Rome’s Imagery

And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.
~ Psalm 9:10

Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
~ Psalm 24:8

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
~ Hebrews 6:5-6

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
~ Exodus 20:4

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
~ Exodus 32:1

Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
~ Exodus 34:17

Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.
~ Leviticus 19:4

Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.
~ Psalm 97:7

So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about.
~ Ezekiel 8:10

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.
~ Acts 17:29

And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
~ Romans 1:23

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
~ Revelation 9:20

The Chamber of Imagery in the Church of Rome Laid Open, by John Owen. The following contains Section One of his work.

QUESTION : How is the practical love of truth the best preservative against Popery ?

If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’
—1 PETER 2. 3

WHEN false worship had prevailed in the church of old unto its ruin, God showed and represented it unto his prophet under the name and appearance of ‘a chamber of imagery,’ Ezek. viii. 11, 12. For therein were portrayed all the abominations wherewith the worship of God was defiled, and religion corrupted. Things relating unto divine truth and worship have had again the same event in the world, especially in the Church of Rome; and my present design is to take a view of the chambers of their imagery, and to show what was the occasion and what were the means of their erection: and in them we shall see all the abomination wherewith the divine worship of the gospel hath been corrupted, and Christian religion ruined. Unto this end it will be necessary to lay down some such principles of sacred truth as will demonstrate and evince the grounds and causes of that transformation of the substance and power of religion into a lifeless image, which shall be proved to have fallen out amongst them. And because I intend their benefit principally who resolve all their persuasion in religion into the word of God, I shall deduce these principles from that passage of it in 1 Pet. ii. 1-3.

The first verse contains an exhortation unto, or an injunction of, universal holiness, by the laying aside or casting out whatever is contrary thereunto: ‘Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings;’ the rule whereof extends unto all other vicious habits of mind whatever.

And in the second, there is a profession of the means whereby this end may be attained; namely, how any one may be so strengthened in grace, as to cast out all such sinful inclinations and practices as are contrary unto the holiness required of us,—which is the divine word; compared therefore unto food, which is the means of preserving natural life, and of increasing its strength : ‘As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.’

Hereon the apostle proceeds, in verse third, to declare the condition whereon our profiting, growing, and thriving by the word doth depend; and this is an experience of its power, as it is the instrument of God whereby he conveys his grace unto us: “If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. See 1 Thess. i.5. Therein lies the first and chief principle of our ensuing demonstration, and it is this:

PRINCIPLE I. All the benefit and advantage which any men do or may receive by the word, or the truths of the gospel, depend on an experience of its power and efficacy in communicating the grace of God unto their souls.

This principle is evident in itself, and not to be questioned by any but such as never had the least real sense of religion on their own minds. Besides, it is evidently contained in the testimony of the apostle before laid down.

Hereunto three other principles of equal evidence with itself are supposed, and virtually contained in it.

PRINCIPLE II. There is a power and efficacy in the word, and the preaching of it, Rom. i. 16, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.’

It hath a divine power, the power of God, accompanying it, and put forth in it, unto its proper ends: ‘For the word of God is quick and powerful,’ Heb. iv. 12.

PRINCIPLE III. The power that is in the word of God consists in its efficacy to communicate the grace of God unto the souls of men.

In and by it they ‘taste that the Lord is gracious;’ that is its efficacy unto its proper ends. These are salvation, with all things requisite thereunto; such as the illumination of our minds, the renovation of our natures, the justification of our persons, the life of God in holy worship and obedience, -all leading unto our eternal enjoyment of him. These are the ends whereunto the gospel is designed in the wisdom of God, whereunto its efficacy is confined.

PRINCIPLE IV. There is an experience to be obtained of the power and efficacy of the word.

