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  • WORKS OF ARMINIUS - ON THE SECOND COMMAND IN THE DECALOGUE


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    DISPUTATION LXXV

    ON THE SECOND COMMAND IN THE DECALOGUE

    I. The second precept consists of a command and its sanction, from a description of God, who is prompt and powerful to punish the transgressor, and who is greatly inclined to bless him that is obedient. In this are consequently included a threat of punishment and a promise of reward.

    II. This command is negative: A deed which is displeasing to God is forbidden in these words: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them."

    III. The sum of the precept is, that no one should adore or offer divine worship to any sculptured, molten or painted image, or one made in any other way, whether it has for its archetype a thing really existing or something fictitious, God or a creature, or whether it resemble its archetype according to some real conformity, or only by institution and opinion, or, which is the same thing, that he do not in or to any image adore or worship that which he considers in the place of a deity and worships as such, whether this be truly or falsely.

    IV. As, from a comparison of this precept, with other passages of Scripture in which God commands certain images to be made, it appears that the mere formation of every kind of image whatsoever is not forbidden, provided that they be not prostituted to worship; so, from a comparison of this same precept with others which are analogous to it or collateral, it is evident that no image ought to be made to represent God, because this very act is nothing else but a changing of the glory of the incorruptible God into the image or likeness of a corruptible thing. For whatever can be fashioned or framed is visible, therefore corruptible. We are not afraid of making this general affirmation under the sanction of the Scriptures, though with them and from them we know, that now, according to the body, Christ is incorruptible.

    V. A double distinction is here employed by the papists, of an archetype and its image; and also of an image itself as it is formed of such materials, and as it is an image, that is, calculated and fitted to represent the archetype. From these, they further deduce the distinction of the intention in worshipping; by which the worshiper looks upon either the archetype alone, not its image; or, if he even looks on the image, does not behold it as it is made of such materials, neither on it principally, but in reference to its archetype. We do not attempt to deny that the mind of man can frame a distinction of this kind.

    VI. But when those who fall down before an image attempt, by such a distinction, to excuse themselves from the transgression of this precept, they accuse God himself of a falsehood, and deride his command.

         (1.) They charge him with falsehood; because, when God declares that he who falls down before an image, says to the wood and to the stone, "Thou art my Father!" they assert, that the prostrated person does not say this to the wood and the stone, but to their archetype, that is, to God.

         (2.) They mock God and his command; because by this distinction it comes to pass, that no man at any time, though paying adoration to any kind of images, can be brought in guilty of having violated this precept, unless, according to his own opinion, he has judged that wood really to be God, and therefore that he has himself truly and in reality formed a god, which cannot possibly enter into the conception of one who uses his reason.

    VII. But they partly annihilate their own excuse which rests on this distinction, when they say that the same honour and worship (whether it be that of latria, of dulia, or of hyperdulia,) must be given to an image as to its archetype. Neither does this prolong its existence by such distinction, when they represent God himself by an image, because that is simply forbidden to be done.

    VIII. We assert, therefore, that, according to the judgment of God, and express passages of Scripture, the papists are correctly charged with giving a portraiture of the essence of God, when they represent him in the form of an old man, graced with an ample gray beard, and seated on a throne -- though in express words they say, that they know God has not a body, and though they protest that they had fashioned this form, not for the purpose of representing his essence, but that they had instituted this similitude to represent the appearance which he occasionally made to his prophets, and to signify his presence. For the protestation is contrary to facts; since facts are, by nature, not what we feign them to be, but what God, the legislator, declares them to be. But he says those facts are, that he has been assimilated, that a [supposed] likeness of himself has been formed, and that he has been [falsely] set up in a gold or silver graven image.

    IX. We assert that all those images of which we have spoken - - both those of God, placed only for representation, and those of other things (whether true or fictitious,) exposed for adoration -- are correctly called "idols," not only according to the etymology of the word, but likewise according to the usage of the Scriptures, and that the distinction which is employed by the papists between idols and resemblances or images has been produced from the dark cave of horrid idolatry.

    X. In the same precept in which it is forbidden to fashion or make any images for divine worship, it is likewise commanded to remove others, if they have been previously made and exposed for worship, these two cautions being always observed,

         (1.) That it be done, when preceded by a suitable and sufficient teaching.

         (2.) That it be the work of those who are in possession of the supreme authority in the commonwealth and the church.

    XI. Though the honour exhibited to such images, or to the deity through such images, be reproachful to the true God himself; yet he, also, who pours contumely on the images which he considers to be correctly formed, and lawfully proposed for worship, pours contumely on the deity himself, whom he presumes to worship, and declares himself to be an atheist.

    XII. The affirmation seems here to be strictly and directly opposed to the whole negative precept, that we may worship God, because he is a Spirit, with a pure cogitation of mind and abstracted from every imagination.

    XIII. The sanction of the precept, which includes the threatening, is this: "For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;" that is, unless you obey this, my precept, you shall feel that I am jealous of mine honour, and that I will not, with impunity, suffer it to be given to another, or my glory to be communicated to graven images.

    XIV. The other part of the sanction contains a promise in these words: "I am the Lord thy God, showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments;" [That is, if you obey this my precept, you shall feel that I will display mercy towards you, and towards your children to the thousandth generation, provided that they also love me.]

    XV. But mention is made of posterity, that men may be thus the more incited to obedience, since their future compliance with the precept will prove beneficial, not only to themselves, but to their posterity, or their future transgression will be injurious to them and their offspring.

    XVI. From a comparison of the preceding command with this, it appears that there is a two-fold idolatry -- one, by which a false and fictitious deity is worshipped; another, by which a true or false deity is worshipped in an image, by an image, or at an image. Yet this very image is sometimes called "a false and another god," which the Lord God also seems to intimate in this place, when he endeavours to deter men from a violation of this precept by an argument drawn from his jealousy.

    COROLLARY

    Without any exaggeration, the idolatry of the papists may be placed on an equality with that of the Jews and gentiles. If it be urged as an exception, that they have neither made their children pass through the fire, nor have offered living men in sacrifice -- we reply, The horrid tyranny which the papists have exercised in the murder of so many thousand martyrs, with the design of confirming the idolatry that flourishes among them, may be equitably compared to making their children pass through the fire, and the oblation of living men in sacrifice, if not according to the appearance of the deed, at least according to the grievous nature of the crime.

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