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might, holiness, and love, are but glorious productions of the power of emanations from his own.
man, must be infinitely less successful. Since ye have found no adequate Secondly, the evil of idolatry will representation of him in any of the in- still further appear, if you reflect on dividuals, or individual orders of ex- the well-known consequence of repreistence, would it suffice to unite them senting spiritual and unseen beings to all in one vast representation of their the senses. There is scarcely any Supreme Creator?
conceivable order of angelic beings, That existence itself, could every | fallen or unfallen, which has not bebeing add its perfections to the mo- come the subject of representation in del, would be merely an individual | Christendom. isolated effort of his intelligence, During the last eighteen centuries, and would offer no imaginable ap- every holy and unholy being has approximation to his infinite and eternal peared within or without the edifices Being-to his felicity arising from the adapted for public worship, especially contemplation of himself-to the self- in the Roman Catholic church. These sufficiency of his perfections, which are efforts have been aided by the most subordinate to no motive—to no occa- felicitous labours of sculpture and sion; or to the perfection of his attri- painting; but what has been the conbutes, soinconceivable as to involve the sequence upon our perception of the perceptions of being at the highest beings thus represented ? Since the extreme of the boundless gradations artist could not select any represenof being, in ignorance as profound as tation beyond the natural compass that of the insect slumbering in its of our ideas, he has, in all ages, chrysalis, with respect to the move- adopted those which are most interments and policy of the mightiest em-esting and lovely. Accordingly, anpire of the world. If, indeed, any gelic beings have been represented as representation of the Deity, taken young persons of both sexes, adorned from sensible objects, seem reason- with wings, somewhat more masculine, able, man could only take them as the powerful, or somewhat more from what of things he has seen : It feminine, as the compassionate orders would seem that the form of man him- of those intelligences have been reself, owing to its connexion with his presented. The consequence is open immortal faculties, might seem most to the view and inspection of all, allowable, yet, at the same time, namely, the deterioration of the orsince that representation would be dinary sentiments of mankind ressimply of the lifeless form of a man, pecting the higher orders of intelit is evident, that the most beautiful ligence. Instead of regarding them and successful representation ever as the Scriptures teach us, as beings made, such as the Apollo Belvidere, which, under God the Supreme Ruler, must be really an inferior representa- hold authority through his dominions tion of a man; and how much more an as beings endowed with might adeinadequate representation of God, as quate to the posts of authority assigned much as the inanimate marble is to the them, as endowed with activity suranimated structure, and the senseless passing the supposed velocity of light, stone to the inimitable faculties of as possessing faculties capable of man. And if we can imagine some in- learning the divine perfections as they ferior race of beings, never to have had develope themselves in the vast sysany other representation of man than tem of his government, they have the wondrous statue, which, “though been lowered in the estimation of made with human hands, seems not men to the condition of fairies and of human thought," to which I have al- genii; or, rather, the existence of such luded, how grovelling and inadequate beings has been altogether doubted, must their perceptions be of the being and man has regarded himself as the himself, replete with activity, gifted highest created being in the universe. with passions, with love, with hope, The Christian, also, has lost sight of with religion and immortality? The at the transcendent comfort arising from tempt, however, to represent the Deity the ministry of angels; and Christiby any, even the most consummate anity itself has lost the moral splen
dour of being considered as system of him from nature, and even from developed in a small, yet deeply revelation, had been repressed down interesting portion of the universe, within the qualities of a limited being, in the view of countless myriads of and a limited conception of him had superior beings, whose nature and been substituted ; and instead of himnumber renders the church the least self, another God recognized by the and lowest of all orders of creatures human mind. it has interested, instructed, and bene- Thirdly, another reason why idolifitted.
