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those of the eye. Of course these difficulties would be augmented where the object in question was a being of different powers and qualities to those of man, or even possessing the same powers and qualities, but in different degrees. Mankind could imagine a perception of a distant object by sight, but of the intuition of objects without bodily organs, amid darkness, or through the walls of a building, or extending to every object of an island, or a continent, they would find the conception difficult in the extreme. Of power exerted by contact mankind could easily form an idea; but not so easily of power exerted by influence. With power as productive of a variety of different effects mankind have been familiar; but the power which was required to produce the several phenomena, ascribed by them to their several deities, overwhelmed their faculties. Of the pre-south, another to the east, another to
sence of an individual and his exis-
This is the account often given of the ancient and almost universal propensity to the use of images by mankind in the worship of their various
divinities. The writers who have given this solution, have accordingly traced the correspondence between the external form of the images themselves, and those imaginary deities, or those qualities of those deities which they were supposed to represent, and which they assert the worshippers to have comprehended. Thus the upper part of the image of Jupiter was unclothed, and the lower portion hid in raiment as a representation that that deity himself is visible to the gods above, but that he is concealed from the sight of the inhabitants of the earth. Thus the Cretans had a statue of the same god, without ears, as a representation that the master of the world was incapable of partiality and equally candid to all. The Lacedæmonians had an image of the same deity with four heads, one directed to the north, another to the
the west; by which was expressed their belief that the being whom it represented, was ready and capable of hearing the prayers which were offered to him from all parts of the earth. The same symbolical character pervades the images used by foreign nations to the present time. The image of the principal false divinity of India, is represented as having a great number of arms and hands attached to its body, the arm and hand, being the instruments of human power, these are simply intended to represent to the worshippers the variety and extent of the power with which that Deity is supposed to be endowed.
The same symbolical character atand continues to attend every instance of worship through means of images. The sacrifices are all symbolical. Thus the vulture and the raven were offered to Mars, as correspondent to the war-like character of that personage. Hence Pluto, the
supposed Gop of the infernal regions, was honored with the sacrifice of a black bull, whose blood, instead of being sprinkled on the altar, was allowed to fall on the ground, and to be absorbed in order to indicate that his realms lay beneath the earth. These instances are mentioned as specimens of the rest which might be particularized beyond the limits of a discourse. It may, however, be with safety asserted, that wherever we see or read of any material representation which was, or still continues to be used in the worship offered by any nation to its deities, it may be certain that its intention is to represent, by a sensible image, some doctrine respecting the nature, attributes, history, actions, influence, or disposition of the deity in question. From which observations it would seem to follow that the general sentiment of mankind has been that the image was not the deity himself, but the representation of their ideas, or of some of their ideas of the deity as nearly as possible; who nevertheless has been supposed to have had an existence prior to that of the image, and separate and independent.
and call themselves Christians, abhor the very idea of using any symbolical representation of the Deity; and that the whole Jewish nation, ever since their last captivity, have professed to worship GoD, in strict conformity to the precept on which we are discoursing. The true cause of the adoption of images into the worship of the true GOD, is rather to be sought in the imperfection of the spiritual capacity, in our depravity, whereby foregoing the sublimest quality of our nature, the contemplation of abstract perfection, man chooses to grovel into the very elements of his nature, and reversing the intended order of things, instead of using the material for means of inferring the truths respecting the Deity, uses them rather to represent that Deity himself, changing the spiritual into the visible, instead of, from the visible learning and adoring the spiritual.
