Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Psalms of David in Metre, Psalm 106:19-25

19 Upon the hill of Horeb they
an idol-calf did frame,
A molten image they did make,
and worshipped the same.
20 And thus their glory, and their God,
most vainly changed they
Into the likeness of an ox
that eateth grass or hay.

21 They did forget the mighty God,
that had their saviour been,
By whom such great things brought to pass
they had in Egypt seen.
22 In Ham's land he did wondrous works,
things terrible did he,
When he his mighty hand and arm
stretch'd out at the Red sea.

23 Then said he, he would them destroy,
had not, his wrath to stay,
His chosen Moses stood in the breach,
that them he should not slay.
24 Yea, they despis'd the pleasant land,
believed not his word:
25 But in their tents they murmured,
not heark'ning to the Lord.
(The Psalms of David in Metre, Psalm 106:19-25)

Monday, December 14, 2009


Phil Johnson on the Second Commandment

Phil Johnson, the executive Director of Grace to You, is against purported images Christ. Listen to Johnson's sermons on the Second Commandment -- "No Graven Images" and "A Jealous God" -- here. And a followup "Jealousy, Judgment, Justice" downloadable here.

I hope Johnson will remove the popish idolatry from the Spurgeon Archive's banner. I hope Johnson will correct John MacArthur on his endorsement of idols (link to MacArthur's comments and error on images/idols). And I hope Johnson will correct his Pyromaniacs friend Dan Phillips from using purported images of Christ.

Monday, August 31, 2009

James Durham on the Second Commandment

Read James Durham's commentary on the Second Commandment here (from The Law Unsealed: or, A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mark Dever - No Idols

Listen to Mark Dever's sermon No Idols - Deuteronomy 5:8-10. Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

Here is a quote from my transcription of part of the sermon:

But there is an even more subtle, more perverted perhaps, abuse, which these idols may suggest. Certainly this prohibition of idols prohibits the worship of other 'gods', but it also forbids the worship of Yahweh, the true God, in the wrong way. You see, these idols can not only be pictures of false 'gods', they can also be false pictures of the true God.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A.W. Pink, The Second Commandment, & Gleanings From Exodus

Here is A.W. Pink's commentary on the the Second Commandment from his work called The Ten Commandments: 2. The Second Commandment. Thanks to Providence Baptist Ministries.

And here is Pink's Gleanings From Exodus, which can be read here (at Providence Baptist Ministries).

Several quotes from Pink's Gleanings From Exodus:
Two is the number of witness, and in this second commandment man is forbidden to attempt any visible representation of Deity, whether furnished by the skill of the artist or the sculptor. The first commandment points out the one only object of worship; the second tells us how He is to be worshipped—in spirit and in truth, by faith and not by images which appeal to the senses. The design of this commandment is to draw us away from carnal conceptions of God, and to prevent His worship being profaned by superstitious rites.
From The Righteous Judge:
"And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount" (v. 19). A most appalling spectacle was spread before these servants of God. The very people who had only recently bowed before the manifested majesty of Jehovah, were now obscenely sporting around the golden image of a calf. In holy indignation Moses dashes the tables of stone to the ground, just as in the days of His flesh the Lord Jesus "made a scourge of small cords" and drove out of the Temple those who had desecrated His Father’s house; and just as in Revelation 1 He is seen with "His eyes as a flame of fire" (v. 14).

"And Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." This affords a most striking illustration of what is said in James 2:10, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Israel had offended "in one point." God had said to them: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth be-hearth, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them (Ex. 20:4, 5). This they had disobeyed, and the law being a unit, they are guilty of all"—hence the breaking of the two tables to show that the ten commandments, as a whole, had been violated.

"And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it" (v. 20). Some of the so-called "higher critics" with their customary skepticism have called into question the reference to Moses strawing the powder upon "the water;" but if these men would but take the trouble to "search the Scriptures," they would find that the Holy Spirit has granted light upon this point, though not in this chapter (for the Bible does not yield its meaning to lazy people), but in another book altogether. In Deuteronomy 9:21 we read, "I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount." What that "brook" was that "descended out of the mount" Exodus 17:6 tells us.

