Friday, January 14, 2011

Burgess on Gross Idolatry & How We May See Jesus

It is gross idolatry to make the works of God, a God; and it is but a more subtle idolatry, to make the works of Christ, a Christ.
—Burgess de Lege
Our understandings are of such a low stature, that we must climb up to the tree of life, the scriptures, to see Jesus. They are the only ladder whereby we climb up.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


και χαρακτήρ της υποστασις αυτου. And the character of his substance: we translate it,
"The express image of his person,"—Heb. i. 3.
THE term character, is a metaphor taken from the Image, figure, or impression of a seal, representing the proto-type, or first pattern, in everything. The word is derived of χαρακτήρ, which signifies to engrave; the Father having (as it were) most indelibly engraven his whole essence and majesty upon this his eternal Son, and drawn his own effigies upon him from everlasting, being his substantial Image and exact representation. Which explication fairly agrees with this mystery, leading our mind to such discoveries, as will stir us up to desire the gracious participation of its fruit and efficacy; for it opens the secret of eternal generation, and the love of the heavenly Father. A seal is more highly valued, and more closely kept, than other things. See Isa. xlii. 1, Matt. iii. 17, and xvii. 3, John iii. 35, and xvii. 24. Through a union with this blessed Image, the lost Image of God is restored in believers; now inchoatively, or with respect to beginning; after death, consummatively, or with respect to perfection, Col. iii. 10, 1 Pet. i. 4, not by essential transmutation, but by a mystical union.

I. AN Image is the likeness of, or doth represent and express the person whose it is.
I. CHRIST is the likeness of the Father, the true form, figure, character, or representation of him.* This similitude (saith a reverend divine) relates to the Persons of the Godhead; it is borrowed from the impression of a signet. The Son in himself is ευ μορφη θεός, in the likeness of God.†

*See Ark of the covenant, p. 164.
† Dr. Owen on Heb. vii. 3, p. 55.

II. An express Image represent a person unto others.
II. Christ is εικων θεου, the Image of God, representing him unto men; he manifesteth God unto us. He is said to be εικων του θεου του αορατου, "the Image of the invisible God," Col. i. 15, because partaking of the nature of the Father, the goodness, power, holiness, grace, and all other glorious properties of God, do shine forth, or are represented, declared, and expressed to us.
III. An express Image represents a person unto us, whom we many times cannot see personally, because absent, and at a great distance from us.
III. Christ represents God the Father to believers, in his true form, character, or likeness, whom we see not as he is in himself, nor can see, he dwelling in inaccessible light, at an infinite distance of divine nature, and manner of being, from our apprehensions and conceptions. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," John i. 18.
IV. An Image, and the person it represents, are not the same.
IV. Christ respecting his essence, is the same God with the Father; but the subsistences or Persons of the Father and Son are different, and so not the same.
V. An express Image brings him, who is held forth or represented by it, into our mind, whereby we call to remembrance what manner of person he is, and thereby contemplate upon his beauty, and excellent accomplishments, which before, probably might be forgotten.
V. Christ being the express Image of the Father; brings into our minds what kind of manner of God the Almighty is; his excellencies, and glorious perfections, are hereby presented as it were to our view: 2 Cor. iii. 18, 2 Cor. iv. 4, 6. By which means we are taken up into holy meditations and contemplations of him, whom by reason of sin, we had forgotten, and lost the true knowledge of.
VI. An express Image, if it represents some noble or renowned person, one that hath an endeared love and affection to him or her to whom it is sent, their great and only Benefactor, or a dear relation, is exceedingly prized and valued by the receiver.
VI. Christ being the express Image of God the Father, who is the blessed and only potentate, and the glorious King of heaven and earth, who hath dear and tender love to us his poor creatures, who is our Friend, Husband, Father, gracious and chief Benefactor, causes all true believers greatly to prize, love, and esteem the Lord Jesus, not only for his own sake, but for the sake of him whom he doth resemble and represent.
VII. An express Image of a person is curiously drawn, and is a most rare and admirable piece of workmanship; it is viewed and commended by all skillful and discerning persons in that art.
VII. Christ, God-man in one Person, or "God manifested in the flesh," 1 Tim. iii. 16, the glorious representation of the Father to sinners, is the admiration of saints and angels; 'tis a great mystery, and comprehends the depths of God. That the glory of God should shine forth in the nature of man, is, and will be the wonder of both worlds; it is judged by all the godly, to be the master-piece of divine wisdom.