tary has been prohibited is, the tenOn the other hand, the effect of the dency that has ever been observed to representation of fallen beings has accompany it, to transfer to the symbol been such that the most high father much, or, at least, a portion of the af; of evil, the great enemy of God, the fections due to the object represented. prince of innumerable fallen angels, That such is the tendency of the whose faculties are so extensive as to human mind, may be seen in our aprender him omnipresent to this little titude to extend the feelings with globe, hath been caricatured as if all which we regard an object to every the truths respecting him had become thing connected with it. Who is there an exploded fable, and as if men's that has not experienced a more than ridicule and mockery now made up ordinary veneration for the very stones for the fears of their ancestors. It and moss of the hallowed cell, where has, indeed, often occurred to me that the martyr breathed his solitary prayer this deterioration of fallen and un- and nerved his resolution to be steadfallen beings, which they have suf- fast, even unto the death? Who is fered by being delineated in paintings there who has not experienced, when and images, has been a most subtle walking over the plain, where once unsuspected artifice of the father of the interest of nations were decided, lies, whereby he hath lulled many to that every object around him seems re pose, as to their danger from his to whisper with intelligence of that own power and malignity; and where mighty struggle? It is an unquesbe he hath deprived the Gospel of its tionable law of our nature to attach lustre as a system combining the in- the feelings excited through persons terests and sympathies of man with the and events to the scenery and circumangelic world. However this may be, stances; and nothing seems plainer, I doubt not, that had not mankind even without proof, that similar feelbeen strictly menaced not to form any ings would have been extended tosimilitude of God, that long ago even wards the resemblance of the true bad they attained to the belief of the God, had it been possible for him to one only true Deity, we should have have given permission for its forhad some beautiful creation of the mation. chisel and the pencil which kingdoms But when we appeal to facts themand nations would have agreed to selves, our conjecture, which thus accept as the symbol of the Creator; seems evident, becomes inviolably and inevitably, as in the case of angels, confirmed. The Israelites, even when every attribute of divinity would have ages had passed away, and the genebeen lowered down in human appre- ration had become extinct, which had bension far below the unworthy con- been bitten by the serpents, and which ceptions we now form of it; he would had been cured by looking to the by this time have been 'no higher a resemblance made by Moses conbeing in our apprehension, than the tinued to offer burnt incense to angels are in the well instructed mind, that very resemblance ; and so teand all the impressions all the moral nacious did they seem of offering influence and awe, and love, and hope, to it religious honors, that it was consequent on the belief of his spirit- found necessary to destroy this nauality and infinitude would have been tional memorial, in order to prevent lost upon the world, and the due ac- idolatry. Among the other ancient naknowledgment of them have been tions, the honors they paid to the diviunpaid to himself. It could not have nities by means and use of other similifailed, but that all we had learned tudes, was so much addressed to the
image itself, and their language when vast injury to the religious, and conspeaking of the idol so much more ap- sequently moral welfare of mankind! propriate to the divinity which it repre- Would it not have been approaching sented, that many, even eminent wri- the utmost verge of a violation of the ters, have been induced to assert, that first commandment, and consequently their ideas extended no further than in a proportionable degree, partaking to the idol itself, and that by some in all the error and alienation of the monstrous delusion, that very stock of rights of God, and the depravity of a tree and block of marble which their disposition, and the subjection to own hands had carved into the simi- Satan, which attends the worship of litude of their God, was believed by false divinities? This reason is, inthem to be the very Deity himself, deed, assigned in the command itself. and that they not only said but felt After prohibiting the use of images, towards the inanimate statue, “thou the Almighty adds, “For I the Lord art my God.”
