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the highest degree profitable to ourselves: our highest excellence, our greatest honour, and our supreme happiness. At the same time, these obligations are wonderfully increased by the consideration, that God is infinitely excellent and amiable, and therefore claims this testimony of the heart as the just and perfect acknowledgment of his perfect character. Were he not our Creator, nor our Preserver, we could not still refuse to render him this regard, without the greatest injury to so glorious a Being.
The created object, to which we actually yield this service, is destitute of all claims to it. In rendering it to him, therefore, we add insult to injustice; and, not contented with denying, and violating the rights of the Creator, we prefer to him, in this manner, a being who is less than nothing, and vanity.
3dly. We are also guilty of the vilest Ingratitude.
From the wisdom, power, and goodness, of God, we derive our being, our blessings, and our hopes, He created us, he preserves , .
, us; and he daily loads us with his loving-kindness. He
his Son to die for us; and sent his Spirit to sanctify us. It is impossible, that we should be in any circumstances, which demand equal gratitude towards any, or towards all, created beings. The service, which he actually requires as the requital of all this beneficence, is no other than in our thoughts, affections, and conduct, to acknowledge him to be what he is; to reverence him, as being infinitely great; to love him, as infinitely excellent; and to serve him as the infinitely righteous and reasonable Ruler of all things. What ingratitude can be compared with that of a creature, who refuses this service? Yet even this ingratitude is mightily enhanced by the wanton wickedness of transferring the regard, which is due to him only, to one of his creatures : a creature like ourselves ; perhaps inferior to ourselves: a being, in this view, of no worth; to whom we are under no obligations; and who has not the smallest claim to any such homage. What crime can be more provok. ing, or more guilty, than the preference of such a creature to such a God?
It was observed above, that the sin, forbidden in the text, is wickedness, wonderfully complicated. Nothing would be more easy, than to show, that pride, rebellion, hatred of excellence, blasphemy, and many other sins, are included in this conduct. It would, however, be unnecessary for the present design, and the time, which such an examination would demand, will, if I mistake not, be more profitably employed in attending to the following
REMARKS. 1st. From these observations we learn, that Idolatry is a sin of the first magnitude.
That a sin, which combines in itself Falsehood, Injustice, and Ingratitude, pride, rebellion, and blasphemy, all existing in the grossest and most impudent degree, is of the first magnitude, can
not be questioned, with reason, or decency. Equally evident is it, that a sin, which is at the bottom of all other wickedness, must be peculiarly enormous. That such is the nature of Idolatry is unanswerably proved by the fact, that, wherever God is acknowledged in the manner above described, the moral character is of course, spotless and unblameable. The commencement of turpitude in an Intelligent creature is his alienation from God, and his preference of some other object to Jehovah. In proportion to the prevalence of this spirit, wickedness of every kind prevails; and in proportion to the degree, in which the soul overcomes, and renounces, this preference, it becomes possessed of moral excellence in all its forms. This truth is strongly seen in the character, and conduct, of all those virtuous men, whose history is recorded in the Scriptures. In a manner scarcely less forcible, or certain, it is also seen in the experience of mankind. All virtue flourishes, wherever God is acknowledged according to the import of the text: and wherever he is not thus acknowledged, all virtue decays, and dies. The great, open, public acknowledgment of God is exhibited in the solemnities of the Sabbath, and the Sanctuary. Wherever these exist uniformly, and prosperously, goodness of character, and of life, will be regularly found to prevail. Wherever they decline, or vanish, virtue invariably vanishes with them.
