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upon more attentively comparing the commandment with the general practice, we find, it is still absolutely necessary to us. Love and reverence must ever be paid, in the highest degree, to that which we conceive to be most excellent, and to have the greatest power to help us, and make us happy. Now, although in reasoning and speculation, we always give the preference of excellence and power to God, yet in practice we are too often found to do otherwise; for our deceitful hearts impose on us, and draw away our love and reverence to other things. We have many objects of our love and regard, which we think more of, which we labour more about, which we put more trust in, than in the God of heaven. All true service of God is comprehended in this, that we give our whole hearts to God, that we love him above all things, that we trust in him before all things, that in short, we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and with all our soul, and with all our mind;' and all idolatry in this, that we place our greatest affection, and repose our highest trust, in any thing else.
It is equally offensive to God, and fatal to ourselves, thus to dispossess God of our hearts, and set up any of his creatures in his place. What is it to God, whether that which we prefer before him, is the sun, the soul of a departed conqueror, or some of those worldly enjoyments, which he hath assigned to man as his portion, as his servant, not as his master and God, in this life? God is not more jealous of one object than another, when it presumes to rival, or stand before him, in our affections. If he is deprived of his natural and eternal right to reign over our hearts, it matters not what that is, for the sake of which we offer him so provoking an affront, so grievous an injury. And it is of the same unhappy and fatal consequence to us; for be it what it will, it equally serves to raise the jealousy and anger of Almighty God against us; to cut us off from the fountain of all good; to turn away our hearts from the love and enjoyment of that object, in comparison of which, all other objects are foul and vile, are little and contemptible, to the last degree; and, when set up in opposition to him, become the occasion of infinite disappointment, and of irretrievable misery to us.
This reasoning, so clear and convincing in itself, is farther confirmed to us by the language of holy Scripture. Covetousness is there expressly called idolatry; and the belly, or gluttony, is also said to be the god of some. Now, we are not to think that mammon and the belly only can give the name of idolaters to their worshippers. Any other creature, too fondly desired, or too earnestly pursued, can do the same, and for the very same reason; that is, can estrange the heart from God, and carry it off to things that have from themselves no right to our regard; because, whatever aptness they may have to benefit or hurt us, they receive it from God alone. They are but our fellow-creatures at best, and most of them put in subjection to us. How then can we think of enslaving ourselves to them? They are but the instruments of Providence. The light of the sun, for instance, is not more the gift of God, than riches, power, or any other worldly possession. The good we receive from the one is wholly the gift of God, as well as that which we derive from the other. God can, if he pleases, cause them to become the instruments of evil; and no doubt those turn them into the occasions of their own eternal ruin, who suffer their affections to rest in them, and do not carry forward their gratitude and love to God, who made and bestows them on us. God manifests his love to us through them; and shall we centre all our love in his benefits, and forget our benefactor ? Ought we not rather to make those effects of God's goodness to us the causes and incitements of our gratitude to him? It is our greatest unhappiness, that in these very cords of love, with which God intends to draw up our hearts to him, we should so entangle ourselves, as to become incapable of all motion and tendency towards him.
There is but one supreme Being, “who is God over all,' who hath power in himself to make, and to destroy, to raise up and to throw down, to bring good or evil on mankind. It is evident therefore, that there is but that one Being, whom every rational creature ought to love, reverence, and confide in, with all his heart, and with all his soul; that is, whom he ought to worship and serve as God.
Shall a Christian now, who says he is sensible of all this, despise the Pagan for praying to a mortal man, who is dead and cannot help; to a carved image, that cannot hear him; or to a brute, which God and nature have put in subjection to him; yet place his greatest confidence, his highest esteen,
his warmest affection, on wealth, honour, power, or pleasure ? Are not these idols of the pretended Christian as vain in themselves, and as odious in the sight of God, as those of the Pagan? Or is the service of them the more tolerable for its being paid by one who professes the worship and service of the true God only? If our empty professions can do any thing, it is only to make the idolatrous alienation of our hearts the more provoking. To reduce our worship to mere words and compliments, contradicted by all our actions, is but to mock and banter the object of that pretended worship. Men of common sense, as they easily see through, so they always resent with the keenest indignation, a conduct so disingenuous, when offered to themselves. Now, if such a practice will not pass on men, who see only the outsides of things, how shall it pass on the awful Searcher of hearts? He who gives his tongue to God, and his heart to the things of this world, is both a hypocrite and an idolater. That many among us do nevertheless look on these as the supreme good, as the most necessary things, the most amiable, and the most capable of making them happy, and therefore worship them as their gods, is evident;
First, From the great anxiety of their hearts about them; which makes it plain that they are uppermost in all their thoughts. For these they deprive themselves of peace and contentment; of peace with God, with man, and with their own consciences; and of contentment in such circumstances, as might afford them all the real comforts of life. For these they are day and night on the rack of a thousand vehement desires, and contrary passions, and impracticable or dangerous schemes. If their deities do but smile on them, how are they transported! If they frown, how are they dejected and overwhelmed ! This excessive anxiety, this unintermitting love, this preference of what they pursue to every thing else, to their ease, and safety, and real happiness, shews but too plainly what is their god.
