The Unity of God
Question: Are there more gods than one?
Answer: There is but one only, the living and true God.
That there is a God has been proved; and those that will not believe the verity of his essence, shall feel the severity of his wrath. 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord' (Deut. 6:4). He is 'the only God.' 'Know therefore this day, and consider it in thy heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath, there is none else' (Deut. 4:39). 'A just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me' (Is. 45:21). There are many titular gods. Kings represent God; their regal sceptre is an emblem of his power and authority. Judges are called gods. 'I have said, Ye are gods' (Ps. 82:6); viz., set in God's place to do justice; but dying gods. 'Ye shall die like men' (verse 7). 'There be that are called gods, but to us there is but one God' (1 Cor. 8:5, 6).
I. There is but one First Cause that has its Being of itself, and on which all other beings depend. As in the heavens, the primum mobile moves all the other orbs, so God gives life and motion to everything that exists. There can be but one God, because there is but one First Cause.
II. There is but one infinite Being, therefore there is but one God. There cannot be two infinites. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord' (Jer. 23:24)? If there be one infinite, filling all places at once, how can there be any room for another infinite to subsist?
III. There is but one Omnipotent Power. If there be two Omnipotents, then we must always suppose a contest between these two: that which one would do, the other power, being equal, would oppose, and so all things would be brought into confusion. If a ship should have two pilots of equal power, one would be ever crossing the other; when one would sail, the other would cast anchor; there would be confusion, and the ship must perish. The order and harmony in the world, or the constant and uniform government of all things, is a clear argument that there is but one Omnipotent, one God that rules all. 'I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God' (Is. 44:6).
Use one: Of information: (1) If there be but one God, then it excludes all other gods. Some have feigned that there were two gods; as the Valentinians: others, that there were many gods; as the Polytheists. The Persians worshipped the sun; the Egyptians the lion and elephant; the Grecians worshipped Jupiter. These 'err, not knowing the Scriptures' (Matt. 22:29). Their faith is a fable. 'God hath given them up to strong delusions, to believe a lie, that they may be damned' (2 Thess. 2:11).
(2) if there be but one God, then there can be but one true religion in the world. 'One Lord, one faith' (Eph. 4:5). If there were many gods, then there might be many religions. Every God would be worshipped in his way; but if there be but one God, there is but one religion; one Lord, one faith. Some say, we may be saved in any religion; but it is absurd to imagine that God who is One in essence, should appoint several religions in which he will be worshipped. It is as dangerous to set up a false religion, as to set up a false god. There are many ways to hell; men may go thither which way their fancy leads them; but there is only one direct road to heaven, viz., faith and holiness. There is no way to be saved but this. As there is but one God, so there is but one true religion.
(3) If there be but one God, then there is but One whom you need chiefly to study to please, and that is God. If there were divers gods, we should be hard put to it to please them all. One would command one thing, another the contrary; and to please two contrary masters is impossible: but there is only one God. Therefore you have but One to please. As in a kingdom there is but one king, therefore every one seeks to ingratiate himself into his favour (Prov. 19:6), so there is but one true God; therefore our main work is to please him. Be sure to please God, whoever else you displease. This was Enoch's wisdom. He had this testimony before he died, that 'he pleased God' (Heb. 11:5).
What doth this pleasing God imply?
(1) We please God when we comply with his will. It was Christ's meat and drink to do his Father's will (John 4:34) and so he pleased him. A voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' (Matt. 3:17). It is the will of God that we should be holy (1 Thess. 4:3). Now, when we are bespangled with holiness, our lives are walking Bibles. This is according to God's will, and it pleases him.
(2) We please God when we do the work that he sets us about. 'I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,' viz., my mediatory work (John 17:4). Many finish their lives, but do not finish their work. The work God has cut out for us is, to observe the first and second tables. In the first is set down our duty towards God; in the second, our duty towards man. Such as make morality the chief and sole part of religion, set the second table above the first; nay, they take away the first table; for, if prudence, justice, temperance, be enough to save, then what needs the first table? Thus our worship towards God will be quite left out; but those two tables which God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
(3) We please God when we dedicate our hearts to give him the best of everything. Abel gave God the fat of the offering (Gen. 4:4). Domitian would not have his image carved in wood, or iron, but in gold. We please God when we serve him with love, fervency, and alacrity. These are golden services. There is but one God, therefore there is but one whom we have chiefly to please, namely, God.
(4) If there be but one God, then we must pray to none but God. The Papists pray to saints and angels. (1) To saints. A Popish writer says, "when we pray to the saints departed, they being touched with compassion, say the like to God for us as the disciples did to Christ for the Canaanitish woman. 'Send her away, for she crieth after us'" (Matt. 15:23). The saints above know not our wants; if they did, we have no warrant to pray to them. 'Abraham is ignorant of us' (Is. 63:16). Prayer is a part of divine worship, which must be given to God only. (2) They pray to angels. Angel-worship is forbidden (Col. 2:18, 19). That we may not pray to angels is clear from Romans 10:14. 'How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?' We may not pray to any but whom we may believe in; but we may not believe in any angel, therefore we may not pray to him. There is but one God, and it is a sin to invoke any but God.
