A Golden Chain
Works VI, pp. 76-85
Thou shalt neither worship false gods, nor the true God with false worship. Many things are here forbidden.
(1) The representation of God by an image.
The representation of God by an image. For it is a lie. “What profiteth the image? For the maker thereof hath made it an image and a teacher of lies” (Hab. 2:18). “The idols have spoken vanity” (Zech. 10:2). “The stock is a doctrine of vanity” (Jer. 10:8). The Elib. Council in the thirty-ninth canon has this edict: “We thought it not meet to have images in churches, lest that which is worshipped and adored, should be painted upon walls” (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, book 5). “That serpent by others is wont to speak these words: We in honor of the invisible God, are accustomed to adore visible images, the which out of all controversy is very false” (Augustine, Exposition upon the Psalms, Psalm 112).
The images also of the cross and of Christ crucified and of the saints ought to be abolished out of churches, as the brazen serpent was (2 Kings 18:4). Hezekiah is commended for breaking in pieces the brazen serpent to which the children of Israel did then burn incense. This did Hezekiah, albeit at the first this serpent was made by the Lord’s appointment (Num. 21:8) and was a type of Christ’s passion (John 3:14). Origen in his Seventh Book against Celsus: “We permit not any to adore Jesus upon the altars in images, or upon church walls, because it is written, ‘Thou shalt have none other gods but Me.’” (Origen of Alexandria, Contra Celsum, book 7).
Epiphanius in that epistle which he wrote to John, bishop of Jerusalem, says, “It is against the custom of the church, to see any image hanging in the church, whether it be of Christ, or any other saint, and therefore even with His own hands rent He asunder the veil, wherein such an image was painted.”
Some object the figure or sign which appeared to Constantine, wherein he should overcome; but it was not the sign of the cross (as the papists do triflingly imagine), but of Christ’s name. For the thing was made of these two Greek letters, Χρ, conjoined together. (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, book 1, ch. 22 & 25).
Neither serve the cherubim which Solomon placed in the temple for the defense of images; for they were only in the Holy of Holiest, where the people could not see them. And they were types of the glory of the Messiah, to whom the very angels were subject, the which we have now verified in Christ.
If any man reply that they worship not the image, but God in the image, let him know that the creature cannot comprehend the image of the Creator; and if it could, yet God would not be worshiped in it, because it is a dead thing—yea, the work of man’s hands, not of God—and therefore is more base than the smallest living creature, of the which we may lawfully say it is the work of God. This evinces that no kind of divine worship belongs to an image, either simply or by relation, whatever the sophistical schoolmen jangle to the contrary.
If any man be yet desirous of images, he may have at hand the preaching of the gospel a lively image of Christ crucified. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, to whom Jesus Christ before was described in your sight, and among you crucified?” (Gal. 3:1). The like may be said of the two sacraments. And that saying of Clement is true in his fifth book of Recognut: “If you will truly adore the image of God, do good to man, and you shall worship His true image; for man is the image of God.”
(2) Approval of Idolatry.
The least approbation of idolatry. “They say one to another whilst they sacrifice a man, let them kiss the calves” (Hos. 13:2). Now a kiss is an external sign of some allowance of a thing (Gen. 48:10).
Therefore, it is unlawful to be present at mass or any idolatrous service, though our minds be absent. “Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirits, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20). “What saith the Scripture? I have reserved unto myself seven thousand men, which have not bowed their knee to Baal” (Rom. 11:4). “The martyrs, when they were hauled to the temple of idols, cried out, and with a loud voice in the midst of their tortures testified, that they were not idolatrous sacrificers, but professed and constant Christians, rejoicing greatly that they might make such a confession” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, book 8, ch. 3).
That which may be objected of Naaman the Syrian, who worshiped in the temple of Rimmon, is thus answered, that he did it not with purpose to commit idolatry but to perform that civil obeisance which he was wont to exhibit to the king’s majesty (2 Kings 5:17–18).
And for this cause are utterly forbidden all such dancing professions, plays, and such feasts as are consecrated to the memorial and honor of idols. “They rose up the next day in the morning, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings: also the people sat them down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (Ex. 32:6). “Neither be ye idolaters as some of them were, as it is written,” etc. (1 Cor. 10:7). And Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:4 to the end, earnestly dissuades the Corinthians from sitting at table in the idols’ temple, albeit they “knew that an idol is nothing in the world.” The Tripartite History notes, “Certain soldiers of Justan refused to adore, as the custom was, the emperor’s banner, in which were painted the images of Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars; others bring again the rewards, which they, after they had burned incense on an altar in the emperor’s presence, had received, crying that they were Christians and would live and die in that profession. And as for their former fact, it was of ignorance—yea, though they had polluted hands with idolatry of the Painyms, yet they kept their conscience clean” (Tripartite History, book 6, ch. 30).
