Friday, September 03, 2010

How Many Popes Does it Take to Deny the Immaculate Conception?

During Dr. James White's debate with Christopher Ferrara on the alleged sinlessness and Immaculate Conception of Mary, Mr. Ferrara questioned the fact that a half dozen popes taught or held a position contrary to the dogma that was later defined as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Dr. White provided a citation to Schaff, the respected church historian, who identified seven popes, and in turn cited an earlier scholar. Beginning with Schaff, in this post I walk through the evidence.

Schaff on the Immaculate Conception:
The third step, which exempts Mary from original sin as well, is of much later origin. It meets us first as a pious opinion in connection with the festival of the Conception of Mary, which was fixed upon Dec. 8, nine months before the older festival of her birth (celebrated Sept. 8). This festival was introduced by the Canons at Lyons in France, Dec. 8, 1139, and gradually spread into England and other countries. Although it was at first intended to be the festival of the Conception of the immaculate Mary, it concealed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, since every ecclesiastical solemnity acknowledges the sanctity of its object.

For this reason, Bernard of Clairvaux, 'the honey-flowing doctor' (doctor mellifluus), and greatest saint of his age, who, by a voice mightier than the Pope's, roused Europe to the second crusade, opposed the festival as a false honor to the royal Virgin, which she does not need, and as an unauthorized innovation, which was the mother of temerity, the sister of superstition, and the daughter of levity. [FN228] He urged against it that it was not sanctioned by the Roman Church. He rejected the opinion of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as contrary to tradition and derogatory to the dignity of Christ, the only sinless being, and asked the Canons of Lyons the pertinent question, 'Whence they discovered such a hidden fact? On the same ground they might appoint festivals for the conception of the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of Mary, and so on without end.' [FN229] It does not diminish, but rather increases (for the Romish stand-point) the weight of his protest, that he was himself an enthusiastic eulogist of Mary, and a believer in her sinless birth. He put her in this respect on a par with Jeremiah and John the Baptist. [FN230]

The same ground was taken substantially by the greatest schoolmen of the Middle Ages till the beginning of the fourteenth century: Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109), who closely followed Augustine; [FN231] Peter the Lombard, 'the Master of Sentences' (d. 1161); Alexander of Hales, 'the irrefragable doctor' (d. 1245); St. Bonaventura, 'the seraphic doctor' (d. 1274); Albertus Magnus, 'the wonderful doctor' (d. 1280); St. Thomas Aquinas, 'the angelic doctor' (d. 1274), and the very champion of orthodoxy, followed by the whole school of Thomists and the order of the Dominicans. St. Thomas taught that Mary was conceived from sinful flesh in the ordinary way, secundum carnis concupiscentiam ex commixtione maris, and was sanctified in the womb after the infusion of the soul (which is called the passive conception); for otherwise she would not have needed the redemption of Christ, and so Christ would not be the Saviour of all men. He distinguishes, however, three grades in the sanctification of the Blessed Virgin: first, the sanctificatio in utero, by which she was freed from the original guilt (culpa originalis); secondly, the sanctificatio in conceptu Domini, when the Holy Ghost overshadowed her, whereby she was totally purged (totaliter mundata) from the fuel or incentive to sin (fomes peccati); and, thirdly, the sanctificatio in morte, by which she was freed from all consequences of sin (liberata ab omni miseria). Of the festival of the Conception, he says that it was not observed, but tolerated by the Church of Rome, and, like the festival of the Assumption, was not to be entirely rejected (non totaliter reprobanda). [FN232] The University of Paris, which during the Middle Ages was regarded as the third power in Europe, gave the weight of its authority for a long time to the doctrine of the Maculate Conception. Even seven Popes are quoted on the same side, and among them three of the greatest, viz., Leo I. (who says that Christ alone was free from original sin, and that Mary obtained her purification through her conception of Christ), Gregory I., and Innocent III. [FN233]
And here are the footnotes:
[FN228] 'Virgo regia falso non eget honore, veris cumalata honorum titulis. . . . Non est hoc Virginem honorare sed honori detraher. . . . Præsumpta novitas mater temeritatis, soror superstitionis, filia levitatis.' See his Epistola 174, ad Canonicos Lugdunenses, De conceptione S. Mar. (Op. ed. Migne, I. pp. 332–336). Comp. also Bernard's Sermo 78 in Cant., Op. Vol. II. pp.1160, 1162.