I. Among men, the substance of a thing hath the precedency, or is before the sign or Image of it; the person, and then the picture or emblem of it.
I. THAT which is said of Christ, ευ μορφη θεός υπαρχω, being or existing and subsisting in the form of God, that is, being so essentially; for there is no μορφη form in the Deity, but what is essential unto it: this Christ was absolutely, antecedently to his incarnation, the whole nature of God being in him, and consequently he being in the Son of God.
II. An Image, figure, or character among men, cannot fully and perfectly, in everything express or represent the person it is made for; it duffers in matter, life, and motion.
II. Christ is a lively, perfect, and complete Image, character, and representation of all the glorious attributes, excellencies, and perfections of the Father; "The fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him," Col. ii. 9. Were it not so, he could not gloriously represent unto us the Person of the Father; nor could we, by contemplation of him, be led to an acquaintance with the Person of the Father.
1. The Father is from everlasting; so is the Son.
2. The Father is perfect and Divine Person, or subsistence; so is the Son.
3. The Father hath life in himself: so hath the Son life in himself.
4. The Father created the world; so did the Son.
5. The Father upholds all things by the word of his power; so doth the Son.
6. All things were made for the Father; so all things were made for the Son.
7. The Father is to be worshipped; so is the Son.
8. The Father knows all things and searches the heart; so doth the Son.
9. The Father is in the Son; so is the Son in the Father: "The Father is in me, and I in him," John x. 38. The Father being thus in the Son, and the Son in the Father, all the glorious properties of the one shine forth in the other. The order and economy of the blessed Trinity in subsistence and operation, requires, that the manifestation and communication of the Father to us, be through the Son.
10. All other perfections of the Father shine forth in Christ; it is he that makes them manifest to us, according to that of the apostle: "For God who commanded the Light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 6. The wisdom of the Father is great and infinite many ways; but, wherein doth it shine more gloriously, than in the Son's working about our redemption, in reconciling justice and mercy, in punishing sin, and pardoning the sinner? "To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God," Eph. iii. 10.
11. The Father is full of goodness and love to man; this appears in his making of him supreme over all creatures on earth. But what is this favour and goodness, to that which is manifested in and by Christ? in raiding him up (when a rebel and vile traitor) to the honour and dignity of a Son, and to accomplish this, to give his only begotten Son to die in his stead! "He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v. 21. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," Gal. iii. 13. There was much favour and love in the blessings and privileges of Creation; but in redemption, mercy is magnified likewise to admiration, and shines in equal glory.
12. God the Father is infinitely holy, just, and righteous. His holiness and justice appeared in casting off the fallen angels, and by executing his severity upon our first parents, and by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, and in several other respects: Yet, how much more abundantly doth his holiness and justice shine forth in the Son, the Image of the Father, when he came forth to redeem mankind? in that "he made his soul an offering for sin," Isa. liii. 10. "God letting out his wrath upon him, "sparing him not," Rom. viii. 32, when he stood in the place of the sinner: "For the transgressions of my people was he stricken," Isa. liii. 8. As Mr. Burroughs observes, there is nothing sets out God's justice , holiness, and infinite hatred of sin, like this, &c. Our nature is united to the divine nature of God, that so by that mystical union, grace and holiness might be communicated in a glorious manner unto us.
13. The power and condescension of God is wonderful, many ways demonstrated, but nothing like what it is in Christ, in taking our nature into personal union with himself; that the Son of God should become man! The Ancient of days become a child! He that made the world, born of a woman! When Satan had done his worst that he might destroy man, man is by the power of God advanced to greater glory and happiness than he had before he fell.
14. Moreover, I might speak of the patience, forbearance, and faithfulness of God; all which, and many more of the glorious attributes of the Father, shine forth most lively in Jesus Christ. Besides, the Persons or subsistences of the blessed Trinity are more clearly discovered by Jesus Christ, than ever before.
First, in his own Person.
Secondly, in his doctrine.
Thirdly, in his baptism, or when he was baptized.
Fourthly, in his commission, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
Fifthly, in their distinct offices, operations, and workings.
Lastly, the will of God, and his holy laws and institutions, are only made known by the Son.
III. It is gross idolatry to worship Images, or the likeness of any thing in heaven above, or the earth beneath.
III. Christ, who is the Image of God, ought to be adored and worshipped by men and angels. "And when he brings in the First-begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him," Heb. i. 6.
IV. Other Images are soon marred and pass away.
IV. Christ, the Image of God, abides for ever; time, nay, eternity, will not alter or change him, nor mar his beauty.

