Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Matthew Hole's Discourses on the Second Commandment

Exodus xx. 4, 5, 6.
Thou shalt not make to thy self any graven Image, nor the Likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or in the Earth beneath, or in the Water under the Earth: 'Thou shalt not bow down to them., nor worship them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the Iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children, to the third and fourth Generation of them that hate me, and shewing Mercy to thousands, in them that love me, and keep my Commandments.

GOD Almighty having in the First Commandment settled the true Object of divine Worship, and confin'd it wholly to himself, in opposition to all manner of Idols or false Gods; he proceeds in this Second Commandment to direct us in the right manner of performing it: which is not by any Images or visible Representations of him, but in a more spiritual manner, and in a way suited to his Nature and Will. This is the Design of these words, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven Image, &c.

Now this Commandment being Negative, I must consider sirst what is forbidden, and then what is commanded in it. I begin then with what is forbidden, and that is chiefly these two Things, the Making, and the Worshipping of any graven Image. For the

First, We are here expresly forbidden to make to ourselves any graven Image, or the Likeness, &c.

Not that all making of Images, Pictures or Representations of any Creature is hereby prohibited, or that the Trade of the Painter, Carver or Engraver are simply unlawful, as some have vainly imagin'd: for we find some Images made and appointed by the order of God himself, as the Cherubims, the golden Mice, the brazen Serpent, and the like; and Moses ascribes the Skill of Aholiab and Sezaleel, in working the Work of an Engraver, to the Holy Spirit of God, Exod. 35. 31. So that all Images or Representations of things are not here absolutely forbidden, for that would condemn all Pictures or Likeness of any Thing, and render our very Coin unlawful.
But the Images here forbidden to be made, are Images of God, or Representations of the Divine Nature, which being spiritual and immaterial, may not be represented by any Bodily Shape; yea, God being infinite and incomprehensible, cannot be represented by, or thought to be inclos'd in any Image, without debasing and disparaging of him. And therefore the Prophet asks the question, To whom will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare to him? Isa. 40. 18. The Apostle wills us not to think the Godhead to be like unto Gold or Silver, or Stone graven by the Art and Invention of Men, Acts 17. 29. And much less to change the Glory of the incorruptible God into an Image made like to corruptible Man, to Birds, or four-footed Beasts, or creeping Things; Rom. 1. 23.

There is such a vast disproportion between an Image and the Divine Nature, that we cannot liken one to the other without belying and affronting it: for since an Image can only be made of Corporeal Things, and such as are finite and corruptible, to make an Image of God, is to bring down that infinite Being to the scantiness and dimensions of a finite Creature, and in effect to deny the Spirituality and Incorruptibility of his Nature. And therefore we find a very strict Charge given to the Israelites against this Imagemaking, 'Deut. 4. 15. 'Take good heed unto yourselves, for you saw no Image in the day when the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the Fire, that you corrupt not yourselves, and make you a graven Image. And in this Commandment we have an express Prohibition of making any Likeness of God by any thing, either in Heaven above, as by the Sun, Moon and Stars; or in the Earth beneath, as by the Fowls of the Air, the four-footed Beasts or creeping Things; or in the Water under the Earth, by the Fish, or any thing that walks through the Paths of the Sea ; no, nor yet by the Likeness of Man, the Lord of all these. For tho God made Man in his own Image, yet Man is not to make God in his, by reason of the infinite distance and disproportion between them: and tho he be sometimes describ'd in Scripture with Eyes, Hands and Arms, and the like, yet this is merely in compliance with our Infirmities, and is spoken after the manner of Men, and is to be understood in a way becoming the Divine Majesty' but cannot warrant the making any Image of him, or picturing him in a human Shape, which is to prostitute our Maker, and to think him such a one as ourselves: yea, this is to confine Ubiquity to a place, to circumscribe Immensity, and to degrade the Deity to the Properties and Infirmities of Human Nature. We may not then represent God in a bodily Shape, or form false Apprehensions of him in our Mind, by making him like ourselves; the first thing forbidden in this Commandment.

