The Catechism of Thomas Becon (Section on the Second Commandment) (Anglican, 1511 - 1567)
Father. Rehearse the second commandment.
Son. "Thou shalt make thee no graven or carved image, nor likeness at all of any thing that is in heaven above, or in earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not bow before them, nor worship them. For I the Lord thy God am a strong and jealous God, punishing the wickedness of the parents in the children until the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shew mercy until thousands unto those that love me, and keep my commandments."
Father. There are some writers, yea, and those of no obscure fame, (as I may speak nothing of the long custom used in the church, which hath utterly left out this commandment, and to supply the number hath divided the tenth commandment into two, that is, into the ninth and tenth, contrary to tho mind of the lawgiver, whose words, and the order also of the same, ought by no means either to be corrupted, altered, or changed,) which thrust out of the Decalogue or ten commandments this second commandment, as a ceremonial law, serving for the time, but now of none effect concerning us Christians, to whom it is, say they, lawful to have the images of Christ and of saints in churches, private houses, or elsewhere, without any offense or breach of God's commandment; and therefore, to supply the number of the ten commandments, they also divide, as I said before, the tenth commandment into the ninth and tenth, making of one two, according to the custom used in the pope's church.
Son. As touching the custom of reciting the ten commandments according to the appointment of the bishop of Rome, in the which is utterly omitted this second commandment concerning the forbidding either of making or worshipping of images, it cannot be denied but it is wicked and ungodly, and left out of the pope and of his adherents of a set purpose for the maintenance of images in churches, brought in by the devil and antichrist contrary to tho word of God; and therefore ought this custom utterly to be broken, and every commandment to be restored to his proper place, and so to be recited of the Christians, as it is now used in the best reformed churches.
And as for the judgments, or rather opinions and fancies, of certain learned men in this our age, which in this behalf remain still infected with the dirty dregs of that whore of Babylon, I can by no means approve and allow them. For whereas they say, that the second commandment concerning images is ceremonial, and only served for the people of Israel, and not for us, so that it is lawful for us to have images in our temples, chapels, houses, &c. notwithstanding this commandment; I utterly deny this their doctrine, and affirm it to be most wicked and utterly estranged from the truth of God's word. For if this law be ceremonial, and we set without the limits thereof, then followeth it, that as it is lawful for us to have images in our churches, so is it lawful also to reverence, worship, or honour them: which is so great an absurdity, that I think they themselves will not allow it, except they be sworn chaplains to pope Gregory III., which made a law, that images should not only be had in churches, as laymen's books, according to the doctrine of pope Gregory I., but that they also should be worshiped and had in greater reverence than ever they were before, and that whosoever were of a contrary opinion, he should be excommunicate and condemned for an heretic [FN1 In a council held at Rome, A.D. 732. See Concil. Stud. Labbei. Lut. Par. 1671--2. Tom. VI. cols. 1463, 4, 85.]. For throughout the whole course of God's law there is not one commandment so fortressed and confirmed with the testimonies of the holy scripture, and so urged to be observed and kept of God's people, as this is, concerning the not having or worshiping of images. Therefore as the first, so likewise the second commandment abideth moral, and requireth like obedience. And whereas they exclude it from the number of the ten commandments, and rack that one tenth commandment into two for to supply the number, they do most unjustly, and contrary to the doctrine of the ancient fathers and old catholic doctors of Christ's church.
For as our catechist declared unto us, Athanasius, Origenes, Chrysostomus, Gregorius Nazianzenus, Hieronymus, Ambrosius, with divers other, both of the ancient and late writers, number this precept among the ten commandments; and hold that it is a moral law, no less appertaining unto us Christians now, than it did in times past unto the Jews. He said, moreover, unto us, that in the church of God among the Jews, in the old law, there was no image suffered neither of God nor of any saint; although who knoweth not, what a great number of godly persons there lived before the coming of Christ, both patriarchs, judges, kings, priests, Levites, prophets, matrons, virgins, &c.? He added furthermore, that, almost five hundred years after Christ's ascension, images could not be suffered to have any place in the temples of the Christians. He told us also an history of a certain holy bishop named Epiphanius, which, coming into a church to pray, saw a veil there hanging, wherein was painted the image of Christ, or of some saint. So soon as he saw it, being greatly offended thereat, he cut the image away, and said, that "it is contrary to the authority of the holy scriptures to have the image of any man in the church of Christ [FN2 ... Epiphan. Op. Par. 1622. Epist. ad Joan. Episc. Hieros. Hieron. Interp. Tom. II. p. 317.]." He told us moreover of one Serenus, bishop of Massilia [FN3 ... Gregor. Magni Papae I. Op. Par. 1705. Lib. IX. Indict. ii. Epist. cv. Ad Serernum Massiliens. Episc. Tom. II. col. 1006.], which did not only take away images out of the churches throughout all his diocese, but he also brake them on pieces, and brent them. He brought forth also unto us certain laws and decrees of most noble andvirtuous emperors [FN4 See below ...]; again, certain councils [FN5 See below ...], in the which it was decreed and enacted, that all images should be taken out of the churches and burnt openly; and that from henceforth no man should presume to make an image either of Christ or of any saint, nor cause it to be painted on the walls of the church where christian men come together for to pray. He alleged unto us the sentence of the great and ancient clerk Lactantius, which saith, that "God cannot be truly worshipped in that place where an image is [FN6 Quare non est dubium, quin religio nulla sit, ubicumque simulacrum est. -- Lactant. Op. Lut. Par. 1748. Divin. Instit. Lib. II. De Orig. Error. cap. xix. Tom. I. p. 185.]." Again: "If your saints (saith he), if the holy mother of Christ be in heaven, why do ye not lift up your eyes unto heaven? Why do ye rather look unto walls and unto stocks, than unto that place where ye believe that they are? What mean the temples, the tabernacles, yea, and (to be short) what mean those images[FN7 Nempe ideo timetis, quad eos esse in caelo arbitramini: neque enim, si dii sunt, aliter fieri potest. Cur igitur oculos in caelum non tollitis? et advocatis eorum nominibus, in aperto sacrificia celebratis? Cur ad parietes, et ligna, et lapides potissimum, quam illo spectatis, ubi eos esse creditis? Quid sibi templa, quid arae volunt? quid denique ipsa simulacra? -- Id. ibid. cap. ii. p. 116]?" In fine, he said, that the use of images came from the heathen unto us, and alleged Eusebius [FN8 ... Hist. Eccles. Script. Amst. 1695-1700. Euseb. Pamph. Lib. VII. cap. xvii. p. 216.] with certain other for his authors; and that therefore they ought by no means to be placed in the temples, chapels, oratories, or houses of the Christians.
Father. I can none otherwise but praise thee for thy good remembrance concerning the doctrine of your catechist, a man both godly and learned. But the imagemongers object and say, that they are laymen's calendars, and are the very same to the lewd, simple, and ignorant people, that books are to the wise, discreet, and learned men.
Son. What wisdom, knowledge, or learning can a man get of that thing which is a very block or stone, and utterly without sense? Can the dumb teach to speak? the blind to see? the deaf to hear? tho lame to go? the dead to live? Can that which hath no understanding, no wisdom, no learning, teach us to understand, to be wise and learned? O unprofitable schoolmasters! O rude teachers! O too much beast-like instructors! "They have mouths," as the psalmograph saith, "and speak not: eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears, and hear not: noses have they, but they smell not. They have hands, and handle not: feet have they, but they cannot go; neither can they speak through their throat." (Psal. cxv.) They are not able to wipe away the dust from their faces. They have sceptres and swords in their hands, but they are not able to defend themselves. They have candles brenning before them, but they see none of them, neither take they any pleasure of the light. If the house bren over their heads, they are not able to flee that they may escape the danger of brenning. If they fall down to the ground, they cannot rise up again. If any man striketh them, they cannot revenge their quarrel. If the worms eat them, they feel it not. If the owls, sparrows, doves, or any other fowls or beasts file [FN1 File: defile] upon their heads, they perceive it not, neither are they angry at the matter. In fine, they be utterly unprofitable both to themself and to all other; so far is it off, that such idle idols and mumming mawmets can teach us any good thing. By the lessest creature that ever God made may we learn better to know God than by these dumb images, seem they never so glorious in the eyes of the foolish.
