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image itself, and their language when speaking of the idol so much more appropriate to the divinity which it represented, that many, even eminent writers, have been induced to assert, that their ideas extended no further than to the idol itself, and that by some monstrous delusion, that very stock of a tree and block of marble which their own hands had carved into the similitude of their GOD, was believed by them to be the very Deity himself, and that they not only said but felt towards the inanimate statue, "thou art my God."
vast injury to the religious, and consequently moral welfare of mankind? Would it not have been approaching the utmost verge of a violation of the first commandment, and consequently in a proportionable degree, partaking in all the error and alienation of the rights of GOD, and the depravity of disposition, and the subjection to Satan, which attends the worship of false divinities? This reason is, indeed, assigned in the command itself. After prohibiting the use of images, the Almighty adds, "For I the Lord thy GoD am a jealous GOD," meaning, of course, that he is cautious lest the honor due to himself should be alienated from him, and be bestowed upon another object. The Gop who created the human mind, and knows all its tendencies, well understood that it would be liable to this infirmity.
The right way, however, perhaps to understand this, is by considering that tendency which I am pointing out, to transfer the regard due to the object represented to the representation, and which I think very clearly intimated in the construction of this second commandment, "Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them." From which it is evident that the use of images in worship supposed that the worshipper paid, in the first place, the adoration to the image, although he professed, and generally was the case, that the services thus offered were intended for the divinity thus represented. It is also interesting to observe, that the church of Rome having adopted the use of images in the worship of the true GOD has exhibited the same consequences; the writers of that communion frequently speaking and writing of the images themselves in terms far more applicable to the things they are intended to represent. What then would have been the natural effect of allowing a material representation of the Deity? Constituted as is the human mind, is it possible that the image of Jehovah could have been seen or approached, without an association with it of the awe and reverence due to him alone? Would not an inferior worship, at least, have been allowed, if not prescribed to the image? Might not the human mind at large, as it has done in the Romish Church in particular, have suggested some subtle distinctions between the worship paid to the Creator and due to the representation? Could this, however, inevitable effect have been permitted without a
Another reason why the use of symbols in the worship of Jehovah has been prohibited is, the tendency of mankind wherever idolatry has been allowed to transform the whole of reit|ligious services into a system of material representations. It would be unnecessary to prove by actual instances, that spiritual conceptions of GOD and a spiritual mode of worshipping him, have ever accompanied each other. On the other hand, when a material representation of the Deity has been allowed, the mode of worship has generally consisted in a system of service in which the senses were gratified, but the heart unemployed and unimproved. Such was the character of the idolatry of antiquity-the entire subject of religion was transferred into services, which were in the strictest sense performances. Architecture, sculpture, drapery, the human form, regal ornaments, dancing, music, processions, illuminations, exerted all their services to continue the system. Hence, the vast majority considered religion to consist in the due performance of those services; and if any danger impended over the state, it was attributed rather to the neglect of the ceremonies or the necessity of augmenting their frequency, or their costliness.
I am compelled to find a similar 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 who 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 have 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 the object of their worship.
I shall now, however, Thirdly, and very briefly, ADVERT TO THE THREAT
ENING AND ENCOURAGEMENT APPENDED
Lastly, another reason why the use of idols is forbidden in this precept is, the unquestionable tendency which they have to retard, and often to repress altogether, that moral and spiritual elevation of the human character, of which religion is intended to be the instrument. The truths-the doctrines -the duties-the affections of religion may all be comprized as the education of immortal beings for endless progression and infinite happiness. Considered as such, it is of the highest importance that all the objects of religion should be exhibited to the mind in all their native infinitude and boundlessness, of moral loveliness and grandeur. It is of importance that the human intellect should be continually expanded by efforts to know and comprehend GoD-that the extent of its vision should be exercised by anticipations of eternitythat its affections should be dilated by learning the unbounded scheme of the Divine procedure and the Divine benevolence that every aim and object of the human soul should be raised perpetually to a still higher elevation,
TO THIS COMMANDMENT.
In the threatening, GOD describes himself as "visiting the sins of the father upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." In order to form a right understanding of this commandment, let it be observed, that GOD does not represent himself as visiting the sins of wilfully idolatrous and wicked parents upon such of their children as turn from the evil way of their forefathers. The meaning is, that he visits the sins of wicked parents upon wicked children. His words are "visiting the sins of the parents upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him." No term could more clearly express settled, intelligent, determined malignity against GOD. Is it unjust, is it unkind for God to punish such abandoned parents and their abandoned offspring to the extent in question? Let it also be kept in mind, that the destruction of such persons, as well as being an act of justice, is in itself a useful warning and an ef
fectual preventive of the ruin of multitudes. Let it be also considered that, in proportion as the menace seems dreadful, it is calculated to secure obedience to the commandment. The benevolent Creator takes hold upon the strongest affections he has implanted in the human bosom, and engages it as an ultimate argument for obedience to his service, which is in itself good and equitable. He tells the obdurate sinner, who can be affected by no motive but dread, that he will visit his departure from him, on his children.
Perhaps the number of mankind is few, indeed, who could be insensible to such a threatening. Of all things, the idea of entailing misery on their offspring, and their wandering in the ways of sorrow long after the grave has closed over his own guilty head, seems to be abhorred even by the most abandoned parent. Let, however, the true nature of the threatening be understood. The Almighty does not assert that he will visit the sins of the parent upon the children in a future state. He also declares by the prophet Ezekiel, "that the soul that sinneth it shall die, the son shall not bear the iniquity of his father, that the son shall not die for the father." We are guided by these considerations to say that the meaning of the threatening is this. The covenant of GOD with the Jews, promised that while they retained their allegiance to Jehovah, he would grant them a continuance of temporal eminence and prosperity. Idolatry was the sin that peculiarly broke this covenant upon the part of the Jews, when, of course, those temporal blessings in the land were forfeited. The obedience, or disobedience of a Jew, and especially to this precept, continued, or deprived his descendants of their earthly prosperity. This, which is nothing more than a correct interpretation of this denunciation, assuredly contains nothing unkind or unjust.