Secondly, As we may not make, so much less are we permitted to worship any Image or Representation of God, 'Thou shalt not bow down to it, or worship it; where we have mention made of a twofold Worship: The one

External, consisting in the outward Reverence and Bowin g of the Body. The other

Internal, in the inward Worship and Reverence of the Mind. Both which are here forbidden to be given to any Image.

1. We are forbidden to give any bodily Worship to Images, by bowing or falling down to them; Thou shalt not bow down to them. The Israelites were strictly charg'd not to serve other Gods, or bow themselves unto them. And such were sharply reprov'd, that bowed the knee to Baal, or fell down before any Idol. The Idolatry of the Heathens is frequently set forth by the Gestures of Incurvation, Prostration, Geniculation, and other visible Acts of bodily Reverence us'd to their false Deities; which being Tokens of the inward Delight and Devotion of their Minds towards them, were Invasions of God's Prerogative, and therefore strictly prohibited by him. But,

 2. The internal Worship and Reverence of the Heart, is here chiefly forbidden to be given to Images ; for this is to make them Gods, and to give the Glory due to God only, to the Works of Mens Hands, which is Idolatry to be abhor'd of all Christians.

3. Not only the worshipping of Images, but of God by them, is here forbidden in this Commandment. The worshipping of false Gods, is the Idolatry condemn'd in the first Commandment; the worshipping the true God in a false way, is the Idolatry forbidden in this. The ruder and more barbarous Nations, that mistook the Object of Worship, and paid it to Stocks and Stones, were guilty of the former; some of the wiser and more knowing among the Heathens, who when they knew God, yet glorified him not as God, were guilty of the latter: these two are in Scripture stil'd Idolaters, as we read in the first Chapter to the Romans, where these wiser Heathens are charg'd with it, because tho they knew God by the Creation of the World, yet they worship'd him in a way unsuitable to his Nature, namely, by Images and corporeal Resemblances of him; changing his Glory. into the Similitude of Men, Beasts, and Birds: and tho they did not terminate their Worship in the Images, but only serv'd God by them, it being impossible for the wiser part of them to take that for a God or Maker of the World, which they either made with their own Hands, or saw made with their own Eyes; yet their serving of God this way so unworthy of him, is in Scripture call'd Idolatry. This, some Persons in the World may do well to consider, who worship God much after the same way, and seek to salve it with the same Distinctions.

'Tis most certain that there is a peculiar and incommunicable piece of Homage due to the great Creator of all Things, upon the account of his infinite and adorable Perfections, and our great Obligations to him: this is what we call Divine Worship, and is challeng'd by God himself in the Old Testament, and confin'd to him by our Saviour in the New, in thofe words; 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And tho they who give some of this elsewhere, as upon Images and other Things, would excuse it by making these things not the Objects of Worship, but only Means and Helps to direct and carry it farther, even to God himself; yet 'tis to be fear'd that too much of it falls by the way on the Image, and that God is ,robb'd of all that miscarries, or falls beside him. And therefore to prevent this, I shall proceed, in the

 Next place, to the Sanction by which this Prohibition is, enforc'd: and that is taken,

Partly, from God Almighty's Jealousy and Tenderness for his Honour; For I the Lord thy God, am a jealous God. And partly, from his just Indignation and severe Punishment ef those that violate and invade it; Visiting the Iniquities of the Fathers upon the Children, unto the third and fourth Generation of them that hate me. For the

First, The Jealousy of God is a sufficient Affrightment from offering this kind of Affront or Indignity to him: for if the Jealousy of a Man be justly to be dreaded of all that give occasion for it, because it stirs up the highest Resentment of such a violation of his Honour, and arms him with a more than ordinary Courage to vindicate it; and tho the cause of it be Love, yet the effect is commonly Revenge and Ruin; for which reason, Solomon styles Jealousy the Rage of a Man, Prov. 6. 34. certainly the Jealousy of God, who is more tender of his Honour, and far more able to repair it, is much more to be dreaded by all wilful Invaders of it.

