« السابقةمتابعة »
let our external appearance be what it may, he will regard and condemn us as idolaters.
Having thus endeavoured to shew, conformably to the sense and spirit of the text, what idolatry is; I proceed to inquire,
II. How far any of us may be considered as chargeable with this gross and detestable sin.-The inquiry you will perceive is not, whether we have graven images or crucifixes, or pictures, in our houses and temples, before which we bow in humble adoration; but whether we set up any thing in our hearts higher than God; or suffer any object aside from him to usurp his place.-Are none of us chargeable with that covetousness which is declared in the text to be idolatry? Do we not love our worldly possessions and enjoyments more and better than we do our Creator? Should we not be more deeply interested in a question of property, than we should in a discussion relative to the character and honor of the Supreme Being? Do we not feel a deeper solicitude, and manifest more engagedness, for the advancement of our temporal good, than we do for the advancement of the Divine kingdom and glory? And are none of us putting that trust and confidence in uncertain riches, which we ought to place in God alone? The impression, I believe, is not an uncommon one, that money can answer every purpose, and accomplish almost every thing for us that we shall need. Have we ourselves never admitted, at least in practice, this erroneous and idolatrous sentiment? Have we not been disposed to seek our happiness in the world, more than in God? Or have we not served mammon more faithfully and constantly than we have the Supreme Being? When the command of God has pointed one way, and our worldly interest another; have we not
chosen to pursue the latter ?-So far as we are constrained in conscience to answer these questions in the affirmative, we need not have a doubt relative to the fact of our being idolaters. The particular shape in which an idol is formed, or the substance of which it is composed, is nothing in the sight of God. It may be a graven image, or it may be an image of the fancy; it may be silver shrines, such as Demetrius made for Diana of the Ephesians, or it may be silver dollars; it may be a picture of the virgin Mary, or it may be the superscription of a bank note ;— be it what it may, if we put it in the place of God, and render it that love, trust, and service, which are due only to God; we in fact make it our God, and we are idolaters.
Many persons have made worldly honor and power their god. They have loved and pursued popularity and influence. Their whole hearts' incense they have willingly offered upon the unhallowed altars of ambition. It becomes us therefore to enquire, whether we have not fallen into this species of idolatry. If we have loved our own glory more than God's; or have yielded to the impulse of an aspiring temper, rather than to the unerring dictates of heaven; or have labored with a greater interest and zeal to exalt ourselves, than we have to advance the kingdom of Christ; it need not be a question with us what has been our god, or whether we are not in fact idolaters. We may not indeed have prostrated ourselves in honour of
"Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood
but we have rendered homage to an imaginary deity, who has instigated more wars, and shed more blood, than perhaps all the heathen gods and idols.
There are many who appear to make pleasure their God. They value their sensual gratifications and sinful amusements higher than any other ob jects. These they supremely love, and in them they seek and find their principal enjoyment. With such, no considerations of duty, or of Divine command, are of any account, when they come in competition with their pleasures.-Possibly some present may find, on examination, that this is a description of their own case. And so far as they do, they need not be in doubt respecting their characters. They may know there is an idol set up in their hearts, and one of the most gross and detestable kind, in opposition to the God of heaven. They are as really bowing before the idol of pleasure, as though they had a literal image in their houses, and daily prostrated themselves in humble adoration before it.
Persons may make idols of their talents or ac quirements-by doting upon them, and trusting in them, more than in the God who gave them. In the same way, they may idolize their children, or their friends. When they love these more than God; or find their happiness in them more than in God; or are more solicitous to please and honour them, than they are to please and glorify God; they may know that these endearing objects have usurped that place in their hearts which Jehovah claims, and consequently have become their idols.
The literal idols of the heathen are numerous. There is no telling the number of their pretended deities. Those of India alone amount to no less than three hundred and thirty millions.* And perhaps we shall find, my friends, if we examine the subject with care and candor, that we have more
*See Ward's Letters p. 52.
idols than one, We may find that we are not only idolaters, but are in fact the worshippers of many gods. The great idol however, which has a seat and an altar in every unholy heart, is self. This is the Divinity which, under one similitude or another, is supremely loved, trusted in, doted on, and served. It is the good of self, which, with mankind in gener
al, is studied and pursued, and the advancement of
which all other objects and interests are made to subserve. How ardent, my friends, has been our love, and how obsequious and devoted our service, of this great but contemptible idol of mankind?
It will follow, I think, from what has been said, that every natural unrenewed person is an idolater.Every person must have some object of supreme regard-something, towards which his affections centre, and on which they ultimately rest. But no unrenewed person ever made God the object of his supreme affection. No such person ever loved God with his whole heart, trusted in him with a filial confidence, looked to him as the fountain of all good, served him with fidelity and joy, and lived devoted to his glory. In other words, no unrenewed person ever regarded God as his God; or gave him that place in his heart, which he must have in the breast of every true worshipper: For if he had, he would not be an unrenewed person. He would be a saint, a child of God, and an heir of glory. But if the unregenerate person, like every other, must have some object of supreme regard, and if this is never the God who made him; then there is always something which he sets higher than God, which he loves better, and in which he trusts and rejoices more. It may be his property, his reputation, his pleasures, his personal qualities, his chil
dren, or his friends. At any rate, it is self, in some shape or other. This is the great idol of the unrenewed heart. This is the shrine before which the sinner bows, and to which he offers the incense of his soul.
The remarks which have been made should lead the people of God to inquire, whether they have become weaned from idols.-The true children of God know what it is to love their heavenly Father supremely, to trust and delight in him, to serve, glorify, and obey him. They know what it is to give God his place, and to worship him in spirit and in truth. But do they always feel thus? Are they effectually weaned from their idols? Are there no times, when the world, in some of its alluring shapes-its riches, its honours, its pleasures, or in some one of its thousand endearing objects, takes the uppermost place, and becomes the idol of their hearts? Are there no times when self, in one form or another, rises up, and usurps the throne which they had given to their God?-It becomes us, my dear brethren, to look well to this matter. We have to do with an all wise and jealous God, who perfectly knows us, claims the whole heart, and will never be satisfied with a secondary or unwilling service. Have we not all much reason to be humbled before him, and with sorrow to confess that we have dishonoured him? And while our sympathies are excited, and our hearts affected, in contemplating the idolatries of the heathen; is there not sufficient reason why they should. be deeply affected in contemplating our own?
What a spectacle my brethren, does this world exhibit, to the holy eye of its Creator? It may be concluded from the Scriptures, that there is no sin more directly dishonourable and offensive to the Supremne Being, than idolatry. Yet, as his all pene