The Law of God, as Contained in the Ten
Commandments, Explained and Enforced
By William S. Plumer, 1864
The First Commandment
"You shall have no other gods before me."
The phrase before me in this commandment occurs
nowhere else in the Decalogue. Some writers render it by the phrases,
Beside me, or But me. Both of these are mistakes. The phrase,
Before me, if rendered literally would be, Before my face. It
specially refers to God's omnipresence and omniscience. It reminds us at the
very beginning of the commandments that He, with whom we have to do,
searches the heart. "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched
out our hands to a strange God: shall not God search this out? For he knows
the secrets of the heart." Psalm 44:20, 21. He knows our down-sitting and
up-rising, he understands our thoughts afar off. He compasses our path and
our lying down, and is acquainted with all our ways. He has beset us behind
and before, and laid his hand upon us. We cannot flee from his presence. In
heaven, in hell, in the uttermost parts of the sea—everywhere he is present.
The darkness hides not from him; the night shines as the day; the darkness
and the light are both alike to him. He knows our thoughts and intentions.
Every sin, therefore, and in particular every sin against this commandment,
is committed in the immediate presence of God. For there is no "creature
that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto
the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Heb. 4:13. "God's understanding is
infinite." Psalm 147:5. Concealment from him is impossible. An attempt to
hide ourselves or anything from him is itself folly and wickedness. Man
judges of the heart by the deed; but God judges of the deed by the heart;
and he judges the heart by itself. To him nothing is unclear. He never makes
a mistake. His omniscience is infallible. This therefore is a great
aggravation of all iniquity, that it is perpetrated under the immediate eye
of God, and is an affront offered him to his face.
So he says, "Do you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear
falsely, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not
known? Then do you come and stand before Me in this house called by My name
and insist: We are safe? As a result, you are free to continue doing all
these detestable acts!" Jeremiah 7:9-10. It is considered an act of
extraordinary impudence when men will lie, or steal, or commit lewdness in
the very presence of those who are most wronged and insulted thereby. This
principle is of easy application to God.
I. What the first commandment REQUIRES.
1. It requires us to have a God. It is not so
unnatural for man to be without hands, or feet, or hearing, or vision—as to
be without the religious sentiment. If man is a creature, then it is clear
to reason, that he owes all to the Creator. If man is weak and (dependent to
an extent, which even the heathen themselves have admitted, then it is
impossible to give him adequate strength, or meet his pressing needs, except
by a divinity. An attempt or desire to obliterate the religious sentiment
from the mind of ourselves or of others is an appalling atrocity. If it
could be successful in any case, it would but sink its victim below the
devils, for they believe and tremble. James 2:19.
2. This precept requires us to have Jehovah for our God.
He is the Creator of the ends of the earth. He is possessed of
every and infinite perfections. He is glorious in holiness, fearful in
praises, doing wonders. He is over all, God blessed forever. Cleaving to
him, saints and angels rise from glory to glory. All rational creatures are
elevated in their natures and conceptions by every species of divinely
appointed service rendered to him. His authority is acknowledged by the
whole inanimate creation. Not a particle of dust nor a solid planet; not a
drop of water nor a mighty ocean, but is wholly subject to his will, as
expressed in the laws of nature. All deeps, and fire, and hail, and snow,
and vapor, and stormy wind fulfill his word. Yes, the beasts and all cattle,
and creeping things, and flying fowl are wholly subject to his authority.
For man therefore to deny Jehovah's sovereignty over him is to make himself
like the devils. From the days of Moses until this time, having Jehovah for
our God has been declared fundamental in true religion, and is mighty in
producing obedience to the other commandments. Ex. 15:2; Psalm 118:28.
But what is it to have Jehovah for our God?
Surely this means much more than some decent public declaration that
we take him as such. For in works, many deny him, being abominable, and
disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Titus 1:16.
1. Whoever takes Jehovah for his God, must KNOW him.
So important is the knowledge of God that often in the Scriptures it is put
for the whole of religion. Prov. 2:5; Isa. 11:9; Psalm 36:10, 46:10. If it
may be truly said to us as to the Samaritans, "You worship you know not
what," it is not only a terrible rebuke of our ignorance, but it proves that
our religion is vain. John 4:22. "To know God and Jesus Christ whom he has
sent, is eternal life." John 17:3. Not to know that God is, and that he is a
rewarder of those who diligently seek him, is subversive of all piety. Our
knowledge must extend not only to his existence, but to his character.
He is "the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and
abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving
iniquity, transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the
guilty." Ex. 34:6, 7.
The knowledge of God is either speculative or practical.
The former we may have and be none the better, but only the more guilty. The
practical knowledge of God is saving. It controls the heart and life; it
brings our moral nature into a blessed conformity to the truth of God; it
shows its power by humbling the soul. Job 40:4, 5. It desires to bring
others acquainted with the Most High, 1 Chron. 28:9, and it is valued above
all the treasures of earth. Prov. 2:3-5.
2. We must CONFESS God in all our ways. Psalm
48:14; Prov. 3:6. We must be ready to declare, "Surely you are still our
Father! Even if Abraham and Jacob would disown us, Lord, you would still be
our Father. You are our Redeemer from ages past." Isa. 63:16. Unless we are
brought to the "acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and
of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," we
cannot hope for salvation. Col. 2:2,3; Deut. 26:17, 18:3.
3. We must LOVE God. This duty is largely
insisted on in all the Scriptures. Jesus Christ said nothing more terrible
to his foes, if it be rightly considered, than this; "I know you that you
have not the love of God in you." John 5:42. Nor can any more important
prayer be offered than this, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of
God." 2 Thess. 3:5. Nor do the Scriptures enjoin on man any more weighty
duty than this, "Keep yourselves in the love of God." Jude 21. This love,
when genuine, is controlling. Many Scriptures require that we love God with
all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind, and with all the might.
Deut. 6:5, 10:12, 11:1, 13, 22, 19:9, 30:6; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30.
4. The Scriptures no less clearly require us to FEAR God.
Lev. 25:17; 1 Pet. 2:17. Great promises are made to such as fear him.
Eccles. 8:12. The rebuke the penitent thief gave to his companion was in the
words, "'Do not you fear God?" One mark of a godly man is, that he honors
those who fear the Lord. Psalm 15:4. While the servility of ignorance and
unbelief may cower at the very thought of God, only those who fear him after
a godly sort, are ever ready to say, "His mercy endures forever." Psalm
118:4. "Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing."
All claims to true piety, unsupported by holy living, are
false. "For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation for all
people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in
a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age." Titus 2:11-12.
Calvin: "We manifest a fitting reverence for him, only when we prefer his
will to our own. It follows then that there is no other legitimate worship
of him, but the observance of righteousness, sanctity, and purity."
5. We must OBEY God.
In the absence of hearty obedience, all other evidences of piety are
deceptive. "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" 1 Sam. 15:22. Men perish because they
will not be obedient. Deut. 8:20. This test is fair. All pretenses to godly
fear or holy love, not accompanied by a spirit of prompt and cheerful
obedience to the known will of God, will sooner or later cover us with
shame. "Augustine sometimes calls obedience to God the parent and guardian,
and sometimes the origin of all virtues."
6. We must WORSHIP God. The essentials of
worship pleasing to God are:
First, That the service rendered be something commanded
Secondly, That we adore his glorious perfections, and
make prostrate obeisance of all our faculties before him, submitting our
understanding to his teaching, our consciences to his guidance and all our
powers to be molded by his Spirit. Just conceptions of the greatness and
majesty of God must lead all right minds to adoration.
Thirdly, That we depend upon him, confide in him, and
rely upon his power, wisdom, goodness, holiness, truth, and righteousness.
Fourthly, That we be heartily thankful and render him our
praise for all his mercies. To the truly pious mind this is a delightful
part of all worship.
Fifthly, That we confess our sins before him and hide not
our faults in his presence.
Sixthly, That we supplicate his blessing upon ourselves
and all for whom we are bound to pray, not doubting his faithfulness, nor
his readiness to give us all needed aid.
