necks. This is not to be expected from the carrying the Bible about with us; for it is only the using it by faith and prayer that prevails; and as little can any such safety be warrantably expected from any kind of wood, &c. and many such like things.
4. All laying an unwarranted weight on circumstances of worship that is appointed of God. And so men keeping by the worship which God has appointed, may be guilty of superstition. As,
1st, When they lay weight upon the place where it is performed, as if it were more holy and acceptable to God, and more beneficial to men, in one place than another; whereas all difference of places is taken away under the gospel. That is superstition to think praying and preaching more holy and profitable in a kirk than in a barn, &c. or on a hill-side than in the church.
2dly, When men lay an unwarranted weight on their bodily posture in worship, carrying these things farther than God requires in his word. Much is made of these external gestures, especially where there is least religion, as in the churches of England and Rome, where these gestures are so appointed and multiplied, that it makes God's worship look very unlike that gravity required of Christians in the worship of God. So men may be guilty, as thinking prayer with their knees on the ground more acceptable than on a cushion, their knees bare than covered, &c.
3dly, Tying the worship of God to certain accidents, as to pray when one sneezeth, and say, God bless. This is originally a heathenish custom. Sneezing was so much observed among them, that it came at length to be accounted a god; and it was their usual prayer, when one sneezed, God save.
4thly, Laying weight upon instruments, administrators of ordinances, as if they were of more efficacy being administered by one than another having the same divine mission, and administering them according to the same institution of Christ.
5thly, Laying an unwarrantable weight on such a number of prayers, and reading such a number of chapters, and hearing such a number of sermons. And, in a word, laying weight on any thing about God's worship where God has laid none.
Lastly, All additions and inventions of men in God's worship and ordinances, Deut. 12.ult. With these the worship and ordinances of God are mightily corrupted in some churches. All these are here forbidden: As,
1st, The five sacraments the Papists have added to the two appointed by Christ, as orders, penance, marriage, confirmation, and extreme unction.
2dly, The Apocryphal books they have added to the scriptures of the Old Testament.
3dly, The officers in the church that the Papists have added to those appointed by Christ, Popes, Cardinals, Patriarchs, &c. and which with them Prelatists have added, Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, &c.
4thly, The holidays they have added to the Lord's day.
Lastly, The heap of insignificant ceremonies wherewith the worship of God is burdened in Popery, and in the church of England. These are inventions of men, most of which the English service-book has borrowed from Papists who had many of them from the Pagans.
The patrons of false worship, whether idolatrous or superstitious, have a special respect to their own inventions, because they are their own, Psalm 106.39; and go about to impose them on others, under the pretence of their being delivered to them from great and good men, Matt. 15.2,9; their antiquity, 1 Pet. 1.18; custom, Jer. 44.17; devotion, Isa. 65.5; good intent, 1 Sam. 15.21. But what we call for is divine warrant, Who hath required these things at your hands? (Isaiah 1.12) There are several ways how people may be guilty of the breach of this command with respect to a false religion and worship.
1. The tolerating of it by those who have power to suppress it, Rev. 2.14.
2. By devising it, Numb. 15.39.
3. By counseling to follow it, Deut. 13.6,7,8.
4. By commanding it, Hos. 5.11.
5. By using it, 1 Kings 11.33.
6. Lastly, By any wise approving it.
Let us abhor the idolatry of Popery, and the superstitions of the church of England, which they had from the Papists, and would fain impose on us, remembering that God's command discharges all inventions of men in his worship; and our covenants, particularly the national covenant, whereby we are most expressly bound against them3.
I shall shut up all with laying before you, in a few words, the reasons annexed to this command.
1. God's sovereignty over us, I the Lord. So he has the sole power and authority to appoint the laws and ordinances by which we must be governed in his worship and service; and for others to take it upon them, is an invading of his sovereignty, which we must by no means own, Jer. 7.31.
2. His propriety in us, Thy God. Therefore we must not go a-whoring after our own or others' inventions, which alienate the heart from God, but must keep ourselves undefiled with these things; as a chaste wife holding by her husband, who will neither be a whore nor behave like one, Hos. 9.1. Because he is our God (I mean), we must neither be idolaters nor superstitious, symbolizing with idolaters.
3. The zeal he hath to his own worship, Ia jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the father's upon the children, &c. Zeal or jealousy is an affection of a husband, whereby he can endure no partner in his wife's love, but is highly incensed against it, if any such thing there be. So the Lord is specially displeased with all false worship, as spiritual whoredom, and has such a peculiar regard to the matter of his worship, that it is a most dangerous thing to make a wrong step in it, Lev. 10.1,2. This zeal appears, (1.) In his accounting the breakers of this command haters of him, though idolaters and superstitious persons pretend highly to love and honour him, and threatening to punish them to the third and fourth generation, because so long men may live, and see themselves punished in their children. Not that God properly punishes one for another's sin; but that from the parent's sin he often takes occasion to punish children for their own sins, and such their parents' sins oft-times are by imitation, or some way approving of them. (2.) In his accounting the observers of this command such as love him, and promising mercy unto them to many generations, even thousands of theirs after them.