It is, however, an act of argumentative justice to state the high probability that attends the subject, that very few, if any individuals or nations, ever existed who really had no higher ideas of divinity than the images in question, who have believed in no other being as GOD, than the graven representation which was the work of their hands. If such persons ever existed, their error is not condemned in the second commandment, but in the first, Thou shalt have no other Gons before me." Still it must be confessed that the propensity to use material representations of GOD, though possible to have been avoided by all men, and though it must have appeared repugnant to their better
It is, however, by no means the intention of these remarks to palliate, or to represent the use of images in the worship of the true GOD, as less objectionable or absurd, or as naturally resulting from the circumstances of man. That there is no necessity to adopt such a practice seems evident, whether we consider that the human mind, being formed in the likeness of God, would have in its boundlessness of spirituality afforded at all times the best and only adequate re-judgment, on due consideration, and
though absolutely condemned by the wisest of their law-givers and philosophers, has actually prevailed nearly over the whole globe. It is also well known that the worship of the true GoD among Jews and Christians has
presentation of the Deity; or that, material representations were unknown to the ancient Patriarchs, Romans, Greeks,and Egyptians; and also that the Mahomedans, who far exceed in number, even those who profess
exhibited the influence of this practice, which after due weight being given to every consideration, will be found pernicious in the highest degree; and equally to demand from GOD the most rigid prohibition as an act of rectitude towards himself, and of benevolence towards his
THE REASONS WHICH GIVE THIS CHARACTER TO THE PROHIBITION, it will now be my endeavour in the Second place, to enumerate.
countless varieties which separate the
In the first place, any representation whatever of the Deity must at best be infinitely inadequate; and, therefore, attended with consequences peculiarly injurious. In consequence of the fact, that all our knowledge is derived through the senses, and that we cannot possibly form any idea of any material representations but such as already have existed in the natural world, it will necessarily follow that, if we form any material symbol of the Deity, we must adopt the imitation of some object, or some combinations of objects already existing. But what object is there, which has ever been the subject of the human senses, which could offer, even at an infinite distance, any adequate representation of the Deity? He fills the heavens, and the heaven of the heavens. To what object, then, having a limited definite existence, will ye liken him? It is evidently absurd, in the highest degree, to liken the infinite and eternal Jehovah to any one of the ordinary objects of nature. With what propriety could we conceive him under the representation of any winged creature, who is the creator of all the innumerable creatures that bear themselves above the earth, and float on the atmosphere on wings, from the delicate insect that lives but a summer's day, whose body gives no perceptible weight upon the finest balance, up to the majestic condor, that seems to take his flight from the brow of a promontory, and soars as if in pursuit of some object in another world? To what beast of the earth will ye liken him, whose wisdom, power, and benevolence devised, created, and sustains all that complication of wonders, which constitute the existence of all animals through the
might, holiness, and love, are but emanations from his own.
Since ye have found no adequate representation of him in any of the individuals, or individual orders of existence, would it suffice to unite them all in one vast representation of their Supreme Creator?
glorious productions of the power of man, must be infinitely less successful.
Secondly, the evil of idolatry will still further appear, if you reflect on the well-known consequence of representing spiritual and unseen beings to the senses. There is scarcely any conceivable order of angelic beings, fallen or unfallen, which has not become the subject of representation in Christendom.
During the last eighteen centuries, every holy and unholy being has appeared within or without the edifices adapted for public worship, especially
That existence itself, could every being add its perfections to the model, would be merely an individual isolated effort of his intelligence, and would offer no imaginable approximation to his infinite and eternal Being to his felicity arising from the 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, so inconceivable as to involve the sequence upon our perception of the perceptions of a 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 representation of the Deity, taken from sensible objects, seem reasonable, man could only take them from what of things he has seen: It would seem that the form of man himself, owing to its connexion with his immortal faculties, might seem most allowable, yet, at the same time, since that representation would be simply of the lifeless form of a man, it is evident, that the most beautiful and successful representation ever made, such as the Apollo Belvidere, must be really an inferior representation of a man; and how much more an inadequate representation of GOD, as much as the inanimate marble is to the animated structure, and the senseless stone to the inimitable faculties of man. And if we can imagine some inferior race of beings, never to have had any other representation of man than the wondrous statue, which, "though made with human hands, seems not of human thought," to which I have alluded, how grovelling and inadequate must their perceptions be of the being himself, replete with activity, gifted with passions, with love, with hope, with religion and immortality? The attempt, however, to represent the Deity by any, even the most consummate
gelic beings have been represented as young persons of both sexes, adorned with wings, somewhat more masculine, as the powerful, or somewhat more feminine, as the compassionate orders of those intelligences have been represented. The consequence is open to the view and inspection of all, namely, the deterioration of the ordinary sentiments of mankind respecting the higher orders of intelligence. Instead of regarding them as the Scriptures teach us, as beings which, under GOD the Supreme Ruler, hold authority through his dominions as beings endowed with might adequate to the posts of authority assigned them, as endowed with activity surpassing the supposed velocity of light, as possessing faculties capable of learning the divine perfections as they develope themselves in the vast system of his government, they have been lowered in the estimation of men to the condition of fairies and genii; or, rather, the existence of such beings has been altogether doubted, and man has regarded himself as the highest created being in the universe. The Christian, also, has lost sight of the transcendent comfort arising from the ministry of angels; and Christianity itself has lost the moral splen
dour of being considered as system developed in a small, yet deeply interesting portion of the universe, in the view of countless myriads of superior beings, whose nature and number renders the church the least and lowest of all orders of creatures it has interested, instructed, and benefitted.
