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on divine things. Yet all men are as any one looks into a glass, that fallible, and we should call no man he may both know what manner of teacher upon earth: it must, there- man he is, and learn to adjust what fore, be proper to compare all their is unbecoming: or as a heir reads elucidations or inferences with the his father's will, and the inventory Scriptures themselves. Above all, of his effects and estates; that he it behoves us" to ask wisdom of may know what the inheritance is, God;" and to beg of him to give and the nature of the tenure by us the Holy Spirit, to remove from which he must possess it. We our minds every prejudice and car- should accompany our reading with nal affection, and whatever may impartial self-examination; both in close them against any part of re- respect of our knowledge, judgvealed truth, or indispose them to ment, dispositions, affections, moreceive the illumination of heaven tives, words, and actions, in every (as the vitiated eye cannot make particular, at present and in times proper use of the light of the sun). past; that we may learn the state He alone, who inspired the Scrip- and wants of our souls; and with tures, can help us to understand self-application, as the persons them and if we search them in spoken to, in every instruction, predependence on, and prayer for, his cept, sanction, counsel, warning, teaching, he will lead us into all invitation, promise, &c.; according truth, as far as our safety, peace, to our state, character, conduct, and and duty require it. It may be circumstances: pausing to inquire, proper here to caution the reader whether we have understood what against fanciful interpretations, we have read, and what we learned which surprise and amuse, but mis- from it; that, beseeching the Lord lead men from the practical mean- to pardon what is past, and to help ing of Scripture and against those, us for the future, we may, without who pretend to modernize divine delay or reserve, begin to practise truth; not choosing to "speak ac- what we know, waiting for further cording to the oracles of God;" light in such matters as still conbut as they suppose the apostles tinue doubtful or obscure to us. It would have done, if they had pos- would be easy to multiply direcsessed the advantage of modern tions; but the Scriptures thus stuimprovements: a supposition just died are "able to make us wise unto as wise, as to attempt improving salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ." the light of the sun by astronomy!
In short, every text has its proper meaning, as it stands related to the context; and its proper application On the Scripture Character of God. to us: these we should seriously EVERY attentive and intelligent stuinvestigate, with fervent prayer for dent of the Bible will perceive, that divine teaching; without presuming revelation was vouchsafed to man, to add to, alter, or deduct from, the revealed will of God (Deut. xxix. 29).
in order to deliver or preserve him from idolatry, by instructing him in the character and perfections of the Lastly, We shall search the Scrip- one living and true God, and the tures, as the navigator consults his way in which he would be worchart, and makes his observations; shiped; as well as to teach other that he may discover where he is, duties, and to influence him to perand what course he must steer: or form them. The jealous care of
Jehovah to distinguish betwixt him- every approved character of holy self and every idol, to secure the writ, without excepting that of our glory to himself, without allowing Lord himself? Nay, will it not folany of it to be given to another, low from it, that Jehovah wrought and the terrible denunciations pro- many stupendous miracles to no nounced against, and severe judg- manner of purpose? For we must ments executed upon, idolators, must not only inquire, why Moses was so attract the notice of all who are con- careful to distinguish the God of versant with the sacred oracles, and Israel from the idols of Egypt and convince every impartial person, of the nations? or what induced that idolatry is the greatest of all David to expect assistance in meetsins, atheism alone excepted. ing Goliath, who despised the arYet in this, as in other things, mies of Jehovah, "that all the the "wisdom of man" (which is earth might know that there was foolishness with God), has led a God in Israel?" (1 Sam. xvii. numbers to adopt a contrary opi- 45-47,) or on what account Elinion: so that, whilst an elegant and jah was so earnest to determine admired poet hath employed his whether the Lord or Baal were the fascinating ingenuity to persuade true God? (1 Kings, xviii.) but mankind, that God is worshiped we must also demand, why he anwith equal acceptance "by saint, swered their expectations and prayby savage, and by sage," or whether ers by miraculous interpositions, if he be called "Jehovah, Jove, or the point to be decided were of Lord*" (which in this connexion little or no importance? may signify Baal); it is also become When the God of Hezekiah dea fashionable principle of modern livered him from the power of the rational divinity, that all such dis- Assyrians, by the slaughter of one tinctions are immaterial, and all re- hundred and eighty-five thousand ligions very much alike, if men be men, whilst Sennacherib was slain sincere in their way. So that num- by his own sons in the house and hers seem to think what they call worship of Nisroch his god; the bigotry (though wholly free from distinction between Jehovah and intolerance or persecution) to be every idol was strongly marked. worse than any mental errors; even These are a few, out of very numein respect of the object of religious rous instances and evidences, which worship and that candour and li- might be brought from the Old Tesberality of sentiment are more im-tament, to confirm the point in portant virtues than the supreme question. When our Lord told the love and spiritual adoration of Je-woman of Samaria, that "her nation hovah, as distinguished from all false knew not what they worshiped, for gods! salvation was of the Jews" (John, But who does not perceive, that iv. 22-24); when Paul proposed this principle, if carried to its ob- to declare unto the polite and phivious consequences, amounts to a losophical Athenians, that " rejection of the Bible, or at least known God, whom they ignorantly puts it on the same footing with worshiped," and to distinguish the Hesiod's Theogonia, or the Koran? Creator and Judge of the world Who can avoid seeing, that it imputes bigotry and a contracted mind to the prophets and apostles, and to * Pope's Universal Prayer.