That God is thus tender and jealous in this Case, impatient of any Rival, and will not admit any Sharers with him in the Love and Honour we are to pay him, himself hath frequently told us: I am the Lord ('saith he by the Prophet Isaiah) this is my Name, and my Glory will I not give to another, nor my 'Praise to graven Images; Isa. 42. 8. In this Commandment he adds, I am the Lord thy God, in Covenant with thee, having betroth'd thee to myself, and singled thee out to set my Love upon thee, and therefore will not bear the invading of my Honour, nor suffer thee to go a whoring after other Vanities: By this, Idolatry appears to be a spiritual Adultery, a Violation of the Love and Duty we owe to our Maker, express'd in Scripture by committing Fornication against him j and is therefore laid to provoke the Lord to Jealousy.

Now the Jealousy here ascrib'd to God must not be taken for such a disquieting vexatious Passion, as is wont to ruffle and discompose Mankind in such Cases; for that is not compatible with the divine Nature; but must be understood by way of Accommodation and Similitude, signifying that God will stand affected towards the Breakers of this Law, as Men are wont to be that are edg'd on and enrag'd by Jealousy; and will deal with them as one mov'd with that violent Passion, tho at the fame time it cannot in the least impair or interrupt his own Felicity. Furthermore,

The word El-kanah here signifies a Strong as well as a Jealous God, and gives us to understand that he is able to vindicate his Honour, and will certainly punish all the Injuries offer'd to it. Jealousy of itself without Strength is but but an impotent and contemptible Passion; but when arm'd with an Almighty Power, it is justly terrible: then 'tis Cruel as the Grave (as Solomon expresses it) the Coals thereof are as the Coals of Fire, which break into a vehement Flame; Cant. 8. 6. And therefore Moses in this very Precept about Images, minds the Israelites, The Lord thy God is a consuming Fire, he is jealous God: And elsewhere brings in God Almighty thus declaring, They have moved me to Jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked me to Anger with their Vanities : A Fire is kindled in mine Anger, and shall burn to the lowest Hell; and shall consume the Earth with her Increase, and set on fire the Foundations of the Mountains; Deut. 32. 21, 22.

And now I may well enough ask the Apostle's Question of all that suffer their Hearts and Affections to stray from their Maker; Do we provoke the Lord to Jealousy, are we stronger than he? Can thy Heart bear up, or thy Hands be strong in the day that he shall deal with thee? No, 'tis a fearful thing to fall into the Hands of the living God; into which, the forsaking of God, and the following of Idols, will certainly cast us.

And this will lead me to the

Second part of the Sanction of this Law, taken from the Justice of God in punishing the Breakers of it, in those words; Visiting the Iniquities of the Fathers upon the Children to the third and fourth Generation of them that hate me. To visit is sometimes taken in a good sense, for beholding another with an eye of Pity and Compassion; in which sense David prays, Visit. me, O Lord, with thy Salvation: Sometimes in a bad sense, for looking on with an eye of Fury and Revenge, and visiting with Judgments and Calamities; in which sense it occurs here, where God Almighty threatens to punish the Offenders against this Law, both in their Persons and Posterity. And,

1. He visits this Iniquity upon the Fathers themselves: of this kind the Holy Scriptures afford many Examples, God Almighty executing his Judgments upon Idolaters, and frequently punishing his own People, when they revolted from him, and set up their molten Images.

2. He visits this Iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children: this we find verify'd in many of the Kings of Israel and Judah, who for their Idolatry were punish'd not only in their own Persons, but in their Posterity; God recompensing the Iniquity of the Fathers into the Bosom of their Children after them; as we read, Jer. 32. 18. And that,

3. To the third and fourth Generation; those being Generations which a Man may live to see. Now as the Prosperity of Children is one of the greatest Comforts of human Life, and all Parents delight to behold such flourishing Branches of themselves; so to see them in Misery and Trouble, is a most doleful and heart-breaking Prospect: And therefore God Almighty, to deter Men from the Transgressing of this Law, denounces Vengeance against the posterity of such as break it, threatning their Children to the third and fourth Generation, and punishing their Idolatries thro' the whole Line that they are capable of seeing; by which it appears, that Sinners entail a Curse upon their Offspring, and make their Childrens Children miserable by their Impieties. But how can it consist with the Justice and Goodness of God, to punish the Children for their Parents faults? especially having declar'd, that the Soul that sinneth, that shall die; the Son shall not bear the Iniquity of the Father, nor the Father the Iniquity of the Son, but the Righteousness of the Righteous shall be upon him, and the Wickedness of the Wicked upon him. Now to this the Answer is easy and obvious. For,

