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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
James Abbadie and Dean of Killaloe. Originally written in French. Translated into English by Abraham Booth.
From A Treatise on the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 1777, Chapter 5
That the apostles and disciples of Christ esteemed and treated him as a truly Divine Person, and that he claimed, in a proper sense, an equality with God will further appear by considering that he received, as a tribute due to his dignity, those honours and that adoration, which belong to none but JEHOVAH.
That God, and none but He, ought to be worshipped, is a fundamental truth. Whenever, therefore, men have set up themselves as objects of worship, they have pretended to be gods; and when they have relinquished their claim to divinity, they have ceased to require adoration. So that though we had not been expressly told by the inspired writers that Jesus Christ is GOD; yet we could not have questioned it when we found them assert that he received adoration from his disciples, and that the angels were commanded to worship him.
If Jesus Christ be God, by nature, he has an undoubted right to Divine honours; he cannot but require them. But if not, we cannot, without sacrilege and idolatry, address them to him because they are due to none but JEHOVAH. For though it were possible, on our adversaries hypothesis, to account for the titles he bears, for the authority he claims, and for the works of creation and providence being ascribed to him; yet his conduct, in receiving divine worship, would forever remain indefensible, if he were not the true God.
A man, for instance, who should take the name of king, where a rightful sovereign is acknowledged, would certainly be very guilty. But his crime would be greatly enhanced, if he dared to assume the titles appropriated to signify the grandeur of his sovereign and the extent of his dominions. For example, if, in France, he should call himself, King of France, Navarre, &c., or if in Hungary, King of Bohemia, Hungary &c. But he would be still more guilty if he caused himself to be treated as a king if he demanded the titles of majesty from those who addressed him and required as some kings do, to be served on the knee. In this case, either the allegiance due to the lawful Sovereign must be renounced; or this pretender must be called a usurper, and be punished as guilty of high treason.
Thus the Jews, on the principles of our opponents, had sufficient reason to treat Jesus Christ. The regard which they had to the honour of God, and the obedience they owed to the precepts of his unchangeable law would not fuller them to connive at the conduct of a man, or of any mere creature, who received those honours which are due to none but the God of Israel.
To invalidate this conclusion it must be proved, either, that religious worship is not an honour peculiar to God, or that Christ did not pretend to this worship, or that he did not mean to be worshipped on the same ground, and in the same way, as the true God.—It may, perhaps be said worship is not an honour peculiar to God; for the angel who appeared to the patriarchs, and to Moses in the burning-bush was worshipped though a mere creature.
This is a great mistake. For that angel was a Divine Person and the true God. This appears from hence. Abraham addressed him, as "the Judge of all the earth," and acknowledged that he was "but dust and ashes" before him. That angel revealed himself to Moses, out of the burning bush, as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob." From which words Christ himself infers, that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Consequently, he teaches us to conclude, that He who spake to Moses out of the bush, was more than a creature; was the true God. For he who is "the angel of the Lord," in the oracle of Moses, is "the GOD of the living," in the language of Jesus Christ, and both according to our hypothesis.
Again: That honour which is peculiar to God, ought never to be given to any but God. Religious worship is such an honour. Religious worship, therefore, ought never to be given to any but God. That honour which cannot be given to a creature, without, idolatry, is peculiar to God. But religious worship is such an honour, as appears from the idolatry of the Gentiles, which consisted in paying adoration to objects that were not God.
But worship is two-fold; that is, subordinate and supreme. The former is paid to subordinate beings; the latter is due to none but God.—This distinction, were it founded in truth, would be but of little service to the cause, in defense of which it is applied because it is easy to shew, that Christ received supreme worship.
This worship consists, either in thought, in word, or in action. He, therefore, who requires us to think of him, as we do of the true God, would have us worship him as such. But Christ would have us think of him, as we do of the true God. For he attributes to himself the perfections of God, and he claims an equality with him. Consequently, he would have us think of him, as we ought to do of God. He who speaks of himself, or directs others to speak of him as of the true God, would be acknowledged and worshipped as such. But Christ speaks, and would be spoken of by us, as the true God. This appears from his taking the names, and ascribing to himself the works of God. If not, why does he assume such names, why does he declare that he performed such works, as are proper to God, if he would not have us speak of him as God.
What, shall he speak of himself as God? Shall he assert, that he created all things and performed the works of God, and after all be unwilling that we should speak of him as God? Absurd to imagine; impossible to prove. He who requires we should do that for him, which we cannot lawfully do for any but the true God, expects to be worshipped as such. But Christ requires us to do that for him, which we ought not to do for any but God. This appears from hence. We are bound to love God above all things.