(3) Monuments of Idolatry.
All relics and monuments of idols; for these, after the idols themselves are once abolished, must be erased out of all memory. “Ye shall make no mention of the name of other gods, neither shall it be heard out of thy mouth” (Ex. 23:13). “And ye shall pollute the covering of the images of silver, and the rich ornament of the images of gold, and cast them away as a menstruous cloth, and thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence” (Isa. 30:22).
(4) Society with infidels.
Society with infidels is here unlawful, which serves not only to maintain concord but also to join men in brotherly love. Of this society there are many branches.
The first is marriage with infidels. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all that they liked” (Gen. 6:2). “Judah hath transgressed, and an abomination is committed on Israel, and in Jerusalem: for Judah hath defiled the holiness of the Lord, which he loved, and hath married the daughters of a strange God” (Mal. 2:11). “Should we return to break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of such abomination?” (Ezra 9:14). “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 8:18).
The second is the league in war—namely, a mutual confederacy to assist one another in the same war and to have one and the same enemies. This is sundry ways impious. (1) If it be unlawful to crave assistance of God’s enemies, it is likewise unlawful to indent with them that we will assist them. (2) It obscures God’s glory as though He Himself either would not or could not aid His church. (3) It is a thousand to one lest we be infected with their idolatry and other impieties. (4) It endangers us to be made partakers of their punishments. “And Jehu the son of Hanani, the seer, went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, Wouldest thou help the wicked, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore for this thing is the wrath of the Lord upon thee” (2 Chron. 19:2).
The third is traffic [i.e. commerce], as when a man wittingly and willingly does in hope to enrich himself make sale of such things as he knows must serve to an idolatrous use. This condemns all those merchants which transport wares to idolaters and sell them frankincense, wax, cloth, or other such things as help them in the service of their idols.
The fourth is trial or suits in law before judges which are infidels, when Christian courts may be frequented; but if they cannot, and we have to deal with infidels, we may appeal to infidels. “Brother goeth to law with brother, and that under infidels” (1 Cor. 6:6). “Paul appealeth to Caesar” (Acts 25:11).
The fifth is the worshiping of the beast and receiving his mark. “If any man worship the beast, and his image, and receive the mark in his forehead or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:9–10). This beast is the Church of Rome—I mean not that old, but this new Rome, now no better than a heretical and apostatical synagogue.
Will-worship, when God is worshiped with a naked and bare good intention not warranted by the Word of God. “Which things indeed have a show of wisdom in voluntary religion, and humbleness of mind, and in not sparing the body: neither have they it in estimation to satisfy the flesh” (Col. 2:23). “And Saul said, Bring a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings: and he offered a burnt offering. And as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came, and said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly, thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee” (1 Sam. 13:9–10, 13). Hitherto may we add popish superstitions in sacrifices, meats, holidays, apparel, temporary and bead-ridden prayers [i.e. rosary beads], indulgences, austere life, whipping, ceremonies, gestures, gait, conversation, pilgrimage, building of altars, pictures, churches, and all other of that rabble.
To these may be added consort in music in divine service, feeding the ears, not edifying the mind. “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the understanding also. I will sing with the spirit, but I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15). Justin Martyr in his book of Christian Questions and Answers 107, “It is not the custom of the churches to sing their meters with any such kind of instruments, etc., but their manner is only to use plain song.”
Lastly, monastical vows, which (1) repugn the law of God, as that unchaste vow of single life and proud promise of poverty do plainly evince: “for he that laboreth not, must not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). “And it is better to marry, than to burn in lust” (1 Cor. 7:9). (2) They are greater than men’s nature can perform, as in a single life to live perpetually chaste. (3) They disannul Christian liberty and make such things necessary as are indifferent. (4) They renew Judaism. (5) They are idolatrous, because they make them parts of God’s worship and esteem them as meritorious. (6) Hypocrisy, which gives to God painted worship—that is, if you regard outward behavior, great sincerity; if the inward and hearty affections, none at all. “Hypocrites, well hath Isaiah prophesied of you, saying, This people cometh near me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:7). “The wicked man is so proud, that he seeketh not for God” (Ps. 10:4).
The effects of hypocrisy are these: (1) To seek the pomp and glory of the world and by all means to enrich itself, notwithstanding it make a glorious show of the service of God. (2) It is sharp-sighted and has eagle’s eyes to observe other men’s behavior, when in the regarding its own it is as blind as a beetle. (3) To be more curious in the observation of ancient traditions than the statutes and commandments of almighty God. (4) To stumble at a straw and skip over a block—that is, to omit serious affairs and hunt after trifles (Matt. 23:4–5). To do all things that they may be seen of men (6:5).