(1.) God's visiting the Sins of the Fathers upon the Children is always upon supposition of making their Fathers Sins their own, by imitating their Examples, and treading in the steps of their Impieties; for so God himself tells them, If your Children forsake my Law, and walk not in my Statutes, I will visit their 'Transgressions with the Rod, and their Sins with Scourges: otherwise, if the Son forsake the Iniquities of his Father, he shall not die, he shall surely live, saith the Lord.

God never visits the Sins of the Fathers upon penitent and reforming Children; but if they imitate their Fathers Wickedness, 'tis but just and righteous that they suffer for them: in which case, they are punish'd not for their Fathers Sins, but their own.

(2.) Because Idolatrous Parents are too apt to corrupt their Childien by their evil Counsel and Example, God Almighty to deter them from it, threatens to punish the Fathers in their Children; which he may as well do, as in their Houses and Estates, or any thing that appertains to them: for Children are a part of the Goods and Substance of the Parents, who are deeply concern'd in their Welfare or Misery ; and therefore God may justly visit them in thofe dearest Pledges of themselves, if they mislead them into their Impieties: in which case he doth not so much make the Children suffer the Punishment of their Fathers Sin, as the Fathers suffer for their own.
(3.) God Almighty may and often doth visit the Iniquities of the Fathers upon their Children with temporal Punishments : in which case the the Calamity be the Child's, yet the Punishment is properly the Father's; he is wounded in one of the nearest and tenderest parts of himself, tho it may work together for good to the repenting Child. Indeed God never visits the Fathers Sins upon the Children with eternal Punishments, in which sense every one must hear his own Burden; but he justly may and doth with temporal Evils, for the Correction and Amendment of both.

But who are the Persons against whom this Threat is denoune'd? Why, that the next words will inform us, in which he is said to visit the Iniquities of the Fathers upon the Children in them that hate him; that is, in them that transgress his Laws: for as the loving of God is express'd by keeping his Commandments, so the breaking of them is styl'd the hating of him. But Idolaters and the Worshippers of Images are more especially call'd Haters of God: for as the Adulteress shews her hatred and contempt of her Husband, by giving herself to the Embraces of another; so they cast off the Love of God, who go a whoring after their own Inventions: and they who give that Worship to Images that is due to God only, may be truly said to hate him.

But there is another Branch of the Sanction of this Law, taken from the Goodness of God both to the Persons and Posterities of those that love him and keep his Commandments, which shall be consider'd in the next.


Exodus xx. 4, 5, 6.

Thou shalt not make to thy self any graven Image, nor the Likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or in the Earth beneath, or in the Water under the Earth: 'Thou shalt not bow down to them., nor worship them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the Iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children, to the third and fourth Generation of them that hate me, and shewing Mercy to thousands, in them that love me, and keep my Commandments.

HAVING spoken of the Negative part of this Precept, which forbids the making and worshipping of Images; I proceed to the Affirmative part of it, or what is requir'd in it: And that is, the worshipping of God in a right way, or after a due manner; which (as appears by what has been said before) is the worshipping of him in any way suitable to his Nature and Will.

1st, I say, this Commandment requires us to serve God in a way suitable to his Nature; that is, not by Images or corporeal Resemblances: for he having no bodily Parts, is not to be represented in a bodily Shape, which is to debase and belye him; but being a spiritual Substance, must be serv'd with a spiritual Worship: for so our Saviour declares, John 4. 24. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in Spirit and Truth. For the better clearing whereof, we may note,

1. That the worshipping of God in Spirit and Truth doth not exclude all bodily Worship, as we shall see by and by: for this, tho perform'd by the Body, is nevertheless spiritual Worship; for it proceeds from the Spirit of God exciting our Spirits to the performance of it, and is (as one has well observ'd) directed by a spiritual Rule, to a spiritual End, the Glory of God, and our own Salvation.