(5) If there be but one God, who is 'above all' (Eph. 4:6), then he must be loved above all. We must love him with a love of appreciation; set the highest estimate on him, who is the only fountain of being and bliss. We must love him with a love of complacency. Amor est complacentia amantis amato [The lover's effort to please the beloved, this is love]. Aquinas. Our love to other things must be more indifferent. Some drops of love may run beside to the creature, but the full stream must run towards God. The creature may have the milk of our love, but we must keep the cream for God. He who is above all, must be loved above all. 'There is none on earth whom I desire in comparison of thee' (Ps. 73:25).
Use two: Of caution. If there be but one God, then let us take heed of setting up more gods than one. 'Their sorrows shall be multiplied, that hasten after another god; their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips' (Ps. 16:4). God is a jealous God, and he will not endure that we should have other gods. It is easy to commit idolatry with the creature. (1) Some make a god of pleasure. 'Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God' (2 Tim. 3:4). Whatever we love more than God we make a god. (2) Others make money their god. The covetous man worships the image of gold, therefore he is called an idolater (Eph. 5:5). That which a man trusts to he makes his god; but he makes the wedge of gold his hope; he makes money his creator, redeemer, and comforter. It is his creator; if he has money, he thinks he is made: it is his redeemer; if he be in danger, he trusts in his money to redeem him: it is his comforter; if at any time he be sad, the golden harp drives away the evil spirit: so that money is his god. God made man of the dust of the earth, and man makes a god of the dust of the earth. (3) Another makes a god of his child, sets his child in God's room, and so provokes God to take it away. If you lean too hard upon glass it will break, so many break their children by leaning too hard upon them. (4) Others make a god of their belly. 'Whose god is their belly' (Phil. 3:19). Clement of Alexandria writes of a fish that has its heart in its belly; an emblem of epicures, their heart is in their belly, they mind nothing but indulging the sensual appetite; sacrificant lari [They worship home comforts]; their belly is their god, and to this they pour drink-offerings. Thus men make many gods. The apostle names the wicked man's trinity, 'The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life' (1 John 2:16). The lust of the flesh is pleasure; the lust of the eye, money; the pride of life, honour. Oh take heed of this! Whatever you deify beside God will prove a bramble, and fire will come out of it and devour you (Judges 9:15).
Use three: Of reproof. If the Lord Jehovah be the only true God, it reproves those who renounce the true God, I mean such as seek to familiar spirits, which is too much practised among them that call themselves Christians. It is a sin condemned by the law of God. 'There shall not be found among you any one that consults with familiar spirits' (Deut. 18:11). How common is this! If people have lost any of their goods, they send to wizards to know how they may obtain them again. What is this but consulting with the devil, and so renouncing God and their baptism. What! because you have lost your goods, will you lose your souls too? 'Thus saith the Lord, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Beelzebub' (2 Kings 1:6)? So, is it not because you think there is not a God in heaven that you ask counsel of the devil? If any here be guilty, be deeply humbled, ye have renounced the true God. Better be without the goods ye have lost than have the devil help you to them again.
Use four: Of exhortation. (1) If there be but one God, as God is one, so let them that serve him be one. This is what Christ prayed so heartily for. 'That they all may be one' (John 17:21). Christians should be one, (1) In judgment. The apostle exhorts to be all of one mind (1 Cor. 1:10). How sad is it to see religion wearing a coat of divers colours; to see Christians of so many opinions, and going so many different ways! It is Satan that has sown these tares of division (Matt. 13:39). He first divided men from God, and then one man from another. (2) One in affection. They should have one heart. 'The multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul' (Acts 4:32). As in music, though there be several strings of a viol, yet all make one sweet harmony; so, though there are several Christians, yet there should be one sweet harmony of affection among them. There is but one God, and they that serve him should be one. There is nothing that would render the true religion more lovely, or make more proselytes to it, than to see the professors of it tied together with the heart-strings of love. 'Behold how good and how pleasant a thing it is, to see brethren live together in unity' (Ps. 133:1). It is as the sweet dew on Hermon, and the fragrant ointment poured on Aaron's head. If God be one, let all that profess him be of one mind, and one heart, and thus fulfil Christ's prayer, 'that they all may be one.'
(2) If there be but one God, let us labour to make clear the title that this God is ours. 'This God is our God' (Ps. 48:14). What comfort can it be to hear that there is a God, and that he is the only God, unless he be our God? What is Deity without property in him? Oh let us labour to make clear the title! Beg the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works by faith. By faith we are one with Christ, and through Christ we come to have God for our God, and thus all his glorious fulness is made over to us by a deed of gift.
Use five: Of gratitude. What cause have we to be thankful, that we have the knowledge of the only true God! How many are brought up in blindness! Some worship Mahomet. Many of the Indians worship the devil; they light a candle to him, that he may not hurt them. Such as know not the true God must needs stumble into hell in the dark. Oh let us be thankful that we are born in such a land, where the light of the gospel hath shone. To have the knowledge of the true God is more than if we had mines of gold, rocks of diamonds, islands of spices; especially if God has savingly revealed himself to us; if he has given us eyes to see the light; if we so know God as to be known of him, to love him, and believe in him (Matt. 11:25). We can never be thankful enough to God, that he has hid the knowledge of himself from the wise and prudent of the world, and has revealed it unto us.