THE FIRST SERMON.
A declaration of the first commandment. To the intent, good children, that you may better understand the law of the ten commandments, you must first of all know, that God gave to Moses the ten commandments, written in two tables of stone: wherefore they are divided in two parts. In the first table were written the three (four) first commandments pertaining to God, which teach us how we should behave ourselves towards God, as well inwardly in heart and mind, as outwardly in words and deeds. In the other table were graven seven (six) precepts pertaining to our neighbours, which teach us how we ought to order ourselves towards our princes, magistrates, and rulers; towards our wives, children, and servants; and towards all states of men; teaching us that we should not be disobedient, that we do wrong to no man, that we hurt no man, that we lie not in wait to kill any man, that we defile not other men's wives, and, to be short, that we hurt not our neighbours, either in body, goods, or good name.
But now let us consider the first commandment, and the declaration of the same, I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other gods but me. This commandment, good children, teaches us how we ought to use our hearts towards God.
First, That we ought to acknowledge with all our heart, that God made heaven and earth and all things contained therein, and to take him only to be the true God, and to be our God.
Secondly, This commandment teaches us to fear him as a living God, because he punishes the ungodly; and to cleave unto him with a sure faith, because he is true and faithful, and does not deceive us in any thing which he hath spoken or promised.
Thirdly, This commandment teaches us to love him with all our heart, for of him we receive our life, our breath, our health, and all other gifts both bodily and spiritual. And we have not the least of his gifts by our deserts, but he pours them all upon us freely, through his infinite goodness and endless mercy.
Contrariwise we ought not to receive into our hearts, as God, any creature either in heaven or in earth; that is to say, we ought to fear no creature, either in heaven or in earth, so much as God. Neither ought we to put such confidence and trust in any thing; neither should we so heartily love any creature, as our Lord God omnipotent. For if we attribute to any creature, so much fear, trust, love, as appertains only to him that made all creatures, we presently make that creature our god, and of it we frame to ourselves an idol; which is a very heinous, an abominable, and horrible sin, directly against the first table, and the first and chief commandment of God.
Therefore such great offences the true and living Lord God will not leave unpunished; for he himself saith, I am the Lord, my title and my name is the Lord, I will not give my glory to another; meaning thereby, that he will not suffer that any other thing should be esteemed as God, besides himself, or that we should give godly honour in heart, affection, word, or deed, to any creature, but only to Him that was never created, and yet did create all things.
But here, peradventure, you will muse, good children, asking this question, How can we have other gods before the Lord, seeing there is but one God, one Lord, who hath made heaven and earth? To this I answer, that indeed there is none other God, but that most excellent and omnipotent Lord. Lay sure hold on this article with a steadfast faith, good children; believe this, doubting nothing therein; cleave surely to this rock. But yet notwithstanding this, fools, infidels, and ungodly men take some other thing for their god, which indeed is not God, nor can be by any means. For, as many times we take some men for honest, rich, or noble, who are not so indeed, so oftentimes we fear something, as much as we do God, which is not God indeed. And of creatures we make gods three manner of ways.
The first is, When a man fears any creature, and thinks thus with himself, If such a thing be taken away from me; if such a great man be angry with me; if I escape not such a danger, then I am utterly undone, then I know not whither to run for aid and succour. Whither then shall I go'! Who shall save or help me? If thou have any such thought of any creature truly in thy heart, thou makest it a god, although with thy mouth thou dost not call it a god. And this affection lies lurking so deeply hid within many men's hearts, that they themselves scarcely feel or perceive it. But this fear ought to be removed far from us. For we must cleave steadfastly by faith to the true and living God, and in all kind of adversity reason on this fashion: Although men of great power be mine enemies; although this or that peril press me very sore; although I see nothing before mine eyes but present death or danger; yet will I not despair, yet will I not mistrust God, yet will I not hurt my soul with sin. For I am sure that this creature, which so sorely persecutes, vexes, or troubles me, is no god, but is under the hand and power of the true living God. I know that one hair of my head cannot be taken away from me, without the will of Him who is only and alone the true living God. He is my Maker, my Lord, and my God. Him will I fear more than the mighty power of any man, more than the crafty imaginations of mine enemies, yea, more
than any creature in heaven or in earth. If I be wrongfully entreated, and suffer unjustly, he can easily deliver me, and so preserve me that no peril shall touch me.
