Page images
PDF
EPUB

trusteth therein, to make dumb idols ? woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach ; behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.”

We are commanded to abstain, not only from idolatrous worship itself, but from all things and persons connected with it. Acts xv. 20.“ that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication.” V. 29. “ from meats offered to idols .... and from fornication.” Rev. č. 14. “ who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” v. 20. “to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” From a comparison of these passages,

it would appear that the fornication here prohibited was a part of idolatrous worship. 1 Cor. viii. 10. “if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat,” &c. x. 14.“ flee from idolatry.” v. 20, &c. “they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” 2 Cor. vi. 16. “what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ?1 Thess. i. 9. “ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.” 1 Pet. iv. 3. walked in lasciviousness.. and abominable idolatries.” 1 John v. 21. "little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

A question here arises, whether it be lawful for a professor of the true religion to be present at idol-worship, in cases where his attendance is necessary for the discharge of some civil duty. The affirmative seems to be established by the example of Naaman the Syrian, 2 Kings v. 17—19. who was permitted, as an additional mark of the divine approbation, to construct for himself a private altar of Israelitish earth, although, as a Gentile, he was uncircumcised. It is however safer and more consistent with the fear of God, to avoid, as far as possible, duties of this kind, even of a civil nature, or to relinquish them altogether.

THE INVOCATION OF SAINTS AND ANGELS is forbidden. Acts x. 26. “stand up; I myself also am a man.” xiv. 15. ésirs, why do ye these things ? we also are men of like passions

3.. That he may dispense with me, or thee,

Present in the temples at idolatrous rites,
For some important cause, thou need'st not doubt.

Samson Agonistes, 1377.

66

we

[ocr errors]

with you—,” Col. ii. 18. “let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of anges. Rev. xix. 10. “I fell at his feet to worship him; and he said unto me, See thou do it not, I am thy fellow-servant.” See also xxii. 8, 9. The reason is, that God is kinder and more favourable to us than any saint or angel either is, or has power to be. Psal. lxxiii. 25. “ whom have I in heaven beside thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire but thee.” Isai. lxiii. 16. “ doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou 0 Jehovah, art our father, our redeemer.” Further, the charge of absurdity and folly which the prophets uniformly bring against the worshippers of idols, applies equally to those who worship images of saints or angels. Isai. xlvi. 6, 7, &c. " they lavish gold out of the bag, &c. .. .. and hire a goldsmith. . they bear him upon the shoulder," &c.

See also other passages. The subterfuges by which the Papists defend the worship of saints and angels, are truly frivolous. They allege Gen. xlviii. 15, 16. “ the angel which redeemed me from evil, bless the lads.” Jacob here was not praying, but conferring his benediction on the sons of Joseph; no one therefore will contend that the words are to be taken as an invocation, but simply as an expression of hope that God, and the redeeming angel as his minister, should bless the lads. Some indeed contend that the angel here spoken of was not a created being : but whether this be true, or whether it entered into the mind of Jacob or not, involves another and a far more difficult controversy. They urge

also Job v. 1. “ to which of the saints wilt thou turn ?" which however may as properly be understood of living saints, as in James v. 14. “ let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him ;" where it is not recommended that the dead should be invoked, but that those who are living and present should be entreated to pray for us.

Another opposite to invocation is the tempting of God. Exod. xvii. 7. “they tempted Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah among us or not?” Psal. Ixxviii. 18, 19. “they tempted God

4 See Middleton's Prefatory Discourse to the Letter from Rome, p. 268. edit. London, 1825. Bp. Porteus's Brief Confutation, part ii. chap. 1.

• So Cyril, Junius, Piscator, &c. This question is learnedly and satisfactorily discussed by Allix, Judgment of the ancient Jewish Church against the Unitarians, p. 349.

in their heart by asking meat for their lust; yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness ?” v. 41. “they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” xciv. 7. “yet they say, Jah shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.' xcv. 7–9. “as in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works.' Matt. iv. 7. “ thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” 1 Cor. x. 22. “ do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he ?”

A third consists in the invocation of devils, and the practice of magical arts. Exod. xxii. 18. “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Lev. xix. 26. “neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.xx. 27. “a man also or a woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death ; they shall stone them with stones, their blood shall be upon them.” v. 6. “ the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.