All these things enter into the essence of our having
Jehovah for our God. They imply that we believe in him, Heb. 11:6;
that we choose him, Josh. 24:15; that we hope in him, Psalm
137; that we honor him, Mal. 1:6; that we joyfully serve him,
Psalm 2:11; that we submit to him, James 4:7; that we humble
ourselves under his mighty hand, 1 Pet. 5:6; that we devote ourselves
to him, Deut. 26:17; that we are zealous in his cause and for his
glory, Romans 12:11; Rev. 3:19; that we make it our business to please
him, 1 Thess. 4:1; that we wait for him and wait upon him, Psalm
25:3, 130:5; that we be sorry for our sins, Jer. 31:18, 19: that we
mourn the sins of our fellow-men, Neh. 13:8; Psalm 113:21; that we
desire God above all things, Psalm 93:25; that we delight in him,
Psalm 37:4; that we think upon his name, Mal. 3:16; that we
meditate upon him, Psalm 63:6; that we walk with him, Gen. 5:22;
and that he be supreme in all our affections, 1 Chron. 28:9; Psalm
95:6, 7; Matt. 4:10. This commandment requires of us these things in
perfection. It also enjoins the use of all means that may promote these
things in our hearts and lives, or in the hearts and lives of others.
3. The first commandment requires that we should take the
Lord Jehovah to be our God EXCLUSIVELY. Calvin: "The end of this
precept is, that God chooses to have the sole pre-eminence, and to enjoy,
undiminished, his authority among his people."
All other gods are vanities. They are no gods. They can
neither hear, nor help, nor see, nor save. Jehovah is God alone. There is no
God beside him; there is no God with him; there is no God above him; there
is no God under him. Isa. 44:6, 8, 45:5. In this matter there are two
errors; one entirely disowns Jehovah and exclusively worships some false God
or gods. In that case the real object of worship is Satan himself. He is the
author of it, and his kingdom is built up by it. Paul says: "The things
which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and
I would not that you should have fellowship with devils." 1 Cor. 10:20.
The other error consists in mingling the worship of
the true God and of false gods. So we read "They worshiped the Lord—but
they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the
nations from which they had been brought." 2 Kings 17:33. Daniel's image of
clay and iron had some consistence. But such worship as this has none
whatever. "I will crush Judah and Jerusalem with my fist and destroy every
last trace of their Baal worship. I will put an end to all the idolatrous
priests, so that even the memory of them will disappear. For they go up to
their roofs and bow to the sun, moon, and stars. They claim to follow the
Lord—but then they worship Molech, too. So now I will destroy them!"
Even Joseph in Egypt seems to have fallen into this sin.
He swore "by the life of Pharaoh." Gen. 42:15. The great sin of such corrupt
mixtures in worship arises from two things. One is, that God everywhere
forbids it. The other is, that all such worship goes on the supposition that
God is no better, or little better, than other objects to which we thus pay
homage. Let every man beware lest in the day of prosperity, "Then they will
worship their nets and burn incense in front of them. 'These nets are the
gods who have made us rich!' they will claim." Habakkuk 1:16. Jehovah has as
much right to be loved and worshiped as God alone, as to be desired and
adored at all.
II. Let us next consider this commandment in
the negative form, and see what the first
1. ANTI-THEISM. The greatest error into which
man can fall is the positive and affirmative conclusion that there is no
God. The number, who go this fearful length, is, perhaps, very small; but
that some should be given up to believe such a lie will surprise no one, who
witnesses the diligence of men in corrupting themselves, and in seeking
darkness rather than light. No man is so blind as he who does not wish to
see. No darkness is more impenetrable, than that in which the carnal mind
envelopes itself. The rashness of asserting that there is no God has no
Foster: "The wonder turns upon the great process by which
a man would grow to the immense intelligence that can know there is no God.
What knowledge is requisite for this attainment! This intelligence involves
the very attributes of Divinity, while a God is denied. For unless this man
is omnipresent, unless he is at this moment in every place in the universe,
he cannot know but that there may be in some place manifestations of a
Deity, by which even he would be overpowered. If he does not absolutely know
every agent in the universe, the one that he does not know may be God. If he
is not himself the chief agent in the universe, and does not know what is
so, that which is so may be God. If he is not in absolute possession of all
the propositions that constitute universal truth, that one which he lacks,
may be that there is a God. If he cannot with certainty assign the cause of
all that he perceives to exist, that cause may be a God. If he does not know
everything that has been done in the immeasurable ages that are past, some
things may have been done by a God. Thus unless he knows all things, that
is, precludes another Deity, by being one himself, ho cannot know that the
Being, whose existence he rejects, does not exist."
So that it can never be proven to be even probable, much
less certain, that there is no God. Every assertion that he does not exist
but evinces unequaled rashness and pretension. Finite intelligence can never
be sure that there is no infinite intelligence. A being limited to a small
part of one small world cannot safely say but that in many other worlds
there may be incontestable proofs of divinity. Surely no man can elevate his
character, or improve the knowledge or the virtue of his race, by making
bold assertions respecting a point, on which his information does not bear
some just proportion to the extent of the proposition which he lays down.
The mass of mankind will find it exceedingly difficult to conceive by what
amazing stretch of depravity, one of their race should reach so monstrous a
2. PANTHEISM. The extremes often lie nearer
than the means. Atheism and Pantheism are not separated by any great gulf.
Men easily pass from one to the other. He, who declares that there is no
God, and he, who declares that everything is God—have each a theory
well-suited to the most brutal knowledge and to the lowest depravity.
As such a belief can spring from nothing but great
wickedness of heart, it need surprise no one to find mankind generally
avoiding avowed Pantheists. Yet for thousands of years there have been in
the world men who believe that the sun, moon and stars, the earth, the sea
and the dry land, the mountains and valleys, the lakes and rivers, they
themselves, their dogs, their swine, their cats, their turnips and their
onions were not proofs of a divinity—but were divinity itself!
The founder of the sect of Pantheists was Orpheus. At a
later time, various classes of these errorists were found in ancient Greece
and Rome. The most conspicuous of modern Pantheists was Spinoza. The last
development of this monstrous system is found in certain transcendentalists
of Europe and America. These wrap up their teachings in modes of expression
which may well be denominated learned gibberish. But when you are able to
get hold of one of their thoughts, it is found to be entirely destitute of
the frankness and candor of Toland and his followers, who, during the last
century, organized themselves into a body, and set forth a creed, asserting
that "the ethereal fire environs all things, and is therefore supreme. The
ether is a reviving fire: it rules all things, it disposes all things. In it
is soul, mind, prudence. This fire is Horace's particle of divine breath,
and Virgil's inwardly nourishing spirit. All things are comprised in an
intelligent nature." This is obviously nonsense; but there is no serious
attempt made to cover it up with high-sounding words. As to the ether here
spoken of, there is simply no evidence of any such thing. The first trace of
its existence is nowhere found.
Modern Pantheists are much held in contempt by all the
men and literature of the world except their own. They are proud and haughty
scorners, and often in a high degree malignant. They show considerable zeal,
and sometimes fabricate the grossest slanders against godliness. A few of
them aim at literary and scientific fame, and make eigh pretensions to
politeness: but the mass of their disciples are found in the depths of
social debasement, yet full of great swelling words of vanity. Their grand
error is of course the denial of the personality of God.
3. ATHEISM. Atheists are of three classes:
1. Such as do not regard the existence of God
sufficiently proven to make it an article of hearty, practical belief;
2. Such as cannot deny that there is considerable,
perhaps satisfactory evidence, that there is a God, but in their hearts
really wish there was none; and
3. Such as live and act just as they would, if they
believed there was no God.
The first are called speculative atheists; the second,
atheists in desire; the third, practical atheists. These all agree in this,
that to all good ends and purposes they are "without God in the world."
Atheists in desire will probably continue in their error until regenerated
by the Spirit of God. Practical atheists abound. Many of them would be
shocked if charged with atheism; yet they could not live more entirely
without prayer, and without the fear and love of God, if it was an article
of their creed that there was no God. His laws do not bind them. His mercies
do not attract them. His judgments do not correct them. They know nothing,
but what they know naturally as brute beasts.
It is a mournful fact in human history that men have been
found ready to publish their lack of belief in the divine existence, and
have died for the maintenance of their speculations. So true is it that love
of falsehood may be stronger than the fear of death. Lord Bacon says, that
up to his time, "atheism did never disturb states." This was true. But since
his time, especially within the last century, its outbreaks have been
usually accompanied by political disturbances. The conversion of speculative
atheists is of rare occurrence. Yet the power of God can bend the will of
the most rebellious.
