From The Church-warder and domestic magazine:
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT.
The end and design of the Commandments were to establish the principles of true religion, to be a rule for our obedience and for the practice of righteousness. The first commandment plainly reveals and determines the object of religion and of our worship, the eternal, immense, and all perfect Jehovah, whose glorious majesty no man can see and live. It is therefore utterly impossible to form any image that can represent His Person; and that no such fancy might ever enter into the imagination of man. He has at no time shown Himself: "Take good heed," says Moses, "unto yourselves for ye saw no manner of Similitude on the day that the Lord spake to you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire; lest ye corrupt and make you a graven, image." St. Paul also, when he dexterously took advantage of the Athenians having greeted an altar to The Unknown God to preach to them the gospel, warned them that "the Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is He worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. . . . Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now [He] commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
The Second Commandment relates to and limits the manner of worship, and of the exercise and expression of it, that is, by images. But this the Church of Rome has hid from the eyes of her people by expunging God's second commandment; but as her people might hear that He had given ten commandments, that Church has divided the tenth into two, both to keep up the number and to delude the people with lying wonders. For this division she gives the following reason, "Because as the sixth command, which forbids the outward crime of adultery, is different from the seventh, which forbids to steal our neighbour's goods; so in like manner the ninth, which forbids the sin of desiring our neighbour's wife, is properly divided from the tenth, in which we are forbidden to covet his goods." [An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine, &c., composed in 1549, by Rev. Henry Tuberville, D.D. of the English College of Douay: now revised by the Right Rev. James Doyle, D.D.,&c. Dublin: Coyne, 1828.]
But God Himself has strictly forbidden us to make any figure or representation either of Himself or of any created being, so as to worship either Himself by it or to bow down before it.
Our resemblance to God is not in our corporeal bodies but in our spiritual and rational faculties. How impious therefore must it be to represent His infinite perfections in the likeness of human flesh? Yet in the National Gallery there is a picture which is intended to represent the Trinity, in which God the Father is painted as a bald and grey-headed old man, who is looking down from the clouds on the other two persons, who are represented by a child and a dove. The idea itself is not new, for it is a copy from a painting that the Papists have cherished for centuries; and it is put up in the National Gallery in anticipation of their restoration to their former tyranny. And Dr. Tuberville [Catechism, p. 52.] justifies the practice of "painting God the Father as an old man;" "Because," he says, "He appeared to the prophet Daniel in the shape of an old man." They now everywhere offensively obtrude their idolatrous gear in order to accustom Protestant eyes and ears to their demonolertrous modes of worship. It is utterly unlawful to make any picture or representation of God the Father; and it is a national sin to suffer such a picture to be exhibited in a public and national institution. It is not altogether correct to make pictures of God the Son, even for ornament, because we can only at best paint from imagination, and then only His human appearance, His divine nature having been as invisible to His disciples as the soul of one man is to another: Besides His humanity is only adorable on account of his personal union with the divine nature, which cannot be expressed in a picture. A cross is a remembrance of our Saviour's passion, and is put ny St. Paul for the whole of the Christian faith. But a crucifix is a graven image, and as such is worshipped, not only by the ignorant multitude but by the Offices of the Papal Church. Upon Good Friday it is first veiled and then uncovered by degrees; and as each part is discovered, the priest says, "Behold the wood of the cross," and the people answer, "Let us worship," then both priest and people prostrate themselves and pay their adoration to the cross. Dr. Tuberville justifies this idolatry; and James Naclantus, bishop of Clugium, in an exposition of the epistle to the Romans, says, "That the faithful ought not only to worship before an image (as some perhaps out of caution speak), but to worship the Image itself without any scruple at all; and with the same sort of worship as the prototype or whom it represents." Without doubt this is the idolatry and superstition which constitutes the great predicted Roman apostacy, and is comprehended in the direct and formal charge of the Holy Spirit of rank and inveterate idolatry against the Western Church [Rev. ix. 20, 21]. And our own homilist says that, "being blinded by the bewitching of images, as blind guides of the blind, fell both into the pit of damnable idolatry."