Moses’ actions here in grinding the idol to powder, strewing it upon the water, and making the children of Israel drink thereof, are very solemn. The Christian is bidden to keep himself from idols (1 John 5:21), which, we need scarcely add, covers very much more than bowing down to graven images. An "idol" is anything which displaces God in my heart. It may be something which is quite harmless in itself, yet if it absorbs me, if it be given the first place in my affections and thoughts, it becomes an "idol." It may be my business, a loved one, or my service for Christ. Any one or anything which comes into competition with the Lord’s ruling me in a practical way, is an "idol." And if I have set up an idol, then God, in His faithfulness and love, will break it down; not If I sow to the flesh, then of the flesh I must reap corruption (Gal. 6:8).
Concerning the Third Commandment:
God requires that the majesty of His holy name be held inviolably sacred by us. His name must be used neither with contempt, irreverently, or needlessly. It is striking to observe that the first petition in the prayer the Lord taught His disciples is, "Hallowed be thy name!" The name of God is to be held profoundly sacred. In our ordinary speech and in our religious devotions nothing must enter that in anywise lowers the sublime dignity and the highest holiness of that Name. The greatest sobriety and reverence is called for. It needs to be pointed out that the only time the word "reverend" is found in the Bible is in Psalm 111:9 where we read, "Holy and
reverend is His name.' How irreverent then for preachers to style themselves
Searching words:
It is in the very character of man's nature (that which distinguishes him from and elevates him above the beasts) which has made his fall his ruin. It has been rather vulgarly said that "Man is a religious animal," by which is meant that man, by nature, is essentially a religious creature, i.e., made, originally, to pay homage to his Creator. It is this religious nature of man's which, strange as it may sound, lies at the root of all idolatry. Being alienated from God, and therefore ignorant of Him, he falls the ready dupe of Satan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

J. Marcellus Kik's "PICTURES OF CHRIST"

“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 below, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”—Exodus 20:4-6

In this second commandment we are forbidden to make any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. We are forbidden to bow down to them or to serve them. Now the question has been asked whether or not this commandment forbids the use of pictures of Christ. Naturally the commandment forbids the bowing down before such pictures and worshipping them. There can be no question of that. But in many Protestant churches and in many evangelical churches pictures of Christ are used in teaching and in the homes of Christians pictures of Christ are hung up to remind them, I suppose, of Christ. Is that Scriptural? Does it meet with the approval of God? Is it sinful? It is another way of breaking the second commandment?

No doubt, if I state that the use of pictures of Christ is unscriptural: that it does not meet with the approval of God: that it is sinful; and that it is a breaking of the second commandment—I will be considered a fanatic, a reactionary, and perhaps not quite normal. But before you have such unkind thoughts, please hear me out. If we are Christians, our service and worship will be regulated by the Word of God. The Bible is our infallible guide in faith and worship. Now here is the surprising thing. Nowhere in the Bible, either in the Old Testament or New Testament, is there a physical description of Christ. Isn’t that strange if God wanted to use the picture of Christ in spreading the Gospel or in worship, that we are not told whether Christ was tall or short, fair or dark, light or dark hair, blue eyes or brown eyes?

With all their love for the Lord you would think that Peter or John would have given a description of Him unless, of course, they were forbidden. They wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Surely it is significant that neither they nor any other of the Scriptures gave a physical description of the Lord. Surely if God desired the use of pictures of Christ to further the cause of Christ He would have had a physical description of His Son in His Word. Why should we consider ourselves wiser than God and provide what he has deliberately left out?

