All around us are children who as they study the Sunday School lessons from the gospels, feel their tender hearts drawn out to love Jesus, to confide in him, to follow him though unseen. And for us all, however mature and instructed, it would assuredly be the best fruit of the historical spirit, the summit of true philosophy, the crown of all culture, to read afresh these gospel records with the simplicity of a little child, and learn to love and confide in Jesus.
There are some things that look as if they were necessary, are very often recommended as helpful, and often employed as helps, that turn out to be dangerous and erroneous. Why can't we use pictures and statuary as helps to devotion? Why can't we employ them as proper means of making the thought of our Saviour near and dear to us? Well, in all the ages of the world, the heathen have tried this. An educated young Hindoo, some years ago, educated in England, wrote an essay in which he complained bitterly that the Hindoos were accused of worshipping images, and quoted Cowper's beautiful poem entitled, "My Mother's Picture":
“O, that those lips had language!
Years have passed since thee I saw."
And he says, the picture of the poet's mother brought close and made real the thought of one long dead. That is the way, he said, that we use images. But that is not the way that the great mass of men use images in worship. They have often meant that at the outset; but how soon it degenerated and was degraded, and these things that were meant as helps to worship dragged down the aspirations of human hearts, instead of lifting them up! But, it seems to me, if I were to employ such helps in our time, persuading myself that they would be good, that I should feel it was wise to go back to the old ten commandments that we teach our children to repeat, and cut out the second commandment, that expressly forbids the use of graven images, because it necessarily leads to idolatry. I should cut that out. You can inquire, if you are curious to do so—and I say it in no unkindness—you can inquire whether those Christians in our own time and country who employ pictures and statuary to-day as helps to devotion have mutilated the ten commandments. They were obliged to leave out that which their little children would say was forbidding what they do.
Aye, the world has tried that experiment widely and in every way, and it is found that though you might think that pictures and statuary would be helps to devotion, they turn out to be hurtful. They may help a few; they harm many. They may do a little good; they do much evil.—John Broadus