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In the words of the text, by way of dialogue, the penitence of the idolatrous Israelites, and the consequent mercy and benediction of heaven, are very emphatically expressed : Ephraim declares an utter aversion to his late grievous crime—“What have I to “ do any more with idols ?" God replies—" I have “ heard him, and observed him”-I have heard the confessions and righteous purposes of the humble penitent, will pardon his offences, and guide and protect him by my merciful providence. Ephraim acknowledges that upon returning to his duty, he soon rose to a happy and flourishing condition--" I am “ like a green fir-tree.” To preserve his humility, God immediately reminds him that his fruitfulness springs entirely from the divine blessing—“ From me “ is thy fruit found”-it is my holy spirit which puts into thy heart good desires: it is my heavenly aid which enables thee to carry them into complete effect.

It will be said, perhaps_"How is this passage of < sacred Scripture in any way applicable to us? How

are we concerned in the ancient idolatry of the " Israelites? We have never renounced our faith in “ the true God. We despise the absurdity, and abhor “ the impiety of falling down to worship the calves set

up in Dan, or in Bethel.”

But, may we not revolt in our affections from the Lord our God? May we not rather serve mammon ; and be lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of him? Is not covetousness expressly called idolatry? And may we not, in the language of Scripture, be, said, in various other ways, to set up our “ idols in our " heart?"

In the estimation of religion; in the eye of dispassionate reason, whatever the object may be, which has so far taken possession of our hearts, as to alienate them from the love of God, and from the service which is due to him, that is our idol. Happy is it for those who can be speedily brought to see their error, and to form the good resolution of renouncing it; exclaiming in the penitential language of Ephraim-“What have “ I to do any more with the vain idols which have “ seduced my heart, and engrossed that attention which " is due to God alone?"

Look round the world, and, even where the light of the Gospel shines, behold the deluded children of men, bowing down before the works of their own hands, worshipping the creature more than the Almighty Creator. Some make power their idol, at whose polluted shrine, how many supplicating victims are sacrificed; what torrents of human blood are seen to flow! Some devote both soul and body to the service of mammon, for the acquisition of whose glittering stores, truth, justice, and mercy, are all abandoned and utterly disregarded. Some spend six days in the week involved in the cares of this world; in solicitades about what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be cloathed; and when the day arrives which the Lord has made, which was set apart for the special purpose of calling us off from these anxious pursuits, and elevating our souls to the contemplation of God, and the awful things of eternity; this day also is dissipated in fatal inattention to these momentous subjects; in direct violation of laws both human and divine ; in rioting and drunkenness; in boisterous revellings, or in more calm, though not less seducing festivity.

Instead of glorying in this alone, that they understand and know the Lord who exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; how many of the wise, and mighty, and rich men of this world, glory only in their wisdom, in their might, or in their riches? How many, when exalted to the summit of prosperity, instead of praising and honouring him who liveth for ever, look round upon the works of their hands, and in the vanity of their hearts exclaim with the Babylonish king—“ Have not I “ built this by the might of my power, and for the " honour of my majesty ?” How many in the hour of adversity, instead of humbly seeking the guidance and protection of a wise and merciful Providence, depart in their heart from the Lord, and trust in man, and make the arm of flesh their principal dependence ?

In terms of much severity, the prophets expose the vanity of idolatrous worship, and reprove the folly and ingratitude of their brethren for relying on the aid of false gods in the hour of distress. They who now forget the God that made them, and render not unto him the honour which is due to his holy name; they who now disregard the grace of God offered in the Gospel—the remission of their sins, the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the inheritance of life and glory : they who are now engaged in providing other helps, and are totally devoted to other objects of adoration, will, ere long, find the words of the prophet verified—“They " shall be ashamed, and also confounded all of them: " they shall go to confusion together that are makers “ of idols.” When a consciousness of guilt begins to terrify them, will the earthly pleasure which they have so fondly loved, speak peace to their souls? Will the sweet sounds of music soothe the pangs of remorse; or the soft strains of flattery silence the clamours of a troubled conscience? Will purple and fine linen mitigate the pains of sickness? Will riches form an impenetrable shield against the dart of death; or will all the gold of Ophir bribe him to suspend the blow? Will all the glittering pomps of this world which we now so ardently venerate—will they illuminate the darkness of the grave, or give us confidence before the awful tribunal of God? Alas! on these solemn occasions, the penitential language of inconsiderate mortals will ever be—“ Vain helpers are ye all. What “ have I to do any more with idols? It is only trust “ in God that affords effectual support: in him alone is everlasting strength!"

We abhor the absurdities of idolatry, which offers divine honours to irrational animals, and requires its votaries to fall down and worship a stock or a stone. So far it is well. But there is another important consideration. We must not only renounce error, but openly maintain the truth. We must not only cease to do evil, but also learn to do well. Do we then give unto the true God the honour which is due to his sacred name? Do we love him with all our heart, and with all our strength; and him only do we

serve ?

I shall not suppose that there is a person present, who is so foolish as to say in his heart—“There is " no God; there is no almighty Creator and wise « Governor of the universe.” I shall even suppose, that you believe the revelation contained in the Holy Scriptures, respecting the existence, the attributes, and the works of this glorious Being, the great object of

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our adoration and praise. But, if we stand in those relations to him which are pointed out in the volume of inspired truth: if we were created by his power, redeemed by his mercy, and must hereafter abide the decisions of his justice; how shall we reconcile a true faith with vicious practices? How shall we be able to acquit many professing Christians of the most glaring absurdity, who seem to live without God in the world; who neglect the ordinances of the Church; whose hearts glow not with devotion, and whose lips are seldom opened either by praise or prayer; who, instead of setting their affections on things above, appear to love the world alone, and the things of it.

What is the meaning of that busy scene which, whithersoever we turn our eyes, presents itself to our view? Are all those immortal creatures so eagerly engaged, for the purpose of obtaining the favour of their Creator, and securing their everlasting welfare? Do they take into consideration the whole term of their existence; and endeavour so to pass through things temporal, that they may finally obtain the joys which are eternal ? No; their views are far more limited: their desires are unhappily not so enlarged. Their exertions are almost entirely confined to those objects which concern the comfortable accommodation of this perishing body; they are employed in guarding against external accidents; in securing or recovering health ; in protecting and augmenting property: in a word; in making provision merely for the flesh, to fulfil, sometimes the innocent desires, and sometimes the pernicious lusts thereof. Now, if there be a God who rules above; if there is to be a resurrection of the dead, and a life everlasting; is it not an absurdity Vol. II.


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