The second way is, When men put their whole confidence in other things than in God, and have these or such like thoughts within themselves,—I would I had such riches or lands; I would such a man were my friend, then should I be rich, happy, and blessed; then should I be sufficiently armed against all chances that may happen to me in this world. They, that think thus, have such riches, lands, and creatures, for a god, although with their tongue they say not so. Yea, although this affection lie hid in our hearts so secretly, that we ourselves should scarcely know of it. But the godly may not suffer any such thoughts to enter into their hearts, but ought thus to reason with themselves : Although I have very great abundance of friends and riches, although I flow in pleasures, honour, and glory, and in all worldly things, which a man can desire; yet by these things I have not true salvation. For these creatures are not God, wherefore they cannot save me; neither deliver me from the tyranny of the devil, or the wrath of God. But the Lord is God alone. If I displease Him, he is able to take all my friends and riches away from me, or else otherwise to bring to pass that all these things shall work my destruction. Wherefore He alone is to be feared, and in him alone we must fasten the anchor of our trust and confidence.
The third way is, When a man so heartily loves and delights in any thing besides God, that for it he does and suffers willingly all things that are to be done or suffered, not greatly regarding whether it pleases or displeases God. Then this man makes this creature, which he so fervently loves, his God, though in words he does not utter it.
But let Christian people weed out from the bottom of their hearts, the roots of such inordinate love of any creature. And let them think after this sort: Wherefore should I offend God for this or that thing? I know that this lucre, or this honour, upon the which I am tempted and do so much set my heart, is not God. It is but a creature which cannot save me, neither deliver me from death, or any other adversity. Wherefore I will love only my God with all mine heart. I will do all things for his sake chiefly, and I will only, above all things, obey him.
Hitherto you have heard, how by these three ways, by fearing, by trusting, and by loving, we may easily make a god of a creature, which indeed is no god, but rather an idol, set up by our own vain fancy. But this is a horrible sin against the first commandment of God, and so much the more perilous, because it lurks in the corners of man's heart most secretly. The world is full of this sin; and especially they that have hypocritical hearts; for all their painted holiness is infected with the rust of these vices. And to the intent that you may the better know these heinous offences against the first commandment, and the sooner avoid them, I will declare them unto you by a few and short examples.
Some there are who do greatly fear the conjunctions and influences of the heavenly planets and bodies above.
Further, There are many that stand in such awe of tyrants, that for fear of them they deny the true word of God.
Some men also put their whole affiance in money, and fancy that those who have plenty of money can lack nothing. Therefore they give themselves wholly to covetousness and to the desire to hoard up riches; they set their mind upon filthy lucre; they scratch what they can, not regarding whether they get by right or by wrong.
Such men worship their riches for their God. But St. Paul, in the 3d chapter to the Colossians, saith, Forsake covetousness, which is a service to idols.
Some set their trust in their own works, thinking that by them they may be delivered from sin, reconciled to the favour of God, justified before him, and by them also to attain eternal salvation. These have their merits and works in the stead of God. This is the greatest idolatry that can be under the sun, and a plain denial of the faith in Christ.
Others there are that be servants to their own bellies, giving themselves wholly to eating and drinking and bodily pleasures; so much so that in comparison with bodily pleasures they either despise, or else forget God. Such men make their belly their god, as St. Paul writes of them, saying, Some there are which, selling the word of God, do teach perversely, whose God is their belly. But that wherein they do now glory shall be their confusion. By these examples you may easily perceive how by too much fearing, trusting, and loving, we make a god of a creature, which indeed is not God.
And besides these abuses, there is another that makes an idol of the true and living God. And that is, when we imagine by our own heads another form and shape of God and his will than is true, and otherwise than he himself has declared to us in his word.
Wherefore, good children, take heed of such imaginations, that you frame not to yourselves within the temple of your hearts any strange god or idol. But suffer the Lord to be your God, for he offers himself very lovingly, and with a fatherly affection, to be your God. Therefore he saith to each of you, I am the Lord thy God, that is to say, I am your Lord and your Father, and I would fain that you should take me for your very God only. If I am your Lord, where is the fear due unto me? Only fear me as your Lord; obey me with all your heart; trust in me; pray to me; call upon me, and love me, good children, as your Father.
It were our bounden duty to pray unto him with most fervent desire that he would vouchsafe to be our God. But his goodness is so much inclined towards us, that he prevents us, and before we desire him he offers himself to us, saying, I am the Lord thy God. Only acknowledge me for God. When he saith, I am thy God, it is as much as if he should say, I will pour all kinds of benefits upon thee: whatsoever kind of adversity troubleth thee, make thy moan to me; whensoever thou lackest any thing, ask it of me. I am not far from thee, I am thy God. At all times I will be present with thee, and I will keep thee in all things.
Now, good children, diligently learn ye this lesson, and grave it in your memories; so you shall love God, and put your trust in him. For this is the meaning of this first commandment, that we ought to fear and love the Lord God above all things, and fasten our hope in him. Wherefore, good children, with all diligence learn you this rule. And when this question shall be demanded of you, How do you understand the first commandment? then shall ye answer thus: In this precept we are commanded to fear and love God with all our heart, and to put our whole trust and confidence in him.
