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being required in acceptable worshippers : “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth ; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
That spiritual worship only is that which is suitable to God, may be inferred from the light of nature. That he is infinite in the perfections of his nature, and therefore not material, is known just as clearly as that he is God. But if he is spiritual in his nature, and infinite in his perfections, the only worship which is suitable to him, and which he can accept from his intelligent creatures, is that of the understanding and the heart. It is not more manifest that it is our duty to worship him at all, than that it is our duty to give him that kind of worship which his nature and ours render necessary, the one from the other. Besides, we are surely bound to offer unto God the best that we are capable of giving.
This, accordingly, is what he has always commanded to be given him; under the patriarchal and Mosaic economy, not less than under the gospel dispensation. The rites prescribed in the worship were various, but so indispensably requisite were the love and homage of the heart, that, without them, the observance of the outward ordinances was regarded as hypocrisy. Hence the terms in which God speaks by the prophet Isaiah of those institutions which he himself had appointed, when observed in a vain and formal manner, and not as the medium of conveying the devout affection, esteem, reverence, and
gratitude of the whole soul.
“ To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me, saith the Lord? I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with ; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts, my soul hateth ; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” It is in allusion to the same heartless and hypocritical worship, that God says, by the prophet Hosea, “ Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit.”
It is scarcely necessary to remark, that in spiritual worship the whole soul is engaged, the understanding and the heart, in sincerely and actively adoring, loving, and honouring God. Those affections are called into exercise, which are suitable in the contemplation and worship of the Most High. Admiration of his glorious excellencies and perfections, thankfulness in the recollection of his unnumbered benefits, delight and complacency in his all-sufficiency as the chief good and portion of the soul, the deepest reverence of his character, attributes, and procedure, humility and self-abasement in the presence of the High and the Lofty One, whose name is holy, and whose habitation is eternity, and in all, an affectionate concern for the glory of God. It is with similar views, affections, and designs, that the inhabitants of heaven express their adorations: “ Thou art worthy,
O Lord, to receive honour, glory, and power ; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Blessing, honour, glory, and power to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever." We,” says the Apostle, speaking of himself and of his fellow-disciples in Christ Jesus, “ we are the true circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
THE IDOLATRY OF MANKIND.
Though in the second commandment the prohibition of the worship of idols, and even the use of images in the worship of God, be most explicit, we learn from authentic history, as well as from the statements of Revelation, that mankind have been prone to idolatry. They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, amen*.”
Every survey of the heathen world has confirmed the entire truth of this statement. It may, indeed,
* Rom. i. 21, 25.
seem extraordinary that nations who had attained to the utmost improvement of the human understanding, whose devotedness to science, and skill in the fine and ornamental arts were unrivalled, should continue, during many ages, in the neglect of the living and true God, and in the grossest idolatry and immorality. This is the more surprising, when we consider, that a revelation of the character, perfections, and will of God was originally made to the human race; that its substance must have been carried with them over the earth after their dispersion on the plains of Shinar, and conveyed, by tradition, in a form more or less perfect, to their posterity; and that the impressions thus made, the lessons which the frame and order of nature and the course of providence continually suggested, were calculated to confirm and preserve. For we have the authority of an Apostle for maintaining that the being and character of God are made manifest by the constitution of the universe, and the moral government of the world. “ The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead.
and godhead. Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness; in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
With these advantages, their apostacy from God we are bound to consider as wilful. The Apostle, indeed, tells us, that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge; that they are without excuse,
because that when they knew God they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Being void of love and reverence for his character and perfections, they did not honour him, either by their profession, or by their practice, or by any efforts to bring others to give him homage ; they lived, in the enjoyment of his bounty, in insensibility and ingratitude; they amused themselves with idle speculations, by which they were only still more bewildered, and confirmed in error and ignorance ; and assuming the air, the tone, and the garb of wisdom, they were, in regard to all religious and moral truth and duty, in reality fools. “They walk,” says the Apostle in another passage,
“ in the vanity of their minds, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Section 1.—The History of Idolatry.
Let us consider the history and extent of idolatry, The communications that were repeatedly made to men concerning the perfections of God, and the
way of salvation through the promised Deliverer, must have preserved the human race, during the earlier ages of the world, in the knowledge of the living and true