"The heavens," saith David, "shew forth the glory of God; and the very firmament declareth his handy-works." (Psal. xix.) Hereto appertaineth the saying of St Paul: "That which may be known of God is made open to men. For God hath shewed it unto them, that the invisible things of God (that is, his everlasting power and Godhead) might be seen, while they are considered by the works from the creation of the world; so that they are without excuse, inasmuch as they knew that there is a God, and have not praised him as God, nor thanked him, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was blinded. When they counted themselves wise, they became fools, and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into the similitude of the image of a corruptible man," (Rom. i.) &c.
How unmeet a schoolmaster a blind idol, a dumb mawmet, a popish puppet, a dead image is to teach us any good thing, these words of the prophet declare manifestly: "What profiteth a graven image which the workman hath fashioned? a vain cast idol, and false lying image? Because the workman hath put his trust in it, therefore maketh he dumb images. But we be unto him which saith to a block, Awake; and to a dumb stone, Arise! Can such one teach, or give any good instructions? Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath in it. But the Lord in his holy temple is he whom all the world should fear." (Hab. ii.) The prophet Esay also saith, that "images are profitable for nothing;" (Isai. xliv.) and addeth moreover, that the labour in making them is utterly lost. How then can they be profitable to teach? How can they then be the books of the lewd people? "The seeking out of images," saith the wise man, "is the beginning of whoredom; and the bringing up of them is the destruction of life. But they were not from the beginning, neither shall they continue for ever. The wealthy idleness of men hath found them out upon earth: therefore shall they come shortly to an end." (Wisd. xiv.) If the seeking out of images be the beginning of whoredom, that is to say, idolatry, which in the scripture is called whoredom, how can we be taught and brought unto God by them? If the bringing up of them be the destruction of life, how can they then bring us unto everlasting salvation? and how can they edify us and teach us the way of truth? Vain and unprofitable schoolmasters are these blind and dumb images.
When God determined to erect and set up the commonweal of the Israelites, he gave them not his image to look upon, that by the sight thereof they might learn to know him and to do his will (no, he only spake to them, any similitude of him they saw not, lest by this means they should have gone about to make his image, and have committed idolatry or spiritual whoredom with the same); but he gave them his holy word, charging and commanding them to hear and read that diligently, and to write it upon the gates and posts of their houses, that it might be always before their eyes, that they might the better frame their fives according to the same, and do that which is pleasant in the sight of God.
The prophet Esay sendeth not them that want the knowledge of God and of his holy word unto idols, images, and mawmets; but he commandeth them to make haste unto the holy scriptures, saying: "To the law and witness; if they speak not according unto this, they shall not have the morning light." (Isaiah 8) The psalmograph calleth not them blessed, which stand all the whole day gazing and looking on images, to see what they can pick out and learn of them; but he calleth them blessed and happy, which "delight in the law of the Lord, and exercise themselves in the studying, reading, and hearing of that day and night." (Psalm 1) Again, he calleth not them blessed, which hunt and seek after images, but them which "search the testimonies of the Lord, and seek him with their whole heart." (Psalm 119)
Furthermore, Christ, our Lord and Saviour, commandeth all those that will come unto the true knowledge of him, not to behold images, but to search the scriptures, saying: "Search the scriptures; for they are those that testify of me." (John 6) He saith also: "My sheep hear my voice." (John 10) He saith not, My sheep look upon my image. Again: "He that is of God heareth the word of God." (John 8) He saith not, He that is of God beholdeth the image of the Trinity, or of the crucifix.
Moreover, when the wisdom of God was determined to call all nations of the earth unto the knowledge of the way of salvation, Christ commanded not painters and carvers to be set a work in making images throughout the world, that the people by beholding them may turn from their idolatry unto the worshiping of the true God; but he sent forth his apostles to preach the gospel to every creature, that they believing might be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, (Matthew 28 and Mark 16) and so obtain everlasting salvation. For, as St Paul saith: "Faith cometh by hearing; but hearing cometh by the word of God." (Romans 10) We are made faithful by hearing and believing the word of God, and not by looking and tooting ("tooting" = praying, peeping.) upon images; which rather draw men from the true faith of God than allure them unto it; so far is it off, that they be meet schoolmasters to lead us unto God.
If the blessed apostle St John had thought images to be profitable books to bring men unto the knowledge either of God or of themselves, he would never have commanded us to "beware and to keep ourselves from images." (1 John 5) But he knew right well, that nothing doth so much pluck away the minds of men from the honour of the true and living God (as daily experience teacheth, and as we have manifestly seen under the kingdom of the pope in the time of darkness, when the people went on pilgrimage unto images, sought their salvation of them, gilded them, costly arrayed them, gave gifts unto them, set up brenning candles before them, kneeled before them, made vows unto them, prayed unto them, asked all good things of them necessary either for the body or for the soul, gave thanks unto them, censed them, imputed working of miracles unto them, yea, and honoured them as gods, rather going for help unto them with the feet of the body, than repairing unto the alone true helping God with the feet of the mind), as these dumb and deaf idols; and therefore he chargeth us above all things to avoid images, and by no means to have any thing to do with them, but to flee from them as from the plague and pestilence, yea, as from the devil and from everlasting damnation.
"Let them all therefore," as the psalmograph saith, "be confounded, and be brought unto utter confusion and shame, that worship carved idols, and glory in their images." (Psalm 97) And let us that fear God cast away all such fond fancies and doting dreams, and give diligent attendance to the hearing, reading, and preaching of God's word, and of that learn to know the way of salvation: so shall we be blessed, and come to the true knowledge of that alone true God and of his Son Jesus Christ; which thing bringeth unto us everlasting life, as the Lord himself saith: "This is everlasting life, even to know thee the alone true God, and whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ." (John 17)
Father. Thou hast right well answered to the first and principal objection which the image-mongers make for the defense of their vain images, which doctrine they learned of pope Gregory I. as we have tofore heard (a reference to earlier in this same dialog). But they say moreover, that images are not only profitable books for the lewd people, but that they also move the beholders of them marvelously unto devotion and true godliness.
Son. This is so vain, as nothing is more vain; so false, as that which is most false; so foolish, as it may worthily be counted the self foolishness. Can that move unto devotion, which itself is without all motion and devotion? Can the dead corpse of a captain encourage the soldiers unto battle? Can a featherless eagle teach other birds to fly? Can a waterless whale teach other fishes to swim upon the dry land? No more ean these blockish idols, which are utterly without all senses, affects, and motions, move us unto devotion and unto the true worshipping of God, they themselves also being utterly godless, and most estranged from all that is godly. The holy apostle saith: "Neither he that planteth, nor yet he that watereth, is any thing worth; but the Lord God is altogether, which giveth the increase." (1 Corinthians 3) If neither the planter nor the waterer (whereby are understand the preachers of God's word) profit nothing, except God giveth the increase, that is to say, worketh with their preaching through the influence of his holy Spirit (which thing to be true, divers places of the holy scripture declare manifestly); what are images then able to do, which have mouths, and speak not; eyes, and see not; noses, and smell not; hands, and feel not; feet, and go not?
Father. But God is able, say they, to work no less with the beholding of images in the hearts of men, than with the preaching of his word. Son. What God is able to do, we will not dispute now; although I know this to be an old refuge of the papists, and a sanctuary unto the which they flee in all their straits.