The conclusion. Now ye have heard, good children, in a brief sum, the true, sincere, and plain exposition of the first commandment. Bear away, I pray you, this doctrine, and diligently record it. Walk in the fear of the Lord, that you transgress not these commandments. For whatsoever God biddeth, that is right, just, good, and holy; whatsoever he forbiddeth, that is wrong, unjust, evil, and sin: he himself requires of us to keep his commandments, and not despise them. For he saith, I am the Lord thy God, a strong and a jealous God, which do punish the children that do hate me, even to the third and fourth generation, for the iniquity of their parents. And contrariwise, I do show mercy to a thousand generations of them that love me and keep my commandments. In these words God threatens grievous punishments to all that break these commandments. Wherefore it is our duty to fear his indignation and punishment, and not to provoke his wrath upon us by our disobedience. And on the contrary, he promises his favour and goodness to all them that keep these his commandments. Therefore we ought to love Him, cast our affiance upon him, and obey his commandments. And especially ye, good children, ought to fear God, keep his precepts, and to desire grace and help of him, that you may perform and fulfil them. For the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom, and it makes men godly, and disposes them to all good works. And such, having the favour of God, may profit many both in common and private affairs. Out of this fear of God springs also a good conscience, peace, and quietness of the same, as you have heard out of the psalm which was rehearsed in the beginning of the preface. And if we continue to the end of our lives in this true knowledge and faith of God, then he, over and beside the foresaid benefits, will give unto us life everlasting; the which may He grant unto you, that is blessed for ever. Amen.
(Note, that both the preface and the conclusion, also, of this first sermon should be repeated, the one in the beginning and the other in the latter end, in every sermon made for the residue of the commandments.)
THE SECOND PART OF THE FIRST SERMON.
Ye have heard, good children, in the former sermon, that all manner of idolatry is forbidden by this commandment; Thou shalt have none other gods but me. Where also it was declared unto you how you may commit spiritual idolatry, by over-much fearing, trusting, and loving of creatures. But now I will speak of the most gross idolatry which standeth in worshipping of images, either of creatures or of God himself.
And this idolatry is forbidden by express words in this commandment, where God saith thus; Thou shalt make thee no graven image, nor any likeness of any thing, which is in heaven above or in earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down unto it, nor worship it.
These words, by most interpreters of late time, are made to belong to the first commandment, although, after the interpretation of many ancient authors, they are the second commandment.* In which words it is to be noted, that it is not without great cause that God with such plain and express words, hath forbidden worshipping of images. For he saw that man's corrupt nature, from the first time that he fell from God, has ever been inclined and ready to idolatry, and to bow down to creatures, rather than to look up to God that made him. Wherefore He forbids all occasions of the same.
God did also foresee, that, in the latter days, men should come, who would maintain worshipping of images, not only with painted colours, but also with painted words, saying, We kneel not to the image, but before the image. We worship not the image, but the thing which is represented by the image. We worship not the creatures, but the Creator in the creatures. And such like excuses the greatest idolaters did always pretend. But to the intent that they should not so deceive you, God oftentimes in holy Scripture calls upon you, saying, Thou shalt not make to thee any graven image or likeness of any creature. Thou shalt not kneel, nor bow thyself down to it. For what can be more contrary to the dignity of man, than that he, whom God hath made lord over all creatures, should kneel or do reverence to the image of a creature!
God hath so fashioned man, that he hath given him a body standing straight up, and a countenance to look upward into heaven. And why then should he bow himself downward to the earth, or to creatures made of earth, which are rather to be trodden under his feet, than to be worshipped of him? There is nothing more against reason, than that he who hath life, sense, and reason, should worship a thing which can neither see, feel, move, hear, nor understand. Wherefore God saith plainly, Thou shalt not worship images; that is to say, Thou shalt not gild them and set them in costly tabernacles, and deck them
* They are so, restored by most of the Protestant churches.
with coats or skirts: thou shalt not cense them, make vows or pilgrimages to them, set candles before them, and offer unto them. Thou shalt not kiss their feet, and bow down unto them.
For God saith; I am a jealous God, and will not give my honour to any creature, but will grievously punish them that break this my commandment. Yea, I will punish their children and posterity unto the third and fourth generation.
And this indignation of God against idolaters has, at sundry times, been showed by grievous punishments, for our examples.
For Solomon's idolatry the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were divided; and thereof did ensue a continual discord between those two kingdoms. And, for idolatry, God commanded Moses to hang the captains of the people; and of the people were slain twenty-four thousand. And the books of the Judges, Kings, and the Prophets, are full of like histories, how Almighty God, for idolatry, was offended with the Israelites, and gave them into the hands of their enemies, and into the subjection and bondage of all nations about them, who did persecute and kill them. And when they, in their afflictions, cried unto the Lord, he refused them, saying, Go and cry to the gods you have chosen, will they save you in the time of your necessity?