[FN229] . . . 'et sic tenderetur in infinitum, et festorum non esset numerus' (Ep. 174, p. 334 sq.)

[FN230] 'Si igitur ante conceptum sui sanctificari minime potuit, quoniam non erat; sed nec in ipso quidem conceptu, propter peccatum quod inerat: restat ut post conceptum in utero jam existens sanctificationem accepisse credatur, quæ excluso peccato sanctam fecerit nativitatem, non tamen et conceptionem' (l.c. p. 336).

[FN231] Anselm, who is sometimes wrongly quoted on the other side, says, Cur Deus Homo, ii. 16 (Op. ed. Migne, I. p. 416): 'Virgo ipsa . . . est in iniquitatibus concepta, et in peccatis concepit eam mater ejus, et cum originali peccato nata est, quoniam et ipsa in Adam peccavit, in quo omnes peccaverunt.' To these words of Boso, Anselm replies that 'Christ, though taken from the sinful mass (de massa peccatrice assumptus), had no sin.' Then he speaks of Mary twice as being purified from sin (mundata a peccatis) by the future death of Christ (c. 16, 17). His pupil and biographer, Eadmer, in his book De excellent. beatæ Virg. Mariæ, c. 3 (Ans. Op. ed. Migne, II. pp. 560–62), says that the blessed Virgin was freed from all remaining stains of hereditary and actual sin when she consented to the announcement of the mystery of the Incarnation by the angel.' Quoted also by Perrone, pp. 47–49.

[FN232] Summa Theologiæ, Pt. III. Qu. 27 (De sanctificatione B. Virg.), Art. 1–5; in Libr. I. Sentent. Dist. 44, Qu. 1, Art. 3. Nevertheless, Perrone (pp. 231 sqq.) thinks that St. Bernard and St. Thomas are not in the way of a definition of the new dogma, 'because they wrote at a time when this view was not yet made quite clear, and because they lacked the principal support, which subsequently came to its aid; hence they must in this case be regarded as private teachers, propounding their own particular opinions, but not as witnesses of the traditional meaning of the Church.' He then goes on to charge these doctors with comparative ignorance of previous Church history. This may be true, but does not help the matter; since the fuller knowledge of the Fathers in modern times reveals a still wider dissent from the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

[FN233] The other Popes, who taught that Mary was conceived in sin, are Gelasius I., Innocent V., John XXII., and Clement VI. (d. 1352). The proof is furnished by the Jansenist Launoy, Prœscriptions, Opera I. pp. 17 sqq., who also shows that the early Franciscans, and even Loyola and the early Jesuits, denied the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Perrone calls him an 'irreligious innovator' (p. 34), and an 'impudent liar' (p. 161), but does not refute his arguments, and evades the force of his quotations from Leo, Gelasius, and Gregory by the futile remark that they would prove too much, viz., that Mary was even born in sin, and not purified before the Incarnation, which would be impious!
(Creeds of Christendom, Volume 1, Chapter 4, Section 29)

Launoy's work, cited by Schaff, can be found on-line, but only in Latin (link to first page of relevant section). As you will see, if you go through Launoy, he identifies the following list of popes:
  1. Leo I
  2. Gelasius I
  3. Gregory I
  4. Roman Clergy, during a vacant seat time, after the death of Honorius I (attributed to John IV, though not by Launoy)
  5. Innocent III
  6. Innocent V
  7. John XXII (or Benedict XII)
  8. Clement VI
You'll notice that my list has eight items, rather than the seven that Dr. White mentioned and Schaff listed. That's because I'm also including the item that Launoy does not specifically attribute to John IV, as I'll discuss below. Where I have not explained the citation, it is what Launoy cited, but I have added to what Launoy has cited, and have explained my basis for that.

