THE Monitor finds great fault with the AMERICAN SENTINEL for having in its lead-piece a picture of the Bartholdi statute of liberty enlightening the world. It declares that this is a violation of the second commandment: and that therefore we are inconsistent in insisting on the observance of the Sabbath while breaking the second commandment. Here is the argument of the Monitor:
On its title page it [the AMERICAN SENTINEL] has a picture of a graven image made to represent the goddess of liberty. This graven image is set up in New York harbor contrary to the laws which the Almighty gave to Moses, and which are as binding as the law concerning the Sabbath day. “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor the likeness of any form that be in heaven above, or that be in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
Surely this commandment is as clear as the commandment concerning the Sabbath. It is an open and explicit prohibition against the making of images, and against honoring them in any way. There are no exceptions. All images are tabu. How then can the American Sentinel continue to violate this commandment by retaining Bartholdi’s statute in its lead piece, especially as it is crying woe and dissolution against Christendom for breaking the ordinance concerning the Sabbath day!
After the extreme of the Monitor’s emphatic division as to who may have “got as far as hic haec hoc” in “so simple a language as the Latin,” it may not be positively irreverent for us to suggest that its exposition of the second commandment is not correct. “All images” are not “tabu,” and never were. For immediately after the giving of this commandment by the Lord, the Lord himself gave the following directions with regard to the building of the sanctuary:—
“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering…. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show them, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it…. And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two end of the mercy seat… And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim.” “And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purpose, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubim shall it be made.” Exodus 25:2-22; 26:33.
After all this had been done, again there is this record:—
And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole…. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole. Numbers 21:8, 9.
And when the temple took the place of the tabernacle, it also was built according to the plan and pattern given to David by the Spirit of God, and which was written out by the hand of the Lord upon David for the guidance of Solomon in the building of the temple. 1 Chronicles 18:11, 12, 29. And of this it is written:—
Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God…. He overlaid also the house, the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold; and graved cherubims on the walls…. And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image work, and overlaid them with gold…. And he made the veil of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon. 2 Chronicles 3:5-14.
This is the evidence enough to show that the sweeping interpretation of the second commandment given by the Monitor is directly contradictory to the plain word of the Lord. And all this time, too, the Lord was “crying woe and desolation against Israelites for breaking the ordinance concerning the Sabbath day.” But the Monitor says to the Lord in that case, as certainly as to us: “There are no exceptions. All images are tabu.” How then could the Lord continue to violate this commandment by retaining images of cherubim in and all about the most holy place of his worship, especially as he was “crying woe and desolation against Jerusalem for breaking the ordinance concerning the Sabbath day”?
But was the Lord right? or is the Monitor right? Which? Is the Lord’s interpretation of the commandment correct? or is the Monitor’s interpretation correct?
It is true that the second commandment does forbid the making of all manner of images or likenesses of things to be bowed down to, to be feared, to be reverenced, or to be in any way served. This is true of images made at the direction of the Lord as well as images made altogether in the imagination of men. This is shown by the fact that when Israel showed reverence to that brazen serpent and burned incense to it, it was broken to pieces before them and called, as it was, only “a piece of brass.” 2 Kings 18:4. And when Israel came to attach virtue to the temple and to trust in it, the Lord brought up the Chaldeans who stripped the temple of its gold, left the temple in ruins, carried the people captive, and made the land desolate. Jeremiah 7:4-15.
Among images or likenesses so used there are indeed “no exceptions.” All images of all sorts so used, or in any such way regarded, are indeed “tabu.” All such use of images and likenesses of any persons or things is idolatry. And such is precisely the use which is made of images and likenesses by Catholics everywhere.
We make no charge of inconsistency, however, against Catholics in their bowing down to graven images, likenesses, etc., for they both bow down to images and put away the Sabbath day. They disregard both the second and the fourth commandments. There is no room there for any charge of inconsistency. The thing is sheer, straight idolatry and abandonment of the God of heaven and earth.