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first parents. “We will be gods to our“ selves,” is the practical language of their sinful offspring. Selfishness characterizes our whole deportment, whilst we are strangers to the grace of Jesus. Even the good which we do originates, more or less remotely, in selfish motives. Our understanding we exercise in judging decisively of Jehovah's word and providences, and when we cannot discern the import of either, we ask contemptuously,“ How can these things be?” Our will we oppose to the divine will, doing as we please, instead of doing what is commanded by Heaven. The gratification of our own passions and appetites we study and seek to promote in all possible ways, though that gratification should dishonour God, and affect our fellow-mortals. A regard to character restrains the more civilized and moral; a fear of punishment, the more vulgar and uninformed. But how often do both break through these restraints, carried away by their selfish feelings ! ..
We all naturally seek our own, more than the things of others, or of Jesus Christ, being lovers of ourselves more than of others, VOL. II.
and of God. Such is the spirit, and such the tendency of sin. It arms us against God, makes us affect independence of him, excites self “ with a giant-like pride to climb up into “ the throne of the Almighty, and to esta“ blish an unbounded tyranny, in contra“ diction to the will of God.” What is this but idolatry? The sinner would judge all things at his own tribunal, making his opinions the standard of right and wrong; prescribe laws to all enjoyments but his own, establishing his interests paramount to all · others. - 2. The sinner idolizes his fellow-mortals.
He transfers to them the fear and love which he ought to feel for God, though they are mere worms of the earth, poor creatures whose breath is in their nostrils, whose days are few, and whose end is death. He pays his steady homage to the great ones of the earth, courting their smiles, and dreading their frowns, as if they were the supreme arbiters of his happiness. He applies unto the physicians in the time of sickness, as Asa king . V11.] OF SPIRITUAL IDOLATRY. 155 of Israel" did, trusting to them as if they were gods; placing his life, as it were, confidently in their hands. He regards ministers as angels of God, yea, as Jesus Christ, as the Galatians regarded Paul He is supremely attached to his friends and his family, placing all his happiness in their welfare, and seeking from them what he ought to seek from God alone.
c Smilli, of Cambridge, on True Religion, p. 229 of his
· In this idolatrous attachment to others, of which the sinner is guilty, there is nothing inconsistent with his idolatrous attachment to himself. Through the instrumentality of others, he seeks and finds the gratification of his selfishness. Does he idolize the great ones of the earth ? It is to increase his own importance, by a connexion, however 'disgraceful, with them. If men in power and affluence suppose all who pay homage to them to be their sincere admirers and friends, they are the 'dupes of their own self-love. These flatterers would as soon worship a golden calf as them, if it could only confer offices, and give inheritances. Does the sinner idolize physicians? It is because he thinks they can restore
d 2 Chron. xvi. 12. ac Gal. iv. ! 4.
health, and secure life. How cautious ought they to be not to cherish such delusion, but to impress the minds of their patients with the absolute necessity of God's blessing to make the means effectual! Are ministers idolized ? It is because they are supposed, from their profession, to have great interest at the court of Heaven. The best token of affection which can be given to a sincere minister, is to love his Master, and lose sight of himself. Are friends and families idolized ? It is because they gratify selfimportance, or contribute largely to our self-enjoyment.
Thus you see selfishness produces idolatrous attachment to others.
Let no one mistake my meaning. I am illustrating that attachment to the creature, which is inconsistent with attachment to the Creator. We are bound to respect those whom God honours : to use the aid of physicians and ministers with thankfulness, and to love our friends and families with warmth: but all this must be subordinate to that respect and love which are due to God.
3. The sinner idolizes the world, and the things which are therein.
. By the world, here, is understood the earth which we inhabit, and the state of existence which we enjoy. The earth was originally good; but, in consequence of sin, has been cursed. Our present state of existence was once a state of innocence and happiness, but it is now become a state of sin, of sorrow, and of death. The earth we are obligated to till and use for our support, and our present existence we are bound to preserve by all lawful means. When we do this, we use the world as not abusing it. But when we so highly love this earth, and our abode on it, as to forget God, we abuse the world...
This the sinner does. Earth, though a vast field of moral corruption and infamy, is to him a delightful paradise. Life, though a scene of iniquity and distress, is his all. He would wish always to toil on earth, always to live here below. Though God offers himself and heaven, and bids him live in glory, through Jesus Christ, his debasing appetites, his perverted desires, make him reject the offer, and disobey the command. He has no wish to soar aloft, if he may be permitted to grovel among the clods of the ground.