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Mithres of the Persians, the Baal of the Syrians, the Osiris of the Egyptians, or the Jupiter of the Grecians, who were false gods themselves ; but wheresoever the true God is adored, there nothing else is to share the peculiar honours of divinity with him; both because his own awful law forbids it, and because the first, the highest created nature, being infinitely removed from all approaches to a participation of his majesty, hath no more title to a fellowship in his honour, than a worm, or a mite.
Besides, to what end should we pray to a fellow-creature, who, if absent, cannot hear us? who, though present, may want pity, or pitying, may want power to relieve us ? For what can a creature do, without the licence or commission of the Creator? And of whom is this to be sought or obtained, even if the things we petition for, were to be conveyed or executed by the intervention of a creature ? Surely of him alone, who is present every where, and cannot be ignorant of our requests; who hath goodness proportionable to his knowledge, and power equal to his goodness, to encourage the addresses of all his creatures. As there are no degrees of divinity, so there can be no degrees of divine worship, no prayers offered up, no thanksgivings rendered, but to God alone. If reason and Scripture make any thing, in reference
. to the object or nature of divine services, plain and indisputable, it must be this. We may therefore safely lay this down as a maxim, that there is but one God, who must be adored by all Christians, as he ought to be loved, with all their hearts, with all their minds, with all their souls, and with all their strength.
Having clearly proved, both from reason and Scripture, that there is one only God, let us now see whether any created being can, consistently with either, be advanced to the name and dignity of God. Such a question ought, I confess, to shock the good sense and piety of every one that hears it ; but, since it is actually made a question, and many have the boldness to maintain the affirmative, it is humbly hoped that clergyman, who endeavours to refute an opinion so poisonous and impious, will rathermerit the thanks, than the censures, of a truly Christian audience.
Forasmuch as it does not seem to be the opinion of our adversaries, that any creature can possibly be made God, in
the strict and proper sense of the word, I shall not much labour to shew the absurdity of believing, that a finite can be converted into an infinite; or a being, produced in time, be rendered eternal. If I fully prove a subordination of gods, or a delegation of creatures, howsoever conceived or managed, to be that very paganism or polytheism, against which right reason and Scripture do so strongly protest; this, I hope, will be sufficient.
All created natures are, at the will of their creator, capable of multiplication, of more or less, of increase and diminution; and consequently, as to intelligent beings, of subordination. But the infinite nature cannot be imparted, cannot be multiplied, cannot be increased or diminished; and therefore admits not of comparison or subordination. There is no comparison between entity and non-entity; and finite is to infinite, as nothing is to something. The heathen poet therefore spoke very judiciously and honourably of God, when he said, 'What shall I make the subject of my song before the accustomed praises of the Father; who rules the affairs of men and gods, the seas, the earth, and the world, with a variety of seasons or occasions ? from whom nothing greater than himself ever sprung; nor is there any thing that may be compared to him, or placed in the second rank after him.' Now, it is not more absurd to say, the nature of God may be imparted to creatures, than to say his power, and other attributes, may be imparted; for in them consists the infinite distinction of his essence, so far as known to us, from all other beings. If then neither his nature, nor attributes, nor essence, can be imparted, we must conclude the same of his peculiar style and name, by which they are signified and discriminated.
Under the name of God, therefore, when properly applied, no idea of subordination can be conveyed, so as to make it the true and proper appellative of any creature. God, it is true, bestows wisdom and power on creatures; but what wisdom and power ? Surely not his own infinite wisdoun or power, which can neither be divided nor imparted; but a finite, a created wisdom and power, peculiar to the creature. These attributes of the infinite Being are infinite, and admit of no degrees. We do not say of one
Horat. lib. i. ode 12.
who is inspired, or works miracles, that he is infinitely wise, or almighty ; but that God uses his audible words to express the divine wisdom, and his fleshly members to execute the divine power. The man is not the agent, but organ. It would be impious to say, such a one is God; but it is only a religious truth to say, he speaks by the wisdom, or acts by the power, of God. Hence it appears, that the name of God cannot, without the grossest impiety, be given to a creature, even when acting in his name, and by his peculiar power.
Much less can it be ascribed to a creature, acting only by the mere power of a creature; for that power is bounded, was created, and therefore cannot be the power of God. If it could, every creature would, in proportion to its share of power, be a god; which would produce infinite degrees of God. This would reduce us to the theology of the Grecians, who peopled heaven with subordinate gods; and of the Egyptians, who stocked the fields, and planted the gardens, with gods. Nay, what is more, this would give us foolish, wicked, weak, and even inanimate, gods; for every thing has some powers, or some degrees of power.