The second amazing fact is that in the first four centuries of the history of the Church, no picture of Christ was used. These were the years when the Church made her most astonishing growth. These were the years in which the Christians conquered pagan Rome. It is so frequently stated that we need pictures of Christ to teach the Gospel. The apostle Peter did not need pictures of Christ to instruct the young or bring the Gospel to adults. The apostle John did not need pictures of Christ to convert pagans and instruct the Church. The apostle John did not need pictures of Christ to convert Barbarians and Greeks. The early church did not need pictures of Christ to conquer paganism. They accomplished it by preaching the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

When pictures were first introduced they were opposed. The Church historian Eusebius who lived in the fourth century declared himself in the strongest manner against images of Christ in a letter to Empress Constantia who asked him for such an image. Amongst other things Eusebius wrote: “Who can therefore counterfeit by dead and insensible colors, by vain shadowing painter’s art, the bright and shining glistering of such His glory? Whereas His holy disciples were not able to behold the same in the mountain; who therefore, falling on their faces, acknowledged they were not able to behold such a sight.”

Here Eusebius touches on on of the reasons why it is impossible to have a true picture of Christ. If you want a picture of Christ do you want it as He was upon earth or as He is now in heaven? If you want a picture of Him as He was upon earth, you have quite a problem. There was no picture of Him painted. The so-called picture of Christ which are present today are from the imaginations of the artists. That is why there are so many different pictures. Not one of them is a true picture. So every time you say this or that is a picture of Christ, you are uttering a lie. You cannot teach truth by a lie. Christ is the Truth and surely He would not want the use of a false means to point to Him. Christ abhors lies and falsehoods.

How would you like it if someone who never saw you painted a picture and told everyone that it was a picture of you? Cerainly, you would resent it. And certainly Christ must resent all those counterfeit pictures of Him.

But supposing you wanted a picture of Christ as He is now. The disciples had such a vision of Him on the mount of transfiguration. We read in Matthew 17:2, “And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” This was the glorified Christ. No artist could give us a picture of Christ which would show the glowing of Christ’s face as the sun and His raiment as white as the light. They would only rob Christ of His glory by miserably falling short of a true painting of Christ in His present glory.

But someone will state that at least we can depict the humanity of Christ as He appeared upon earth. But who are we to separate His humanity from His divinity! The apostle John states in his Gospel, chapter 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Notice that the apostle states that even while Christ was in the flesh they beheld His divinity as well as his humanity. This, one cannot paint. So one must not behold His humanity as separate from His divinity. Then one falls into the ancient error of Nestorius. He stated that Christ consisted of two persons: one human and the other divine. There was, according to Nestorius, a separation between the human and the divine persons.

That was the ground on which the Council called by Constantine V condemned paintings of Christ. You see, this question of pictures of Christ was the subject of controversy throughout the eight century. So Constantine called a council in 753 of three hundred and thirty bishops. Their conclusion was this: “If any person shall divide human nature, united to the Person of God the Word; and, having it only in the imagination of his mind, shall therefore, attempt to paint the same in an Image; let him be holden as accursed. If any person shall divide Christ, being but one, into two persons; placing on the one side the Son of God, and on the other side the son of Mary; neither doth confess the continual union that is made; and by that reason doth paint in an image the son of Mary, as subsisting by himself; let him be accursed. If any person shall paint in an image the human nature, being deified by the uniting thereof to God the Word; separating the same as it were from the Godhead assumpted and deified; let him be holden as accursed.”

This council points out the difficulty and indeed the impossibility of painting a portrait of Christ. Christ is more than man. He is God-man. It is impossible to depict by a painter’s brush the almighty power of Christ; the glorious majesty of Christ; the infinite knowledge of Christ. You cannot localize by a painter’s brush the everywhere presence of Christ. One can only succeed in degrading Christ. When one considers the deity of Christ it is no wonder that the apostles did not attempt a physical description of their Lord and Savior. There is always, also, the danger of worshipping the picture of Christ and attaching power to it. Even a Protestant publishing firm stated that there is power in a picture of Christ. It is stated: “When one plants deeply and firmly in his mind the picture of Christ, it has a strong and powerful influence in his life.” Thus instead of attributing this influence to Christ and the Holy Spirit they attribute it to the picture they are trying to sell. That is a breaking of the second commandment.

