Saturday, May 31, 2008
Below are quotes by Stephen Charnock (an English Puritan Presbyterian clergyman who lived from 1628-1680) from his The Existence And Attributes Of God, On God's Being A Spirit; the quotes can be found here. The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (including The Existence and Attributes of God) can be downloaded here (thanks to TurretinFan).
There are as many carved images of God as there are minds of men, and as monstrous shapes as those corruptions into which they would transform him. Hence sprang,
1. Idolatry. Vain imaginations first set afloat and kept up this in the world. Vain imaginations of the God " whose glory they changed into the image of corruptible man. They had set up vain images of him in their fancy, before they set up idolatrous representations of him in their temples ; the likening him to those idols of wood and stone, and various metals, were the fruit of an idea erected in their own minds. This is a mighty debasing the Divine nature, and rendering him no better than that base and stupid matter they make the visible object of their adoration ; equaling him with those base creatures they think worthy to be the representations of him. Yet how far did this crime spread itself in all corners of the world, not only among the more barbarous and ignorant, but the more polished and civilized nations! Judea only, where God had placed the ark of his presence, being free from it, in some intervals of time only after some sweeping judgment. And though they vomited up their idols under some sharp scourge, they licked them up again after the heavens were cleared over their heads : the whole book of Judges makes mention of it. And though an evangelical light hath chased that idolatry away from a great part of the world, yet the principle remaining coins more spiritual idols in the heart, which are brought before God in acts of worship.
(above via Stephen Charnock Project)
"The image of God in man consisted not in what is seen, but in what is not seen; not in the conformation of the members, but rather in the spiritual faculties of the soul; or, most of all, in the holy endowments of those faculties... The image which is restored by redeeming grace, was the image of God by original nature.""If God be a pure spirit, it is unreasonable to frame any image or picture of God... our hands are as unable to fashion him, as our eyes to see him... those that think to draw God by a stroke of a pencil, or form him by the engravings of art, are more stupid than the statues themselves."
"God inhabits inaccessible light; as it is impossible for the eye of man to see him, it is impossible for the art of man to paint him upon walls, and carve him out of wood. None knows him but himself, none can describe him but himself. Can we even draw a figure of our own souls, and express that part of ourselves, wherein we are most like to God?"
"Suppose we could make such an image of God as might perfectly represent him; yet since God hath prohibited it, shall we be wiser than God?"
"When men fancy God like themselves in their corporeal nature, they will soon make a progress, and ascribe to him their corrupt nature; and while they clothe him with their bodies, invest him also in the infirmities of them."
"The nature of God is as much wronged by unworthy images, erected in the fancy, as by statues carved out of stone or metals: one as well as the other is a deserting of our true spouse, and committing adultery; one with a material image, and the other with a carnal notion of God."
From Stephen Charnock's Man's Enmity to God:
4. In having debasing notions of the holy nature of God. We invert the creation contrary to God's order in it; God made man according to his own image, and we make God according to ours. We fashion God like ourselves, and fasten our own humours upon him, as the Lacedemonians were wont to dress their gods after the fashion of their cities, Psal. 40. 21. Though men are enemies to the holy majesty of God, yet they can please themselves well enough with him as represented by that idea their corrupt minds have framed of him. We cannot comprehend God; if we could, we should be infinite, not finite; and because we cannot comprehend him, we set up in our fancies strange images of him, and so ungod God in our heart and affections.
1. This is a higher affront to God than we imagine. Vulgi opinionis diis applicare prophanum est. Epicurus. De Deo male sentire quam deum esse negare pejus duco. It is worse to degrade the nature of God in our conceits, and to make him a vicious God, than if in our thoughts we did quite discard any such being; for it is not so gross a crime to deny his being, as to fancy him otherwise than he is; such imaginations strip him of his perfections, and reduce him to a mere vanity. Plutarch saith, he should account himself less wronged by that man that should deny there ever was such a man as Plutarch, than that he should affirm, there was such a man indeed, but he was a choleric clown, a decrepid fellow, a debauched man, and an ignorant fool. This was the general censure of the heathen, that superstition was far worse than atheism, by how much the less evil it was to have no opinion of God, than such as is vile, wicked, derogatory to the pure and holy nature of the divine majesty.
