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only a modification of perfect benevolence and good will to all percipient beings. But if this be the holiness of the Deity, some may be ready to ask, how does it appear that his holiness is infinitely superior to the holiness of all other beings? Does not God require all his intelligent creatures to be holy as he is holy? Are not angels and glorified spirits completely holy? And do not all good men feel and express pure benevolence, and exercise the same kind of holiness that God feels and expresses? This is all true; and yet there is a vast difference between the holiness of God, and the holiness of all other beings. We are told, “ There is none holy as the Lord.” And Christ says, " There is none good but one, that is God.” The goodness of God far surpasses the goodness of all other beings, not only because it is underived, but because it is infinitely greater. There is more goodness in one benevolent exercise of God, than in all the benevolent exercises of all other holy beings united. Their goodness is limited by their views, which are extremely imperfect. They never take in but a very small part of the universe at one view; and their benevolent affections can extend no farther than their views. And though their views will be eternally extending, yet they will for ever fall infinitely short of the all comprehensive views of God. So that all their
. views to eternity will be infinitely inferior to the constant and unbounded views of the Deity; and, of consequence, all their holy exercises will be infinitely inferior in point of extent, and of real virtue and excellence, to his constant and unlimited exercises. The whole universe stands perpetually transparent to his view, and he aims at the highest good of the whole in every volition of his will, and every exertion of his hand. If we only reflect a moment upon the greatness of God, we must have a clear conviction of his supreme goodness. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. His all comprehensive views are never obstructed, and his benevolent affections are never diminished; and, therefore, he exercises more holiness every moment, than all holy creatures ever have exercised, or ever will exercise to all eternity. Thus God is absolutely supreme in all his natural and moral perfections; and this absolute supremacy over all his intelligent creatures, renders him the only proper object of their religious worship.
This leads me to observe,
III. That it is absurd to pay religious worship to any being who is not possessed of the essential attributes of divinity. It is absurd to love a being supremely. who is not supremely amiable; or to place supreme dependence upon a being who is not supremely independent; or to yield supreme submission to a being who is not supremely wise; or to put supreme confidence in a being who is not supremely good; or to make supplication to a being who is not every where present, and able to hear, and answer all the supplications of all who pray to him. But there is no being in the universe besides God, who does possess these essential attributes of divinity, which render him worthy of that supreme love, dependence, submission and confidence, which is expressed in prayer or praise, or in any other act of religious worship. This has been the universal opinion of all mankind in all ages of the world. They have never paid religious worship to any being whom they did not acknowledge to be a Deity, and possessed of divine attributes. Though some have worshipped the sun, yet they always meant to direct their worship to the divinity that they supposed dwelt in it. Though some have worshipped an animal, yet they always meant to direct their worship to the divinity that they supposed dwelt in it. And though some have worshipped graven images or dumb idols, yet they have always meant to direct their worship to the divinity that they supposed dwelt in them, or were always present with them. All their worship was divine worship, and intentionally paid to a divine being, possessed of the essential attributes of divinity. But they were grossly deceived in imagining that there were “gods many and lords many." For we have no evidence from scripture, or from reason, that there is, or can be, more than one living and true God; who is possessed of absolute independence, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and unlimited wisdom and goodness; and who is worthy of that supreme love, homage, veneration and confidence, which is always implied in religious worship. All other beings, except the eternal, self existent, independent, immutable, almighty and all wise Creator, are absolutely dependent upon him for their existence, and for all their rational and moral
powo ers; and this dependence places them infinitely below him. There is no comparison between a created and an uncreated being. One created being is as completely destitute of every divine attribute as another. Angels are as destitute of every divine attribute as men; and men are as destitute of every divine attribute as lifeless matter. There is but one, and there can be but one being in the universe, who is the proper object of religious worship, and that being is the only living and true God. Accordingly, the scripture requires us to worship him, and forbids us to worship any other being.
I now proceed to the improvement of the subject. 1. If God be worthy of religious worship solely on account of the essential attributes of his nature, then he cannot form a being worthy of religious worship. He has indeed created beings superior to men; and he can undoubtedly create beings
superior to Gabriel, or any of the principalities and powers above. But supposing that he should create a being as far superior to Gabriel, as "Gabriel is superior to the lowest of the human race; still that being would approach no nearer to divinity than the smallest intelligent creature. Or suppose he should create a being who should have a thousand fold inore power, more knowledge, more wisdom, and more goodness, than the whole intelligent creation have now, or ever will have; still that being would approach no nearer divinity than the smallest insect. Or suppose, once more, that God should exert his whole omnipotence to form a creature as great and good as possible, still, that greatest and best possible creature would be infinitely below his Creator, in respect to both natural and moral excellence. For it is not conceivable that even omnipotence can create an eternal, self existent, independent, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, or infinitely wise and holy being. Or, in fewer words, we cannot conceive that God can communicate any of his essential perfections to a created being, and make him a Deity. But, if he cannot create a being equal to himself, then he must remain the Supreme Being, and infinitely worthy of that religious worship which is an explicit acknowledgment of his absolute supremacy, and which cannot, without denying his supremacy, be paid to any created being who is absolutely dependent upon him, and infinitely below him, in all respects. We have, therefore, the same demonstrative evidence that God cannot create a being who is worthy of religious worship, that we have of his being the Creator, Preserver, and Supreme Sovereign of the universe.