But can it not help in the saving of souls, it is asked. But how? Looking at a picture of Christ hanging upon the cross tells me nothing. It does not tell me that He hung there for sin.It does not tell me that He is the Son of God. Only the Word of God does that. And it is the Word of God that has been given us to tell the story of salvation through the blood of Christ. It is not through the foolishness of pictures that sinners are converted but through the foolishness of preaching.

It is amazing how slowly unscriptural practices enter the Christian Church. We must at all times go back to the Scriptures. The Bible is our infallible guide. And if our practices and doctrines do not conform with the teachings of the Scriptures, then we must eliminate them. The Bible instructs the Church not to make any likeness of Christ. The present day pictures of Christ are false and no one would make a serious claim that they resemble Christ upon earth. They separate His humanity from His deity. They do not at all give us a glimpse of his present glory. They are not condoned by the inspired apostles. God has ordained the foolishness of preaching to evangelize the world. He has promised to attend the preaching of the Word with the power of the Holy Spirit. The so-called pictures of Christ are a hindrance and a temptation to idolatry. Let us cleanse the Temple of God from them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The True Christian's Love to the Unseen Christ

Read Thomas Vincent's The True Christian's Love
to the Unseen Christ
here (GraceGems).

Also, listen to Robert McCurley's sermon "Love for the Unseen Christ" here (SermonAudio.com)


Don't forget to read Thomas Vincent on "What is forbidden in the Second Commandment?" and Horatius Bonar's sermon (blogged in a different post) "Faith in an Unseen Christ" here (GraceGems).

Sunday, May 31, 2009

John Hooper on the Second Commandment

John Hooper's early works are available here. Hooper on the Second Commandment:

Thou shalt make thee no image, or any similitude of things in heaven above, in earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not worship nor honour them: for I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, punishing the iniquity of the fathers in the children that hate me, in the third and fourth generation.

IN the first commandment we learned that God is the only and sole God, and that we should not think nor feign any other besides him. Further, that commandment expresseth, what this our one God is, and how affectionated or minded towards us, full of mercy, and ready always to succour and aid both soul and body in all affliction: sheweth us further, how we should honour and reverence this our almighty and merciful God: so that the end and whole sum of the first commandment is, that only God would be known of his people to be God and honoured as God. So doth God first instruct the mind and soul of man, before he require any outward work or external reverence; or else all together were hypocrisy, whatsoever shew or perfection it seemeth to have in the eye of the world. He layeth therefore the first commandment as a foundation of all true religion, as the original and spring of all virtue, and openeth the well and fountain of all mischief and abomination in these words: "Thou shalt have no strange gods before my face." This second precept, and the two other that follow in the first table, teacheth us how to honour God in external religion or outward works, and to shew the fear, faith, and love, that we bear unto God in our hearts unto the world.

Two of these last commandments sheweth what we should do; and the third, which I now expound, what we should not do. The purpose, end, and will of this second commandment is, that God's pleasure is unto us, that we should not profane or dishonour the true religion or honour of God with superstitious ceremonies or rites, not commanded by him. Wherefore, by this second commandment he calleth man from all gross and carnal opinions or judgments of God, the which the foolish and ignorant prudence and wit of man conceiveth, where as it judgeth without the scripture; and forbiddeth external idolatry, as in the first internal.

This commandment hath three parts. The first taketh from us all liberty and licence, that we in no case represent or manifest the God invisible and incomprehensible with any figure or image; or represent him unto our senses, that cannot be comprehended by the wit of man nor angel.

The second part forbiddeth to honour any image.

The third part sheweth us, that it is no need to represent God unto us by any image.