Consequently, an affection so ardent, and a duty so high, are due to none but God. We ought, however, to love Jesus above all things; to love him more than our lives, which, of all things in the world, are the dearth to us. He requires that we should suffer martyrdom for his sake; and, by so doing, enjoins a duty which we do not, which we cannot owe, to any but God. None of the prophets, nor any of the apostles, ever said, "He that forsaketh not wife and children, and houses and lands, yea, and his own life, for my sake, is not worthy of me."
“But Christ declares that he acts in the name ‘of his Father, and that the Father is greater than he’ which is sufficient to forbid us addressing him with supreme worship.” To this I answer, suppose a minister of state should give orders, under his own seal, for coining money with his image upon it. At the same time arming the names and titles of his lawful sovereign would his conduct be justified by declaring once, or twice, “My sovereign is greater than I, and I act in his name?” Should we not, in such a case, have reason to say, he denies by his actions, what he confesses in words, and contradicts himself?—
The application is easy. For as there is a certain idea of royalty which subject is ought never to apply to any besides their king; as there are names and titles so appropriated to the person of a sovereign that they cannot be given to any other without offence, and as there are particular honours due to a crowned head which cannot on any pretense whatever be paid to others without being guilty of high-treason.
Because the signification of words and actions is not fixed by the caprice or authority of any particular person, but by general content and custom, so by a most ancient, sacred, and inviolable use, established by the prophets, established by the eternal Sovereign himself, there are some ideas so appropriated to God, that they cannot possibly belong to any other.
There are some titles peculiar to him that it is high-treason, in a divine sense, to give to any other; and there are certain honours so peculiarly due to him that they cannot be given to another without denying the God that is above, and incurring the complicated guilt of blasphemy and idolatry.
Such an honour is religious worship. For, if there be any dispositions of heart, if any language of the tongue, if any actions in life, by which it is possible for us to express a suitable distinction between God and every mere creature, they must be those of a devotional kind. And as the most sincere, the most fervent, the most sublime adoration we can pay to JEHOVAH, neither expresses, nor implies any more than a dutiful desire and endeavour to treat God AS GOD so the least degree of that worship, when given to a mere creature, is an alienation of the rights of Deity, and a placing that creature on the throne of the Most High.
Subordinate worship is distinguished from that which is supreme. The latter belongs to God only, as the source of being and perfection while the former may be given to Christ, though, a dependent being; he having received, from the Great Sovereign, peculiar honours and authority.—But there is abundant reason to conclude, that this subordinate worship was not known to the Divine Legislator, nor to the prophets; nor to the apostles, nor to angels, nor to Jesus Christ himself of all which in their order.
That the Divine Legislator knew nothing of this kind of worship appears from hence. He forbids all worship, in general, which does not belong to the true God, and that in a moral precept, the obligation is perpetual. This he would not have done, had subordinate worship been lawful; left, by ambiguous expressions, he should have lead mankind into error. Nor would he have forbidden us, without exception, to worship any besides God but only to worship any other with Supreme worship.
If the Divine Lawgiver intended that the promised Messiah, though a mere creature, should be adored when he appeared, why did he, in such general terms, utterly forbid all manner of worship that is not given to the God of Israel? Besides, he evidently designed to discourage and condemn the Gentile idolatry. But that idolatry principally consisted in worshipping various divinities with subordinate worship, for the ancient Heathens, no less than the Jews, acknowledged but one Supreme Being.
“The law forbids, it will be said, such subordinate worship as terminates on idols - not that which has Christ for its object.” But when the law prohibits that kind of worship, it does it in general terms; in such terms as forbid all sorts of subordinate worship without any exception. Our adversaries, perhaps, may say, “There being idols, and these idols becoming the objects of worship, render that worship idolatrous.” But they should rather say, “There is an object worshipped: this worship, being given to an object which does not deserve it, renders the object, though innocent in itself, an idol.”
The God of Israel expressing himself in a general way, and forbidding to worship anything in heaven or on earth, after the manner of the Heathen; it is evident, that so soon as we address subordinate worship to anything in heaven or earth, we make an idol of it. It is worthy to be remarked, that the law does not only say, “Thou shalt have no other gods;" but "thou shalt have no other gods BEFORE ME" which seems principally to forbid subordinate worship.
The prophets were ignorant of subordinate worship. They had no instance of it before their eyes, but what they detested as idolatrous. They never heard, they never speak, of any such thing as lawful, or as having any existence among the pure worshippers of Jehovah. Nay, they laugh at, they despise all subordinate gods because they cannot conceive how any man can worship an object that "created not the heavens," and causeth not "the rain to descend upon the earth," which they would not have done had they known that there was, or ever would be, a subordinate god, to whom adoration should be paid.
