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On the meaning of the term idols. — Of the number and variety of objects that may be idolized. — Principles by which we determine whether we are under idolatrous influences.

IT is important to understand the distinction between love, and that excess of love, under whatever circumstances it may exist, which may properly be denominated idolatry. It is one of the directions of the apostle John to Christians, whom he addresses as
little children, that they should "keep themselves from IDOLS."

The term IDOL, in its original sense, is the name for those false gods, to which human blindness and unbelief have given an outward form, and have set up and worshipped instead of the true God. In its secondary or figurative sense, it is the appropriate name of any object or person, which attracts and concentrates upon itself any affection, or any degree of affection, which belongs to God.

2. It is worthy of notice, that the ennobling principle of
love is the basis of idolatry, as well as the basis of true holiness. But holy love, or love in the true sense of the terms, is always right. Idolatrous love is always wrong love; — wrong either in its place or its degree. And if right love is the highest and best exercise of the heart, it is difficult, on the other hand, to estimate the evil results of a love that is wrongly placed.

3. Objects, which may easily become idols, by being the subjects of an affection which is wrongly placed, surround us on every side. They are sometimes said to be innumerable. And if that be too strong an expression, it is certain that they are limited in number only by the capacity of inordinate love. This beautiful world, beautiful even in its ruins. which was originally designed to be the temple of God and of his worship, has become one great idol temple. A man's idol may be his property, his reputation, his influence, his friends, his children, those who are bound to him by the ties of natural affection, and even those who are united by religious attachments, and all other persons or things which are capable of being objects of affection, and which can attract that affection in an inordinate degree.

4. Am I an idol worshipper? This is an inquiry which comes home with tremendous import to all men. It is not too much to say, perhaps, that a divided heart cannot easily answer it. Because a divided heart, by the simple fact of its division, which perplexes the action of the judgment, cannot readily understand its own position. Him, whose heart is fixed to serve God alone, God will teach. To such an one, whose "eye is single," God gives the true light; — and it is under the influence of this light, that he understands the dangers which surround him.

5. In determining whether we are under the influence of idolatrous tendencies and affections, we must always remember that the true life, the living and life-giving instinct of holiness, can never deviate from its straight path, but, in the flashes of its flaming progress, points upward to God, and to God only. The holy heart has but one law. And the subjective or inward law of its life it expresses and lives
out in the exterior action. The needle does not more truly turn to the pole, — the planets do not more steadily and truly turn to the solar centre and revolve around it, — than the holy heart turns to God and revolves around him. If it is conscious, at any time, of any centrifugal influence, that is to say, of any influence which is calculated to make it fly off from the great Centre, then there is something which is taking a position and influence as an idol. When the heart is exempt from idols, there is no such disturbing and retarding consciousness as this. On the contrary, everything is free, easy, unembarrassed in its movement. In its exemption from everything but holy love, which is its life, it is not possible for the soul to discern any tendency which is at variance with, or which perplexes, the tendency which is innate and essential in all holy beings, towards the great central Life, namely, God himself.

6. On the other hand, any attachment which is misplaced, or is inordinate, is a weight upon the soul. Under its influence, the mental consciousness misses that lightness and upwardness of movement which it recognized before, and feels a perplexity and heaviness of action, which is not more obvious than it is embarrassing. In the illimitable space, the planets move on, swift and unobstructed in their immense course, because God, who is their mighty Guide and Supporter, prepares the track for them. God is not more the God of nature than he is the God of the living soul. He prepares the track of the soul, not so much by displacing outward obstacles as by preparing the soul itself; and when, by his divine agency, it is dislodged of its idols, its flight is free and unembarrassed to himself.

By marking closely these contrasted states of the soul, we shall be likely to know whether we are under the influence of idols or not.


Man's spirit hath an upward look,
And robes itself with heavenly wings;
E' en when 'tis here compelled to brook
Confinement to terrestrial things.

Its eye is fastened on the skies,
Its wings for flight are opened wide;
Why doth it hesitate to rise,
And still upon the earth abide?

And wouldst thou seek the cause to know,
And never more its course repress?
Then from those wings their burden throw,
And set them free from worldliness.

Shake off the worldly cares that stay
Their energy and upward flight;
And thou shalt see them make their way
To joy, and liberty, and light.


Oh love! thou daystar of the heart!
Ascend upon thy throne!
Victor and lord, where'er thou art,
To all within the power impart,
Of life to God alone.

Such is the magic of thy sway
Upon the holy mind,
That sin, all powerless in thy ray,
Departs, as night-shades flee the day,
And leaves no cloud behind.

My soul was dark in other years;
The stain was on my brow;
And something whispers to my fears
The loss of all but sin and tears,
If thou shouldst leave me now.

But fears are gone, and tears are bright,
Lit with the beams of love:
There is no sin, nor grief, nor night,
To him whose inmost soul is light
With radiance from above.