The utter unprofitableness of atheism is worthy of
special note. It takes away all, and makes no returns. If it could be
incontestably proven to be true, it would make no man less wretched, less
foolish, less wicked, less criminal than he is now; but on the contrary it
would make him every way less fit to live, and less fit to die. It begets no
lively, solid hopes. Its moral lessons (if it taught any) would be enforced
by no sanctions. It is the darkest gulf, into which the human mind ever
Nevins: "If atheism is true, annihilation would be the
object of most earnest longing to all thinking men." Lothrop: "If it were
true that there is no God, what evidence can the atheist have that he shall
not live and be miserable after death? How came he to exist at all? Whatever
was the cause of his existence here, may be the cause of his existence
hereafter. Or, if there is no cause, he may exist in another state as well
as in this. And if his corrupt heart and abominable works make him so
unhappy here, that he would rather be annihilated than run the hazard of a
future existence, what hinders but he may be unhappy forever? The man then
is a fool, who wishes that there was no God, hoping thus to be secure from
future misery; for, admitting that there is no God, still the man may exist
hereafter as well as here; and if he does exist, his corruptions and vices
may render him miserable eternally as well as for the present."
Atheism is both very stupid and very wicked. The case is
this. The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's feeding-trough.
The sheep is a silly thing, and yet it knows the voice of its shepherd, and
will not heed the voice of a stranger. But men are more foolish. God feeds
them daily. He opens his hand and liberally supplies their needs. He watches
them with more than a shepherd's care. Yet are these men more brutish than
the beasts. They don't know their Maker, Owner and Sustainer. They doubt, or
even deny his existence.
Not only does the Lord provide for each of us, but for
every living thing. Everett: "The human race is usually estimated at about
one thousand million individuals. Let, then, the thoughtful farmer, who
desires to form just ideas, reflect, when he gathers his little flock about
him to partake the morning's meal, that one thousand million fellow-men have
awakened from sleep that morning, craving their daily bread with the same
appetite, which reigns at his family table; and that if, by a superior
power, they could be gathered together at the same hour for the same meal,
they would fill both sides of five tables, each reaching all around the
globe where it is broadest, seated side by side, and allowing eighteen
inches to each individual; and that these tables are to be renewed twice or
thrice every day."
Then let him consider that the supply of food is but a
small part of the care of Providence over him and his, and how can he go
away and deny his Master, and refuse to know his Owner and his Shepherd?
What would be thought of a man, or company of men, who would accept an
invitation to even one feast provided by a neighbor, and then go and deny
not only his kindness, but even his existence? Truly inspiration is right
when it says that such folly and wickedness are never found among wise men.
"The fool has said in his heart, There is no God." Psalm 14:1. None but a
fool could be brought to say so vile a thing even in his heart.
Without going at length into the proof of the divine
existence, it may be proper to suggest something of the line of argument
that might be pursued on this subject.
1. A fair argument for the divine existence is drawn from
the consent of mankind. This argument is based on the just axiom that
the belief of all nations and of all ages must be founded in truth. The
whole world has never yet received an error as truth. Nor is there one
instance, in which the learned and the unlearned, the polished and the
crude, the rich and the poor, the civilized, the barbarous, and the savage,
have united to support a falsehood. It is not possible to find in the
history of the world a notice of any people, whose language, rites, laws or
customs did not evince their belief of the existence of God. Cicero says,
"There is no nation so savage or wild as not to know that there is a God."
No fairer argument for a Divinity can be found than that stated by many a
heathen, yes, even by many a savage.
The atheist, therefore, sets up the conclusions of his
own mind against the judgments of his race. For it is as rare to find a man,
who denies the existence of a God, as to find a man blind, or deaf, or dumb.
It does not weaken the force of this argument to admit that the idea of a
God is given from one generation to another. Before instruction, one does
not know how to spell the monosyllables of his own language; nor does he
know the axioms of science, but when he is taught these things, he is a
madman to deny them.
It strengthens the argument from the consent of mankind
that the belief of a God is not to unsanctified men pleasing, but
troublesome. It "crosses their worldly interests, contradicts their sensual
desires, deranges their joys, and torments their natural consciences." And
yet no nation has ever been able to persuade itself that there was no God.
If the belief of a Divinity is not based in irrefragable truth, why cannot
the delusion be shaken off? Mankind have clearly shown two things; first,
that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, and secondly, that
when they knew him, they did not glorify him as God. How comes it to pass
then, that with the whole current of corrupt sentiment, and wicked desires,
and unholy living against true religion, men should still believe in a God?
There is no fair answer to this question, except that the truth is too
obvious to admit of sober denial.
2. In every man's mind is something, which reproves him
for evil actions, however secret or applauded; and commends him for right
conduct, however misunderstood or condemned. In clear cases of
wrong-doing, there is a sense of guilt, which is always painful, sometimes
intolerable. Many a man has sought death rather than endure the sting of the
scorpion in his own bosom. Caligula confessed to the Roman senate that he
suffered the pains of death every day. It is common with offenders to be in
torment. But where there is transgression, there must be law; and where
there is law, there must be a lawgiver; and who is Lord of the conscience if
there be no God? If the world has no moral governor, how can this
self-condemnation be accounted for? There is no fairer reasoning than
this: "There is a conscience in man; therefore, there is a God in heaven."
So mighty is the power of conscience, that among men
nothing is more dreaded than its scourgings. Nor can it be so obliterated by
false doctrines or a course of crime, as not to annoy the guilty everywhere.
Herod was a bloody man. In principle he was a Sadducee, and believed neither
in angel, nor spirit, nor heaven, nor hell, nor in a resurrection of the
dead. At the solicitation of a bad woman he killed one, whom he knew to be
the best man of his day. By and by, Jesus began to work amazing miracles
among the people. These caused much talk. Some said one thing and some
another. But Herod, in the teeth of all his principles, said he knew all
about it: "It is John, whom I beheaded: he has risen from the dead." Mark
Atheists have consciences, and though they are ignorant,
erroneous, and sometimes seared as with a hot iron, yet from this quarter
annoyance arises to those, who deny, no less than to those who own a God. No
man, however debased in principle or behavior, can tell what moment a drop
of the divine wrath may fall into his soul, and the fires of perdition flame
out from his own bosom. Every effect must have an adequate cause. What is
the cause of conscience if there be no God; who is the author of man's moral
nature? It is evident too that the author of the moral nature of one
race of men is the author of the moral nature of every race of men, for they
are all alike. Whoever is the lawgiver to the conscience of an American, is
the lawgiver to the conscience of the European, the Asiatic, and the
It is a favorite idea of atheists that fear formed a
God. But if there is no God, why should all men fear him? It would be
much nearer the truth to say that fear formed atheists. The godly fear not
that there is a God, but would be dismayed if they even doubted his
existence. It is the wicked who flee when no man pursues. A dreadful sound
is in his ears. Terrors take hold of him as waters. God casts upon him and
does not spare. Conscience stands a great bulwark against wickedness, and no
less against atheism.
3. All CREATION says—There is a God, a God of power,
wisdom and goodness. The blazing universe above us—is it without a cause?
About a thousand years before the Christian era, lived a Hebrew king and
poet. In early life he had been a shepherd-boy, and had watched the motions
of the heavenly bodies. Later in life he had been a fugitive from home,
being pursued to the wilderness by his cruel and jealous monarch. There too
he had seen how the azure vault above was all bespangled with gems brighter
than ever had been set in earthly crowns. By and by he seized his pen and
wrote: "The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his
marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after
night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice
is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and
their words to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed
it. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices
like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the
heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its
heat." Psalm 19:1-6
Are not such views just, pure, elevating? Do they not
commend themselves to every man? Seven hundred years later lived the great
man of Stagira, whose philosophy ruled the reasonings of men almost without
interruption for nineteen hundred years. He wrote on logic, on ethics, on
poetry, on politics, on physics, and on metaphysics. Among all his
voluminous writings there is none more deserving of commendation than that
commended by Cicero as "noble." Aristotle says: "If there were beings who
had always lived underground, in convenient, nay, magnificent dwellings,
adorned with statues and pictures, and everything which belongs to
prosperous life, but who had never come above ground—who had heard, however,
by fame and report, of the power of God—if at a certain time, the portals of
the earth being thrown open, they had been able to emerge from those hidden
abodes to the regions inhabited by us; when suddenly they had seen the
earth, the seas, und the sky; had perceived the vastness of the clouds and
the force of the winds; had contemplated the sun, his magnitude and his
beauty, and still more his effectual power, that it is he who makes the day
by the diffusion of his light through the sky; and, when night had darkened
the earth, should then behold the whole heavens studded and adorned with
stars, and the various lights of the waxing and waning moon, the risings and
the settings of all these heavenly bodies, and their courses fixed and
immutable in all—when, I say, they should see these things—ruly they would
believe in a God, and that these things are his works."