Popish fasting is mere hypocrisy, because it stands in the distinction of meats, and it is used with an opinion of merit.
External abstinence from meats without internal and spiritual fasting from sin and unlawful desires. “Is this such a fast as I have chosen, that a man should afflict his soul for a day, and bow down his head as a bulrush, and lie down in sackcloth and ashes? Wilt thou call this as fasting, or an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fasting that I have chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to take off the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:5–6).
(7) Contempt, neglect, and intermission of God’s service.
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. Therefore, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, it will come to pass, that I shall spew thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16).
(8) Corrupting God’s worship and church government.
Corrupting of God’s worship and that order of government which He has ordained for His church, the which is done when anything is added, detracted, or any way against His prescript mangled. “Everything which I command you, that do: neither add to it, nor detract from it” (Deut. 12:32). This condemns that popish elevation of bread in the Lord’s Supper and the administration of it alone to the people without wine, together with that fearful abomination of the mass.
By this we may learn to reject all popish traditions. “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines, men’s precepts” (Matt. 15:9). Now it is manifest that all popish traditions, they either on their own nature or others abusing of them, serve as well to superstition and false worship as to enrich that covetous and proud hierarchy, whereas the Scriptures, contained in the Old and New Testament, are all-sufficient not only to confirm doctrines but also to reform manners. “The whole Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to teach, to improve, and to correct, and to instruct in righteousness: that the man of God may be absolute, being made perfect to all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16).
The Romish hierarchy is here also condemned from the parratour to the pope, the government whereof is an express image of the old Roman empire, whether we consider the regiment itself or the place of the empire or the large circuit of that government. “And it was permitted to him, to give a spirit to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast should speak, and should cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast, should be killed” (Rev. 13:15).
(9) A religious reverence of the creature.
A religious reverence of the creature, when we attribute more to it than we ought. “When I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel, which showed me these things. But he said to me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant” (Rev. 22:8). “As Peter came in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshiped him. But Peter took him up saying, Stand up, for even I myself am a man” (Acts 10:25).
If then it be so heinous a thing to reverence the creature, much more to pray to it, whether it be saint or angel. “How shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed” (Rom. 10:14). “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).
Neither might we pray to Christ, unless as He is man so He were also God; for we direct not our worship to the humanity considered by itself, but to the deity to which the humanity is knit by an hypostatical union.
This teaches us plainly that invocation of any creature is unlawful, for we must pray to them that are able to know the secrets of the heart and discern the wisdom of the Spirit. Now none is able to do that, but such a nature as is omnipotent. “He that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the meaning of the spirit: for he maketh request for the saints, according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27).
Nevertheless, such as are saints indeed are to be honored by an approbation of God’s gifts in them and by an honorable mention of them and also by imitation of their manners and lives, being as patterns for us to walk after.
(10) Worship of devils.
(1) Magic, which is a mischievous art, accomplishing wonders by Satan’s assistance. For it is appropriate to God to do miracles, for He alone both beyond and against the course of nature does wonderful things. Now the instruments which God uses in producing miracles are only they who do in the true church of God make profession of the faith. “These signs shall follow them that believe” (Mark 16:17).
Albeit the devils cannot work miracles, yet may they effect marvels or wonders, and that not by making a new thing which before was not at all, but rather by moving, transporting, and applying natural things diversely, by causing a thin body (as the air) to be thick and foggy, and also by bewitching the senses of men.
The foundation of magic is a covenant with Satan. A covenant with Satan is such a contract by which magicians have mutually to do with the devil. In this observe: The original of this mutual contract. (1) Satan makes choice of such men to be his servants as are by nature either notoriously bad persons or very silly souls. (2) He offers to them diverse means either by other magicians or by some books written by such. Satanical means I call those which are used in the producing of such an effect to the which they neither by any express rule out of God’s Word nor of their own nature were ever ordained. Such are obscure words, words of the Scripture wrested and abused to the great contumely and disgrace of the Lord God; holy, or rather unholy water, signs, seals, glasses, images, bowings of the knee, and such like divers gestures. (3) When the wicked see these means offered to them, they presently are not a little glad and assuredly believe that in those things there is virtue to work wonders by. (4) They declare this their satanical confidence by their earnest endeavor, practicing, and abusing the means. Then the devil is at their elbows, being thus affected that he may both assist them and show them divers tricks of his legerdemain, because he alone does by means void of all such virtue effect that which his wicked instrument intended.
Again, observe Satan’s counterfeiting of God. He is God’s ape and takes upon him as though he were God. (1) As God has His Word, His sacraments, and faith due to Him, so the devil has certain words of his own. And to seal them to the wicked, he annexes certain signs—namely, characters, gestures, sacrifices, etc.—as it were sacraments, that both he may signify his devilish pleasure to his magicians, and they again testify both their satanical obedience and confidence to him. (2) As God hears such as call upon, trust in, and obey Him, so the devil is greatly delighted with magical ceremonies and invocations, because by them God is dishonored and he magnified. Therefore, if God cut him not short, he is ready pressed to assist such as shall use such ceremonies or invocations.
