Puritan David Clarkson outlined thirteen means of what he called “soul worship.” What follows is a condensed version of his most helpful treatise, “Soul Idolatry Excludes Men From Heaven.”
1. Esteem. That which we most highly value we make our God; to have an high esteem of other things, when we have low thoughts of God, is idolatry.
2. Mindfulness. That which most consumes our thoughts. Thinking otherwise of God than he has revealed himself, or minding other things as much or more than God, is idolatry.
3. Intention. Goals, aspirations, our great aims in life all reveal the primary motivations of the heart and are therefore useful in the discovery of soul-idolatry. God is to be our chief aim; all other goals are to lie in the direction of Him.
4. Resolution. When we resolve presently for other things, but refer our resolves for God to the future; let me get enough of the world, of my pleasure, of my lusts, now; I will think of God hereafter, in old age, in sickness, on a death-bed: these are idolatrous resolutions; God is thrust down, the creatures and your lusts advanced into the place of God; and that honour which is due only to him you give unto them. This is unquestionable idolatry.
5. Love. That which we most love we worship as our God; for love is an act of soul-worship… Love, whenever it is inordinate, it is an idolatrous affection.
6. Trust. That which we most trust we make our god; for confidence and dependence is an act of worship which the Lord calls for as duo only to himself.
7. Fear. That which we most fear we worship as our god; for fear is an act of worship… Those, therefore, who fear other things more than God; who are more afraid to offend men than to displease God; who fear more to lose any outward enjoyment…who fear outward sufferings… who hath rather sin than suffer… they stand guilty of idolatry, that which is here threatened.
8. Hope. That which we make our hope we worship as God; for hope is an act of worship
9. Desire. That which we most desire we worship as our god; for that which is chiefly desired, is the chief good in his account who so desires it; and what he counts his chief good, that he makes his god.
10. Delight. That which we most delight and rejoice in, that we worship as God… That which is our delight above all things we glory in it; and this 18 the prerogative which the Lord chaflenges, 1 Cor. i. 31, Jer. ix. 23, 24.
11. Zeal. That for which we are more zealous we worship as god; for such a zeal is an act of worship due only to God… This is idolatrous; for it shews something is dearer to us than God; and whatever that be, it is an idol; and thy zeal for it is thy worshipping of it, even with that worship which is due only to God.
12. Graitude. That to which we are most grateful, that we worship as God… To ascribe that which comes from God unto the creatures, is to set them in the place of God, and so to worship them.
13. When our care and industry is more for other things than for God… When you are more careful and industrious to please men, or yourselves, than to please God; to provide for yourselves and posterity, than to be serviceable unto God… while the God of heaven is neglected, and the worship and service due unto him alone is hereby idolatrously given to other things…”
Adapted from: David Clarkson, <http://richardsibbes.com/Clarkson-Idolatry.pdf>, p 5-9