Secondly, Their unwearied labours after the possessions, or honours, or pleasures of the world, shew more evidently, than even their transports of joy and sorrow, which are discoverable only by their outward effects, where their worship is fixed. No man labours for what he neither loves nor esteems. Every one labours most for that which he sets the
highest regard on. It follows, therefore, that when we see a man neglect all other concerns, to set forward and accomplish one particular design; when we see it takes up all his thoughts, is perpetually in his mouth, exercises not only his brain, but his feet, his hands, his whole body, in such excessive labours by night, and by day, over hills and dales, through land and sea, as one would think it almost impossible for human nature to undergo, we may conclude he thinks it the most excellent of all things, the supreme good.
But, thirdly, The dangers he faces, for that which he is in pursuit of, shew, to demonstration, what is his god. He will stand the mark of all the musquetry and cannon of a great army, for ten hours, to recommend himself to the favour of his deity. He will place himself on a plank, and let the winds and waves whirl him about, like a straw, while death presents itself to his astonished heart in the most hideous forms ; he will roast himself to a cinder in the furnace of a burning climate, and afterward freeze to an icicle in a cold one, to get a little nearer to the object of all his wishes. After seeing him do all this, we need not ask him what is
And if we may judge of the zeal and devotion, wherewith he worships, by the greatness and expense of the sacrifices he offers, he is, beyond all question, the most furious zealot for his god, that can be conceived. Other bigots, along with some cool prayers, offer a ram, a goat, a bullock, or it may
be a hundred bullocks at once. But this is nothing: the worshipper I am speaking of offers up all the real comforts of life, and throws in his honour, and his conscience, if those be any thing, to make his sacrifice the more perfect. Another man perhaps offers up his child, his only and beloved son, the comfort of his life, and the prop of his old age; but this is only a trifle : our devotee sacrifices himself, sacrifices his life, and his soul to his god; and burns himself, on a fiercer fire than ever was kindled to Moloch ; I mean that fire, which is fed in this life with flaming lust and raging passions, and turns in the next to inextinguishable brimstone.
And do these deities deserve such prodigious services and sacrifices ?
To begin with riches : Are they the supreme good? Can they save us from sickness or death? Can they deliver us from eternal misery? Or can they purchase us the joys and glories of heaven? If they cannot, the worldling pays too dearly for them. Is he sure, after all his pains, to obtain them, that he shall succeed? Or, if he is sure of this, is he certain they will stay with him? May they not 'make themselves wings and fly away? Or, if they do stay, will they defend him from all dangers, and make him happy ? No; they are the very 'root of all evil.' They will swell him with pride. They will drown him in luxury. They will afflict him with sickness, and hasten his death. They will lead him out of the narrow path, into the broad way of this world. They are hard to be acquired, harder still to be kept, and those who do keep them, are exposed to envy, and fraud, and robbery; they are exposed to what is worse, their own eternal anxiety and fears. Nay, it often happens, that when there is no thief to pillage them, they by their own penury effectually plunder themselves ; when there is no invader to murder them for what they possess, they sometimes turn their passion into distraction, lay violent hands on themselves, and die martys at last to their god.
As to honour or praise, which is the idol of so many weak and empty people, what is it? It is compounded of the vanity, with which the self-conceited heart feeds itself, and of the praises of others. Is the being well spoken of such a mighty matter? Does it much concern us what either the fool thinks, or the flatterer says, of us ? No: but in order to mend the compliment paid us, we are apt to think him neither fool, nor knave, who makes it. But let him be what he will, can the opinion of another give us a better opinion of ourselves, than we had before? Or are we so very modest as to need it? Can others discover those beauties and excellencies in us, which sharp-sighted vanity cannot see? Or can the mistaken esteem, or the false applause of the world, refute to us the inward reproaches of our own hearts and consciences? Does our happiness subsist on the mere breath of the crowd? The truth is, no one was ever very desirous of praise, who had worth enough to deserve it.
He who places his joy in admiring himself; who having no other, turns his own flatterer, does but set up an idol of himself, and not his true self, for his god. Those Pagans,