1. Leo I (aka Leo the Great)

First Sermon on Nativity (Sermon 21), Chapter 1
There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all.
Personally, I think an even more compelling item from this same sermon, same chapter, on the same topic is this:
Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, "no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth." [Job 14:4-5, Septuagint version] Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered.
Second Sermon on the Nativity (Sermon 22), Chapter 3.
And to this end, without male seed Christ was conceived of a Virgin, who was fecundated not by human intercourse but by the Holy Spirit. And whereas in all mothers conception does not take place without stain of sin, this one received purification from the Source of her conception.
Fifth sermon on the Nativity (Sermon 25), Chapter 5.
... when by the condition of birth, there is one cause of perishing for all. And so among the sons of men, the Lord Jesus alone was born innocent, since he alone was conceived without the pollution of carnal concupiscence.
My friend, Pastor King, pointed out that this may well have been drawn from Augustine and Ambrose:

Ambrose (c. 339-97) commenting on Luke 1:35:
For wholly alone of those born of woman was our Holy Lord Jesus, Who by the strangeness of His undefiled Birth has not suffered the pollutions of earthly corruption, but dispelled them by heavenly majesty.
- Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book II, §56, p. 59. (Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, 2.56, PL 15:1572D-1573A.)

Augustine (354-430 AD):
Moreover, when expounding the Gospel according to Luke, he [i.e. Ambrose] says: "It was no cohabitation with a husband which opened the secrets of the Virgin's womb; rather was it the Holy Ghost which infused immaculate seed into her unviolated womb. For the Lord Jesus alone of those who are born of woman is holy, inasmuch as He experienced not the contact of earthly corruption, by reason of the novelty of His immaculate birth; nay, He repelled it by His heavenly majesty."
- NPNF1: Vol. V, Augustine's Anti-Pelagian Works, The Grace of Christ And on Original Sin, Book II On Original Sin, Chapter 47-Sentences from Ambrose in favor of Original Sin.

One of my readers, Fredericka, pointed out an additional reference in Leo's Sermons:

Third sermon on the Epiphany (Sermon 33), Chapter 1
For as justice was everywhere failing and the whole world was given over to vanity and wickedness, if the Divine Power had not deferred its judgment, the whole of mankind would have received the sentence of damnation. But wrath was changed to forgiveness, and, that the greatness of the Grace to be displayed might be the more conspicuous, it pleased God, to apply the mystery of remission to the abolishing of men’s sins at a time when no one could boast of his own merits.
Jason Engwer, at the Triablogue, pointed out a further example from Leo the Great.

Eighth Sermon on the Nativity (Sermon 28), Chapter 3
And therefore in the general ruin of the entire human race there was but one remedy in the secret of the Divine plan which could succor the fallen, and that was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest both by His example and His merits. Still further, because this was not permitted by natural generation, and because there could be no offspring from our faulty stock without seed, of which the Scripture saith, 'Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?'
2. Gelasius I

Launoy cites Gelasius' fifth letter. I found it elsewhere identified as his seventh letter. Regardless, it is written to the Picenian Bishops. It states:
Accordingly whatever those parents produced of their stock, is indeed the work of God, according to the institution of nature, but not without the contagion of that evil which they derived through their own transgression
Launoy also cites Gelasius "Lib. contra Pelagium," which I found elsewhere cited as as "dicta adv. Pelag. haeresin.," which in any event means it is a work against the Pelagians. It states:
It belongs alone to the immaculate Lamb to have no sin at all.
3. Gregory I

Book of the Morals, an exposition of Job, Book 18, on Job 27 (and quoted by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae, 3rd part, question 34, article 1, reply to objection 3)
For we, though we are made holy, yet are: not born holy, because by the mere constitution of a corruptible nature we are tied and bound, that we should say with the Prophet, Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me. But He only is truly born holy, Who in order that He might get the better of that same constitution of a corruptible nature, was not conceived by the combining of carnal conjunction.
My friend, Pastor David King also noted some additional quotations from Gregory:

Gregory the Great (Gregory I c. 540-603):
Moreover, since no one among men in this world is without sin (and what else is sinning but flying from GOD?), I say confidently that this my daughter also has some sins.
NPNF2: Vol. XII, Selected Epistles, Book VII, Epistle 30.

Gregory the Great (Gregory I c. 540-603):
And what a thing it would be, were we to neglect for the salvation of the soul what we carefully attend to in matters of earthly concern! And so, since, according to the words of the Apostle John, no one is without sin, let us call to mind enticements of thought, incontinence of tongue, deeds of transgression; and let us, while we may, with great knocking, do away with the stains of our iniquities, that our just and loving Redeemer may not execute vengeance according to our deservings, but according to His mercy be bent to pardon.
NPNF2: Vol. XIII, Selected Epistles, Book XII, Epistle 1.

