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governing mind, one God, one gracious Power, who gives all things to all, and is therefore to be acknowleged, adored, and thanked by all. And this natural light, our reason, which is a ray of the divine intelligence, and given by our Maker, prohibits the worship of any other but him ; because to pay the like worship to any other being, would be to deny that we receive every thing from him, and depend upon him for every thing; and also because it is a most shameful dishonouring of God, to rank his creatures on the same line with him : for all beings besides are his creatures. It is also not only absurd, to pray to beings that carmot hear or help us; but must likewise fill the mind with darkness and superstition. For inferior beings, nearer our own level, will soon be supposed pleased with what pleases our own passions and fancies, outward pomp and ceremony, fine speeches and costly offerings; and in these religion will be chiefly placed: whilst God, infinite in holiness and all goodness, who has nothing that is imperfect in common with his creatures, none of their wants and passions, will always be approached by them with serious recollection and awe, and as one who is only to be pleased with virtue, and inward rectitude and goodness in his worshippers. But as the greater part are not disposed, nor have leisure, thus to trace out the creator in his works, and to discover what is the true worship they are to render to him; it pleased the Divine Being, from the beginning, in extraordinary ways, to make himself and his
perfections known to mankind; and in process of time to
to deliver in writing to one nation, chosen from the rest, but in some respects for the benefit of all, a code of laws; the first of which, as of most importance, and what evidently concerns every rational being to know, is that which relates to the divine unity, and is expressed in such terms as are plain to every understanding; God himself, in person, if we may so speak, condescending to declare to the people of Israel, (a) “I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other Gods but me.” By this commandment, all beings and persons whatsoever are excluded from being God, and from being worshipped as God, but the single person who speaks; and who, as he goes on to say, made heaven and earth, &c. viz. was the creator of all things.
Should any Christians object that this command related only to the Israelites, to whom it was delivered; it may be observed, that our Saviour himself, who was one of the jewish nation, and most sacredly observed himself, and inculcated on others, the commandments o God; in one place, being asked (b) “which is the first commandment of all? Jesus answered the man, The first of all the commandments is; Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one LoRD ;” referring to the
authority of Moses, and replying in some words of (c) his.
(a) Exodus xx. 2, 3. (b) Mark xii. 28, 29. (c) Deut. vi. 4. F As As then there has never been a solemn, formal abrogation of this first commandment of God, declaring himself to be God alone, and alone to be worshipped; nor any authoritative declaration from God at the same time, that there were two other new divine persons, two new gods, upon an equality with himself, who were to be admitted, and worshipped; we must therefore of necessity adhere to and abide by the unrepealed divine command, that God is one single person, God by himself alone, and alone to be worshipped; especially as Jesus himself has ratified this command of Moses. As therefore you are persuaded, that the blessed Jesus is a creature of God, who received his being and all his powers from God, it must be a direct violation of the first commandment of God, and nothing less than idolatry in you, to call him God, and to worship him, if the testimony of God, of Moses, and of Jesus Christ himself, be of any value with you. Here Volusian appeared to be much moved; and after pausing some short space, was going to speak, the eyes of the company being fixed upon him ; when Synesius, who seemed willing to take upon him the part of a moderator, starting up with a sort of apology, thus began. SYNEsius.—I am sorry to break in upon you, my friends, in the midst of so interesting an inquiry, and when all of us seem desirous to know Volusian's determinations upon the matter. But a little respite may do him no harm, as his nature is ardent; and sometimes a more indifferent spectator may see what - escapes
escapes an actor, who is more immediately and deeply engaged in the scene.
Permit me then to remark, Photinus, that if this definition of your's of idolatry be allowed, and I do not see how it can be controverted, it will not prove that the members of the church of England are idolaters in their worship of Jesus Christ. For they themselves think the contrary; and are persuaded, that in worshipping both Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, together with the Father, they worship one God only, though you charge them with worshipping three. And surely persons ought to be judged by their own intentions, and not by the construction that others put upon their actions. To you they may appear idolaters; to themselves they are by no means such.
PHoTINUs.-I am really obliged to you myself, says Photinus, for throwing out such an objection, which to many will seem to be of weight, and certainly deserves to be considered. But you will allow me to say, that I do not think you have sufficiently attended to what you advance on this point, nor to the wrong conclusions, to which such a way of arguing will lead you: it will appear that it cannot be admitted : For, -
If men's own thoughts concerning themselves will exculpate them in this matter, it will follow that there never was such a thing as an idolater in the world. For the worshippers of the Virgin Mary will clear themselves from the imputation of idolatry in praying to this dead woman, and to other dead persons called saints,
£2. because because they think them to be alive, and are also persuaded, that they who worship them have the allowance of God himself to address them in prayer, as mediators, and intercessors with him for them. Then also might the worshippers of Baal have told the prophet Elijah, that he accused them falsely of being idolaters: because whatever he thought, they were persuaded, that Baal was a god, and heard their prayers. No. Depend upon it, if Jesus Christ be a creature, of which Volusian is perfectly convinced, the worship of him is as much and equally idolatrous, as the worship of his mother Mary. Our thoughts, imaginations, persuasions, convictions, concerning our actions, cannot alter their nature; cannot make that right which in itself is wrong, though they will excuse us in doing it, in proportion to the degree of darkness and insuperable ignorance, under which we labour. Religious worship of, prayer to, a creature, is certainly idolatry, unless any one can produce an express command from God to authorize it. But that is another consideration of the matter, and quite beside our present purpose. Volusi AN.—Volusian listened with great attention to this conversation between Synesius and Photinus; and immediately after, taking up the subject under apparent anxiety of mind, thus began. I now fully perceive, that by this declaration of the Almighty Being to the Israelites, and prohibition of the worship of any other being or person but himself, not only, what indeed I always thought, the heathen worship