Moses, Deut. iv. giveth a reason of the first part, why no image should be made: "Remember," saith he to the people, "that the Lord spake to thee in the vale of Oreb. Thou heardest a voice, but sawest no manner similitude, but only a voice heardest thou." Esay, cap. 40, 41, 45, 46. diligently sheweth what an absurdity and undecent thing it is, to profane the majesty of God incomprehensible with a little block or stone; a spirit with an image. The same doth Paul, Acts xvii. The text therefore forbiddeth all manners of images, that are made to express or represent Almighty God.

The second part forbiddeth to honour any image made.

The first word, "honour," signifieth to bow head, leg, knee, or any part of the body unto them, as all those do that say they may with good conscience be suffered in the church of Christ. To serve them is to do somewhat for their sakes, as to cense them with incense, to gild, to run on pilgrimage to them, to kneel or pray before them, to be more affectionate to one than to the other, to set lights before them, with such-like supersition and idolatry. God be praised! I may be short or write nothing at all in this matter, because such as I write unto, my countrymen, be persuaded already aright in this commandment.

The second part sheweth us, how idolatry proceedeth and taketh place in men's conscience. The mind of man, when it is not illuminated with the Spirit of God, nor governed by the scripture, it imagineth and feigneth God to be like unto the imagination and conceit of his mind, and not as the scripture teacheth. When this vanity or fond imagination is conceived in the mind, there followeth a further success of the ill. He purposeth to express by some figure or image God in the same form and similitude that his imagination hath first printed in his mind; so that the mind conceiveth the idol, and afterward the hand worketh and representeth the same unto the senses.

Therefore God first forbiddeth this inward and spiritual idolatry of the mind, when he saith, "Thou shalt have no strange gods before my face." If the mind be corrupted, and not persuaded aright, then followeth the making of images, and after the honouring of them. The cause therefore of external idolatry is internal and inward ignorance of God and his word, as Lactantius writeth in his book of the Original of Error. As it cannot be otherwise, but where as the air is corrupted, there must follow pestilence and infection of the blood, Galen. Lib. I. De Diff. feb. cap. 5.; so where the mind is not purely persuaded of God, must follow this gross and sensible idolatry, that would honour God in an idol.

The original cause why they are made, is that man thinketh God would not be present to help him, except he be presented someways unto their carnal eyes; as the example of the Israelites declareth, that required Aaron to make them gods that might lead them in their journey. They knew right well that there was but one God, whom they knew by the miracles that he wrought among them; but they thought he would not be present and at hand with them, except they might see him in some corporal figure and image, and that the image might be a testimony of his presence. So see we, that no man falleth into this gross idolatry, but such as be first infected with a false opinion of God and his word; then, say they, they worship not the image, but the thing represented by the image. Against whom writeth Sain Augustine, in Psalm cxviii. and cxiii., in the 4th book of the City of God, cap. 5, that "images take away fear from men, and bring them into error. The ancient Romans more religiously," saith he, "honoured their gods without images."

Seeing there is no commandment in any of the both testaments to have images, but, as ye see, the contrary; and likewise the universal catholic and holy church never used images, as the writings of the apostles and prophets testify: it is but an ethnick verity and gentiles' idolatry to say God and his saints be honoured in them, when that all histories testify, that in manner for the space of five hundred years after Christ's ascension, when the doctrine of the gospel was most sincerely preached, was no image used. Would to God the church were now as purely and well instructed, as it was before these avaricious ministers and dumb doctors of the lay people were made preachers in the church of God! Read Augustine, Epist. xlix. et Psal. cxiii. Therefore Saint John biddeth us not only beware of honouring of images, but of the images' selves.

Thou shalt find the original of images in no part of God's word, but in the writings of the gentiles and infidels, or in such that more followed their own opinion and superstitious imaginations than the authority of God's word. Herodotus Lib. II. saith, that "the Egyptians were the first that made images to represent their gods." And as the gentiles fashioned their gods with what figures they listed so doth the Christians. To declare God to be strong, they made him the form of a lion; to be vigilant and diligent, the form of a dog; and, as Herodotus saith, Lib. II., Mendesii formed their god Pana with a goat's face and goat's legs, and thought they ddi their god great honour, because among them the herdmen of goats were had in most estimation.

