It is impossible to honour God as we ought, unless we know him as he is.
- The outward means or matter of that worship which would be acceptable to God was not known by the light of nature. The law for a worship, and for a spiritual worship by the faculties of our souls, was natural, and part of the law of creation, though the determination of the particular acts whereby God would have this homage testified was of positive institution, and depended not upon the law of creation. Though Adam in innocence knew God was to be worshipped, yet by nature he did not know by what outward acts he was to pay this respect, or at what time he was more solemnly to be exercised in it than at another. This depended upon the directions God, as the sovereign governor and lawgiver, should prescribe. You therefore find the positive institutions of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the determination of the time of worship, Gen. 2:3, 17. Had there been any such notion in Adam naturally, as strong as that other, that a worship was due to God, there would have been found some relics of these modes universally consented to by mankind, as well as of the other. But though all nations have by an universal consent concurred in the acknowledgment of the being of God, and his right to adoration, and the obligation of the creature to it, and that there ought to be some public rule and polity in matters of religion (for no nation hath been in the world without a worship, and without external acts and certain ceremonies to signify that worship), yet their modes and rites have been as various as their climates, unless in that common notion of sacrifices, not descending to them by nature, but tradition, from Adam; and the various ways of worship have been more provoking than pleasing. Every nation suited the kind of worship to their particular ends and polities they designed to rule by. How God was to be worshipped is more difficult to be discerned by nature with its eyes out than with its eyes clear. The pillars upon which the worship of God stands cannot be discerned without revelation,* no more than blind Samson could tell where the pillars of the Philistines’ theatre stood, without one to conduct him. What Adam could not see with his sound eyes, we cannot with our dim eyes; he must be told from heaven what worship was fit for the God of heaven. It is not by nature that we can have such a full prospect of God as may content and quiet us. This is the noble effect of divine revelation, he only knows himself, and can only make himself known to us. It could not be supposed that an infinite God should have no perfections but what were visible in the works of his hands, and that these perfections should not be infinitely greater than as they were sensible in their present effects. This had been to apprehend God a limited being, meaner than he is. Now it is impossible to honour God as we ought, unless we know him as he is; and we could not know him as he is without divine revelation from himself; for none but God can acquaint us with his own nature. And therefore the nations void of this conduct heap up modes of worship from their own imaginations, unworthy of the majesty of God, and below the nature of man. A rational man would scarce have owned such for signs of honour, as the Scripture mentions in the services of Baal and Dagon, much less an infinitely wise and glorious God. And when God had signified his mind to his own people, how unwilling were they to rest satisfied with God’s determination, but would be warping to their own inventions, and make gods, and ways of worship to themselves, Amos 5:26, as in the matter of the golden calf, as was lately spoken of.
Charnock, S. (1864–1866). The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (Vol. 1, pp. 285–286). Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson; G. Herbert.
- How unworthy is it for dust and ashes, kneaded together in time, to strut against the Father of eternity! Much more unworthy for that which is nothing, worse than nothing, to quarrel with that which is only being, and equal himself with him that inhabits eternity.
- God is the most simple being; for that which is first in nature, having nothing beyond it, cannot by any means be thought to be compounded.
- It is impossible to honour God as we ought, unless we know him as he is.
- Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude—an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God.
- True liberty is not the power to live as we please, but to live as we ought!