Monday, December 19, 2011



III. "God is a Spirit."

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," &c.—Exod. xx. 4-6.

The first word on Sinai declares that there is but one God; the second word teaches us that God is not to be worshipped under any visible representation or form. Isaiah asks, "To whom, then, will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?" He is an invisible Spirit, and therefore cannot be represented in any visible shape; He is everywhere present, and therefore not a figure, confined to one place. We cannot limit the Infinite: we cannot "by searching find out God."

In the early ages of history there were no images of the Deity known. Herodotus, when writing of the manners and customs of the Persians, says, "They have among them neither statues, temples, nor altars; the use of which they censure as impious, and a gross violation of reason, probably because, in opposition to the Greeks, they do not believe that the gods partake of our human nature. Their custom is to offer from the summits of the highest mountains sacrifices to Jove, distinguishing by that appellation all the expanse of the firmament." The worship of the heavenly bodies was the earliest form of idolatry, and Moses warns against it: "Take good heed lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them." The origin of idolatry may be traced to this fact, that men looked about for some visible representations of the invisible Deity, and that in course of time the image or the symbol became a substitute for the Deity Himself. Men looked for God everywhere, and they could not see Him; they could see the stars crowning the night with glory, they could see the sunlight flooding the universe; and they said, "The sun and the stars shall be to us an image of the all-glorious Deity, a symbol of His greatness, and power, and goodness." But, as time advanced, the symbols themselves were deified, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, were worshipped and served. And then, as "the carnal mind was enmity against God," and men "became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened," they "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."

The Israelites, then, were forbidden to set up an image of the true God; not only forbidden to worship false gods, but also forbidden to make any image of the true God. "When Aaron made the golden calf, and Jeroboam the son of Nebat made similar images, in both instances it was the worship of Jehovah as represented by the image that was intended; and in both instances a connecting link with Egypt is afforded us in the sacred narrative. In the case of Aaron we have the fact of Egypt having been the birthland of the sinning people; while in the case of Jeroboam we have the fact that it was after a long residence in Egypt, in the court of Shishak, that he devised this worship. The prophets of Jehovah denounced it; and in the Second Book of Kings the fall of the kingdom is expressly attributed to the gods of Jeroboam. Animal-worship was common among the Egyptians; a multitude of beasts, birds, and fishes were regarded and served as representatives of their deities; the hawk, and the crocodile, and the serpent, and the lion, and the wolf, and other creatures, were the forms under which the gods were worshipped. The Israelites were therefore forbidden to make "any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth"; no bird, or beast, or fish was to be to them a representation of Jehovah; no likeness was to be made, no image was to be carved, no picture was to be painted. We believe that the masterpieces of art, whether in painting or sculpture, have a refining and elevating influence on those who admire and study them. But art is not necessarily religious, and some of the ages in which art has flourished were not remarkable for their purity or refinement. Some wonderful frescoes and paintings have been discovered in a city that was buried in ruins eighteen hundred years ago, whose iniquity was so great that a doom not unlike that of Sodom and Gomorrah overtook it; and when I visited Pompeii, and saw on the broken pillars, the mosaic floors of houses, and the frescoes on the walls, evidences that art had been busy there, I saw also that it had been the handmaid of sensuality and vice, and that the fire of genius had been burning on the altar of devils. There are some who speak as if they had found in art a gospel of salvation; but men crippled and shattered by sin may be laid every day at the gate which is called Beautiful, and yet left in their helplessness and misery. Painting and sculpture were not forbidden by this second word of the law—and we read of the forms of the cherubim in the temple—but no image was to be set up as an object of worship; and the influence of this prohibition upon the history of the Jews is perceived in the fact that no painters or sculptors have ever risen among them. They have had poets and musicians, but no painters; and while among the Greeks Phidias and Praxiteles were carving the statues that became the wonders of the world, on the roll of Hebrew worthies we find the name of no painter or sculptor.

It is remarkable that in the four Gospels we have no description of the person of our Lord, no hint as to His stature, or His face. Art has embodied its loftiest conceptions of that Divine face on the canvas, but Raphael's "Transfiguration," Holman Hunt's "Light of the "World," Dore's "Christ leaving the Praetorium," Muncacksy's "Christ before Pilate," marvellous as they all are as works of genius, do not satisfy the soul that has entered into fellowship with the Perfect life, and who feels that there is an unspeakable, infinite beauty in Him who
With human hands the creed of creeds
In loveliness of perfect deeds,
More strong than all poetic thought."
There is, indeed, one portrait which He has left of Himself, in the Supper, where He is "evidently set forth as crucified" for us. But the fact that we have in the inspired record no materials that would enable us to paint a picture or fashion a statue of our Lord, seems to add emphasis to this prohibition, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath." It is one of the strangest things in the history of the world that a rational, intelligent being should take a piece of metal, or of wood, and mould it into a certain shape, and then, investing it with the attributes of Divinity, fall down before it, and pray to it, and worship it Well might the inspired prophet wield the lash of satire when speaking of it. He says, "The carpenter stretcheth out his rule, he marketh it out with a line, he fitteth it with planes, he marketh it out with a compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in his house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest; ho planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn; for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it and baketh bread; yea he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth meat, and is satisfied; yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire; and the residue thereof lie maketh a god, even his graven image; he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god." This is done, not by a little child who nurses and talks to the doll as if it were a living creature; but by an intelligent man, who can conduct business, frame wise laws for a nation, discuss great moral problems, or speak eloquently in the forum or the school; this man falls down before the idol, the toy, the nonentity, and saith, "Deliver me, for thou art my god." Idolatry robs Jehovah of His honour, and it is therefore denounced as a crime, an injustice, an offence against the Majesty on high. "Ye shall bear the sins of your idols, and ye shall know that I am the Lord God." When Jesus entered the temple of Jerusalem, and Saw those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting, the blush of indignation mantled His cheek, the zeal of His Father's house kindled in His eyes, and with a sublimity and authority which none could resist, He drove the noisy, haggling hucksters out of the temple-court, and said, "Make not My Father's house a house of merchandize." And it was a live coal from the same fire of zeal that burned in the apostle's heart, as he looked upon Athens and saw the city "full of idols." Would not a true patriot look with indignation upon a foeman's flag planted on England's shore? Would not his desire be to trample that flag in the mire, or tear it to ribbons, and unfurl the old English standard that "has braved a thousand years the battle and the breeze"? And the apostle looked upon idol worship as the flag of an enemy on the territory of God, as the occupation by an enemy of the palace that belonged to God. Every idol in Athens, whether of gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device, was a challenge flung in the face of the Godhead. Every temple in which the priest sacrificed, every shady grove in which the devotee worshipped, every idolatrous rite that was practised, every idolatrous feast that was celebrated, was an insult to Him who has declared in His word, "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy."

It appears to us who have never seen an idol, except in the hand of a missionary, or in a museum, monstrous that a man should bow down and worship an idol; and yet we find in history that not only the most degraded and ignorant nations were guilty of this, but also the most advanced in civilization and culture. Athens was the university of the world, and yet it had more images than all the rest of Greece put together. Idolatry was the sin to which the Jews were most prone. Surrounded by heathen nations, and forgetful of the mercies they had received from Jehovah, they were often contaminated with idol-worship; and even Solomon forsook the temple of Jehovah for an idol-grove. And to-day, not only in Africa with its fetish-worship, and India and China with their millions of gods, but also in Christendom, this image-worship prevails. Prayers to the Virgin and the saints are offered in the Romish Church, and statues and images are worshipped. In the Church of Ara Coeli, in Rome, may be seen the celebrated Bambino, a figure of the infant Jesus—a large doll covered with jewels and precious stones—and that doll is worshipped by multitudes who believe in its miraculous power. In St. Peter's there is a black bronze statue which is supposed to be a statue of Jupiter or Pluto, but now it is called St. Peter, and the extended foot of this statue is reverently kissed by Roman Catholic devotees. The foot has been actually worn out of shape by the kisses. I have seen men and women of all classes, priests and monks of all orders, go up to that bronze image and kiss the foot. This image-worship is prohibited by this second word of the law; how, then, did Rome deal with this prohibition? With the cunning craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive, it omitted this word from the Decalogue, and divided the last commandment into two, in order to make up the number ten. The idolatry practised in the Romish Church is one of the signs of its apostasy, and of the certainty of its doom; for, as Max Midler says, "One of the lessons which the history of religions certainly teaches is this, that the curse pronounced against those who would change the invisible into the visible, the spiritual into the material, the Divine into the human, the infinite into the finite, has come true in every nation on earth." The reign of Atheism in France was a "reign of terror;" and what was it but a rebound from the superstitions and absurdities of the Papacy, a protest against the substitution of death for life, of dead forms for the living God; a declaration coming out of the deepest heart of humanity that illusions are not realities, that the soul cannot be fed on the impostures and tricks of priests, that God in Christ alone can satisfy its hunger and soothe its pain? He has revealed Himself to us, not by any bronze statue or wooden image, but by words of truth and love, by deeds of righteousness and mercy, in the person of his well-beloved Son; and He now demands our faith, our homage, our service, our love.