2. Carnal imaginations of God, as well as corporeal images, are idolatry. It is a question, which idolatry is the greatest, to worship an image of wood or stone, or to entertain monstrous imaginations of God. It provokes a man when we liken him to some inferior creature, and call him a dog, or toad; it is not such an affront to a man to call him a creature of such a low rank and classis, as to square and model the perfections of the great God, according to our limited capacities. We do worse than the heathen (of whom the apostle proclaimed) did in their images, they likened the glory of God to such creatures as were of the lowest form in the creation. We liken God not to corruptible man, but to corrupt man, and worse yet, to the very corruptions of men, and worship a God dressed up according to our own foolish fancies; And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, Rom. 1. 23. If all those several conceptions and ideas men have of God, were uncased, and discovered, what a monstrous thing would God appear to be, according to the modes the imaginative faculty frames them in?
I believe that we have come to a time when the subject of idolatry demands a thorough and searching investigation. I believe that idolatry is near us and about us and in the midst of us to a very fearful extent. The Second Commandment in one word is in peril. “The plague is begun” (Num 16:46).Read the rest of the article here.
Read Idolatry by J. C. Ryle, here or here:
It is not necessary, for a man to formally deny God and Christ, in order to be an idolater. Far from it. Professed reverence for the God of the Bible and actual idolatry, are perfectly compatible. They have often been done side by side, and they still do so. The children of Israel never thought of renouncing God when they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. "Here are your gods," they said, "who brought you up out of Egypt." And the feast in honor of the calf was kept as a "festival to the LORD (Jehovah)" (Exodus 32:4, 5)....
Jeroboam, again, never pretended to ask the ten tribes to cast off their allegiance to the God of David and Solomon. When he set up the calves of gold in Dan and Bethel, he only said, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28).
In both instances, we should observe, the idol was not set up as a rival to God, but under the pretense of being a help—a steppingstone to His service. But, in both instances, a great sin was committed. The honor due to God was given to a visible representation of Him. The majesty of Jehovah was offended. The second commandment was broken. There was, in the eyes of God, a flagrant act of idolatry.
The cause of all idolatry is the natural corruption of man's heart. That great family disease, with which all the children of Adam are infected from their birth, shows itself in this, as it does in a thousand other ways. Out of the same fountain from which "come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly" (Mark 7:21, 22)—out of that same fountain arise false views of God, and false views of the worship due to Him, and, therefore, when the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians (Galatians 5:20) what are the "works of the flesh," he places prominently among them "idolatry."Read Ryle's comments on The Holy Spirit here:
Without the Holy Spirit no man ever turns to God, repents, believes, and obeys. Intellectual training and secular education alone make no true Christians. Acquaintance with fine arts and science leads no one to heaven. Pictures and statues never brought one soul to God. The "tender strokes of art" never prepared any man or woman for the judgment day. They bind up no broken heart; they heal no wounded conscience. The Greeks had their Zeuxis and Parrhasius, their Phidias and Praxiteles, masters as great in their day as any in modern times; yet the Greeks knew nothing of the way of peace with God. They were sunk in gross idolatry, and bowed down to the works of their own hands. The most zealous efforts of ministers alone cannot make people Christians. The ablest scriptural reasoning has no effect on the mind; the most fervent pulpit eloquence will not move the heart; the naked truth alone will not lead the will. We who are ministers know this well by painful experience. We can show people the fountain of living waters—but we cannot make them drink. We see many a one sitting under our pulpits year after year, and hearing hundreds of sermons, full of Gospel truth, without the slightest result. We mark him year after year, unaffected and unmoved by every Scriptural argument—cold as the stones on which he treads as he enters our church, unmoved as the marble statue which adorns the tomb against the wall—dead as the old dry oak of which his pew is made, feelingless as the painted glass in the windows, through which the sun shines on his head. We look at him with wonder and sorrow, and remember Xavier's words as he looked at China, "Oh, rock, rock! when will you open?" And we learn by such cases as these, that nothing will make a Christian but the introduction into the heart of a new nature, a new principle, and a Divine seed from above.Also, read Ryle's "Idolatry Today - Where Is It?" here (Chapel Library Mount Zion Bible Church) and "Why Were Our Reformers Burned?" here (Friends of William Tyndale)
From J.C. Ryle's Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, IV. THE FIGHT:
Let us turn to the pages of early Church history. Let us see how the primitive Christians held fast their religion even unto death, and were not shaken by the fiercest persecutions of heathen Emperors. For centuries there were never wanting men like Polycarp and Ignatius, who were ready to die rather than deny Christ. Fines, and prisons, and torture, and fire, and sword, were unable to crush the spirit of the noble army of martyrs. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church’s strength. They won their victory by faith.