The bard of Bethlehem, who had been educated in the law
of Moses, and who was the father of the wisest of mere men, and the
philosopher of Stagira, who had been the tutor of Alexander the Great,
though differing in a thousand other things, did not fail to see alike in
this, that all we see, when we lift up our eyes, by day or by night,
declares that this world had a divine author.
SEEDS. Have they no maker? All kinds of grass and grain,
most kinds of roots and trees, of shrubs and plants, are propagated by
seeds. Some of these are large, but most of them are small. Their shape and
appearance are exceedingly diverse; but each of them contains a germ, in
which is the vital principle. Men can make things which look like these
seeds; but all the chemical skill and physical power of men cannot produce
one seed with the vital principle in it. It is as much beyond created power
to form a seed with the vital principle in it, as to form a solar system.
Yet from the creation to this day men have beheld the wonders of divine
skill and energy in the production of myriads of seeds in every acre on
earth not doomed to sterility. In this matter nothing is more surprising
than the amazing fruitfulness of plants. A few years ago a farmer saw one
stalk of wheat springing up in the cleft of a rock. He thought there was
something remarkable about it. When it was ripe he gathered it, and at the
right season sowed it again. It has produced millions of bushels already.
Most seeds too have a tenacity of life that is amazing.
Wheat has grown and produced its kind three thousand years after it had been
stored away. Seeds have been found more than a hundred feet under ground,
which seemed to have been formed many ages before, and yet when exposed to
the action of moisture, air, and the light and heat of the sun, have grown
INSECTS. Have they no Maker? If they have, he is God.
Plato believed there was a God, because all the world could not make a fly.
Yet he who has made the fly, has made it capable of propagating its kind.
The eggs of a common house-fly in one season is over twenty million. Some
spiders produce nearly two thousand eggs. There are six or seven generations
of gnats in a season, and each one lays two hundred and fifty eggs. A single
bee is said to produce in one season a hundred thousand of its own kind. The
eggs of insects, in some cases, retain the vital principle for a long time.
Dr. Bright informed the world of the case of an egg that produced an insect
eighty years after it must have been laid. And how wondrously these
creatures are formed.
Spiders have four paps for spinning their webs. Each pap
has a thousand holes. The fine web itself is a cord made of four thousand
strands. Our spinning wheels are a crude thing compared with the amazing
machinery of the spider. Nor can man make anything of such amazing
elasticity and durability as are found in the spider's web. The late Dr.
Mitchell showed me, as connected with the most delicate portion of the
machinery of the observatory at Cincinnati, Ohio, one piece of spider's web
which had been stretched three hundred and ninety-five thousand times, and
yet when the tension was off, it contracted to its usual length.
The numbers of insects found even in a small space is
almost incredible. A pound of cochineal contains 70,000 insects. A German
naturalist has discovered in the space of ten miles square 600 species of
insects injurious to the growth of grain. Captain Buford saw near Smyrna in
1841 a cloud of locusts forty-six miles long and three hundred yards deep.
The least insect examined with a proper microscope shows as great wonders in
its structure, as are detected in creatures that can be well examined with
the naked eye. Have not these little creatures a Creator? May not a wise man
walk through this portion of the kingdom of nature, and be justified in
exclaiming at every step, "How countless are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You
have made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures!"
THE FISH AND SEA CREATURES. Have they no Maker? We are
amazed at the fertility of the finny tribes. The roe of a mackerel has been
found to contain half a million of eggs; that of a flounder, about a million
and a half; that of a codfish as many as nine million. The whole watery
world is teeming with life. Is there no presiding Deity here?
The intelligent reader can pursue like trains of thought
respecting the BIRDS OF THE SKIES. The feathers of those which are designed
to be much on the wing are remarkably light, and their bones are hollow. Is
not this a display of creative wisdom?
The BEASTS of the field, the beasts of the mountain, and
the beasts of the desert would all in their turn furnish amazing
illustrations of the creative skill of Him who made all things.
The existence of MAN, with his varied powers, the
existence of society, with its untold resources and complications, the
organization of plants and minerals, in short everything in nature, when
rightly considered, show that there must be a great First Cause. It can be
shown that the little chip of granite required a Creator, as truly as a
living organism. He, therefore, who denies the being of a God, flies in the
face of all science, of all creation, of all the facts in the case.
Nor can such monstrous folly be accounted for, without
the belief of great depravity. "The carnal mind is enmity against
God"—reveals the first great cause of atheism. But sometimes the human mind
in casting off prejudices does not distinguish between them and truths, and
so rejects both the vile and the precious together. Sometimes long, unbroken
health and prosperity lead to the same result. Men feel no changes, and they
say all things are stable of themselves, and that there is no God. Health
chiefly keeps an atheist in the dark.
Sloth is another fruitful source of atheism. "The
sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a
reason." It is no trifling task to arouse men from their natural torpor
respecting divine things.
A bold and dashing spirit of speculation misleads others.
They are ruined by their self-conceit. Others affect great singularity, and
wish to be distinguished from all around them. This wind has blown many into
hell. Atheism will ruin any community. It dissolves all the bonds of
society. All, who rear their fabrics on unrighteousness, are but preparing
for a fearful overthrow. The higher they rise, the more dreadful will be
their fall. The wickedness of atheism is truly dreadful. It subverts all
religion; it makes it impossible for a man even to pray without stultifying
himself. Aristotle said: "He, that does not confess a Deity, is not fit to
live." Yet the sin of atheism is found in the dreadful wickedness of heart,
which can cherish such vile notions, and deny the being of a God.
Shall the universe blush to own its Author? Shall a worm
be ashamed to confess him who made it, and keeps it, and feeds it; and
renders its existence a blessing? Lord Bacon says, "God never wrought a
miracle to convince an atheist." The reason is the best in the world. He,
who believes that the whole order of nature was established without an
Infinite Cause, would easily believe that the laws of nature were suspended
in the same manner. So that he, who will shut his eyes against the light
before him, must continue in his blindness until he perishes in his own
4. IDOLATRY. Another sin forbidden in the
first commandment is idolatry, which is committed when we direct religious
worship to any but the true God alone; or when we ascribe to people or
things properties peculiar to God; or when we unduly set the affections of
our hearts upon any creature. Idolatry may exist in men's opinions, as when
they believe that some divinity is found in the creatures of God, or in
creatures of their own imaginations, as when men invest the gods of the
heathen, or saints, or angels, or places, or things, with properties and
powers, which belong to God alone. Such are in doctrine, idolaters.
Sometimes idolatry is merely practical, as when
men set up themselves, their own elevation, their covetousness, their
pleasures, their aggrandizement, or their ease—above all the obligations of
The Bible throws no covering over any species of
idolatry. He, who worships the sun, the moon or stars, does as truly sin
against God as he who worships a snake. He, who worships saints or angels,
does as truly insult the Most High, as he who worships debauchees and
devils. For the essence of the sin of idolatry is found in putting the
creature in place of the Creator. If he shall be punished who worships a
snake—shall he escape God's displeasure who worships yellow dust, called
gold, or sinful pleasures, or the breath of worms, uttered in applause? It
is very true that some forms of idolatry are more gross and shocking to the
sensibilities of men than others. But in the gorgeous ceremony or in the
secret observance of idolatrous rites, God may be as justly offended as in
the most shameless and bloody practices.
There are two entirely different classes of objects,
toward which we may practice idolatry—open or secret. We may desire the
wages of unrighteousness, and be greedy of filthy lucre. That is all sinful
from beginning to end. That, which God has absolutely forbidden, in all
cases and at all times, is then lusted after. Or, we may be guilty of
idolatry by an inordinate affection to lawful gains, and wealth obtained by
means which men esteem honorable. An idol may, therefore, be something which
we love, although we are forbidden to love it at all; or, it may be
something which it is lawful to love in moderation, but which we love
excessively. In either case, we set up some object before our affections
in a way which draws our hearts from God. Whenever we esteem, or honor, or
love, or fear, or serve, or obey, or confide in any person, or thing, or
opinion, more than in God, or in any way that interferes with our duty to
God, then we are guilty of idolatry. To whatever, or to whoever we yield
obedience, we are servants unto that which we obey. Romans 6:16. When we put
so high a value upon our ease, or houses, or lands, or husband, or wife, or
children, or parents, or stations, or offices, or public favor—as that we
pine away in rebellion against God at their loss—we do, by our conduct, cry
out as Micah, "You've taken away all my gods—and I have nothing left!"
