Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stephen Charnock & The Existence And Attributes Of God, On God's Being A Spirit

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?

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