But let them shew by the word of God, that the beholding of images is no less an ordinary way appointed of God to bring men unto the knowledge of God and unto everlasting salvation, than the preaching of the word is, whereof St Paul speaketh on this manner: "Faith cometh by hearing; but hearing cometh by the word of God." (Romans 10) The prophet David saith also: "I will teach the wicked thy ways; and the ungodly shall turn unto thee." (Psalm 51) Again: "The people, whom I knew not, have served me: through the hearing of the ear they were obedient unto me." (Psalm 18) And God himself saith by the prophet: "Like as the rain and snow cometh down from heaven, and returneth not thither again, but watereth the earth, maketh it fruitful and green, that it may give corn and bread unto the sower; so the word also, that cometh out of my mouth, shall not tum again void unto me, but shall accomplish my will, and prosper in the thing whereto I send it." (Isaiah 55) Again: "I will watch diligently upon my word, to perform it." (Jeremiah 1) Moreover, St Paul calleth "the gospel of Christ the power of God unto salvation for all that believe it." (James 1) And St James saith, that the word of God is of such efficacy,strength, virtue, might, and power, that "it is able to save the souls" (James 1) of so many as receive it with meekness. Saith not also the Lord Jesus on this manner, "Now are ye clean, because of the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15)? Let the image-mongers prove by the holy scriptures, that the beholding of images worketh this conversion, this repentance, this faith, this newness of life, this salvation, &c, in the gazers of them, that the word of God doth in the faithful believers; and we will admit them, their doctrine, and images, and suffer them to have place in our churches. But this can they not do: therefore vain are they, vain is their doctrine, and vain are their images, yea, stumbling-blocks are they, thorns and pricks in the eyes of the simple, provoking rather unto abomination than unto devotion, unto wickedness than unto godliness, unto superstition than unto true religion, unto hypocrisy and idolatry than unto pure worshipping and serving of God, as experience hath heretofore taught us.
Again, our Saviour Christ saith: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me." (John 14) If no man cometh unto the Father but by Christ, what help then images in this behalf? What make they unto the furtherance of true godliness and true religion? How move they unto devotion? Again, he saith: "No man can come unto me, except my Father draw him." (John 6) If no man can come unto Christ, except the heavenly Father draweth him by his holy Spirit, what profiteth then in this behalf the beholding of images? Are they of such inward working in the hearts of men, that they are able to convert them unto God, and to bring them unto Christ? Yea, they lead away men from Christ unto vain spectacles, from the living God unto dumb idols, from true religion unto wicked superstition; so far is it off, that they move any man unto godly devotion or devout godliness. It is the office of the Holy Ghost to bring us unto Christ, and not the part of dumb idols. The Holy Ghost is appointed of God to be our schoolmaster for to lead us into all truth, and not idle images and monstrous mawniets. To place images therefore in the temples of the Christians to this end, that they should be the books of the lewd people, or that they should move us unto devotion, is nothing else than to make the Holy Ghost, as they use to say, Jack out of office, and to place a rabblement of vile and abominable idols in the stead of God's Spirit to be the teachers and schoolmasters of the faithful. Perish mought all those vain mawmets from the face of the earth, with all such as glory and rejoice in them, that all the honour may be given to our Lord, that living God alone, whose name be praised for ever!
Father. Amen. But these image-mongers have yet another defense for their idols, and say, that images are to be placed in churches, if for nothing else, yet for the adorning, decking, trimming, beautifying, and garnishing of the temples: which temples otherwise, say they, are more like barns than churches.
Son. I answer with St Paul: "How agreeth the temple of God with images?" (2 Corinthians 6) What concord is there between God's service and idol-service? Can God be worthily called upon in that place where so many mawmets stand, contrary to the commandment of God? Can God be worshipped there in spirit and truth, where so many idols are seen, which have neither spirit nor truth? What garnishing of the church is this, to see a sort of puppets standing in every comer of the church, some holding in their hands a sword, some a scepter, some a spit, some a butcher's knife, some a gridiron, some a pair of pinsons (i.e. pincers), some a spear, some an anchor of a ship, some a shoemaker's cutting-knife, some a shepherd's hook, some a cross, some a cup, some a boot, some a book, some a key, some a lamb, some an ox, some a pig, some a dog, some a basket of flowers, some a crosier-staff, some a triple cross, some an arrow, some an horn, some an hawk, &c.; some bearded, some unbearded, some capped, some uncapped, some weeping, some laughing, some gilded, some painted, some housed, some unhoused (i.e. with or without housings, a ckind of stocking or boot), some rotten, some worm-eaten, some coated, some cloaked, some gowned, some naked, some censed, some perfumed, some with holy water sprinkled, some with flowers and garlands garnished, &c.?
But why do I tarry in reciting these vain trifles and trifling vanities, wherewith the churches of the papists are stuffed? I think verily, that in the temples of the old pagans there was never found so much vanity and so many childish sights, as there be at this present day in those churches which are under the yoke and tyranny of that bloody bishop of Rome. These vain idols therefore do not adorn, but deform; not polite, but pollute; not deck, but infect, the temples of the Christians, and make them of the churches of God the synagogues of Satan; of houses of prayer, the vile cages of all filthy and unclean birds. For, as we heard before, Lactantius, that ancient and noble clerk, affirmeth plainly, that "God cannot be truly worshipped in that place where an image is." (see reference given above)
The primitive church knew no such kind of beautifying and garnishing their temples: all things were then simple, plain, and homely, and altogether without such vain sights, which rather pluck away men's minds from God, than allure them unto the true worshipping of him. For as "God is a spirit, so will he be worshipped in spirit and in truth." (John 4) The more simply all things are done in the church of Christ, the better is God served: "for that which before men seemeth to be of great estimation is before God great abomination." (Luke 16) The temples of the Christians are then best garnished, when the people that are in them be gathered together in the unity of the Holy Ghost, with strong faith toward God, and with fervent love one toward another, to hear the word of God, to call on the name of the Lord, to thank him for his benefits, to eat the supper of the Lord, to make collections for the poor, and to exercise themselves in such works as are pleasant to God and profitable to the brethren. All other superfluous deckings and trimmings, as they be the daughters of foolish fancy, so likewise serve they rather the fond desires of carnal and superstitious people, than make any thing at all unto the true honour of the Lord our God, to whom alone be all glory for ever.
Father. Amen. Let these things suffice for this present concerning the objections of the image-mongers for the maintenance of their idols in churches, and to declare that this precept of not making nor worshipping images appertaineth no less now unto us Christians than it did in times past unto the Jews. But come off, tell me, what is the good pleasure of God in the second commandment?
Son. God, which is the searcher of the heart, and knoweth the corrupt, froward, and wicked nature of man, and how even from his cradle he is prone, bent, and wholly given unto all that is ungodly, and specially unto new, strange, and counterfeit worshipping of God, invented of his own idle brain, blind zeal, good intent, corrupt judgment, contrary to God's holy ordinance and appointment, (Deuteronomy 12) which willeth none otherwise to be served, honoured, and worshipped, than he himself hath prescribed in his blessed law; to bridle this evil and corrupt affection of man, and to keep him within the limits of his godly commandments, that he run not a whore-hunting after strange idols, but worship him according to his own appointment, and none otherwise, first of all in this his second commandment—forasmuch as nothing doth so alienate, estrange, and pluck away the heart of man from God and from all godliness, as idols, mawmets, images, and puppets, which be made and set forth before the eyes of the simple and unlearned people, to preach and represent unto them the majesty of God, which by no means can be counterfeit, seeing itself is both infinite and incomprehensible, and cannot be feigned nor set forth, no, not so much as shadowed by the art of man, although never so cunning either of graving or painting, in any corporal substance—chargeth and straitly commandeth his people, even so many as take him for their Lord and God, that they make no graven or carved image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, as the sun, moon, stars, &c.; or in earth beneath, as men, beasts, birds, worms, &c.; or in the waters under the earth, as fishes, and whatsoever liveth in the waters; lest by the making of such things they should go about after the manner of the heathen to counterfeit the majesty of God, and so, by beholding the same, at the last conceive an opinion on godhead and divine power to be in those images, and so fall to the worshipping of them, (as we read of divers nations both in God's and man's histories,) and by this means provoke God unto anger, which is both "a jealous God, and a consuming fire." (Deuteronomy 4)
Father. Is it not then lawful to make an image of God?