What greater punishment can there be than this, to be cast away from God, when we have most need of his help and comfort? And in Deuteronomy, Almighty God commanded by his prophet Moses, saying, Cursed be he that shall make a graven or molten image, abominable before the Lord, the work of an artificer's hand, and shall set it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.
Here you see, how he is accursed of God that sets but one image in a secret corner of his house to worship it. But much more danger it is to set up images in the temple of God, which is the open and common place to honour the only living God.
For as it is forbidden to have any strange gods, so is it also forbidden to have any image of the true living God. And if any will say, that it is forbidden to make an image of God to the intent to worship it, but I do not worship it, nor have it for that intent, but only that it may stir me to the remembrance and knowledge of God: to this I answer, that God forbids the making of his image, lest this peril should follow, that thou shouldst worship it. Therefore thou dost offend although thou dost not worship it, and that not only, because thou doest it against God's word and commandment, but also because thou puttest thyself wilfully in very great peril and danger; especially seeing, that of our corrupt nature we are most highly inclined to idolatry and superstition, as experience, from time to time, hath taught us, even from the beginning of the world. And here appears the abuse of our times which, following rather the fancy of carvers or painters, than the word of God, have set up in churches the image, as they call it, of the Trinity, where they portrayed God the Father like an old man, with a long hoary beard. And what can simple people learn hereby but error and ignorance? Have not many thought that God the Father is a bodily substance, and that he hath a face and beard, hands and feet, because they see him so painted? And for this consideration, saith Augustine, it is a detestable thing for Christian men to have any such image of God in the church; whereby it appeareth that in Augustine's times there were no such images in Christian churches, but that it is an invention of the papists, brought in of later years, which brings us not unto the true knowledge of God, but leads us into errors and ignorance of God.
If you will lift up your minds to God, good children, to know his divine majesty, his infinite power, wisdom, goodness, and his other godly perfections; look not upon a deaf, dumb, blind, lame, and dead image, made by a painter or carver's hands: but look upon heaven and other creatures made by God's own handiwork; look upon man, who can speak, see, smell, hear, feel, and go, and hath life, will, and reason, and whom no man, but God himself, made to be his lively image and similitude.
We have also the holy Scriptures, which declare unto us the wonderful works of God, by which things we may be led to the knowledge of God, without painted or carved images. Now, peradventure, some will say, that Christ hath a body, and so likewise have saints, and therefore of them we may have images, although of God there can be made no image. And further, they will say, that the cause why images were forbidden, was peril of idolatry and worshipping of them. So that where there is no such peril we may have images.
Yet, as I will not utterly deny but they may be had, so I think it more convenient for Christ's religion that they should be taken out of Christian men's churches, than that they should be placed in the temple of God. And of this my opinion, I will show you certain good grounds, to the intent that when you are demanded, why we Englishmen have no images in our churches, you may be able to make thereunto a reasonable answer. And that also, in time to come, you may declare to your children what abuses have crept into the church by the occasion of images; that if any man shall hereafter go about craftily to bring in images again for his own lucre sake, they may the sooner perceive his juggling, and so the better avoid the peril and danger.*
First, It is certain that we neither have commandment, counsel, nor example of the Scripture, nor of the primitive church in the apostles' time, nor many years after, to set up images in our churches. As it may appear by the holy man, Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, a man of great estimation, eleven hundred years since, for his great learning and virtue. He, in an epistle which he wrote to the bishop of Jerusalem, which epistle Jerom translated out of Greek into Latin, writes, that as he passed the country about Jerusalem, he found in a church a cloth painted, having the image of Christ, or of a saint. And when I saw, said he, an image of a man hang in the church of Christ, contrary to the authority of the Scripture, I cut it in pieces, and counselled them to bury some poor dead man therein. And afterwards he wrote to the bishop of Jerusalem, that he should command all the priests not to suffer such images, being contrary to our religion, to hang in the church of Christ. Whereby it appears that in those days images were not allowed to be set up in churches among Christian men, yea, although it were the image of Christ, or any saint, but that the usage of images began after that time.
And if we will believe ancient histories, images were brought into churches by the policy and force of the bishops of Rome, many good Christian emperors withstanding the same to their power. But idolatry, by the bishops of Rome, prevailed, and seduced many Christian realms.
Moreover, many images teach nothing else but erroneous and superstitious doctrine. For instance, what teaches
* See the third part of the homily against Idolatry.
the picture of St. Michael weighing souls, and our Lady putting her beads in the balance? Forsooth, nothing else but superstitiousness of beads, and confidence in our own merits and the merits of saints, and nothing in the merits of Christ.