thy God am a jealous God,” meaning, The right way, however, perhaps of course, that he is cautious lest the to understand this, is by considering honor due to himself should be aliethat tendency which I am pointing nated from him, and be bestowed out, to transfer the regard due to the upon another object. The God who object represented to the representa- created the human mind, and knows tion, and which I think very clearly all its tendencies, well understood intimated in the construction of this that it would be liable to this insecond commandment, “ Thou shalt firmity. not bow down to them, nor worship Another reason why the use of them.” From which it is evident that symbols in the worship of Jehovah has the use of images in worship sup- been prohibited is, the tendency of posed that the worshipper paid, in mankind wherever idolatry has been the first place, the adoration to the allowed to transform the whole of reimage, although he professed, and it ligious services into a system of magenerally was the case, that the ser- terial representations. It would be vices thus offered were intended for unnecessary to prove by actual inthe divinity thus represented. It is stances, that spiritual conceptions also interesting to observe, that the of God and a spiritual mode of worchurch of Rome having adopted shipping him, have ever accompanied the use of images in the worship of each other. On the other hand, when the true God has exhibited the same a material representation of the Deity consequences; the writers of that has been allowed, the mode of worcommunion frequently speaking and ship has generally consisted in a writing of the images themselves in system of service in which the senses terms far more applicable to the were gratified, but the heart unemthings they are intended to represent. ployed and unimproved. Such was What then would have been the na- the character of the idolatry of antural effect of allowing a material tiquity —the entire subject of rerepresentation of the Deity?. Con- | ligion was transferred into services, stituted as is the human mind, is it which were in the strictest sense perpossible that the image of Jehovah formances. Architecture, sculpture, could have been seen or approached, drapery, the human form, regal ornawithout an association with it of the ments, dancing, music, processions, awe and reverence due to him alone ? illuminations, exerted all their serWould not an inferior worship, at vices to continue the system. Hence, least, have been allowed, if not pre- the vast majority considered religion scribed to the image? Might not the to consist in the due performance of human mind at large, as it has done those services; and if any danger imin the Romish Church in particular, pended over the state, it was attributed have suggested some subtle distinc- rather to the neglect of the ceremonies tions between the worship paid to the or the necessity of augmenting their Creator and due to the representa- frequency, or their costliness. tion ? Could this, however, inevitable I am compelled to find a similar effect have been permitted without a illustration in the condition of the
corrupted Christian church already | by dwelling upon the employments named. It long ago directed the use and pleasures reserved for them wlio of images in the worship of God, love God. In a word, my brethren, and certain it has long ago sensualized it is this very quality of infinitude almost every religious object. They and spirituality which attaches to bave made the object of worship visi- every object of religion, which calls ble in the sacrament, by their doctrine into highest action, and fills with fullof transubstantiation-they have sen- est felicity, all the unlimited powers sualized the purification of the Holy of the human soul. Think, however, Spirit by the holy water-the enlight on the contrary, how ill calculated ening of the Holy Spirit by lighted the use of symbols is for this desirable tapers-prayers by the perfuming of object. The most consummate statue incense-repentance by mortifications that ever gave immortality to its huinflicted on the body-and the do- man Creator is fixed in its capacities; minion of Christ in heaven, on the there is no moral progression in the earth, and in hell by the triple crown feelings it excites; it tends rather, of his human representative. It is also after a certain point, to confine the well known that among the vast very feelings it has raised. Habituamajority of the members of that church tion to it would soon discourage the the due performance of these things is growth of the intellect and the expandeemed of the first importance, and sion of the affections, that is to say, though I may feel unwilling to say would diminish our capacity of eterthat even very generally the spiritual nal fruition. The use of symbols in signification of these outward and religion, then, so far from being calvisible things is wholly lost sight of, I culated for the use of an immortal am persuaded that the undue degree of mind, absolutely militates against its reverence attached to them, and to natural tendencies to unfit it for the many similar things, has resulted from hopes and pleasures of eternity. the use of visible representations of I shall now, however, Thirdly, and the object of their worship.