On the other hand, the menace which consists of measured severity is attended with a promise full of unlimited kindness, showing mercy to thousands"-that is, perhaps, to thousands of generations "in them that love me and keep my commandments." He will "visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation who hate him," he will show mercy to thousands of generations in them that love him and keep his commandments."
These national blessings were secured or endangered in proportion as Israel kept or violated the commandment, whose reasonableness and excellency we have endeavoured to establish.
The encouragement which is appended seems even much more applicable to the parental feelings of mankind, and calculated to secure obedience by that very motive by which disobedience had been forbidden.
The practical lesson which seems administered to ourselves by this commandment is, that while we utterly refrain from the use of material symbols in worship, we should be equally careful that we do not so worship GOD, as to depend for imbibing the influence of his truth upon any medium. GOD is a spirit-GOD is a mind; and he that worshippeth him must worship him in mind and in reality. While means of grace are used, and the ministry of fellow creatures received with meekness and pure affection, our dependance should be on an immediate emanation from the fountain of goodness himselfupon pure truth itself, independent of any circumstances in which it may be presented. Thus alone shall we be prepared for the employment and felicity of a future state, which owes its perfection to this condition of the worshippers that "they shall see GOD as he is."-Amen.
SERMON BY THE REV. T. DALE, M. A.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 1832.
A Thanksgiving Sermon,
DELIVERED BY THE REV. THOMAS DALE, M. A.
AT ST. MATTHEW'S CHAPEL, DENMARK HILL, ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1832,
RECOMMENDING THE FORMATION OF A DISTRICT VISITING SOCIETY.
Deut. iv. 4." But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God, are alive every one of you this day."
A YEAR has now revolved, an anxious, | him by a stoke. Few then affected, threatening, and eventful year, since and fewer felt indifference, for even we first began to assemble weekly in those who neither acknowledged nor this place, in order to deprecate the manifested any open solicitude to judgment which we could not but others, were, there is little room to confess that we had deserved; and to doubt, inwardly apprehensive for implore protection against an enemy, themselves. Of the panic which the from which no human foresight could first alarm excited, and the precaudeliver, no skill of man could save. tions which were wisely employed The blasting of the breath of divine to guard against the dreaded enemy, displeasure had already been felt this village and neighbourhood is within the limit of our ocean shores, an example and an evidence;—this though impregnable to human foes; place, where a munificence withand every face gathered blackness, out precedent and almost without and every man's heart shrunk within parallel, provided for the immediate him from fear; for we presaged our succour of the indigent, and the breakown destiny from that of our brethren ing off of iniquities, was at least so on the continent, and anticipated, as far evinced, as it could be by shewing we had merited, a wide and sweep- pity to the poor. But the God of all ing desolation. Already the trem- mercy-He whose very judgments are bling parent in imagination saw the tempered by this his favoured and commissioned destroyer entering into peculiar attribute, was better to us the sanctuary of his peaceful home, than our fears; the dark cloud imand sweeping away the fairest and pended over us, but it did not descend the dearest of his offspring; the in blood; and when in this vicinity wife trembled for the husband of her the visitation was at the worst, the youth, and the husband looked with living were still counted as thousands, anxious and dreary forebodings on and the dead were reckoned but by the faithful partner of all his joys and tens-while, of the congregation sorrows, as though the desire of his which I am wont to address in this eyes were about to be severed from place, scarcely one member, so far
as my knowledge extends, has been | vile material as the perishable body, and were equally involved in the sentence, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”—it would be comparatively of little moment by what instrumentality we were swept from the face of this earth, and the sharp yet brief agony of the rapid and fearful epidemic would perhaps be no more formidable, than a less painful indeed, but greatly more protracted struggle; or even the slow and wearisome process of the gradual extinction of the taper of life, when it has burned through its longest interval of fourscore years, and is glimmering dimly over the slowly opening grave. All considerations of comparative and present suffering obviously fade into utter insignificance, before the estimate which we spiritually form concerning that portion of man, in which alone he resembles the Divinity; and it would be an imbecility descending be
even slightly smitten by the destroy-
raving that of the madman, seriously to
But benefits forgotten or misapplied -are worse-far worse-in their eventual and abiding result than cala-low that of the idiot, and a frenzy outmities apprehended or endured. Tribulation worketh patience-and patience experience—and experience hope- but what doth ingratitude work? Shall we go, for an answer, to the dreary regions of fearful expectation, in which impenitent sinners are reserved under darkness to the judg-over eternity, it will appear, that some ment of the great day?—No, beloved of us are still cumbering the ground, brethren; rather may the Spirit attune but with hope of bearing fruit, who our hearts to gratitude, and draw us to might otherwise have been cut down our God by the cords of love, while and cast into the unquenchable fire ;— we considersome are becoming heirs of immortality, who would otherwise have been fixed for ever inheritors of the cursesome are being made meet through grace for the inheritance of the saints in light, who would otherwise by unrepented corruptions and an unregenerate heart, have been suited only to the congenial fellowship, of the devil and his angels. Some are preparing for a higher degree, who would otherwise have been scarcely saved, even so as by fire. Some are spared to exhibit the
THE BENEFIT CONFERRED varies in degree with the circumstances of every individual, at least when contemplated in his highest and most durable relation as an heir of immortality. If, indeed, it were to be regarded only in a temporal sense, and the soul were compounded of the same
First, THE BENEFIT CONFERRED.