For whereas our good works be not able to weigh against the devil, our Lady must lay her beads in balance, that is to say, will-works devised of our own brains, not commanded of God, and by them to save us: which doctrine is very false and injurious to Christ. What did the image of St. Sunday* teach? But that Sunday was a holy man, according to which teaching beggars asked their alms for Saint Sunday's sake. But I will leave to speak of the evil doctrine which was taught by images, and I will declare unto you that images have been so abused, that all the goodness which might come by them, was never comparable to the great ignorance and blindness, the superstition and idolatry, which have been brought in and committed by means of them. The which abuses, good children, your own fathers, if you ask them, can well declare unto you. For they themselves were greatly seduced by certain famous and notorious images, as by our lady of Walsingham, our lady of Ipswich, St. Thomas of Canterbury, St. Anne of Buxton, the Rood of Grace, and such like; whom many of your parents visited yearly, leaving their own houses and families. To them they made vows and pilgrimages, thinking that God would hear their prayers in that place, rather than in another place. They kissed their feet devoutly, and to them they offered candles and images of wax, rings, beads, gold and silver abundantly. And because they, that so taught them, had thereby great advantage, they maintained the same with feigned miracles and erroneous doctrine, teaching the people, that God would hear their prayers made before this image, rather than before another image, or in another place; whereas the prophet Isaiah saith, that God doth hear those that are truly penitent in every place alike. But, peradventure, some will say, They did never teach us to kneel to the image, but before the image. But who, I pray you, gave them commission to teach you to kneel before the image? If you make your prayers to God, why lift you not both your eyes and hands to heaven where
* Probably St. Dominic, the originator of the inquisition! He was the founder of an order of begging friars.
God is? Why look you rather upon the walls, upon stocks and stones, than thitherward, where you know He is, to whom you make your prayers? What needest thou, who art the image of God, to kneel before the image of man?
Again, they that are grieved with taking down of images out of the churches, will perchance say, We worshipped not the image, but the saint, whom the image did signify. And who, I pray you, commands you after this fashion to worship any saint? Why should we give that honour to saints, now after their death, which they themselves, when they were alive, did utterly refuse? If a Christian man, although he were indeed a very holy man and a living saint, should set himself upon an altar in the church, you would say to him, Come down, sir, that is no place for you to stand in. And why should then dumb images stand there, when they are dead, where thou canst not suffer the true images and members of Christ and lively saints to be placed? Peter refused to be worshipped of Cornelius, and likewise did Paul and Barnabas to be honoured of men; and the angel also refused to be honoured of a man, forasmuch as special honour and service appertains only to God.
Nevertheless, in civil honour and service we are subject to kings, princes, parents, masters, and all superiors, to honour and serve them of duty, as God requires of us. But all these things cease after their death; and they that will say they neither worship images, nor the saints in images, but God only in the saints and images, they pretend the same excuse that the heathen idolaters did: for they said likewise, that they worshipped not blocks nor stones, but God in them; and yet they were great idolaters.
It is not also taught you in all the Scripture that you should desire St. Rock to preserve you from the pestilence, to pray to St. Barbara to defend you from thunder or gunshot, to offer to St. Loy a horse of wax, a pig to St. Anthony, a candle to St. Sithe. But I should be too long if I were to rehearse unto you all the superstitions that have grown out of the invocation and praying to saints departed, wherewith men have been seduced, and God's honour given to creatures.
Thus, good children, I have declared how we were wont to abuse images; not that hereby I condemn your fathers, who were men of great devotion, and had an earnest love towards God, although their zeal in all points was not ruled and governed by true knowledge; but they were seduced and blinded partly by the common ignorance that reigned in their time, partly by the covetousness of their teachers, who abused the simplicity of the unlearned people to the maintenance of their own lucre and glory. But this have I spoken to show you how crafty the devil and his ministers have been, even of late time, to allure Christian men to idolatry, under the pretence and title of devotion, holiness, and religion; that you, being warned of such abuses, may the better know and avoid them, in case at any time Satan or his messengers would entice you into such superstition again. For if mariners, who have passed the dangers of the seas, and are safely entered into the haven, are naturally moved to show to such as sail to those places from whence they came, what perils they shall pass by, and how also they may avoid the same; how much more ought we, that have already passed the deep seas and dangers of superstition, to warn you, good children, of these perils, and to teach you, who are now, as it were, entering into the troublesome seas of this world, how you may avoid these so great dangers. And it is very necessary for preachers at all times to admonish, exhort, and call upon you to avoid this most heinous and detestable sin of idolatry. For not only the prophets in tho Old Testament were very earnest to call upon the Jews to avoid this sin of idolatry, but the apostles also are very diligent to dissuade Christian men from the same. And we have too much experience in the world, that of images cometh worshipping of them and idolatry. For Augustine, upon the 113th psalm, affirms, that simple men are more moved and stirred to bow down to images and worship them, because they have mouths, eyes, ears, noses, hands, and feet, than they are moved to contemn them, although they perceive they can neither speak, see, smell, feel, nor go.