Nor yet, 2. Does the worshipping of God in Spirit exclude all serving of him with Rites and Ceremonies; for God's appointing them under the Law, when he was as much a Spirit, and requir'd to be serv'd in Spirit as well as now; and likewise his enjoining the Rites and Ceremonies of the two Sacraments under the Gospel; shew these not to be inconsistent with spiritual Worship, but rather Helps and Furtherances of it.
To worship him then in Spirit and Truth, is to worship him with our Spirits, and not with the Tongue only ; to draw nigh to him with our Hearts, and not barely with the Lips; and to serve him truly and sincerely, in opposition to all feign'd, formal, and hypocritical Service. In short, to serve him suitably to his Nature, is to have our Affection stirring towards him in a way becoming his several Attributes; that is, to love him for his Goodness, to fear him for his Greatness, to trust him for his Faithfulness, and to honour him for all his divine and adorable Perfections.

2dly, To worship God aright, we are to do it not only in a way suitable to his Nature, but likewise agreeable with his Will; that is, we must serve him according to his Direction and Appointment, and no otherwise: for divine Worship being that Homage, which as Creatures we owe to our great Creator, 'tis but fit that he himself should have the ordering of it, and that we should do in it as he hath commanded: to do otherwise, is to disclaim his Authority and to be guided only by our own Will, which is the worst sort of Will-worship.

But here it may be ask'd, whether nothing may be done in the Worship of God, but what is expresly commanded by him? To which I answer, by distinguishing between the substantial parts of divine Worship, and the accidental or alterable Circumstances of it. As for the

Substantial part of Religion, consisting of all that is necessary to be believ'd or done in order to Salvation, that requires the express Precept and Revelation of God, without which nothing is to be so esteem'd: for God himself is the best Judge both how he should, and how he will be serv'd; and having deliver'd his mind about it in Holy Scripture, we are to make that the Rule and Standard of our Duty: to add to it, would be to charge it with Imperfection, and to make a new Religion of our own. But tor the

Circumstantial part of divine Worship, such as Time, Place, Gesture, and the like; these being not particularly determin'd by God in the Holy Scripture, are in a great measure left to every one's Discretion in their private Worship, and to the Prudence and Authority of Superiors in the Public Service of the Church, whom we are bid to obey in such things for the Lord's sake.

But here Care must be taken,

1. That the Rites and Ceremonies so enjoin'd be suitable to those general Rules of Order, Decency, and Edification, prescrib'd by God himself, and that they be every way fitting and becoming his Service.
2. That they be not too numerous and cumbersome, lest they prove a Clog rather than Convenience to the divine Service. And,

Lastly, That they neither be enjoin'd or observ'd as essential parts of Worship, or as things in themselves pleasing unto God and necessary to Salvation; for this is to add to the Substance of Religion, and to teach for Doctrines the Commandments of Men; but only as outward Circumstances for the Order and Comeliness of public Worship, and as things that may vary, as Times, and Place, and other Occasions, may require. And where these Conditions are observ'd, the Service thus injoin'd and perform'd is agreeable to the Will of God, and is part of the Duty here requir'd in this Commandment.

 By which it appears, that the Worship of God here inculcated upon us in this Precept, is partly Internal, and partly External.

The Internal part of it is the Worship of our Hearts and Souls, whereby we inwardly admire and adore his divine Excellencies, esteeming, loving, fearing and trusting him as our great Creator and best Benefactor: and all this not in Pretence and Appearance only, but in Sincerity and Truth, not in Word or in Tongue, but in Deed and in Truth, from the very bottom of the Heart.