But the prophets, I shall be told, charge the people with idolatry because they addressed supreme worship to gods who created not the heavens and the earth. Quite a mistake, for the Heathens did not pay supreme worship to their subordinate divinities because they did not look upon them as the source of being and the original of all good; Jupiter being the only god, whom they acknowledged under those exalted characters.
Nor were the apostles acquainted with subordinate worship, as appears from the following considerations. They considered all worship, even that which was only external, and could not be esteemed as addressed to a supreme object when given to a creature as doing infinite prejudice to the glory of the Creator.
When Cornelius fell down at Peter's feet, he did- not look upon him as the Supreme Being. Though he worshipped him, it was not, it could not be, as the Original of all good, and the Ruler of all worlds. He knew very well that Peter was but a man; for the angel had told him so, when he commanded him to send for that apostle from Joppa. This worship, therefore, could be no more than subordinate, and even that in a very low degree. The devout Centurion could not possibly think of worshipping a man, called Simon, surnamed Peter, who had lodged at the house of another Simon, a tanner, with the same adoration which he paid to GOD. And yet, as worship, even external worship, was an act determined by custom to express that honour which is due to none but the Great Supreme.
Peter did not so consider the good intention of Cornelius, as to receive it. No, with a holy emotion he said to his admiring and revering friend, “Stand up! I myself also am a man." Hence it follows that it is not lawful to worship any but the true God. For Peter, from a regard to the glory of God, refuses and rejects with abhorrence, that worship which Cornelius was disposed to give him by saying, "I am a man.” I am not God. Consequently, subordinate worship is contrary to the glory of God. Hence also it is manifest, that whoever is a mere man by nature, ought neither to require, nor to receive religious worship whether supreme or subordinate.
More fully to prove and illustrate this conclusion, I would ask, what is it that hinders Peter on this occasion from accepting worship? It must be either the respect which he has for God, or that which he has for Jesus Christ. If the former, he must consider what is called subordinate worship, when addressed to a creature as injurious to the glory of God, and if so, not only Peter, but Jesus Christ himself, if he be a mere creature, is bound to refute it. If the latter, he should not have said, as the reason of his rejecting it, "I also am a man," because Christ, of whose honour he is so jealous, is also a man, and, by nature, no more than a man. But the apostle here tells the Centurion what he is, only to let him know what is due to him. He calls himself a man, to inform him, that if any mere man should claim, or accept this kind of worship, he would greatly dishonour God.
And though the character of Peter, as an ambassador of God, deserved extraordinary honours, though it was under this notion that Cornelius considered him, and under this idea that he attempted to worship him, yet he rejected it with detestation, as an impious infringement on the rights- of JEHOVAH, without assigning any reason but this, "I also am a man." It is evident, therefore, and by the conduct of Peter, it is established as a general principle that no man, though a messenger of God, that no mere man, whatever title he may bear ought to be honoured with religious worship. In a word, if the regard which Peter has for Jesus Christ hinders him from sharing in that worship which belongs to the great Redeemer, the respect which Jesus ought to have for the Supreme Being should prevent him from partaking in the honours of religion with the true God.
Nor did the angels know of any subordinate worship, when John had his prophetic visions in the Isle of Patmos. If they had been acquainted with it, at least, if they had considered it as lawful, that holy intelligence, who conversed with the beloved disciple and shewed him so many wonderful objects, would either not have refused those honours which the apostle was, once and again, desirous of giving to him, or have rejected them on different principles.
For none can suppose that the amazed, delighted, and revering apostle mistook the angel for the Great Supreme. He would have worshipped his celestial informant, because he was the angel of God, not because he took the servant for the eternal Sovereign. The angel, however, not knowing of any religious worship which might be addressed to a mere creature, says, "See thou do it not!—Worship GOD." Asserting, in the clearest manner, that all worship must be paid to God and to him only.
Once more: JESUS CHRIST himself was not acquainted with this distinction, nor knew anything of subordinate worship, when he was tempted of the devil. Satan, when he tempted our Lord to worship him, did not pretend to be the true God; consequently, he did not solicit Jesus to worship him as such. For he plainly intimated, that there was one superior to him; one from whom he had received the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. The devil, then, desired to be honoured with subordinate worship.
But Christ rejects with abhorrence his blasphemous attempt, and shews the iniquity of it, by adducing that precept out of the law, "Thou shalt worship the LORD THY GOD, and "Him ONLY shalt thou serve." It follows, therefore, that this command forbids us to worship any one besides the God of Israel, either with a supreme, or a subordinate worship, or rather, that this distinction has no foundation in Scripture; but is calculated to disguise blasphemy, and vindicate idolatry.