from all their idols (Acts, xvii. 23-31); and when he informed the Corinthians that their idol sacrifices were offered unto devils,
and not to God (1 Cor. x. 20); objects of their worship. No wonder they plainly showed, that such can- that they were ferocious in war, and dour, as is now contended for, was debauched in their general conduct, no part of their plan, but absolutely when their religious observances incompatible with it. comprised the most savage cruelIndeed, the apostle has informed ties, the most shameless licentiousus, that idolatry originated from ness, and the greatest excesses of men's aversion to God; "they liked intemperance; and when at last not to retain him in their know- they could not equal in these reledge" (Rom. i. 18-23, 28). His spects, the gods whom they had holy character and spiritual service invented for themselves! suited not with their carnal minds; Indeed, if religion be supposed to and therefore deities were invented produce any effect on the conduct of another sort, and a worship co- of mankind, every person of common incident with their corrupt inclina- sense must allow, that the character tions. When we consider how and actions ascribed to the object of Christian festivals are generally worship, must be of the greatest celebrated, we shall cease to won- possible importance: for as these der, that Israel preferred the golden are, so will the sincere worshipper calf to Jehovah, and joyfully "sat be. To please, to resemble, to imidown to eat and drink, and rose up tate the object of adoration, must to play," instead of attending the be the supreme aim and ambition sacred ordinances of the living God of every devotee; whether of Jupiand a competent knowledge of hu- ter, Mars, Bacchus, Venus, Moloch, man nature will enable us easily to or Mammon; as well as of every account for the predilection which spiritual worshipper of Jehovah : that people ever manifested for the and we may, therefore, know what gods of the nations, and their jovial to expect from every man, if we and licentious rites. For the reli- are acquainted with his sentiments gion of the Gentiles, instead of concerning the God that he adores: producing any salutary effect on provided we can ascertain the detheir conduct, led them to practise gree in which he is sincere and the grossest enormities, not only earnest in his religion. It would without remorse, but in order to be absurd to expect much honesty appease or find acceptance with from him, who devotedly worshiptheir deities; and thus it tended to ed Mercury as the god of thievcorrupt both their principles and ing; much mercy from a devotee morals. No doubt, the great enemy of Moloch; love of peace from of God and man, both from ambition the worshipper of Mars; or chasof engrossing the worship of idola-tity from the priestess of Venus : tors, and from the malignity of his and, whatever philosophical specunature, aided their invention, in lators may imagine, both the Scripforming the characters and imagin-tures and profane history (ancient ing the exploits of their deities, and modern) show, that the bulk partly in resemblance to his own of mankind, in heathen nations, abominable propensities, and partly were far more sincere in, and influaccording to the worst vices of enced by their absurd idolatries, mankind: that so the most destruc- than professed Christians are by tive crimes might be sanctioned, the Bible; because they are more and the vilest affections, as it were, congenial to corrupt nature. Nay, consecrated, by conformity to the it is a fact, that immense multitudes
of human sacrifices are, at this day, [rence, and exposed to his avenging annually offered according to the justice: they will consider their own rules of a dark superstition; and judgment of what is fit and right, as various other flagrant immoralities the measure and rule of his governsanctioned by religion amongst these ment: their religious worship will idolaters, who have been erroneously accord to such mistaken conclusions; considered as the most inoffensive and the effect of their faith upon of the human race. But these pro- their conduct will be inconsiderable, portional effects on the moral cha- or prejudicial. Thus men" think racter of mankind are not peculiar that God is altogether such a one to gross idolatry: if men fancy that as themselves" (Psalm 1. 21), and they worship the true God alone, a self-flattering, carnalized religion and yet form a wrong notion of his is substituted for the humbling, holy, character and perfections, they only and spiritual gospel of Christ. substitute a more refined idolatry The different ideas which men in the place of Paganism, and wor-form of God (whilst the Scripture ship the creature of their own ima- character of him is overlooked), regination, though not the work of sult from the various dispositions their own hands: and in what doth and propensities which they derive such an ideal being, though called from constitution, education, and Jehovah, differ from that called Ju- habit: the voluptuary will imagine piter, or Baal? The character as-(with a certain dissolute monarch*), cribed to him may indeed come that God will not damn a man for nearer the truth than the other, and taking " a little pleasure in an irrethe delusion may be more refined:gular manner:" nor can the ambibut if it essentially differ from the tious warrior, or covetous oppressor, Scripture character of God, the ef- be convinced, that the supreme Befect must be the same, in a measure, as to those who earnestly desire to imitate, resemble, and please the object of their adoration.
