« PreviousContinue »
use of his absence; setting up this world, in some form or other, as their idol, and devoting themselves to the worship of it. Whatever the object may be, which any man has substituted in the place of God, that object is to him what the calf was to the Hebrews. How many are there who spend their lives in the dance of pleasure, as if they had been sent hither for no other purpose ! others devote themselves to honours and preferments; and, to accomplish their designs, affect popularity, and worship the beasts of the people. Wealth is the object of others; and theirs is a calf of gold. The covetous serve mammon the God of riches; and the sin of covetousness is expressly called by the name of Idolatry.* Are these the people of God? Are these they, who were baptized into the name of Jesus Christ as dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness ? Are these the children of Abraham ; followers of them who through faith and patience obtained the promises ? Merciful God, what a transformation is this ! Are they not rather of those unprofitable servants, whom the Lord at his return from the mount shall surprise and judge as hypocrites and unbelievers ?
* The learned Mr. Parkhurst, in his Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, gives very good reasons why we ought rather here to understand the sin of unlawful lusts, as in that other expression, whose God is their belly. See under the word πλεονεξια. .
We have another example of our danger from the case of the Israelites, who fell into sin from evil communications and bad company. There was a mixt multitude of strolling Egyptians and disorderly people who went up with the Hebrews out of Egypt, and attended their camp from motives of curiosity or beggary. These are said to have fallen a lusting, and to have propagated their evil inclinations among the congregation; who, led by their example, provoked God with their discontent and murmurings. The Christian church hath always been attended by a like unprincipled multitude of heretics, sensualists, enthusiasts, sectaries, and even atheists ; men, who, being discontented with the ways and doctrines of the Christian society, have recommended and spread their own evil opinions, and occasioned multitudes to fall away. A defection from the doctrines of Christianity is the natural consequence of a departure from the worship, and sacraments, and authority of the Church. Some of the earliest instances of blasphemy against the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, were found among ignorant people in those times of confusion and rebellion, when a mixt multitude of more than sixty different sects arose even to the astonishment of those who first began the separation. But afterwards the same error was adopted by men of higher pretensions to learning, who have found too many followers ; till the times have at length produced a new generation of opipionists, who assume to themselves, and attribute to one another, the honours of confession and martyrdom, for asserting the blasphemy of Socinius against the church and the kingdom of Christ, with the same boldness as the saints, in the primitive times, asserted the doctrines of the gospel against the heathen powers and the kingdom of Satan. But boldness without truth will never make a Christian confessor: and if a man injures himself for the love of error, he is not a martyr, but a suicide.
They who are acquainted with the world, and the present state of religion and literature, must have observed, that heresy, schism, and the new philosophy of the Deists, with their
• An authentic and very curious acconnt of the errors and blasphemies of that time, (two years before the death of the king,) was published in a Treatise, entitled Gangræna, by Thomas Edwards, Presbyterian minister : of which, see part 1. page 32, 110. But see also Burnett's History of the Reformation, An. 1549. vol. 2. page 111, 112.
numerous adherents, form a mixed multitude, which are always hovering about the Christian camp, and never fail to corrupt it. They are now boasting of their success, and threaten to overwhelm this church in a very short time with a deluge of Unitarianism, that is, of Mahometan Infidelity.*
The destruction of three and twenty thousand was occasioned by the Israelites associating with the people of Midian, who invited them to the feasts of their idols ; in consequence of which, they fell into shameless fornication after the manner of the Heathens. And as there were wicked Midianites and Moabites in the neighbourhood of the camp, so is there a wicked world always near at hand,
a ready to invite and seduce the servants of God by its ensnaring customs and diversions. To mix with the world on all occasions, and not be corrupted by its ways, is almost as unlikely, as that the Hebrews should go to an idol-feast with the Midianites, and not be the worse for it. What is the natural tendency of many, and even the design of some public diversions tolerated among Christians, but to corrupt youth and give opportunities to vice? How are most of the scenes of public diversion • Seo Priestley's Sermon on Free Inquiry.
crowded with the daughters of Midian, who are well aware, that what is there to be seen and heard will seldom fail to encourage the vicious, and betray some of the innocent, into their snares! Wherever any public meetings have this tendency to corrupt the manners, we may call them by what names we please, but they are as Moab and Midian, if they are the enemies of Christian virtue.
Balak, the king of the Moabites, hated the camp of Israel, and bribed Balaam, a prophet, to curse them. Just thus doth the world hate the church, and is never happier than when it can hire the ministers of the church to turn against it and betray its interests. But it can no more succeed by all its curses than the wicked Balak could : it must seduce Christians to sin, and then it prevails ; not by its own power, but by tempting the church to provoke the anger of God. When Balaam found that he could prevail nothing by his sacrifices and enchantments, then he gave counsel to Balak to corrupt the people of the camp with fornication; and that soon answered the purpose.
But now we are to learn another lesson, from the example of those who are said to have tempted Christ with their impatience