Nor is this truth less evident from the personal experience of every Christian. Whenever he magnifies in his heart his Father, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; all his affections are purified, evangelical, and heavenly. His conversation is such as becometh godliness ; and his life adorns the doctrine of God his Saviour ; is a happy resemblance of the celestial character, and a delightful preparation for celestial enjoyment. But when he ceases, for a time, to yield this glory to his Maker; when the importance of the divine character is lessened, or obscured, in his eyes; when God becomes to the view of his mind less venerable, less excellent, and less lovely; his apprehensions of spiritual objects are clouded and dim ; his virtuous affections are cold, inactive, and lifeless. His purposes are bounded by the present world, and centered in himself; and his life is devested of its former beauty, worth and enjoyment. God is the Sun of the Soul. Wherever he shines ; there is more moral day, warmth, life, and energy. There, every thing excellent springs up beneath his quickening beams; grows unceasingly with vigour and beauty; and ripens into usefulness and enjoyment. In the absence of this divine luminary, the soul is darkened by night, and chilled by a moral winter. Its views become dim, , its affections frozen and torpid, and its progress through life a scene of desolation.
2dly. The same observations teach us, that all mankind are guilty of Idolatry.
Covetousness is styled idolatry by St. Paul ; and stubbornness
by the Prophet Samuel. To many other sins this title is obviously, and to all sin really, applicable. "Sin, universally, is no other than selfishness; or a preference of one's self to all other beings, and öne's private interests and gratifications to the well-being of the universe; of God and the Intelligent creation. Of this selfishness all men are more or less the subjects. In the exercise of it, they love and serve themselves, rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. No beings, except those who inhabit the world of perdition, are probably more undeserving of this high regard. We are not only little and insignificant, born of the dust and kin(Ired to animals; but we are, and are in this very conduct, odious and abominable, drinking iniquity like water. To ourselves we render that supreme regard, which is due to God only. Thus we literally idolize ourselves : and, as every man living is guilty of this conduct, every man living is essentially an Idolater.
This spirit manifests itself, however, in an almost endless variety of forms. The parent often idolizes his child; the beauty, her face, her form; the man of genius, his talents ; the ambitious man, his fame, power, or station ; the miser, his gold; the accomplished
1 man, his manners; the ostentatious man, his villa ; and the sensualist, his pleasures. By all these, however, a single spirit is cherished, and discovered. The parent doats upon his child, because it is his child. Had it been born of other parents ; it might, indeed, be occasionally agreeable to him, but would never have become an object of this peculiar fondness.
This is unanswerably evinced by experience: particularly by the fact, that much more promising and engaging children are never thus doated upon, when they are the children of his fellowmen. What is true of this instance is generally true of the others. Our homage is rendered to our own talents, possessions and enjoyments; not to those of our fellow-men. One spirit, therefore, pervades, and reigns throughout, all this varied Idolatry.
3dly. With these observations in view, we shall cease to wonder, that mankind have been so extensively guilty of continual and enormous sins against each other.
Sin is one undivided disposition. If it exists in any Intelligent being, it exists, and operates, towards any, and every, other being, with whom he is concerned. It cannot exist towards God, and not towards man; or towards man, and not towards God.
It is a wrong bias of the soul ; and, of course, operates only to wrong ; whatever being the operation may respect.
That those who are guilty of such falsehood towards God, should be guilty of gross falsehood towards each other, to whom they are under far less obligations of every kind, is certainly to be expected. That those, who with such gross injustice violate all rights, the highest, the most absolutė, should without remorse violate rights of so inferior a nature, is no less to be expected. Equally is it a thing of course, that beings, guilty of such enormous Vor. III.
ingratitude, should be ungrateful to each other, whenever this conduct will serve a purpose. He that is unjust, will, in this sense, be unjust still ; and he that is filthy, will be filthy still.
In this manner are explained the monstrous iniquities, which filled the heathen world. These evils commenced in their Religion. They forsook Jehovah, and had other Gods before him; Gods of all kinds, natures, and descriptions. A rational mind, sufficiently astonished at their defection from the true God, is lost in amazement, while contemplating the objects which they actually worshipped. No being, real or imaginary, was excluded from a list of their Deities, or prevented from the homage of their devotions, by any degree of stupidity, folly, or wickedness. They worshipped blocks: : they worshipped brutes : they worshipped men ; usually the worst of men: they worshipped devils.