Consider, then, the reasons by which this prohibition is enforced. 1. He is a jealous God. Our character will receive its form and impress very much from the notions we entertain of God. If we regard Him as an impassive, emotionless, heartless Being, who is too high to take any interest in this world, who is not affected by our sorrows, by our circumstances, by our entreaties, by our condition, who does not take the slightest notice of our character, who requires not our worship, who accepts it not, then the effect will be that we shall meet indifference with indifference, we shall lead careless lives, we shall not be watchful in the formation of a character that will never be inspected by the eyes of Divinity. "How doth God know? Can He judge through the dark cloud?" But if we regard Him as the righteous and merciful Father, who is looking with pity on His rebellious children, who is seeking to wean them away from their unbelief and sin, and to bring them into the light; if we believe this, if we heartily accept this revelation, the effect will be seen in our penitential return to Him, and in our desire to please Him and serve Him. Now this verse reveals to us something of the nature and character of God. He is a Personal Being, not an abstraction, not a mere force; not a tendency, or (as Matthew Arnold puts it) "a power not ourselves that works for righteousness," whatever such a phrase may mean. To worship a God who is nothing more than that would be like paying homage to a sum in Algebra, or praying to a theorem in Euclid, or worshipping the Gulf Stream. He is a Personal Being, who loves, who may be offended, who may be grieved, who is jealous; not jealous lest He should suffer any diminution of His glory and blessedness through man's sin, but jealous lest sin should deface and destroy the nature He accounts so precious. We must not think of any of the weakness and passion of man in connection with such an emotion in God. His jealousy is His love on fire, love wounded, love insulted, love incensed. God is thirsting for man's love; there is a hunger in His heart for our confidence and affection; and when an idol occupies His throne His love is grieved; He is jealous of all that would divert the current of our desires from Him. "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him;" and as a father desires the love of His children, hungers for it, is grieved when he does not receive it, so the Lord is jealous. If your son were led astray by evil companions, if your daughter became the prey of the tempter, and fell from the fair Eden of purity to the hell of an abandoned life, would you not be jealous and angry? Man is God's child; and when the child is led astray, and becomes an Absalom, with the fire of defiance in his eye and the weapon of hostility in his hand, it is no wonder that God is jealous. When emissaries of the devil are trying to wrest His child from Him, it is no wonder that He is jealous. When pleasure is pursued, and Mammon is worshipped, and the bubble Fame is chased, and God is forgotten, is it a wonder that He is jealous? The stronger the love the more fierce the jealousy. It Is love that sounds the alarm, that rings the tocsin, that kindles the flame, that pours the vial of wrath. His anger is only another aspect of His love.

2. He punishes His enemies. "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation," etc. Right across the brightness of the world lies the dark shadow of suffering. You cannot get rid of it. It is there, whether you believe the Bible or not. We see everywhere that moral characteristics and physical infirmities and sufferings are transmitted from one generation to another. And this principle of hereditary transmission is recognized in the Bible. The Jews said, "Our fathers have sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities." And it was a proverb among them, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." And these words of doom were pronounced by Christ, "That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zecharias, who perished between the altar and the temple; verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation." Do you not see this principle illustrated in daily life? Children inherit the physical constitution, the propensities, the diseases, the wealth or penury, the glory or disgrace of their parents. Sometimes men are proud of their ancestors, and they "borrow merit from the dead," and if a baronet or lord has ever appeared in their family, they forget not to proclaim the fact. Good and evil are transmitted from one generation to another. But though a man may suffer on account of the sins of his ancestors, yet the suffering is never in the nature of retribution, unless the man's own guilt has called for it. If the penalty goes down to the third and fourth generation, then they are, God says, "the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me." And although innocent children may suffer the consequences of the sins of their parents, yet those consequences are temporal; in another world, and in the coming day of account, every one will be judged personally and separately; the son will not be punished for the sins of his parents, nor will he be excused on the ground of the righteousness of his parents. A man feels, and rightly, that he is not responsible for his grandfather's sins; but he may be in some measure responsible for the conduct of his children, and even grandchildren. And men are entreated to act wisely for the sake of their descendants—to be good and to do good for the sake of others. The Israelites gathered round the base of Sinai ware the founders of a new nation, a nation that was to play an important part, that would have a name in history to the end of time, and if the fountainhead were defiled, the streams would be muddy also. The little children in the camp and unborn generations would reap the advantages or disadvantages arising from their conduct. Let me urge you who are parents, for your children's sakes, to consecrate yourselves to the service of God, to fashion your life according to His will, to yield to the impulses of His Spirit. You may be standing in the way of your children's salvation; your example, your conduct, may be inviting a curse that will be inherited by them; become learners in Christ's school, and you will thus "nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." 8. And He blesses His friends. "And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments "—unto thousands of generations. "Where sin hath abounded, grace hath much more abounded." "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment" There is mercy shining even in the law. In the midst of the storms of Sinai mercy is appearing like a quenchless star. I have said that moral qualities are transmitted, as well as physical features. Lying had become so characteristic of the inhabitants of Crete, that the apostle quoted the proverb, "The Cretans are always liars." Profligacy in a family may go down from one generation to another; and through its profligacy the family in the third or fourth generation becomes extinct—for sin means death and perdition. And habits of industry, and temperance, and truthfulness may go down like healthy blood from one generation to another, even to thousands of generations. But do not think that the renewing grace of God in the heart may be transmitted from sire to son, or that the spiritual life will flow down with the natural life from fathers and mothers to their children. Inherited dispositions backed by education and example may do much to secure this result, but every child must seek for himself "the good part that shall never be taken away from him." It is not the godliness of the parents, but the mercy of God, that goes down unto thousands of generations, and converts them into generations that love Him and keep His commandments.

He is now asking for our love and obedience. "Keep yourselves from idols."
"The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee."
The throne belongs to Him; and He will not remain in the palace at all unless you offer Him the throne. You have grieved Him, and still He has not forsaken you; He has not yet written over the door of your soul, "Ichabod, the glory has departed;" He has not left you with the sentence of doom, "He hath grieved the Holy One of Israel; why should he be smitten any more?" He still loves you. He desires to save you. Welcome Him into your heart "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God." The alternatives are dying of thirst, or coming to the Fountain of living waters. "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, then follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him."

Is He Lord or symbol?

For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it.  Is He Lord or symbol?  Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew?  Does He decide things or only help carry out the plans of others?  All religious activities may be proved by the answer to the question, is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? 
There are a great many bogus Christs among us these days.  John Owen, the old Puritan, warned people in his day: ‘You have an imaginary Christ and if you are satisfied with an imaginary Christ you must be satisfied with an imaginary salvation.’ 
There is only one Christ and the truly saved man has an attachment to Christ that is intellectual in that he knows who Christ is theologically.  For you know there is the romantic Christ of the female novelist and there is the sentimental Christ of the half converted cowboy and there is the philosophical Christ of the academic egghead and there is the cozy Christ of the effeminate poet and there is the muscular Christ of the all-American halfback.  But there is only one true Christ, and God has said that He is His Son. 
We are under constant temptation these days to substitute another Christ for the Christ of the New Testament.
—A.W.  Tozer, Gems from Tozer

Also see these related Tozer posts:

Beyond the Symbols By A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer, Movies, and Knowledge Of The Holy

Thomas Watson on The Second Commandment, Roman Catholicism, Idols, Idolatry, & Idolaters