All things which perish in the using are dangerous to our
souls, when, in apprehending our loss of them, we hold our remaining
mercies, the promises of the gospel, and the adorable Trinity, as of little
value to us. The same is true when we are ready to make use of unlawful or
doubtful means for regaining what we have lost.
Much idolatry is committed by unduly setting our
affections on the things of this world. The Bible is explicit in stating
that the covetous man is an idolater, Eph. 5:5; and that covetousness is
idolatry, Col. 3:5. It further teaches that this love of the world cannot
co-exist with true piety. "Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For
everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes
and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from
the world." 1 John 2:15,16.
This love of the world sometimes breaks out in atrocious
wickedness, as when it leads to theft, or forgery, or murder. So intent was
Ahab on getting Naboth's vineyard, that he would not rest until the dogs
licked up his blood. Demas apostatized from Christianity, that he might
secure the gains of idolatry in a heathen temple. Again, this love of the
world greatly weakens our courage, and diminishes our zeal, and makes us
languid in the service of God. This love of the world is the prevailing sin
of multitudes in Christian countries.
This love of the world, uncured and unrepented of, will
work the ruin of any soul. It is as true that the covetous shall not be
saved, as that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, sodomites,
thieves, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners shall be excluded from the
kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9. Wealth may cause the wicked to be envied by
fools, courted by sycophants, and applauded by the multitude; but all his
gains will not help him in the day of wrath. They cannot cure a pain of
body, nor relieve a pang of mind. In death, so far from comforting him, his
wealth often adds terrors to the event. And in judgment and eternity all his
earthly possessions will be but as fuel to kindle the fires of Tophet. For
the riches of the wicked shall eat their flesh as it were fire. They have
heaped treasure together against the last day. James 5:3.
Sometimes idolatry assumes the form of trust in something
besides God. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses," Psalm 20:7; some
make "gold their hope, or say to the fine gold, "You are my confidence," Job
31:24; some "have pleasure in the legs of a man," Psalm 147:10; some expect
to be "saved by the multitude of an army," Psalm 33:16; some in sickness
"seek not to the Lord, but to the physicians," 2 Chron. 16:12; some expect
ease and quiet and a happy life through the "much goods which they have laid
up for many years," Luke 12:19; some, despairing of help from God, betake
themselves to those that have familiar spirits," 1 Sam. 28:7-14. All these
practice a form of idolatry. They put a creature in the place of God. They
rely upon means and instruments instead of the almighty agent. Let none
trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God. "Stop trusting in man, who
has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?" Isa. 2:22.
It is no less idolatry to be greatly afraid of man, or of
the power of any creature. Our business is to sanctify the Lord Almighty
himself, and let him be our fear, and let him be our dread. Isa. 8:13. It is
as true now, as in former days, that "the fear of man brings a snare." Prov.
29:25. We cannot expect to please God and do our duty until we can say, "I
will not be afraid what man can do unto me." "The Lord is my strength; of
whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1. "I will not be afraid of ten thousand
people, that have set themselves against me round about." Psalm 3:6. So that
if we suffer for righteousness' sake, we may count ourselves happy. Let us
never be afraid of the terror of man, neither be troubled. 1 Pet. 3:14. What
sad work the fear of man made among some who believed on Christ, and yet did
not own him, may be learned from John 12:42, 43. Even Peter, who truly loved
him, and who seems to have been habitually intrepid, was more than once led
into great errors by his fear of man. Mark 14:66-72; Gal. 2:11-13.
Sometimes men give themselves up to a service, which is
practical idolatry. When we seek to please men, we are not the servants of
Christ. Gal. 1:10. When we expect to be able to serve both God and mammon,
we miserably deceive ourselves. Cares and engagements, which so engross our
time as to leave none for God's service, which make such demands upon our
exertions as to leave us unfitted for devotions public and private, which
fill us with excessive solicitude and carry us away far from the paths of
simple and earnest piety—do make us idolaters.
The OBJECTS of practical idolatry are many, and wholly
undeserving of our warm affection. When a man goes forth, crying, "Who will
show us any good?" Psalm 4:6, he is a candidate for shame, and is on the
high road to idolatry. When one is devoted to his appetite, he is already
an idolater. "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach,
and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." Phil.
3:19. When a man believes that the chief end of his existence is to provide
the means of gratifying the appetites of himself and his family, and is
content with a portion in this life—he is already an undone man. Psalm
17:14. Repentance alone can rescue him from an eternal overthrow. When we
set an undue value upon our own bodily endowments, as strength, beauty, or
agility; or upon our mental faculties, as memory, imagination, reason, wit,
or judgment; or on our acquirements, as skill, learning, or eloquence—then
we make idols of these things.
When Herod received the gross flatteries of the people,
and gloried in his eloquence—he was eaten of worms and died. When the
daughters of Zion were haughty, and walked with stretched-forth necks and
wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they went, they were but preparing
themselves for the day of evil, when the Lord would take away the bravery of
their tinkling ornaments, and untold calamities should be poured upon them.
How many too have an idolatrous regard to their good
name and credit among men. They seem as if they would rather be out of
the world than out of public favor. They are lovers of themselves and lovers
of pleasures more than lovers of God. They are high-minded. 2 Tim. 3:2-4;
Romans 11:20. The least thing that goes cross to their ambitious desires,
causes them to display the very temper of Haman, the Agagite, the Jews'
enemy. They are ready to inflict vengeance on any who cringe not before
their brief authority.
Hare: "In short, there are idols for the worldly-minded,
and idols for the generous. There are idols for the intemperate, and idols
for the prudent. There are idols for the affectionate, and there is an idol
for the selfish. Young and old have their idols. Married and unmarried have
their idols. Rich and poor have their idols."
Self-will is the idol of many. To the will of God
they are wholly unsubmissive. Should God take from them half of the temporal
blessings he has heaped upon them; yes, if he should take but one of a
thousand of their mercies from them—you would never find them adopting the
language of Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the
name of the Lord." Job 1:21. They never say like the suffering Redeemer—Not
my will, but yours be done, O God. Their will is directly counter to the
will of God. They are of course idolaters.
Self-righteousness is also idolatry. It dares to put
the morality, the prayers, the repentance, the orthodoxy, the zeal, the
profession of religion, the ordinances of the gospel, the rites of
religion—in the place of the infinite merits of the Son of God. If the
self-righteous are saved, the Son of God lived and died in vain.
How many give to works, all over defiled—the
honor, which is due to the spotless righteousness of Christ alone.
Against nothing is true religion more determinately set
than against idolatry. When the evangelical prophet foretells the increase
of Messiah's government, he says, "The Lord alone shall be exalted in that
day." The very next words are, "And the idols he shall utterly abolish." Isa.
2:17, 18. Again God calls, "Repent, and turn from your idols." Ezek. 14:6.
When Hosea describes Israel as healed of his backslidings, he makes him say,
"What have I to do any more with idols?" Hosea 14:8.
But how little are the admonitions of Scripture heeded!
Even Paul may cry, "For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there
between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an
unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? 2
Cor. 6:14-16. Yet how few are thereby moved to holy living!
When inspired writers wish to compare an act with some
heinous sin, they sometimes liken it to idolatry. "Rebellion is as the sin
of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." 1 Sam. 15:23.
And often do they call idolatry by the names of treachery and whoredom. Jer.
3:6-11. Compare parallel places. If any would see further the enormity of
this sin, and the dreadfulness of its punishment, let him examine Eph. 5:5;
Rev. 9:20, 21; 21:8, and parallel passages.
The end of some of the idolaters of this world has been
exceedingly dreadful. One great British lord, when he came to die, said,
"Had I but served my God, as I have my sovereign, he would not have left me
thus." Another, no less distinguished, said, "I have always had my mind so
occupied with the various affairs of the nation that I have had no time to
examine Christianity or any other system of religion."