In that place of the apostle it is expressed by ‘tasting. But there is something antecedent unto their tasting, specially so called, and something consequent unto it, both inseparable from it; and therefore belonging unto the experience whereof we speak. Wherefore,

1. The first thing required hereunto is light; that is, a spiritual, supernatural light, enabling us to discern the wisdom, will, and mind of God in the word, in a spiritual manner; without which we can have no experience of its power. Hence the gospel is hid unto them that perish, though it be outwardly declared unto them, 2 Cor. iv. 3. This is the only means which lets into the mind and conscience a sense of this efficacy. This, in the increases of it, the apostle prays for on the behalf of believers, that they may have this experience, Eph. i. 16-19, iii. 16-19; and declares the nature of it, 2 Cor. iv. 6.

2. The taste intended follows hereon; wherein consists the life and substance of the experience pleaded for. And this taste is a spiritual sense of the goodness, power, and efficacy of the word and the things contained in it, in the conveyance of the grace of God unto our souls, in the instances mentioned, and others of a like nature; for in a taste, there is a sweetness unto the palate, and a satisfaction unto the appetite. By the one in this taste, our minds are refreshed; and by the other, our souls are nourished;—of both believers have an experience. And this is let into the mind by spiritual light, without which nothing of it is attainable. God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness,’ shine into your hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory ‘in the face of Jesus Christ,’ 2 Cor. iv. 6.

3. To complete the experience intended, there follows hereon a conformity in the whole soul and conversation unto the truth of the word, or the mind of God in it, wrought in us by its power and efficacy. So the apostle expresses it, Eph. iv. 20-24, ‘If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.’

Hereupon follows our last principle, which is the immediate foundation of the ensuing discourse, or that which is to be confirmed ; and it is this :

PRINCIPLE V. The loss of an experience of the power of religion hath been the cause of the loss of the truth of religion; or it hath been the cause of rejecting its substance, and setting up a shadow or image in the room of it.

This transformation of all things in religion began and proceeded on these grounds. Those who had the conduct of it were always possessed of the general notions of truth, which they could not forego without a total renunciation of the gospel itself. But, having lost all experience of this power in themselves, they wrested them unto things quite of another nature,—destructive to the truth, as well as devoid of its power; hereon it came to pass that there was a dead image made and set up of religion in all the parts of it, called by the name of that which was true and living, but utterly lost. All experience, I say, of the power and efficacy of the mystery of the gospel, and the truth of it, in communicating the grace of God unto the souls of men, being lost, retaining the general notion of it, they contrived and framed an outward image or representation of them, suited unto their ignorance and superstition. Thus was the truth of religion once almost totally lost in the world, as we shall see; neither will it ever be lost any other way, or by any other means. When churches or nations are possessed of the truth and the profession of it, it is not laws, nor fines, nor imprisonments, nor gibbets, nor fires, that shall ever dispossess them or deprive them of it. Whilst an experience of the power of religion continued in the primitive times, all the bloody rage and cruelty of the world, all the craft of Satan, and the subtlety of seducers, who abounded, did utterly fail in attempting to deprive Christians of the truth, and the profession of it. But when this began to decay and be lost amongst them, they were quickly deceived, and drawn off from the simplicity of the gospel. Upon the reformation of religion in these parts of the world,—when the truth was received in the love and power of it, and multitudes had experience of the spiritual benefit and advantage which they received thereby, in liberty, holiness, and peace,—all the prisons, tortures, swords, and fires, that were applied unto its extirpation, did nothing but diffuse the profession of it, and root it more firmly in the minds of men. It cannot be lost but by another way, and other means. The Jesuits and their associates have been, for a hundred years, contriving methods and arts for the dispossessing nations and churches of the truth which they have received, and the introducing the Romish superstition. They have written books about it, and practised according to their principles, in every kingdom and state of Europe who own the Protestant religion. But the folly of most of their pretended arts and devices unto this end hath been ridiculous and unsuccessful; and what they have added hereunto of force hath been divinely defeated. There is but one way, one effectual engine to deprive any people of the profession of the truth which they have once received; and that is, by leading them into such profaneness and ignorance, as whereby they may lose all experience of its power and efficacy in communicating the grace of God unto their souls, and therein all sense of the advantage which they might have had by it. When this is done, men will as easily lay aside the profession of religion as burdensome clothes in summer.