4. Roman Clergy, post Honorius I (John IV before his reign)

Bede's Ecclesiastical History, Book 2, Chapter 19:
And in the first place, it is blasphemous folly to say that man is without sin, which none can be, but only the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who was conceived and born without sin; for all other men, being born in original sin, are known to bear the mark of Adam's transgression, even whilst they are without actual sin, according to the saying of the prophet, "For behold, I was conceived in iniquity; and in sin did my mother give birth to me."
However, this same quotation is, as my friend Pastor King pointed out, elsewhere attributed to John IV, because it was apparently written by him and three other high-ranking clergy while he was Rome's bishop-elect (see this source).

John IV, Bishop of Rome (d. 642):
And in the first place it is foolish blasphemy to say that man is without sin; which can by no means be, except the one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, Who was conceived and born without sin. For other men born with original sin, even though living without actual sin, are known to bear testimony to the prevarication of Adam; according to the Prophet saying: "For behold in iniquities was I conceived, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5).

Latin text: Et primum quidem blasphemia et stultiloquium est, dicere esse hominem sine peccato, quod omnino non potest, nisi unus mediator Dei et hominum homo Christus Jesus, qui sine peccato est conceptus et partus. Nam caeteri homines cum peccato originali nascentes, testimonium praevaricationis Adae (etiam sine peccato actuali existentes) portare noscuntur, secundum prophetam dicentem: Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum, et in peccatis concepit me mater mea (Psal. L).
John IV, Epistola I, ad Episcopos et Presbyteros Scotiae, PL 80:602B-C; see John Harvey Treat, The Catholic Faith, or Doctrines of the Church of Rome Contrary to Scripture and the Teaching of the Primitive Church (Nashotah, WI: The Bishop Welles Brotherhood, 1888), p. 22.

5. Innocent III

Sermon on the Purification of the Virgin
But forthwith [upon the Angel's words, 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee'] the Holy Ghost came upon her. He had before come into her, when, in her mother's womb, He cleansed her soul from original sin; but now too He came upon her to cleanse her flesh from the 'fomes' of sin, that she might be altogether without spot or wrinkle. That tyrant then of the flesh, the sickness of nature, the 'fomes' of sin, as I think, He altogether extinguished, that henceforth any motion from the law of sin should not be able to arise in her members.
(I've presented the translation from the linked source, which omits the first phrase that Launoy includes, but includes subsequent phrases that Launoy omits)

Sermon on the Assumption, Sermon 2 (aka Second Discourse on the Assumption)(see the alternate translation here)
Eve was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin; Mary was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.
There's at least one additional quotation from Innocent III that we can bring to bear on the topic:

On the Feast of John the Baptist, i (Sermon 16 on Feast Days)
Of John the Angel does not speak of the conception but of the birth. But of Jesus he predicts alike the Birth and the Conception. For to Zechariah the father it is predicted, 'Thy wife shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John,' but to Mary the mother it is predicted, 'Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bear a Son, and shalt call His Name Jesus.' For John was conceived in fault, but Christ Alone was conceived without fault. But each was born in grace, and therefore the Nativity of each is celebrated, but the Conception of Christ Alone is celebrated.
6. Innocent V

Commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences, Book 3, Distinction 3, Question 1, Article 1
The nearer any one approaches to the Holy of Holies, so much the greater degree of sanctification ought he to have, for there is no approach to Him, except through sanctification. But the mother approaches more than all to the Son, Who is the Holy of Holies; therefore she ought to have a greater degree of sanctification after her Son. The degree of sanctification may be understood as fourfold: either that one have sanctity (1) before conception and birth; (2) after conception and birth; (3) in the conception itself and birth; (4) in birth, not in conception. For, 'in conception and not in birth' is impossible. The first degree is not possible, both because personal perfection (like knowledge or virtue) is not transfused from the parents; and also because in children the being of grace cannot take place, before the actual being of nature, upon which it is founded. The second degree is common to all, according to the common law of sanctification through sacraments. The third is peculiar to the Holy of Holies, in Whom Alone all sanctification took place at once, conception, sanctification, assumption. There remains then the fourth. But this has four degrees; because the foetus, when conceived in the womb, may be understood to be sanctified either before animation, or in the animation, or soon after the animation, or long after the animation. The first degree is impossible, because according to Dionysius (de div. nom. c. 12) 'Holiness is cleanness free from all defilement, and perfect and immaculate;' but the uncleanness of fault is not expelled except through 'grace making gracious' [acceptable], as darkness by light, of which grace the reasonable creature only is the subject. The second degree was not suitable to the Virgin, because either she would not have contracted original sin, and so would not have needed the universal sanctification and redemption of Christ, or if she had contracted it, grace and fault could not have been in her at once. The fourth degree also was not suitable to the Virgin, because it did suit John and Jeremiah, and because it did not suit so great holiness that she should have lingered long in sin, as others; but John was sanctified in the sixth month (Luke i.). But the third seems suitable and piously credible, although it be not derived from Scripture, that she should have been sanctified, soon after her animation, either on the very day or hour, although not at the same moment.
(Only the final portion, regarding the suitability of the third condition is provided by Launoy, but I've provided some expanded context.)

7. John XXII (or Benedict XII)

Sermon 1 on the Assumption
She (the Virgin) passed, first, from a state of original sin, second, from a state of childhood to maternal honor, third, from misery to glory.
8. Clement VI

Sermon One of the Lord's Advent (aka "Sigua erunt in sole.")
But before I divide the theme, it seems that that Conception ought not to be celebrated, first, on the authority of Bernard, who, in his Epistle to the Lyonnese [canons], gravely reprehends them, because they had received the feast and held it solemnly. Because no feast ought to be celebrated, except for reverence of the sanctity of the person as to whom it is celebrated, since such honor is shown to saints on account of the [relation] which they have to God above others; but this is on account of holiness; and not actual sin only, but original sin also [separates] from God. But the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin, as many saints seem to say, and may be proved by many grounds. It seems that the Church ought not to hold a festival of her Conception. Here, being unwilling to dispute, I say briefly that one thing is clear, that the Blessed Virgin contracted original sin in the cause. The cause and reason is this, that, as being conceived from the coming together of man and woman, she was conceived through passion, and therefore she had original sin in the cause, which her Son had not, because He was not conceived of seed of man, but through the mystic breathing (Luke i.), 'The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee.' And therefore not to have original sin is a singular privilege of Christ Alone. But whether she had 'in form' original sin, or was by Divine virtue preserved, there are different opinions among Doctors. But however it was, I say, that if, in form and not in cause only, she had original sin, we may still very reasonably keep festival of her Conception, supposing that, according to all most opposed, it was but a little hour that she was in original sin, because according to all she was sanctified as soon as she could be sanctified.
Launoy only provides the portion beginning with "But whether she had 'in form' original sin ...," but I've provided the remainder of the context, so that the sense is reinforced. Note that this too is something that was written before his reign. I have not checked in every case above whether the writing was before or after the man became the bishop of Rome.

- TurretinFan

A Sensible Comment Policy

R. Scott Clark has decided to institute a sensible new comment policy (no comments allowed). I am sure that some people are disappointed that they won't be able to comment on his blog, but he will save oodles of time moderating comments. The only other comments policy that makes sense (for a popular blog, like his) is to be extremely liberal, and permit comments from almost anyone.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Iron Sharpens Iron

Lord Willing, I will be on the "Iron Sharpens Iron" radio program to discuss Dr. White's recent debate with Christopher Ferrara at 8 p.m. EDT / 5 p.m. PDT today (September 2). See the Iron Sharpens Iron website for streaming info and other ways to listen.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sam Shamoun vs. Shabir Ally

In listening to the debate between Sam Shamoun and Shabir Ally (link to debate), I was struck by an odd position implied by Shabir Ally's argument.

Shabir Ally argues that Mark is the first gospel and the other three gospels show evidence of a progressive trend, with John having the "highest" Christology. Indeed, he sometimes even accuses the other synoptic gospels of omitting words or changing words that are found in Mark so as to move toward divinizing Jesus.

On the other hand, forced by Sam Shamoun, he concedes that Mark is not a "Muslim Gospel." So what is Shabir Ally's theory regarding what happened to the Muslim Injeel ("gospel")? That seems to be a tricky problem for Shabir Ally. Why on Earth would the Word of God be completely lost while various revisions of a false gospel be maintained?