Let us examine the story of the Protestant Reformation. Let us study the lives of its leading champions—Wycliffe, and Huss, and Luther, and Ridley, and Latimer, and Hooper. Let us mark how these gallant soldiers of Christ stood firm against a host of adversaries, and were ready to die for their principles. What battles they fought! What controversies they maintained! What contradiction they endured! What tenacity of purpose they exhibited against a world in arms! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the secret of their strength. They overcame by faith.
Let us consider the men who have made the greatest marks in Church history in the last hundred years. Let us observe how men like Wesley, and Whitfield, and Venn, and Romaine, stood alone in their day and generation, and revived English religion in the face of opposition from men high in office, and in the face of slander, ridicule, and persecution from nine-tenths of professing Christians in our land. Let us observe how men like William Wilberforce, and Havelock, and Hedley Vicars, have witnessed for Christ in the most difficult positions, and displayed a banner for Christ even at the regimental mess-table, or on the floor of the House of Commons. Let us mark how these noble witnesses never flinched to the end, and won the respect even of their worst adversaries. And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Christ is the key to all their characters. By faith they lived, and walked, and stood, and overcame.
From J.C. Ryle's Expository thoughts on the Gospels, Mark, Chap. X.:
Bartimaeus was blind in body, but not in soul. The eyes of his understanding were open. He saw things which Annas and Caiaphas, and hosts of letter-learned Scribes and Pharisees, never saw at all. He saw that Jesus of Nazareth, as our Lord was contemptuously called—Jesus, who had lived for thirty years in an obscure Galilean village—this very Jesus was the Son of David—the Messiah of whom prophets had prophesied long ago. He had witnessed none of our Lord's mighty miracles. He had not had the opportunity of beholding dead people raised with a word, and lepers healed by a touch. Of all these privileges, his blindness totally deprived him. But he had heard the report of our Lord's mighty works, and hearing had believed. He was satisfied from mere hear-say, that He of whom such wonderful things were reported, must be the promised Saviour, and must be able to heal him. And so when our Lord drew near, he cried, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me."
Let us strive and pray that we may have like precious faith. We too are not allowed to see Jesus with our bodily eyes. But we have the report of His power, and grace, and willingness to save, in the Gospel. We have exceeding great promises from His own lips, written down for our encouragement. Let us trust those promises implicitly, and commit our souls to Christ unhesitatingly. Let us not he afraid to repose all our confidence on His own gracious words, and to believe that what He has engaged to do for sinners, He will surely perform. What is the beginning of all saving faith, but a soul's venture on Christ? What is the life of saving faith, when once begun, but a continual leaning on an unseen Saviour's word? What is the first step of a Christian, but a crying, like Bartimaeus, "Jesus have mercy on me?" What is the daily course of a Christian, but keeping up the same spirit of faith? "Though now we see Him not, yet believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." (1 Peter i. 8.)