In the idolatry which adopts the heathen mythology, and
erects temples to false gods, there is something so sottish and so debasing
that it is a marvel men should ever fall into it. But as those who are
likely to read this book are probably not worshipers of Jupiter, or Mars, or
Buddha; and as the denunciations of spiritual idolatry already cited are no
less applicable to the grosser forms, the subject is here dismissed, with
the simple declaration of Jesus, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and
him only shall you serve." Matt. 4:10. Compare Deut. 6:13, 14; 10:20, Josh.
24:14; 1 Sam. 7:3.
IS THE CHURCH OF ROME IDOLATROUS?
This is a very solemn and practical question. In all
countries nominally Christian, Romanism is urging her claims. Every man must
examine and decide for himself. In discussing the question, let us accept
the definition of idolatry given by Wiseman: "It is the giving to man, or to
anything created, that homage, that adoration and that worship—which God has
reserved unto himself." The church of Rome openly, habitually, and
systematically gives to creatures honors, veneration, and worship due to God
alone; and thus she is guilty of idolatry. This is a grave charge. No godly
man can make it without sorrow of heart.
I. The church of Rome, in ascribing to the Pope
titles and powers peculiar to God, is guilty of idolatry. Some of these he
has claimed, and all of them he has accepted from his followers. In a great
Lateran Council, one member called him "Prince of the world;" another, "King
of kings, and Monarch of the earth;" another said of him, that "he had all
power above all powers of heaven and earth." Bishop Newton says, "The Pope
is styled and pleased to be styled Our Lord God the Pope, another God upon
earth, King of kings and Lord of lords. The same is the dominion of God and
the Pope. The power of the Pope is greater than all created power, and
extends itself to things celestial, terrestrial and infernal. The Pope does
whatever he wishes, even things unlawfully, and is more than God."
Cardinal Bellarmin says, "If the Pope could or should so
far err as to command the practice of vice, and to forbid virtuous actions,
the church were bound to believe vices to be good and virtue to be bad."
Here, at the very threshold of this discussion, we are shocked by these
amazing claims, and by the idolatry which concedes them. Is not here that
Wicked One, who "will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is
worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself
to be God." 2 Thess. 2:4. Verily, it looks so much like the fulfillment of
the prediction of Paul that while the world stands, we shall not find a more
2. In his turn, the Pope himself gives to a creature
honors peculiar to God. In his first Encyclical letter, Pope Gregory XVI.,
who died but a few years ago, addressing all Patriarchs, Primates,
Archbishops and Bishops, speaking of the Virgin Mary, calls upon the
clergy to implore "that she, who has been, through every great calamity, our
Patroness and Protectress, may watch over us, writing to you, and lead our
mind by her heavenly influence to those counsels which may prove most
salutary to Christ's flock." In this matter of guidance, could Gregory have
asked more from God himself? From the Bible we learn that He, whose eyes
never slumber nor sleep, is a present help in trouble; but here the Pope
says that Mary is "our Protectress through every great calamity." He adds,
"But that all may have a successful and happy outcome, let us raise our eyes
to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who alone destroys heresies, who is our
greatest hope, yes, the entire ground of our hope." This is plain. Whoever
maintains truth by destroying heresies, and is our greatest hope, yes, the
entire ground of our hope, is to us a God. What pious man ever put higher
honor upon Jehovah himself, than by making Him his greatest hope, yes, the
entire ground of his hope?
3. In full accordance with the Pope's declaration, are
the books of devotion common in that communion. In them Mary is called upon
more frequently than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the "Catholic
Manual," published with the approbation of Archbishop Whitfield, occur the
following: "I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to
blessed Michael, the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the Holy
Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints that I have sinned," etc. How
this differs from the practice of holy men of old! Daniel (9:4, 5,) said: "O
Lord, the great and awesome God,...we have sinned, and have committed
iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from
your precepts and from your judgments." Addressing Jehovah, David said
(Psalm 32:5,) "I acknowledged my sin unto you, and my iniquity have I not
hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and you forgave
the iniquity of my sin." Again he says to God, "Against you, you only, have
I sinned, and done this evil in your sight." Psalm 51:4. The publican
prayed, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
Romanists say their religion is older than ours, but
Daniel and David and the justified Publican lived before either Pope or
Papist. Having finished the confession of sin, a Christian would have
thought the proper application would have been first and alone to God. That
was the course pursued by the worthies above named, and by Ezra. But in the
Catholic Manual it is different. There we read thus: "Therefore, I beseech
the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, the blessed Michael the Archangel, the
blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the
saints to pray to the Lord our God for me." Then follow two short petitions
to God, and then this invocation: "O Holy Virgin, Mother of God! my Advocate
and Patroness! pray for your poor servant, and show yourself a mother to
me." Our Savior taught us to pray to our Father which is in heaven, but when
did the Lord direct us to pray to our mother in heaven? Such idolatry is not
taught by inspired men.
In the Bible (1 John 2:1,) are these words: "If any man
sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous;" but
in the Manual, everyone is taught to call Mary "My Advocate," and to seek
her intercession. How then is the Romish doctrine older than ours? We agree
with John in having but one "Advocate with the Father," and him "the Father
hears always." He is able, he is willing, he is Jesus Christ the righteous.
The next thing in the Manual is in these words: "And you,
O blessed Spirit!" One would have thought the address was now surely to God.
But it is not so. "And you, O blessed Spirit, whom God in his mercy has
appointed to watch over me, intercede for me this day, that I may not stray
from the path of virtue." If any ask, What does this mean? he may look back
a little and see that it is an invocation of your angel guardian. The
next words are these: "You also, O happy Spirit, whose name I bear, pray for
me," etc. Listen to the Bible. (1 Tim. 2:5.) "There is one God, and one
Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus." This text is as plainly
opposed to many mediators as it is to many gods. Yet the Manual teaches that
we are to pray to our angel guardian and to the saint whose name we bear, to
mediate in our behalf. Christ has no higher glory than that which belongs to
him as Mediator. To rob him of that or any part of it is as wicked as to rob
God of the honor of creating the world.
In the Bible (Heb. 4:15, 16,) we have these words: "For
we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our
weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we
are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with
confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our
time of need." Thanks be unto God, who has taught us this best, this only
way. But does it look like coming "with confidence" to stand off, and cry to
Mary, to Michael, to John the Baptist, to Peter and Paul and others, and ask
them to intercede for us? Paul told us to "look to Jesus," and to flee for
refuge to the hope set before us in the gospel. The Bible (Heb. 7:25,) says
of Jesus, "He is able also to save forever those who come unto God by
himself; always living to make intercession for us." If we are to come to
God by Jesus himself, we are not to come by his mother, or by any other
creature. Blessed be God, that when Jesus was yet with us, he said: "I am
the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by ME."
"I am the door." "Truly, truly, I say unto you, He who enters not by the
door into the sheep-fold but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief
and u robber."
And yet in the Manual we read, "O Holy Mother of God!
deliver us from all dangers." On the 45th page is an address to Mary, in
which she is styled "the bright Queen of heaven." The title Queen of heaven
is found in Jer. 44:17, 25, 26. But it is in an alarming connection. God
there declares his displeasure against the people for "making vows to the
Queen of heaven." On the next page, she is addressed thus: "O Holy Mother!
My Sovereign Queen, receive me under your blessed patronage, and special
protection, and into the bosom of your mercy, this day and every day, and at
the hour of my death. I commend to you my soul and body, I commit to your
care all my hopes and comforts, all my afflictions and miseries, my life and
my death, that by your intercession and through your merits, all my actions
may be directed and disposed according to your will and the will of your
As man, Christ never offered higher worship to God than
when in death he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Luke
23:46. Christ in glory never received higher worship from a holy martyr than
when dying Stephen said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Yet in this
Manual, all this honor and this worship are offered to Mary. The same book
abounds with like evidences of idolatry. The same is true of all the
formularies of worship designed for private use among Catholics.
A very favorite book among Catholics for some time past
is entitled, "The Glories of Mary, Mother of God." It's author is St.
Alphonsus Liguori. The edition at hand was has the approval of Bishop
Kenrick. The translator dedicates the work to Mary, "the Queen of Angels and
of Men," with "all veneration and respect," and says it is "designed to
increase the number and fervor of her worshipers." Here is the table of
Chapter 1. How great should be our confidence in Mary,
Queen of Mercy. How great our confidence should be in Mary as our mother.