But our adversaries will here distinguish between power and authority, and tell us, that created beings, acting, not by their own power, but by the authority of God, may, as his delegates, be entitled to the name and worship of God; the honour paid to them ultimately terminating in him, whose authority they are clothed with. We shall readily grant, that a bounded respect may be paid to them, and that on account of their Master's majesty. But is this the peculiar honour of God? Is not his honour infinite ? theirs finite? How then can the same name and style be given to both; since they are infinitely different in kind and degree? This confounding of ideas, so distinct, under the same term, is not allowed among men, when the difference is not only finite, but minute. It is treasonable to call the governor of a provincial kingdom, the king. When we raise his style the highest, we only call him viceroy. But as the worship of created power, on a supposition that it is part and parcel of the divine power, would lead us to the adoration of onions and garlick; so the worship of deputed authority, on a supposition, that it is derived from the divine appointment,
would run us into the adoration of beadles and constables; for they act by authority from some superior magistrate, he by authority from the king, and he again by authority from God. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice;' Prov. viii. 15.
We know power, that is, all power, particularly the civil power, as the psalmist saith, belongeth to the Lord. We are, therefore, bound to respect it wherever we find it; but we are not for that reason to make divinities of those who bear it; nor to honour them with sacrifices, prayers, and adoration. If they faithfully apply it according to his intention, we ought to esteem them for their work's sake. If they do otherwise, we have a right to despise them, even while we obey their power; which shews it is but just to distinguish between the delegate and his office. However, it is but too natural for men to honour the substitute with the respect that is due only to the principal. There is all possible care taken to prevent this human weakness from stopping the devotion of the Israelites, and fixing it in the creatures. They are not only forbidden to fall down before any images or representations of the Divinity ; but are also threatened with the severest judgments, in case they should presume to worship his representatives, angels, kings, &c. This was necessary, because their law was ordained by angels, who had frequent intercourse with them, and might by that means, through the superior dignity of their nature, and the superstitious ignorance of those they were sent to, attract too high a degree of respect, as we see in the case of Manoah, Judges xiii. 22, and of John, Rev. xix. 10. Besides, they had reason to think there were certain angels appointed to preside over particular nations, as we see in the tenth of Daniel. To these they might be tempted to pay a part of that worship, which was due to God alone, after the manner of their idolatrous neighbours, who worshipped one supreme, together with other inferior divinities. To prevent this entirely, the first commandment, and innumerable other prohibitions, to the same effect, are scattered throughout the Pentateuch and the prophets, whereby all divine worship is absolutely restrained to the one only God, Jehovah. Hence it is, that he is often distinguished among the neighbouring Gentiles, from all the other gods, sometimes by the name of
the Lord, or Jehovah, and sometimes by the God of Israel. To prevent for ever all distinctions between God and Jehovah, founded on a possible surmise, that the one might be a supreme, and the other only a subordinate, or a national, or a tutelary, God of the Israelites, God is often called the only Jehovah, or Lord; and the Lord, or Jehovah, is still more frequently, and more strongly, called the only God. In these passages, God is called the only Jehovah. Hear, O Israel,
• the Lord our God is one Lord, or Jehovah,' Deut. vi. 4. • Bless the Lord our God for ever and ever; and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even thou, art Lord, or Jehovah, alone;' Neh. ix. 5, 6. Now, therefore,' saith Hezekiah, Isa. xxxvii. 20,
O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know, that thou art the Lord, or Jehovah, even thou alone. From hence it appears evidently, that there is but one Jehovah, and that the one God is that one only Jehovah; so that the expressions which seem to intimate two Jehovahs, being neither directly affirmative nor negative, and admitting easily of another solution, as we shall see hereafter, are to be accommodated to those, which are directly negative, and exclusive of all other Jehovahs,
There can be nothing stronger than the terms, wherein the Jehovah is called God alone, or the only God. • Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know, that the Lord, or Jehovah, he is God; there is none else besides him ;' Deut. iv. 35. Know therefore this day, and consi
• der it in thine heart, that the Lord, or Jehovah, he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath : there is none else;' Deut. iv. 39. Thou art great, O Lord (Jehovah)
• God; for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee;' 2 Sam. vii. 22. •Who is God, save the Lord, or Jehovah ?' 2 Sam. xxii. 32. Solomon prays, that God would maintain his and the people's cause, “that all the people of the earth may know, that the Lord, or Jehovah, is God, and that there is none else;' 1 Kings viii. 60. When all the people saw the fire falling from heaven on the sacrifice of Elijah, “they fell on their faces, and said, “The Lord, or Jehovah, he is the God; the Lord he is the God;' that is, God himself, or the only God; 1 Kings xviii. 39. •O Lord,' or Jehovah, 'there is none like thee, neither is there any God