Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“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."