So doth those, that would be accounted Christians, paint God and his saints with such pictures as they imagine in their fantasies: God, like an old man with a hoary head, as though his youth were past, which hath neither beginning nor ending; Saint George, with a long spear upon a jolly hackney, that gave the dragon his death-wound, as the painters say, in the throat; Saint White, with as many round cheeses as may be painted about his tabernacle. No difference at all between a christian man and gentile in this idolatry, saving only the name. For they thought not their images to be God, but supposed that their gods would be honoured that ways, as the Christians doth.

I write these things rather in a contempt and hatred of this abominable idolatry, than to learn any Englishman the truth. For my belief and hope is, that every man in England knoweth praying to saints and kneeling before images is idolatry, and instruments of the devil to lead men from the commandments of God; and that they are appointed in many places to be as doctors to teach the people: these doctors and doctrine the bishops and pastors shall bewail before the judgment-seat of God at the hour of death; and likewise the princes of the world, whose office is daily to read and learn the scripture, that they themselves might be able to judge the bishops' doctrine, and also see them apply the vocation they are called unto. It is not only a shame and an undecent thing for a prince to be ignorant, what curates his subjects hath through all his realm; but also a thing so contrary unto the word of God, that nothing provoketh more the ire of God against him and his realm, than such a contempt of God's commandment.

The third part declareth, that it is no need to shew God unto us by images, and proveth the same wit hthree reasons. First, "I am the Lord thy God," that loveth thee, helpeth thee, defendeth thee, is present with thee: believe and love me, so shalt thou have no need to seek me and my favourable presence in any image.

The second reason, "I am a jealous God," and cannot suffer thee to love any thing but in me and for me. When we two were married and knit together, for the love that I bore unto thee I gave thee certain rules and precepts, how in all things thou mayst keep my love and good-will towards thee; and thou promisedst me obedience unto my commandments. Exod. xix. So honour me and love me, as it standeth written in the writings and indentures written between us both. I cannot suffer to be otherwise honoured than I have taught in my tables and testament.

The their reason is, that God revengeth the profanation of his divine majesty, if it be transcribed to any creature or image; and that not only in him that committeth the idolatry, but also in his posterity in the third and fourth generation, if they follow their father's idolatry; as I "give mercy into the thousandth generation," when the children follow their father's virtue. Then to avoid the ire of God, and to obtain his favour, we must use no images to honour him withal. This ye may read, Num. xii. Jer. xxxii. and Esa. xxxix., how king Hezekiah's sons lost their father's kingdom, and were carried into captivity for their father's sin. Read the xiii. xiv. and xvth chapters of Deuteronomy, and see how Moses interpretateth this second commandment more at large.

God's laws expulseth and putteth images out of the church, Exod. xx. Deut. v.: then no man's laws should bring them in. As for their doctrine they teach the unlearned, it is a weak reason to stablish them withal. A man may learn more of a live ape than of a dead image, if both should be brought into the school to teach.

John Murray's "Pictures of Christ and the Second Commandment"

Pictures of Christ and the Second Commandment

John Murray (1898-1975)

The question of the propriety of pictorial representations of the Saviour is one that merits examination. It must be granted that the worship of Christ is central in our holy faith, and the thought of the Saviour must in every instance be accompanied with that reverence which belongs to his worship. We cannot think of him without the apprehension of the majesty that is his. If we do not entertain the sense of his majesty, then we are guilty of impiety and we dishonor him.

It will also be granted that the only purpose that could properly be served by a pictorial representation is that it would convey to us some thought or lesson representing him, consonant with truth and promotive of worship. Hence the question is inescapable: is a pictorial representation a legitimate way of conveying truth regarding him and of contributing to the worship which this truth should evoke?

