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GOD ALONE TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND WORSHIPPED
The law requires, as we have seen, that supreme love to God should rule and regulate the affections and faculties of our nature. The first and natural expression of love is obedience to the will of God, in all the precepts which it enjoins, in all the doctrines which he reveals, and in all the dispensations which he appoints. In the exercise of love we are further led to make God alone the object of our adoration and worship; and to acknowledge him as our God, and give him the glory due unto him, to the entire exclusion of whatever might claim the place and the honour of Deity. The first commandment, accordingly, is, “ Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
This is, in fact, a modification of the great commandment of the law, which requires us to love the Lord God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. In commanding us to have no other gods before him, we are to understand the great Lord and Ruler of all as enjoining us to give to him the affection, and reverence, and service which are his due ; while we are never to dishonour him by substituting, however partially, any other object in his room.
We are to acknowledge him as our only Lord God, by entertaining towards him suitable affections, and by that sincere, devoted, and universal obedience, which we are bound to render. We are to own him in the
infinitely pure and holy character in which he has made himself known,-in his spirituality, omnipresence, omniscience, wisdom, and power,-in all the moral perfections of his nature,-as God the Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer ;-whom alone we are to worship and glorify as God, by giving him the homage of our whole hearts, by exercising the affections of love, trust, resignation, and dependence, in regard to him, and by making him our ultimate end in all things.
This duty so very obviously arises out of the relations which man bears to God, that a law expressly enjoining it might seem superfluous. Is it possible for human beings to confound the Creator with the creature; the God of all perfection, with a created, finite, and dependent being, or to give to the one the homage which is exclusively due to the other ? Experience proves that this is not only possible, but that such is the proneness of mankind to idolatry, and to substitute objects of supreme regard and esteem in room of God, that they have not been preserved from this folly and abomination by the powerful motives and threatenings of Revelation. They have given to the meanest of his works the worship and service which are due to God; and thus have been guilty of conduct which includes in it almost every sin. Nor are idolaters exclusively chargeable with this wickedness; but all who give to any object that supreme devoted regard which alone belongs to God,—the sensual, the covetous, the ambitious, and profane,nay, all who bestow on what is lawfully beloved an inordinate and
The violation of the duty enjoined in this command, implies a denial of the perfection of God; a withholding from him that which is his due; and a substitution of the creature in his room.
I. It is a denial of the perfections of God. It is a practical falsehood in regard to his being, almighty power, omniscience, omnipresence, and all the moral excellences of his nature. It is, what the Apostle terms, changing the truth of God into a lie. Do they acknowledge him to be what he is, the only living and true God, the fountain of being and of happiness, who give their homage and their hearts to idols? Is not this to commit the two great evils mentioned by the prophet, to forsake God, the fountain of living waters, and to hew out unto themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water? Is it not a denial of his creating and preserving power, of his supreme authority as the only moral governor and judge, of his bounty in supplying the wants of every thing that lives, and of his sovereign right to command the obedience of his creatures, and to do what he will with his own! For a creature voluntarily to act thus towards the Creator, towards God, the centre and the sum of all perfection and blessedness, is doing the highest dishonour to Him of which he is capable.
II. It is, in addition to a denial of his perfections, a withholding from him that which is his due, and that which he claims. No right can be more manifest, and none more unalienable, than that of God to the love of the heart, to the voluntary obedience of the life, to direct and govern his creatures according to his good pleasure. He is pleased with their love and
obedience, as they are the means of promoting his glory; and he is displeased and dishonoured when their love and obedience are withheld. “ A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be'a father, where is mine honour, and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts.', Every breach of the duty enjoined in the first commandment, is a wilful refusal of the honour, worship, and fear, which every intelligent being is bound to render unto God. When we consider how worthy God is of being beloved, on account of the boundless excellences of his nature, the unnumbered benefits which every moment he bestows, and of which He alone can be the author, and that true and permanent happiness is to be enjoyed only in obeying his commandments, the act of withholding from him the love and homage which are his due, is full of wickedness and criminality
III. But it is an aggravation of this conduct, that it elevates a mere creature to the place of God. However exalted that creature may be, it is nothing more than a dependent, finite being, without power, or goodness, or happiness, but as they come to him from God. To give him religious homage, or even to give him that supreme regard and reverence which God claims as his, is to affirm that he is more excellent, more deserving of the love and confidence of the heart, than is the Lord and Creator of all. It is to deny divine perfections to God, and falsely to impute them to a weak and fallible creature ; it is to withhold from God the love and the acknowledgment which are due to him, and to give them to some object raised into his
room. Is there not in this a complication of baseness, falsehood, injustice, and ingratitude, far beyond the power of human language adequately to express ? What are the evils which this sin does not include ? It is practical atheism; it is adding impiety to the guilt of denying the being and attributes of God; and it is saying to the Almighty, Depart from us, for we will not own nor serve thee, and we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
But we are not only bound to make God alone the object of our adoration and worship; we are to render him this adoration and worship in the way which he prescribes. The design of the second commandment is to make this known to us. The first prohibited the acknowledgment of false Gods; the second prohibits the worshipping of idols, and even the professed worshipping of the true God through the medium of idols. “ Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow thyself down to them, nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
Though this commandment consists in a prohibition, the duty implied in it is as fully enjoined as though it were expressly mentioned. That is, that God is to be worshipped spiritually, according to his nature and attributes. It is that which our Lord points out as