On the other hand, the effect of the representation of fallen beings has been such that the most high father of evil, the great enemy of GOD, the prince of innumerable fallen angels, whose faculties are so extensive as to render him omnipresent to this little globe, hath been caricatured as if all the truths respecting him had become an exploded fable, and as if men's ridicule and mockery now made up for the fears of their ancestors. It has, indeed, often occurred to me that this deterioration of fallen and unfallen beings, which they have suffered by being delineated in paintings and images, has been a most subtle unsuspected artifice of the father of lies, whereby he hath lulled many to repose, as to their danger from his own power and malignity; and whereby he hath deprived the Gospel of its lustre as a system combining the interests and sympathies of man with the angelic world. However this may be, I doubt not, that had not mankind been strictly menaced not to form any similitude of GOD, that long ago even had they attained to the belief of the one only true Deity, we should have had some beautiful creation of the chisel and the pencil which kingdoms and nations would have agreed to accept as the symbol of the Creator; and inevitably, as in the case of angels, every attribute of divinity would have been lowered down in human apprehension far below the unworthy conceptions we now form of it; he would by this time have been no higher a being in our apprehension, than the angels are in the well instructed mind, and all the impressions all the moral influence and awe, and love, and hope, consequent on the belief of his spirituality and infinitude would have been lost upon the world, and the due acknowledgment of them have been unpaid to himself. It could not have failed, but that all we had learned
of him from nature, and even from revelation, had been repressed down within the qualities of a limited being, and a limited conception of him had been substituted; and instead of himself, another GoD recognized by the human mind.
Thirdly, another reason why idolitary has been prohibited is, the tendency that has ever been observed to accompany it, to transfer to the symbol much, or, at least, a portion of the affections due to the object represented. That such is the tendency of the human mind, may be seen in our aptitude to extend the feelings with which we regard an object to every thing connected with it. Who is there that has not experienced a more than ordinary veneration for the very stones and moss of the hallowed cell, where the martyr breathed his solitary prayer and nerved his resolution to be steadfast, even unto the death? Who is there who has not experienced, when walking over the plain, where once the interest of nations were decided, that every object around him seems to whisper with intelligence of that mighty struggle? It is an unquestionable law of our nature to attach the feelings excited through persons and events to the scenery and circumstances; and nothing seems plainer, even without proof, that similar feelings would have been extended towards the resemblance of the true GOD, had it been possible for him to have given permission for its formation.
But when we appeal to facts themselves, our conjecture, which thus seems evident, becomes inviolably confirmed. The Israelites, even when ages had passed away, and the generation had become extinct, which had been bitten by the serpents, and which had been cured by looking to the resemblance made by Moses continued to offer burnt incense to that very resemblance; and so tenacious did they seem of offering to it religious honors, that it was found necessary to destroy this national memorial, in order to prevent idolatry. Among the other ancient nations, the honors they paid to the divinities by means and use of other similitudes, was so much addressed to the