1. WE may from hence perceive the wonderful love, goodness, and condescension of God to mankind, who seeing how unable we are to understand, comprehend, conceive, or take in the knowledge of himself, (who is so infinite and inaccessible in his being, glory, and majesty) is pleased to stoop so low as to afford us a figure, Image, and lively representation of himself, that so we might not frame false ideas of God, or entertain any vain or unworthy apprehensions of him in our minds.
2. This also abundantly demonstrates, how exceedingly willing the blessed God is to reveal, or make known himself unto his creatures.
3. This discovers the necessity of coming unto God by Christ, and what advantage the Christian world have above the heathen nations: for though he hath in the visible creation implanted some resemblances or characters of his excellencies, and left some footsteps of his blessed and sacred properties, that by the contemplation of them, men might come to have some acquaintance with him, as Creator, which might encourage them to fear and love him, and make him their last end; yet, all expressions of God, besides this is of Christ Jesus, are partial, short, and insufficient to discover all that is necessary to be known, that we may live to him here, and enjoy him hereafter.
4. It may caution all men to take heed they do not imagine to come to the true knowledge of God any other way but by the Lord Jesus: "For no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him," Matt. xi. 27. All miss of happiness, that seek it not by Jesus Christ. We must seek the Father in the Son, and by him; labour to believe in, or come to God by Jesus Christ. This is for direction to us in all religious worship.
5. The godly may from hence also see, what reason they have to love and delight themselves in Jesus Christ. Brethren, study the knowledge of Christ, look often upon this glorious and blessed Image. Many are taken with pictures and representations of things and persons; but how vain is that? Here is the Image you should delight yourselves in; look to Jesus; much profit, as well as joy and comfort, will redound to you hereby. This is an Image that abides for ever, which God allows you to worship and adore him by.
6. Prize Christ, value him above all things in this world; can you too highly esteem him, who is the express image of the Father's Person?
Lastly, Let all take heed how they slight Jesus Christ, or contemn the knowledge of him; because this mystery is above their reach. and shallow apprehensions; and indeed it may caution all not to seek too curiously into these great mysteries and depths, lest they be drowned: the best of men know but in part.
—Benjamin Keach, Tropologia

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ralph Erskine's Gospel Sonnets on 1 Peter 1:8

Ralph Erskine's Gospel Sonnets on 1 Peter 1:8,

My life's a pleasure and a pain:

A real loss, a real gain;

A glorious paradise of joys,

A grievous prison of annoys.

I daily joy, and daily mourn,

Yet daily wait the tide's return;

Then sorrow deep my spirit cheers,

I'm joyful in a flood of tears.


I'm poor, yet stock'd with untold rent;

Most weak, and yet omnipotent.

On earth there's none so great and high,

Nor yet so low and mean as I;

None or so foolish, or so wise;

So often fall, so often rise.

I, seeing him I never saw,

Serve without fear, and yet with awe.


In fears I spend my vital breath,

In doubts I waste my passing years;

Yet still the life I live is faith,

The opposite of doubts and fears.

'Tween clearing faith and clouding sense,

I walk in darkness and in light.

I'm certain oft, when in suspense,

While sure by faith and not by sight.

"the characteristic of love to the Saviour is love to an unseen Christ"

If the characteristic of love to the Saviour is love to an unseen Christ, A Christian Ought NEVER TO FEEL UNHAPPY AT HlS SUPPOSED ABSENCE FROM HIM.

We should so feel toward Christ as to warrant those words being addressed to us when cast down : " In whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Let Him manifest Himself as much or as little as He pleases, we should not allow our feelings to depend on this.

Much of the despondency in Christians is owing to their not understanding one object which there evidently is in these words: "Whom not having seen ye love." We are to love Him by faith; love Him unseen as though we saw Him; for faith is a substitute for sight. "Ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

—Nehemiah Adams

William Gurnall on 1 Peter 1:8

As faith succours the Christian when his other graces fail him most, so it brings in his comfort when they most abound. Faith is to the Christian as Nehemiah was to Artaxerxes, Neh. 2:1. Of all the graces this is the Christian’s cup-bearer. The Christian takes the wine of joy out of faith’s hand, rather than any other grace. ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,’ Rom. 15:13. It is observable, I Peter 1, to see how the apostle therefore doth, as it were, cross his hands, as once Jacob did in blessing his son Joseph’s children, and gives the pre-eminence to faith, attributing the Christian's joy to his faith, rather than to his love ver. 8: ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Mark, ‘believing, ye rejoice.’ Here is the door, the Christian’s chief joy, yea, all his fiduciary joy comes in at. It is Christ that we are in this respect allowed only to rejoice in, ‘For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,’ Php. 3:3,—where Christ is made the sole subject of our rejoicing fiduciarily, in opposition to all else, even our graces themselves, which become flesh when thus re­joiced and glorified in. Christ’s blood is the wine that only glads the heart of God by way of satisfaction to his justice, and therefore only that can bring true gladness into the heart of man. When Christ prom­iseth the Comforter, he tells his disciples from what vessel he should draw the wine of joy that he was to give them: ‘He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you,’ John 16:15. No grape of our own vine is pressed into this sweet cup. As if Christ had said, When he comes to comfort you with the pardon of your sins, ‘he shall take of mine,’ not anything of yours—my blood by which I purchased your peace with God, not your own tears of repentance by which you have mourned for your sins. All the blessed priv­ileges which believers are instated into, they are the fruits of Christ’s purchase, not of our earnings. Now, the Christian's joy flowing in from Christ, and not anything that he, poor creature, doth or hath; hence it comes to pass, that faith, above all the graces, brings in the Christian’s joy and comfort, because this is the grace that improves Christ and what is Christ's for the soul’s advantage. As of grace, so of comfort. Faith is the good spy, that makes discovery of the excellences in Christ, and then makes report of all to the soul it sees in him and knows of him. It is faith that broaches the promises, turns the cock and sets them a running into the soul. It doth not only show the soul how excellent Christ is, and what dainties are in the promises; but it applies Christ to the soul, and carves out the sweet viands that are dished forth in the promises. Yea, it puts them into the very mouth of the soul; it masticates and grinds the promise so, that the Christian is filled with its strength and sweet­ness. Till faith comes and brings the news of the soul's welcome, O how maidenly and uncomfortably do poor creatures sit at the table of the promise! Like Hannah, ‘they weep and eat not.’ No, alas! they dare not be so bold. But, when faith comes, then the soul falls to, and makes a satisfying meal indeed. No dish on the table but faith will taste of. Faith knows God sets them not on to go off untouched. It is though an humble yet a bold grace, because it knows it cannot be so bold with God in his own way as it is welcome.


