Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Images of Christ: Indifferent Imaginations?" by Christopher Coldwell

Read Christipher Coldwell's article "Images of Christ: Indifferent Imaginations?" here. Download the PDF of the article in the The Blue Banner, v3#7-8.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jonathan Sims - The Fear of Man is Idolatry

Download and listen to Jonathan Sim's sermon "The Fear of Man" here (mp3).The sermon is on Proverbs 29:25. Also, read Psalm 118, Matthew 10:24-39, and Revelation 21:1-9.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14
13Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
14Let all that you do be done in love.



77- Christ's apostle Paul saith, We ought not to think that God is like gold, silver, carved stones, or any such thing as man imagineth.

The Pope and his adherents say, that he is like a stock and a stone, and causeth men to make images of him, though God commanded contrary, saying, Thou shalt make no graven image, neither any manner of similitude of those things which are in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, neither of those things which are in the water, or under the earth, neither shalt thou honour or worship them. Good Christian, beware of these idols, as St. John counselleth thee. Truly I think it be one of the greatest causes of this excœcation which God hath sent into the world for sin.

William Tyndale on the Obedience of a Christian Man, the Supper of the Lord, Romans, & First John

Here are selections from William Tyndale's exposition of the First Epistle of John, which can be downloaded and read here; especially note Tyndales commentary on 1 John 4:12):

Tyndale on 1 John 2:22,

Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is Christ? The same is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

'Forasmuch as antichrist and Christ are two contraries, and the study of antichrist is to quench the name of Christ, how can the Romish bishop and his sects be antichrist when they all preach Christ?' 'How was,' say I again to thee, 'Pelagius, whose doctrine the bishop of Rome defendeth the highest degree, antichrist, and all other heretics?' Verily, sir, the bishop of Rome seeketh himself, as all heretics did ; and abuseth the name of Christ, to gather offerings, tithes, and rents in his name, to bestow them unto his own honour and not Christ's, and to bring the conscience of the people into captivity under him through superstitious fear, as though he had such authority given him of Christ. And every syllable, that hath a sound as though it made for his purpose, that he expoundeth falsely and fleshly; and therewith juggleth and bewitcheth the ears of the people, and maketh them own possession, to believe what him listeth, as though it made no matter to them whether he preached true or false, so they believe and do as he biddeth them. But all the texts that shew him to do his duty, he putteth out of the way; and all the texts thereto, that set the consciences at liberty in Christ, and prove our salvation to be in Christ only. And, with Pelagius, he preacheth the justifying of works; which is the denying of Christ. He preacheth a false binding and loosing with ear-confession, which is not in the trust and confidence of Christ's blood-shedding. He preacheth the false penance of deeds ; not to tame the flesh that we sin no more, but to make satisfaction, and to redeem the sin that is past : which what other can it be, save the denying of Christ, which is the only redemption of sin? He maketh of the works of the ceremonies, which were wont to be signs and remembrances of things to be believed or done, image-service unto God and his saints, which are spirits, to purchase with the merits of them whatsoever the blind soul imagineth ; which all are the denying of Christ. For if thou wilt receive any anointing of grace or mercy any whence, save of him, he is no longer Christ unto thee. Christ is called Jesus, a Saviour ; he is called Christus, king anointed over all men, of whom they must hold, and whose benefit must all they have. He is called Emmanuel, God is with us: for he only maketh God our God, our strength, power, sword and shield, and shortly our Father. He is called Sanctus, that is, holy, that halloweth, sanctifieth and blesseth all nations. And these be his names for ever, and be no names of hypocrisy: as we sometimes call him Thomas Curteis, which is but a churl; and as we call them curates, which care for their parishes as the wolf for the flock; and them bishops, that are overseers, which will so oversee, that they will suffer nought to be prosperous save their own commonwealth; and as some call themselves dead, which live in all voluptuousness; and as some call themselves poor, without having any thing proper, and yet live in all abundance; and as they shave and disguise themselves with garments and ornaments, to signify ever a contrary thing than that they be.

Nay, Christ is no hypocrite, or disguised, that playeth a part in a play, and representeth a person or state which he is not ; but is always that his name signifieth, he is ever a Saviour, and ever anointeth with grace, and ever maketh God with us, and ever sanctifieth. Neither is there any other to save and sanctify from sin or anoint with grace, or to set God at one with men. And these things which his name signify doth he ever unto all that have trust and confidence in his blood as soon as they repent of the sin which they desire to be saved and sanctified from.

Now though the pope and his sects give Christ these names, yet in that they rob him of the effect, and take the significations of his names unto themselves, and make of him but an hypocrite, as they themselves be, they be right antichrists and deny both the Father and Son. For they deny the witness that the Father bare unto his Son, and deprive the Son of all the power and glory that his Father gave him.

Tyndale on 1 John 4:2,

Hereby know ye the spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God. And the same is that spirit of antichrist, of whom ye have heard that he should come ; and even now he is in the world already.

Whatsoever opinion "any member of antichrist holdeth, Antichrist the ground of all his doctrine is to destroy this article of our faith, that Christ is come in the flesh. For though the most part of all heretics confess that Christ is come in the flesh after their manner, yet they deny that he is come as the Scripture testifieth, and the apostles preached him to be come. The whole study of the devil and all his members is, to destroy the hope and trust that we should have in Christ's flesh, and in those things which he suffered for us in his flesh, and in the testament and promises of mercy which are made us in his flesh. For the Scripture testifieth that Christ hath taken away the sin of the world in his flesh, and that the same hour that he yielded up his spirit into the hands of his Father, he had full purged, and made full satisfaction for all the sins of the world. So that all the sin of the world, both before his passion and after, must be put away through repentance toward the law, and faith and trust in his blood, without respect of any other satisfaction, sacrifice or work. For if I once sin the law rebuketh my conscience, and setteth variance between God and me. And I shall never be at peace with God again, until I have heard the voice of his mouth, how that my sin is forgiven me for Christ's blood sake. And as soon as that I believe, I am at peace with God, (Rom. v.) and love his law again, and of love work.

And that Christ hath done this service in his flesh, deny all the members of antichrist. And hereby thou shalt know them. All doctrine that buildeth thee upon Christ to put thy trust and confidence in his blood, is of God, and true doctrine. And all doctrine that withdraweth thine hope and trust from Christ, is of the devil and the doctrine of antichrist. Examine the pope by this rule, and thou shalt find that all he doth is to the destruction of this article. He wresteth all the Scriptures and setteth them clean against the wall, to destroy this article. He minis-tereth the very sacraments of Christ unto the destruction of this article ; and so doth he all other ceremonies ; and his absolution, penance, purgatory, dispensations, pardons, vows, with all disguisings. The pope preacheth that Christ is come to do away sins, yet not in the flesh, but in water, salt, oil, candles, boughs, ashes, friars' coats, and monks' cowls, and in the vows of them that forswear matrimony to keep whores, and swear beggary, to possess all the treasure, riches, wealth and pleasures of the world : and have vowed obedience, to disobey with authority, all the laws both of God and man. For in these hypocritish and false sacrifices, teacheth he us to trust for the forgiveness of sins, and not in Christ's flesh.

Tyndale on 1 John 4:12,

No man hath at any time seen God. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfect in us.
Though we cannot see God, yet if we love one another, we be sure that he abideth in us, and that his love is perfect in us : that is, that we love him unfeignedly. For, to love God truly and to give him thanks, is only to love our neighbour for his sake. For upon his person thou canst bestow no benefit. And forasmuch as we never saw God, let us make no image of him, nor do him any image-service after our own imagination, but let us go to the Scripture, that hath seen him, and there wete what fashion he is of, and what service he will be served with. Blind reason saith, God is a carved post, and will be served with a candle. But Scripture saith, God is love, and will be served with love. If thou love thy neighbour, then art thou the image of God thyself, and he dwelleth in the living temple of thine heart. And thy loving of thy neighbour for his sake, is his service and worship in the spirit, and a candle that burneth before him in thine heart, and casteth out the light of good works before the world, and draweth all to God, and maketh his enemies leave their evil, and come and worship him also.

Tyndale on 1 John 5:10-12,

He that believeth in the Son of God, hath witness in himself. And he that believeth not God, maketh him a liar, because he doth not believe the witness that God hath testified of his Son. And this is the witness, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

The faithful The true believers have the testimony of God in their hearts, and they glorify God, witnessing that he is true. They have the kingdom of God within them ; and the temple of God within them ; and God in that temple ; and have the Son of God, and life through him. And in that temple they seek God, and offer for their sins the sacrifice of Christ's blood, and the fat of his mercies in the fire of their prayers; and in the confidence of that sacrifice go in boldly to God their father.

But the unbelievers blaspheme God, and make him false, describing him after the complexion of their lying nature. And because they be so full stuffed with lies that they can receive nothing else, they look for the kingdom of God in outward things, and seek God in a temple of stone, where they offer their image-service and the fat of their holy deeds; in confidence whereof they go in to God, and trust to have everlasting life. And though the text testifieth that this life is only in the Son, yet they will come at no son, nor sunshining; but, as unclean birds, hate the light.

From Tyndale's Prologue to the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (on the fifth chapter):

In the fifth chapter the apostle commendeth the fruits, or works of faith; as are peace, rejoicing in the conscience, inward love to God and man; moreover boldness, trust, confidence, and a strong and lusty mind, and steadfast hope in tribulation and suffering. For all such follow, where the right faith is, for the abundant grace's sake, and gifts of the spirit, which God hath given us in Christ; in that he gave him to die for us, while yet his enemies.

Now have we then that faith only (before all works) justifieth, and that it followeth not yet therefore that a man should do no good works, but that the right shapen works abide not behind, but accompany faith even as brightness doth the sun; and they are called of Paul the fruits of the spirit. Where the spirit is, there it is always summer, and there are always good fruits, that is to say, good works. This is Paul's order, that good works spring of the spirit; the spirit cometh by faith; and faith cometh by hearing the word of God, when the glad tidings and promises which God hath made unto us in Christ are preached truly, and received in the ground of the heart without wavering or doubting, after that the law hath passed upon us and hath damned our consciences. Where the word of God is preached purely and received in the heart, there is faith, and the spirit of God; and there are also good works of necessity whensoever occasion is given. Where God's word is not purely preached, but men's dreams, traditions, imaginations, inventions, ceremonies, and superstition, there is no faith; and consequently no spirit that cometh from God. And where God's spirit is not, there can be no good works, even as where an apple tree is not, there can grow no apples; but there is unbelief, the devil's spirit, and evil works. Of this, God's spirit and his fruits, have our holy hypocrites not once known, neither yet tasted how sweet they are; though they feign many good works of their own imagination, to be justified withal, in which is not one crumb of true faith or spiritual love, or of inward joy, peace, and quietness of conscience; forasmuch as they have not the word of God for them, that such works please God, but they are even the rotten fruits of a rotten tree.

After that he breaketh forth and runneth at large, and sheweth whence both sin and righteousness, death and life, come. And he compareth Adam and Christ together; thus-wise reasoning and disputing, that Christ must needs come as a second Adam, to make us heirs of his righteousness, through a new spiritual birth, without our deservings; even as the first Adam made us heirs of sin, through the bodily generation, without our deserving. Whereby it is evidently known, and proved to the uttermost, that no man can bring himself out of sin unto righteousness, no more than he could have withstood that he was born bodily. And that is proved herewith, forasmuch as the very law of God, which of right should have holpen if any thing could have holpen, not only came and brought no help with her, but also increased sin; because that the evil and poisoned nature is offended and utterly displeased with the law; and the more she is forbid by the law, the more is she provoked, and set afire, to fulfill and satisfy her lusts. By the law then we see clearly, that we must needs have Christ to justify us with his grace, and to help nature.

From Tyndale's The Supper of the Lord (which can be read here):

And now, (Christian reader,) to put thee clean out of doubt that Christ's body is not here present under the form of bread, (as the Papists have mocked us many a day,) but in heaven, even as he rose and ascended; thou shalt know that he told his disciples, almost twenty times between the thirteenth and eighteenth chapters of John, that he should and would go hence, that he and leave this world; where, to comfort them again, for that they were so heavy for his bodily absence, he world and promised to send them his Holy Ghost to be their comforter, defender, and teacher, in whom and by whom he would be present with them and all faithful unto the world's end. He said unto his disciples, I go hence ; I go to the Father ; I leave the world, and now shall I no more be in the world, but ye shall abide still in theworld. Father, I come to thee. Poor men have ye ever with you ; but me shall ye not always have withyou. And when he ascended unto heaven, they did behold him, and saw the cloud take his body out of their sight ; and they fastening their eyes after him, the two men clothed in white said unto them, Ye men of Galilee, wherefore stand ye thus looking up into heaven ? This is Jesus that is taken up from you into heaven, which shall so come again, even as ye have seen him going hence.

Here I would not More to flit from his literal plain sense. All these so plain words be sufficient, I trow, to a Christian man to certify his conscience that Christ went his way, bodily ascending into heaven. For when he had told his disciples so oft of his bodily departing from them, they were marvellous heavy and sad ; unto whom Christ said, Because I told you that I go hence, your hearts are full of heaviness. If they had not believed him to have spoken of his very bodily absence, they would never have so mourned for his going away. And for because they so understood him, and he so meant as his words sound, he added, (as he should have said,) Be ye never so heavy, or how heavily soever ye take my going hence, yet do I tell you truth : for it is expedient for you that I go hence. For if I should not go hence, _that Comforter should not come unto you. But and if I go hence, I shall send him unto you. And again, in the same chapter, I am come from the Father, and am come into the world, and shall leave the world again, and go to my Father. What mystery, think ye, should be in these so manifest words ? Did he speak them in any dark parables ? Did he mean otherwise than he spake ? Did he understand by going hence, so often repeated, to tarry here still ? or did he mean by forsaking and leaving the world to be but invisible, being still in the world with his body ? No surely. For he meant as faithfully and as plainly as his words sound, and even so did his disciples, without any more marvelling, understand him. For they answered him, saying, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, neither speakest thou any proverb. But what a dark proverb and subtle riddle had it been, if he had meant by his going hence to have tarried here still, and by forsaking the world, to abide still in the world ? and by his going hence to his Father by his very bodily ascension, to be but invisible ? Who would interpret this plain sentence, thus ; I go hence, that is to say, I tarry here still. I forsake the world and go to the Father, that is to say, I will be but invisible and yet here abide still in the world bodily. For as concerning his Godhead, which was ever with the Father, and in all places at once, he never spake such words of it. Christ said (his death now was at hand) unto his disciples, Now again I forsake the world and go to my Father, but ye shall tarry still in the world. If they will expound by his forsaking the world, to tarry here still bodily, and to be but invisible, why do they not by like exposition interpret the tarrying here still of the disciples at that time, to be gone hence bodily and to be here visible ? For Christ did set these contraries one against another to declare each other. As if to tarry here still, did signify to the disciples that they should abide in the world, as it doth indeed ; then must needs his going hence and forsaking the world, signify his bodily absence, as both the words plainly sound, Christ meant, and they understood them. But in so plain a matter, what need these words : Be thou therefore sure, (Christian reader,) that Christ's glorified body is Christ's not in this world, but in heaven, as he thither ascended,in which body he shall come even as he went, gloriously with power and great majesty to judge all the world in the last day. Be thou therefore assured, that he never juggled nor mocked his so dearly beloved disciples, so full of heaviness now for his bodily departing. For if he had so meant as our Papists have perverted his saying, his disciples would have wondered at so strange a manner of speech, and he would have expressed his mind plainly, since at this time he was so full set to leave them in no doubt, but to comfort them with his plain and comfortable words. And if he would have been Christ's but invisible and still bodily present, he would neverhave covered himself with the cloud, showing them and testifying also by those two men his very bodily ascension out of their sights. We may not make of his very bodily ascension, such an invisible juggling cast as our Papists feign, fashioning and feigning Christ a body now invisible, now in many places at once, and then so great, and yet in so little a place, not discerned of any of our senses, now glorified, now unglorified, now passable, and then impassable, and I wot [not] near what they imagine and make of their maker, and all without any word, yea, clean against all the words of holy Scripture. For surely in this their imagination and so saying, they bring in afresh the heresy of that great heretic Marcion, which said, that Christ took but a phantastical body, and so was neither verily born nor suffered, nor rose, nor ascended verily, neither was he very man ; which heresy Tertullian confuteth. Christ took verily our nature, such a passable and mortal body as we bear .about with us, save that he was without all manner of sin. In such a body he suffered verily, and rose again from death in such a glorified body now immortal, &c. as every one of us shall rise at the general judgment. It is appropriated only to his Godhead to be every where, and not to be circumscribed nor contained in no one place. And as for our Papists prophane void voices, his body to be in many places at once,indefinitive, incircumscriptive, non per modum quant i, neque localiter, &c. which includeth in itself contradiction, of which Paul warned Timothy, calling them the oppositions of a false named science, (for that their scholastical divinity must make objections against every truth, be it never so plain with pro and contra,) which science, many that profess it (saith Paul) have erred from the faith: As for this contention and battle about words, profitable for nothing else but to subvert the hearers, I care not for them, for I have the almighty testimony of the everlasting word of God, ready to foil all their mad and unreasonable reasons, to wipe them clean away, and to turn them into their own confession [confusion].


And because the comparison in the tenth chapter between the Lord's board and his cup, and the devil's board and his cup, do declare this matter, I shall recite Paul's words, saying, Ye may not drink the cupof the Lord, and the cup of the devil both together. Ye may not be partakers of the Lord's board and the devil's board both at once. The devil's board and his cup was not his body and blood, but the eating and drinking before their images and idols, as did the heathen in the worship of their gods. Of the which thing thou mayest gather what Paul meant by the Lord's board and his cup.


And he that being of a lawful age observeth a ceremony and knoweth not the intent, to him is the ceremony not only unprofitable, but also hurtful, and cause of sin. In that he is not careful and diligent to search for it, and he there observeth them with a false faith of his own imagination, I think as all idolaters do, and ever have done, that the outword work is a sacrifice and service to God. The same therefore sinneth yet more deeper and more damnable. Neither is idolatry any other thing than to believe that a visible ceremony is a service to the invisible God whose service is spiritual as he is a spirit, and is none other thing thn to know that all is of him and to trust in him only for all things, and to love him for his great goodness and mercy above all, and our neighbours as ourselves for his sake : unto which spiritual serving of God, and to lead us to the same, the old ceremonies were ordained.


Item, they of this opinion, instead of teaching us to believe in Christ, teach us to serve Christ with bodily service, which thing is nought else but idolatry. For they preach that all the ceremonies of the Mass are a service to God, by reason of the bodily works to obtain forgiveness of sins thereby, and to deserve and merit therewith. And yet Christ is now a spiritual substance with his Father, having also a spiritual body, and with the Father to be worshipped in spirit only. And his service in the spirit is only to believe in him for the remission of sin, to call upon him, and give him thanks, and to love our neighbours for his sake.

Now all works done to serve man, and to bring him to this point, to put his trust in Christ, are good and acceptable to God; but done for any other purpose they be idolatry and image service, and make God an idol or bodily image.

Again, seeing the faith of the Testament in Christ's blood, is the life of the righteous from the beginning of the world to the end : and forasmuch as the sacrament was instituted only to bring to this life : Now when they which think not the body to be present in the sacrament have by the preaching and confirmation of the sacrament obtained this life or steadfast faith in Christ's blood, and by the daily use of the sacrament, are more and more hardened therein, and in the love that springeth thereof, what reasonable cause have the contrary part (which believe the body present, and bread turned into the very body as flesh, bones, hair, sinews, nails, and all other, as he was put on the cross, of length and quantity, I cannot tell what) to rail on us as heretics, hate, persecute, and slay us most cruelly as enemies? Christ saith. Qui contra me non est, mecum est, He that is not against me is with me.

Now they that believe in Christ for the remission of their sins, and for his sake love their foes, are not Christ's enemies, ergo, they be on Christ's side. Why then should they that boast themselves to be Christ's friends, slay them? Faith in Christ's blood, and in the Father through him, is God's service in spirit. And so have they which believe not the bodily presence, served God a long time, and thereto been holpen by the sacrament. The other part fallen therefrom through believing the body present, serving God with bodily service, (which is idolatry) and to make God an idol or image, in that they trust in the goodness of their works (as they which serve tyrants) and not in the goodness of God through trust in the blood of Christ; ergo, they that believe not the bodily presence, (not a little thereto compelled through the wicked idolatry of the contrary belief) are not to be thought so evil as the other would have them seem to be.


If (I say) they so rave, then as the old prophet for like idolatry, denieth God to dwell in the temple, or to have pleasure in sacrifice of blood of goats, sheep and calves; even so deny I the body of Christ to be any more in the sacrament, than God was in the golden calves which Jeroboam set up to be prayed to, the one in Bethel, and the other in Dan, for though God be present everywhere, yet if heaven of heavens connot compass him to make him a dwelling place (as the Scripture testifieth) and much less the temple that was at Jerusalem, how should he have a dwelling place in a little wafer or crumb or bread. God dwelleth not in the temple, neither did our fathers, which were of the true faith in the Old Testament, pray to God as present in the temple, but the name of God only was in the temple, (S of the Kings viii.) and his law and covenants and wonderful deeds were therein written in signs and were there preached and testified continually of the true preiests and prophets unto the people, the fathers of the true faith came thither.


Christ, though he affirm himself to be the Son of God and his father to be in him, yet he taught not his disciples to direct the prayer to the Father in him, but up to the Father in heaven, neither lift he up his eyes or prayer to his Father in the sacrament, but to his Father in heaven. I know diverse and diverse men know me, which love me as I do them, yet if I should pray them when I meet them in the street openly, they would abhor me, but if I pray them where they be appointed to meet me secretly, they will hear me and accept my request. Even so though God's presence be everywhere, yet will he be prayed so, up to the place only where we shall see him, and where he would have us to long for to be.


Wherefore to avoid this endless brawling, which the devils no doubt hath stirred up to turn the eyes of our souls from the everlasting covenant made us in Christ's blood and body and to nossel us in idolatry, which is trust and confidence in false worshipping of God, and to quench first the faith to Christward and then the love due to our neighbour; therefore me thinketh that the party that hath professed the faith of Christ, and the love of his neighbour, ought of duty to bear each other, as long as the other opinion is not plain wicked through false idolatry, nor contrary to the salvation that is in Christ, nor agains the open and manifest doctrine of Christ and his apostles, nor contrary to the general articles of the faith of the general church of Christ, which are confirmed with open Scripture. In which articles never a true church in any land dissenteth.

From Tyndale's The Obedience of a Christian Man (emphasis mine)

Man's wisdom is plain idolatry: neither is there any other idolatry than to imagine of God after man's wisdom. God is not man's imagination; but that only which he saith of himself. God is nothing but his law and his promises; that is to say, that which he biddeth thee to do, and that which he biddeth thee believe and hope. God is but his word, as Christ saith, John viii. "I am that I say unto you;" that is to say, That which I preach am I; my words are spirit and life. God is that only which he testifieth of himself; and to imagine any other thing of God than that, is damnable idolatry. Therefore saith the hundred and eighteenth psalm, "Happy are they which search the testimonies of the Lord;" that is to say, that which God testifieth and witnesseth unto us.


When they say, ‘We be sinners:’ I answer, that Christ is no sinner, save a satisfaction and an offering for sin. Take Christ from the saints, and what are they? What is Paul without Christ? Is he any thing save a blasphemer, a persecutor, a murderer, and a shedder of christian blood? But as soon as he came to Christ, he was no more a sinner, but a minister of righteousness: he went not to Rome to take penance upon him, but went and preached unto his brethren the same mercy, which he had received free, without doing penance, or hiring of saints, or of monks or friars. Moreover, if it be God’s word that thou should put thy trust in the saints’ merits or prayers, then be bold; for God’s word shall defend thee, and save thee. If it be but thine own reason, then fear: for God commandeth by Moses, Deuteronomy 12 saying, “What I command you, that observe and do, and put nothing to, nor take ought therefrom;” yea, and Moses warneth straitly in an hundred places, that we do that only which God commandeth, and which seemeth good and righteous in his sight, and not in our own sight. For nothing bringeth the wrath of God so soon and so sore on a man, as the idolatry of his own imagination.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ralph Erskine's Faith No Fancy

The image of Christ's natural body in the fancy darkens the view of Christ, as the image of God, by faith. These two images cannot stand togther, no more than Dagon and the ark. Dagon must fall, if the ark come into the heart.
—Ralph Erskine, Faith No Fancy

Faith No Fancy, or A Treatise of Mental Images by Ralph Erskine (a Scottish churchman and a preacher who lived from 1685-1752) is available here. I'm currently working on transcribing Faith No Fancy and will publish the book here: The Chapel Libarary's Free Grace Broadcaster has a selection from Faith No Fancy. Click here for the archived web version.

Also see my transcription of Ralph Erskine's sermon The True Christ no New Christ on Hebrews 13:8.

And these selections from from several of Ralph Erskine's other works:

HT: Gospel Driven Blog:
But, alas! say you, I cannot get away my filthiness; I cannot put away my lusts and idols. Oh! what mean you, poor soul? Do you think to put away your own sin, and take God’s work out of his hand? I tell you, in his great name, he never laid such an intolerable burden upon you; for, the cleansing from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, is harder work than the making of a world. It is only the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He enjoins you “To take with you words, and say, Take away all iniquity,” Hosea xvi. 2. All your work is to put the work in his hand. Many think they cannot come to Christ, till first they put away all their sin, and give up with all their lusts; but all your pains, before you come to the blood of Christ, will be like pouring oil upon the fire, that will inflame it the more. Therefore, welcome, welcome a promising God, saying, “From all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you;” for I have got clean water in my hand for that purpose: “I have found a ransom.” By the blood of the covenant, I will send forth these prisoners out of the pit wherein there is no water; but here is water enough.
(Ralph Erskine, “Sermon LXXXIII, Clean Water; Or, The Pure And Precious Blood Of Christ For The Cleansing of Polluted Sinners,” The Works of Ralph Erskine, vol. 4, p. 151)

From Erskine's Faith No Fancy, or A Treatise of Mental Images:
May this generation be delivered from an imaginary faith, religion and conversion, which will neither unite them to the true Christ, nor bring them to the true heaven, nor keep them out of the true hell. And may the Lord deliver all His people from the influence of gross delusion, instead of gospel-doctrine;from carnal trash, instead of spiritual truth; and from the truth as it is in men ’s fancy and imagination, instead of the truth as it is in Jesus and in His blessed Word, the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy God.

Horatius Bonar's "Faith in an Unseen Christ," "FALSE RELIGION AND ITS DOOM," & "The Vision of God"

Read Horatius Bonar's sermon "Faith in an Unseen Christ" here (Grace Gems).
Read Bonar's work "FALSE RELIGION AND ITS DOOM" here.
Read Bonar's work "The Vision of God" here.

Read Bonar's work "The Three Witnesses" here. From the work:
False religion and vain philosophy gather round a Christ of their own fashioning; a golden calf of their own molding; a Christ whose blood was never shed. But that which is true and divine, acknowledges as its alpha and omega, a Christ who died as well as lived; a Christ who took upon him our curse; a Christ whose person, however glorious in itself, is nothing to us sinners, without the blood shedding of his sacrificial work.

From Horatius Bonar's Light and truth: or, Bible thoughts and themes: the Revelation:



'Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they (men) see his shame.'—Rev. XVI 15.

THESE are words specially for the last days. They suit all times, no doubt;—for Christ is ever coming; the last trump is ever about to sound; the fire is every ready to be kindled; the Judge is ever at the door. But they suit the last days best, and are meant for these. With eighteen hundred years behind us now, we may take them home most solemnly to ourselves. (1) They warn; (2) they quicken; (2) they rouse; (4) they comfort.

I. The coming.—It is the long-promised advent. Christ comes! He comes,(1) as Avenger, (2) as Judge, (3) as King, (4) as Bridegroom. The same Jesus that left the earth is about to return to it. 'Behold,' says He to a blind, heedless world; 'behold,' says He to a cold and slumbering Church. 'I come:' He is herald to Himself. 'As a thief;'—at midnight; when men are asleep; when darkness lies on earth; when men are least expecting Him; when they have lain down, saying, 'Peace and safety.' 'Behold, I come as a thief.' Without warning, though with vengeance for the world in His hand; when all past warnings of judgment have been unheeded. Without further message; for all past messages have been vain. Like lightning; like a thief; like a snare. Like lightning to the world, but the Sun of morning to His Church; like a thief to the world, but like a Bridegroom to the Church; like a snare to the world, but like the cloud of glory to His own.

II. The watching.—Not believing, nor hoping, nor waiting merely; but watching,—as men do against some event, whether terrible or joyful, of which they know not the time. Waiting was the posture of the Jewish Church for the first advent; watching is ours for the second. Watch, said the Master. Watch, said the servants in primitive times. Watch, we say still, for ye know neither the day nor the hour of His arrival. Watch, for that day is great and glorious. Watch, for ye are naturally disposed to sit down and take your ease. Watch, for Satan tries to lull you asleep. Watch, for the world, with its riches, and vanities, and pleasures, is trying to throw you off your guard. Watch upon your knees. Watch with your Bibles before you. Watch with wide-open eye. Watch for Him whom not having seen you love.

III. The keeping of the garments.—Be like Nehemiah, who, when watching against the Ammonites, did not put off his clothes night nor day. Keep your garments all about you, that when the Lord comes He may find you not naked, but robed and ready. Do not cast off your raiment either for sleep or for work. Do not let the world strip you of it. Keep it and hold it fast. It is heavenly raiment, and without it you cannot go in with your Lord when He comes.

IV. The blessedness.—Blessed is the watcher; blessed is the keeper of his garments. Many are the blessed ones; here is one class specially for the last days. How much we lose by not watching and not keeping our garments! (1) It is blessed, for it cherishes our love. (2.) It is blessed, for it is one of the ways of maintaining our intercourse. (3.) It is blessed, for it is the posture through which He has appointed blessing to come, in His absence, to His waiting Church.

V. The warning.—Lest ye walk naked, and men see your shame. 'Shame' has three meanings: (1) the shameful thing or object; (2) the feeling of shame produced by the consciousness of the shameful thing; and (3) the exposure to shame and scorn from others. The first of these is specially referred to here. But all the three are connected.

Adam was ashamed at being found naked when the Lord came down to meet him; how much more of shame and terror shall be to unready souls at meeting with a returning Lord! It will be the beginning of shame and everlasting contempt. They shall be put to shame before men and angels; they shall be overwhelmed with confusion before the great white throne. The universe shall see their shame. O false disciple, come out of your delusion and hypocrisy, lest you be exposed in that day of revelation! O sinner, make ready, for the day of vengeance is at hand!

From Horatius Bonar's The Morning of Joy:

Chapter IX.


To love in absence, though with the knowledge of being beloved, and with the certainty of meeting ere long, is but a mingled joy. It contents us in the room of something better and more blessed, but it lacks that which true love longs for, the presence of the beloved one. That presence fills up the joy that turns every shadow into brightness.

Especially when this time of absence is a time of weakness and suffering, and endurance of wrong; when dangers come thickly around, and enemies spare not, and advantage is taken by the strong to vex or injure the defenseless. Then love in absence, though felt to be a sure consolation, is found to be insufficient, and the heart cheers itself with the thought that the interval of loneliness is brief, and that the days of separation are fast running out.

It is with such feelings that we look forward to meeting with Him "whom having not seen we love," and anticipate the joy of being for ever "with the Lord." That day of meeting has in it enough of gladness to make up for all the past. And then it is ETERNAL. It is not meeting to-day, and parting to-morrow; it is meeting once and for ever. To see him face to face, even for a day, how blessed! To be "with him" for a life-time, or any age, even though with intervals of absence between, how gladdening! But to be with him forever,—or always, as it stand in the original,—this surely is the very filling up of all our joy.

Has not the Lord, however, been always with us? Has he not said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world?" Yes. Nor ought the church to undervalue this nearness, this fellowship. It is no shadow or fancy; it is reality. It is that same reality to which the Lord referred when he said, "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John xiv. 21); or, as the old versions have it, "will show mine own self to him." For when Jude put the question, "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?" that is, "how shall it be that the world shall not see thee, and yet we who are living in the world shall see thee? how is it that we shall have thy presence, and yet the world have it not?" "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

So that thus we have had the Lord always with us, nay, making his abode with us. It was when first we gave credit to the Divine testimony concerning the free love of God, in the gift of his Son, that we drew night to him and he to us. It was then that he came in unto us, and took up his abode with us. And it is this conscious presence,—this presence which faith realizes,—that cheers us amid tribulation here. In the furnace we have on like the Son of man to keep us company, and to prevent the flame from kindling upon us.

But this is, after all, incomplete. It is the enjoyment of as much fellowship as can be tasted in absence, but it is no more. Nor is it intended to supersede something nearer and more complete,—far less to make us content with absence. Nay, its tendency is to make us less and less satisfied with absence. It gives us such a relish for intercourse, that we long for communion more unhindered,—eye to eye and face to face. This closer intercourse, this actual vision, this bodily nearness, we are yet to enjoy. The hope given us is to be "with the Lord,"—with him in a way such as we have never been.

Let no one despise this nearness, nor speak evil of it, as if it were material and carnal. Many speak as if their bodies were a curse,—as if matter were some piece of mis-creation to which we had unnaturally and unhappily been fastened. And others tell us that actual intercourse, such as we refer to, the intercourse of vision and voice, is a poor thing, not to be named beside the other, which is, as they conceive, the deeper and the truer.

But is it so? Is matter so despicable? Are our bodies such hindrances to true fellowship? Is the eye nothing, the ear nothing, the smile nothing, the voice nothing, the embrace nothing, the clasping of the hand nothing? Is personal communion a hindrance to earthly friendships? Can the friend enjoy the friend as well afar off as near? Is it no matter to the wife though her husband be unseen and distant? Granting that we can still love and receive love in return, is distance no barrier, does absence make no blank? Do we slight bodily presence, visible intercourse, as worthless, almost undesirable? Is not the reverse one of the most deep-seated feelings of our nature? And is it not to this deep-seated feeling that the incarnation appeals? Is that incarnation useless, save as furnishing a victim for the altar,—and providing blood for the cleansing of the worshipper? No. The incarnation brings God night to us in a way such as could not have been done by any other means. He came bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, that we might have a being like ourselves to commune with, to love, to lean upon.

In that day when we shall be "with the Lord," we shall know to the full the design of God in the incarnation of his Son, and taste the blessedness of seeing him as he is.

The time of this meeting is his coming; not till then. Before that there is distance and imperfection. I know that in the disembodied state there will be greater nearness and fuller enjoyment than now. And this the apostle longed for when he had the "desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better." Even before the resurrection there is a "being with Christ," more satisfying than what we enjoy here; a "being with Christ" which is truly "far better." Nor would I disparage this blessedness. But still this is not to be compared with resurrection-nearness, and resurrection-fellowship, when, in a way up till that time unknown, we shall be introduced into the very presence of the King, all distance annihilated, all fellowship completed, all joy consummated, all coldness done away, all shadows dissipated, and "so we shall ever be with the Lord."

But, for the better understanding of this subject, let us look to the way in which the apostle handles it in administering comfort to the Thessalonian church, some of whom had been giving way to immoderate grief for the dead.

The grief of the heathen was immoderate, and their expression of it equally so. No wonder. Their hearts beat with as firm a pulse as ours, and natural affection was as strong with them as with us. The husband mourned the wife, the wife the husband; the parent mourned the child, the child the parent; the friends wept over the grave of friends. The breaking of these ties was bitter; and the special sting was, that they had no hope of reunion. Death to them was a parting for ever; not as when one parts in the morning to meet at even, or as when one parts this year to meet a few years hence. It was hopeless separation. At the best it was a vague uncertainty, to which deep grief gives no heed; more commonly it was despair. Their sorrow was desperate, their wound incurable.

The Thessalonian saints were sorrowing as those that had no hope, as if they had buried their beloved brethren in an eternal tomb. For this the apostle reproves them. He points out the hope,—a sure hope, a blessed hope, a hope fitted to bring true comfort. "Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." They are not lost; they have only been laid to sleep by Jesus, and he will awake them when he returns, and bring them up out of their tombs. Their departure cannot being called dying; it is only sleeping. It has nothing of the despair of death about it. Death has lost its sting; the shroud its gloom; the grave its terrors. It is an end of pain; it is a ceasing from toil. "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours."

But the apostle looks beyond the resting-place. "Thy brother shall rise again." God himself will uncover their tomb and call them up, at the return of Him who is the resurrection and the life. And this, says he, "we say unto you by the word of the Lord." He gives this consolation to them as a certainty; having in it nothing vague or doubtful; a certainty proclaimed by himself and resting on the Lord's own words to his disciples ere he left the earth, regarding his advent, and the gathering of his elect to him.

The Lord is to come! This is the certainty. The Lord is to come! And in that coming are wrapt up all the hopes of his saints.

Of these saints there will be two classes when he comes. (1.) Those that are alive and remain; the last generation of the church. For, says the apostle elsewhere, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." (1 Cor. xv. 51.) (2.) Those that have fallen asleep; these forming the larger number, doubtless; for the sleeping ones of all ages shall be there. It might be supposed that the living ones would have the advantage, as being alive when the Lord arrives. But, no. It is not so. They may have some advantages. They never taste death. They are like Enoch and Elijah. They know not the grave. They see no corruption. In their case soul and body are never separated. They do not meet the king of terrors, nor fall under his power.*

*Thus Richard Baxter wrote: "Would it not rejoice your hearts if you were sure to live to see the coming of the Lord, and to see his glorious appearing and retinue? If you were not to die, but to be caught up thus to meet the Lord, would you be averse to this? Would it not be the greatest joy that you could desire? For my own part, I must confess to you that death, as death, appeareth to me as an enemy, and my nature doth abhor and fear it. But the thoughts of the coming of the Lord are most sweet and joyful to me, so that if I were but sure that I should live to see it, and that the trumpet should sound, and the dead should rise, and the Lord appear, before the period of my age, it would be the joyfullest tidings to me in the world. Oh that I might see his kingdom come! It is the character of his saints to love his appearing and to look for that blessed hope; 'The Spirit and the bride say come; even so, come, Lord Jesus.' Come quickly, is the voice of faith, and hope, and love. But I find not that his servants are thus characterized by their desire to die. It is therefore the presence of their Lord that they desire, but it is death they they abhor; and therefore, though they can submit to death, it is the coming of Christ that they love and long for. If death be the last enemy to be destroyed at the resurrection, we may learn how earnestly believers should long and pray for the second coming of Christ, when this full and final conquest shall be made. There is something in death that is penal, even to believers; but in the coming of Christ and their resurrection there is nothing but glorifying grace." Works, vol. xvii. p. 555—590.

These are privileges; and yet it might be said, on the other hand, that these saints do not taste the gladness of resurrection; that they are not conformed to their Lord in this, that he died and rose. Still the end in both cases is the same,—the one shall have no advantage, no pre-eminence over the other. Both are "presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy;" both equally faultless, though each has undergone a different process for the accomplishing of this. Thus, the one being changed and the other raised, they are formed into one company, marshalled into one mighty army, and then caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

The particulars of this coming, in so far as the apostle gives them, let us briefly look into. The Lord himself shall descend from heaven. The same Jesus that ascended; he who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood; he—his own self—shall come—come in like manner as he was seen go into heaven. With a shout. This is the shout of a monarch's retinue, the shout of a great army. Just as God is said to have gone up with shouts, so is he to return; return with the shout of the conqueror, the shout of triumph. The voice of the archangel. A solitary voice is then heard making some mighty announcement, such as that of the angel standing upon sea and earth, and proclaiming that there should be time no longer (Rev. x. 6); or of that other angel, with whose glory the earth was lightened, crying with a loud voice, Babylon is fallen (Rev. xviii.2); or of that other angel, who cried with a loud voice to all the fowls of heaven, "Come, gather yourselves unto the supper of the great God." (Rev. xix. 17.) The trump of God. It is elsewhere called "the last trump." (1 Cor. xv. 52.) It is God's own trumpet, the trumpet that awakes the dead; not a voice merely,—as if that were too feeble for such a purpose, nor a common trumpet, but the trump of God, one that can pierce the grave and awake the dead. These are the steps and the accompaniments of the advent. There is first the shout of the angelic host, as the Redeemer leaves his seat above to take possession of his kingdom here. This shout is continued as he descends. Then as he approaches nearer, the multitude of the heavenly host is silent, and a solitary voice is heard, the voice of the archangel uttering God's message; then comes the trumpet that calls forth the sleeping just. They obey the call. They arise. No holy dust remains behind. They put on immortality. Then, joined by the transfigured and glorified living, they hasten upwards to the embrace of their beloved Lord.

It is into "the clouds," or "cloud," that they are caught up; that cloud, or clouds, which in all likelihood rested above Eden, making it the place of "the presence of the Lord" (Gen. iii. 8; iv. 14, 16); which appeared to Moses at the bush; which led Israel over the Red Sea and through the desert; which covered Sinai; which dwelt in the tabernacle and in the temple; which Isaiah saw; which Ezekiel described; which shone down upon the Son of God at his baptism and transfiguration; which received him out of sight at his ascension; which Stephen saw when breathing out his soul; which smote Saul to the ground on his way to Damascus; which, last of all, appeared to John in Patmos; and which we know shall yet re-appear in the latter day. Into this cloud of the Divine presence, this symbol of the excellent glory, Jehovah's tent or dwelling-place, the ark of our safety against the flood of fire, shall the saints be caught up when the Lord appears, and the voice is heard from heaven, "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust:" and as it was said in Israel, "the song of the Lord began with trumpets," (2 Chron. xxix. 27,) even so with the trump of God shall our resurrection-song begin.

Thus with songs shal we go up on high; our sings in the night being exchanged for the songs of the morning. They shall be "songs of deliverance," with which we shall then be "compassed about" in that day when we get up into our "hiding-place" to be "preserved from trouble" (Psa. xxxii. 7); when we "enter into our chambers" and "shut our doors about us," until "the indignation be overpast." (Isa. xxviii. 20.) No longer in a strange land or by the rivers of Babylon shall we sing our songs; no longer in "the house of our pilgrimage" or in the wilderness shall we make melody; but in the King's own presence, in the great congregation, in the New Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven from God. Then "standing upon the sea of glass," and beholding the "judgements of God made manifest," (Rev. xv. 2—4,) as Israel did when Pharaoh and his chariots sank like lead in the mighty waters, we sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

Thus "caught up" into the cloud, we meet the Lord "in the air," as those do who go forth to meet a friend already on his way to them (Acts xxviii. 15); we meet him in order that, being there acquitted, acknowledged, and confessed by him before his Father and before the angels, we may form his retinue, and come with him to execute vengeance, to judge the world, to share his triumphs, to reign with him in his glorious kingdom. (Zech. xiv. 5; 1 Thess. iii. 13; Jude 14; Rev. ii. 26; iii. 21.)

Thus "meeting the Lord," we are to be "ever with him." He with us and we with him for ever. "So shall we ever be with the Lord;" that is, "as we then shall meet, so we shall never part;" as is our meeting, so is our eternal communion, our continuance in the presence of his glory. We shall see him face to face and his name shall be in our foreheads. Sitting upon the same throne, dwelling under the same roof, hearing his voice, having free access to him at all times, doing his will, going forth on his errands,—this shall be the joy of our eternity. No distance; that is annihilated. No estrangement; that is among the thing that are absolutely impossible. No cloud between; that is swept away and cannot re-appear. No coldness; for love is always full. No interruption; for who can come between the Bridegroom and the bride? No change; for he makes us like himself, without variableness. No parting; for we have reached our home to go out no more. No end; for the duration of our fellowship is the life of the Ancient of days, of Him who is "from everlasting to everlasting."

"With the Lord!" It would be much to be with Enoch, or with Abraham, or with Moses, or with Elijah, or with Paul; much to share their fellowship, to have converse with them on the things of God and the story of their own wondrous lives; how much more to be "with the Lord!" TO be like Peter at his side, like Mary at his feet, like John in his bosom. To have met him in the streets of Jerusalem, or by the sea of Galilee, or at Jacob's well; to have heard him name your name and salute you, as he passed, with the wish of "peace;" to have dwelt in the next house to his at Nazareth, to have been a guest at the table of Lazarus when he was there, to have slept under that roof, it might be in the apartment next the Lord of glory! How much should we have valued privileges such as these, treasuring them in memory, like gold! Nay, even to hear the tidings of his love, to have a message from him, to be told that he was gracious to us and kept us in mind, to be any where beyond the reach of sin and pain, how much! Oh, what then must it be to be "with the Lord,"—with him in his glory; "with him," as the friend is with the friend; "with him," as the bride is with the bridegroom; saying without fear or check, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine;" and hearing him say in return, "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee. Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one turn of thy neck. How fair is thy love my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine!" (Sol. Song iv. 7—10.)

"Ever with the Lord!" This soothes all sorrow and sums up all joy. If even here we can say so gladly and so surely, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," how much more gladly and surely shall we be able to say it then!

Forever to behold him shine,For evermore to call him mine!

This is what we look for; this is our watchword and our song even in the day of absence and sorrow; and it is this that makes the expected morning so truly a morning of joy. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when i awake, with thy likeness." (Psa. xvii. 15.)*

*"Hasten, o my Saviour, the time of thy return; send forth thine angels, and let that dreadful, joyful trumpet sound; delay not, lest the living give up their hopes; delay not, lest earth should grow like hell, and lest thy church by division be crumbled all to dust; delay not, lest the grave should boast of victory, and having learned rebellion of its guest, should plead prescription, and refuse to deliver thee up thy due. O hasten that great resurrection-day, when thy command shall go forth and none shall disobey; when the sea and earth shall yield up their hostages, and all that sleep shall awake, and the dead in Christ shall first arise; when the seed that thou sowedst corruptible shall come forth incorruptible; and the graves that received but rottenness, and retained but dust, shall return thee glorious stars and suns. Return, O Lord, how long! O let thy kingdom come. Thy desolate bride saith, Come! For thy Spirit within-her saith, Come! The whole creation saith, Come, waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Thyself hath said, Surely I come. Amen; EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS."—BAXTER, Works, Vol. xxiii. p. 449, 450.

From Horatius Bonar's Words of peace and welcome:

The King in His Beauty

"Thou art Fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever."—PSALM xlv. 2.

THE world is fair and bright. It has dazzled and ensnared millions. Yet there is such a thing as a new-found Saviour, eclipsing and outshining all earthly beauty, in the eyes even of those who once admired it most.

Every form of attraction gathers round Him. That attraction is felt to be resistless. With joyful swiftness we hasten to Him whose wondrous goodliness we have thus newly discovered. We henceforth move around Him as our centre. We are drawn off from vanities that once bewildered us. The world has lost its comeliness: nay, it has been utterly darkened. It shines no more. It wins no more. It is Egypt to us now, in which we were vile bondsmen. It is Babylon to us now, in which we were weary exiles and captives. But we are free. The true light has risen.

We have seen something that has drawn our eye, and won our heart. The beauty of the world has vanished. Its lustre has waxed dim. In the love of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, we have found that which has dissolved the bonds of earth, and fastened us to heaven with an everlasting tie.

It is but little of the glory that we have seen as yet; but it is enough to allure us away from vanity, and to make us desire the day when we shall see Him face to face, "whom having not seen, we love."

"Pictures of Christ and Idolatry" by Greg Price

Listen to Greg Price's sermon "Pictures of Christ and Idolatry" here (

Michael Ovey's "Idolatry and spiritual parody: counterfeit faiths"

Read Michael Ovey's article "Idolatry and spiritual parody: counterfeit faiths" is a very well written article. Ovey explains the importance (or significance) of the analytical use of the concept of idolatry (in Christian apologetic, polemic, and evangelism). Here is the summary of the article:

This paper describes three major objections to using idolatry for analysing the modern world, and examines the concept of idolatry in their light. Reviewing biblical material indicates just how foundational a concept idolatry is, closely linked to the relation of uncreated Creator and created cosmos. The paper discusses areas where this tool applies inside and outside the Church. It concludes that idolatry parodies the true relationship of humanity and God with intense, binding, but ultimately counterfeit relationships.

Lorraine Boettner's Roman Catholicism

From Lorraine Boettner's Roman Catholcism (CHAPTER XIII, 3. Images):

Closely akin to the use of images is that of pictures of Christ. And these, we are sorry to say, are often found in Protestant as well as Roman Catholic churches. But nowhere in the Bible, in either the Old or New Testament, is there a description of Christ’s physical features. No picture of Him was painted during His earthly ministry. The church had no pictures of Him during the first four centuries. The so‑called pictures of Christ, like those of Mary and the saints, are merely the product of the artist’s imagination. That is why there are so many different ones. It is simply an untruth to say that any one of them is a picture of Christ. All that we know about His physical features is that He was of Jewish nationality. Yet He more often is represented as having light features, even as an Aryan with golden hair. How would you like it if someone who had never seen you and who knew nothing at all about your physical features, resorted to his imagination and, drawing on the features of his own nationality, painted a picture and told everyone that it was a picture of you? Such a picture would be fraudulent. Certainly you would resent it. And certainly Christ must resent all these counterfeit pictures of Him. He was the truth; and we can be sure that He would not approve of any form of false teaching. No picture can do justice to His personality, for He was not only human but divine. And no picture can portray His deity. All such pictures are therefore fatally defective. Like the grave of Moses, the physical features of Christ were intended to be kept beyond the reach of idolatry. For most people the so‑called pictures of Christ are not an aid to worship, but rather a hindrance, and for many they present a temptation to that very idolatry against which the Scriptures warn so clearly.

Fisher's Catechism on "What is forbidden in the Second Commandment?"

Read FISHER'S CATECHISM on What is forbidden in the Second Commandment? here (Q&A 51).

Thomas Vincent on "What is forbidden in the Second Commandment?"

Download and read Thomas Vincent's An Explicatory Catechism: Or an Explanation of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism here. Below is the section from Vincents explicatory, which answers questions about what is forbidden in the Second Commandment.

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

Q. 1. What is the first great sin forbidden in the second commandment ?

A. The first great sin forbidden in the second commandment, is the sin of idolatry.

Q. 2. How doth the idolatry forbidden in the first commandment, differ from the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment ?

A. The idolatry forbidden in the first commandment, hath a respect unto the object, when we give that worship and honour which is due only to God, unto another : the idolatry forbidden in the second commandment, hath a respect unto the means, when we worship God by images.

Q. 3. How many ways fnay persons be guilty of idolatry in thtir woishipping of God by images?

A. Persons are guilty of idolatry in worshipping of God by images, 1. When they worship feigned afid false gods (apprehending them to be true) by images and representations. Such was the heathens' idolatry in worshipping Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Diana, and other feigned gods and goddesses, by their images, in their idola.- 'trous temples. 2. When they worship the true God, in or by any image or representation of him whether it be by any thing in heaven, or the earth, or the waters, as in the commandment: Thou shall not make -to thyself any graven image, or the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shall not boto down to them, nor serve them. Deut. iv. 15, 16, Take ye heed therefore to yourselves (for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image. Exod. xxxii. 8, Xhey have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it ; and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, these be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 3. When they have in their worship carnal imaginations, and representations of God in their minds ; as if he were an old man sitting in heaven, or the like.

Q. 4. Why may we not make use of images for a help in our worship of God ?

A. 1. Because God hath absolutely forbidden it. 2. Because images are not a real help, but a hindrance of devotion, they tending to lessen God in our esteem, who being the living God, and superlatively excellent, and infinitely removed above all his creatures, cannot, without great reflection of dishonour upon him, be represented by a dead image.

Q. 5. Is it not lawful to have images or pictures of God by us, so we do not worship them, nor God by them ?

A. The images or pictures of God are an abomination, and utterly unlawful, because they do debase God, and may be a cause of idolatrous worship.

Q. 6. Is it not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, he being a man as well as God?

A. It is not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, because his divine nature cannot be pictured at all, and because his body, as it is now glorified- cannot be pictured as it is ; and because, if it do not stir up devotion, it is in vain ; if it do stir up devotion, it is a worshipping by an image or picture, and so a palpable breach of tho- second commandment.

Q 7. What is the second great sin against this second commandment ?

A. The second great sin against this second commandment, is superstition.

Q 8. What is the superstition forbidden in the second commandment ?

A. The superstiuon forbidden in the second commandment, is the worshipping of God in any other way, or by any other means, than what he hath appointed in his word, and thus adding human inventions unto God's institutions, which is will-worship, and condemned by the apostle. Col. ii. 20, 23, Why as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men ? which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship. Q. 9. May nothing be added in the worship of God' but what is prescribed in the word of God ? A. Nothing may be added in the worship of God, as parts of worship, but what is prescribed or appointed in the word of God : because without divine institution, it is but vain worship, neither pleasing to God, nor profitable unto them that worship. Matth. xv. 9, But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;

Q 10. Are not significant ceremonies allowable, that the dull minds of men may be quickened unto the more devotion?

A. 1. The ceremonies which God himself did appoint under the law, are not lawful, much less the ceremonies of men's appointment, which are parts of worship. 2. Significant teaching ceremonies, were they appointed by God, would be the parts of true worship ; therefore such significant teaching ceremonies as are not appointed by God, are parts of false worship, or of worship so far cor* rupted as they are used. 3. The significancy of teach* ing ceremonies without God's institution, which carrieth with it God's blessing, is insignificant and ineffectual, to convey and confer any grace.

Q. 11. May not the church, by virtue of that command 1 Cor. xiv. 40, Let all things be done decently and in order, appoint ceremonies for decency and order's sake?

A. The church may and ought, by virtue of this command, see that there be no indecency and disorder in the worship of God ; that is, they may order, that things appointed by God be done decently and in order, in reference toconveniency of time and place, and the like, which the word of God doth virtually include in appointing worship itself, which without such circumstances, cannot be performed : but here is no liberty given unto the church, to introduce and appoint new parts of worship, as significant teaching ceremonies are proved to be; neither may such things be called decent in God's worship, which the idolatrous Church of Rome use without any warrant from the word of God.

Q. 12. What is the idolatry and superstition of the Church of Rome in the worship of God?

A. The idolatry and superstition of the church of Rome in the worship of God, is their idolatrous kneeling at the sacrament, asserting that the bread is turned into the real body of Christ ; their idolatrous worshipping of Christ by the crucifix ; their idolatrous pictures and images of God which they bow before; their idolatrous bowing at the altars, and towards the east; their idolatrous praying to angels and saints, especially to the Virgin Mary ; their offering up the unbloody sacrifice of the host ; their superstinous fastings, and abstaining from flesh in Lent; their superstitious holy-days; their superstitious priest's surplice; their adding cream, oil, and spittle to the water, and signing with the cross in -baptism ; their baptising of bells : their praying upon beads ; and many more superstitious customs, for which there is not the least command in scripture.

Q. 13. How may we further offend and sin against the second commandment?

A. We offend and sin against the second commandment, not only by idolatry and superstition, but also when we are not zealous for pure worship, according to God's institution, not endeavouring what in us lieth, in our places, the reformation of worship, according to the pattern in the word; also when we disuse and neglect, espcially when we contemn, and oppose any of those ordinances which God hath appointed to be the meansof worship. John ii. 17, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. Heb. x. 25, Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is. Matth. xxiii. 13, Wo unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men : for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 1 Thess. ii. 16, Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved, filling up their sins alway. Acts xiii. 44, 45, 46, And the next Sabbath tlay came almost the whole city together, to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes they were filled with' envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you : but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Benjamin P. Glaser (the Backwoods Presbyterian) on the Second Commandment

Benjamin P. Glaser (the Backwoods Presbyterian) has a series of blog posts on the Second Commandment and so-called 'images of the Godhead.' He has provided commentaries from the Magisterial Reformers, the Westminster Divines, the Puritans, 19th century theologians, and contemporary theologians. He also has some commentary on idolatry. You can visit Glaser's blog here.

Here are the links:

What is an Idol?

The Second Commandment and Images of the GodHead, Part 1 (Introduction)

The Second Commandment and Images of the GodHead, Part 2 (Calvin)

The Second Commandment and Images of the GodHead, Part 3 (Turretin)

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 4 (John Owen, Thomas Boston, and Thomas Watson)

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 5 (R. L. Dabney, Charles Hodge)

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 6 (Bahnsen)

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 7 (John Murray)

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 8 (Glaser)

R.W. Dale on the Second Commandment

R.W. Dale's commentary on the Second Commandment, from his work called The Ten Commandments, can be read and downloaded here. Also, a friend of mine commented (concerning Dale's commentary on the Second Commandment):
Dr. Dale’s statement is so similar to the one by G. Campbell Morgan (in “The Ten Commandments”) that I wonder if Dale influenced Morgan’s thinking:
“The second Commandment condemns a very different sin from that which is condemned in the first. The first condemns the worshipping of false gods; the second condemns the making of any image or symbol even of the true God.” (Dale)

It was Morgan's similar statement that made me aware of the Second Commandment. As I researched whether he was right, the research formed much of my history.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

D.L. Moody on the Second Commandment

D.L. Moody's commentary on the Second Commandment can be read here.

I disagree with Moody's classification of a crucifix as 'sacred,' rather it is idolatrous; however, perhaps he meant that it was "sacred" to some idolaters, which I would agree with. Also, note what Moody said:
I sometimes think that it is wrong to have pictures of Him at all. (Moody)
Perhaps this implies that Moody thought that, in some cases, pictures of Him are alright. I would, of course, disagree with Moody if that is what he is suggesting -- it is wrong to have pictures of Him.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Alexander Maclaren on the Second Commandment

From Alexander Maclaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture (downloadable and readable here):

III. The second commandment forbids all representations, whether of the one God or of false deities. The golden calf, which was a symbol of Jehovah, is condemned equally with the fair forms that haunted the Greek Olympus, or the half-bestial shapes of Egyptian mythology.The reasons for the prohibition may be considered as two,--the impossibility of setting forth the glory of the Infinite Spirit in any form, and the certainty that the attempt will sink the worshipper deeper in the mire of sense. An image degrades God and damages men. By it religion reverses its nature, and becomes another clog to keep the soul among the things seen, and an ally of all fleshly inclinations. We know how idolatry seemed to cast a spell over the Israelites from Egypt to Babylon, and how their first relapse into it took place almost before the voice which 'spake all these words' had ceased.

In its grosser form, we have no temptation to it. But there are other ways of breaking the commandment than setting up an image. All sensuous worship in which the treacherous aid of art is called in to elevate the soul, comes perilously near to contradicting its spirit, if not its letter. The attempt to make of the senses a ladder for the soul to climb to God by, is a great deal more likely to end in the soul's going down the ladder than up it. The history of public worship in the Christian Church teaches that the less it has to dowith such slippery help the better. There is a strong current running in England, at all events, in the direction of bringing in amore artistic, or, as it is called, a 'less bare,' form of service. We need to remember that the God who is a Spirit is worshipped 'in spirit,' and that outward forms may easily choke, and outward aids hinder, that worship.

The law of His providence sounds hard, but it is nothing more than stating in plain words the course of the world's history, which cannot be otherwise if there is to be any bond of human society at all. We hear a great deal in modern language about solidarity (and sometimes it is spelled with a final 'e,' to look more philosophical) and heredity. The teaching of this commandment is simply a statement of the same facts, with the addition that the Lawgiver is visible behind the law. The consequences of conduct do not die with the doers. 'The evil that men do, lives after them.' The generations are so knit together, and the full results of deeds are often so slow-growing, that one generation sows and another reaps. Who sowed the seed that fruited in misery, and was gathered in a bitter harvest of horrors and crimes in the French Revolution? Who planted the tree under which the citizens of the United States sit? Did not the seedling go over in the Mayflower? As long as the generations of men are more closely connected than those of sheep or birds, this solemn word must be true. Let us see that we sow no tares to poison our children when we are in our graves. The saying had immediate application to the consequences of idolatry in the history of Israel, and was a forecast of their future. But it istrue evermore and everywhere.
The following quote is from Maclaren's The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Expositor's Bible):
Enlisting the senses as the allies of the spirit in worship is risky work. They are very apt to fight for their own hand when they once begin, and the history of all symbolic and ceremonial worship shows that the experiment is much more likely to end in sensualizing religion than in spiritualizing sense. . . . All ceremonial is in danger of becoming opaque instead of transparent, as it was meant to be, and of detaining mind and eye instead of letting them pass on and up to God. Stained glass is lovely, and white windows are barnlike and starved and bare; but perhaps, if the object is to get light and to see the sun, these solemn purples and glowing yellows are rather in the way. . . . Anyway, Paul's great principle here is that a Christianity making much of forms and ceremonies is a distinct retrogression and descent. You are men in Christ; do not go back to the picture book A B C of symbol and ceremony, which was fit for babes. You have been brought into the inner sanctuary of worship in spirit; do not decline to the beggarly elements of outward form.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

William Harrell's "Concerning Pictures of Jesus"

Read Pastor William Harrell's article "Pictures of Jesus" here (at Banner of Truth). Below is the full text from Immanuel Presbyterian Church's October 2005 Minister's Letter.

Concerning Pictures of Jesus

Dear Friends,

There abounds in many churches and in much Christian educational material pictorial representations of Jesus. These pictures of our Lord are considered by many as helpful teaching tools for children, and as devotional aids for adults. If they do serve these purposes, could they be wrong? This is a question that has risen to some degree of prominence in our denomination in recent years. To some, the issue may seem like a tempest in a teapot, as Church elders make much over something that might seem to most to be a harmless practice at worst and a helpful didactic tool at best. Yet, we should have our understanding and practice formed by the tenets of Scripture, not by the opinions or prevailing practices of men. Therefore, since this is an issue now being debated in the courts of our particular communion at least, let us consider the matter to see if the Word of God sheds light on it.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this practice of pictorially representing Jesus is its being based entirely upon an impulse of men, rather than upon the teaching of Scripture. Where in all of the Word of the Lord do we find one iota of a hint that we should draw or paint pictures of Jesus? The Second Commandment explicitly forbids such visual representations of God (Ex. 20:4,5). Some say that this commandment forbids any and all visual art, or representations of false gods. Yet, the controlling context of the Second Commandment is the Preface of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1,2), as well as the First Commandment (Ex. 20:3). This context clearly establishes that the parameters of reference for the Second Commandment have to do with the one true and living God. The First Commandment tells us to worship Him alone; the Second tells us to do so not by our own devisings, but by His self-disclosure contained in Scripture. Accordingly, our Larger Catechism teaches that the Second Commandment forbids…the making any representation of God, of all or any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image…(L/C #’s 107-110, especially #109).

Do we find the practice of making pictures of Jesus commended or even countenanced anywhere in Scripture? Where have the prophets and apostles taught us either by precept or by their example to do such a thing? How do people account for the studious and absolute absence from Scripture of any hint as to the legitimacy of a visible representation of Jesus? The iconists cannot answer these questions, except upon the basis of purported theological inference and purported rational necessity. The theological inference is that since Jesus was a Man, the Son of God incarnate, then it is as legitimate for us to conceive of and represent Him visually as it would have been for us to behold Him with our own eyes during His earthly life. Yet, men did behold Him with their eyes, such as did the two disciples on the Emmaus road, and misconstrued who He was (Lk. 24:13ff). It is with the eyes of our hearts that we truly apprehend the Son of God (Eph. 1:18ff).

The purported rational necessity is that we cannot help but form mental images of Jesus when Scripture speaks of Him in terms such as His being asleep in a boat, or riding a donkey into Jerusalem . However, in none of such accounts is anything like a physical description given of our Lord, and so, clearly, such a visual image is not the point of the passages in question. Regarding our tendency to form mental images from verbal descriptions, we are expressly forbidden mentally to form and indulge in the sinful contemplation of another woman or man. If adultery is wrong in deed, then it is wrong in depiction of any sort. Self-control, even of the mind and its contemplation of mental images, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

There appears, then, to be a very strong case against visual representations of Jesus. But why should we concern ourselves with such an apparently harmless matter? The answer is that all of us suffer, to some degree, from our having too low and erroneous conceptions of our Savior. Not one of us thinks, feels, speaks, or acts on too high and glorious a conception of the Christ, the Son of the living God. The most clear and accurate representation of our Lord is the inspired and inerrant revelation of Him that we have in the Bible. Our faith is designed to apprehend Christ as He is presented to us in the Word of God. The works of men’s hands in their attempts so to represent Him cannot do other than fail to portray the truth. In fact, such attempts ultimately serve only to obscure the saving truth of God as it is in Jesus. Therefore, this is a serious matter. Let us, then, determine to refrain from man’s attempts to improve upon the revelation of God. Let us say with the prophet Isaiah, To the Law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no light (Is. 8:20 ).

Faithfully yours,

William Harrell