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THE SUPREME BEING THE ONLY PROPER OBJECT OF
AND I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not I am thy fellow.servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony
of Jesus; worship God. — REVELATIONS, xix. 10.
The apostle tells us in the beginning of this chapter, that he had a vision of heaven, where she heard a voice which came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wise hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white : for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. And he saith unto me, Write, blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." The apostle, it seems, supposed that the person, who had been revealing to him the future glory and prosperity of the church, was Christ himself in his glorified state. Accordingly, in a transport of joy and gratitude, “ he fell at his feet to worship him.” But the person perceiving his mistake, justly reproved him for his well intended, but misapplied worship. “ See thou do it not. I am thy fellow
. servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus.” This was as much as to say, “I am a mere creature, and, though of the angelic order, yet thine equal in office. I am appointed to deliver these messages of God to thee, as thou art to deliver the same messages to thy fellow men; and, in this respect, we are brethren and fellow servants, and neither of us is a proper object of religious worship, which is due to the VOL. VI.
Supreme Being alone: Worship God.” The plain and full import of the text is,
That God is the only proper object of religious worship.
This is the important point, which I shall endeavor to establish in the present discourse. This will appear, if we consider,
I. That the scripture represents God as the only proper object of religious worship. God directed Moses to say to his people, “ I am the Lord ihy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” David taught the same doctrine that Moses did. He said, “ The Lord is great, and greatly to be praised : he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols : but the Lord made the heavens. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Here David represents God as the Creator, and as above all other beings who had been worshipped in any part of the world; and requires his people to give unto the true God that religious and supreme worship and glory, which are due to him alone. God says himself, “ I am the Lord; that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images." And our Saviour said to Satan, one of the greatest of created beings, “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." I might cite a great many more passages of scripture of the same import; but all who have read the Bible know that the inspired writers uniformly represent God as the only proper object of religious worship. This will farther appear, if we consider,
II. The absolute supremacy of God, in all his great and essential attributes. David represents him as worthy of the highest homage on account of his absolute supremacy. He says, “ The Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it; and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down : let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” The Creator of all things must be the Supreme Being; and the Supreme Being must be the only proper object of religious worship. Here then it seems necessary to observe,
1. That God is supreme in respect to his existence. He assumes a name expressive of his peculiar existence. When Moses desired to know by what name he chose to be made known to his people, he said, “ I am that I am : and thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you.' This name denotes the most absolute and perfect existence. God is the first of all beings, and of consequence has an underived existence. There was nothing in the universe that existed before him, which could be the cause of his existence. This is peculiar to God and is not true of any other beings; for they all have a derived existence. There was an antecedent cause of their existing, and had not that cause operated they never would have existed. But there was no antecedent cause of God's existence. He exists by an absolute necessity of his own nature. The ground or reason of his existence is completely within himself ; so that he is properly an underived and self existent being. As he did not derive his existence from any other being, so he is not in the least degree dependent upon any other being, whether he shall exist or not.
As no being gave him his existence, so no being can take it away. Hence he is so often called the living, and only living God. He has an underived and independent life, which is peculiar to himself. All other beings have a derived and dependent life. He who gave them their life can at any time take it away. But God is the King Immortal. He has life in himself, which no being in the universe can destroy. As God's existence is underived and independent, so it is necessarily eternal. We cannot conceive of his ever beginning to exist, for the plain . reason that he had no exterior cause of his existence. Accordingly the Psalmist addresses him as an eternal being. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth, and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." He is also immutable, as well as eternal, in his existence. He claims immutability as his highest prerogative. He says, “I am the Lord, I change not.” And the apostle James calls him “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Thus God is infinitely above all his creatures, in respect to his underived, independent, eternal and immutable existence.