Click here ( to read Thomas Watson's commentary on the second commandment (called "The Second Commandment") from his writings THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, which was first published as a part of A Body of Practical Divinity, in 1692; read all of Watson's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS here (Internet Christian Library). Here are two quotes from Watson's commentary:
'Nor the likeness of any thing,' &c. All ideas, portraitures, shapes, images of God, whether by effigies or pictures, are here forbidden. 'Take heed lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make the similitude of any figure.' Deut 4: 15, 16. God is to be adored in the heart, not painted to the eye.
[2] To worship God by an image, is both absurd and unlawful.
(1) It is absurd and irrational; for, 'the workman is better than the work,' 'He who has builded the house has more honour than the house.' Heb 3: 3. If the workman be better than the work, and none bow to the workman, how absurd, then, is it to bow to the work of his hands! Is it not an absurd thing to bow down to the king's picture, when the king himself is present? It is more so to bow down to an image of God, when God himself is everywhere present.
Take heed of all occasions of idolatry, for idolatry is devil-worship. Psalm 106: 37. If you search through the whole Bible, there is not one sin that God has more followed with plagues than idolatry. The Jews have a saying, that in every evil that befalls them, there is uncia aurei vituli, an ounce of the golden calf in it. Hell is a place for idolaters. 'For without are idolaters.' Rev 22: 15. Senesius calls the devil a rejoicer at idols, because the image-worshippers help to fill hell.
Read Thomas Watson's "A Sermon Against the Roman Catholic Church (A Sermon against Popery)" here (Bible Bulletin Board). Here is a quote from Watson's sermon:
11ly. An eleventh Error is, Their Worshipping of Images; they burn {} Incense before the Image, which is a Divine worship unto the Image. Now this is directly contrary to the very letter of the Command, Exod. 20.4,5. Image-worship, and Idol-worship are terms synonimical. God saith of Idols, that they speak Vanity, Zach. 10.2. And is it not a vain thing to worship those things that are vain, and that speak vanities? None can draw the picture of a Spirit, who then [can] draw the Picture of him who is the Father of spirits? This Opinion of Image-worship hath been condemned and exploded by several Councils and Synods.
Read Watson's sermon "Roman Catholicism" here (Grace Gems). Here is a quote from Watson's sermon:
11. The next popish error, is their image-worship. Pope Stephen the Third, maintaining images in temples, proclaimed their veneration, and caused the people to burn incense to them. This is contrary to the letter of the commandment, "Do not make idols of any kind. You must never worship or bow down to them." Images are teachers of lies; they represent God in a bodily shape. God said, "Let us make man in Our image," Genesis 1:16. But the papists say, "Let us make God in our image!" When the Lord delivered the Law, the people "heard His words but didn't see His form; there was only a voice," Deuteronomy 4:12. God cannot be pictured by any image. You cannot picture the soul—much less God, Isaiah 40:18, "To whom then will you liken God?" The papists tell us they worship God by the image. I answer, if it is absurd to bow down to the picture of a king—when the king himself is present—then much more to bow down to the image when God Himself is present! Jeremiah 23:24, "Do not I fill heaven and earth, says the Lord?"
From Thomas Watson's The Lord's Prayer: The First Petition in the Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed be your name." Matthew 6:9:
(4) God's name is dishonored by the Papists. Theirs is a God-dishonoring religion. They dishonor the name of God by their idolatry, which is spiritual adultery. Idolatry is to worship a false God, or the true God in a false manner. They dishonor God by their idolatry, in making graven images, and giving the same honor to those who is due to God.Images are teachers of lies. They represent God in a bodily shape. Hab 2:18. They dishonor God by their idolatry in the mass; worshiping the host, and offering it up as a sacrifice for sin. The apostle says, "By one offering, Christ has perfected forever those who are sanctified" (Heb 10:14); but as if his offering on the cross were imperfect, they offer him up daily in the mass, which is a dishonor to Christ's priestly office. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nathanael Vincent on The Knowledge of Christ

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
—2 Peter 3:18

This Knowledge of Christ should grow more Spiritual. He is not to be known after a carnal manner; and therefore Popish Images are very unfit representations of him; not that his flesh is swallowed up of his Divinity as Servetus dreamed: but his flesh is glorified, and as transcendently glorious we must now look upon him. We must also know him as the purchaser and bestower of all Spiritual gifts and graces, that we may be further renewed by his Spirit: the Apostle is thus to be understood when he says 2 Cor. 5: 16, 17. Though we have known Christ after the Flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more; therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new Creature.
Compare all other knowledge with this knowledge of Christ, and see the vast difference in excellency. And this will stir you to grow in it. The philosophers of old, how restless were their minds, how endless their inquires! The farther they went, the more they were puz'led; and after long study, they came to understand that they fully understood nothing. The Wise King of Israel after he had diligently employed his large understanding about human knowledg; he cries out as a man exceedingly vexed and disappointed. Eccles 1:18. In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow. But the knowledge of Christ is of another nature. He that rightly understands the Lord Jesus, understands how to have his guilt removed, his heart renewed, his conscience calmed, his soul secured, and that forever. This knowledge is not a vexation but a satisfaction to the Spirit, both because of its certainty, and because of the superabundant grace and fulness in Christ who is known. Here it may truly be said, Intellectus est in quiete; the better Christ is understood, the more the soul that understands Him is at rest.
—Nathanael Vincent

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Spiritual conjugal friendship with the Sovereign Lord

He [the Lord Jesus Christ] is not only thy Husband but Sovereign Lord, to whom all Divine Adoration and worship doth appertain: wherefore if thou reservest, in the supreme conjugal bent of thine heart, which is thy Lord's Temple and Throne, any secret haunt for old lovers, thou art guilty, not only of spiritual Adultery, but also of Idolatry: for he is thy Lord, whom alone thou must adore, or worship, with spiritual-conjugal faith, love, and obedience. Thou art mistaken if thou thinkest to mediate a league of friendship, betwixt thy New Lord, and old lovers: no, he will have his alone in the inmost bent of thine heart, which is his sacred Temple, or rather the Holy of Holies, where none may enter or Lodge but himself: there is room for other Lovers in the out-lodges of the Affections, but none here, in this sacred Bent of thine heart, save for thy Lord: he alone must be extolled and worshipped here. He that studies, and endeavours to make a composition betwixt Christ and any old friend, so as to allow them both a share in the inmost bent of his spiritually conjugal love, does but delude himself with a framed shadow, or Idol-Christ, of his own fancy. A compounded Christ is a false Christ: if we choose not a single Christ for our friend, we choose nothing, but a coined Idol of our own deluded hearts: he that adds any thing to Christ, as a co-partner in his spiritual conjugal friendship, destroys the whole of Christ, as to benefit. All this is set forth to the life in that Parable, Hosea. 3. 1, 2, 3. v. 1. Then said the Lord unto me, go yet, love a woman (beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress) according to the love of the Lord toward the Children of Israel, who look to other gods and love flagons of Wine.

The case stood thus: The Jews had entered into a conjugal covenant of friendship, with God, as you have it, Jer. 2. 2, 3. I remember the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, &c. But Israel had broken her conjugal covenant with God, as this Prophet Hosea declareth at large, chap. 1. 2. whence She is here styled an Adulteress, because, albeit she retained the profession and worship of God in part, yet she looked to other gods, and love flagons of Wine: i.e. she found good emolument, or incomes of pleasures and riches by the flagons of Wine, or drink offerings which were poured forth to other gods; therefore she looks towards them, or gives them a share in that conjugal friendship and worship which was due to God alone, as Zeph. 1. 5. Yet for all this, though Israel had thus broken wedlock with God, yet he had an affectionate compassionate eye toward her: she was beloved of her friend though an adulteress; God had a mind to enter into a new covenant of conjugal friendship with her: but how? would God be content that Israel should lie in common for him and Idol-Gods? No; but first he redeems her Affections by out bidding other lovers; and so will have her as a garden enclosed and a fountain sealed, proper to himself. So v. 2. So I brought her to me for fifteen pieces of Silver, &c. V. 3. And I said unto her, thou shalt abide for me many days, thou shalt not play the Harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee. As if the Lord had said: O my backsliding Spouse, I have yet once again ransomed thee, both by price and power, from thine Idol-lovers; look well to it, that thou play not the Harlot again: be thou for me, and not for any other lover, and I will be for thee: approve thy self a loyal friend to me, and doubt not but that I shall approve myself so to thee. Thus Cant. 6. 3. I am my beloveds, and my beloved is mine, i.e. I am wholly and singly for my Beloved, as he is wholly and singly for me: I am in regard of conjugal love and subjection, not mine own, but his: as he is, in point of conjugal love and care, not his own but mine. Its true, my beloved ceaseth not to be his own, when he becomes mine; but yet he demeaneth himself as if he were not his own; he assumeth such intimate Relations, and bowels, of an husband, friend, saviour, &c. as bespeaks him wholly mine, and therefore it is my duty to make over my self, my Thoughts, Admirations, Affection, Person and all to him; so that I am now to mind, admire, live in, possess, enjoy, and delight in him, and not my self; I am to reject every Idol-lover and friend.

Thence God tells the Israelites, that he would not deliver them, till they had put away their false gods, Judges 10. 13, 14. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go cry unto the gods ye have chosen, and let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation. God upbraids them with their Idol-gods and false lovers. But yet when the Israelites have put away their Idols, and humbled themselves before God, it is said the Lord's soul was grieved for their misery, v. 15, 16. The like Hos. 14. 3, 4. When Israel is brought to renounce all Idol-lovers and false gods, then, and not till then, Christ comes in as a friend, promising to heal her backslidings. So v. 8. Ephraim shall say, what have I any more to do with Idols? and what follows? I have heard him, and observed him, &c. Christ will never hearken to us as a friend, so long as we have to do with Idols. 
Thus Hos. 2. 15, 16, 17. when God takes Israel again into Covenant with himself, he will have her forget the names of Baalim, her old Idol lovers, and call him Ishi, her Husband. Thus the soul, that enters into a conjugal friendship with Christ, must be for him singly, and for none other: he must not add to or compound any thing with Christ; but must bid adieu unto, and abandon all old lovers, which may pretend unto, or aim at the least share in the bend of the heart, or that conjugal Affection which is alone due to Christ.
—Theophilus Gale

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thomas Shepard: True faith closes with Christ as he is.