Their Religion, in all its solemn services, was exactly suited to the character of their Gods. Beyond measure was it stupid, silly, impure, and depraved. It was replete with enormous and unnatural cruelty. Specimens of this wickedness, and those innumerable, are found in the various kinds of torture, enjoined as a religious penance for their sins; and in the sacrifice of human victims, adoptcd as expiations for the guilt of their surviving countrymen. Among these, youths of the noblest birth, the brightest talents, and the most promising character, were, in several nations, butchered, by hundreds, to satisfy the vengeance of their Gods. In Hindostan, beside other human victims, twenty thousand women are declared, with unquestionable evidence, to be even now offered up, annually, as victims to religion, on the funeral piles of their deceascd husbands. Equally replenished was this religion with wonderful falsehood. All the oracles, divinations, visions, dreams, and prophecies, of heathenism, were a mere collection of lies.
The same spirit of falsehood pervaded their mythology, their mysteries, their doctrines, their worship, and the
means of preserving it. As their Religion had no foundation in Reason, or Revelation; they were, in a sense, compelled, if it was to be preserved at all, to resort to fraud and delusion, for the means both of supporting the worship itself, and the authority of those who prescribed it, among the infatuated worshippers. Thus the Gods of the heathen were vanity and a lie : they that made them were like unto them : and so was every one who put his trust in them. Nor was this scheme less deformed by pollution. In Egypt, Syria, Paphos, Babylon, and Hindostan, particularly, both matrons and virgins were religiously consecrated to impurity.
By the cruelty, falsehood, and pollution, acted here, the heathen nations were effectually prepared to perpetrate the same wickedness elsewhere. Here, it was sanctioned by religion: the mind, therefore, could not consider it as very criminal elsewhere. As all were thus taught; these nations became generally corrupted
beyond every thing, which the most sanguine imagination could have conceived.
All this, however, is naturally the result of Idolatry. That, which is the object of religious worship, is of course the most sublime and perfect object, which is realized by the devotee. When this object, therefore, is low, debased, impure; when it is fraught with falsehood, injustice, and cruelty; sunk, as it is, immeasurably below the proper character of a god, it still keeps its station of superiority; and is still regarded with the reverence, due to the highest known object of contemplation. Of consequence, all things, beside, sink with it; and hold a station in the eye of the mind, proportionally depressed. The mind itself, particularly, being destitute of any higher conceptions, than those which respect this debased object, conforms all its views, affections, and conduct, to the character of its deity; and, while it worships him with a mix. ture of folly and wickedness, it extends the same folly and wickedness in its various conduct towards all other beings, with which it corresponds. Thus a debased God, becomes the foundation of a debased religion; and a debased religion, of universal turpitude of character.
4thly. Hence, we see, that the Scriptures represent Idolatry justly; and annex to it no higher punishment, than it deserves.
The debased and miserable character, which I have described, was the real character of the Canaanites. They were guilty of all these iniquities; and were, therefore, justly the objects of the divine indignation. Infinitely remote from that innocence, attributed to them by Infidels, they had grown worse and worse, under the ordinary influence of Idolatry, from the beginning. At length, their iniquity became full; and they were wiped away as a blot, as a stain, upon the Creation of God.
The same things are, with some qualifications, true of the Israelites. In the progress of their various defections to Idolatry, they became corrupted in the same dreadful manner, were guilty of the same impurity, cruelty, and falsehood; butchered each other without remorse; were disloyal, rebellious, treacherous; followed abandoned villains, to overturn the government, established by God himself; waged furious civil wars with each other; and made their sons pass through the fire unto Moloch. God, with wonderful patience and mercy, waited long; and sent many prophets to reclaim them. Yet nothing cured them of their Idolatry, but their
. final overthrow, and their deportation to Babylon.
What is true of these nations, with regard to this subject, is true of the heathen in general. All the nations, who have been devoted to Idolatry, have addicted themselves to these, and all other, crimes; and have been dreadfully depraved in their whole moral character. Wherever men of discernment and integrity have resided among such nations, and given an account of them to the public; this melancholy truth has, notwithstanding all the allega