1. This part of the subject was delivered Feb. 21. and the discourse here referred to was preached on occasion of a congregation fast, on the 17th, 1714. being the last year of Queen Anne's reign. It is well known that plots were then carrying on by Papists, Jacobites, and malignants, not without countenance from the then Tory ministry, to bring a Popish Pretender to the throne, on the demise of that much-abused Princess, in the place of the late King George 1. upon whom the crown had been entailed by act of Parliament, as the nearest Protestant heir; that great numbers of trafficking priests and Jesuits flocked into this kingdom; that Popish meetings were held more openly than formerly; that Presbyterian ministers were insulted in several places, and threatenings of vengeance uttered to be inflicted on firm and staunch Protestants. At this dangerous season, Mr. Boston, with that freedom and boldness that became a true patriot and an ambassador of the King of kings, was not silent, but faithfully testified against the abominations and cruelties of Papists, and the madness and extravagance of Jacobites and malignants, in the afore-mentioned discourse; and others preached in those perilous times.
As the discourse referred to was seasonable at that time, so it appears to be equally so at this day, when Popery is evidently on the increase in many places of this kingdom, Edinburgh not excepted, wherein there are said to be three numerous Popish meetings, and endeavours are used, by writings and speeches, to represent Popery in a light quite different from what it really is, thereby to beguile unwary and unstable souls; and not only Papists, but many infatuated and pretended Protestants, not Episcopalians only, but some who pretend to be Presbyterians, are as hearty and warm in the cause of a Popish pretender, as they were in any former period, and who, if their power were equal to their wishes and designs, would soon involve the nation in blood, and all the horrors of a civil war. These considerations have determined the preparer of this work for the Press to give the discourse entire, as it may be useful, through the divine blessing, for preserving people from the abominations of Popery, and the snares of Jacobites and malignants, those declared enemies to the religion and laws of their country, who, alas! are still very numerous amongst us, notwithstanding the Lord has signally testified his displeasure, of their unhappy cause, on two former occasions, which will be ever remembered with gratitude by all true Protestants. And it will be the hearty prayer of all who fear God, O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the multitude of the wicked, particularly the Antichristian beast, and his tool, a Popish Pretender and his abettors.
See the Discourse titled, "The Church's Prayer Against the Antichristian Beast, and Her other Enemies, Explained and Enforced."
2. Upon the author's settlement in the parish of Ettrick, he found the people, with respect to church-discipline, like bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke. And he repeatedly complains in his Diary, that when church-censure was inflicted, or a rebuke administered, the delinquent immediately deserted his ministry.
3. In the author's manuscript the following paragraph is immediately subjoined, viz.
Having spoke of the irreligious and false worship, idolatry, and superstition, forbidden in this command, the snares and dangers of our day oblige me to be a little more particular, (for the glory of God, the interest of your souls, and the exoneration of my own conscience, whatever these present confusions may end in), in making the native application of my text against the church of Rome, and the church of England, who have both of them, the one as the master, and the other as the scholar, signalized themselves in the art of making to themselves in the worship of God: A sinful art forbidden by this command. The inventions of both are already set up in our land, and many have gone a-whoring after them, and the purity of ordinances in this church is in hazard of being swallowed up by the one or the other at this day. And indeed the English service is so far Roman, that if our enemies find us not disposed to take on the blackness of Popery at first dash, it may serve to prepare us for it, as a dip in the blue vat prepares cloth to take on jet black. Therefore I shall, (1.) Consider the English liturgy. (2.) Popery, as it is particularly abjured in our national covenant; under which particulars of Popery we will find Prelacy and ceremonies also rejected and abjured.
The preparer of this work for the Press would have willingly inserted what the author said on both these subjects; but the manuscript, on examination, was found imperfect, especially in the article relating to the English liturgy; and quite illegible in several places relating to the other head. So that he has been obliged, though reluctantly, to drop both. He shall only subjoin what the author advanced after his explication of the national covenant, as follows.
Now, upon the whole, I shall put you in mind of two things clearly following from what I said.
1. That church in Scotland which owns and maintains the doctrine contained in the large confession of faith of the church of Scotland, detests and abhors the errors and corruptions abjured in the short confession, or national covenant, both with respect to doctrine and discipline, is the same government or discipline, to wit, Presbyterial government, which is sworn to therein, we ought by the covenant to join ourselves unto, and keep communion with. And so withdrawing from the communion of that church is a palpable breach of this covenant. And if men will pretend that they are bound up from the duty of this covenant by any subsequent oaths, acts, or engagements whatsoever, that is the sin of covenant-breaking with a witness, taking one engagement to elude another prior solemn engagement, which cannot be loosed.
2. Popery, Prelacy, ceremonies, and profaneness, as they are forbidden in the word of God, so they are by this covenant accursed things in this church, to be rejected and detested, as we would not bring the curse of the covenant upon us. The Lord has wonderfully owned this covenanted work of reformation, and it has been a burdensome stone that has crushed many, who have set themselves to roll it out of the way. The building up of those things cast down by it, has been to some as the rebuilding of Jericho to him that undertook that work, on whom a curse was entailed. It has been witnessed unto by the wrestlings of many, and resisting even unto blood by the Lord's witnesses in Scotland, who chose rather to lose their lives than to quit it. Now, the danger of a root-stroke is great. Ye see what is your duty, whatever the danger may be. Let us labour for grace to be faithful unto death, that we may receive the crown of life.