We are all aware of the influence exerted on the mind and heart by pictures. Pictures are powerful media of communication. How suggestive they are for good or for evil and all the more so when accompanied by the comment of the spoken or written word! It is futile, therefore, to deny the influence exerted upon mind and heart by a picture of Christ. And if such is legitimate, the influence exerted should be one constraining to worship and adoration. To claim any lower aim as that served by a picture of the Saviour would be contradiction of the place which he must occupy in thought, affection, and honour.

The plea for the propriety of pictures of Christ is based on the fact that he was truly man, that he had a human body, that he was visible in his human nature to the physical senses, and that a picture assists us to take in the stupendous reality of his incarnation, in a word, that he was made in the likeness of men and was found in fashion as a man.

Our Lord had a true body. He could have been photographed. A portrait could have been made of him and, if a good portrait, it would have reproduced his likeness.

Without doubt the disciples in the days of his flesh had a vivid mental image of Jesus' appearance and they could not but have retained that recollection to the end of their days. They could never have entertained the thought of him as he had sojourned with them without something of that mental image and they could not have entertained it without adoration and worship. The very features which they remembered would have been part and parcel of their conception of him and reminiscent of what he had been to them in his humiliation and in the glory of his resurrection appearance. Much more might be said regarding the significance for the disciples of Jesus' physical features.

Jesus is also glorified in the body and that body is visible. It will also become visible to us at his glorious appearing "he will be seen the second time without sin by those who look for him unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28).

What then are we to say of pictures of Christ? First of all, it must be said that we have no data whatsoever on the basis of which to make a pictorial representation; we have no descriptions of his physical features which would enable even the most accomplished artist to make an approximate portrait. In view of the profound influence exerted by a picture, especially on the minds of young people, we should perceive the peril involved in a portrayal for which there is no warrant, a portrayal which is the creation of pure imagination. It may help to point up the folly to ask: what would be the reaction of a disciple, who had actually seen the Lord in the days of his flesh, to a portrait which would be the work of imagination on the part of one who had never seen the Saviour? We can readily detect what his recoil would be.

No impression we have of Jesus should be created without the proper revelatory data, and every impression, every thought, should evoke worship. Hence, since we possess no revelatory data for a picture or portrait in the proper sense of the term, we are precluded from making one or using any that have been made.

Secondly, pictures of Christ are in principle a violation of the second commandment. A picture of Christ, if it serves any useful purpose, must evoke some thought or feeling respecting him and, in view of what he is, this thought or feeling will be worshipful. We cannot avoid making the picture a medium of worship. But since the materials for this medium of worship are not derived from the only revelation we possess respecting Jesus, namely, Scripture, the worship is constrained by a creation of the human mind that has no revelatory warrant. This is will worship. For the principle of the second commandment is that we are to worship God only in ways prescribed and authorized by him. It is a grievous sin to have worship constrained by a human figment, and that is what a picture of the Saviour involves.

Thirdly, the second commandment forbids bowing down to an image or likeness of anything in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. A picture of the Saviour purports to be a representation or likeness of him who is now in heaven or, at least, of him when he sojourned upon the earth. It is plainly forbidden, therefore, to bow down in worship before such a representation or likeness. This exposes the iniquity involved in the practice of exhibiting pictorial representations of the Saviour in places of worship. When we worship before a picture of our Lord, whether it be in the form of a mural, or on canvas, or in stained glass, we are doing what the second commandment expressly forbids. This is rendered all the more apparent when we bear in mind that the only reason why a picture of him should be exhibited in a place is the supposition that it contributes to the worship of him who is our Lord. The practice only demonstrates how insensitive we readily become to the commandments of God and to the inroads of idolatry. May the Churches of Christ be awake to the deceptive expedients by which the archenemy ever seeks to corrupt the worship of the Saviour.

In summary, what is at stake in this question is the unique place which Jesus Christ as the God-man occupies in our faith and worship and the unique place which the Scripture occupies as the only revelation, the only medium of communication, respecting him whom we worship as Lord and Saviour. The incarnate Word and the written Word are correlative. We dare not use other media of impression or of sentiment but those of his institution and prescription. Every thought and impression of him should evoke worship. We worship him with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God. To use a likeness of Christ as an aid to worship is forbidden by the second commandment as much in his case as in that of the Father and Spirit.

