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to the Jew "a stumbling-block," like his resurrection to the Greek, foolishness, does not stagger my faith in the Bible. On the contrary, Christ's divine nature strengthens my belief in its divine authority; and, in the light of that doctrine, the sacred volume appears all the more plainly to be both the power of God and the wisdom of God. That doctrine, as I hope to show you, goes to establish, not shake its claims to be devoutly received as a revelation from heaven.
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow thyself down to them, nor serve them." So runs the second commandment; and, if I am to judge from the universal practice of mankind, there is not one of the ten commandments which runs more counter to our nature. That remark may surprise you. But in proof of it—
1. Look at the heathen world.
For long dark ages the whole earth was given up to idolatry, with the exception of a single nation. The Hebrews stood alone. They worshipped in a temple without an idol, and rejected the use of images in the services of religion. Go back to remotest time. Start from the age either of those old Assyrians, whose gods we have been digging from the ruins of Nineveh, or of those older Egyptians whose mummy forms, with their dog and hawk-headed divinities, lie entombed on the banks of the Nile; and, coming down the course of time to the last-discovered tribe of savages, we find that all nations, with scarcely an exception, have been idolaters. All have clung to the visible, and employed sensible representations of the divinity; theirs a sensuous worship, whether they adored one or ten thousand gods. Nor is this wonderful. To fix the mind and affections on an invisible Being seemed like attempting to anchor a vessel on a flowing tide or rolling billows. These offer nothing to hold by. And, as a climbing plant, for lack of a better stay, will throw its arms around a ruined wall or rotten tree, rather than want something palpable to which their thoughts might cling, men have worshipped the Divine Being through images of the basest character and most hideous forms. We gaze with blank astonishment on the gods of many heathen races. We ask, is it possible that rational beings have bent the knee to this painted stick, that, with a bunch of feathers stuck on its head, and two bits of inlaid pearl-shell for eyes, presents but the rudest resemblance to the form of humanity? Not only possible but certain. Talk of " the dignity of our nature!" How that ugly idol, with man supplicating its help and trembling before its wrath, refutes the notion, and proclaims the fall! Contrast Adam, erect in his innocence, and lifting up an open countenance to the heavens, with that dark, crouching, miserable savage, who kneels to this stick. What a fall is there! How is the gold become dim? how is the most fine gold changed? Then,
2. Look at the evidence of this proneness to sensuous worship as it appears in the history of the Jews. Even among God's chosen people, how did this pro" pensity to idolatry constantly manifest itself, just as I have seen broom, and furze, and heath, and such other wild plants as were natural to the soil, spring up in cultivated pastures—ready to resume possession, should the husbandman relax his efforts to keep them down and root them out? There could be no greater folly on the part of the Israelites than to venerate the gods of Egypt. If the gods whose aid the Egyptians invoked had been else than "vanity," the Hebrews had still been slaves; and yet so prone were they to idolatry, that they set up a golden calf at the very foot of Sinai. Again, the grass was hardly green on David's grave, when his son, forfeiting his title of the wisest of men, allowed himself to be seduced by heathen women to lend his countenance to heathen idolatry; the abomination of Moab stood in front of the temple, and Ashtaroth, enthroned on Olivet, looked down with haughty contempt on the courts of Zion. Again, when the kingdom was broken up through the insane folly of Rehoboam, see how the ten tribes, like a bark parted from her anchors, and borne by a strong tide on a fatal reef, drifted on idolatry. A few years suffice to engulf the whole nation into the deepest, grossest, paganism. Ere one half century has passed, Elijah stands alone; faithful among the faithless; he only by any public act protesting against the universal idolatry; he cries, I, even I only, am left. Thus rapidly, when abandoned by God to the power of their passions, do both men and nations sink. As the history of many still proves, nothing is so easy as the descent into hell. Then,
3. We find evidence of this propensity to idolatry even in the Christian church. We have not to rake up the ashes of Jewish history, nor disturb the graves of ancient Nimrods and Pharaohs, nor import their rude idols from Polynesian shores, to prove the deep longing that there is in our nature for a God whom our senses may embrace. How deeply has Christianity herself suffered from this cause? Look to the church of Rome! Her temples are crowded with images. Fancy some old Roman, rising from his grave on the banks of the Tiber. Looking on the sensuous worship of modern Rome, the honors paid to a doll decked out to represent Christ's mother—multitudes prostrate at the feet of stone apostles—the incense and prayers offered to the lifeless effigy of a man, here hanging in weakness on a cross, or there sitting in triumph on the globe where he sways a sceptre, and treads a serpent beneath his feet, what could he suppose but that the "eternal city" had changed her idols—nor ceased from her idolatry; and, by some strange turn of fortune, had given to one Jesus the old throne of Jupiter, and assigned the crown which Juno wore in his days to another queen of heaven? In that bestial form at the foot of Sinai, with the shameless, naked, frantic crowd singing and dancing and shouting around it, the scene which filled Moses with great indignation, strikes us with great astonishment. How, we ask, with God thundering above their heads, could they fall into such gross idolatry? And yet have we not stood astonished to see a rational creature bending head and knee to a tinselled image, amid circumstances, too, which made the act appear peculiarly surprising and degrading? There, the worship of a creature insulted the glory of God's grandest works; nor did Popery ever seem to us more hateful, more dishonoring, and more debasing, than amid scenes whose magnificence raised the soul to God, as on eagles' wings. There, a blind leader of the blind, she was turning away the faith, and love, and worship of his creatures from him whose voice was heard in the roar of the Alpine cataract, whose mighty hand was seen in mountains that stood piled to heaven, crowned with their eternal snows, and of whose great white throne of judgment one fancied they saw a solemn image in that pure, lofty, majestic, snowy dome, which glistened in sunbeams, high over mountains and valleys already wrapped in evening gloom.
Now, in what way are we to account for this universal tendency to idolatry. It is not enough to call it folly. I ask, what led to such folly, and led all men to it?—philosophers with fools, the wisest with the weakest, of the heathen? It admits of but one explanation—the feeling from which idolatry springs are deeply rooted in our nature.
You tell me that God is invisible, infinite, incomprehensible. You teach me that neither in wood, nor stone, nor colors, nor even in my mind's fancy, may I impart to him form or figure; neither features to express his emotions, nor hands to do his work; neither eyes, although they beam, nor a heart, although it beat with love; and you warn me, moreover, that, even in imagination, to clothe the Divine Being in a form tit3 most venerable and august, is to be guilty of a species of idolatry. But it seems as difficult for me to make such a being the object of my affections, as to grasp a sound, or to detain a shadow. This heart craves something more congenial to my nature, and seeks in God a palpable object for its affections to cling to. That is our want. And now see how that want is met by the gospel, and is provided for by him who "knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust."
Nothing appears to me more remarkable in providence, or more clearly to attest the being and attributes of an all-presiding God, than the perfect adaptation ox creatures to the circumstances in which they are placed. See how the summer, that brings back the swallows