JOHN FLAVEL on 1 Peter 1:8,
Didst thou ever see Christ with whom thy soul is so delighted? No, I have not seen him; yet my soul is transported with love to him, "whom having not seen, we love." But if thou never sawest him, how comes thy soul to be so delighted with him? Why, though I never saw him by the eye of sense, I do see him by the eye of faith; and by that sight my soul is flooded with spiritual joy: "Believing, we rejoice." But what manner of joy is it which you taste ? No tongue can express that, for it is joy unspeakable. But how are Christ and heaven turned into such joys to the soul? The Spirit of the Lord gives the believer a sight to discern not only the transcendent excellency of these spiritual objects, but his interest in them also. This is my Saviour, and this the glory prepared for me. Without appropriation, heaven itself cannot be turned into joy. My soul rejoices in God my Saviour. Luke 1 :47. We read of some who shall have a sight of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yet shall be without joy, Luke 13:28; a dreadful sight to such, for want of a joint interest with them in that glory. They shall see, and yet weep and gnash their teeth. But an interest sealed gives joy unspeakable.
As to the excellency of this joy, it will prove the pleasant light of the soul. Light and joy are synonymous terms in Scripture. Psa. 97:11. It is as the cheerful light of the morning, after a sad and dismal night. You who have sat in darkness and the shadow of death, who have sat mourning in the dark without one glimpse of a promise, who have conversed with nothing but dismal thoughts of hell and wrath—O,I shall be cast away for ever ; what will you say, when after all this darkness, the day-star shall arise in your hearts, and the joy of heaven shall beam upon your souls? Will not this be a glorious reward for all your self-denial for Christ, and fully recompense the frowns of ungodly relations for giving entertainment to Christ? This joy of the Lord, if there were no other heaven, is an abundant recompense. This joy of the Lord shall be your strength. Neh. 8: 10. Let God but give a person a little of this joy into his heart, and he shall presently feel himself strengthened by it, either to do or to suffer the will of God. Now he can pray with enlargement, hear with comfort, meditate with delight; and if God call him to suffer, this joy shall strengthen him to bear it. This it was that made the martyrs go singing to the stake. This therefore transcends all the joys of the world. There are sinful pleasures which men find in fulfilling their lusts; there are sensitive joys that men find in the good creatures of God, filling their hearts with food and gladness; there are also delusive joys, that hypocrites find in their ungrounded hopes of heaven. The joys of the sensualist are brutish, the joys of the hypocrite are ensnaring and vanishing; but the joys of the Holy Ghost are solid, sweet, and leading to the fullness of everlasting joy.
—JOHN FLAVEL, died 1691
And for the loss of your pleasures, by conversion to God, that is the thinnest and silliest pretense of all the rest: That is the same thing, as to imagine it is to a thirsty man's loss, to leave the puddle waters of a broken cistern, to enjoy the crystal streams of a flowing fountain; for the pleasures of an ale-house, playhouse, or whorehouse, to be sweeter than the light of God's countenance, the comforts of his pardon, or the lively hopes of glory with him in heaven; of which you read, 1 Pet. i. 8.
Q. 47. Do they think it lawful to represent God and the blessed Trinity by pictures and images, and to worship them?
A. Such pictures are not only almost every where received in the Church of Rome, but universally tolerated; (Bellarm. de Imag. 1. 2, c. 8, sec. Ultimo probatur;) and are both recommended as expedient for the people, (Concil. Trid. Sess. 25, de Sacr. Imag. Catech. Rom. par. 3, c. 2, n. 20,) and proposed to them to be worshipped. (Cajetan. in Aquin q. 25, art. 3.)