 The External part of this Worship, is the Worship of the Body or outward Man, whereby we express the inward Reverence of the Mind, by the outward humble Gestures of the Body; which God frequently calls for, and David exhorts to in those words, O come let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker. This some Expositors of this Commandment have thought to be principally intended and requir'd in it; making the former, that is, the internal Worship of the Soul, to be requir'd in the First Commandment: the latter, viz. the external Worship of the Body, to be commanded in this: in which, as God forbids the bowing down or giving any bodily Worship to graven Images, so he requires the Bowing down and other Gestures of bodily Adoration to be given to himself. But because these humble Gestures, and all other Acts of bodily Reverence have been decry'd and impugn'd by some, and are still but too much neglected by others; 'twill be requisite to add something, to recommend and enforce this bodily Worship upon us. To which end, we may observe,

1. That as he challenges this external Worship as due to himself, so he threatens to punish all such as give it to any other: he here forbids the bowing or falling down to any graven Image, as an Invasion of his Prerogative, and shews that the prostituting our Bodies as well as Souls to them, will stir up his Jealousy. How sharply are the Israelites reprov'd for bowing the knee to Baal? And the Idolatry of the Heathens is frequently express'd in Scripture, by their serving other Gods, and bowing themselves unto them, Josh. 23. 16. Whereby it appears, that as these visible Acts of outward Worship are not to be paid to any false Deities, so are they claim'd, and to be carefully perform'd to the true God.

2. God Almighty created the Body as well as the Soul, and united them together for his Service, and therefore he expects the Homage of both. Indeed the Service of the Heart and the Soul is what he principally regards and calls for: My Son, give me thy Heart, faith he; that being the best Offering we can make to a spiritual and immaterial Being; without which, all other Service is but dead and unsavory. But yet he hath an eye likewise to the Service of the Body, and expects the Humility and Adoration of the outward Man ; he calls for the Ear, to hear Instruction; for the Eyes, to be lifted up in Prayer; for the Tongue, to speak the Praises of our Maker: In a word, he expects that our whole Man should bow with the profoundest Awe and Reverence to him, before he will bow his Ear, or incline to hear us; and justly too, for 'tis he that made us, and not we ourselves; 'tis he that fram'd and sustains our Bodies, and therefore all the Members of it are to be employ'd and devoted to his Service.
3. Our Bodies as well as Souls partake of the Benefits of Christ's Redemption; and therefore both are to be dedicated to him, and to join together in his Service: Ye are bought with a Price, saith the Apostle; which he affirms there of the whole Man, both Body and Soul, which are both the Purchase of his Blood, and justify'd by his Redemption; for which reason he tells us we are not our own, to dispose and order ourselves as we please; but being bought with a Price, we are to glorify God in our Bodies, and in our Spirits, which are both his, 1 Cor. 6. last. In the verse immediately preceding, he styles our Bodies the Temples of the Holy Ghost, in which therefore we are to worship our Maker; and being redeem'd and sanctify'd by his Holy Spirit, ought to be consecrated to his Service.

Lastly, We hope to be glorify'd hereafter in our Bodies as well as Souls, and therefore both are to glorify God here. Many and great things are declar'd concerning the future Felicity of our Bodies, that they shall be fashion'd like unto Christ's glorious Body, being impassible and incorruptible like his, and made for ever Vessels of Honour fitted and prepar'd for our Master's use: and being to be crown'd with such invaluable Blessings hereafter, 'tis but reasonable to fit them for it, by engaging them in his Service here; presenting our Bodies to him, as a living, holy, and acceptable Sacrifice, which is our reasonable Service.

Thus we see what is requir'd of us in this Commandment; namely, to raise our Minds above all gross Sense and Fancy in our Adorations of our Maker, not framing any outward Images or Resemblances to worship him by, as the manner of some is; nor forming any false Notions or Misrepresentations of him within, by thinking him such a one as ourselves, and serving him accordingly, as others do, who fondly imagine him delighted only or chiefly with new Phrases, and that he must be daily serv'd with suddenly conceiv'd and varied Prayers: which Mistakes proceed from some false Ideas and Misapprehensions of him, which we are here willed to remove.

Moreover, we are here commanded to entertain high and worthy Thoughts of him; conceiving of him as a Being transcendently perfect, infinitely superior to all in Goodness, Justice, Wisdom, and Power; and so to be lov'd, fear'd and trusted above all, and directing all our Service to him with such Apprehensions: which is to worship him in Spirit and in Truth.
And this is to be done not only with the inward, but with the outward Man; that is, the Body as well as the Mind it to be employ'd in these Adorations. The negative Precept here, Thou shalt not bow down to a graven Image, includes the contrary positive Duty, 'Thou shalt bow down to the Lord thy God: meaning, that our bodily Worship, as well as that of the Mind, is due and must be paid to him. He that bows, or kneels, or uses any Posture of Reverence to a graven Image, breaks this Commandment by Idolatry: And he that refuses to bow or kneel, or use any reverent Posture in public Worship unto God, breaks it by Sacrilege; for God is equally robb'd of his Honour, whether we give it to another, or deny it to himself.