The great love borne us by Mary our mother. Mary is the refuge of repentant
Chapter 2. Mary is our life, since she obtains us the
pardon of our sins. Mary is our life, because she obtains our perseverance.
Mary renders death sweet to her servants.
Chapter 3. Mary is the hope of all the children of Adam.
Mary is the hope of the sinner.
Chapter 4. Mary's readiness to assist those who invoke
her. The power of Mary to defend those who invoke her in temptations.
Chapter 5. Necessity of Mary's intercession in order to
Chapter 6. Mary is a powerful Advocate. Mary is a
compassionate Advocate. Mary is mediatrix of peace between God and sinners.
Chapter 7. Mary is ever watchful to support our miseries.
Chapter 8. Mary preserves her servants from hell. Mary
succours her servants in purgatory. Mary conducts her servants to heaven.
Chapter 9. The greatness of Mary's mercifulness and
Chapter 10. The sweetness of the holy name of Mary in
life and in death.
The filling up of these chapters in sections is of the
same shocking kind with what you would expect from this table of contents.
So also in "The Psalter of the Virgin" we find the last
two Psalms of David thus thrown into parody, and applied to Mary instead of
Jehovah: "Sing unto our Lady a new song: let her praise be in the
congregation of the just," etc. Again, "Praise our Lady in her holiness;
praise her in her virtues and miracles; praise her, you choirs of patriarchs
and prophets; praise her, you army of martyrs; praise her, you crowds of
doctors and confessors; praise her, you company of virgins and chaste ones;
praise her, you orders of monks and anchorites; let everything that has
breath praise our lady."
In that form of adoration, which, it is audaciously
pretended, was revealed by an angel to St. Bernard, offering worship to many
members of her body, we find among others these words: "I adore and bless
your most blessed feet," etc.
The effect of this Mariolatry in fostering corruption is
manifest in all Papal countries. Even pirates and robbers are often great
worshipers of the saints. In "Graham's Three Months' Residence in the
Mountains East of Rome," pages 155, 161, he says: "Every robber had a silver
heart, containing a picture of the Madonna and Child, suspended by a red
ribbon to his neck, and fastened with another of the same color to his
side... They talked pretty freely with their prisoners about themselves and
their habits of life, which they maintained arose from necessity, rather
than choice. They showed them the heart and picture of the Madonna, which
each had suspended from his neck, saying, 'We know that we are likely to die
a violent death, but in our hour of need we have these,' touching their
muskets, to struggle for our lives with, and this,' kissing the image of the
Virgin, 'to make our death easy.'
The following was admitted by a very prominent person at
Rome in his conversations with Seymour, as reported in his "Mornings among
the Jesuits," people. 104, 105. "The feeling of devotion to the Virgin has a
mysterious something in it that will ever linger about the heart of the man
who has ever felt it. It is one of those feelings that, once admitted, can
never afterward be totally obliterated. There it still clings around the
heart; and though there may be coldness to all other religious impressions;
though there may be infidelity or even scorn upon all our faith; though
there may be the plunging into the wild vortex of every sin, yet still there
will not unfrequently be found even among the very worst of our people, a
lingering feeling of devotion to the Blessed Virgin... Even in the most
wild, wicked, and desperate men—even among the bandits in their worst state,
there is always retained this devotion to Mary."
The church of Rome authorizes the worship of the
crucifix. Thomas Aquinas, the great Romish doctor, teaches that the crucifix
is to be worshiped with Latria. The Roman Pontifical expressly says, "Latria
is due to the crucifix." The Catholic Missal enjoins on clergy and laity,
"on bended knee to adore the crucifix." In the meantime the whole choir
sing, "Your crucifix, O Lord, we adore." The Breviary says, "Your crucifix,
O Lord, we adore." Again, "O venerable crucifix, that has brought salvation
to the wretched, by what praise shall I extol you?" In the service for Good
Friday, in the Roman Missal, a hymn is given to be sung to the crucifix.
The church of Rome also requires the worship of the
bread and wine in the Mass. The Council of Trent, the last general
council of the Romish Church, expressly says, "There is, therefore, no room
to doubt that all the faithful in Christ are bound to venerate this most
holy sacrament, and to render thereto the worship of Latria, which is due to
the true God, according to the custom always observed in the Catholic
Church. Neither is it to be less adored because it was instituted by Christ
our Lord, as has been stated." There can be no mistake here. The very
highest worship which is due to the true God is to be rendered to the
sacrament of the Eucharist. Faithfully is this carried out in the elevation
and procession of the host. Thus, a wheaten cake and the juice of the grape
are worshiped with the very worship offered to God, and a fearful anathema
is denounced against those who teach otherwise.
The heathen worshiped Saturn, of whom their poets said
that he ate his children as soon as they were born; but it was reserved for
modern Rome to teach that the priest makes God with flour and water, and
that then he and the people adore him and eat him!
These proofs of idolatry in the Church of Rome might
easily be multiplied fifty-fold. Where is the difference between Pagan and
Papal Rome? Pagan Rome worshiped demons, commonly dead men. Papal Rome
worships dead men and women. Papal Rome claims that she invokes holy
creatures, whereas Pagan Rome called upon wicked ones. But holy creatures
are still creatures; and to call upon them is to put them in the place of
God, and that is idolatry. Paul sends forth the challenge, "How shall they
call on him in whom they have not believed?" This clearly implies that
religious service addressed to one that is not the object of religious faith
is an absurdity. The invocation of saints, therefore, is either a mockery,
or it at once exalts them to the rank of objects of religious belief.
Nor is it possible to prove that all whose names are in
the Calendar are saints, or ever existed. Let any man prove that there ever
lived such a person as St. Veronica, and by the same kind of evidence we can
prove the existence of all the fabulous characters in Pagan mythology. But
suppose all the saints named in the Calendar were now in heaven; not one of
them possesses omnipresence. Not one of them can be in Rome, Vienna, London,
Montreal, Mexico, St. Louis, New York, and all over the world at the same
time; neither can they be in heaven and on earth at the same moment. Any
act, therefore, which attributes to them omnipresence, is idolatry. Neither
can any one of them possibly know all the needs, fears, sorrows, and
temptations of all the pious in the church militant. Mary would need to have
millions of ears and of understandings. She would require infinite
intelligence; that is, she must be God in order to know the wants and wishes
of all who now address her. To say or do anything that ascribes such
knowledge to her is idolatry. This invocation of saints and angels goes upon
the presumption that they pity and love us more tenderly and strongly than
the Lord Jesus Christ.
A learned priest, holding high position at Rome,
distinctly declared, "that God hears our prayers more quickly when they are
offered through the blessed Virgin than when offered through any one else;"
and "that even Christ himself was not so willing to hear our prayers, and
did not hear them so quickly when offered simply to himself, as when they
were offered through the blessed Virgin." Could greater indignity be offered
to Christ than is expressed in such sentiments? He Himself said: "Greater
love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13. Did not Jesus die for us, even while we were yet enemies? How
then dare any express by word or deed more confidence in the tenderness and
love of any creature than of the Lord Jesus Christ? When on earth, he said,
"Come unto ME, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest;" or as it is in the Douay Bible, "Come unto ME, all you who labor and
are heavy laden, and I will refresh you."
Our Savior never directed the eyes of penitent sinners to
his mother as a source of hope. When on earth, he was told, "Your mother and
brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you. He replied to
him—Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Pointing to his disciples, he
said—Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my
Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Matthew 12:47-50.
Christ could not in more emphatic terms have declared that in his kingdom, a
new and spiritual nature, leading to a holy life, infinitely exceeded in
value all blood kinship, even with himself.
As to the doctrine that Mary is Queen of heaven and has
the highest throne of any of Adam's race, it is a mere imagination, and
contrary to the Scriptures. Christ expressly said, that to sit on his right
hand and on his left hand in his kingdom should be given to them for whom it
is prepared of my Father, Matt. 20:23; Mark 10:40; never intimating that it
should be to Mary, or Peter, or any one else known to us. We can, therefore,
never prove that Mary is preferred before all the redeemed. But if she were,
it would not alter the case, for the most eminent of all the redeemed is but
a creature, helpless and dependent, and idolatry consists in giving to
anything created—the homage and worship belonging to God alone.
When John mistook an angel for the Almighty, and fell at
his feet to worship him, the angel said: "Do not do it! I am a fellow
servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Worship God!" Rev. 19:10.