Also, why would the earliest Christians have attempted to preserve all four gospels, if they were simply revisions of one another - or if the Christology of Mark were too low? To put it another way, if Matthew were really just an editing of Mark, why wouldn't Mark just be thrown away or suppressed?

There is really not a consistent theory of the textual transmission that makes sense from the Muslim standpoint. Basically, the Christians have to become experts at eliminating the true Word of God (such that it goes out of mention immediately, and none of the proto-Muslims are able to preserve even one copy of the Injeel), but for some reasons the Christians don't eliminate Matthew, Mark, and Luke (or any of them) but maintain them.

Furthermore, the earliest Christians don't even try to hide them - we find references to the four-fold gospel quite early in the patristic literature: Irenaeus died 202 and referred to the fact that the gospels are four in number, and argues that they cannot be more or fewer than four. (link)

- TurretinFan

Monday, August 30, 2010

The White-Ferrara Marian Debate - Some Follow-Up

On Saturday, August 28, 2010, Dr. James White debated Mr. Christopher Ferrara on the topic of Mary's alleged sinlessness and immaculate conception. While the debate audio/video are not (to my knowledge) yet available for purchase, here are a few points that I'd like to address.

1) Does Ineffabilis Deus lie about the patristic testimony?

During the debate, Dr. White brought up the fact that Ineffabilis Deus lies in claiming that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is something that was passed down from ancient times. Mr. Ferrara alleged that the doctrines that were passed down were simply doctrines that form some kind of alleged basis for the doctrine, such as the view of Mary as "the new Eve."

However, Ineffabilis Deus itself states:
And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner -- this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine.
(Ineffabilis Deus)(emphasis added)

From this, it can be seen that the claim "this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine" is in direct reference not to the "new Eve" idea or any other pre-requisite doctrine or interpretation, but specifically in reference to "this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin."

As Dr. White demonstrated during the debate, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception did not always exist, was not a doctrine that was received from the eary patristic period, and is not rightly to be considered a revealed doctrine (just as it was not considered a revealed doctrine in Aquinas' time)

2) Thomas Aquinas' (and Christopher Ferrara's) Reliance on Pseudo-Augustine

During the debate, Christopher Ferrara raised as allegedly a work by Augustine, the work referenced by Thomas Aquinas in the following sentence: "But as Augustine, in his tractate on the Assumption of the Virgin, argues with reason, since her body was assumed into heaven, and yet Scripture does not relate this; so it may be reasonably argued that she was sanctified in the womb." (Summa Theologica, 3rd Part, Question 27, Article 1)

The Cambridge University Press 2006 edition (essentially a reprint of the edition released by the English Dominicans in the 1960's and 1970's) provides the following footnote for that sentence: "Tract on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, in the Preface: PL 40, 1141."

The reference PL 40, 1141 is a reference to column 1141 of volume 40 of Migne's Latin Patrology (PL). In Migne's PL, one finds that Migne has designated this work as "incerti auctoris," meaning that the authorship is uncertain (link to evidence).

Allan Fitzgerald O.S.A., editor of Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, does not include the work in his list of Augustine's works, and the work is usually cited as "Pseudo-Augustine" in works that cite it.

For example, internationally renowned Mariologist (and Marianist priest) Luigi Gambero writes:
The text in question is one mistakenly attributed to St. Augustine, published in PL 40, 1140-48. It has been studied by G. Quandrio, Il trattato "De Assumptione B. M. B." dello Pseudo-Agostino e il suo influsso nella teologia assunzionistica latina, Analecta Gregoriana 7 (Rome, 1951).
- Luigi Gambero, Mary in the Middle Ages, p. 78, footnote 15.

3) Did Augustine Believe in the Immaculate Conception?

Ferrara seemed to assert that Augustine did. Luigi Gambero, however, writes:
There seems no doubt that Augustine considered Mary's exemption from sin to be a great grace. But what sins does he mean? Undoubtedly he excludes any personal sin from Mary. Is it possible to hypothesize that Augustine also intended to exclude original sin? Some scholars think so and make him a forerunner of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. A full treatment of the question would call for a lengthy discussion. To us it seems safer to adopt the contrary position, which is held by many experts and appears more in accord with numerous Augustinian texts.
- Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 226.

