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them, so all our thoughts, affections, expectations, and labours are idly misemployed and unprofitably misspent
2. It is also a thing most unbeseeming us as men, whom God hath placed in so high a rank of worth and dignity among his creatures, who are in our original so near of kin, so like in nature, so dear in relation and regard unto God himself, to admire and worship, to place our choice affections upon, to afford lowly submissions unto, to rest our hope and confidence in any other but Him, who alone truly so far excels us, and can worthily challenge such respects from us. All flattery is base and unworthy, but this, of all, is the worst and most unbecoming
3. To do so is also most unjust and injurious to God; to whom, as to the Author of our being and of all our good received since, we do owe all that our mind can yield of reverence, all that our heart can hold of affection, all that our tongue can utter of praise, all that our utmost might can perform of service. And since the exhibiting to any other part of these must needs not only, by that communication, debase and derogate from their worth, but also withdraw them in great measure from him, so diminishing and embezzling his due (for we cannot, as our Saviour teacheth us, serve divers masters), therefore having any other god but the true One, is a high indignity and a heinous injury to him.
This command therefore is most reasonable upon many accounts; which yet hath been in grossest manner violated by those who have not acknowledged any God at all, and by those who have acknowledged many gods, by all atheists and polytheists. From which transgressions we Christians may seem totally exempt, who in formal profession and practice have but one God, the Maker and Lord of all things, infinitely perfect and glorious! Yet there are many subtle, and perchance no less mischievous, transgressions thereof, of which even we may be very guilty, and to which we are very
obnoxious. If we do not with all our hearts reverence and love the most wise and powerful, the most just and holy, the most good and gracious God; if we do not trust and hope in him as the fountain of all our good; if we do not diligently worship and praise him ; if we do not humbly submit to his will and obey his laws, we break the positive intent of this law, not having him for our God. Being indeed like those, of whom St Paul speaketh, “who profess to know God” (that is, who in words and outward pretence acknowledge him), “but in works deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate."i Likewise if we frame in our fancy an idea untrue, disagreeable unto, or unworthy of that one most exceilent Being, and to such a phantasm of our own creation do yield our highest respects and best affections, we break this law, and have another God to ourselves. If upon any creature (whether ourselves or any other thing) we impart our chief esteem or affection, or employ our most earnest care and endeavour, or chiefly rely upon it, or most delight in it,—that thing we make a God unto us, and are guilty of breaking this law; hence St Paul more than once calls the covetous person an idolater ;and our Lord calls the immoderate pursuit of riches, the serving or worshipping of mammon;? and St Paul speaketh of some persons, who were " lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God;" of whom otherwise he says, “that their God was their belly:"4 we meet with those in the Scripture, who "put their trust in their horses, and their chariots ;"5 with those, who “sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their drag ;"6 with them who trust in man, and make flesh their arm ;"7 with those whose heart is lifted up” (as the prince of Tyre in Ezekiel), and who "say they are Gods."8 These, and whoever practise in like manner, are so many transgressors of this covenant. In short, whoever chiefly regards and affects, seeks and pursues, confides and delights in wealth, or honour, or pleasure, wit, wisdom, strength, or beauty, himself, friends, or any other creature, he hath another God, against the design and meaning of this holy law.
| Titus i. 16.
THOU SHALT NOT MAKE UNTO THEE ANY GRAVEN
The first commandment determined the final object of our religion. This doth limit the manner of exercising and expressing it; interdicting that mode, which in the practice of ancient times had so generally prevailed, of representing the deities in some corporeal shape, and thereto yielding such expressions of respect as they conceived suitable and acceptable.
I cannot stand to declare the rise and progress of such a practice; how the devil's malice and some men's fraud conspiring with other men's superstitious ignorance and fondness, prevailed so far to impose upon mankind. I shall only observe, that men naturally are very prone to comply with suggestions to such guises of religion. For the sense of want, and pain, and manifold inconvenience, not to be removed or remedied by any present sensible means, doth prompt men to wish and seek for help from elsewhere. And this disposes them to entertain any hopes propounded to them of receiving it from any absent or invisible power. It also consequently engageth them to undertake any conditions required by those who propound such hopes as needful for obtaining thereof. Whence the ordinary sort of
are very apt to embrace any way of religion suggested to them, especially by persons of credit and
authority for knowledge. So also, when the proposition thereof doth come attended with circumstantial appearances and shows, gratifying their senses, or humouring their passions, or delightfully amusing their fancies, it most easily allures and takes them; as likewise, on the other side, when abstraction of mind and restraint of passion are required, and sense or fancy are little entertained thereby, men are somewhat averse from such proposals of religion, and are not so easily brought heartily to like or earnestly to embrace them.
Wherefore since the propounding of images and sensible representations, by their magnificency, beauty, curiosity, strangeness, or even by their sensibility itself, do make so facile and pleasant impressions upon the dull and low conceits of men, it is the less wonderful that men, commonly, have been so easily inveigled into such idolatrous superstitions, so unreasonable in themselves, and of so mischievous consequence. For what can be more senseless than to imagine that that Being, which in wisdom and power is sufficient to overrule nature, and thereby to afford us the assistance we need, may be resembled by any of these corporeal things, the best of which we cannot, without debasing ourselves, esteem superior to ourselves? how unreasonable is it to conceit thus, how unworthy is it, and unsuitable to the dignity of our nature, derived from heaven, to crouch into such mean representations! It is St Paul's dis
Being ” (saith he) “the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold,