Becoming Our Own Gods

From “Sermon on Exodus 20:3 (1632)

Other gods are no gods at all; they are nothing. “We know that an idol is nothing,” says St. Paul. And where nothing is, we say nothing can be had…

If we regard anything more than God, it is another god to us. And again, if we regard not God and his will above all, he is no God to us at all… It is in this case as between a rebel and his prince: he would have another to be king, that other is as good as nothing, for the prince says there is no other king but himself; and though the rebel would not have it so and would set up another… yet the truth is, the rebel has no other king… and shall still have him to be his king, whether he accounts him so or not.

This is the case between God and us. When we would exempt ourselves from this service we rebel against him, we set up another god at home in our heart and we regard God not, we have God not, that is, we have God not as we should have him, in that honor, fear, and regard…

I compared the law of God to a building. In a building the foundation must be first laid, and this is the foundation here of all that follows, the first proposition, that we must have a God. I doubt not that we shall all agree with the psalmist, to condemn the one as a fool who says, “There is no God.” The very heathens themselves would not say it.

Indeed, this to have God, that we have not ourselves, and become our own gods.  For we become our own gods when we are not guided by him… The duty then enjoined, you see, is that the will of God must be our will; that his law must be our rule and guide; and then we have God.

John Cosin (1594-1672) was an English theologian and liturgical scholar. A committed high churchman, he lost his position as master of Peterhouse College, Cambridge during the English Civil War, and went into exile in France. At the Restoration, he returned to England, becoming Bishop of Durham in 1660. Cosin’s sermon on Exodus 20:8 was written during his early ministry, when he was serving as Archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

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