Obviously, as noted above, Luigi Gambero is a Mariologist and Marianist priest. I don't accept everything that Gambero says, and neither should anyone. If, however, a scholar were to have a bias to want to find the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as anciently as possible, Gambero would be one to have such a bias. Nevertheless, even he is willing to acknowledge that the evidence favors the position that Dr. White took during the debate, namely that while Augustine may have believed that Mary lacked any actual sin, Augustine believed that Mary had original sin.

4) Sanctified in the Womb Does not Equal Immaculate Conception

Although conception takes place in the womb, a child remains in the womb from conception until birth. As Dr. White pointed out during the debate, even among those in the middle ages who thought that Mary did not have personal sins, there were those who believed that Mary was conceived with original sin, but then purified of it.

Thus, for example, Catherine of Sienna asserted:
The eternal Word, therefore, was given to us by the hand of Mary, and of the substance of Mary He put on nature without the blemish of original sin, and this He did, because that conception was not of man, but made by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This indeed was not so in Mary, because she did not proceed from the mass of Adam by the operation of the Holy Spirit, but of man. And because that whole mass was corrupt, her soul could not be infused but into corrupt nature, nor could she be purified but by the grace of the Holy Spirit, of which grace indeed, a susceptible body is not the subject, but a rational or intellectual spirit, and therefore Mary could not be purified of that blemish, till after her soul was infused into her body, which in truth was so done out of reverence for the Divine treasure, which was destined to be placed in that vessel. For as a furnace consumes a drop of water in a moment of time, so does the Holy Spirit the blemish of original sin: for after her conception she was immediately made clean of that sin by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and was endowed with great grace. Thou knowest, O Lord, that this is the truth.
On the other hand, a woman named Brigitta (known as St. Brigitta among the Roman Catholics) claimed to have a revelation in which Mary said to her:
It is the truth, that I was conceived without original sin, and not in sin.
(source for these conflicting alleged revelations)

As we previously observed, Thomas Aquinas agreed with Catherine of Sienna, and against Brigitta (link to first discussion)(link to second discussion). Incidentally, when you go to the link to that first discussion, you will note Aquinas is trying to rely on Augustine again, but his copy of Augustine seems to have some interpolations. As Dr. White pointed out in the debate, this problem of having an inaccurate and distorted view of the patristic period was something that frequently beset Aquinas.

5) John the Baptist - Sanctified in the womb?

Multiple times during the debate Mr. Ferrara asserted that John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb. He insisted that the Bible taught this, and argued - in essence - that if God did that for John the Baptist, wouldn't have done that for Mary? As a first point, as I've discussed before, it's not clear that John the Baptist is less than Mary (link to some discussion of this issue). Indeed Jesus himself said:

Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Luke 7:28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

But even worse for Mr. Ferrara, the Bible does not say that John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb. What it does say about John the Baptist is this. First, it is prophesied that he will be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb:

Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

Second, it is explained that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, John the Baptist jumped within her womb.

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
Luke 1:44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

Nevertheless, although these very unusual comments are made regarding John the Baptist, there is no statement that John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb.

There is one Old Testament prophet who was described that way: the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

And finally, of course, there is no good reason to think that "sanctified" in Jeremiah 1:5 means "cleansed of original sin" or anything like that. It refers to the fact that he was set apart to be holy all along.

Thus, Paul similarly declares:

Galatians 1:15-17 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Yet it would be foolishness of the worst kind to suppose that Paul was kept sinless from the time he was in his mother's womb. Paul himself declares:

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

And Mary herself recognized that she was one of those sinners by acknowledging God as her Savior:

Luke 1:47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

- TurretinFan

Thomas Ridgley on the Second Commandment

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


Question CVII. Which is the second commandment?

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

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

Answer. The duties required in the second commandment are the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religions worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in bis word, particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ, the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word, the administration and receiving of the sacraments, church government and discipline, the ministry and maintenance thereof, religious fasting, swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship, and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

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

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

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

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

Difference between the First and the Second Commandment.

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

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

The Duties Enjoined in the Second Commandment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sins Forbidden in the Second Commandment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reasons annexed to the Second Commandment.

