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president of husbandry; and therefore, sometimes worshipped in the shape of that animal, under the name of Apis. There is reference to this ox in the 106th Psalm, as follows: "They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped a molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass."
By these references to history, both sacred and profane, we are led to suppose, that this image was worshipped in Egypt for nearly four hundred years before the Israelites went out of that country. These Israelites had, no doubt, imbibed many superstitions which were incorporated into the Egyptian worship; and a veneration for this idol among the rest.
When, therefore, the people demanded of Aaron to make them gods to go before them, he well knew the form of the image which would best suit their superstition; and accordingly shaped the similitude of an ox.
Our text informs us, that "the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf which Aaron made." We are not to suppose that the divine ruler of the universe becomes inimical towards his creatures, because of their foolish idolatry; but it is the established law of nature, that consequences must follow their causes. If people worship a Deity, who is able to protect them, who is, of his own accord, willing to do all for them which they need, they have then no trouble, are at no expense to do for their Deity; but they have rest and confidence. But if they worship a god of their own imaginations, one formed according to superstition, they must stand in awe and fear of him, according to the attributes which they give him. They must do for him, for he cannot do for them. The true God takes care of, and provides for his people; but the people must take care of, and provide for a false god. In this way, all false worship, and all false doctrines and religions, tend to plague
their votaries, and bring them into torment. In this way likewise, all manner of wickedness operates to the disadvantage of transgressors, naturally tending to render them unblessed and miserable.
We shall now proceed to apply the subject of our text to represent the false religion of our own times; and the craft of a priesthood by which the people are led into error. As the children of Israel were brought up and educated in Egypt, and as they had in their youth imbibed many superstitions, they were prepared to be imposed upon, even by their own inventions. So, my friends, it is with the people in our day; they are educated in their youth, according to many vain superstitions. These vanities, in process of time, become incorporated into their religion, and are venerated as divine principles.
The clergy so contrive as to have the grossest errors and most unreasonable superstitions taught to children, and impressed on their tender minds with all possible solemnity. What are called Sunday schools are particularly improved for such purposes. The child is informed, in the first place, that its nature is altogether bad, that it is an entirely depraved being; that its very nature is such as it is at enmity against God; and that it hates God: also that God is a being who possesses infinite indignation and wrath towards all such; and that he has prepared a burning lake of brimstone, into which they who are thus sinners, are exposed to fall every moment. The child is informed that it deserves to be sent to hell forever; and that it is suspended over the burning lake by the brittle thread of life, and that the divine wrath, like an all devouring flame, is extending itself to consume this thread, and to precipitate is victim into remediless woe. od
The child, who is thus taught, surely would never
have thought of these things, if it had not been told him. It feels no hatred towards God, until a god of a hateful character is erroneously held up to his mind. It would know nothing of this natural depravity, if its instructors had not imposed, such an idea on it. Nothing in nature would ever have suggested to the child, that it deserved to go to hell forever after death. Nothing in the economy of divine providence would ever have suggested to his mind, that the divine ruler was possessed of an unmerciful vengeance and wrath towards him. All these are unnatural, unreasonable ideas; they are the work of erroneous imaginations, fostered by superstition and priestcraft.
Agreeably to this erroneous beginning, priestcraft goes on with its labors, and endeavors to establish a religion consisting of attributes of a similar description. And the religion, the duty, and the whole scheme of what passes for divinity with our schools of error, correspond as perfectly with those errors taught to children, as the Horeb calf did with the Apis of Egypt. The preachers of antichristian doctrines endeavor, to the utmost of their abilities, using all their learning, all their arts, and all the powers of eloquence, to operate on the fears of their hearers. From pulpits people are in the habit of hearing labored representations of the torments of a future state, under the dispensation of the divine vengeance; and he is called the best preacher who can succeed in the most horrible representation of the divine character, and of the miseries of the future world. Such preaching, being assisted with other corresponding means, frequently produces what are called awakenings, excitements, revivals, and reformations. Some, one or two, are exercised with great distress of mind; fears of hell are worked up in their apprehensions, and they are said to be convicted of sin. Now is the
time for Aaron the priest to exert his skill. He goes to these unhappy wretches, and putting on all the gloom of countenance which the rigidity of his profess ion has rendered familiar, and modulating his voice in a way to heighten the horrors which already occupy the mind, he prefaces with several long and deep sighs, and then proceeds to gather ear rings and jewels as follows; Do you view yourself lost and undone by nature? Do you now realize that you hate God? Do you see the holiness of the divine vengeance for your sins, and the justice in your being sent to hell forever? All these jewels are delivered to the priest, and of them he forms the calf. When every feature of this Egyptian god is perfectly formed, it is customary for the priest to pronounce the subject of these horrors, hopefully converted. We frequently find published in religious papers, and in religious tracts, accounts of these wonderful conversions. The narration will detail the particular exercises of the mind, and set forth the views which the subject had, when it is supposed that the divine spirit had the control. In these accounts we are informed that poor sinners were made sensible of their lost condition by nature, their desperate hatred towards God, and the justice of the divine law in demanding their utter destruction. And sometimes it is carefully inserted, that the converts were deeply impressed with the entire falsity of the doctrine of universal salvation. But the priests, who give us these accounts, are as careful not to intimate that they were the authors of all these views and exercises, as Aaron was not to own that he formed the molten calf and fashioned it with a graving tool. But whoever will take the liberty to examine these things, and compare them; whoever will judge of them according to the common rules of judging of other things, will be satisfied at once, that all their gloomy fears, all
their erroneous notions about the depravity of our nature, and of our natural hatred towards God, of God's enmity and wrath towards us, and of the justice of our eternal condemnation, when brought together and consolidated into one mass, is nothing but a Moloch formed by priestcraft; an idol produced in the schools of superstition, and carefully guarded by the holy office.
My friends, I solemnly declare that I feel no opposition, no enmity against any denomination of religionists in the world, if I know my own heart. These remarks are not designed against men, against my fellow beings; but I acknowledge my determined opposition to all priestcraft, to all religious deception; and I openly avow my entire devotedness to the work of rending the vail of superstition from the minds of men, to the utmost of my feeble abilities. I hold in utter abhorrence the craft and art by which thousands are deceived, and made to believe, that the spirit of God teaches these abominations, which are as unlike God, as was the Moloch of the ancients, to whom thousands of innocent children were sacrificed. If we can be persuaded to believe that the divine spirit teaches such religion as we have noticed, then, of course, it becomes our duty to kneel before it, and honor it with the devotion of our hearts. It appears to have been the design of Aaron to deceive Moses, and make him believe that the calf was miraculously formed, when he knew that he formed it himself. I should be glad, with all my heart, to save Aaron from this imputation, but it is out of my power. And I should be equally glad to save our antichristian clergy from the imputations here suggested, but it is equally out of my power. Every feature, every attribute of false religion, is a direct and palpable testimony that the spirit of the true God has nothing to do with its whole scheme. The fingers of the priests of Baal have