Rep. There is nothing more expressly forbidden in Scripture, than the making any image or representation of God: "Take ye good heed unto yourselves, (for ye saw no manner of similitude,) lest ye corrupt yourselves; and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure," Deut. iv, 15, 16. If it had been acceptable to God, he would have chosen a similitude to appear in; but seeing he did not, they were not to presume to make one for him. This is to "change his glory," Rom. i, 21, &c. And "to place such an image in a Christian temple is abominable," saith St . Austin. (De Fide et Symb. c. 7.) And "thus to describe the Trinity, is a deformation of it," saith Cassander. (Art. 21, sec. de Imag.)
Q. 48. Upon what pretence do they make such representations of God?
A. They say, they thereby represent not God, but some of his properties and actions, after the manner they are described in Scripture; as when "the Ancient of days" is said to "sit on a throne, having the books opened before him," Dan. vii, 9, 10; thereby signifying his eternity and infinite wisdom. (Catech. Rom. ibid.)
Rep. But what is this to those images and pictures used by them which have no resemblance in Scripture; such are their descriptions of the Trinity in Unity, as of God the Father like an old man, having the Son lying in his bosom, and the Holy Ghost over his head like a dove?
(2.) God himself never appeared in any form; and so the resemblance in Daniel was only a prophetical scheme, and did no more belong to God than the eyes and ears that are ascribed to him in Scripture.
(3.) God cannot be represented at all, but by such properties and effects: but if an image of God be forbidden to be worshipped, then the image, even by such properties and effects, is forbidden to be worshipped.
Q. 49. But are not such descriptions of God, the way to represent him, as if he was like unto one of us f
A. Such pictures are not without danger to be exposed to such as cannot read the Scriptures, if they are not taught that they are to be taken metaphorically. (Bellarm. de Imag. 1. 2, c. 8, sec. Respondent.)
Rep. Cassander saith, "I wish those from whom this information is to be received, were not the authors of these superstitions;" and he adds, "That the teaching is not enough, without the occasions be removed." (Art. 21, de Imag.) This he saith of all images, but more especially of such as are made to represent God.
(John Wesley, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley)
Also, from Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible:
Commentary on Chapter 20 of Exodus (note: 20:3)
Commentary on Chapter 32 of Exodus (note: 32:5)
The American View's forum had an article discussion that raised the issue of so-called "pictures of Christ." J. Glenn Ferrell provides insightful commentary on the views of Calvin and Knox concerning idolatry. Click here to go to the TAV Forum discussion.
The Gospel and the Present Day Idolatry
From SermonAudio.com: No Graven Images in the Worship of God (from Papacy is the Antichrist sermon series)
Bennett's notes for the presentation: "The Gospel and the Present Day Idolatry"
"Idolatry in the Evangelical Camp" (co-written with J. Virgil Dunbar)
"Indifference or Ignorance: The Practice of Idolatry Within the Church" (co-written with Randall Paquette)
"The Passion of Christ: Mel Gibson's Vivid Deception" (co-written with J. Virgil Dunbar)
Providence PCA Mission Church Articles Providence PCA Mission Church has two good articles concerning idolatry and so-called images, or pictures, of Christ:
Five Reasons Not to Go See The Passion of the Christ by Andrew J. Webb
From Moody's article (also see 1 Peter 1:3-9):
The Eschatology of the Image of Jesus
At the heart of Scripture's teaching on the image of God is our hope to one day see Him face-to-face! However, this current time in the history of redemption is characterized by anticipation. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:6-7, "We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are those who have not seen the physical body of our risen Lord, and yet we believe (John 20:29)! Now, our vision of our risen Lord is dimmed, but in glory we will see Him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12; Revelation 22:4). In John 16:16, Jesus says to His disciples, A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me. We are in the time of not seeing. Our heart's longing is to see our risen Savior face to face, but this is not yet the time for that beautiful sight. We must look for Him where he is revealed to us clearly by the Spirit, in His Word and Sacraments. In a little while we will see Him with our own eyes. Until then, we must put away such false and idolatrous images that are found commonly in our broader Christian culture, and delight to see Christ as He is clearly proclaimed in the preaching of His Word.
Listen to and download the mp3 here.
Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.
Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.
Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.