Son. By no means: for it is plainly forbidden of God in this second commandment.
Father. Are there no more scriptures in the holy bible, which bear witness of this thing?
Son. Yes, forsooth, very many.
Father. Recite part of them.
Son. Moses, that most excellent prophet of God, saith (Deuteronomy 4): "The Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire. The voice of his words ye heard; nevertheless ye saw no image, but heard the voice only. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to do, namely, the ten verses, and wrote them upon two tables of stone. And the Lord commanded me at the same time to teach you his ordinances and laws, that ye might do thereafter in the land into the which ye go to possess it. Keep well your souls therefore, (for ye saw no manner of image in the day when the Lord spake unto you out of the fire upon mount Horeb,) that ye destroy not yourselves, and make you any image that is like a man, or woman, or beast upon earth, or feathered fowl under the heaven, or worm upon the ground, or fish in the water under the earth; that thou lift not up thine eyes toward heaven, and see the sun, and the moon, and the stare, and the whole host of heaven, and be deceived, and worship and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath created to serve all nations under the whole heaven."
Again: "Take heed unto yourselves, that ye forget not the covenant of the Lord your God, and that ye make no images of any manner of fashion, as the Lord thy God hath commanded. For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire and a jealous God. If when ye have begotten children, and childer's children, and have dwelt in the land, ye mar yourselves, and make you images of any manner of fashion, and do evil in the sight of the Lord your God to provoke him, I call heaven and earth to record over you this day, that ye shall shortly perish from the land into the which ye go over Jordan to possess it. Ye shall not dwell long therein, but shall utterly be destroyed."
Also in another place: "Ye shall not turn yourselves unto images, and ye shall make you no gods of metal; for I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19) Item: "Thus shall ye do with those nations unto whom the Lord your God shall send you: ye shall overthrow their altars, break down their pillars, cut down their groves, and burn their images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God. Thee hath the Lord thy God chosen, that thou shouldest be his own peculiar people from among all nations that are upon earth." (Deuteronomy 7) Again: "These are the ordinances and laws which ye shall keep, that ye do thereafter in the land which the Lord God of thy fathers hath given thee to possess, as long as ye live upon earth. Destroy all the places wherein the heathen, whom ye shall conquer, have served their gods, whether it be upon high mountains, upon hills, or among green trees. And overthrow their altars, and break down their pillars, and burn their groves with fire, and hew down the images of their gods, and bring the names of them to nought out of the same place." (Deuteronomy 12) Once again he saith: "Cursed be he that maketh any carved image, or molten idol (an abomination unto the Lord, a work of the hands of the craftsman), and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen." (Deuteronomy 27)
The prophet Esay also saith: "To whom will ye liken God? or what similitude will ye set up unto him? Shall the carver make him a carved image? and shall the goldsmith cover him with gold, or cast him into a form of silver plates? &c. Know ye not this? heard ye never of it? hath it not been preached unto you since the beginning? have ye not been informed of this since the foundation of the earth was laid, that he (God) sitteth upon the circle of the world, and all the inhabiters of the world are, in comparison of him, but as grasshoppers," &c.? (Isaiah 40)
God himself saith by the aforesaid prophet: "To whom now will ye liken me? and whom shall I be like, saith the Holy One?" Again: "Whom will ye make me like in fashion or image, that I may be like him? which take out silver and gold out of your purses and weigh it, and hire a goldsmith to make a god of it, that men may kneel down and worship it. Yet must he be taken on men's shoulders, and borne, and set in his place, that he may stand and not move. Alas, that men should cry onto him which giveth no answer, and delivereth not the man that calleth upon him from his trouble! Consider this well, and be ashamed. Go into your own selves, O ye runagates; remember the things which are past since the beginning of the world, that I am God, and that there is else no God, yea, and that there is nothing like unto me." (Isaiah 46)
The prophet Esay saith once again: "All carvers of images are but vain, and their labour lost. They must bear record themselves that, seeing they can neither see nor understand, they shall be confounded. Who should now make a god, or fashion an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all the fellowship of them must be brought to confusion. Let all the work-masters come and stand together from among men: they must be abashed and confounded one with another. The smith taketh iron, and tempereth it with hot coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and maketh it with all the strength of his arms: yea, sometime he is faint for very hunger, and so thirsty that he hath no more power. The carpenter (or image-carver) taketh the timber and spreadeth forth his line: he maketh it with some colour: he planeth it: he ruleth it, and squareth it, and maketh it after the image of a man, and according to the beauty of a man, that it may stand in a temple. Moreover, he goeth out to hew down cedar-trees: he bringeth home elms and oaks and other timber of the wood, or else the fir-trees which he planted himself, and such as the rain hath swelled, which wood serveth for men to burn. Of this he taketh and warmeth himself withal: he maketh a fire of it to bake bread, and afterward maketh a god thereof to honour it, and an idol to kneel before it. One piece he burneth in the fire: with another he roasteth flesh, that he may eat roast his bellyful: with the third he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha! I am well warmed, I have been at the fire. And of the residue he maketh him a god, and an idol for himself. He kneeleth before it, he worshippeth it, he prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my God. Yet men neither consider nor understand, because their eyes are stopped that they cannot see, and their hearts that they cannot perceive. They ponder not in their minds (for they have neither knowledge nor understanding) to think thus: I have brent one piece in the fire; I have baked bread with the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh withal, and eaten it: shall I now of the residue make an abominable idol, and fall down before a rotten piece of wood? Thus he doth but lose his labour, and his heart, which is deceived, doth turn him aside, so that none of them can have a free conscience to think: May not I err? Consider this, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have made thee, that thou mightest serve me. O Israel, forget me not. As for thine offences, I drive them away like the clouds, and thy sins as the mist. Tum thee again unto me; and I will deliver thee." (Isaiah 44)
The prophet Jeremy saith also (Jeremiah 10): "They hew down a tree in the wood with the hands of the workman, and fashion it with the axe: they cover it over with gold or silver: they fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move not. It standeth as stiff as the palm-tree: it can neither speak nor go, but must be borne. Be not ye afraid of such; for they can do neither good nor evil. But there is none like unto thee, O Lord: thou art great; and great is the name of thy power."
God him[self] saith by the prophet Osee (Hosea 13): "Of their silver they make them molten images, like the idols of the heathen; and yet all is nothing but the work of the craftsman, &c. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the dew that early passeth away, and like as dust that the wind taketh away from the floor, and as smoke that goeth out of the chimney. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, that thou shouldest know no God but me only, and that thou shouldest have no Saviour but only me."
As I may at the last cease to gather the testimonies of the old testament, which both forbid and condemn the making of such images, as pluck the minds of men from the living God unto dumb mawmets, I would wish all men diligently to read and remember the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of the book of Wisdom, and the sixth chapter of the prophet Baruch; which lively paint and set forth in their true colours these images, idols, and mawmets, which many have in so great admiration, with all the vanities and abominations of them.
Father. Doth not also the new testament judge of images even as the old?
Son. Yes, verily. The Holy Ghost varieth not in his doctrine. Paul and Barnabas said unto the people: "We preach unto you, that ye should turn from these vanities (they speak of images and of image-service) unto the living God, which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein." (Acts 14) St Peter [sic presumably for St. James] likewise said to the congregation of God: "My judgment is, that we trouble not them which from among the gentiles are turned to God, but that we write unto them, that they abstain themselves from the filthiness of images." (Acts 15) St John saith: "Babes, keep yourselves from images." (1 John 5)
Father. But come off, my dear child, tell me, Is it not lawful for the Christians in no condition to have images?
