6. And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
7. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
7. Itaque simulatque, aedem hora atque, audierint omnes populi vocem cornu, fistulea, citharea, sambucae, psalterii et omniurm instrumentorum musices, prociderunt omnes populi, gentes et linguae adorantes imagmem auream, quam erexerat Nebuchad nezer rex.
We see how Nebuchadnezzar wished to establish among all the nations under his sway a religion in which there, should be no mixture of foreign novelty. He feared dissension as a cause of disunion in his empire. Hence we may suppose the king to have consulted his own private ease and advantage, as princes are accustomed to consult their own wishes rather than God's requirements in promulgating edicts concerning the worship of God. And from the beginning, this boldness and rashness have increased in the world, since those who have had supreme power have always dared to fabricate deities, and have proceeded beyond this even to ordering the gods which they have invented to be worshipped. The different kinds of gods are well known as divided into three -- the Philosophical, the Political, and the Poetical. They called those gods "Philosophical" which natural reason prompts men to worship. Truly, indeed, philosophers are often foolish when they dispute about the essence or worship of God; but since they follow their own fancies they are necessarily erroneous. For God cannot be apprehended by human senses, but must be made manifest. to us by his own word; and as he descends to us, so we also in turn are raised to heaven. (1 Corinthians 2:14.) But yet philosophers in their disputes have some pretexts, so as not to seem utterly insane and irrational. But the poets have fabled whatever pleases them, and thus have filled the world with the grossest and at the same time the foulest errors. As all theaters resounded with their vain imaginations, the minds of the vulgar have been imbued with the same delusions; for we know human dispositions are ever prone to vanity. But when the devil adds fire to the fuel, we then see how furiously both learned and unlearned are carried away. So it; happened when they persuaded themselves of the truth of what they saw represented in their theaters. Thus, that; religion which was founded on the authority of the Magi was considered certain by the heathen, as they called those gods "Political" which were received by the common consent of all. Those also who were considered prudent said it was by no means useful to object to what the philosophers taught concerning the nature of the gods, since this would tear asunder all public rites, and whatever was fixed without; doubt in men's minds. For both the Greeks and Latins, as well as other barbarous nations, worshipped certain gods as he mere offspring of opinion, and these they confessed to have once been mortal. But philosophers at least retained this principle -- the gods are eternal; and if the philosophers had been listened to, the authority of the Magi would have fallen away. Hence the most worldly-wise were not ashamed, as I have mentioned, to urge the expulsion of philosophy from sacred things.
With regard to the Poets, the most politic were compelled to succumb to the petulance of the common people, and yet they taught at the same time what the poets reigned and fabled concerning the nature of the gods was pernicious. This, then, was the almost universal rule throughout the world as to the worship of God, and the very foundation of piety -- namely, no deities are to be worshipped except those which have been handed down from our forefathers. And this is the tendency of the oracle of Apollo which Xenophon 3 in the character of Socrates so greatly praises, namely, every city ought, to worship the gods of its own country! For when Apollo was consulted concerning the best religion, with the view of cherishing the errors by which all nations were intoxicated, he commanded them not to change anything in their public devotions, and pronounced that religion the best for every city and people which had been received from the furthest antiquity. This was a wonderful imposture of the devil, as he was unwilling to stir up men's minds to reflect upon what was really right, but he retained them in that old lethargy -- "Ha! the authority of your ancestors is sufficient for you!" The greatest wisdom among the profane was, as I have said, to cause consent to be taken for reason. Meanwhile, those who were supreme either in empire, or influence, or dignity, assumed to themselves the right of fashioning new deities; for we see how many dedicated temples to fictitious deities, because they were commanded by authority. Hence it is by no means surprising for Nebuchadnezzar to take this license of setting up a new deity. Perhaps he dedicated this statue to Bel, who is considered as the Jupiter of the Chaldeans; but yet he wished to introduce a new religion by means of which his memory might be celebrated by posterity. Virgule 4 derides this folly when he says:
And he increases the number of deities by altars. For he means, however men may erect numerous altars on earth, they cannot increase the number of the gods in heaven. Thus, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar increased the number of the deities by a single altar, that is, introduced a new rite to make the statue a monument to himself, and his own name famous as long as that religion flourished. Here we perceive how grossly he abused his power; for he did not consult his own Magi as he might have done, nor even reflect within himself whether that religion was lawful or not; but through being blinded by pride, he wished to fetter the minds of all, and to compel them to adopt what he desired . Hence we gather how vain profane men are when they pretend to worship, God, while at the same time they wish to be superior to God himself. For they do not admit any pure thought, or even apply themselves to the knowledge of God, but they make their will law, just as it pleases them. They do not adore God, but rather their own fiction. Such was the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar, as appears from his own edict.