The covenant is either secret or express. Secret or implicit, when one does not expressly compact with Satan, yet in his heart allows of his means, assuredly and upon knowledge believing that if such means were used, there might indeed that great wonder be wrought which he desired. Express, when one does not only put his confidence in Satan, but covenants with him upon this condition: that he giving himself wholly over to the devil may again by observing certain ceremonies accomplish his desire.
Magic is either divining or working. Divining, whereby things to come are foretold by the help of the devil. Now of predictions, some are done with means; others without. Predictions done with means are these:
(1) Soothsaying, which is divination by the flying of birds (Deut. 8:10). (2) The kind of divination, which is by looking into beasts’ entrails. “The king of Babylon, etc., consulted with idols, and looked in the liver” (Ezek. 21:21). (3) Necromancy or conjuring, by which the devil in the form of some dead man is sought to for counsel. “Then said the woman, Whom wilt thou I call up unto thee? And he said, Call up Samuel unto me. Then said he unto her, Fear not, but what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. Then said he unto her, What fashion is he of? And she answered, An old man cometh up lapped in a mantle. And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he inclined his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said unto Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? Then Saul answered, I am in great distress: for the Philistines make war against me,” etc. (1 Sam. 28:11, 13–14). This Samuel was not that true prophet of God, who anointed Saul king over Israel, for (1) the souls of the saints departed are far from the devil’s claws and dominion. (2) That good Samuel, if it had been he indeed, would never have permitted Saul to worship him. (3) He says to wicked Saul, “Tomorrow shalt thou be with me” (v. 14). Neither could this be a bare illusion and, as I may say, legerdemain of the witch; for he plainly foretold Saul’s destruction, which an ignorant woman could not know, much less durst she constantly avouch any such matter to the king. It remains then that this Samuel was a mere illusion of Satan.
Divining without means is called pythonism, when such as are possessed with an unclean spirit use immediately the help of the same spirit to reveal secrets. “A certain maid having a spirit of divination, met us, which got her master much vantage with divining” (Acts 16:16). “Thy voice shall be out of the ground, like him that has a spirit of divination, and thy talking shall whisper out of the dust” (Isa. 29:4).
Magic operative or working has two parts: juggling and enchantments.
Juggling, whereby through the devil’s conveyance many great and very hard matters are in show effected. “Aaron cast forth his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it was turned into a serpent: then Pharaoh called also for the wisemen, and sorcerers, and those charmers also of Egypt did in like manner with their enchantments: for they cast down every man his rod, and they were turned into serpents: but Aaron’s rod devoured their rods” (Ex. 7:10–12).
Enchantment or charming is that whereby beasts, but especially young children and men of riper years are by God’s permission infected, poisoned, hurt, bounden, killed, and otherwise molested; or contrarily, sometimes cured of Satan by mumbling up some few words, making certain characters and figures, framing circles, hanging amulets about the neck or other parts, by herbs, medicines, and such like trumpery, that thereby the punishment of the faithless may be augmented in reposing their strength upon such rotten staves, and the faithful may be tried, whether they will commit the like abomination. “Their poison is even like the poison of a serpent: like the deaf adder that stoppeth his ears, which heareth not the voice of the enchanter, though he be most expert in charming” (Ps. 58:4). “If the serpent bite when he is charmed,” etc. (Eccl. 10:11).
Thus have we heard magic described out of God’s Word, the which, how common it is as yet in those especially which are without God in the world and whom Satan by all means strongly deludes, the lamentable experience which many men and most places have thereof, can sufficiently prove to us. And surely if a man will but take a view of all popery, he shall easily see that a great part of it is mere magic.
They which spread abroad by their writing or otherwise that witches are nothing else but melancholic, doting women, who through the devil’s delusion suppose that they themselves do that which indeed the devil does alone, albeit they endeavor cunningly to cloak this sin, yet by the same means they may defend murder, adultery, and whatever other sin.
(2) Those which do consult with magicians do also worship the devil; for they revolt from God to the devil, however they plaster up their impiety with untempered mortar, that they seek God’s help, though by the means of magicians. “The woman said to Saul, I saw gods ascending from the earth” (1 Sam. 28:13). “If any turn after such as work with spirits, and after soothsayers, to go a-whoring after them, then will I set my face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people” (Lev. 20:6) “When they shall say to you, enquire at them which have a spirit of divination, and at the soothsayers, which whisper and murmur. Should not a people enquire at their God? From the living to the dead? To the law, and to the testimony?” (Isa. 8:19–20).