. xix. 31. “neither seek after wizards, to be defiled with them.” Num. xxiii. 23. “ surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel." Deut. xviii. 10, 12. “there shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard or a necromancer; for all that do these things are an abomination unto Jehovah.” 2 Kings xxi. 6. “ he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards.” Isai. viii. 19.“ when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter; should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead ?” xliv. 25. “ I am he that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad.” xlvii. 13, 14. “let now the astrologers,

[ocr errors]

6 Belief in witchcraft, which is here opposed by Milton, was one of the errors of his age. In 1644, and the two following years, nearly an hundred persons suffered the sentence of the law in the three counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, for alleged confederacy with evil spirits. The same absurdities continued to be believed long after the Restoration, and numerous victims are on record whose lives were forfeited to the popular superstition. the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee : behold, they shall be as stubble.” Jer. x. 2.“be not dismayed at the signs of heaven ; for the heathen are dismayed at them.Mic. v. 12. “I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers.

All study of the heavenly bodies, however, is not unlawful or unprofitable; as appears from the journey of the wise men, and still more from the star itself, divinely appointed to announce the birth of Christ, Matt. ii. 1, 2.8 i Thus our Saviour in Paradise Regained, IV. 486.

.... what they can do as signs Betok’ning, or ill boding, I contemn

As false portents, not sent from God, but thee : compared with the words of Satan, v. 379, &c.

Now contrary, if I read aught in heav'ni,
Or heav'n write aught of fate, by what the stars
Voluminous, or single characters,
In their conjunction met, give me to spell,
Sorrows and labours, opposition, hate
Attends thee, scorns, reproaches, injuries,

Violence and stripes, and lastly cruel death. These last words probably allude to the star, mentioned below, by which the birth of Christ, as · King of the Jews,' was announced to the wise men.

A kingdom they portend thee, but what kingdom,

Real or allegoric, I discern not. 8 It is remarkable that among those who ridiculed the astrologers of Milton's times, was one of his own nephews, John Philips. At the close of the year 1659, he published a pamphlet, entitled • Montelion, 1660 : or the Prophetical Almanack; being a true and an exact Accompt of all the Revolutions that are to happen in the World, this present year 1660, till this time Twelvemoneth. By Montelion, Knight of the Oracle, a Wellwisher to the Mathematicks.' This almanac was so well received, that he continued his plan by a similar publication for the following year, which contained among other articles an exact Chronology of memorable things, after the manner of an Almanac, stating how many years it is since each event happened.' Among the entries is the following. It will be remembered that it was to a Skinner that the custody of this treatise was entrusted.

• Since Mr. Skinner spoke discreetly at the Rota. 1 Year.'

John Philips subsequently published another burlesque work on the same subject, under the title of · Montelion's Introduction to Astrology, after a new, but more Easie Way, shewing the whole Method of that Learned Art.' But the most celebrated of the Astrologers of the time were the famous William Lilly and John Booker, who were frequently consulted by the l'arliament and the generals of the Army, as to the countenance which the

6

CHAP. VI.-OF ZEAL.

We have treated of the first part of true religion, the invocation or adoration of the Deity;. we proceed to the remaining part, THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE DIVINE NAME UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.

An ardent desire of hallowing the name of God, together with an indignation against whatever tends to the violation or contempt of religion, is called ZEAL. Psal. lxix. 8, 9. “I am become a stranger unto my brethren.... for the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. cxix. 139. “my zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.” Rom. xii. ll. “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."

Examples of this virtue are seen in Lot, 2 Pet. ï. 7, 8. in Moses, Exod. xxxii. 19. in Phinehas, Num. xxv. 7. in Elijah, 1 Kings xix. 10. in Jeremiah, Jer. xxiii. 9–11.“mine heart within me is broken.... for the land is full of adulterers ;" in Christ, Matt. xii. 30. John ii. 14, &c. in Stephen, Acts vii. 51, &c. in Paul and Barnabas, xiv. 14. and xvii. 16, 17.

Its opposites are, first, lukewarmness, as exemplified in Eli, 1 Sam. ii. 29. and iii. 13. in the chief rulers of the Jews, John xii. 43. in the Laodiceans, Rev. iii. 15, 16.

Secondly, an ignorant and imprudent zeal. 2 Sam. xxi. I, 3. “ because he slew the Gibeonites.... Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.” Rom. x. 2. “ I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”

Thirdly, a too fiery zeal. Jonah iv. 1-3. Luke ix. 54. “ wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven?

Fourthly, an hypocritical and boastful zeal, as that of Jehu, 2 Kings x. 16. come with me, and see my zeal for Jehovah."

The name of God is to be hallowed in word as well as in deed. To hallow it in word, is never to name it but with a

stars portended to their undertakings. Among other prophecies, Lilly was unfortunate enough to foretell a long and prosperous reign to the Protector Richard-of which prediction, less than eight months sufficed to prove the falsity. See Godwin's Lives of Edward and John Philips, Chap. vi. p. 96.

« PreviousContinue »