Son. There be some that so think, of whose judgment I am not. All such may worthily be resembled to the Turks, which, as they say, take this commandment of God so straitly, that they can by no means suffer any image to be made, no, not in profane and civil things.
Father. Is it then lawful in politic, civil, and worldly matters to have images?
Son. It is not forbidden, which thing we may right well be learned in that gospel (Matthew 22), where we read, that certain men came unto Christ, demanding of him, whether it were lawful to pay tribute unto Caesar, or not. Christ, willing them to shew him a piece of the money, asked, whose image and superscription that was which was graven on the coin? And when they said, "The emperor's," he answered, "Give unto the emperor that which is the emperor's, and give unto God that which is God's." We read not here that Christ did condemn the image that was graven in the coin, neither that he said, Cast away this money for the image sake; for it is unlawful even in civil and profane things to have images: but, to declare that the use of images in profane and worldly matters is not unlawful, ho approved the money, notwithstanding the image. And it is not to be doubted, but that money also, which he commanded Peter to take out of the fish's mouth, and to give it for tribute unto the emperor's officers, was also such money as was then customably paid to the emperor for tribute, having the emperor's image upon it. Again, the money, which the disciples of Christ carried about with them for their relief and for the comfort of the poor which followed Christ, was also without all doubt of that money which was coined with the image and superscription of the emperor. All these things declare manifestly that in politic, civil, profane, and worldly things the use of images is not unlawful.
Father. If in politic and worldly matters, why not also in divine and holy things?
Son. In the one is no peril; in the other, great danger, as we have learned too much by experience.
Father. Did not God command Moses, after that he had given this law concerning images, to make the brasen serpent, and to set it up in the wilderness for the people of Israel to behold? (Numbers 21)
Son. I grant. Notwithstanding, that was but a figurative image, serving for the time, prefiguring Christ, as we may see in the gospel (John 3), and therefore is now utterly abolished: as all figures, clouds, and shadows of the old testament vanished, when Christ, which is the very truth and light, came. Yea, long before the coming of Christ, that noble and godly king Ezechias (2 Kings 18), when he saw the people abuse this image, kneel unto it, honour it, and burn incense unto it, he threw it down and utterly destroyed it, although set up at the commandment of God: which thing he would never have done, if he had known that commandment of setting up the brasen serpent to be moral (for every moral law is the certain, undoubted, unchangeable, and everlasting will of God); but being well assured that it was but a ceremonial law, serving for the time, and a figure or shadow of a better thing to come, when he saw it abused, so that by that means the glory of God was obscured, yea, and that honour given to an image which alone is due to the living God, he plucked it down, burnt it, and utterly destroyed it. For this is diligently to be noted, that no particular commandment taketh away the virtue of a general or universal law, as this law of images is in the book of God.
Father. Thou holdest then, that although it be tolerable, yea, and lawful in politic and worldly things, to have images, yet in matters appertaining unto godliness and religion it is neither tolerable nor lawful.
Son. Not only I, but the holy fathers also of the primitive church were of that opinion, as we have tofore heard: "God is a spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth." (John 4) Now, saith Lactantius, "God is never truly worshipped in that place where an image is" [see citation above]: which thing made that holy bishop St Epiphanius, when he saw an image in the church, to take it away, and to cut it in pieces, affirming, that it is contrary to the authority of God's word to have images in the church of Christ [see citation above]: which tiling also made many noble princes and holy bishops to give commandment, that all images of God, of Christ, of angels, and of saints, should be taken out of churches, and burnt openly, and from henceforth that no images should be made and brought into such places as christian men use to resort unto for to pray unto their Lord God: if any did presume to do the contrary, he should suffer such punishments as was appointed by the law for such and so grievous offenders [more discussion and source for this found below].
Father. If it be not lawful to make images for religion sake, then is it not lawful it is neither for us to honour and worship them, as the custom was, and yet is, in the pope's church.
Son. No, verily. For as God in this commandment saith, "Thou shalt make thee no graven image," &c.; so likewise saith he, "Neither shalt thou bow down before them, them nor worship them." (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5)
Father. Here then are we forbidden in the way of religion not only to make images, but also to worship them.
Son. Truth it is.
Father. Declare unto me by other scriptures also, that it is not lawful to worship images.
Son. God saith by his servant Moses: "I am the Lord your God: ye shall make you no idols, nor image in your land, to bow yourselves thereto. For I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 26) Moses also saith: "Beware, that thou make no covenant with the indwellers of the land, that thou comest into, lest they be the cause of thy ruin in the midst of it; but their altars shalt thou overthrow, and break down their gods, and root out their groves. For thou shalt have none other God, (for the Lord is called Jealous, because he is a jealous God ;) lest, if thou make any agreement with the indwellers of the land, when they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, they call thee, and thou eat of their sacrifice, and lest thou take their daughters unto thy sons to wives, and the same go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons to go a whoring after their gods also." (Exodus 34) Again: "Beware, that your heart be not deceived, that ye go aside and servo other gods, and worship them; and then the wrath of the Lord wax hot upon you, and he shut up the heaven that there come no rain, and the earth give not her increase, and ye perish shortly from the good land which the Lord hath given you." (Deuteronomy 11) Item: "If there rise up a prophet or dreamer among you, and give thee a token or wonder, and that token or wonder, which he spake of, come to pass, and then say, Let us go after other gods (whom thou knowest not), and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of such a prophet or dreamer. For the Lord your God proveth you, to wete, whether ye love him with all your heart and with all your soul. For ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and hearken unto his voice, and serve him, and cleave unto him. As for that prophet or dreamer, he shall die; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 13)
The psalmograph also saith (Psalm 97) : "Confounded be all they that worship carved images, and they that delight in vain gods." The wise man saith (Wisdom 14): "The honouring of abominable images is the cause, the beginning, and the end of all evil." God himself saith by the prophet Esay (Isaiah 42): "I am the Lord, this is my name. I will give my glory to none other, nor my honour to graven images." Hereto pertaineth the saying of St Paul: "Be not worshippers of images." (1 Corinthians 10) "For no worshippers of images shall inherit the kingdom of God:" (1 Corinthians 6) yea, as St John saith: "They shall have their part in that lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21)
Besides these sentences of the holy scripture, which utterly condemn the honouring and worshipping of images, we have manifest examples in tho word of God of certain holy men, which did rather choose to suffer death, than they would serve, honour, or worship images. What a number of prophets and godly men did that most wicked woman, queen Jesebel, kill and murder, because they would not bow their knee to that foul idol, Baal! Read we not also in the book of Daniel the prophet (Daniel 3), that three young men did rather choose to be put into a fiery furnace, and there to be burnt unto ashes, than they would once fall down before the golden image at the commandment of king Nabuchodonosor? Was not this their answer to the king, "0 Nabuchodonosor, we ought not to consent unto thee in this matter. For why? our God whom we serve is able to keep us from the hot burning oven, O king, and can right well deliver us out of thy hands. And though he will not, yet shalt thou know, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor do reverence to the image which thou hast set up." Read we not again that B. & Dr. Daniel was commanded of the king to worship a certain image at Babylon called Bel I But Daniel answered and said, "I may not worship things that are made with hands, but the living God, which made heaven and earth, and hath power upon all flesh."
What shall I speak of all the holy martyrs which were in the primitive church, and many years after, that suffered most bitter torments, yea, and very death, because they would not bow down before images, and honour them?
