Section navigation

Zeal for God’s Glory

Category Articles
Date October 18, 2019

That supreme reverence for the glory of God which prompted Jesus to regard not his life dear unto him, provided his Father’s honour were maintained, must be the dominant principle of action in every Christian heart. The Divine character must be sacred in our eyes. The jealousy which the prophet Elijah expressed for the Lord God of hosts, which Paul felt when he beheld the Athenians devoted to superstition, is no transient sentiment of extraordinary zeal nor sudden ebullition of romantic impulse: it is the steady, settled, pervading principle of the Christian life.

To be a Christian is to love God, and to love God is to reverence his name. In proportion to the intensity of this principle will be our efforts to vindicate the Divine honour from reproach. We hate sin not merely because its consequences are disastrous, or its forms repugnant to our tastes and sensibilities, but because it is a reflection upon God. In all its exhibitions it is essentially enmity against him, but there are manifestations of it which assume the distinctive character of a libel upon his name. Idolatry, Superstition, Socinianism, all the types of Paganism, do not more conclusively demonstrate that man is by nature a religious being, than they demonstrate that the carnal mind is enmity against God. The abominations of the Gentile world are not the crude rites of mankind, as many philosophers would have us believe, adapted to the infancy of human knowledge, expressing the natural sentiments of piety and reverence in a form as yet imperfectly developed, and promoting the education of the race in larger and juster views. They are not tendencies towards God in the direction of a proper worship. They are not the feeble and obscure utterances of childhood, sincere and honest, but uninstructed. They are not the results of involuntary ignorance. On the contrary, they are stages of degradation which men have successively reached in their apostasy from God; they are the utterances of alienated hearts, the slanders of malignant and poisoned tongues. The heavens declare God’s glory and the firmament showeth his handiwork; the invisible things of him are clearly seen, even his eternal power and Godhead, being understood by the things that are made. Creation and providence, the structure and laws of our own souls, proclaim his being, his attributes and his will; so that men are without excuse. The real difficulty is their reluctance to glorify his name. Hence, they become vain in their imaginations, suppress the light of nature, and their foolish heart is darkened. Hence it is that they have changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Hence it is that they have changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. This is the natural history of Paganism. When the Christian man contemplates this spectacle; when he rises to some mount of vision and passes in review before him the heathen and anti-Christian tribes of earth; when he hears one unbroken voice of blasphemy and slander ascending from every tongue against that Name which angels pronounce with awe — is there no sentiment of indignation, no spirit of zeal for the Lord God of hosts? Can we hear our God traduced and reviled, and yet hold our peace? Can we witness unceasing libels on his character, and yet take no step to vindicate his injured honour?  Can we pretend to have the spirit of our Master, who was clad with zeal as a cloak, when we can gaze unmoved upon the abominations of a world lying in wickedness, which have been introduced by the archenemy of God in order to insult and reproach him?

Your national banner is insulted; your blood boils in your veins, and you cannot rest until the wrong has been repaired. Your earthly friend is reviled in your presence; you would scorn yourself if you could submit with patience. But all wrongs are tolerable provided it is only God who is their object! You must not tarnish my country’s name, you must not reproach my patron nor my friend, you must taint with infamy no earthly object that I love or prize; but God, the God who made me, the God who redeemed me, the God who keeps me, whose air I breathe, whose earth I walk, and whose heaven I hope to gain — why, upon him you may trample and pour contempt, with nothing to fear from me! Is this the Christian spirit? Is this the spirit which brought Jesus from the skies and nailed him to the cross? Is this the love which we bear to our Father’s name? Oh no, no! Our souls are stirred within us, stirred to their very depths, when we behold a world joined in conspiracy to darken the glory of God. Our hearts are moved, the fire burns within, and we must speak.

But you object that these reproaches cannot injure the Almighty nor disturb the eternal tranquillity of his throne. Why, then, be so concerned about them?  Simply because they are lies and frauds. They traduce his character, and withhold from him his due. Is your indignation against theft measured exclusively by the injury which the party may sustain in the loss of property? –your abhorrence of scandal founded alone upon the probability of its success? Is this the secret of your zeal for the honour of your friend? Is there no sense of right, no sense of justice, no sense of truth? Is there no such thing as an honest desire that the truth should be known because it is the truth? Has a miserable utilitarian philosophy exploded from amongst us the first principles of morals? God is glorious; the Christian man knows it, and he wants all the world to know it, and his anxiety to spread the truth is in proportion to the enormity of the lie which is supplanting it. The Christian man loves God, and loves him with all his heart, mind, soul and strength; and the spontaneous dictate of love is to maintain the rights and vindicate the worth of the object to which it is directed. The more completely undisturbed the Divine throne is by the calumnies of sin, the more eager is the impulse to set the truth before the nations of the earth, because the more undisturbed it is the more flagrant is the falsehood, the deeper is the shame.

My brethren, this motive is no visionary thing. It has animated the people of God in all ages and under all dispensations of religion; and if we are not sensible of its ascendency in our own hearts, we have reason to question whether we are fit for that communion in which Moses is found, who ground the calf to powder; Elijah, who destroyed the prophets of Baal; and Paul and Barnabas, who were shocked at the proposal to pay them Divine honours. We have reason to distrust our sympathy with him who made his soul an offering for sin in the spirit of intense adoration of the holiness of God. Our zeal can never be put to any such test as that of our Master. We are not required to expiate guilt. All that is demanded of us is to speak. We are not to energize commensurately with that holiness; we are only to proclaim it, and to proclaim him in whom it has been conspicuously displayed. Let us look at his work and then at ours, and can we, for very shame, settle down in indifference?


This article is an extract from Thornwell’s Collected Writings, vol. 2, 428-431.

More on the Glory of God

    cover image for 'Heart For God' by Sinclair Ferguson
    price $11.00 $9.90

    Description

    That supreme reverence for the glory of God which prompted Jesus to regard not his life dear unto him, provided his Father’s honour were maintained, must be the dominant principle of action in every Christian heart. The Divine character must be sacred in our eyes. The jealousy which the prophet Elijah expressed for the Lord […]

    This God Our God

    Creator, Judge, Saviour

    by Archibald G. Brown


    price From: $11.50

    Description

    That supreme reverence for the glory of God which prompted Jesus to regard not his life dear unto him, provided his Father’s honour were maintained, must be the dominant principle of action in every Christian heart. The Divine character must be sacred in our eyes. The jealousy which the prophet Elijah expressed for the Lord […]

    Cover image for the Identity and Attributes of God by Terry Johnson
    price $29.00 $23.20
    Avg. Rating

    Description

    That supreme reverence for the glory of God which prompted Jesus to regard not his life dear unto him, provided his Father’s honour were maintained, must be the dominant principle of action in every Christian heart. The Divine character must be sacred in our eyes. The jealousy which the prophet Elijah expressed for the Lord […]

Latest Articles

A Letter to a Minister’s Wife November 12, 2019

The following is taken from the excellent Memoir of John H. Rice, W. H. Maxwell (Philadelphia; 1835), pp. 334-337 * * * Union Theological Seminary, Feb. 13th, 1828 My Dear Jane, I have a thousand times purposed to write to you, since your marriage; but have never yet seen the time when I could fulfil my intentions. […]

The First Nonconformist Ordinations in Yorkshire November 8, 2019

The years between 1662 and 1689 witnessed the ejection from the National Church Establishment, and then the persecution of approaching two thousand of the best ministers England has ever possessed.  The Act of Uniformity, the immediate cause of their ejection, was soon followed by the Conventicle and Five Mile Acts.  The former prevented their gathering […]