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First River -- Idolatry

By Martin Knapp

            "Thou shalt have none other gods before Me." -- Ex. xx, 3.

            Idolatry is the name of the first Stream that we will study which feeds the River of Death.Many think that all Idolators are in heathen lands, and bow down to gods of wood and stone; butthis is a mistake, for ALL ARE IDOLATORS WHO LOVE ANY ONE OR ANYTHING MORETHAN THEY LOVE GOD.

            The following are some of the Idols which boys and girls frequently worship, and do notseem to realize their sin and danger:

            1. The Love of Self. If you love Self more than you love Jesus, then Self has become yourIdol. Do you spend more time thinking about Self, admiring Self, and looking at Self than you do inprayer? When Self is crossed, do you feel vexed? Does it make you jealous when your brother orsister or playmate receives favors or gifts and you do not? If so, then you are seeking the Kingdomof Self instead of seeking the Kingdom of God, and in the Death-boat of Self-idolatry you aredrifting towards your doom.

            2. You ought to love your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your friends andyour foes; but if. you love any one more than you love Jesus, then that one becomes your Idol.People may become Idolators by allowing infatuation to lead to marriage with the ungodly. Theobject of your affections thus becomes your Idol, for God forbids such marriages. See 2 Cor. vi,14; also, my book on "Impressions".

            A dear young girl, a junior in one of our large colleges, became infatuated with an unsavedyoung man. Friends tried to make a "match," and succeeded. She came to us for advice. Wepleaded for her soul, and faithfully warned her of the consequences. They were married. In nosense were they congenial. She was educated and refined; he the opposite. She was pure; he wassensual. She tried to lift him up; he dragged her down until friends scarcely recognized her. Why?Because she was saved; he was unsaved. In one short year she wrote, "My married life has beenbrimful of sorrow, suffering, and anguish." Before three years had passed they had separated, adivorce asked for, and she now has a hard time to support her two children.

            Do you take greater delight in pleasing your friends than in pleasing God? Does it rejoiceyou more to give to them than to give to the suffering cause of Jesus? If God takes your loved onesto Himself, do you rebel and feel hard toward Him for so doing? If any of these things are true,then you have set up an Idol in your heart, where Christ alone should reign.

            Some years ago a father and mother with six children lived in a beautiful country home, soquiet and peaceful, away from the noise and bustle of the world. They had everything to make themhappy. But one night, when all were asleep, mother was suddenly awakened by a peculiar gurglingin the room next to hers. Greatly frightened, she hurried to the bedside, and there lay the eldest,about sixteen, with burning head and hands, trying to breathe. In one hour later the physician said,gravely, "Diphtheria." With the gray light of morning she slipped away to be with Jesus, whom sheso much loved.

            In another week the sister who slept with her was laid, in the evening twilight, in the littlehill cemetery beside her. By this time father and mother, who had professed to love Jesus, foundthemselves bitterly rebelling.

            One month slipped away, and two more little graves were made; then one week more, andtogether, in one coffin, baby and little sister were laid away until the resurrection morning. Notongue can describe the heart-agony of father and mother. Their hair began turning white, but,above all, their hearts into stone; by hot rebellion against Him, they lost the joy and peace fromtheir hearts, and missed the sweet, tender, comforting presence of Jesus to soothe and help them.

            Today the home stands beautiful and still; but father and mother are far, far from God. Theyhad, unconsciously, made Idols of the children.

            3. Business. Many grown people make this an Idol which they worship. They give theirlives to their own Business, and little or nothing to God's Business. They say their Business mustbe attended to, and so neglect their souls and the worship of God, who made them. This has provento be one of the most alluring, successful Boats on which Satan has shipped multitudes over theFatal Falls. Beware, children, as you older grow, lest you enter in. Good Business is right, if donerightly and for God; but if its claims are pressed before His, it is a curse instead of a blessing.

            4. Worldly Pleasure. God gives all His true children Pleasures for evermore. He makestheir peace like a river, and fills them with the fullness of His joy. Satan has his sham Pleasures,which amuse for a little time, and then die out, and leave a fatal burn. One of the positive proofsthat millions are drifting down this awful Stream is that they are "lovers of Pleasure more thanlovers of God." Do you love your own Pleasure more than you love to please Jesus? Do you playwhen you should study or help papa or mamma? If so, look out! Many have floated down thisStream so far that they love to visit and go on excursions on the holy Sabbath-day instead of to thehouse of God. They love the theater, the dance, worldly songs, the circus, playing cards, and otherwicked amusements more than they love communion with God and the company of His people andsongs of salvation. They are thoughtless, worldly, gay, and giddy, forgetful that they are driftingtoward the Falls and that an awful Eternity is just before them. Like Belshazzar of old, theirPleasure is short and their eternal doom certain. Have you not read in the Bible how he saileddown this River in the Boat of Worldly Pleasure? How quickly it capsized and drifted over theFalls of Eternal Despair! All who sail in it, unless rescued by Saving Grace, will suffer similarwreckage. Many other gaily-painted Boats drift down this black Stream. Some love theirReputation more than God, and care more about what men think of them than what God thinks. Allwho do so, make that their Idol. Others give greater honor to their own views than they do to Godand His Word. Such worship their own Opinions. If you have not given up all Sin, and yielded toJesus and been converted, if you love some one or something more than God, you are driftingdown this deceptive River. The awful wickedness of this Sin is seen from the following facts:

            God has made us, redeemed us, keeps us every moment, and gives us every blessing whichwe have. Therefore we should love Him more and serve Him better than any one else.

            He has made us for His own glory, and demands that we give Him our first and greatestlove. To refuse to do this would be like plucking the sun from the heavens and leaving darkness inits place.

            Did you ever think how badly it would make your parents feel if they should discover thatyou are loving their gifts more than you love them?

            What would you think of a kingdom that would drive a kind, good king from the throne, andput a wicked person in his place, and obey and worship him? Yet all do this who are breaking theFirst Commandment and daring to sail down this black River of Idolatry, which bears all upon itsbosom into the River of Death and over the Fatal Falls to eternal night.

            If you break this Commandment, and love some one or something more than you love Him,you defy His love and authority; you lose His help; you discard His salvation, holiness, andheaven, and choose to drift down to Christless, endless, hopeless, awful night.

            If you are in this River, will you not just now give up all Sin, submit to Jesus, trust Him tosave you call earnestly to Him for help, and thus leap into the Life-boat? Then Jesus will enteryour heart, and show you how to so die to every Idol and trust Him that He will cleanse your heartfrom all Sin and abide in it forever. Are you not ready to say:

      "The dearest idol I have known,
      Whate'er that idol be,
      Just now I tear it from Thy throne,
      And worship only Thee?"

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