It cannot be said that images are necessary, for then we condemn the apostles and all the holy men in the primitive church; yea, and Christ himself also, because they used no such thing: nor yet that they be profitable, for if they had, either Christ would have taught it, or the Holy Ghost would have revealed it unto the apostles, which they did not. And if they did, the apostles were very negligent that would not make some mention of it, and speak some good word for images, seeing that they speak so many against them. And by this means antichrist and his papists had more knowledge or fervent zeal to give us godly things, and profitable for us, than had the very holy saints of Christ, yea, more than Christ himself and the Holy Ghost. Now forasmuch, good children, as images are neither necessary nor profitable in our churches and temples, nor were used at the beginning in Christ's nor the apostles' time, nor many years after, and that at length they were brought in by bishops of Rome against the emperor's power; and seeing also that they are very slanderous to Christ's religion, for by them the name of God is blasphemed among the infidels, Turks, and Jews, who, because of our images, call Christian religion idolatry and worshipping of images. And forasmuch also, as they have been so wonderfully abused within this realm to the high contumely and dishonour of God, and have been a great cause of blindness and of much contention among the king's majesty's loving subjects, and are likely so to be still, if they should remain; and chiefly seeing God's word speaks so much against them, you may hereby right well consider what great causes and grounds the king's majesty had to take them away within his realm; following herein the example of the godly king Hezekiah, who brake down the brazen serpent when he saw it worshipped, and was therefore greatly praised of God, notwithstanding, at the first, the same was made and set up by God's commandment, and was not only a remembrance of God's benefits, before received, but also a figure of Christ to come. And not only Hezekiah, but also Manasseh, and Jehosaphat, and Josiah, the best kings that were of the Jews, pulled down images in the time of their reigns.
So good children, you have heard the true meaning of these words; Thou shaft make to thee no graven image, thou shaft not bow down and worship the same. I pray you engrave them deeply in your memories, that when you are demanded what is meant by the words heretofore rehearsed, you may answer, This commandment forbids all kind of idolatry, as well bodily as spiritual, and inhibits us to give the honour which is due unto God, to any creature, or image of creature; but to worship God alone.
And now note further, good children, to the intent we should honour only God and obey him, that he saith, He is the Lord our God, in whom are all good things, and of whom we have all. He saith also, that he is strong and of such force, that he can punish us at his pleasure, if we disobey him. Moreover, he calls himself jealous, because he can abide no companion; but as a man, the more pure and chaste he is, the more he is grieved, if he perceive his wife to set her love upon any other, even so is God, who hath taken us to be his spouse, if he see us denied with filthy idolatry. Furthermore, he saith, that he will avenge his majesty and glory, if any man will translate them unto any creature, picture, or image; and that with such vengeance, that it shall extend unto their children, nephews, and nephews' children. Like as on the other side he promises his mercy and goodness to their posterity that keep his law and commandments. Employ therefore your whole hearts and minds to his precepts, good children, and eschewing all idolatry or honouring of carvings or paintings, give to God alone, his due honour and glory, now and from henceforth, world without end. Amen.
THE SECOND SERMON.
You have heard the declaration of the first commandment, in which we are taught how we ought to behave ourselves towards God in our hearts; now follows the second (third) commandment, which is this:
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for he shall not he guiltless in the sight of the Lord, that taketh his name in vain.
This commandment, good children, teaches us how we ought to behave ourselves towards God in words, bidding us not to speak of the name of God in vain, or without great cause, but to use it only when it tends to the praise and glory of God, and to the profit of our neighbour; that every man may perceive by our words and communication, that we in our hearts do reverently and humbly fear, magnify, and worship God and his holy name. For by this, our good example, other men are excited and encouraged to glorify the name of God. And, contrariwise, when in scoffing and jesting we lightly abuse the name of God, then other men are offended, and thereby also are made more irreverent towards God, and consider less of God and godly things, and so by this means we burden ourselves with another man's sin. For Christ saith in the gospel of St. Matthew, the eighteenth chapter, He that giveth cause of offence to any of the weak brethren, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and so drowned in the bottom of the sea. Wherefore, I pray you, diligently beware that you give no such kind of offence to your brethren. Wherefore ye shall now learn how the name of God is taken in vain, to the intent you may the sooner avoid this sin. For the name of God is taken in vain divers ways.
The first is, when men give the title and name of God to those things which are not God indeed. As the heathen called the sun, the moon, and the stars, gods; also they called certain men, as kings and tyrants, gods; and as the Jews did, who made a calf of gold, and said, This is the god which brought us out of Egypt. And this, good children, is so heinous a fault, that God, in the Old Testament, commanded him to suffer death that should commit this sin; and if any city had so offended, he willed the same city to be burned and utterly destroyed, and all that were found therein to be killed. Therefore let us diligently avoid this offence, or else God will horribly punish us.