ing will demand a strict account of all the blood shed, or the injustice committed in their respective pursuits : a speculating philosopher Indeed, when sinful men presume may imagine a deity too dignified to delineate the character of God to notice the conduct, or too clefor themselves, however learned or ment to punish the crimes of puny sagacious they may be, their rea- mortals; at least he will deem him sonings will inevitably be warped very favourable to the self-wise, by the general depravity of fallen and such as are superior to vulgar nature, and by their own peculiar prejudices, whatever he may do in prejudices and vices. Partial to respect of debauchees and santhemselves, and indulgent to their guinary tyrants. Thus men's ideas master passion (which perhaps they of God are framed according to mistake for an excellency), they will their own prevailing propensities; naturally ascribe to the Deity what and then those ideas of him recithey value in themselves, and sup- procally tend to form their characpose him lenient to such things as ters, and influence their conduct, they indulge and excuse: they will both in respect of religious duties, be sure to arrange their plan in and in the common concerns of life. such a manner, as to conclude them- These observations suffice to show selves the objects of his compla- us the reason why "the world by cency, and entitled to his favour; wisdom knew not God," and to or at least not deserving his abhor
* Charles II.
prove, that it is impossible in the ways. 1. By express declarations;
partial reasonings upon this subject; I. We consider the Lord's ex-
Thus the Jews knew not the God the natural perfections of God, which they zealously worshiped: they to- vastly exceeds whatever is admired tally mistook his character, and as sublime in Pagan writers. Jetherefore they despised and reject-hovah speaks of himself, " ed" the effulgency of his glory," high and lofty One who inhabiteth and the express image of his in- eternity;" "heaven is his throne, visible perfection; and they hated and the earth his footstool;" "the and persecuted, most conscientiously, heaven of heavens cannot contain his spiritual worshippers (John, viii. [him;" all" nations before Him are 54, 55; xv. 21-24; xvi. 3). If as nothing, they are counted to him we would, therefore, know God in as less than nothing and vanity;" a saving and sanctifying manner" from everlasting to everlasting he (John, xvii. 3; 2 Cor. iii. 18; iv. is God;" "the Almighty, the All3-6), we must not "lean to our sufficient God;" "His wisdom is own understandings," nor" trust in infinite;" "there is no searching our own hearts;" we must not re- of his understanding;" "He knowsort to the schools, or sit at the feet eth all things, he searcheth the of renowned philosophers, ancient hearts of all the children of men;" or modern but we must apply to yea, knoweth their thoughts afar the word of God himself, that we off;" "there is no fleeing from his may thence learn, in humble teach-presence;" "the light and darkableness and implicit faith, what we ness to him are both alike:" "He ought to think of his perfections, dwelleth in light inaccessible, no and the glory and harmony of them; man hath seen or can see him;" remembering, that "his testimony" He doeth what he will in the is sure, and giveth wisdom to the armies of heaven, and among the simple;" and likewise, "that no inhabitants of the earth;" "His is man knoweth the Father, save the the kingdom, and the power, and Son, and he to whomsoever the the glory for ever;" "He is most Son will reveal him," (Matt. xi. blessed for evermore;" for " with 25-30). him is no change or shadow of
If then we carefully "search the turning." These, and numberless Scriptures," we shall find that this other declarations, expressly and subject constitutes a principal part emphatically ascribe eternity, selfof their contents; and that the Lord existence, omnipresence, omnipomakes himself known to us in two tence, omniscience, immutability,