This Commandment then as much requires us to bow down and kneel, and give bodily Worship unto God, as it forbids us to give it to a graven Image: And the Practice of holy Men in all Ages hath been accordingly, who have been equally forward to do the one, as to deny the other. In the Old Testament we find the People of God always using a Posture of Reverence in the Worship of God, by standing, or kneeling, or prostrating themselves ; but we never read of any irreverently sitting at their Devotions. In the New Testament we find our blessed Saviour and his Disciples in all their Prayers unto God either bowing, kneeling, or prostrating themselves before him; which is that glorifying God with their Bodies enjoin'd and practis'd by them: And where this is neglected, he reckons himself dishonour'd and despis'd by us.

Indeed, the inward Reverence and Devotion of the Mind will evermore draw after it this outward Reverence of the Body: And therefore we find the whole Worship of God represented in Scripture by these external visible Acts of Adoration; the outward bending and bowing of the Body being both the Signs and Effects of the inward bending and submission of the Soul to him. Hence bowing and kneeling unto God is generally in Scripture us'd to signify the worshipping of him, as we may see in 'Psal. 95. 5. Mic. 6. 6.

This therefore is here requir'd to be paid unto God and no other: And that first because he is a jealous God, that is infinitely tender of this outward as well as inward Honour, and impatient of any Competitor in this incommunicable Homage that belongs to him. Again,

He threatens to visit the Iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children to the fourth Generation of them that thus invade and defraud him of his Honour; that is, their Posterity shall fare the worse for it, their Childrens Children shall be capable of less Favour, and be more strictly and severely dealt with upon this scores the Justice whereof we before vindicated.
Lastly, To encourage the Observance of this Law, he adds, that he will shew mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his Commandments. Not that he will forbear to punish the offending Children of good Men; no, we find him declaring, That if their Children forsake his Law, and keep not his Commandments, he will visit their transgression with the Rod, and their Sin with Scourges; nevertheless (saith he) my Loving-Kindness will I not utterly take from them; Psal. 89. 90, &c. that is, he will deal more favourably with them for their Parents sake. The Misdeeds of some shall not interrupt his Kindness to the rest of their Posterity, or blot out the Memory of their Goodness. This we find verify'd in the Posterity of Abraham and the other Patriarchs, in whom God Almighty overlook'd many and great Provocations for their sake, mixing Mercy with Severity, and settling them at last in the promis'd Land. Moreover,

We may observe here the vast difference and disproportion between the Proceedings of God in the way of Justice and the way of Mercy: He visiteth the Iniquities of disobedient Parents to the third or fourth Generation; but he sheweth Mercy to a thousand Generations of those that obey him. He soon forgets the Wrongs done to him, but keeps our good Works in everlasting Remembrance: which may teach us not only to imitate him herein, but may likewise encourage us to serve and obey so good a Master.

Furthermore, lest any should vainly expect these' Instances of Divine Goodness, without observing the Conditions annex'd to them, the last words of the Commandment confine them wholly to those that love God and keep his Commandments: where as the Revolters from God were before styl'd Haters of him, so they that obey his Laws, are here said to love him. He that hath my Commandments and keepeth them (saith our Saviour) he it is that loveth me; John 14. 15, 21. and elsewhere, If any Man loveth me, he will keep my Word.

Finally then, to conclude this Commandment, we learn hence the Happiness of descending from good Parents, who bequeath a Blessing, and derive Mercy upon their Offspring to many Generations: And likewise the sad Misfortune of being born of disobedient Parents, who entail Misery and a Curse upon their whole Posterity; which should teach us, not only for our own, but our Children’s sake, to be ever mindful of keeping God's Laws, and very tender of breaking them.

~Matthew Hole, A practical exposition of the Church-catechism, several discourses.