Monday, June 2, 2008

J.C. Philpot on Idols & Idolatry

J.C. Philpot's "The History of an Idol, its Rise, Reign and Progress" can be read here.

Read Philpot's sermon "Idolatry" here.

A selection from "Idolatry":
One mark of a person being a partaker of grace is being turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.

The second mark which he gives as being a partaker of the grace of the gospel is, "And to wait for his Son from heaven."

Idolatry embodies a false notion of God; at the same time it deifies some lust or corruption.

From Philpot's sermon The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the Knowledge of
Christ (sermon found in Volume 8 of Philpots sermons, available in pdf here):
We want a Person to be the object of our faith; for faith needs an object, and especially in the matter of worship or service, a personal object. Do you not feel that you want some personal object to believe in, to hope in, to worship, to adore, to love? The feeling of this want has been the source of idolatry. When men had lost the knowledge of the only true God and could not look forward in faith to the Messiah who was to be revealed, they set up a visible idol that they might have a personal object to worship—a visible representation, as they conceived, of invisible Deity. A personal God, then, is an object with us of prime necessity, for we cannot worship what is unknown or wholly invisible. The invisible God therefore has made himself visible in the Person of his dear Son; and when he is pleased to shine into the heart, he makes himself known there in his personal glory, as the apostle beautifully speaks, "For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.) It is in the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, that God is thus seen and known; and when the Lord the Spirit takes the veil of unbelief and ignorance off our heart, then is fulfilled that inward transformation into the same glory of which the apostle testifies: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18.) Now it is most necessary for our faith and hope to believe in this glorious gospel which thus makes known the glory of God in the face, or, as the word might be rendered, the Person of Jesus Christ; for we cannot worship or serve God under a sense of his burning displeasure in a broken law. We cannot draw nigh to the Majesty of heaven as a consuming fire, any more than the children of Israel could draw near to Sinai's blazing top. But he has come near to us when we could not come nigh to him. He has come near to us in the face of a Mediator; "for there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
We are not to look for dreams, visions, voices, supernatural appearances, sights in the sky, open and outward views of Christ in his glory, or of Christ hanging upon the cross. We are not to expect or even desire any thing that is visible, something which the eye of sense might almost apprehend or the bodily finger almost touch. I cannot, I dare not, limit the power or the wisdom of God: and I doubt not that some, if not many of the Lord's people, have been so powerfully impressed by what they have seen and heard of and from the Lord, that it was to them as if they had actually seen his bodily shape or heard his spoken voice. But we walk by faith, not by sight, and if we seem to see invisible things, we see them only by the eye of faith, or if we hear gracious words, we hear them only by the ear of faith. God in his word has given no promise to the natural eye or the natural ear; nor are we saved by what our natural eyes see or our natural ears hear. It is by grace we are saved through faith, and not by seeing supernatural sights or hearing audible words. The apostle Paul was indeed caught up to the third heaven, and there heard unspeakable words, and doubtless viewed ravishing sights; but the Holy Ghost has drawn a veil over them, for the apostle says of them, that they were "things not lawful for a man to utter."
God does not speak with a new revelation from heaven, nor give us something with his own voice from above, as though he would furnish us with a new Bible, or reveal to us some fresh truth not contained in it. All truth is in the Scripture; but though truth is in the Scripture, there is a veil over the book of God, so that we can neither understand nor believe it until it is removed. But when the Lord the Spirit is pleased to take the veil of unbelief and ignorance from off the mind, and to remove the veil from off the word of truth, and thus gives us power to receive and believe what God has there written, this is a revelation, or an uncovering of the word without, and the heart within; and the Spirit who works this, is a Spirit of revelation; for it is the Lord the Spirit who takes the veil away, as the apostle declares: "Now the Lord is that Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:17.) It is thus that Christ is revealed in the heart, as he is revealed in the word. Do we see by faith his Deity? It is because in the word he is revealed in the Scriptures as God, and the Son of God. Do we see by faith his humanity? It is because he is spoken of in the word as the Son of man. Do we see his complex Person as the God-Man? It is because he is revealed there as Immanuel, God with us. Many of the dear saints of God, when they hear or read of a revelation of Christ, are tempted to look for some supernatural sight or mysterious manifestation which God has never promised to give. He will reveal his dear Son in them and make him known unto them; but it will be in his way, not in theirs, in harmony with his word, and not with the fancies or expectations of their own mind.
Read Philpot's "The Clean Water Sprinkled and the New Heart Given"
here. From the work:

But their idolatry was almost, if not altogether as great as their infidelity. Though from Sinai's blazing top God had revealed his law with thunder and lightning and earthquake; though he had spoken himself from heaven, "You shall not make to yourself any graven image, nor the likeness of anything which is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth;" yet, when Moses tarried for awhile upon the mountain in solemn communion with God, they must needs make to themselves a golden calf, and cry out with all the brutish ignorance of infidelity and idolatry– "These be your gods, O Israel, which brought you out of Egypt." What! a calf to be the representation of the great God who had done such mighty wonders! What brutish ignorance for them so quickly to depart from the worship of the living God– and as the Psalmist speaks, "to change their glory," (that is, their glorious God) "into the similitude of an ox that eats grass." (Psalm. 106:20.) Can we wonder that God was so provoked by this abominable idolatry, as to say unto Moses– "I have seen this people and behold it is a stiff-necked people? Now, therefore, let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them." (Exod. 32:9, 10.)

But this was only one instance of their stubborn and deep-rooted idolatry. When they got the promised land into possession, and that "not by their own sword, nor by their own arm, but by the right-hand and arm of the light of God's countenance because he had a favor unto them;" even then, instead of destroying the altars, breaking down the images, and cutting down the groves (or, as the word should be rendered, "the wooden images") of the heathen nations as they were expressly commanded, they bowed down to their false gods. As we read, "They provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their engraved images." (Psalm. 78:58.) In fact, what is their whole history down to the time of the Babylonish captivity, but one continued series of idolatrous worship, whenever they got the least opportunity to gratify that propensity of their besotted minds?

We see, then, from these examples of the children of Israel, who are set before us in the Scriptures as warning examples "to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted, nor be idolaters as were some of them," how deeply seated are the two sins of unbelief and idolatry. Similarly, wherever a missionary has penetrated, into whatever remote and dark corners of the earth he has carried his foot, there he has found idol worship as the only form of religion known and practiced. In Greece, in Rome, in their palmiest days, idolatry was the only religion of the people. Great as Athens was in learning, cultivated as was every are and science there, yet we read of that distinguished city, that while Paul waited for Silas and Timothy "his spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry," [or, as it is in the margin, "full of idols."] There was indeed an altar "To the unknown God;" but it was because the true God was an unknown God that they put an idol in his place.