Men’s Laws for God’s Worship

“Since men are most prone to live by sense, it is no wonder that a sensible worship, which affects their outward sense with some kind of amazement, is dear to them, and spiritual worship most loathsome. Pompous rites have been the great engine wherewith the devil hath deceived the souls of men, and wrought them to a nauseating the simplicity of divine worship, as unworthy the majesty and excellency of God, 2 Cor. xi. 3. Thus the Jews would not understand the glory of the second temple in the presence of the Messiah, because it had not the pompous grandeur of that of Solomon’s erecting. Hence in all ages men have been forward to disfigure God’s models, and dress up a brat of their own; as though God had been defective in providing for his own honour in his institutions without the assistance of his creature. This hath always been in the world: the old world had their imaginations, and the new world hath continued them. The Israelites, in the midst of miracles, and under the memory of a famous deliverance, would erect a calf. The Pharisees, that sat in Moses’s chair, would coin new traditions, and enjoin them to be as current as the law of God, Mat. xxiii. 6. Papists will be blending the Christian appointments with pagan ceremonies, to please the carnal fancies of the common people. Altars have been multiplied, under the knowledge of the law of God, Hos. viii. 12. Interest is made the balance of the conveniency of God’s injunctions. Jeroboam fitted a worship to politic ends, and posted up calves to prevent his subjects revolting from his sceptre, which might be occasioned by their resort to Jerusalem, and converse with the body of the people from whom they were separated, 1 Kings xii. 27. Men will be putting their own dictates with God’s laws, and are unwilling he should be the sole governor of the world without their counsel : they will not suffer him to be the Lord of that which is purely and solely his concern. How often hath the practice of the primitive church, the custom wherein we are bred, the sentiments of our ancestors, been owned as a more authentic rule in matters of worship, than the mind of God delivered in his word! It is natural by creation to worship God ; and it is as natural by corruption for man to worship him in a human way, and not in a divine. Is not this to impose laws upon God? to esteem ourselves wiser than he? to think him negligent of his own service, and that our feeble brains can find out ways to accommodate his honour better than himself hath done? Thus do men for the most part equal their own imaginations to God’s oracles: as Solomon built a high place to Moloch and Chemosh, upon the mount of Olives, to face on the east part Jerusalem and the temple, 1 Kings xi. 7. This is not only to impose laws on God, but also to make self the standard of them.”[1]

1Charnock, Stephen. Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979.

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