Romans 1:22
No charge more acutely stings a man than that of being considered senseless; he would rather be deemed a knave than a fool. The apostle shows that man, whom God created upright that he might behold God and heavenly things, has continually gazed at the earth, and become prone like the beasts. Thus bending, he has wrapped his soul in shadow, and his religion, instead of a blessing, has proved a curse.

I. THE WORSHIP OF IMAGES ORIGINATES IN A NATURAL CRAVING FOR A SENSIBLE EMBODIMENT OF DEITY. Abstract ideas have little charm or power for men, and the worship of force or humanity can never attract the multitudes. The yearning for a visible God was answered in the Shechinah, and in the many appearances of the angel of Jehovah, and has received fullest recognition in the manifestation of God in Christ. The spirituality of Divine worship was to be preserved in Israel by the commandment not to rear graven images, and the ascension of Christ to heaven, withdrawing the Saviour from mortal eyes, is likewise intended to protect Christianity from the dangers liable to a system whose votaries should "walk by sight" rather than by faith. The Scriptures and universal history demonstrate the rapidity with which, as in the Roman Catholic Church to-day, men's homage and devotion are transferred from the Being represented, to the statue or figure which at first stood innocently enough as his symbol. There is a danger of modern literature seeking too much "to know Christ after the flesh," instead of relying upon the assistance furnished by the teaching of the Spirit, the invisible Christ dwelling in the heart.

II. THE TENDENCY OF IMAGE-WORSHIP IS TO DEGRADE RELIGION. The argument of Xenophanes, ridiculing the Homeric theology that if sheep and oxen were to picture a god, they would imagine him like one of themselves, only showed that natural religion, in framing a notion of Deity, rightly attributes to him the highest attributes of personality and intelligence conceivable. And the Apostle Paul accused the Athenians of unreasonableness in fancying that the great Father could be supposed to be less powerful and intelligent than his children. But without supernatural aid man sinks lower and lower in his conceptions; the direction of evolution in religion is downward, not upward, except where there is a manifest interposition of the Supreme Being. Note how strenuously the prophets had to combat the desire of Israel to ally themselves in worship with the abominable idolatries of the nations around. Man, selected as God's representative, becomes man in his lowest moods and merely animal existence; the transition is easy to the wise-looking owl and soaring eagle, then to the cow and the dog, and finally to the serpent and the fish. The unity of God is lost in the multiplicity of idols, and his power and righteousness swamped in bestial stupidity and depravity. Religious rites became scenes of licentiousness. "The light that was in men has turned to darkness, and how great is that darkness!"

III. THE WORSHIPPER GRADUALLY ASSIMILATES HIMSELF TO THE OBJECT WORSHIPPED. Man does not rise higher in thought and life than the Deity before whom he bows and to whom he submits himself; but he may, and too generally does, adopt the worst features of the character and conduct of his gods. What we constantly meditate upon transforms us into its own lineaments. Where the lower animals are deified, there the passions of the brutes are rampant, and a merely animal existence is lived. The lie substituted for the truth shunts man's behaviour on to another line, and a descending plane lands him in moral ruin. "They that make the gods are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them." The revelation God gives of himself in his Word operates reversely on a similar principle, so that "we beholding as in a glass the true glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image;" and, the image of God in man being restored, the likeness to God to which we are made to attain grows unto perfection, till "we shall be like him, when we shall see him as he is." - S.R.A.







Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.
Futility of thought has reached the character of folly. What, in fact, is polytheism, except a sort of permanent hallucination, a collective delirium, a possession on a great scale? And this mental disorder rose to a kind of perfection among the very peoples who, more than others, laid claim to the glory of wisdom. When he says, "professing to be wise," Paul does not mean to stigmatise ancient philosophy absolutely; he only means that all that labour of the sages did not prevent, the most civilised nations — Egypt, Greece, and Rome — from being at the same time the most idolatrous of antiquity. The popular imagination, agreeably served by priests and poets, did not allow the efforts of the wise to dissipate this delirium.

(Prof. Godet.)

Biblical Museum.
In every department of knowledge, but especially in religion, boasting of wisdom is alike the proof and parent of folly.

I. IT LEADS A MAN TO GO BEYOND THE LIMITS OF HIS OWN POWERS, and to meddle with matters too high for him, OR ELSE TO REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN ANYTHING WHICH HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OR GRASP.

1. In either case this ends in folly. For the wisest and the most ignorant are on a par when they speculate upon subjects which transcend human thought, or over which God has been pleased to place an impenetrable veil.

2. He who believes in truth taught by nature and revelation is wiser than the so-called philosopher, who declines to receive anything but what his human intellect and finite powers can explain or fully grasp.

II. IT LEADS A MAN TO DISPENSE WITH THE HELP to be derived from the labours, remarks, or suggestions OF OTHERS, AS WELL AS TO ADVANCE THE MOST ABSURD OPINIONS, and to maintain them with the most inveterate obstinacy for the sake of notoriety.

III. IT MAKES A MAN TOO WILLING TO ACCEPT HIS OWN CONCLUSIONS without sufficient and searching examinations.

IV. IT IGNORES GOD'S LAW THAT THE TEMPLE OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE MUST BE ENTERED ONLY BY THE GATE OF HUMILITY.

(Biblical Museum.)

And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image
The glory of God is the splendour which His manifested perfections cast into the heart of His intelligent creatures; hence a bright image which is to man the ideal of all that is good. This image had been produced within them. What did they make of it? The sequel tells. While holding the Divine person, they wrapped it up, as it were in the likeness of its opposite; it would have been almost better to leave it in silence — it would not have been so great an affront. The preposition ἐν exactly describes this imprisonment of the Divine glory in a form ignoble and grotesque. The epithet "incorruptible" is, as it were, a protest beforehand against this degradation.

(Prof. Godet.)

Idolatry according to Paul is not a progressive stage reached in the religious thought of mankind starting from primeval fetishism. Far from being a first step towards the goal of Monotheism. Polytheism is, on the contrary, the result of degeneracy, an apostasy from the original Monotheism, a darkening of the understanding and heart which has terminated in the grossest fetishism. The history of religions, thoroughly studied nowadays, fully justifies Paul's view. It shows that the present heathen peoples of India and Africa, far from rising of themselves to a higher religious state, have only sunk, age after age, and become more and more degraded. It proves that at the root of all pagan religions and mythologies there lies an original Monotheism, which is the historical starting point in religion for all mankind.

(Prof. Godet.)

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