Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 5

In parts 2-4 we have looked at the thoughts of the Magisterial Reformers and some of the contributors to the Westminster Confession as well as John Owen as to the question before the house. Today we will consider the thoughts of the theologians of the 19th century such as Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield (one wonders why they never hired C.C. Sabathia after B.B. retired…) and their Southern counterparts. R.L. Dabney and H.L. Thornwell. After this the thoughts of contemporary theologians will be taken into account and in the final part of this series I will speak of my own thoughts on the matter before us today.

R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology , Section Four, Chapter 31

Scope of Second Commandment.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, Ch, 19, Sect. 6

6. The Second Commandment

The two fundamental principles of the religion of the Bible are first, that there is one only the living and true God, the maker of heaven and earth, who has revealed Himself under the name Jehovah; secondly, that this God is a Spirit, and, therefore, incapable of being conceived of or represented under a visible form. The first commandment, therefore, forbids the worship of any other being than Jehovah; and the second, the worship of any visible object whatever. This includes the prohibition, not only of inward homage, but of all external acts which are the natural or conventional expression of such inward reverence.

That the second commandment does not forbid pictorial or sculptured representations of ideal or visible objects, is plain because the whole command has reference to religious worship, and because Moses, at the command of God himself, made many such images and representations. The curtains of the tabernacle and especially the veil separating between the Holy and Most Holy places, were adorned with embroidered figures representing cherubim; cherubim overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant with their wings; the Golden Candlestick was in the form of a tree “with branches, knops, and flowers;” the hem of the high priest’s robe was adorned with alternate bells and pomegranates. When Solomon built the temple, “he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim, and palm-trees, and open flowers, within and without.” (1 Kings vi. 29.) The “molten sea” stood upon twelve oxen. Of this house thus adorned God said, “I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there forever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.” (1 Kings ix. 3.) There can therefore be no doubt that the second commandment was intended only to forbid the making or using the likeness of anything in heaven or earth as objects of worship.

The Worship of Images forbidden.

It is equally clear that the second commandment does forbid the use of images in divine worship. In other words, idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods, but also in the worship of the true God by images. This is clear, —

1. From the literal meaning of the words. The precise thing forbidden is, bowing down to them, or serving them, i.e., rendering them any kind of external homage. This, however, is exactly what is done by all those who employ images as the objects, or aids of religious worship.

2. This is still further plain because the Hebrews were solemnly enjoined not to make any visible representation of the unseen God, or to adopt anything external as the symbol of the invisible and make such symbol the object of worship; i.e., they were not to bow down before these images or symbols or serve them. The Hebrew word צָבַר, rendered “to serve,” includes all kinds of external homage, burning incense, making oblations, and kissing in token of subjection. The Hebrews were surrounded by idolaters. The nations, having forgotten God, or refusing to acknowledge Him, had given themselves up to false gods. It was nature’s invisible force, of which they saw constant, and often fearful manifestations around them, that was the great object of their reverence and fear…3. A third argument on this subject is, that the worship of 293Jehovah by the use of images is denounced and punished as an act of apostasy from God. When the Hebrews in the wilderness said to Aaron, “Make us gods which shall go before us,” neither they nor Aaron intended to renounce Jehovah as their God; but they desired a visible symbol of God, as the heathen had of their gods. This is plain, because Aaron, when he fashioned the golden calf and built an altar before it, made proclamation, and said, “To-morrow is a feast to Jehovah.” “Their sin then lay, not in their adopting another god, but in their pretending to worship a visible symbol of Him whom no symbol could represent.”

Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology

I found a great website online that has put Charles Hodge’s entire Systematic Theology on audio MP3. I listened to a great deal of it today and being that I am an auditory learner it was of immeasurable help.

It can be found here. They also have Calvin’s Institutes as well as several other major works.