« AnteriorContinuar »
the alternate end of all our pursuits? While the pious soul joins in unison with the Psalmist and says, “whom have I in heaven but thee, O Lord, and there is none on earth that I desire besides thee;" the covetous man says of gold,“ thou art my hope, and to the fine gold, thou art my confidence. I rejoice, because my wealth is great and my hands have gotten me much.” And such mental idolatry is no less irrational and hateful in the sight of the Most High, than that of the blinded pagan who prostrates himself before a block of wood or the figure of a crocodile.
Pagan idolatry consists either in worshipping the sun, moon, or stars, or in paying homage to a statue of gold or silver, brass or stone. Mental idolatry consists in paying a similar homage to gold and silver, either abstractly considered, or to those sensual objects and pleasures which they are the means of procuring. The idolater bows down before the shrine of a splendid image; perhaps one formed of the richest materials, such as the golden image set up by Nebuchadnezzar, in the plain of Dura, which was ninety feet high, and contained a thousand Babylonish talents of gold, or about four millions of British money. To this splendid image, he pays his homage in the midst of assembled multitudes, and at the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music. The glittering pomp and splendor of such a scene, fascinates his affections and overpowers his reason, so that
may be led for a moment to imagine that it is a fit representation of the unknown God. But the covetous idolater worships an image, or, an imaginary idea, still more degrading. He adores, or, in other words, he concentrates his affections upon a circular piece of gold which he can carry in his pocket, or a thousand such pieces tied up in a bag, or locked in his coffers. On such objects his mind incessantly broods, even when they are not present to his senses; and when he is deprived of them by any accident, he is overwhelmed with anguish, and exclaims in despair, “my gods are taken away, and what have I more." There can be no essential difference between gold and silver shaped
into statuary, adorned with splendid trappings, and set up for the worship of pagan nations, and the same metals shaped into the form of guineas, crowns and dollars, to which a similar homage is paid by the inhabitants of an enlightened land. The forms of the idol, and the modes of adoration are somewhat different, but the idolatry, in all its main points and bearings, is substantially the same. Which of thesse species of idolatry, then, is most irrational and debasing? There can no apology whatever be made for idol-worship, in any. shape or under any circumstances. But, in the case of the pagan idolater, there may be certain extenuating circumstances. The ignorance and superstition in which he has been trained from early life, the opinions of his relatives and of society around him, the strong prejudices, and the numerous associations connected with the religion of his country, the importance he has been taught to attach to his superstitious rites, and the apparent splendor of the idol he adores, and of the ceremonies connected with its worship, might lead us to commiserate, while we cannot but condemn, the idolatrous heathen. We might almost cease to wonder, that a rude savage should mistake the glorious sun in the firmament for his Almighty Maker, and the silver moon and the radiant stars for the ministers of his kingdom. When we consider the splendors they exhibit, the light they diffuse, and the general utility of their influence on terrestrial objects, we can scarcely be surprised that fallen reason should have mistaken them for their Divine Original. But what sympathy can we feel, or what apology can we make for those who are trained in a civilized and Christian country, who are freed from Pagan prejudices, who have the free use of their reasoning powers, and who have been instructed in the existence and attributes of an Almighty and Eternal Being; and yet practice an idolatry, even more degrading than that of the Lama of Thibet, or of the most untutored savage ? “ Be astonished, O ye heavens' at this, and be ye horribly afraid! For my people (saith God) have forsaken the fountain of living waters,--hewn out to themselves broken and empty cisterns, and have gloried in their shame."