There is therefore no doubt about the gross heathenish idolatry with which the Holy Spirit accuses the Roman Church, and of their daily practice and justification of it. But whosoever, says Christ, shall break the least of the commandments and shall teach men so shall be unworthy to be reckoned one of the members of His kingdom or one of the branches of His Catholic Church [St. Mat. v. 19]. Although we Protestants are not guilty of the same species of idolatry as the Papists are, and although, as a Church, we are altogether purged from every species of it, yet many individuals among us are unable as individuals to cast the first stone at the mother of harlots.
In St. Paul's judgment covetousness is idolatry, and likewise in our Saviour's, who warned his disciples to take heed and beware of covetousness. Although we do not, like the Papists, place our confidence in the Blessed Virgin, or on any of the saints who have been the lights of the world in their several generations; yet many, perhaps most, of us are too apt to place our hope and trust in the gold and silver of which images are made. Love, hope, trust, and confidence are those parts of internal worship which God requires from us, but which if we pay to riches and honours, we are as truly guilty of idolatry as if we fell down before an image of the Virgin and pray:—"O holy and glorious Virgin Mary, I commit my soul and body to thy blessed trust this night and for ever: especially in the hour of death, I commend to thy merciful charity all my hope and consolation, all my distress and misery, my life, and the end thereof; that by thy holy intercession, all my works may be directed according to the will of thy blessed Son."
St. Paul exhorts us to let our conversation be without covetousness, and to be content with such things as we have. It is therefore evident that we are guilty of this sin when we are discontented with our present enjoyments, and impatiently desire to have those things which we cannot lawfully obtain. Again he asserts that "they that will be rich [or are bent upon growing rich] fall into temptation [to forget God] and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts [by using unlawful means] which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the [inordinate] love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred [or have been seduced] from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows" even in this life. Under the inordinate love and eager pursuit of money, men will commit any sin in order to amass that wealth which they cannot carry with them to the grave. Each of the commandments of the second table of the Law is daily broken for the "love of money." Hence, in the Primitive Church, it was considered that covetousness comprehended all other sins; and even a heathen orator has decided that "there is no duty so holy or solemn, which covetousness will not impair and violate."
Although A Man possess all other virtues, yet if he be guilty of the idolatry of covetousness he cannot have treasure in heaven. "How hardly," said Christ, "shall they that have riches [that is, put their whole trust and confidence in them,] enter into the kingdom of God. ... It is easier for a camel lor perhaps for a cable] to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man [trusting in and loving his riches] to enter into the kingdom of God." And St. Paul most decidedly says that "no covetous man, who is an idolator, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." He means a man of such inordinate desires as a worshipper of graven images must be, can never be a true disciple of Christ, because although his lips may address God, yet his heart is worshipping mammon. St. James also pronounces a woe against those who have placed their whole affection upon wealth, and have heaped up treasure. And Christ himself says we cannot serve God and mammon.
All inordinate affection is another branch of this species of idolatry; and the apostle exhorts us to mortify, to resist, and to suppress every motion towards it. In our baptismal vows also we engage to crucify the fleshly inclinations with the affections and lusts. We may place our inordinate affection upon our husband or our wife, as the case may be, or on our sons or daughters, upon any person of the opposite sex for whom we may have conceived either a lawful or an unlawful attachment; upon favourite animals, dogs, cats, or horses, or, in short, upon any sublunary object.
Although we certainly eschew idols and are taught to abhor them, yet we may and most likely do commit sacrilege, and what may be called Heart-idolatry. We rob God of the honour and worship due unto Him, by covetous desires and inordinate affection for temporal objects. Whilst therefore we be careful not to split upon the Scylla of image-worship, let us also strive with more decided care not to be swallowed up in the Charybdis of covetousness and inordinate affections, which are also idolatry. Although this species of idolatry be alone practised by members of the Protestant Church, yet the Papists are equally guilty of this as of the other species of the same sin. May He therefore unto whom all hearts be open, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love Him and worthily magnify His holy name.