Two things are comprehended in this commandment: the commandment itself, and an exhortation to obedience. The end, or design of this commandment is that the true God, who in the first precept commanded that he alone should be worshipped, be worshipped under a proper form, or with such worship as it is right and proper that intelligent creatures should pay unto him such as is pleasing to him, and not with such worship as that which is according to the imagination and device of man: Or, we may say that the design of this commandment is, that the worship of God as prescribed be preserved pure and uncorrupted, and not be violated by any form of superstitious worship. The true worship of God is therefore here enjoyed, and a rule at the same time given, that we sacredly and conscientiously keep ourselves within the bounds which God has prescribed, and that we do not add anything to that worship which has been divinely instituted, or corrupt it in any part, even the most unimportant; which the Scriptures also expressly enjoin in many other places. The true worship of God now consists in every internal or external work commanded by God, done in faith, which rests fully assured that both the person and work please God, for the mediator‘s sake, and with the design that we may glorify God thereby. To worship God truly, is to worship him in the manner which he himself has prescribed in his word.

This commandment forbids, on the other hand, every form of will-worship, or such as is false, requiring that we neither regard or worship images and creatures for God, nor represent the true God by any image or figure, nor worship him at or by images, or with any other kind of worship which he himself has not prescribed. For when God condemns the principal, the grossest and most palpable form of false worship, which is that of worshipping him at or by images, it is plainly manifest that he also condemns at the same time all other forms of false worship, inasmuch as they all grow out of this. He forbids this most shocking kind of idolatry, not that he would overlook or exclude other forms of worship opposed to that which he has prescribed; but because this is the root, the foundation of all the rest. Hence all kinds of worship not instituted by God, but by men, as well as those which contain the same reason why they should be prohibited, are forbidden in this precept of the Decalogue.

All those things, therefore, which are opposed to the true worship of God are contrary to this second commandment; such as

1. Idolatry, which consists in a false or superstitious worship of God. There are, as we have already remarked, two principal kinds of idolatry. The one is more gross and palpable, as when worship is paid to a false God, which is the case, when, instead of or beside the true God, such worship as that which is due to him alone, is given to some thing or object, whether imaginary or real. This form of idolatry is particularly forbidden in the first commandment, and also partly in the third. The other species of idolatry is more subtle and refined, as when the true God is supposed to be worshipped, whilst the kind of worship which is paid unto him is false, which is the case when anyone imagines that he is worshipping or honoring God by the performance of any work not prescribed by the divine law. This species of idolatry is more properly condemned in the second commandment, and is termed superstition, because it adds to the commandments of God the inventions of men. Those are called superstitious who corrupt the worship of God by their own inventions. This will-worship or superstition is condemned in every part of the word of God. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” “Let no man judge you in meat or in drink, &c., which all are to perish with the using, after the commandments and doctrines of men; which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Matt. 15:8, 9. Col. 2:16, 22, 23.)

We may now easily return an answer to the following objection: Idolatry is forbidden in the first commandment. In the second also. Therefore, they constitute only one commandment. Ans. The first commandment forbids one form of idolatry, as when another God is worshipped; the second forbids another species of idolatry, as when the true God is worshipped differently from what he ought to be. Reply. But still there is always idolatry, and another God worshipped. Ans. There is, indeed, always an idol; but not always in the intention and profession of men. Hence, those who sin against the second commandment, sin also against the first; because, those who worship God otherwise than he will be worshipped, imagine another God, one differently affected from what the true God is; and in this way they do not worship God, but a figment of their own brain, which they persuade themselves is affected in this manner.

2. Hypocrisy, which consists in putting on the appearance of true piety, and the worship of God, doing such external works as God has commanded, whether moral or ceremonial, without true faith and conversion, or inward obedience. The prophet Isaiah describes and condemns this sin in these words: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men, therefore, be hold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people,” &c. (Is. 29:13,14.)

3. Profanity. This includes a voluntary renunciation and contempt of all religion, and of the worship of God both internal and external, or of some portions of it and is therefore, not only in opposition to this commandment, but to the whole worship of God as prescribed in the first and second tables.

There are some who object to what we have here said, and affirm in support of will-worship, that those passages which we have cited as condemning it, speak only in reference to the ceremonies instituted by Moses, and of the unlawful commandments of men, such as constitute no part of the worship of God; and not of those precepts which have been sanctioned by the church and bishops, and which command nothing contrary to the word of God. But that this argument is false, may be proven by certain declarations connected with those passages of Scripture to which we have referred, which likewise reject those human laws, which, upon their own authority, prescribe anything in reference to divine worship which God has not commanded, although the thing itself is neither sinful nor forbidden by God. So Christ rejects the tradition which the Jews had in regard to washing their hands, because they associated with it the idea of divine worship, although it was not sinful in itself, saying, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within ye are full of extortion and excess.” (Matt. 15:11; 23, 25.) The same thing may be said of celibacy and of the distinction of meats and days, of which the apostle Paul speaks, (Rom. 14:6. 1 Tim. 4:1-3,) and which he calls “doctrines of devils,” although in themselves they are lawful to the godly, as he in other places teaches. Wherefore, those things also which are in themselves indifferent, that is neither commanded nor prohibited by God, if they are prescribed and done as the worship of God, or if it is supposed that God is honored by our performing them, and dishonored by neglecting them, it is plainly manifest that the Scriptures in these and similar places condemn them.

Such works therefore, as are indifferent, must be carefully distinguished from those in which we worship God: 1. Because to imagine a different worship of God from that which he has prescribed, is to imagine another will of God, and so another God. And those who do this, as Aaron and Jeroboam formerly did, are no less guilty of idolatry, than those who professedly worship another god, beside that Jehovah revealed in the church. 2. Because, by such a mingling of the true worship of God with that which is false, the true God is confounded with idols, which are honored in the forms of worship invented by men. 3. Because whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Rom. 14:23.) But he who does any thing in order that he may worship God by it, his conscience not knowing or doubting, whether God will be worshipped in this way, or not, does it not of faith; because he is ignorant whether his work pleases, or displeases God, and so does not regard him, inasmuch as he presumes to do it, notwithstanding it is displeasing to him.

But since those who defend the forms of worship invented by men, also bring forward various declarations in which the Scriptures require us to yield obedience to the commandments of men, and maintain that they have the same force and authority which divine precepts have, and so have the nature of divine worship; it is, therefore, necessary that we should here say something in reference to human precepts and their differences.