The other species of covetousness—namely, that which consists in gratifying the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, while God is banished from the heart, partakes no less of the nature of idolatry, than that which consists in the love of money, abstractly considered. He who is incessantly engaged in the pursuit of money for the purpose of increasing the extent of his property, living in luxury and splendor, dashing along in his chariot, holding intercourse with the higher ranks of society, spending his time in fashionable diversions, or ín laying up a fortune for his descendants, to render them independent, while he has no higher ends or aims, is as much an idolater as the votary of Bacchus, or the worshipper of Baal. For, if such pursuits be considered as the great ends of our existence; if they occupy the greatest share of our thoughts and affections; if our chief happiness is placed on the enjoyments they afford; if every thing else is estimated only in so far as it contributes to such ends, and “if we trust in the abundance of our riches, and make not God our confidence, we frustrate the great ends for which we were brought into existence, and are guilty of every thing that enters into the essence of idolatry. The first duty of every rational creature is to love God supremely and affectionately, to render him the highest homage of our hearts, and to serve him throughout every period of our existence, in preference to every other object or being. In this manner we testify that he is Divinely Great and Excellent, worthy of our highest reverence and regard, and that we are under obligations to Him for every enjoyment we possess. Angels, and the holy inhabitants of all worlds, are obedient to his laws, and make his glory the great end of all their actions. They bow in cordial submission to his allotments, “ they do his pleasure and hearken to the voice of his word,” and he is the supreme object of their affection and adoration. But, when we permit any other object to occupy our supreme regard, affection or esteem, we virtually dethrone Jehovah from our hearts, and banish him from his own universe. “ If we make gold our hope, and fine gold our confidence,” if the favor of the great,
the honor that cometh ,from men, the vain pageantry of life, the richness of our dress, the elegance of our furniture, the independence of our fortune, and the greatness of the inheritance we provide for our children, are the objects that stand highest in our affections; these are the gods at whose shrine we worship, and whose attributes we adore. In so doing, we are guilty of the grossest falsehood; for we practically deny that Jehovah is possessed of those attributes, which demand the highest tribute of homage and affection from his intelligent offspring: We are guilty of injustice; for we violate the rightful claim of the Deity to the obedience of rational agents, and render to creatures the service and regard which is due to Him alone. We are guilty of the basest ingratitude ; for, to his Power and Wisdom we owe our very existence, and to his boundless Benevolence, all the rich variety of comforts we enjoy. In short, by such conduct, we give evidence that pride, rebellion, selfishness, hatred of moral excellence, and all their kindred emotions rankle in our breasts, and sway their sceptre over all our moral faculties.
This sin is not only peculiarly malignant in itself, but lies at the foundation of every other species of impiety and wickedness. The commencement of moral turpitude in any intelligent being, wherever existing throughout creation, is found in the alienation of the heart from God, and the preference of any other object to the Eternal Jehovah. Hence the fall of Lucifer, and the malignity of his designs, and the dismal effects which have followed in the moral order of our terrestrial system ; and hence the anxiety which this arch enemy of the moral universe displayed in order to tempt the Saviour of the world to covetousness, ambition, and distrust in the care of Divine Providence. In proportion as this spirit prevails will wickedness of every kind reign triumphant. Wherever God is acknowledged, and loved, and adored, all divine virtues flourish and shed their benign influence. But wherever the affections are alienated from the original source of felicity, every heavenly virtue declines and dies, and its
place is usurped by every species of moral abomination.
Hence the monstrous iniquities and cruelties, flowing from their religion, which have distinguished every nation of the heathen world. As they had gods of all descriptions and characters; as almost every being, real or imaginary, was included in the list of deities; as every degree of stupidity, folly, impurity, revenge, and other species of moral turpitude, was attributed
to such beings.-50 the moral conduct of their votaries corresponded with the character of the idols, at whose shrines they paid their adorations. Hence the unnatural cruelties connected with their worship; the various species of torture enjoined for obtaining remission of sins; the thousands of human victims which have bled and are still sacrificed on their altars; the murder of female infants as soon as they breathe the vital air ; the burning of widows on the bodies of their deceased husbands; the crushing to death of the worshippers of Juggernaut, and the want of humanity and natural affection which form a striking characteristic of the rites of Paganism. Hence the spirit of daring falsehood displayed in their lying oracles and modes of divination, their pretended cures of diseases, their selection of human victims, their representations of the future world, their fallacious predictions, dreams, and visions, which pervade the whole of their mysteries and systems of mythology. Hence the obscene pollutions and abominations incorporated with the ceremonies of idolatry, by which both matrons and virgins, with the most revolting rites, are consecrated in an idol-temple, to a life of impurity and prostitution; and hence the wars of revenge and devastation, with all the enormities, immoralities, and revolting atrocities, which have followed in their train.
Now, the idolatry of covetousness; as having its origin in the same alienation from God; and the same depravity of the affections, is the source of similar evils and immoralities, wherever its influence extends, as appears from certain facts and illustrations already stated, and which I shall more particularly elucidate un