And there are four sorts of them that spin the finest thread of deceit to themselves, that think they believe, when yet they have not the Son.
3. Those that close not with promises only, but with Christ himself, but it is only with the image and fancy of him, which, they think, is himself. In true faith, the Father reveals the Son as he is, or the Son reveals himself as he is, and faith hence closes with him as he is. John vi. 40. But some there be that hear of him, hence think what he is. Hence a carnal mind imagines of him as it imagines of a king in a far country, and falls down to his image, and trusts to it, and depends on it, and joys in it, until a man comes to be converted or die, and then he sees the deceit. Or if he did see him, yet he can see no beauty in him to desire him. There is many a man in this case that trusts to, and joys in Christ, whom, if he did know, he would loathe. John came preaching the gospel to show them Christ; they all came to him, and rejoiced in his light, but it was but for a season; for when he came to show them "there he is," (John i. 29,) not one man stirs when he shows them Christ, and Verse 35, "only two;" and chap. iii. 32, "No man received his testimony." This is, beloved, the great sin and cause of all the rest, if they had known they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Christ is not seen, hence not thought of, hence not esteemed, hence men boast not in him. Nay, it is the great plague, under means, that in seeing they see not. "Lord, how long?" You say, Christ is never so clearly true, but thou in seeing mayst not see; and if it be seen thus, then look for ruin. Is. vi. 9-12. We say, Christians want not light, but life and affections. O, beg for light that will bring affections, else all affections will dry up, if not fed with this spring. John v. 37. What people had such means as they? yet they had not eyes to see.
—Thomas Shepard

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

John Milton on Idolatry

Note to the reader: John Milton was a skilled writer and may have started off Reformed, but he ended up denying the doctrine of the Trinity and so was himself an idolater. Nevertheless, the selection from his study of idolatry below references many important Scripture-texts which may be of some use to the reader.

IDOLATRY consists in THE MAKING, WORSHIPPING, OR TRUSTING IN IDOLS, WHETHER CONSIDERED AS REPRESENTATIONS OF THE TRUE GOD, OR OF A FALSE ONE. Exod. xx. 4,5. thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. See also Lev. xxvi. 1. Deut. xvi. 21, 22. thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of Jehovah neither shalt thou set thee up any image, which Jehovah thy God hateth. xxvii. 15. cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image. Isai. ii. 8. their land also is full of idols, xvii. 8. he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands—. Acts xvii. 16. his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 1 Cor. viii. 4. we know that an idol is nothing in the world, x. 6, 7, 14. neither be ye idolaters, &c. 2 Cor. v. 16. though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Gal. v. 19, 20. the works of the flesh are these, adultery .... idolatry, witchcraft .... they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. See also 1 John v. 21. Rev. ix. 20. that they should not worship devils and idols of gold. Idolatry is described, Isai. lvii. 5. enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree. Jer. vii. 31. they have built the high places of Tophet. xi. 13. according to the number of thy cities were thy gods—. xxxii. 29. they shall burn it with the houses upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal. Ezek. viii. 5, &c. behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy—. Hos. iv. 13. they sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains.

WHETHER OF THE TRUE GOD—. Exod. xxxii. 5. when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it, and Aaron made proclamation, and said. To-morrow is a feast to Jehovah; compared with Psal. cvi. 19, 20. they made a calf in Horeb,....thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox. Deut. iv. 15, 16. take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that Jehovah spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire; lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female. It is indeed said, Exod. xxiv. 10. that Moses and the elders saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness; and v. 11. they saw God; and v. 17. the sight of the glory of Jehovah was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel; but it is clear, from the passage of Deuteronomy quoted above, that they saw the likeness of no living thing whatever. So Ezek. i. 27, 28. I saw...from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward; where no mention is made of his face. Judges xvii. 4. the founder made thereof a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah; compared with v. 13. then said Micah, Now know I that Jehovah will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest. 2 Kings xvii. 28. then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria, came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear Jehovah. Isai. xl. 18. to whom then will ye liken God, or what likeness will ye compare unto him? xliv. 10. who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? xlvi. 5, 6. to whom will ye liken me, and make me equal? they hire a goldsmith, and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. Jer. ii. 11, &c. hath a nation changed their gods which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Acts xvii. 29. forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. Rom. i. 23, 24. they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man. Hence to worship the true God under the form of an idol was considered as criminal as to worship devils. 2 Chron. xi. 15. he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves that he had made; although Jeroboam doubtless imagined that he was appointing priests to Jehovah, while he was in reality officiating in the rites of those which were not Gods.

OR OF A FALSE GOD. Num. xxxiii. 52. then shall ye destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places. See also Deut. vii. 5, 25. xii. 2, 3. In pursuance of these injunctions, pious rulers in all ages have opposed idolatry ;* Moses, Asa, 2 Chron. xiv. 3. xv. 8, &c. Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, 2 Kings xxiii. 1—25. 2 Chron. xxxiv. 4, &c. the whole people, 2 Chron. xxiii. 17. and xxxi. 1.

The cherubic images over the ark are not to be accounted idols; first, as being representations not of false gods, but of the ministering spirits of Jehovah, and consequently not objects of worship; secondly, as being made by the special command of God himself.

Even the brazen serpent, the type of Christ, was commanded to be demolished, as soon as it became an object of religious worship, 2 Kings xviii. 4. he brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made.

Hence the Papists err in calling idols the laymen's books; their real nature whether considered as books or teachers, appears from Psal. cxv. 5, &c. they have mouths, but they speak not.... they that make them are like unto them, so is every one that trusteth in them. Isai. xliv. 18. they have not known nor understood, for he hath shut their eyes—. Jer. x. 8, 14, 15. every man is brutish in his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image; for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them; they are vanity and the work of errors; in the time of their visitation they shall perish. Habak. ii. 18, 19. what profiteth the graven image, that the graver thereof hath graven it; the molten image and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach; behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.

We are commanded to abstain, not only from idolatrous worship itself, but from all things and persons connected with it. Acts xv. 20. that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication. v. 29. from meats offered to idols and from fornication. Rev. ii. 14. who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. v. 20. to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. From a comparison of these passages, it would appear that the fornication here prohibited was a part of idolatrous worship. 1 Cor. viii. 10. if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idols temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat, &c. x. 14. flee from idolatry. v. 20, &c. they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 2 Cor. vi. 16. what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? 1 Thess. i. 9. ye turned to God front idols, to serve the living and true God. 1 Pet. iv. 3. we walked in lasciviousness...and abominable idolatries. 1 John v. 21. little children, keep yourselves from idols.

A question here arises, whether it be lawful for a professor of the true religion to be present at idol-worship, in cases where his attendance is necessary for the discharge of some civil duty. The affirmative seems to be established by the example of Naaman the Syrian, 2 Kings v. 17—19. who was permitted, as an additional mark of the divine approbation, to construct for himself a private altar of Israelitish earth, although, as a Gentile, he was uncircumcised. It is however safer and more consistent with the fear of God, to avoid, as far as possible, duties of this kind, even of a civil nature, or to relinquish them altogether.
—John Milton, A treatise on Christian doctrine: compiled from the Holy Scriptures alone

True Religion is the true Worship and Service of God, learnt and believed from the Word of God only.
Let us now enquire whether Popery be tolerable or no. Popery is a double thing to deal with, and claims a twofold Power, Ecclesiastical, and Political, both usurpt, and the one supporting the other.

But Ecclesiastical is ever pretended to Political. The Pope by this mixt faculty, pretends right to Kingdoms and States, and especially to this of England, Thrones and Unthrones Kings, and absolves the people from their obedience to them; sometimes interdicts to whole Nations the Public worship of God, shutting up their Churches: and was wont to dreign away greatest part of the wealth of this then miserable Land, as part of his Patrimony, to maintain the Pride and Luxury of his Court and Prelates: and now since, through the infinite mercy and savour of God, we have shaken off this Babylonish yoke, hath not ceas'd by his Spyes and Agents, Bulls and Emissaries, once to destroy both King and Parliament; perpetually to seduce, corrupt, and pervert as many as they can of the People. Whether therefore it be fit or reasonable, to tolerate men thus principl'd in Religion towards the State, I submit it to the consideration of all Magistrates, who are best able to provide for their own and the public safety. As for tolerating the exercise of their Religion, supposing their State activities not to be dangerous, I answer, that Toleration is either public or private; and the exercise of their Religion, as far as it is Idolatrous, can be tolerated neither way: not publicly, without grievous and unsufferable scandal giv'n to all conscientious Beholders; nor privately, without great offence to God, declar'd against all kind of Idolatry, though secret. Ezekiel 8. 7, 8. And he brought me to the door of the Court, and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of Man, dig now in the wall; and when I had digged, behold a Door, and he said unto me, go in, and behold the wicked Abominations that they do here. And verse 12. Then said he unto me, Son of Man, hast thou seen what the Ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark? &c. And it appears by the whole Chapter, that God was no less offended with these secret Idolatries, then with those in public; and no less provokt, then to bring on and hasten his Judgments on the whole Land for these also. 
Having shown thus, that Popery, as being Idolatrous, is not to be tolerated either in Public or in Private; it must be now thought how to remove it and hinder the growth thereof, I mean in our Natives, and to Foreigners, Privileg'd by the Law of Nations. Are to punish them by corporal punishment, or fines in their Estates, upon account of their Religion? I suppose it stands not with the Clemency of the Gospel, more then what appertains to the security of the State: but first we must remove their Idolatry, and all the furniture thereof, whether Idols, or the Mass wherein they adore their God under Bread and Wine: for the Commandment forbids to adore, not only any Graven Image, but the likeness of any thing in Heaven above, or in the Earth beneath, or in the Water under the Earth, thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them, for I the Lord thy God am a Jealous God. If they say that by removing their Idols we violate their Consciences, we have no warrant to regard Conscience which is not grounded on Scripture: and they themselves confess in their late defences, that they hold not their Images necessary to salvation, but only as they are enjoyn'd them by tradition.

