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the worship of the one true and living God, with an abundance of those spiritual provisions with which Sion is blessed. And may the divine glory abide in this house ; may there be wholesome meat on the table of the Lord in this place continually, for you and for your children for a long time to come. And may it also please God to continue your happy union, and your good agreement and friendly intercourse with the other Christian societies in this place.
THE GOLDEN CALF.
DELIVERED IN BOSTON ON THE FOURTH SABBATH IN FIB. 1822.
EXODUS XXXII. 35.
“And the Lord plagued the people because they made the calf which
When Moses, the Jewish law-giver, was called into Mount Horeb, or Sinai, to receive the tables of the law from the hand of the Lord, he was absent from the congregation so long as to render the people uneasy. The people, therefore, came to Aaron the priest, and said, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us ; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” Aaron, it seems, was like many modern priests, very much disposed to please the people, whether he pleased God, or not. “And Aaron said unto them, break off the golden ear-rings which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden ear-rings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand; and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf; and they said, these be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, tomorrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up
early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."
The hearer will be careful to keep in mind this account of the making of the calf; for we shall find that Aaron gave a very different representation to Moses afterwards, when he found that Moses' wrath was hot against him for this wickedness. The Lord informed Moses in the mount, of the idolatry of the people; and sent hiin down immediately. “And Moses said unto Aaron, what did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Jet not the anger of my lord wax hot; thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, make us gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.” You perceive here, that Aaron gives no intimation that he had any hand in forming this image ; but endeavours, with all craftiness, to exonerate himself from any blame. In the first place, he referred Moses to what he himself knew of the people; that they were set on mischief. This answered as an excuse for his complying with their demand. This is the way that priestcraft excuses itself in our day. If preachers are asked why they preach such absurdities, such nonsense, doctrines not taught in the scriptures, doctrines which are dishonourable to both God and man—they refer to the wickedness of the people; and say that nothing else will suit them or their circumstances. The real fact is, they are afraid if they do not continue in the traditions in which they have been educated, the will be discontinued in their professional labours. Aaron, no doubt, was afraid of losing his office, if he did not please the people: he therefore made
it his study to do it. He furthermore said to Moses, “then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.” Here was an evident design to deceive Moses, and make him think that a miracle had been wrought to produce this image ; for how could it happen that gold ear-rings cast into the fire, should come out in the shape of a calf, if some invisible power had not given it form? And surely if a miracle had produced this image, the people might be justified in paying it divine honours; and Aaron was by no means censurable for what an invisible power had effected.
By referring to history, we may be satisfied respecting the way in which this image of a calf became the idol of these Israelites. Diodorus Siculus mentions Remphis, a king of Egypt, about the time that Jacob went down there, and says of him, that he gathered an infinite mass of wealth ; and left behind him at his death, four million talents; which makes it probable that he was the prince, which in the famine, by the advice of Joseph, got all the wealth of Egypt, and of the neighbouring countries into his hands. This person was afterwards worshipped as a god, for having saved his country in time of famine; and was accordingly placed among the stars. This star, it seerns, was Saturn; for in an old Egyptian alphabet, Saturn is called Reephan. St. Stephen, in the 7th of Acts, assists us in this inquiry. He says, alluding to this image—“And they made a call in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol ; and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan; figures which ye made to worship them.” Concerning this Prince of Egypt, there is a tradition in Suidas, (which the author whom I consult says is) very intelligible. This tradition says of Apis, the Egyptian god, that he was a certain rich man, to whom, at his death, they erected a temple; in which an ox was fed, as being the hieroglyphic of an husbandman. By which, it appears,
that this was the calf or bullock worshipped by the Israelites. Saturn being among the gentiles 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 the 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