Image-service is such and so great abomination not only before God, but also in the sight of all good men, that we read of certain noble princes, which could by no means abide such wickedness to be used in their kingdoms, and therefore utterly destroyed all those idols, images, puppets, and mawmets, that plucked away the people's hearts from the honour of the living God unto image-service. Read we not (2 Kings 18), that king Ezechias put away the high places, and brake down the pillars, and rooted out the groves, and brake the brasen serpent, which Moses had made? "For unto that time had the children of Israel burnt incense unto it." Read we not also (2 Kings 23), that king Josias destroyed and utterly took away the images and idols, and all the abominations which were seen in the land of Juda and at Jerusalem; and that he commanded all the vessels to be taken out of the temple, which were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven, and that he burnt them without Jerusalem in the valley of Cedron, and caused the dust of them to be carried unto Bethel? Again, that he did break down the altars which Manasses had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, and caused the dust of them to be cast into the brook of Cedron; and the altar at Bethel, and the high place that Jeroboam made, which both he destroyed and made them unto dust, and burnt up the grove, &c.?
Read we not, moreover (2 Chronicles 33), that the wicked king Manasses, because that he walked after the abominations of the heathen, builded the high places, which his father Ezechias had broken down, set up altars, made grevous [sic for groves], worshipped all the host of heaven, caused carved images and idols to be made and set up in the house of the Lord, shed much innocent blood, and did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, was taken of the host of the king of the Assirians, bound with chains, and so led away prisoner unto Babylon? Which Manasses being in trouble, after that he had humbled himself and prayed unto the Lord his God, his prayer was heard, and the Lord "brought him again to Jerusalem, even to his kingdom; so that Manasses knew that the Lord is God. Afterward put he away the strange gods and idols out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars which he had builded upon the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city, &c."
What shall I speak of Constantine the Great, of Leo III., of Valens and Theodoras, of Philip, of Constantine, &c, most noble and worthy emperors, and of Sabanus, king of the Bulgarians
[The following authorities may be adduced in regard to the princes above named:
Ἐπιτεινας ὁ ἔτι μᾶλλον ὁ Βασιλεὺς τὴν πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν ὁσίαν, διδασκαλίαν κατὰ τῆς εὶδωλολατρίας πλάνης τῶν πρὸ αὺτοῦ κεκρατηκότων τοϊς κατὰ πᾶν ἔθνος ἐπαρχεώταις κατέπεμπε. - Hist. Eccles. Script. Graec. Amst. 1695-1700. Euseb. Pamph. de Vit. Constant. Lib. II. cap. xlvii. p. 383.
Relatum est in veterum annalibus de Leonis Augusti imperio, et ejus moribus; quodque is Theodosio Imper. defuncto in Byzantio urbe, qua: Constantinopolis dicitur, factus imperator, edicto cavit, at omnes quidem sanctorum imagines, qua; in Christianorum fanis ac templis forent, abolerentur .... Sed libitum est verba ex libris Augustalibus referre, quo id totum melius innotescat; quoniam et Valens et Tbeodosius Augusti Imp. prafecto praetorio ad hunc modum scripserunt: Cum sit nobis cura diligens in rebus omnibus superni numinis religionem tueri, signum salvatoris Christi nemini quidem conredimus, coloribus, lapide, aliave materia fingere, insculpere, aut pingere. Sed quodcunque reperitur tolls jubemus, gravissima poena eos mulctando, qui cootrarium decrelis nostris et imperio quicquam tentaverint.—Petr. Crinit. De Honest. Discip. Lugd. 1585. Lib. ix. cap. ix. pp. 278, 9.
At Constantinus [Papa] habita synodo non modo Philippici et Joannis monachi opiniones improbat, rerum etiam decernit, ut sanctorum patrum imagines, qui sex conciliis ab omnibus probatis interfuerant, in porticu beati Petri depingerentur, cum intellexisset eas a Philippico e parietibus sanctae Sophiae ignominae: causa abrasas fuisse.—Plat. De Vit. Pont. Rom. Col. 1566. Constantinus I. p. 107. See also Cent. Eccles. Hist. Magd. Basil. 1560—74. Cent, IIII. cap. iii. col. 31.
Nam Leo anno imperii aui nono, consilio cujusdam nomine Beser, et episcopi Nacoliae, decretum promulgavit, ne in ulla ecclesia cujuslibet sancti, aut martyris, aut angeli imago habeatur.—Cent. Magd. ibid. col. 33.
Imperator [ConstantinusCopronymus] ergo edicta proponit quibus imagines adorari vetat: et synodi decreta suscipi jubet, et reliquias sanctorum igni tradit. —Id. ibid. col. 37.
Bulgares contra Sabinum regem suum arma capiunt, propter imaginum adorationem defendendam; quam ille, a Constantino imperatore et a recte sentientibus doctoribus persuasus, damnabat, et abolere nitebatur.—Id. ibid. col. 39. See also Paul. Diac. Hist. Miscell. Lib. xxi. capp. xvii. xviii. Lib. xxii. capp. xxiv. xxxix. Lib. xxiii. cap. vii.]
, with divers other godly princes, which all banished idols, images, or mawmets out of their dominions, and would by no means suffer them to be remaining in those places, where christian men resort and come together to pray; lest the people should fall from the honour of the one and alone true living God, and be allured unto tho vain worshipping of most vain images, and so heap the wrath and vengeance of God upon thorn, which as all sins, so likewise the sin and abomination of image-service, most highly doth detest and abhor? What shall I here rehearse the most godly and virtuous acts of the reverend and holy bishops, Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus [discussed above], and Sirenus, bishop of Massilia [also discussed above], and such like, which by no means could abide either images or image-service in their diocese? I pass over the most holy and christian councils, Agathense, Tolitane, Elibertine
[Placuit, pictures in ecclesia esse non debere; ne quod colitur.etadoratur, in parietibus depingatur. —Concil. Eliberit. in Concil. Stud. Labbei. Lut. Par. 1671-2. can. xxxvi. Tom. I. col. 974.
The 11th canon of the 12th council of Toledo is probably that intended by the author, in which we find: Cultores idolorum, veneratores lapidum, accensores facularum, et excolentes sacra fontium vel arborum admonemus.—Id. Tom. VI. col. 1234. See also the 2nd canon of the 16th council of Toledo —Id. ibid. col. 1337.
As respects the council of Agde, the canons, as printed by Labbe, do not seem to contain any thing to the point. Durandus, however, says: Concilium Agathen. de consec. distin. 3. cap. placuit, inhibet picturas in ecclesiis fieri, et quod colitur et adoratur in parietibus depingi.—Gul. Durand. Rat Div. Offic. Venet. 1609. Lib. i. cap. iii. 4. fol. 9. 2. But as these words are almost identical with the canon of Elvira, quoted above, Durandus was perhaps in error.]
, &c, which decreed that all pictures or images should be had out of the churches, and that nothing that is honoured or worshipped should be painted on the church-walls.
All these things heretofore rehearsed do evidently declare, what is to be thought both of images made for religion sake, and also of the worshipping and honouring of the same.
Father. Now, my good child, forasmuch as in this second commandment of God we are not only forbidden to make images, but also to bow down to them, and to worship them; tell me what is meant or understand by the bowing down unto an image.
Son. To bow down to, or before an image, which in Greek is προσκυνεῖν, and in the Latin adorare, is reverently with the body to fall down before it, to kneel unto it, to set it in a place where we use to worship God, to garnish it with costly array and precious jewels, to kiss it, to put off our cap unto it, and to shew any gesture of reverence outwardly unto it. All these things doth God forbid to be given to images in this his second commandment.
Father. Yet all these things are done to images in the pope's churches.