very briefly, ADVERT TO THE THREATLastly, another reason why the use ENING AND ENCOURAGEMENT APPENDED of idols is forbidden in this precept is, TO THIS COMMANDMENT. the unquestionable tendency which they In the threatening, God describes kare to retard, and often to repress himself as “ visiting the sins of the altogether, that moral and spiritual father upon the children, unto the eleration of the human character, of third and fourth generation of them which religion is intended to be the that bate me.” În order to form a instrument. The truths—the doctrines right understanding of this command--the duties, the affections of reli- ment, let it be observed, that God gion may all be comprized as the edu- does not represent himself as visiting cation of immortal beings for endless the sins of wilfully idolatrous and progression and infinite happiness. wicked parents upon such of their Considered as such, it is of the highest children as turn from the evil way of importance that all the objects of reli- their forefathers. The meaning is, gion should be exhibited to the mind that he visits the sins of wicked pain all their native infinitude and rents upon wicked children. His words boundlessness, of moral loveliness are “visiting the sins of the parents and grandeur. It is of importance upon the children, unto the third and that the human intellect should be fourth generation of them that hate continually expanded by efforts to him.” No term could more elearly know and comprehend God—that the express settled, intelligent, deterextent of its vision should be exer- mined malignity against God. Is it cised by anticipations of eternity- unjust, is it unkind for God to punish that its affections should be dilated by such abandoned parents and their learning the unbounded scheme of abandoned offspring to the extent in the Divine procedure and the Divine question? Let it also be kept in mind, benevolence—that every aim and ob- that the destruction of such persons, ject of the human soul should be raised as well as being an act of justice, is perpetually to a still higher elevation, in itself a useful warning and an effectual preventive of the ruin of mul- On the other hand, the menace titudes. Let it be also considered which consists of measured severity that, in proportion as the menace is attended with a promise full of unseems dreadful, it is calculated to se- limited kindness, showing mercy cure obedience to the commandment. to thousands”—that is, perhaps, to The benevolent Creator takes hold thousands of generations—“in them upon the strongest affections he has that love me and keep my commandimplanted in the human bosom, and ments." He will “ visit the sins of engages it--as an ultimate argument the fathers upon the children unto for obedience to his service, which is the third and fourth generation who in itself good and equitable. He tells hate him,”—he will show mercy the obdurate sinner, who can be af- to thousands of generations in them fected by no motive but dread, that that love him and keep his comhe will visit his departure from him, mandments.” on his children.
These national blessings were sePerhaps the number of mankind is cured or endangered in proportion as few, indeed, who could be insensible Israel kept or violated the commandto such a threatening. Of all things, ment, whose reasonableness and exthe idea of entailing misery on their cellency we have endeavoured to offspring, and their wandering in the establish. ways of sorrow long after the grave The encouragement which is aphas closed over his own guilty head, pended seems even much more appliseems to be abhorred even by the cable to the parental feelings of most abandoned parent. Let, how mankind, and calculated to secure ever, the true nature of the threaten- obedience by that very motive by ing be understood. The Almighty which disobedience had been fordoes not assert that be will visit the bidden. sins of the parent upon the children The practical lesson which seems in a future state. He also declares administered to ourselves by this by the prophet Ezekiel, " that the commandment is, that while we utsoul that sinneth it shall die, the son terly refrain from the use of mashall not bear the iniquity of his terial symbols in worship, we should father, that the son shall not die for be equally careful that we do not so the father.” We are guided by these worship God, as to depend for imconsiderations to say that the meaning bibing the influence of his truth upon of the threatening is this. The cove- any medium. God is a spirit-God nant of God with the Jews, promised is a mind; and he that worshippeth that while they retained their allegi- him must worship him in mind and in ance to Jehovah, he would grant them reality. While means of grace are a continuance of temporal eminence used, and the ministry of fellow creaard prosperity. Idolatry was the sin tures received with meekness and that peculiarly broke this covenant pure affection, our dependance should upon the part of the Jews, when, of be on an immediate emanation from course, those temporal blessings in the fountain of goodness himselfthe land were forfeited. The obedi- upon pure truth itself, independent of ence, or disobedience of a Jew, and any circumstances in which it may be especially to this precept, continued, presented. Thus alone shall we be or deprived his descendants of their prepared for the employment and earthly prosperity. This, which is felicity of a future state, which owes nothing more than a correct interpre- its perfection to this condition of tation of this denunciation, assuredly the worshippers that “they shall see contains nothing unkind or unjust. God as he is."-Amen.