The second way of taking the name of God in vain, is, when we forswear ourselves, or swear deceitfully, either in common judgment, or in our daily affairs and communication, intending thereby to deceive our neighbour. Wherefore, you must diligently take heed, that you use not to swear lightly, through an evil custom, but do as Christ teaches us. Let your communication be yea, yea, and nay, nay. But when necessity drives you to an oath, or the public officer commands you to swear, then be not forsworn, but speak the truth, and faithfully perform and observe that which you have sworn. And if it shall befal, that any of you in time to come, when you shall come to man's estate, be called to any office in the commonwealth, beware that you give no cause nor occasion to others to make oath unnecessarily. For whatsoever sin is committed by such oaths, that God imputes to the officer who exacts the same, and not to the subjects who are bound to obey, not only for fear of punishment, but also for conscience sake.
Thirdly, We abuse the name of God, not only in vain, but also very ungodly, when, with horrible cursing and damning by the name of God, we wish to others the vengeance of God. Which sin now in our time is most used. Insomuch that now-a-days you shall hear not only men, but also women and children, outrageously curse and damn both themselves and others, saying many devilish curses and wishes ;* which offence is not only abominable before God, but also so shameful before the world that good Christian ears abhor to hear such heinous blasphemy. For St. Paul, in the second chapter of the epistle to the Philippians, writes thus; In the name of God all knees do bow down, both in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, that is to say, not only angels and men do worship our Lord and God Jesus Christ, but also the damned spirits and devils in hell do quake at his name, and by their trembling do declare that they most reverently acknowledge the name of his majesty. But these more than devilish swearers, damners, and cursers, without reverence to the most honourable name of God, without courtesy or bowing to him, who with a beck makes all the world to shake, do blow and bluster out of their ungodly mouths such blasphemies, that by the same they do not only highly dishonour God, but also wish to their neighbours all kinds of miseries, plagues, and adversities that can be imagined; whereas our duty is to love our neighbour, and wish well to him as to ourselves. Now consider, what a great wickedness it is to wish evil things to men by the name of God, seeing that by this name we ought to desire and pray for all good things, both to ourselves and to our neighbours. sense to their evil purpose; or when men make a trifle or a laughing sport of the words of holy Scripture. This abuse gives rise to a contempt of the word of God, and it corrupts or diminishes the authority of God's doctrine.
Wherefore, when ye hear any man using such spiteful curses and blasphemies of God's name, doubt not, but that he in the deed is worse than the devil himself. For the devil, when he hears God named, trembles thereat, and dares not so irreverently behave himself to that most holy name; whereas those wretched and most ungodly persons, show no fear or reverence thereto at all. But ye, good children, take heed that you accustom not yourselves to such kind of blasphemies. And when you shall hear others outraging with such horrible curses, fly from them as from pestilence, and think thus with yourselves; I will convey me out of this naughty company, lest, peradventure, I also may be infected with this contagious custom of swearing and cursing, and so may be made at length more abominable in this point than is the devil himself.
Fourthly, The name of God is taken in vain, when men abuse the word of God, purposely making false expositions upon holy Scripture, and wresting the same from the .true
* It is not necessary to repeat the instances here given. Though the imprecations differ from those now unhappily so frequent, they were the same in effect, and equally to be abhorred.
Fifthly, They do misuse the name of God, who abuse it to charms, witchcraft, sorceries, necromancies, enchantments, and conjurings. And this is not only a great sin, but a thing of its own nature most vain and foolish. For persuade yourselves this thing for a surety, good children, that all kind of witchcraft is of its own nature nothing else but lies, guiles, and subtleties, to deceive ignorant and simple men, as many have proved by experience to their great loss and utter undoing. Wherefore, beware of them, believe them not, do not learn them; neither fear that any other man's enchantments are able to hurt you.
Wherefore, good children, fear the Lord, and take not his holy name in vain. Beware of idolatry, forswear not, abstain from oaths and curses, refrain your tongues from all untruths, railings, scoffs, and jests, when you talk of holy Scripture, or matters concerning religion; flee from all kind of witchcraft and enchantments. For to this commandment God has added a special threatening, saying thus: He shall not be guiltless before the Lord, that taketh his name in vain.
Believe surely, good children, that these are very weighty words and of great importance; and think not thus with yourselves, What! is this so great a matter? I spake not these words in earnest, but in sport. I pray you, for Christ's sake, do not defend your fault with such excuses, but beware that you take not in vain the name of God, either in earnest or in sport. For the holy name of God is to be worshipped with all honour and religion; and he that does not obey this commandment, him the Lord shall not count guiltless, but shall punish him grievously. And when God punishes, he sends among us sicknesses, pestilence, hunger, dearth, battle, robberies, sedition, manslaughter, and suchlike; with these plagues he takes vengeance on our sins. Therefore we ought to fear his wrath, and not to take his name in vain.
