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All The Works Of A True Christian Must Be Done In Humility, Or They Will, Otherwise, Become An Abomination And Idolatry.
That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.—Luke 16:15.
All works that are a well-pleasing and acceptable sacrifice to God, can proceed from true faith alone; this will not fail to beget Christian humility in the heart. The effect of this will be meekly to acknowledge that with regard to any good that may be found in us, it is wholly and solely to be ascribed to the grace of God: “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10. He who does not do this, commits two sins: the first is, apostasy from God, by turning himself from God towards himself, that is, from the Supreme Being, towards that which is in itself nothing. The second is sacrilege, by taking to himself that honor which is 242 due to none but God; to whom, and not to man, everything that may be called good belongs. He, therefore, that doeth not all things in humility, steals from God the glory due to him. For when God says: “I will not give my glory to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8); he shows that all glory and praise are due to him alone.
2. If, therefore, any man applaud himself, either for knowing or doing anything, verily that man takes to himself the glory which is due to God only, and is thereby an idolater of himself. For this reason, ambition is abominable idolatry: and self-love, and self-esteem, are no less than having another God before him whose name is Jehovah. For this very reason also, the devil seeks to be honored and worshipped in the world.
3. Such a vainglorious devil, covetous of honor and worship from the world, every proud and arrogant person, by thinking highly of himself, cherishes in his heart. If thou be wise, see that thou break down and destroy this idol, which is set up in thy heart. Many persons are so holy that they will not even look upon any outward images, lest they should happen to be defiled by them; not observing, at the same time, that great idol which they carry about with them in their hearts, and by which they are to such a degree defiled as to become an abomination before God. For all that is most highly esteemed by men (through self-love and ambition) is an abomination before God. Whence all who seek only their own honor, or power, or ascribe aught to themselves as their own, are idolaters. Thus the whole world lieth in idolatry; and every house has its living idols.
4. That idolatry which defiles thee, proceeds from within, even from the heart. To whatsoever thy heart inclines, in whatsoever it acquiesces and rests, and unto whatsoever it cleaves by love and inclination, whether it be good fortune, wealth, honor, power, or long life; that very thing immediately becomes an idol, and has seduced thee into the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is not any outward pollution; but that which is internal, spiritual, and springing up within. It is so that God considers it; He judges all things according to the heart; and it is so only that he looks, trying the hearts and reins (Ps. 7:9), and judging of all things according to the faith or unbelief there found by him. Whence Christ has also plainly told thee, “Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also” (Matt. 6:21); that is, thy God, thy rest, thy peace, thy trust will be there; and there will be thy paradise, yea, there will heaven and all things be to thee. Observe closely what that object is on which thy heart loves to dwell, for it is surely thy God, whatever its nature may be. If thy heart cleave fast to God only, then is He thy God, and blessed art thou: according as it is written: “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” Ps. 144:15. And again, “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desire of thy heart.” Ps. 37: 4. But if thy mind cleave to the world, then the world is thy God. And so of the rest.
5. It hence appears that there are really in the world no other idols but such as the heart of man makes for him. The devil himself is called “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), because the ungodly follow him, do his deeds, love darkness, and take pleasure in the works of the devil. And thus men make a god even of Satan.243
6. Idols of wood are easily avoided, but take heed of the idols of gold. See that thou be not ensnared by these. It is no hard matter to keep from dead idols; but take heed that thou worship not living ones, and especially thyself. As soon as thou ascribest honor, skill, or power to thyself, thou settest up thyself in the place of God. This idolatry is properly struck at by God, when he says that he “will not give his glory to another.” Isa. 42:8. For whatsoever is, or is called by the name of honor and glory, is due to none but him, who is the Most High, and the most Holy One, and the sovereign and everlasting Good. Whosoever, therefore, thou art, that wouldest not make an idol of thyself, nor pollute thy works with the foulest of abominations before God, learn hence, not to ascribe to thyself honor, or glory, or praise; knowing that it is true humility to shun honor, and to account one's self unworthy of all glory. When thou shalt do this, and shalt have mortified all ambition and self-esteem, then thou shalt be known to be dead to the world indeed. From this springs up the new man, in whom is found the most noble life of Christ; which life, he himself has described as being meekness and lowliness of heart. Matt. 11:29. He, on the contrary, is still carnal, and lives after the flesh, according to the old birth, who would be honored and greatly esteemed: because it is the nature of the carnal man to endeavor to be, or to be accounted above all others. But if any man seek to be accounted nothing of, he has a heart truly spiritual and Christian. But alas! where shall we now find the true Christians, that is, such as are willing to be slighted, and to be reputed as nothing? For, as hath been said before, it is the property of the true followers of Christ, to deny themselves, to hate themselves, to despise themselves, and to renounce all that is theirs, for his sake. Matt. 10:38; Luke 9:23. Such are indeed genuine Christians.
7. If any one should here ask of me, What then is a Christian to do, if it please God so to honor him as to give him grace and glory before the world (Ps. 84:11), as in the case of Daniel: and, since God has appointed certain distinctions among men, several orders, states, and offices; and has for that end variously distributed his gifts among them, What is the duty of a Christian, if he be advanced to some post of dignity? I answer, If this be thy lot, then render all the honor which is conferred upon thee to God again; and ascribe nothing to thyself which is the right of another, or take that to be thine which is God's only.
8. As soon, therefore, as any honor is given thee, see that, being mindful of thy low estate, thou transfer it all to God, and keep nothing thereof to thyself. If thou neglectest to do this, and shouldest be induced to attribute anything to thyself, it is certain that thou must thereby lose divine grace, while, with a sacrilegious impiety, thou invadest that which of right belongs to God. So if thou excel others in spiritual or natural gifts, in wisdom or skill, wealth or dignity, be watchful not to take this honor to thyself; yea, let it be thy joy and delight to offer all up to God again, from a most deep and intimate devotion of thy heart. This thou wilt not fail to do, and to give that glory to Him which is due, when thou shalt glory in nothing but in Him only, according to the words of the Prophet: “Let not the wise 244 man glory in his wisdom; neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jer. 9:23, 24.
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