Shall we condescend to dispute with them? The Scripture is our only Principle in Religion; and by that only they will not be Judg'd, but will add other Principles of their own, which, forbidden by the Word of God, we cannot assent to. And the common Maxim also is Logic is, against them who deny Principles, we are not to dispute. Let them bound their disputations on the Scripture only, and an ordinary Protestant, well read in the Bible, may turn and wind their Doctors. They will not god about to prove their Idolatries by the Word of God, but run to shifts and evasions, and frivolous distinctions: Idols they say are Laymen's Books, and a great means to stir up pious thoughts and Devotion in the Learnedst. I say they are no means of God's appointing, but plainly the contrary: Let them hear the Prophets; Jer. 10. 8. The stock is a Doctrine of Vanities. Habakkuk 2. 18. What profiteth the graven Image that the maker thereof hath graven it: The Molten Image and a teacher of Lies? But they allege in their late answers, that the Laws of Moses giv'n only to the Jews, concern not us under the Gospel: and remember not that Idolatry is forbidden as expressly, [in several places of the Gospel,] But with these wiles and fallacies compassing Sea and Land, like the Pharisees of old, to make on Proselyte, they lead away privily many simple and ignorant Souls, men or women, and make them twofold more the Children of Hell then themselves, Matt. 23. 15. But the Apostle hath well warn'd us, I may say, from such Deceivers as these, for their mystery was then working. I beseech you Brethren, saith he, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them; for they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the heart of the simple, Rom. 16. 17, 18.
—John Milton, Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration.

Again and again in the polemics of the 1640s (and as late as the 1670s, in his final tract, Of True Religion)Milton batters away at the "grossenesse, and blindnesse" of those who would return to the "new vomited Paganisme of sensuall Idolatry,"
that they might bring the indward acts of the Spirit to the outward, and customary ey-Service of the body, as if they could make God earthly, and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly, and Spirituall: they began to draw downe all the Divine intercours, betwixt God, and the Soule, yea, the very shape of God himselfe, into an exterior, and bodily forme. (3:2)
Here and elsewhere Milton inveighs against the "Idolatrous erection of Temples beautified exquisitely to out-vie the Papists," against the "snares of Images, Pictures, rich coaps, [and] gorgeous Altar-clothes" (3:54), and against those who, like the impious Jews of Ezekiel 23, "go a whooring after all the heathenish inventions" because they crave a "religion gorgeously attir'd and desirable to the eye" (3:355).
—Ernest B. Gilman, Down Went Dagon, pp. 152-153

The opposition of Christ and Satan in Paradise Lost is in the same way, as John Steadman has argued, the difference between image and idol, the "eikon and the eidolon of heroic virtue." The Son is the image of the Father's glory; Satan, in his "Sun-bright chariot," is the false appearance or phantasm of that image, the "idol of Majesty Divine" (6:100-1). His fallen legions, left free to wander the earth after the Fall, will inaugurate the history of idolatry in the shape of "various Idols through the Heathen World" (1:375), and their polluted rites will become the type of Catholic mis-devotion of the political idolatry of the Stuart court.
—Ernest B. Gilman, Down Went Dagon, p. 162

The Fall, Adam learns, was the original iconoclastic act, by which men defaced their "Maker's Image" in themselves (11:510-25). It will have to be repaired by the destruction of those idolatrous images they have put in its place.
—Ernest B. Gilman, Down Went Dagon, p. 166

[Samson Agonistes]

To waver, or fall off and join with idols;
Which is my chief affliction, shame and sorrow,
The anguish of my soul, that suffers not
Mine eye to harbour sleep, or thoughts to rest.
This only hope relieves me, that the strife
With me hath end; all the contest is now
'Twixt God and Dagon; Dagon hath presum'd,
Me overthrown, to enter lists with God,
His deity comparing and preferring
Before the God of Abraham. He, be sure,
Will not connive, or linger, thus provok'd,
But will arise and his great name assert:
Dagon must stoop, and shall ere long receive
Such a discomfit, as shall quite despoil him
Of all these boasted trophies won on me,
And with confusion blank his worshippers.
—John Milton, Samson Agonistes

“Many, instead of gathering to Christ, they gather to an idol of their own fancy"

In gathering to Shiloh, people are made to act knowingly and judiciously, under the influences of the Spirit, as a Spirit of light; and to act as in a matter of the greatest concern, with judgment and understanding, saying, as John vi. 68. To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. We believe and are sure that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. Many gather together in a confused way, and know not wherefore they meet together; but this gathering includes knowledge, and saving spiritual illumination; "They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee," Ps. ix. 10. They that know him, will gather to him: there must be a seeing of the Son, before there can be a believing in him, or gathering to him. Many, instead of gathering to Christ, they gather to an idol of their own fancy; when they hear of Christ, their idolatrous, carnal mind represents a carnal image of Christ in their own brain: as those, Hos. xiii. 2. that are said to have made idols according to their own understanding; so, many in their own imagination, form an idea of Christ; and this idea or image of Christ, that they have in their own mind, is all that they have for Christ. But, O Sirs, when Christ is externally revealed in the gospel, there must be a marvelous light discovering him in himself, making him known, though not perfectly, yet really and truly as he is; not only as he is man, but as God-man, having all the fulness of the Godhead in him, and all the glory of God appearing in his face, 2 Cor. iv. 6. so as the soul cannot but cleave and adhere to him. A painted sun will neither give light nor heat, but the real sun gives both: so a painted image and representation of Christ, in the imagination, gives no spiritual light, heat, nor communicates any transforming virtue; but the true Sun of righteousness ariseth with healing under his wings. It is true, this light is not without mists and smoke, sent forth from the bottomless pit, to darken all; but yet there is such a clear discovery of the man's inability, of God's gracious offer, and Christ's good-will, and mind to the bargain, as determines the soul to its duty.
—Ralph Erskine, "The Happy Congregation"

The next sign and discovery of unbelief, is men's receiving a false Christ, an idol of their own fancy, instead of the true Christ; they that compound Christ, or add any thing to him, make to themselves a false Christ; as they that would have Christ and the world both, Christ and their lusts too: Christ they must have to satisfy their consciences; and lusts they must have to satisfy their heart. Hence they meditate, and meditate a league between Christ and their darling idols: such a mixed Christ is a false Christ. Thus many would make their own righteousness, their tears, and melting affections, in part, if not wholly, their Christ. As the gospel hypocrite makes his very faith his Christ; so the legal hypocrite makes his duties his Christ. The political hypocrite will join his carnal prudence with Christ's wisdom, and so make it in part his Christ. The refined hypocrite will make the common assistance and influences of the Spirit rests to him, and put them in the room of Christ. Are not all these so many false Christs? Yea, a divided Christ is a false Christ, while men would receive him as Jesus, to save them from hell; but not as a Lord, to rule over their lusts: they would share in his benefits, but not in his person. There is something in Christ that they like, and something that they dislike: they like the blood that came forth of his heart, to wash their guilty consciences; but they dislike the water that came forth also, to wash their filthy hearts.

The last sign and discovery of unbelief, is men's receiving a truth Christ in a false manner; as when Christ is received, but not in his grandeur. A prince is then received aright, when he is received according to his dignity: if a subject should receive his prince, and entertain him no otherwise than he would do a peasant, or country neighbour, this would be interpreted a contempt: So, if Christ be not received according to his grandeur, and dignity, and state, he counts it a contempt rather than a right reception of him. Christ will be received as LORD, or not at all: he will be a KING, or nothing. This was the sin of the Jews, they could be content to receive Christ as a great Prophet, as the Mahometans do; but they did not receive him according to his grandeur, or that greatness and glory which he was invested with, and therefore they are said not to receive him; John i. 11. He came to his own, but his own received him not. Whereas John says of the believing Jews that received him, that they beheld his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; that is, they received him in all his grandeur, splendor, majesty, and glory. Thus men receive not Christ, but shew their unbelief, even in receiving the true Christ in a false manner. When Christ is not received as he is offered in the gospel, he is received in a false manner: He is offered fully, freely, cordially, and constantly; and the right reception is also full, free, cordial, and constant: men may therefore receive him in a false manner, which is as good as rejecting of him; when they do not receive him fully, without dividing him; freely, without buying him; cordially, without reluctancy; and constantly, without repentance, or being dissatisfied with the bargain.
—Ralph Erskine, "The Duty of Receiving CHRIST, and Walking in him, opened."