Hitherto you have heard five ways, whereby we may take the name of God in vain; now it shall be declared to you how you should rightly and duly use the name of God. Consider, that we are professed into our religion, and baptized by the name of God: wherefore, good children, listen diligently to this lesson, and learn that we ought to use the name of God three ways, by invocation and calling upon him, by confession of his name and his word, and by thanksgiving.
First, We are bound in all our necessities and perils to call upon the name of God; to fly to him for succour, with all our hope and confidence; and not to run to witchcrafts, charms, sorceries, and such like vanities. For God himself saith, Call upon me in the day of thy tribulation, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. Here you hear, good children, that God commands us to call upon him, and not upon any other creatures besides him; and he saith in express words, Call upon me in the time of thy tribulation, in adversity, when thou art in need and danger. Wherefore no man should despair, whatsoever kind of afflictions befall him, but pray for help from heaven, and call upon the name of the Lord, who by his mighty and strong hand is able, and by his fatherly affection will deliver and help us, whatsoever and how great soever affliction and temptation overwhelm us; and therefore he saith, I will hear thy prayer.
Here mark, good children, that it is your bounden duty to pray to God, and that they do sin heinously who do not pray; wherefore, ye shall learn the Lord's Prayer, which Christ himself taught and appointed, and ye shall say it daily. For this commandment binds us to pray; forasmuch as it forbids the abuse of God's name, and commands his name to be used reverently and religiously. But we can give no greater honour to God's name than to call upon him, and with all our heart to pray to him; wherefore they keep not this commandment who do not daily pray.
Secondly, We must confess the name of God—that is to say, we ought openly to show and declare our faith and belief in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, and not to deny him, although the world would hate us therefore— yea, although tyrants would torment us most cruelly. For Christ has comforted us, and said, Fear not them that kill the body, and have no power to slay the soul. And in another place he saith, One hair of your head shall not perish without the will of your Father; wherefore let us not be afraid, but let us profess openly before all the world, the name and word of God and our faith. Furthermore, every man in his vocation ought to teach and instruct others, that, as much as lieth in us, all may come to the
knowledge of the truth, and when we do not this, then we sin and shall be damned, if we in time repent not. For Christ saith, I say unto you, whosoever confesseth me before men, the Son of man shall also confess him before the angels of God; but he that will deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God.
Thirdly, We ought to praise and magnify the name of God, and to thank him for all his benefits, both bodily and spiritual, which he hath given unto us, and ceases not daily and hourly to pour upon us most liberally. For so the Lord hath commanded in the Psalms, saying, Call upon me in the day of thy tribulation, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt honour and glorify me. Here you perceive, good children, that God our heavenly Father hears our prayers, and heaps upon us infinite benefits, for this cause, purpose, and intent, that we should be glad and joyful to praise him, and with all our heart render thanks unto him. Wherefore, whensoever we pray, before we ask any new benefits, we ought to thank him for the old, and to glorify his name for the great treasures of gifts heretofore given unto us. And by this means, both He will be the more willing to hear our prayers, and also our faith shall be the more strengthened and confirmed. For when we call to our remembrance, how God oftentimes heretofore hath heard our supplications, and delivered us out of many and perilous dangers, we are thereby moved the less to doubt of his goodness, and steadfastly to hope that he now also will be as merciful unto us, as he was wont to be in times past. Therefore, saith the prophet David, I will call upon the Lord, praising him, and he will save me from mine enemies. Now therefore, good children, ye shall learn this lesson, and practise it diligently; first of all to praise and thank God for all his benefits, and afterwards to call upon him in all your necessities. So God will be more ready to hear your petitions, and your faith also thereby shall be the more nourished and increased. For he that will truly and effectually pray, before all others must believe and persuade himself for a surety that God will hear his prayer.
Wherefore, good children, now I pray you learn so to understand this commandment, that ye take not the name of God in vain, that ye give not yourselves to idolatry, that ye swear not customably, nor without a necessary cause, that ye never commit perjury, that ye curse nobody, that ye abuse not the name and word of God to untruth, unclean, and unhonest communication, that ye apply not your minds to witchcraft and sorceries. For these faults as yet never escaped unpunished before God. Contrariwise, ye shall reverently use the name of God to his glory, and to the profit of your neighbour, by calling upon him, by praying and giving thanks unto him, and by open profession of his doctrine and religion.
And when ye shall be demanded, How understand ye this commandment? ye shall answer, We ought to love and fear God above all things, and not to abuse his name to idolatry, charms, perjury, oaths, curses, ribaldry, and scoffs. That under the pretence and colour of his name we beguile no man by swearing, forswearing, and lying, but in all our needs we should call upon him, magnify, and praise him, and with our tongues, confess, utter, and declare our faith in him and his doctrine.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Thomas Cranmer on the Second Commandment & Third Commandments
From Cranmer's Catechism, The Ten Commandments:
at 2:18 PM