Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thomas Scott on the Second Commandment

The second commandment. Verse 4. This commandment requires us to render to the Lord our God a worship and service, suited to his perfections, and honorable to his name. His incomprehensible nature cannot be represented by any similitude.—The most exquisite painting or sculpture can only give an external resemblance of a man: even animal life, with its several functions, cannot be thus exhibited, much less can a likeness be made of the soul and its operations. How dishonorable then must be every attempt to represent the infinite God, 'by silver or gold, graven by art and man's device!' The general disposition of mankind to form image's of the Deity, proves that low apprehensions of Him are congenial to our fallen nature; and the practice has exceedingly increased the grossness of men's conceptions concerning Him. The more stupid of the heathen alone worshipped the picture or image itself; others used it as a visible representation of the invisible Numen, or Deity: and all that ingenious papists have urged, in behalf of their images, is equally applicable to Israel's worship of the golden calves, or to that rendered by the Ephesians to 'the image of Diana which fell down from Jupiter.'—A material image of the Deity is likewise an affront to the Person of Christ, the only adequate 'Image of the invisible God:' and the worship of saints and angels, as mediators and present deities, by images, in every respect robs Him of his mediatorial glory.—The commandment does not prohibit the making of images and pictures, for other purposes, as some have ignorantly supposed: for God commanded several of these to be made even in the construction of the tabernacle: but the making of them, in order to men's bowing down before them, and worshipping them; and, in this case, both the maker and the worshipper of the image are involved In the guilt. The prohibition Includes every kind of creature, because all are utterly unfit to represent the infinite Creator: and there are some devices common among us, as emblematic of the Trinity, which do not accord to the strictness of this injunction.—But the spiritual import of the commandment reaches much further. Superstition of every kind is an evident violation of its spirit and intent: and so are all human appointments in religious worship, when at all relied on as acceptable with God. The use of things indifferent in religion, without command from God, leads men's minds to gross conceptions of Him; as if He delighted in that outward splendor, or those external forms, which excite in them lively but false affections, that are often mistaken for devotion: and it is commonly connected with a false dependence; it substitutes something else in the place of the appointments of God, and it tends to the usurpation of authority over men's consciences.—But, many circumstances of worship must be regulated by human discretion: every man therefore should judge for himself, which regulations lend to these evils, and which do not; and be candid in judging such as differ from him.— Hypocrisy and formality, arising from unworthy apprehensions of God, together with all unscriptural delineations of the divine character, are certainly here prohibited: for men, forsaking the light of revelation, and 'not liking to retain God in their knowledge,' frame notions of a deity according to their own opinions of excellence, warped by their predominant vicious inclinations , and then dignify this creature of their fancy with the title of the Supreme Being. But this object of their love and worship, is altogether unlike 'the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;' especially in respect of justice and holiness, being in general deemed so clement that He cannot hate or punish sin.—The Jews of old supposed they worshipped the God of their fathers, yet they were declared by our Lord neither to have known nor loved Him; nay, in 'hating the Son, to have hated the Father that sent Him:' and it will at lust be proved in this case also, that the worshippers of these ideal deities were as real idolaters, as they who adored the work of their own hands. In short, the second commandment requites us to conceive of God, in all respects, as far as we are able, according to the revelation which He has made of Himself to us: to realize his glorious presence to our minds, by faith, not by fancy: and to worship Him as a Spirit 'in spirit and truth;' not with corporeal representations of Him before our eyes, or low conceptions of Him in our minds; but sincerely, inwardly, with the most fervent affections, and profound reverence of his infinite majesty; in all his appointed ordinances, and in them alone; and with constancy and frequency, as performing a service reasonable in itself, and most pleasant to our own souls, as well as most honorable to his great name.
Thomas Scott (1747-1821)