Reprinted from the Reformed Herald, February, 1961.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thomas Boston, the Unseen Christ, & the Second Commandment

Read Thomas Boston's OF THE SECOND COMMANDMENT here.

On the gospel being an object of faith, not of sight:

The matter of a report is something unseen to them to whom the report is made. And so is the matter of the gospel-report. It is an unseen God, John i. 18; an unseen Saviour, 1 Pet. i. 8; and unseen things, 2 Cor. iv. 18, that are preached unto you by the gospel. So the gospel is an object of faith, not of sight; Heb. xi. 1. We receive it by hearing, not by seeing; Isa. lv. 3. It is not what we credit on our eye-sight, but upon the testimony of another, viz. of God. Hence the carnal world are fond on seen objects; Psalm iv. 6. but slow to believe the gospel.

—Thomas Boston

Also, below is a section from Boston's An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion, with Respect to Faith and Practice. It can be downloaded and read here.
IV. I go on to shew what are the bonds of this union, whereby Christ and believers become one. All corporal union is made by contact ; but Christ is in heaven, and we on earth, and so we can have no such union with him ; and if we had, what would it profit? John vi. 63. But this union is spiritual, 1 Cor. vi. 17. and so are the bonds of it. And they are two.

1 . The Spirit on Christ's part, whereby he apprehendeth, taketh and keepeth hold of us, 1 John iii. ult. The same infinite Spirit that dwells in Christ, he communicates to his elect in their effectual calling, Ezek. xxxvi. 27. So that one Spirit living and acting in both, in Christ as the head, and in believers as the members, they truly become one by that means. And the distance betwixt Christ and believers, as great as is betwixt heaven and earth, cannot hinder the joining of our souls and bodies to his, since the Spirit is an infinite Spirit, every where present. And seeing the same Spirit is in both, they are thereby made really one, notwithstanding of the distance; even as if there were a man, who, standing on the earth his head should reach the stars ; yet since one soul animates his head and feet, notwithstanding df the distance betwixt them, (as well as those of the lowest dwarf), they do still make but one body. And as in the case of a tree-leg fixed to the body, and touching upon it, it is not for all that a part of the body, because it is not animated by the soul : so, on the other hand, where one spirit is in two, there is a real union, although these two do not touch one another, as in the case of Ezekiel's wheels, Ezek. i. 21. All which shews that there is nothing contrary to reason in this union.

2. Faith on the believer's part, Eph, iii. 17. 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.' Thereby the believer apprehends, takes, and keeps hold of Christ. It is by that we receive Christ, John i. 12. come unto him, John vi. 35. and feed on him, ver. 56. This faith is that true one, whereby a sinner heartily receives and rests on Christ for all his salvation. And no distance can hinder it to ascend unto the Mediator.
Now, since Christ cannot be seen with our eyes, nor touched with our hands, while he is in heaven and we are on earth, and that he is not known to us but by his word of the gospel, what other way can we unite with him, but believing on this unseen Christ? So that faith is the only mean on our part. And its fitness for this work appears, if ye consider,

(1.) That faith is a self-emptying an creature-emptying grace, throwing off and putting away all those things that might keep the soul at a distance from Christ, Phil. iii. 8. And,

(2.) It is as much fitted to receive an unseen Christ and salvation, which appears to us only in the word, as the hand to receive what can be received into it. For in the word Christ offers himself and all his salvation to us, which we cannot lay hold of by any bodily action whatsoever ; but faith crediting the testimony, consenting to, and resting on the offered Christ, with his salvation, does actually get the same, as sure as there is truth in the word of the gospel.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Puritan's Mind

Here are two very helpful links, concerning the Second Commandment and idolatry, from A Puritan's Mind: Seeing Jesus and Graven Images.