Why is it that such honour, worship, and adoration is due to Christ? even because he is the Father's representative image as man, even as he is his essential image as God. It is gross idolatry to worship God out of this image, or by any other image, either mental or real. Ah! shall the devil make men worship the image of the beast? Rev. xiii. 1-8.; and shall not we for ever honour this ever-living, everlasting image of our God? Why is it that what honour is done to Christ, is done to the Father, and what dishonour is done to him, is done to the Father? John v. 23. Because the Father hath ordered that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father; and declares, he that honours not the Son, honours not the Father? Why? even as they that see not Christ, see not the Father; and they that know not Christ, know not the Father; so they that do not honour Christ, do not honour the Father. They that disobey Christ, disobey the Father; they that displease Christ, displease the Father; they that believe in Christ, believe in the Father; therefore, says Christ here in the context, Ye believe in God, believe also in me: which intimates this, among other things, that though one may believe in God, in some respect, without believing in Christ, yet we cannot believe in Christ, without believing in God; for, by him we believe in God, 1 Peter i. 21.
—Ralph Erskine, "The Saving Sight; or, a View of God in Christ."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Walter Lowrie, Missionary to China: No Images of Jesus Christ

He then asked me, if we used no images of Jesus Christ? I said no; that the Roman Catholics used a crucifix, but that I thought this wrong, and that it was folly to worship any image.
—Walter Lowrie, missionary to China

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Char­lotte El­li­ott “Friend unseen"

O holy Savior, Friend unseen,  
The faint, the weak on Thee may lean, 
Help me, throughout life’s varying scene, 
By faith to cling to Thee.
Char­lotte El­li­ottO Holy Savior, Friend Unseen

In my heart Thy words I cherish, 
Though unseen Thou still art near; 
Since Thy sheep shall never perish, 
What have I to do with fear? 
Trusting in Thy Word I stand, 
None shall pluck me from Thy hand.
Char­lotte El­li­ott, Safe in Christ

“We love an unseen absent friend"—Thomas Kelly

"Whom having not seen ye love." 1 Pet. i. 8.
WE have not seen the Saviour yet:
Nor shall we until life shall end;
But yet we love him for his grace:
We love an unseen absent friend.

The glorious work he wrought, endears
The Saviour to his people's hearts:
In hope they wait till he appears;
And hope a present joy imparts.

They hope to see their Lord that day,
Descend with all the hosts of heav'n;
The Lord, who bore their sins away:
The Lord, through whom they stand forgiv'n.

They hope, that what they now believe,
They then with joyful eyes shall see:
No more to doubt, no more to grieve;
But with their Lord himself to be.

'Till that bright day we'll think of him;
And may our love with fervour glow:
An unseen Lord be all our theme,
'Till with him hence to Heav'n we go.
Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Andrew Gray: “Faith exerciseth itself upon an invisible object, even upon Christ not seen"

The mysterious acting of the grace of Faith exerciseth itself upon an invisible object, even upon Christ not seen, according to that word, 1 Pet. 5:7. Whom having not seen, ye love, in whom though now ye see him not, yet believing, &c. I pose the greater part to you who are here, whether or not these be two of the greatest Paradoxes and mysteries unto you? For is not this a mystery, to love him whom we never saw? Whom having not seen, yet ye love: To love an absent and unseen Christ, is a mystery to the most part of the world: and is not this a mystery, to believe on him whom we never saw? In whom, though ye see him not, yet believing. And I shall add this that Faith can hold fast its interest with God, not withstanding the most precious Christian should call us hypocrites, and not acknowledge us, this is clear in the practice of Job; And most clear from that word, Isa. 63:16. Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jesus, These Eyes Have Never Seen

Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of Thine;
The veils of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine.

I see Thee not, I hear Thee not,
Yet art Thou oft with me;
And earth hath ne'er so dear a spot
As where I meet with Thee.

Yet though I have not seen, and still 
Must rest in faith alone;
I love Thee, dearest Lord, and will, 
Unseen, but not unknown.

When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
And still this throbbing heart,
The rending veil shall Thee reveal,
All glorious as Thou art.
—Ray Palmer, 1858. Original Trinity Hymnal, #545

Friday, July 1, 2011

“We saw him not with our bodily eyes"—Robert Rollock

Then I see that all these tidings that tell us of things that are not seen, have every one of them a promise joined with them that we shall see them come to pass. Believe thou that he hath suffered, and thou shalt see that he hath suffered, and believe that he is in glory, and thou shalt see him in glory. We saw him not with our bodily eyes, but we have that blessing which the Lord pronounced to Thomas, John, chapter xx. verse 29, "Blessed are they which never saw me, and yet do believe in me." Now, blessed for ever shall that soul be that never saw the Lord, and yet believes in him, and I speak to thee a sore word; if thou believest not until thou see him, thou shalt never see him; if thou believest not that he died, until thou see that he died, thou shalt never see him but to thy damnation. Hope under hope and against hope.

Brethren, many are the impediments that will stay us; so that we will say, "I will never see him. I hear much speaking of heaven, but, alas! I fear I shall never see it. I hear much spoken of life, but, alas! I fear I shall never see life."

And these are the temptations of the most godly men and women of this world. Yet, against all these temptations believe God's promises, and hope for life; for Paul says, in the Epistle to the Romans, the fifth chapter and the fifth verse, "Faith brings forth experience, and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts abundantly by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." No, let none of these temptations hinder us; that thing that holds back the infidels shall work for the best to thee that fearest the Lord, and if thou fearest the Lord, I promise thee, in the name of God, all these temptations shall further thee, and thou shalt be partaker of life.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Thirtieth Lecture.

Take heed to this. The apostle says, "We live by faith, and not by sight;" yet, however it be, that man or women believe, they are blessed; and blessed art thou, man or woman, that believest either for hearing or seeing; and suppose thou feelest him by the hands, and believest in him as Thomas did that felt him, thou art blessed. But that is an evil thing, when thou hast the word and yet suspendest thy faith until thou seest.

It was an evil thing in Peter and John that they let the word pass, and believed it not; it was an evil thing in Thomas that he believed not until he felt Christ; and I say to thee, it is a sure thing, if thou refusest to believe until thou seest, thou adventurest and hazardest thy life and salvation; and I say to thee, if thou contemnest this word, and say this, "I will not believe until I see him," I give thee thy doom, thou shalt never see him to thy comfort nor salvation. Therefore, if he say to thee, and if he promise, he will give thee heaven, believe it, and lay hold on it although thou wert dying; and if he say to thee that he will give thee life, depend and stick by his promise. Thou honourest thy God in believing and depending on his promise, for thou canst not do him greater honour than to believe his promise. And albeit thou see little appearance outwardly, and if thou believest the word, without doubt, thou shalt get a sight of him one day to thy comfort and endless consolation.

Depend and wait on patiently with Abraham, and ever stick and lay hold on the promise, and I promise to thee, in his name, believe the promise of life, and thou shalt see life; believe in him, and thou shalt see him one day. Blessed are they who believe in him, and yet see him not. Blessed are they who walk by faith, for one day they shall walk by sight. Strive to believe in his word, and look on him, and heaven and earth shall perish, ere thou wantest that sight of him one day. Yet I may not pass by the words of John; I see in him a wonderful plainness and singleness of heart. Which of us will be contented that another register our faults, that any other might read them, "this man sinned this way and that way?" Then, who will write up his own faults with his own hands, as he does? He says, he was ignorant. So, then, if there were none other argument to tell us that this book is dited by the Spirit of God, and that it is the Word of God, this singleness of writing their own faults without affection or self-love, which ever would entice us to honour ourselves, tells us sufficiently.