Son. Truth it is. For in divers popish books we read on this manner: "To all them that say this prayer following before the image of the crucifix, pitifully beholding the same, and devoutly kneeling upon their knees, are granted as many days of pardon, by divers popes of Rome, as be gravel stones in the sea, or grasses on the earth." [Bishop Burnet, in the Collection of Records appended to his History of the Reformation, has printed, Vol. II. Book i. No. 26, several extracts exhibiting the chief indulgences in the English offices. Among them are some which resemble that in the text, though not couched in precisely the same words.] Moreover, who knoweth not this to be a custom in the synagogues of the pope both on Good Friday, as they call it, and on Easter-day in the morning, to creep unto the cross, to kneel unto it, to kiss it, to offer gifts unto it, &c., while the priests and the clerks sing on this manner, Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine, &c. [The hymn thus commencing may be found repeatedly used in the Romish services. See Missale ad Us. et Consuetud. Sarum. Par. 1527. In die Parasc. fol. 89. 2. Also, In Invent. Sanct. Cruc. iii. Maii.; and In Exalt. Sanct. Cruc. xiv. Sept. See also Portifor. seu Breviar. ad Us. Eccles. Sarisbur. Par. 1510. In Exalt. Sanct. Cruc. &c. It is common in modern books of Romish worship.] "We worship thy cross, O Lord;" which is plain and manifest idolatry, and a work directly against the commandment of God?
St Ambrose writeth on this manner: "Helene found a title or superscription, but she worshipped the king, and not the tree; for this is an heathenish error, and the vanity of the ungodly; but she worshipped him that did hang on the tree, written in the title, &c." [Invenit ergo titulum, regem adoravit, non lignum utique; quia hic gentilis est error, et vanitas impiorum: sed adoravit ilium, qui pependit in ligno, scriptus in titulo.—Ambros. Op. Par. 1686—90. De Obit. Theodos. Orat. 46. Tom. II. col. 1311.] With what conscience then can the papists compel, as they do, the simple Christians to worship the cross, contrary to the doctrine both of the holy scriptures and of the ancient godly writers? This kind of worshipping required the devil at Christ's hand; but he answered (Matthew 4): "Avoid, Satan. For it is written (Deuteronomy 6), Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve." This worship refused Simon Peter to be given unto him of Cornelius the centurion. (Acts 10) "Stand up," saith he, "I am a man also." This worship also refused the angel, when John fell down at his feet, and said unto John: "See that thou do it not. For I am thy fellow-servant, and one of thy brethren, and of them that have the testimony of Jesus. Worship thou God." (Revelation 19; 21) If the apostle of Christ and the angel of God refused to be worshipped with falling down before them, and with kneeling unto them, is it reason that this worship, I mean, kneeling and bowing of the body, should be given to dumb idols and vain images? "Confounded and put to utter confusion and shame mought all they be," saith the psalmograph (Psalm 96), "which worship," that is to say, kneel down before, "graven images," or do any outward reverence unto them.
Father. We are not only commanded of God in this his second commandment, that we should not bow down before any image, but also that we should not worship nor honour them. What is meant by worshipping or honouring of images?
Son. As by bowing down before an image is understand all outward reverence, which with our body we give unto it, whether it be by setting it in that place where we come together to honour God, as in churches, chapels, oratories, &c, or by kneeling unto it, or putting off our cap unto it, or garnishing it, or kissing it, &c.; so likewise by worshipping an image is meant to pray unto it, to offer gifts and sacrifices unto it, to go on pilgrimage unto it, to seek health, help, and salvation at it, to flee unto it in our necessities, to put our faith, hope, and confidence in it, and to make it, as I may so speak, a very God; which is plain idolatry and image-service.
Father. These things also are done at this present day in the kingdom of the pope.
Son. It is the more to be lamented. All good and godly men ought to study, unto the uttermost of their power, to banish these so great and grievous pestilences from the bounds of Christendom, that all the worship, honour, glory, and praise may be given to God alone, as he himself saith by the prophet: "I am the Lord: this is my name. I will give my glory to none other, nor my honour to graven images." (Isaiah 42) In the Acts of the Acts Apostles we read (Acts 14), that when the men of Lystra, with Jupiter's priest, brought oxen and garlands, and would have done sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, because of the miracle that Paul wrought among them, in healing a man which was impotent of his feet, and a cripple even from his mother's womb, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, "The gods are become like unto men, and are come down unto us; calling Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercurius, because he was the preacher;" the apostles rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying and saying: "Ye men, why do ye this? We are mortal men also like unto you, and preach unto you the gospel, that ye should turn from these vain things unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that therein is." If the apostles of Christ refused to be honoured, to have gifts and sacrifices offered unto them, &c, is it then seemly that such honour should be given to dumb images, idols, and mawmets? Neither outward worship nor inward honour ought to be given unto such vanities. "Blessed is that man," saith the psalmograph (Psalm 40), "whose hope, affiance, and trust is in the name of the Lord, and that hath not regarded these vanities and foolish fond fantasies." These image-mongers may justly be resembled to the priests of Baal, which called on the name of Baal from the morning unto the noon-day, and yet were not heard. (1 Kings 18) So likewise these new Baalites and idolaters, though they cry never so much upon these idols and images, yet shall they never be heard. "For they have ears and hear not, &c. They that make them are like unto them, and so are all such as put their trust in them. But let Israel trust in the Lord; for he is their succour and defence." (Psalm 115)
Father. Hitherto have we heard what the good will and pleasure of God is in this his second commandment, concerning images. Go forth now, and declare unto me that which followeth in this precept.
Son. The words that follow are these:
"For I the Lord thy God am a strong and a jealous God, punishing the wickedness of the parents in the children, until the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shew mercy until thousands, unto those that love me and keep my commandments."
Father. Why doth the Lord our God call himself "a strong God"?
Son. To declare that his divine majesty is so great, infinite, unmeasurable, and incomprehensible, so excellent and far passing the reach and compass of man's wit or reason, that it can by no means be expressed or set forth by any similitude, likeness, or image, that man can devise. For seeing that heaven and earth, and all that ever is contained in them, cannot represent God, much less are vile and vain images able to do this, which are made with man's hand, and have neither life nor moving, nor any thing at all that is like our most strong and mighty God, as both Esay and Baruch do right well testify (Isaiah 44; Baruch 6). He is also called a strong God, to declare that he is of sufficient might and power to help and to defend all those that put their trust in him, with whatsoever kind of adversity they be assailed; and that, as he is able, so likewise he will alway be present with his saving health unto all such as unfeignedly cleave unto him, refusing utterly all false gods, idols, images, mawmets, puppets, &c, and seeking their health and salvation both of body and of soul at his merciful hand only and alone.
Father. But why doth he call himself "a jealous God"?
Son. To declare that be by no means can abide that that glory which is due from us to him alone should be given to any creature, although never so excellent, either in heaven or in earth, much less to vain images, dumb idols, monstrous mawmets, and popish puppets; no, nor any part of that glory; as he saith by the prophet: "I am the Lord: this is my name: I will give my glory to none other, nor my honour to graven images." (Isaiah 43) As of God we receive all good things appertaining either unto the body or unto the soul, so likewise owe we unto God alone all our faith, love, fear, service, honour, glory, praise, &c, as Moses saith: "Thou shalt honour the Lord thy God, and serve him alone." (Deuteronomy 6; Matthew 4) And as a true wedded husband, that loveth his wife dearly, tendereth her above all creatures, resteth in her love only, rejoiceth and delighteth in her alone, cherisheth her, and maketh sufficient provision for her in all things, so that at his hand she hath abundantly all good things, yea, and that without any lack, cannot abide that his wife should give her love, or any part of her love to any other man, but to him alone; so in like manner cannot God suffer, which hath taken us to his spouse (Ephesians 5; Hosea 2), and married us unto him in faith, that we should set our love upon any other but upon him alone, of whom we receive all good things necessary both for body and soul (1 Corinthians 4; James 1), or that we should give the glory and praise of our salvation to any but to him alone. Therefore to declare how impatient he is of any rival or paramour, and how vehement his love is toward us, and how fervently again he requireth of us to be loved, he compareth himself to a jealous lover or husband, and us to a wife; signifying by this comparison how pure, chaste, and unspotted, yea, and utterly estranged from all other creatures, our love toward God ought to be. This perceived the psalmograph right well, when he said (Psalm 73): "Thou destroyest all them that run a whore-hunting from thee. But it is good for me to cleave hard to God, and to put my trust in the Lord God."