It now follows -- All
It is afterwards added -- A
Respecting the required adoration, nothing but outward observance was needed. King Nebuchadnezzar did not exact a verbal profession of belief in this deity, that is, in the divinity of the statue which he commanded to be worshipped; it was quite sufficient to offer to it merely outward worship. We here see how idolatry is deservedly condemned in those who pretend to worship idols, even if they mentally refrain and only act through fear and the compulsion of regal authority. that excuse is altogether frivolous. We see, then, how this king or tyrant, though he fabricated this image by the cunning of the devil, exacted nothing else than the bending the knees of all the people and nations before the statue. And truly he had in this way alienated the Jews from the worship of the one true God, if this had been extorted from them. For God wishes first of all for inward worship, and afterwards for outward profession. The principal altar for the worship of God ought to be situated in our minds, for God is worshipped spiritually by faith, prayer, and other acts of piety. (John 4:24.) It is also necessary to add outward profession, not only that we may exercise ourselves in God's worship, but offer ourselves wholly to him, and bend before him both bodily and mentally, and devote ourselves entirely to him, as Paul teaches. (1 Corinthians 7:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.) Thus far, then, concerning both the adoration and the penalty.
It follows again, --
We should learn also from this passage, not to be induced, by the will of any man to embrace any kind of religion, but diligently to inquire what worship God approves, and so to. use our judgment as not rashly to involve ourselves in any superstitions. Respecting the use of musical instruments, I confess it to be customary in the Church even by God's command; but the intention of the Jews and of the Chaldeans was different. For when the Jews used trumpets and harps and other instruments in celebrating God's praises, they ought not to have obtruded this custom on God as if it was the proof of piety; but it ought to have another object, since God wished to use all means of stirring men up from their sluggishness, for we know how cold we grow in the pursuits of piety, unless we are aroused. God, therefore, used these stimulants to cause the Jews to worship him with greater fervor. But the Chaldeans thought to satisfy their god by heaping together many musical instruments. For, like other persons, they supposed God like themselves, for whatever delights us, we think must also please the Deity. Hence the immense heap of ceremonies in the Papacy, since our eyes delight in such splendors; hence we think this to be required of us by God, as if he delighted in what pleases us. This is, indeed, a gross error. There is no doubt that the harp, trumpet, and other musical instruments with which Nebuchadnezzar worshipped his idol, formed a part of his errors, and so also did the gold. God, indeed, wished his sanctuary to manifest some splendor; not that gold, silver, and precious stones please him by themselves, but he wished to commend his glory to his people, since under this figure they might understand why everything precious should be offered to God, as it is sacred to him. The Jews, indeed, had many ceremonies, and much of what is called magnificent splendor in the worship of God, and still the principle of spiritual worship yet remained among them. The profane, while they invented gross deities which they reverenced according to their pleasure, thought it a proof of perfect sanctity, if they sang beautifully, if they used plenty of gold and silver, and if they employed showy utensils in these sacrifices. I must leave the rest for tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, since we always wander miserably in our thoughts, and in our attempts to worship thee we only profane the true and pure reverence of thy Divinity, and are easily drawn aside to depraved superstition, -- Grant that we may remain in pure obedience to thy word, and never bend aside from it in any way. Instruct us by the unconquered fortitude of thy Spirit. May we never yield to any terrors or threats of man, but persevere in reverencing thy name even to the end. However the world may rage after its own diabolic errors, may we never turn out of the right path, but continue in the right course in which thou invitees us, until, after finishing our race, we arrive at that happy rest which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.
1 That is, instantly. -- Calvin.
2 That is, instantly. -- Calvin.
3 Xenophon in Comment., et Cicero de Legibus, lib. 2:§ 8.
4 AEneid, lib. 7 211, ". et numerum Divorum altaribus addit." Heyne reads "addit;" Calvin, "auget."