The more the Christian can lose or suffer upon the credit of the promise, the stronger his faith is. If you should see a man part with a fair inheritance, and leave his kindred and country where he might pass his days in the embracements of his dear friends and the delicious fare which a plentiful estate would afford him every day, to follow a friend to the other end of the world, with hunger and hard­ship, through sea and land, and a thousand perils that meet him on every hand, you would say that this man had a strong confidence of his friend, and a dear love to him, would you not? Nay, if he should do all this for a friend whom he never saw, upon the bare credit of a letter which he sends to invite him to come over to him, with a promise of great things he will do for him; now, to throw all his present possessions and enjoyments at his heels, and willingly put himself into the condition of a poor pilgrim and traveller, with the loss of all he hath, that he may come to his dear friend, this adds to the wonder of his confidence. Such gallant spirits we read of—‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice,’ I Peter 1:6-8. Observe the place, and you shall find them in sorrowful plight —‘in heaviness through manifold temptations’—yet, because their way lies through the sloughs to the en­joyment of God and Christ, whom they never saw or knew, but by the report the word makes of them, they can turn their back off the world's friendship and enjoyments—with which it courted them as well as others—and go with a merry heart through the deep­est of them all. Here is glorious faith indeed. It is not praising of heaven, and wishing we were there, but a cheerful abandoning the dearest pleasures, and embracing the greatest sufferings of the world when called to the same, that will evidence our faith to be both true and strong. 

—William Gurnall

WHOM HAVING NOT SEEN YE LOVE (a hymn for the day of sorrow and weariness)


How strange is Heavenly Love!

I never saw his face,

I never trod his courts above,

I have but known his grace,

Yet my affections cling

To his beloved side,

I feel He is my God, my King,

And I his ransomed bride.

How strong is Heavenly Love!

Stronger than ought below,

Though wide and wild my passions rove,

I will not let Him go;

What though I see Him not,

I feel the ardor burn,

He hath for me the victory wrought,

I love Him in return.

How sweet is Heavenly Love!

'Tis all in all to me,

I muse on Him in field and grove,

Or sailing o'er the sea.

I walk with Jesus here

Not lonely though alone,

Till in his presence I appear,

And know as I am known.


(From Horatius Bonar's Lyra consolationis: or, Hymns for the day of sorrow & weariness)

Matthew Poole on 1 Corinthians 10:20

The heathens might not intentionally offer sacrifices to devils, (such a thing can hardly be supposed of men), but actually they offered sacrifices to devils; for they were devils, that is, evil angels, which deluded the poor heathen, and gave answers from the images and statues which they worshipped, believing the true God to be in them: which answers they accounted for oracles. Besides, the apostle saith, they sacrificed to devils, because in God’s esteem it was so, though not in their intention; God judgeth of men’s acts of worship and homage pretendedly done unto him, not according to their intention, but according to the truth and reality of the thing: now, really the heathen in their sacrifices paid a homage to devils, though such a thing was far from their intention; and this deserves the consideration, both of the papists, who worship images, and also of those protestants (if any such be) who would excuse the papists in their idolatries from their intentions. The nature of idolatry doth not lie in men’s intending to worship the creature instead of the Creator, (there were hardly every any such idolaters in the world), but in their actual doing of the thing; and except they can find a direct rule in holy writ ordering the adoration of the Creator in the creature, or before the creature, it is much to be feared, that in the last day God will judge their homage performed to the creature, not to him. Now, saith the apostle, you had need take heed that, by this action, you prove not yourselves to have fellowship with devils, instead of Christ and the true and living God.
—Matthew Poole