Father. What is it to run a whore-hunting from God?
Son. To forsake the Lord our God, and to follow creatures; to pluck our faith and love from God, and to give it unto strange gods; to seek health and salvation, remission of sins and everlasting life, at the hand of any, either in heaven or in earth, saving only at the hand of the Lord our God, which alone is the author, beginner, and finisher of our salvation. And to pluck us away from this whore-hunting and spiritual whoredom, which is nothing else than idolatry or image-service, he doth not only call himself a jealous God, but he also addeth, that he will punish the wickedness of the parents "in the children, until the third and fourth generation of them that hate him."
Father. What wickedness is that which God will so extremely punish?
Son. Every sin is wickedness. God will by no means suffer the transgression and breaking of his holy commandments unpunished: as it is written (Isaiah 5): "Wo be unto them that sin, and keep not my commandments, saith the Lord; for I will not spare them." Again (Deuteronomy 27; Galatians 3): "Cursed is every one which abideth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, that he may do them." And albeit all kind of sins do greatly offend the majesty of God, so that he will leave none of them unpunished; yet this sin of idolatry or image-service do most highly displease him: neither will ho by any means suffer the transgression and breaking of this second commandment, which forbiddeth idolatry and image-service, to escape without punishment, as divers histories of the holy scripture do manifestly declare. And therefore it is here to be noted by the way, that God calleth the idolaters, image-servants, or worshippers of strange gods, his enemies and such as hate him. Is it to be thought that such can escape unpunished? It is not therefore without a cause, that God, tendering our health and salvation, in this his second commandment forbiddeth both the making and worshipping of images. If we will avoid the worshipping of images, let us cease to make them, and place them in our temples, chapels, oratories, &c.; and so shall we easily escape from the danger of idolatry or image-service, which is so grievous an offence, and so wicked and abominable sin before the Lord our God, that he threateneth to punish it in the children of the idolatrous fathers, until the third and fourth generation.
Father. This seemeth to me very lamentable, that God should punish the wickedness of the parents in their children's children.
Son. This on this wise is to be understand. If the children of the parents, which were wicked idolaters, commit that same idolatry which their fathers have committed, and continue in the same wickedness wherein their forefathers have lived, then will God not only punish the parents which have so offended, but also their children, yea, and their children's children, which commit the like offence, yea, and that so much the more grievously, because they be the idolatrous children of idolatrous fathers, and have more pleasure to walk in the wicked steps of their most wicked fathers, than to give ear to the righteous laws of the most righteous God.
Father. But what if the parents he wicked and the children godly, as it sometime chanceth, and as we also find in the holy scriptures, shall the children notwithstanding be plagued and punished for their fathers' offences?
Son. God forbid. For it is written (Ezekiel 18): "The soul that sinneth shall die. If a man be godly, and do the thing that is equal and right (he eateth not upon the hills: he lifteth not his eyes up to the idols of Israel: he defileth not his neighbour's wife: he meddleth with no menstruous woman: he grieveth nobody: he giveth his debtor his pledge again: he taketh none other man's good by violence: he parteth his meat with the hungry: he clotheth the naked: he lendeth nothing upon usury: he taketh nothing over: he writhed with [writhed with = turned away] his hand from doing wrong: he handleth faithfully betwixt man and man: he walketh in my commandments, and keepeth my laws, and performeth them faithfully); this is a righteous man: he shall surely live, saith the Lord God. If he now beget a son that is a murderer and a shedder of blood; if he do one of these things (though he do not all); he eateth upon the hills; he defileth his neighbour's wife; he grieveth the poor and needy; he robbeth and spoileth; he giveth not the debtor his pledge again; he lifteth up his eyes unto idols, and meddleth with abominable things; he lendeth upon usury, and taketh moreover; shall this man live? he shall not live. Seeing he hath done all these abominations, he shall die: his blood shall be upon him. Now if this man beget a son also, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and feareth, neither doth such like; namely, he eateth not upon the mountains; he lifteth not his eyes up to the idols of Israel; he defileth not his neighbour's wife; he vexeth no man; he keepeth no man's pledge; he neither spoileth nor robbeth any man; he dealeth his meat with the hungry; he clotheth the naked; he oppresseth not the poor; he receiveth no usury, nor any thing over; he keepeth my laws, and walketh in my commandments; this man shall not die in his father's sin, but shall live without fail. As for his father, because he oppressed and spoiled his brother, and did wickedly among his people, he is dead in his own sin. And yet say ye: Wherefore then should not this son bear his father's sin? Therefore, because the son hath done equity and right, hath kept all my commandments and done them; therefore shall he live in deed. The soul that sinneth shall die. The son shall not bear the father's offences, neither shall the father bear the son's offence. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself; and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself also."
Of these words, which I have borrowed out of the prophet Ezechiel, is it plain and evident, that, although the parents be wicked and idolatrous, yet if their children be not polluted and defiled with the same wickedness and idolatry, but lovers of God, studious of his holy word, and diligent walkers in his laws and commandments; they shall be free from those plagues and punishments which their wicked and ungodly fathers have most justly deserved, and be no partakers of God's displeasure, indignation, and vengeance in this behalf. Therefore, where it is said that God will punish the wickedness of parents "in the children, until the third and fourth generation," it is to be understand of those children which, having wicked fathers, follow the steps of their fathers, committing the same wickedness which they tofore have committed, without repentance or amendment of life. The other, which are free from the wickedness of their parents, are also free from the curses and plagues of God, and be in the number of those which are mentioned in the end of this second commandment.
Father. What is that?
Son. "And shew mercy until thousands, unto those that love me and keep my commandments."
Father. What learnest thou of these words?
Son. Verily, that as God is righteous and severe in punishing the wicked doers, which transgress his commandments, so likewise is he merciful, gentle, and liberal to all such as love him, and study to frame their lives according to his holy word; as the apostle saith (Romans 2): "Unto them that are contentious, and not obedient to the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall come indignation and wrath, trouble and anguish, upon all the souls of men that do evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. But unto all them that do good (shall come) praise and honour and peace, unto the Jew first, and also the Greek. For there is no respect of persons before God."
Father. What is meant by this, that God, in plaguing the wickedness of the parents in the children, will only extend his punishment until the third and fourth generation, yea, and that none otherwise, except they follow the wickedness of their fathers, as we heard tofore; but in shewing mercy unto those that love him and keep his commandments, he saith, that he will extend and stretch forth his merciful kindness and The mercy of kind mercy until thousands, that is to say, infinite generations?
Son. This declareth unto us, that the mercy of God is greater than his anger, and that he is more bent to loving-kindness than to severe justice. And with this agreeth the saying of that blessed virgin Mary (Luke 1): "His mercy," saith she, "endureth throughout all generations upon them that fear him." The psalmograph also saith (Psalm 103): "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering, and of great goodness. He will not alway be chiding, neither will he keep his anger for ever. He will not deal with us after our sins, nor reward us according to our wickedness. For look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth; so great is his mercy also toward them that fear him. Look how wide the east is from the west; so far will he set our sins from us. Yea, like as a father piticth his own children, even so is the Lord merciful unto them that fear him, &c. The merciful goodness of the Lord endureth for ever and ever upon them that fear him, and his righteousness upon their childer's children; even such as keep his covenant, and think upon his commandments to do them."
Father. We have largely talked of all things concerning this second commandment of God; whereof we have learned, that we ought to make no image of God, nor of any other thing for religion sake, nor yet give any adoration or worship to them, but serve the Lord our God "in spirit and truth;" (John 4) forasmuch as he is a spirit, and is chiefly delighted with spiritual things.