How fully the ancient church testified by her example and
teachings against such idolatry can be seen by consulting Church History,
and especially the Antiquities of the Christian Church by Joseph Bingham.
Perhaps the most comprehensive definition of ungodliness
is "Neglect of God." It involves a "disregard of God and his commands, and
neglect of his worship; or it is any positive act of disobedience or
irreverence." In all cases it supposes some degree of ignorance of the true
nature of God and divine things. It implies a lack of reverence for God, and
of right affections towards him. It supposes men to desire independence of
God, to be unsubmissive to his will, to be ungrateful and disobedient. The
ungodly may have many notions of the matters revealed in Scripture: but they
are not clear nor sound. They are tainted with some degree of superstition
or of impiety. They certainly will not endure the severity of God's
Ungodliness is always deficient in uprightness of
conscience. It is not marked by what the Bible calls simplicity and godly
sincerity. It is never self-sacrificing or self-renouncing. Whatever it may
do for the sake of decency or public opinion, it never mortifies sin. Nor
does ungodliness ever enter into the forms of religion with zest and
animation. If it serves at all, it is with luke-warmness. It must be very
evident that ignorance of God is directly a species of ungodliness, and is
in the face of the first commandment. It is never the mother of true
devotion, though it may be of superstition. It is everywhere condemned in
Scripture. The Lord says: "For My people are fools; they do not know Me.
They are foolish children, without understanding. They are skilled in doing
what is evil, but they do not know how to do what is good." Jeremiah 4:22.
Again: "The Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land: There is no
truth, no faithful love, and no knowledge of God in the land! My people are
destroyed for lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:1, 6.
All ignorance of God is aggravated by being to a
considerable extent willful. Forgetfulness of God falls into the same class
of sins. From the frequency with which it is charged in Scripture, it would
appear to be very prevalent, and one of the most obstinate forms of
rebellion. Nothing, no alarming judgments, no stupendous displays of mercy,
can cure this folly, without the sovereign grace of God. Psalm 78:11;
106:13, 21. From one expression in Scripture, it would seem to be the great
sin of the whole heathen world; for there we read of "all the nations that
forget God." Psalm 9:17.
To the same class of sins we must refer all false
opinions, misapprehensions and unworthy thoughts of God. We are no more at
liberty to liken God to some creature however exalted, than to a creature
ever so debased. "We shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or
silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination." Acts
17:29. Whenever we think that God is such an one as ourselves, we miserably
degrade him. When we withhold from God any act of service or honor required
by himself, we break the first commandment. That is a heavy charge, "You
have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O
Israel. You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me
with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor
wearied you with demands for incense. You have not bought any fragrant
calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have
burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses." Isa.
We greatly sin when we curiously and irreverently pry
into God's secrets, Deut. 29:29, when we put ourselves above God, or make
ourselves equal to God in our own estimation or plans, 2 Tim. 3:2-4; when we
hate God, which must always be without a cause, John 15:25; when we yield to
unbelief, Heb. 3:12; when we give up our hearts to heresy, Titus 3:10; when
we believe God is pleased with our cruelty or with any of our sins, Acts
26:9, when we refuse to set our hopes in God, Psalm 78:22; when we refuse to
believe the promises, and give up our minds to despair, as did Cain and
Judas; when we refuse to be amended by God's sore judgments, Jer. 5:3; when
we are not brought to repentance by his kind acts of providence, Romans 2:4,
5; when we cry Peace and safety, in the midst of our sins, Psalm 19:13; when
we deny God's moral government over the world, Zeph. 1:12; when we tempt
God, Matt. 4:7; when our zeal in religion is ignorant and indiscreet, Gal.
4:17; Romans 10:2; John 16:2; Luke 9:54, 55; when we are either dead or
lukewarm in the service of God, Rev. 3:1, 16.
In all these cases we violate the first commandment. Nor
do we less sin when we go after wizards and witches, and practice palmistry,
spiritualism, and black magic, or use charms and spells. Gal. 5:20; Lev.
20:6; 1 Sam. 28:7, 11. The sin of such practices is not destroyed by any
particular theory that we may hold on this subject.
We also violate the first commandment when we yield to
any of the suggestions of the devil, Acts 5:3. Of course, apostasy
from God is against this commandment. "If any man draws back, my soul has no
pleasure in him." Heb. 10:38. "God will make his sword drunk in the blood of
apostates." For a while they may seem to prosper, but it is the prosperity
of the bullock preparing for the slaughter.
The Bible gives us solemn examples of the end of
apostates, in the case of king Saul and of Judas Iscariot. The former
of these was, in early life, modest, unaspiring, mingling with God's people
and even with his eminent ministers, himself a prophet among the prophets.
But after he was raised to power, jealousy, malice, ambition, contempt of
God and disobedience to the clearest commands began to mark his conduct. Bad
became worse, until at length he openly apostatized by refusing to hearken
to God, and by consulting the witch of Endor. His doom was as sudden as it
The case of Judas need not be here rehearsed. It
is familiar to all. Nor is uninspired history without its solemn lessons on
this subject. Early in life Julian embraced the Christian religion. For a
time he seemed zealous for its truths. But before long a change came over
him, and in course of time he became one of the bitterest enemies of
Christianity. Against Christ he was exceedingly enraged. At one time he
raised his dagger in the presence of his army and publicly defied the Son of
God. The longer he lived, the more envenomed he became. But such wickedness
could not be allowed to go unchecked forever. The day of retribution
approached. He received a mortal wound in battle and lay weltering in his
own blood. After a while he gathered up a handful of the clotted gore and
threw it into the air, exclaiming, 'You have conquered, O you Galilean!'
This commandment also forbids
the giving of the praise of any good that has befallen us, or is possessed
by us, to ourselves, to fortune or to idols. Deut. 8:17; Dan.
4:30; 5:23; 1 Sam. 6:9.
All impatience under God's dispensations, all discontent
and murmuring, all foolish and wicked speeches respecting God,
are also sins against this commandment. Psalm 73:2-17; Jude 16; Phil.
2:14; 1 Cor. 10:10. Some never show cheerfulness in bowing to God's will.
Others openly fret against it. Many sin by taking no thankful notice of
mercies received and remaining.
Leighton: "There is more joy in enduring a cross for God,
than in the smiles of the world; in a private, despised affliction, without
the name of suffering for his cause, or anything in it like martyrdom, but
only as coming from his hand, kissing it and bearing it patiently, yes,
gladly, for his sake, out of love to him, because it is his will so to try
you. What can come amiss to a soul thus composed? I wish that even they who
have renounced the vain world, and have the face of their hearts turned
Godwards, would learn more this happy life, and enjoy it more; not to hang
so much upon sensible comforts, as to delight in obedience, and to wait for
those at his pleasure, whether he gives much or little, any, or none. Learn
to be still finding the sweetness of his commands, which no outward or
inward change can disrelish, rejoicing in the actings of that divine love
within you. Continue your conflicts with sin, and though you may at times be
foiled, yet cry to him for help, and getting up, redouble your hatred of it
and attempts against it. Still stir this flame of God. That will
overcome—'many waters cannot quench it.' It is a renewed pleasure to be
offering up yourself every day to God. Oh! the sweetest life in the world is
to be crossing yourself to please him; trampling on your own will to follow
Three other sins against this commandment should not pass
without notice. One of them consists in resisting and grieving the Holy
Spirit. How dreadful this sin is, may be learned from the fact that
inspired men speak of it as if it were the sum of all wickedness. Thus said
Stephen to his impenitent audience: "You stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in
heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit." Acts 7:51.
Another form of breaking this commandment is the
rejection of Jesus Christ. Without him we can do nothing. John 15:5. He
is the sole and sufficient author of salvation to lost men. To reject him is
to reject all the counsels of God for our restoration to the divine favor.
The Scriptures employ the most alarming language respecting this sin. Christ
himself says, "If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins."
John 8:24. "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the
testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a
man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who
has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified
him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Heb. 10:28, 29.
The last form of breaking this commandment is by
insincerity of heart in religious worship. When Christ was on earth, he
used more alarming and solemn language to hypocrites than to all others.
Their case is indeed sad, and their guilt heinous. Hopkins: "The hypocrite
calls on God to be an accomplice and partaker with him in his crimes; and so
makes God to be the patron of sin—who will be the Judge and condemner of