Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Refined or Philosophical View Of Idolatry

From The Spirit of Missions, Volume 35:

Now, let us understand what this idolatry really is. I have met with this objection —"Oh, but you do not know what idolatry is entertained. You suppose these people worship stocks and stones; and I assure you that you are mistaken." I am quite aware of this argument; and I will tell you how the matter stands. The Hindoo does not, I admit, worship a mere stock or stone in the sense of saying, "This is my God, and I worship it." I remember very well—my friend Dr. Watson will remember—that in the very first Hindoo temple which we entered with an intelligent interpreter, when we put the question, the priest said, "Certainly not; I worship the God in the stone." "What was the stone before the God came into it?" we next asked. "It was a stone," he said, smiling. "And what brought the God into it?" "It was the prayer of the priest, and we worship the God in it." Of course, I have proofs of this. I have here, for example, extracted from a pamphlet I have, a lecture given in the Benares Institute, in splendid English, by a man who defends Hindoo idolatry, quoting the poet Cowper, and quoting also from Sir William Hamilton and other metaphysicians, in speaking about the impossibility of forming any idea of the unseen God, and the necessity of haring it symbolized—quoting Cowper's beautiful lines to his mother's portrait, and how this portrait recalled the past. You are quite familiar with the argument. It is the argument constantly applied to the Mass and the worship of pictures—that it is not the bread and wine or the pictures which are worshipped, but the unseen Christ in the bread and wine, or the person represented. This is the argument you hear in Hindostan in regard to idolatry. But what I want you to notice is this that there never was any kind of idolatry except this which was absolutely condemned and cursed by Almighty God. Do not suppose that this refined view, as you may take it, of idolatry, is anything different from that idolatry which, throughout the Old Testament dispensation, is condemned by God. The idolatry condemned is seeking to make symbols of the living God, which, instead of elevating God, degrades Him—which, instead of opening men's eyes to the invisible, becomes a means of clouding men's eyes to the invisible, so that they lose the spiritual power of comprehending the unseen object. I make this assertion, that the idolatry that is comprehended in the most philosophic system of the Hindoos is neither more nor less than the idolatry against which the living God lifted up His voice—on account of which, the people of Israel were cleared out of their land and sent to Babylon in order to be purified.—Rev. Dr. Macleod.