But, naturally, rather than thou hadst thy parents or thy kinsfolk ashamed, thou wouldst rather have God's glory and justice smothered and defaced. But see if Moses spared to register the faults of Levi, of whom he was descended; see if he spared Aaron; see if he spared himself. No, he tells his own fault, he tells his own infidelity. And, again, see if David spares himself; sets he not down his own adultery and murder? John registrates his own ignorance. Let God be glorified, and all creatures ashamed, for to that end were we created; for except he had respected his own glory, we should never have been made. Should we not then seek his glory, although it were with our own shame? John learns us here another good lesson, how often soever we fail through ignorance. Alas! we fail often through ignorance and misbelief, and ignorance brings on infidelity. And, therefore, whensoever we fail through ignorance, lay not the blame of thy blindness upon the Scripture. In pain of thy life, say not, "I am ignorant, because the Scripture is obscure and dark," as the Pope and his shavelings blasphemously allege; but I affirm, that it is so perfect, that all things appertaining to thy salvation are contained therein. And I say, in despite of the Pope, thou who sayest it is obscure, one day thou shalt not be challenged so much for thine ignorance, as for thy blasphemy against God, when thou wilt stand up and say, "The Scripture of God is not perfect, but obscure and wanting." I tell you, one day these blasphemers, for all their out-crying, shall have their mouths sewed up, and they shall make an offer to speak, and to say, "The Scripture of God was not perfect," but the conscience of them shall so strike them with fear and terror, that they shall not be able to answer one word. Woe to them that impair the authority of the Scripture! We may pingle with them a while here, but we remit them to that great day that the Judge appear, and then they shall receive their reward for their blasphemy. But to leave them, what are these Scriptures that preach Christ's resurrection from the dead? In what part is his resurrection foretold? In the xiii. of the Acts, verse 34, Paul, preaching of Christ, he confirms it by the Old Scriptures. The first Scripture is out of the lv. of Isaiah, verse 3,1 where he says, "He will make an everlasting covenant with you, of the sure mercies of David;" then he concludes, "Therefore, it behoved the Lord to rise from death." Mark the consequent; no, there is not such a thing as that ever mercy had continued, if Christ had not risen. The apostle says, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the first chapter, and the twentieth verse, "In him are all the promises of God yea and amen." No, thou or I should never have had faith, nor any spiritual grace, if Christ had not risen; so, so oft as ever thou feelest a spunk or motion of that spiritual life within thee, thou mayest say, "I am sure that Jesus is risen from the death;" for this is sure, all grace and life flow from the life of Jesus. So, if he had not risen, thou shouldst have had no life. He hath another Scripture out of the sixteenth Psalm, at the tenth verse, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave, neither wilt suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Then he concludes, "therefore he is risen." How follows this? It follows well enough, for if he had not risen, his body behoved to rot, and to be corrupted, as ours rot. And Peter, in the second chapter of the Acts, and verse thirty-first, uses the same testimony. Likewise in the liii. chapter of Isaiah, and the eighth verse, where he prophesies of Christ, he says, "And who is able to count his generation?"-for all his death, he is that everlasting essence; meaning, that albeit he died, he shall rise to life without end.

There is another Scripture, "Then they should have believed without sight." But, alas! who is careful to get this knowledge of this resurrection? And if we had a care to seek Christ, we would turn over these Old Scriptures to see the prophecies of Christ to come, and then we would come to the New Testament to see these things accomplished, and so would meditate in the Scriptures night and day to confirm our faith, and to get our hearts set and stablished on the Lord; for it is a matter of great difficulty to get the heart stablished with grace, and if thine heart be not established and filled with that word, thou wilt never see Christ, nor get any grace in him. So, to end this, I beseech you, as ever ye would see Christ, be diligent to seek the Scriptures, that ye may settle your hearts here upon him and believe in him, that hereafter ye may see him to your comfort and consolation at his second coming, when he shall appear in the clouds with the millions of angels. To him be glory for ever. Amen.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Thirty-Second Lecture.

Now, to go forward to the third part of this narration of Cleopas concerning Christ. Before he comes to it, he makes a rehearsal of these same things which had happened that same day in the morning: "For, on the third day in the morning, there went out some women," (he himself was not so ready; it had been better for himself to have said, "I went out to the grave, and I saw and I heard this,") "and they have made us" (the disciples of Christ) " all astonied: for they told us, that they found not the body of Christ. But they told us that they found angels, and that the Lord was risen and alive; but for all this we believed not. Then some of us, who were men, namely, Peter and John, who went out and they found this, that the Lord was out of the grave." But, mark his last words, "But none of them saw the Lord." Alas! these two disciples apparently had come out of Hierusalem ere Mary Magdalene and some other women, who went out that same day, had returned and showed that they had seen the Lord. They went away over soon to Emmaus. But look what he concluded. They saw him not, therefore he was not risen. This is it that they would conclude: because they could not see him with their bodily eyes, therefore, they looked never to see him, as if we should have measured the Redeemer and the redemption by gross and carnal senses. Look if he concluded well? He should have concluded the contrary; "We could not see him with our eyes and senses, and, therefore, we believe he is the Redeemer." That is the conclusion that he should have gathered; for faith is the demonstration of things which are not seen, as the apostle speaks, Heb. xi. 1. This is a false conclusion, "We cannot see him with our bodily eyes, therefore, we cannot hope to see him." But, by the contrary, "We cannot see him with our bodily eyes, therefore, we believe and hope to see him." Then we see this in Cleopas and his fellow; suppose they were with Christ, and should have had an eye to have seen, yet they are mere carnal; for, leaning only to the senses of the body, they are more natural than spiritual, and so they conclude, they should never see the Lord. For suppose they spake not this with their mouths, yet they thought it in their hearts, and they were standing betwixt hope and despair. No, if thou be but a natural man, thou shalt believe nothing but that which thou conceivest and feelest with thy senses, but for heavenly things thou canst not believe them; heaven and hell will be but fables to thee, and all will be but folly unto thee. There are enough of these men in this town; and, therefore, as ever thou wouldst see heaven, as thou wouldst live hereafter, and as thou wouldst reign in glory, seek to have spiritual senses which may pass far beyond nature, a spiritual eye to see things heavenly, and a spiritual hand to feel things heavenly, or else thou shalt die and perish, and thou shalt never have life hereafter. Then, in time, seek to be spiritual, and to seek heaven and heavenly things. A bodily eye will never perceive these things.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Thirty-Eighth Lecture.

But thou wilt say, "I cannot see him, how then can I adore him? The apostles saw his glorious presence with their eyes, therefore they ought to have worshipped him; but as for us, who live in these days, after his ascension to heaven, we see him not, and, therefore, how can we worship him?" But I answer thee, It is true, thou seest him not now with the eyes of thy body, but thou seest him with the eyes of thy soul, thou seest him with the eyes of faith, thou seest him in the word and sacraments, first crucified, and then glorified. And if thou wilt not worship him when thou seest him here present in the word and sacraments, thou wouldest not have worshipped him, if thou hadst seen him with the eyes of thy body face to face. Those profane bodies, who will not worship him now when they see him present in the mirror of the gospel, they will never get leave to worship him in the kingdom of heaven. Thinkest thou not that the Lord is seen present in his word? What means Paul, then, when he says, "That an unlearned man coming into the meetings of the faithful, where many are prophesying, finding himself rebuked and judged of all, and the secrets of his heart made manifest, that he will fall down on his face and worship God, and say plainly, that God is among them indeed?" 1 Corinth. chap. xiv. ver. 24 and 25. What sees the unlearned man among them, that makes him to fall down and give such a confession? No question, but the glorious light of the gospel shines into his soul, and Christ offers himself present to be seen by the eye of faith. The faithful, this day, by experience, find in their meetings this same presence of the Lord. And, therefore, it becomes us, in all our meetings, ever to worship the Lord, and to sit, with fear and reverence, to hear the word, and to prepare our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord promises, and offers with the preaching of the word to all his chosen.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Fifty-Third Lecture.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

“then do we join Teraphim, when we rest not upon Scripture alone"

It is a very great and fearful evil for men in searching to know any thing of Gods mind, not to keep themselves to God's ways of knowledge, to God's own ordinances. It concerneth us much now this day. We are about inquiring the mind of God, that we may know it about matters concerning the Common-wealth, but more especially about Religion. I suppose there is none of us but will acknowledge that way that God hath appointed for the revealing of his will is the Scripture, that we must look into the Scripture, and seek to know God's mind there; that is good, but let us not join Teraphim with it; then do we join Teraphim, when we rest not upon Scripture alone, but search after rules of mans devising, and what will stand with our own carnal ends. The Lord may justly meet with us in wrath, if we presume to join our Teraphim with his Ephod. Pray that at this day where there is so much searching after God's mind, that those who are employed in it, may keep themselves to the Ephod, to the Scriptures, to that which is God's ordinance for the revealing of his mind, that they may not join the Teraphim, their own fancies and inventions of men with the Scriptures; so long as we keep to that rule, we may hope to do well enough; but if the Teraphim be joined with the Ephod, if any thing be joined with the Scriptures, though it may seem to be never so rational, we have cause to fear God will leave us.