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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jonathan Cross on the Second Commandment

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

Samuel Fisher on the Second Commandment

The following is extracted from "Exercises on the Heidelberg Catechism: adapted to the use of families, sabbath-schools, and catechetical classes," by Samuel R. Fisher, pp. 180-84

XXXV. Lord's Day.

Q. 96. What doth God require in the second commandment?

A. That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word.


a. Represent, make a resemblance.
b. Images, similitudes; likenesses.
c. Worship, pay divine honors to.


  1. God requires us in no wise to represent him by images. Deuteronomy iv. 23 and 24—Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee. For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. Acts xvii. 29—Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. Romans i. 22 and 23; Isaiah xl. 18.
  2. God requires us not to worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word. Deuteronomy xii. 32—What thing soever I command yon, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. Deuteronomy iv. 2—Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.


What is the ninety-sixth question? Repeat the second commandment. What answer is returned to the question? What do you mean by represent? (a.) What by images? (b.) How do you prove that God requires us in no wise to represent him by images ? (1.) What do you mean by worship? (c.) How do you prove that God requires us not to worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word? (2.)

Q. 97. Are images, then, not at all to be made?

A. God neither can, nor may be represented by any means; but as to creatures, though they may be represented, yet God forbids us to make or have any resemblance of them, either in order to worship them, or to serve God by them.


a. Forbids, prohibits; commands not to do.

b. Resemblance, likeness; similitude.

c. Serve, render homage to.


  1. God cannot be represented by any means. Isaiah xl. 18 and 25—To whom then will ye liken God, or what likeness will you compare unto him? To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal, saith the Holy One ? Isaiah xlvi. 5—To whom will ye liken me and make me equal, and compare me that we may be alike? Deuteronomy iv. 15.
  2. God may not be represented by any means. Deuteronomy iv. 15-18—Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; (for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of fire;) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is in the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth. Romans i. 23.
  3. Creatures may he represented. Exodus xxxv. 30-33— And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; and to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work.
  4. God forbids us to worship the resemblance of creatures. Psalm xcvii. 7—Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols; worship him, all ye gods.
  5. God forbids us to serve him by the resemblance of creatures. Levitucus xxvi. 1—Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: For I am the Lord your God. Deuteronomy xii. 3 and 4.
  6. God forbids us to make the resemblance of creatures, either in order to worship them, or serve God by them. Deuteronomy xxvii. 15—Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.
  7. God forbids us to have the resemblance of creatures, either in order to worship them, or serve God by them. Exodus xxiii. 24—Thou shalt not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shaft utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. Exodus xxxiv. 13 and 14—But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: for thou shalt worship no other God: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Deuteronomy vii. 5.


What is the ninety-seventh question? What answer is returned to the question? How do you prove that God cannot be represented by any means? (1.) How do you prove that God may not be represented by any means ? (2.) How do you prove that creatures may be represented ? (3.) Though creatures may be represented, what does God still say with respect to them? What do you mean by forbids? (a.) What by resemblance? (b.) What by serve? (c.) How do you prove that God forbids us to worship the resemblance of creatures ? (4.) How do you prove that God forbids us to serve him by them? How do you prove that God forbids us to make the resemblance of creatures, either in order to worship them, or serve God by them? (6.) How do you prove that God forbids us to have the resemblance of creatures, either in order to worship them, or serve God by them? (7.)

Q. 98. But may not images be tolerated in the churches, as books to the laity?

A. No; for we must not pretend to be wiser than God, who will have his people taught not by dumb images, but by the lively preaching of his word.


a. Tolerated, allowed: permitted.

b. Churches, houses dedicated to the worship of God.

c. Laity, the people as distinguished from the clergy.


  1. God will not have his people taught by dumb images. Habakkuk ii. 18 and 19—What profiteth the graven image, that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach. Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. Zechariah x. 2—For the idols have spoken vanity. Jeremiah x. 1, etc.
  2. God will have his people taught by the lively preaching of his word. 2 Timothy iii. 16 and 17—All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto, all good works. John v. 39—Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me. Luke xvi. 29—They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. 2 Peter i. 19.


What is the ninety-eighth question? What do you mean by tolerated? (a.) What by churches? (b.) What by the laity? (c.) What answer is returned to the question? What reason is assigned for the answer returned? What is said of God? How do you prove that God will not have his people taught by dumb images? (1.) How do you prove that God will have his people taught by the lively preaching of his word? (2.)