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fear they should escape through their own inconstancy. The heathens had been accustomed, when they besieged a city, to evoke the tutelary gods ; (Macrobius has preserved a long form of these evocations *) and the besieged, to prevent the effects of these evocations, and to secure their gods from going into their enemies camps, used to fasten their images with chains. Many proofs of this might be alledged, but one passage of Quintus Curtius shall suffice. He tells us, that a citizen of
a Tyre having publicly declared that he had seen in a dream the image of Appollo quitting the city, the citizens immediately used the precaution of fastening it with a chain of gold.t
But the prophet no less intended to shame idolatry in morals which consists in distrusting the promises of God in extreme dangers, and in expecting from men a succor that cannot be expected from God. A man is guilty of moral idolatry, when in dangerous crises he says, My way is hid from the Lord; my judgment is passed over from my God. Be not surprized at my giving so odious a name to a disposition of mind, which is too common even among those whose piety is the least suspected, and the best established. The essence of idolatry, in general, is to disrobe the Deity of his perfections and to adorn a creature with them. There are indeed many degrees of this disposition. He who renders divine honors to the glimmering light of a taper, is guilty perhaps of a more gross idolatry, than he who worships the
The Egyptian who worships a rat, is perhaps more absurd than the Roman, who ranks a Cæsar
* Saturn. III. 9. The following is the form of the incantation :-“ If you be a god or a goddess, under whose guardianship the people and the city of the Carthaginians is, and you, particularly, who have taken upon you the protection of that people and city, l' worship you, and humbly beg you would be pleased to forsake the people and city of the Car. thaginians, to abandon their places, temples, religious ceremonies and cities, and come away,” &c.-Bayle. Soranus. Rem. E.
+ L. IV.3. 21. Metu aurea catena devinxere simulacrum, aræque Herculis, cujus na. mini urbem dicaverant, inseruere vinculum, quasi illo Deo Apollinem retenturi.
with the Gods. But after all, there is so small a difference between the meanest insect and the greatest emperor, the glimmering of a taper and the glory of the sun, when compared with the Supreme Being,
, that there can be no great difference between these two sorts of idolatry.
Let us apply this to our subject. God is the sole arbiter of events. Whenever you think, that any more powerful being directs them to comfort you, you put the creature in the Creator's place; whether you do it in a manner more or less absurd; whether they be formidable armies, impregnable fortresses, and well-stored magazines, which you thus exalt into deities; or whether it be a small circle of friends, an easy income, or a country house; it does not signify, you are alike idolaters.
The Jews were often guilty of the first sort of idolatry. The captivity in Babylon was the last curb to that fatal propensity. But this miserable people, whose existence and preservation, whose prosperities and adversities were one continued train of obvious miracles, immediately from heaven; this miserable people, whose whole history should have prevailed with them to have feared God, only, and to have confided in him entirely; this miserable people trembled at Nebuchadnezzar and his army, as if both had acted independently on God. Their imaginations prostrated themselves before these second causes, and they shuddered at the sight of the Chaldean Marmosets, as if they had offered assistance to their worshippers, and had occasioned their triumphs over the church.
Thanks be to God, my dear brethren, the light of the gospel hath opened the eyes of a great number of christians, in regard to idolatry in religion. I say a great number, and not all: for how many parts of the christian world still deserve the prophet's reproach? The workman melteth a graven image, the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold. Have you not known ? have you not heard? Blessed be God, we are quite free from this kind of idolatry ! But how many idolaters of the second kind do I see?
You, who in order to avert public calamities, satisfy yourselves with a few precautions of worldly prudence, and oppose provisions to scarcity, medicines to mortality, an active vigilance to the danger of a contagion; and take no pains to extirpate those horrible crimes, which provoke the vengeance of heaven to inflict punishments on public bodies; you are guilty of this second kind of idolatry , you stand exposed to this malediction, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, Jer. xvii. 5. Were your confidence placed in God, you would endeavor to avert national judgments by purging the state of those scandalous commerces, those barbarous extortions, and all those other wicked practices, which are the surest forerunners, and the principal causes of famine, and pestilence, and war.