We find this word Teraphim used sometime in Scripture for the image of any man: as 1 Sam. 19:13 when Michal took an image, and laid it to the bed instead of David, the word in the Hebrew is Teraphim: so when Rachel stole away her fathers images, the word is, she stole away her father's Teraphim, and some think they were her fathers Divining images, and that she did rather steal those then any others, because she would not have her father divine which way they were gone. Zachar. 10:2 it is said the idols have spoken vanity; the word is the Teraphim. By which we may see they were wont to ask of their idols about their successes. And sometime we find in Scripture that Idolatry is called by this name, as 1 Sam. 15:23 Stubborness is as idolatry, the word is, is as Teraphim.
—Jeremiah Burroughs, An exposition of the prophesie of Hosea

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beyond the Symbols By A.W. Tozer

Beyond the Symbols
By A.W. Tozer

I have noticed lately among so-called evangelicals a renewed interest in the religious gadgets that our Protestant fathers once threw away to make room for the Holy Spirit.

It is becoming more common now to see in our churches (and in some Alliance churches, I regret to say) huge pictures of Christ, crosses on the altar, candles and other symbolic objects.

This is the sure way back to formalism and death. In proportion as the Presence of Christ is felt in a congregation these things will be unnecessary, even offensive. And as the Presence lifts and withdraws, these symbols are brought in as poor substitutes.

The human heart must have something to love and fear. If it misses the true God it will make a god of its own. A crowd of persons who pray to a false god is not a church in any sense of the word, even if the word "Christian" or "church" appears on the front of the building.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Affections Fixed Upon an Unseen Saviour

If I was to describe him [a Believer] from the Scripture-character, I should say, he is one whose heart is athirst for God, for his glory, his image, his presence: his affections are fixed upon an unseen Saviour; his treasures, and consequently his thoughts, are on high, beyond the bounds of sense. Having experienced much forgiveness, he is full of bowels of mercy to all around; and having been often deceived by his own heart, he dares trust it no more, but lives by faith in the Son of God, for wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and derives from him grace for grace; sensible that without him he has not sufficiency even to think a good thought. In short— He is dead to the world, to sin, to self, but alive to God, and lively in his service. Prayer is his breath, the word of God his food, and the ordinances more precious to him than the light of the sun. Such is a believer—in his judgment and prevailing desires.
—John Newton

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Hymn on 1 Peter 1:8

"Whom having not seen ye love." 1 Pet. i. 8.

WE have not seen the Saviour yet:

Nor shall we until life shall end;

But yet we love him for his grace:

We love an unseen absent friend.

The glorious work he wrought, endears

The Saviour to his people's hearts:

In hope they wait till he appears;

And hope a present joy imparts.

They hope to see their Lord that day,

Descend with all the hosts of heav'n;

The Lord, who bore their sins away:

The Lord, through whom they stand forgiv'n.

They hope, that what they now believe,

They then with joyful eyes shall see:

No more to doubt, no more to grieve;

But with their Lord himself to be.

'Till that bright day we'll think of him;

And may our love with fervour glow:

An unseen Lord be all our theme,

'Till with him hence to Heav'n we go.

Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Primitive Baptists on “Pictures of Jesus"

(Source: Primitive Baptist Online)

Question: Why do Primitive Baptists not have crucifixes or pictures of Jesus in their churches and homes?
The scriptures unequivocally forbid images of God of any kind (Ex 20:4-5, I Cor 10:14, Gal 5:19-21, I Jn 5:21). Since Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore equal with God (Jn 5:18, Philip 2:5-8), pictures of Jesus must also be censured by these commandments.
Pictures of Jesus are in every sense idols. The popular portraits of Jesus are products of man's imagination, and misrepresent Jesus in dishonoring ways. If Jesus' hair had in fact been long, then Paul would have never condemned this practice (I Cor 11:14).

“The Image of the Invisible God" by W.M. Mitchell

(Source: Primitive Baptist Online)

The Image of the Invisible God
Written by W.M. Mitchell
The Gospel Messenger—January 1881

Col. 1:15

There are many Scriptural expressions which appear contradictory and paradoxical. The believer in Christ is himself a paradox. That which he would not do, is that which he does, and the good that he would do, is that which he does not. He is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; troubled on every side, yet not distressed; cast down but not destroyed. He endures as “seeing him who is invisible.” Heb. i i: 27. How can that be? That which is invisible is that which cannot be seen. Yet Moses endured as seeing him who is invisible. Heb. 2:27.

Natural men and women, as creatures of God, endowed with reason, may see and know much of God as their great Creator from the light of nature: They do see his handiwork in the visible heavens and earth. “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God-head.” Rom. 1:20.

But the light of nature does not, nor can it make known to sinful men the invisible God in his character as “God manifest in the flesh.” It cannot make known the riches of that “hidden wisdom” which God ordained before the world unto the final and eternal glory of his chosen people.

That which is presented in the gospel of our salvation is entirely hidden, and invisible to the natural mind. No light of nature, of reason, science or philosophy, can see or search out that heavenly wisdom which is “hid from all living.” “It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof” Job, 28: 15, 21. It is unsearchable riches. In order to salvation, or of having any assurance of our interest therein, it is important that we know God, in some other and higher sense, than it is possible for us to attain unto by the light of nature, science, human reason or works. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” John 17: 3. To know Jesus Christ in his true character in all his relations to God and to his people is a divine revelation above the brightness of all created things. It is a special revelation by the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead. He that seeth the Son of God seeth the Father also. One of the Apostles once said to Jesus, “Lord show us the Father and it sufficeth us;” to which Christ replied, “Have I been so long with you Philip, yet hast thou not known me? He that seeth me seeth the Father also.” “He is the image of the invisible God.” Not merely as to his human form, or as to his physical frame and fashion as a man; but he is the image of the in visible God in character. All the divine perfections of the God-head center in him. He is before all things and by him all things consist.

Could we but see the character of Jesus as embodying in himself all the fullness of the God-head as to its eternity, immensity, immutability, unlimited power, infinite wisdom, everlasting love, perfect righteousness, holiness, justice and truth, we could then see him as the image or likeness of the invisible God. Invisible to our natural senses, it is true, but made known by revelation to faith. By faith we look at and see that which is invisible to our natural understanding. “No man hath seen God at any time.” He dwells in the light which no man hath seen nor can see. He must be seen in his own light. “In thy light we see light.” And that light is not the light of man nor any created light. The Lord is thy light and thy salvation. This light is what Saul of Tarsus saw when he was converted to God. “A light above the brightness of the sun.” The sun is the greatest of all created lights from which all other bodies receive their light. To be illuminated, therefore, by a light above the brightness of the greatest of all created lights is to have the “Lord God for thy sun and shield.”

It has become very common of late days to have images or pictures of the human form of Christ incorporated in our Bibles as though human artist could give the image or likeness of the invisible God. It is nothing short of a desecration of most holy sacred things for any man to attempt to palm off such pictures and paintings as the picture or likeness of Christ Jesus—who is the “brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person" Heb. 1:3. But what is it that the love of money will not induce man to do? Doubtless it was the inordinate love of money, more than hatred to Jesus that induced Judas to betray him for thirty pieces of silver. And doubtless it is the same love of earthly gain rather than a desire to circulate the Bible for truth’s sake that has induced so many to engage in making merchandise of the Sacred Book. Under color and pretence of circulating the Scriptures it is turned into a grand speculation in various ways. Pictures of Christ and his prophets, apostles and martyrs, and many other things, according to the fancy and imagination of the artist, are presented to us in most of the Bibles. These cuts, drawings, painting pictures and images, strike the natural sight and senses and are more adapted to the views the carnal mind has of God, than what is presented in the letter of the word. They are therefore highly commended by the publisher, the merchant, the religious speculator and Bible colporteur.

Instead of presenting the Scriptures of truth on their own merits, they use the sacred name and character of the Bible to put off wares of their own. And they even have the heaven-daring effrontery to give these pictures and gilded bindings as the chief inducement and highest reason why their Bibles should be purchased. They will tell you, “They are so are as an ornament.”

I have been a little astonished to find so many people, especially Primitive Baptists, caught with these gilded baits and fictitious pictures. They are induced to purchase a Bible for the sake of these gaud looking things at a big price, when they would not purchase one alone for the sake of its truth as revealed from heaven, even though it could be bought for a very moderate price. Costly Bibles with rich paintings and or bindings are seldom bought with any other than carnal motives, to gratify the pride and vanity of the sinful heart. Bibles thus purchased are seldom read. In fact, they tend greatly to keep children and many grown people also from reading, by taking up their time in looking at the images and pictures.

Where is the artist who can give us the image or outlines of the features of him whom “no man hath seen nor can see, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto?” 1 Tim. 6: 16 . Who can give us the likeness of his immutability and eternity as he exists the same “yesterday, today and for ever?” Who can take the picture of him who sits upon a great white throne, from whose face the “earth and the heaven fled away and there was no place for them?” Rev. 20:11

The truth is these pretended pictures of the Virgin Mary, of Jesus Christ and others, are all a cheat; they are false drawings and pictures, bearing those noted names only to make them sell the more readily with unsuspecting and thoughtless purchasers. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, and no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” Mat. 11: 27 . He cannot be revealed to natural men and women by pictures drawn by any human artist. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the Sons of God, therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” John 3:1.

How then can the world take his likeness or picture? “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” These remarks are submitted for the candid consideration of any who may read them.