2. God infinitely surpasses all other beings in the immensity of his presence. Though his presence be not properly extended, yet it fills all places and pervades all things, at one and the same moment. He is really as present in one part of his vast dominions as in another, and at one time as at another. He claims immensity of presence, as one of his essential attributes. “ Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the
earth is my footstool. Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Do not I fill heaven and earth ? saith the Lord.” Solomon addressed him at the dedication of the temple as omnipresent. “ Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house I have builded ?" We cannot conceive that God, who made, and who preserves and governs all things, should be limited in his presence, or be absent a single moment, from any place, or creature, or object, in the whole circle of creation. Omnipresence, therefore, appears to be an essential attribute of the Deity, which is peculiar to himself, and which renders him infinitely different from and superior to all created beings, whose presence is circumscribed by time and place.
3. God as far transcends all other beings in his knowledge, as in his presence. His knowledge is beyond all comparison in its kind and extent. Whatever he knows, he knows intuitively. He sees through all objects, and looks directly into all hearts. He knows the views and feelings and internal exercises of angels and men, before they are expressed in their words or actions. He makes use of no means of gaining knowledge, but has a direct, immediate, and universal knowledge of all things, which is peculiar to himself and belongs to no other being. He seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart. This is that kind of knowledge which David said was too wonderful and too high for him, and to which he could not attain. The . apostle says, “ Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world.” He knows not only all things that have existed and will exist, but all things that might have existed. His knowledge is far more extensive than the knowledge of all other beings now is, or ever will be. Though their knowledge will be for ever increasing, yet it will be for ever limited; but his knowledge always has been, and always will be, universal and unbounded. So that his knowledge as far surpasses theirs, as eternity surpasses time in duration.
4. God is absolutely supreme in wisdom, as well as in knowledge. Though wisdom implies knowledge, yet knowledge does not imply wisdom. Knowledge is the bare perception of things; but wisdom consists in devising and forming the best designs, or in applying knowledge to the best advantage. Perfect knowledge is necessary to perfect wisdom. It would have been impossible for God to have formed the most perfect plan of operation from eternity, if he had not possessed a clear, intuitive, and comprehensive knowledge of all things possible. The least defect in knowledge might have proved a defect in wisdom, and prevented the absolute perfection of his original and eternal purpose
in the work of creation. But there was no defect in his knowledge, nor consequently in his wisdom. With a clear view of all things, he was able to devise the best possible design, and the best possible means to accomplish it. His wisdom, therefore, surpasses the wisdom of all other beings. He is the only wise God, or the only being who is perfectly wise. Moses says, “ He is the Rock, his work is perfect.” David exclaims, “ O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.”. Paul speaks of the wisdom of God in the highest terms of admiration. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!'
And he represents him as displaying to the view of the whole intelligent creation his manifold wisdom, in the plan of redemption through the mediation of Christ. The wisdom of men and of angels is but mere folly in comparison with the unsearchable and incomprehensible wisdom of the Supreme Being
5. God is supreme in power, as well as in wisdom and knowledge. His power is the most prominent perfection of his nature, and the most visibly impressed upon all his works of creation and providence. But it is his creating power, that most clearly and infinitely surpasses the power of all created beings, who in this respect are entirely impotent. Neither men, nor angels, can give existence to the least thing conceivable. They can only move and modify created objects, but are wholly incapable of creating a single mote or atom. Indeed, all the power they have to do any thing, they constantly derive from the almighty power of God, who essentially comprehends, or comprises all the power there is in the universe. * In him all other beings live, and move, and have their being. They are not sufficient of themselves, to exist, to speak, to act, or even think. And with all their derived power, they soon become weak and weary, and unable to act; but “the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” He is able to operate through the whole circle of creation, and to produce millions and millions of effects, without the least interruption, or a moment's cessation. His power is underived, independent, and absolutely supreme. Farthermore,
6. God is supremely excellent in his, holiness, goodness or benevolence. I use all these terms to denote his moral perfections, which are all comprised in his pure, disinterested, impartial, universal love. God is love. His whole moral excellence consists in holy love; and every moral attribute of his nature is