Desolate family, you, who rested all your expectations upon one single head; you, who made one single person the axis of all your schemes and hopes; you, who lately saw that person cut down in the midst of his race, and carried away with the torrent of human vicissitudes; you, who see nothing around
you but indigence, misery, and famine; who cry in the bitterness of your grief, No more support, no more protector, no more father; you are guilty of this second kind of idolatry. You trusted in man, you made flesh your arm.
Were God the object of your trust, you would recollect, amidst all your grief, that providence is not inclosed in your patron's tomb; you would remember, that an invisible eye incessantly watches over, and ge
verns this world; that God who feedeth the fowls of heaven, . and clothes the lilies of the valley, Luke xii. 24. 28. that a God- so good and compassionate, can easily, provide for the maintenance and encouragement of your family.
. And thou, feeble mortal, lying on a sick-bed, already struggling with the king of terrors, Job xviii. 14. in the arms of death; thou, who tremblingly complainest, I am undone ! Physicians give
I me over! Friends are needless! Remedies are useless ! Every application is unsuccessful! A cold sweat covers my whole body, and announces my approaching death! Thou art guilty of this second kind of idolatry, thou hast trusted in man, thou hast made flesh thine arm. Were God the object of thy trust, thou wouldst believe that though death is about to separate thee from men, it is about to unite thee to God:- thou wouldst preclude the slavish fear of death by thy fervent desires, : thou wouldst exult at the approach of thy Redeemer, Come Lord, come quickly! Amen. Rev. xxii. 20. How easy would it be, my brethren, to enlarge this article.
Dearly beloved, fee from idolatry, I Cor. x. 14. is the exhortation of an apostle, and with this exhortation we conclude this discourse, and enforce the design of the prophet in the text. Flee from idolatry, not only from gross idolatry, but from that, which, though it may appear less-shocking, is no less repugnant to the spirit of religion. Why sayest thou, O Jacob ; Why speakest thou, Israel; My way is hid from the Lord ; my judgment is passed over from my God? The guardianship of you is that part of the dominion of God of which he is most jealous. His love for you is so exqusite, that he condescends to charge himself with your happiness. The happiness, which you feel in com
munion with him, is intended to engage you to him: and the noblest homage that you can return, the purest incense that you can offer, is to say to him, whom have I in heaven but thee? there is none upon earth I desire besides thee. It is good for me to draw near to God, Psal. lxxiii. 25, 28.
If you place your hopes upon creatures, you depend upon winds, and waves, and precarious seasons; upon the treachery, iniquity, and inconstancy of men: or to say all in one word, you depend upon death. That poor man is a self-deceiver, who like the man in the gospel, saith within himself, My soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years : take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry, Luke xii. 17, 19. But I expect to find him, yes, I expect to find him at the sound of that voice, which may
this very night require his soul, I expect to find him in a sick-bed. There, all pale, distorted, and dying, let him assemble his gods ; let him call for his treasures, and send for his domestics, and acquaintances; in that fatal bed let him embrace his Drusillas, and Dalilahs ; let him form harmonious concerts, amuse himself with fashionable diversions, or feast his eyes with gaudy decorations, the vacuity and vanity of which, in spite of himself, he will be obliged to discover.
O! give me more solid foundations for my hopes! May I never build my house upon the sand, endangered by every wind and wave; may the edifice of my felicity be superior to human vicissitudes, and like mount Sion which cannot be reinoved, Psal. cxxv. 1. may I build upon the Rock of Ages, and be able, in public calamities, and in my private misfortunes, above all, in the agonies of death, to appropriate those precious promises, 2 Pet. i. 4. which God hath made to his church in general, and to every individual in it: The moun