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this great and perfect Being, so far as his own duties and interests are concerned. This has frequently been proved, by able moralists, in the way
argu. ment, and is expressly affirmed to be the case, by St. Paul, in the first chapter of the Epiftle to the Romans, where it is said, that “ the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,” and where it is added “that they are without excuse."
In fact, however, fallen man has never, by the mere use of his reason, found out God to any good purpofe, and worshipped him accordingly; and even when God by special revelation has condefcended to explain and manifest his true character to a particular people, few of that people have served him as they ought to have done for any great length of time; but they soon corrupted the divine religion, and were plunged in idolatry.
The Jehovah of the sacred writings, and the Almighty and all-perfect God, which may be difcovered by found reason, is an invisible Being, and is to be honoured, as a Spirit, with the heart and the understanding, and without the intervention of fensible objects, as stocks or stones. C. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul:" but the history of our corrupted nature shews, that images and other sensible objects have, in all ages, offered themselves to men's minds as guides and helps to a conception of the Deity; and if, in some instances, these absurd inventions of gross idolatry have been rejected by men of learn. ing and refinement, it has then generally happened, that intellectual figments of philosophical vanity have been substituted in their place, figments still more atheistical in their nature, and farther removed from the notion of a wise and authoritative
Governour of the Universe, who enjoins the submission and dependence of his creatures, requires their obedience, and dispenses justice impartially.
The principles, which appear to account for this apoftacy and opposition to the divine Will, may be comprehended under the terms pride, selflove, self-righteousness, and desire of independence, or, indeed, under the single term pride alone, if we use that expression according to its most extenfive application. Fallen man is too proud, practically to feel and confess his relative ignorance and inanity, when compared with the Supreme Author of all things; and the same principle prevents him from placing his fupreme regard and esteem on God, though reason dictate, and revelation command this duty. He loves himself and his own gratifications too well. Then it is easy to underItand, that pride and self-righteousness are nearly synonimous expressions: a proud Being will never esteem his own “ righteousnesses as filthy rags. (Ifaiah lxiv. 6.): will never cordially beg for pardon of his sins: he has too good an opinion of his own labours, inventions, and performances; in a word, he is self-righteous; and, in a similar way, it is plain, that the same Being will aim at independence, and be impatient of controul. In such a dangerous and corrupt state of human affections, the broad and crowded road to idolatry, which is the object we are seeking, is not difficult to be traced. For, whether we consider pride as a comprehensive principle, evolving itself, according to the explanation just given, in various mischievous operations; or, whether we chuse to confine the meaning of the term, no one will doubt, but that, in fact, mankind in all ages have been grievously wanting in humility, have proudly set themselves up against God, have been actuated by inordinate felf-love,
and not submitting to the righteousness of God, have endeavoured to establish their own righteousness, and have been impatient of controul. The existence of thefe principles and inclinations implies an absolute departure of the heart from the living God; and when that has once taken place through the action of some steady cause, the progrefs to idolatry, or to some species of atheism, nearly allied to idolatry, is the next step. Man has departed from the true God, and there must be fome device to quiet conscience. Thus, in rude and barbarous times, the proud, self-righteous devotee, will naturally have recourse to the sottish invention of the worship of wood, or ftone, or metals, and become a gross idolater. He will burn part of the wood with fire, and of the rest he will make a god, and kneel before it. The discovery mightily pleases him: he has found out a god exactly suited to his taste; a god, who will easily pardon his vices, set a high value on his imagined virtues, and be constantly propitious to him; a god, who is not an universal Governour or Benefactor, but who is particularly kind to himfelf and his countrymen; a god, whom he can see and handle, and in which he may pride himself, as having contrived and finished it with the tongs and hammer, or with the plane and compass; a god, which is local and tutelar, and over which he himfelf has considerable power: he can place it in his temple, in his chamber, or in the camp.
The antient idolaters often represented by their images, deceased chiefs, or heroes, or kings, who were still supposed to poffefs a superintending influence over the affairs of men; and, not unfrequently, these departed beings appear to have ranked among the most wicked of mankind. In
more modern times, even Christianity itself has been disgraced with the adoration of images, representations, and reliques of faints; nor has the abominable superstition always sufficiently taken care, that the supposed saints themselves should have been reputable characters.
In ages of great learning and refinement, the same principles of pride, &c, which in religious concerns, blinding the understanding and corrupting the affections, effectually draw the heart from the living and true God, induce men to profess a reverence for abstruse and intellectual figments, as nature, a principle of order, or the soul of the universe. These notions of God, which prevail in polished seasons of the world, in one sense merit the imputation of idolatry, in another of atheisin; and, in any possible interpretation, they must be deemed equivocal, unintelligible, and pernicious. The species of idolatry are exceedingly various ; but they differ not much either in their source or their tendency. In all circumstances, man is miserable and blind, if he be not seeking and worshipping the true God in spirit and truth. If, in breach of the second commandment, he represent the glory of Jehovah by images, or if, in breach of the first, he set up a divinity opposite to Jehovah, in both cases he forms a deceitful basis for falvation and happiness, and directly affronts the perfections of God. Such practices are, therefore, forbidden throughout the Scripture, in the most positive manner.
The guilt of idolatry is not so apparent to natural conscience, as that of crimes committed against our fellow-creatures; though no fin is so much spoken against through the Old Testament. Many are apt to wonder why the Israelites were so prone
to it; not considering nor knowing their own idolatry, which works in a way more suited to present times and circumstances. But whoever understands, that idolatry implies the departure of the heart from the living God and a fixing of it on soinething else; that to refuse to trust his word, and to choose to put confidence in some sensible object, by which we would represent him to our minds,-ftill further, to glory in our own strength and righteousness, instead of seeking salvation by grace through faith only, proceeds from pride, and pours all possible contempt on the divine Majesty, will not wonder at God's indignation against this sin, will see how naturally it operates on the human mind, and how it affords a complete demonftration of the apostacy
The ancient Church of God were distinguished, from the nations all around by the most express prohibitions of this fin. They were directed not to worship any but the living God, nor even Jehovah himself by any images whatever; much less were they allowed to worship any creature by representations, which would be to break the two first commandments by the same act. He, who knows the propensity of his own heart to distrust the providence and grace of God, and how eagerly we catch at any human relief, instead of patiently waiting upon God in trouble, will not wonder that the Israelites worshipped the calf in the absence of Moses, nor think the fin small, because they intended to honour Jehovah by the symbol.
Under the gospel-dispensation the prohibition of images continued, and, in the purest times, there was little occasion to dwell on the subject, God in Christ was worshipped, in spirit and in truth, by