2. If God be the only proper object of religious worship on account of his essential and incommunicable perfections, then there is as great and essential a difference between that religious worship which is due to him, and that kind of homage which is due to creatures, as there is between his essential and supreme attributes, and their derived, dependent and limited natural and moral excellence. God allows that they have some natural and moral excellences, and accordingly requires them to pay civil or subordinate respect and homage to one another. He requires children to honor their parents, and the young “to rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old
Solomon requires his son “to fear the Lord and the king." Paul exhorts subjects "to render fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.” Peter says to christians, “ Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Agreeably to such divine precepts, we find many instances in scripture, of pious persons paying civil or subordinate homage and respect to their fellow men. When
Abraham bought a burying place of the children of Heth," he bowed down himself before the children of the land." Joseph's brethren when they viewed him as Lord of Egypt, "bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” When Moses went out to meet his father-in-law Jethro, “he did obeisance to him." When David came out of the cave where Saul was, “ he cried to him saying, my lord the king, and stooped with his face, to the earth, and bowed himself.” After David had granted liberty to Absalom to return, Joab the general of his army, “ fell to the ground on his face, and bowed himself, and thanked the king." “Nathan the prophet bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground.” When the sons of the prophets saw Elisha, they said, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha; and they came to meet him, and bowed down themselves to the ground before him.” After David had transferred the crown from himself to Solomon, "all the congregation of the princes bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord and the king.” Such tokens of civil respect and homage are entirely proper to express that love, that fear, that obedience, that submission, and that reverence which we owe to our fellow creatures, according to the natural and moral excellences they possess, according to the several offices they sustain, and according to the various relations they stand in to us.
Now it is easy to perceive that there is as great and essential a difference between civil respect and religious worship, as there is between God and created beings. There is precisely the same difference between paying supreme worship to our Creator and paying subordinate respect to our fellow creatures, as there is between exercising supreme love to God and subordinate benevolence to our fellow men. Civil respect approaches no nearer to religious worship, than the natural and moral excellence of the most exalted creature approaches to the natural and moral perfections of the Supreme Deity. This great and essential difference between civil respect and religious worship, every true worshipper of God sees, and feels, and expresses, in all his sincere addresses to the throne of divine grace.
3. If God be the only proper object of religious worship, then we may justly and conclusively argue the divinity of Christ from his actually receiving, without disapprobation, religious worship from his friends and followers. Though many who came to him and conversed with him, viewed him as a mere man, and paid him only civil respect and homage, calling him Rabbi, or good master; yet his disciples and some others, who were better acquainted with him, paid him truly religious wor. ship, which he did not disapprove nor reject. We read, “ When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes folVOL. VI.
lowed him. And, behold, there came a leper, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean:" and, instead of reproving him for this act of religious worship, "Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will, be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” At another time, “Behold there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, my daughter is even now dead; but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.”
Christ approved of his address, and restored his daughter. After Christ had saved Peter and those that were with him from sinking in the sea, “ then they that were in the ship, came and worshipped him, saying, of a truth thou art the son of God." Those who first saw him after he was risen from the dead, " came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.” When he was carried up to heaven, those who saw him ascend, “worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died, “calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” This was a most solemn act of religion paid to Christ, as a person possessed of divine omniscience and omnipresence. And we are told that the heavenly hosts pay the same divine and undivided worship to both the Father and the Son. John heard them crying in heaven, “ Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.” Such religious worship God requires both men and angels to pay to Christ. He expressly requires all men “to honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” “And when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him.” Now if both men and angels are required to pay religious worship to Christ, and have actually paid him religious worship, and if he has a right to receive it, and has actually received it, with entire approbation; then it is unquestionably true that he is a divine Person, and possesses all the essential attributes of divinity. Arians, Socinians and Unitarians, have felt the force of this argument in favor of Christ's divinity, and have endeavored to evade it, by denying that religious worship was paid to him while he tabernacled in the flesh. They say that those who are said to worship him, only meant to pay him civil respect or homage. Though this might be true in some cases, yet it could not be true in the case of Stephen, who adored him with his dying breath. But though it were possible for Stephen, in his imperfect state, to have committed the same error in paying religious worship to Christ that John did in paying religious worship to the angel; yet it cannot be supposed that all the heavenly hosts are grossly deluded in paying the same religious and divine honors to the Redeemer that they pay to the