There is much talk of a plot and conspiracy to destroy the Protestant religion, and introduce Popery again amongst us. They may do well to take care thereof who are concerned in public affairs: but as unto the event, there is but one conspiracy that is greatly to be feared in this matter; and that is, between Satan and the lusts of men.

If they can prevail to deprive the generality of men of an experience in their own minds of the power and efficacy of the truth, with the spiritual advantage which they may have thereby, they will give them up to be an easy prey unto the other designers. And there are two engines that are applied unto this purpose;—the one is ignorance, the other is profaneness, or sensuality of life. Whenever either of these prevails, the experience intended must necessarily be lost and excluded; and the means of their prevailing are, want of due instruction by those who are the leaders of the people, and the encouragement of sensuality by impunity and great examples. This is the only formidable conspiracy against the profession of the truth in this nation; without whose aid all power and force will be frustrate in the issue. And as there is a great appearance of divine permission of such a state of things at present amongst us, so, if they be managed by counsel also, and that those ways of ignorance and sensuality are countenanced and promoted for this very end, that, the power of truth being lost, the profession of it may be given up on easy terms, -there is nothing but sovereign grace that can prevent the design. For the principle which we have laid down is uncontrollable in reason and experience,-namely, that the loss of an experience of the power of religion will issue, one way or other, in the loss of the truth of religion and the profession of it. Whence is it that so many corrupt opinions have made such an inroad on the Protestant religion and the profession of it? Is it not from hence, that many have lost an experience of the power and efficacy of the truth, and so have parted with it? Whence is it that profaneness and sensuality of life, with all manner of corrupt lusts of the flesh, have grown up, unto the shame of profession? Is it not from the same cause as the apostle expressly declares it comes by? 2 Tim. iv. 2-5. One way or other, the loss of experience of the power of truth will end in the loss of the profession of it.

But I proceed unto the instance which I do design in the Church of Rome; for the religion of it, at this day, is nothing but a dead image of the gospel, erected in the loss of an experience of its spiritual power, overthrowing its use, with all its ends, being suited to the taste of men, carnal, ignorant, and superstitious. This I shall make evident by all sorts of instances in things relating to,—I. The person and offices of Christ; II. The state, order, and worship of the church; with, III. The graces and duties of obedience required in the gospel. And in all my principal design is, to demonstrate what is the only way and means of securing our own souls,—any church or nation, from being ensnared with, or prevailed against, by Popery.

I. Section 1. It is a general notion of truth, that the Lord Christ, in his person and grace, is to be proposed and represented unto men as the principal object of their faith and love.

He himself, in his Divine Person, is absolutely invisible unto us; and, as unto his human nature, absent from us; for the heaven must receive him until the times of restitution of all things. There must, therefore, an image or representation of him be made unto our minds, or he cannot be the proper object of our faith, trust, love, and delight. This is done in the gospel, and the preaching of it; for therein he is ‘evidently set forth’ before our eyes, as ‘crucified amongst us,’ Gal. iii. 1. So, also, are all the other concerns of his person and offices therein clearly proposed unto us; yea, this is the principal end of the gospel, -namely, to make a due representation of the person, offices, grace, and glory of Christ unto the souls of men, that they may believe in him, and believing, have eternal life, John xx. 31. Upon this representation made of Christ and his glory in the gospel, and the preaching of it, believers have an experience of the power and efficacy of the divine truth contained therein, in the way before mentioned, as the apostle declares, 2 Cor. iii. 18, for we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Having a spiritual light to discern and behold the glory of Christ, as represented in the glass of the gospel, they have experience of its transforming power and efficacy, changing them into the likeness of the image represented unto them,—that is, of Christ himself; which is the saving effect of gospel power. But this spiritual light was lost among men, through the efficacy of their darkness and unbelief; they were not able to discover the glory of Christ, as revealed and proposed in the gospel, so as to make him the present object of their faith and love. And this light being lost, they could have no experience of the power of divine truth concerning him changing them into his image. They could make no affecting discovery of him in the Scripture. All things therein were dark and confused, or at least seemed an inaccessible mystery, which they could not reduce to practice. Hence, those who had got the public conduct of religion drove the people from reading the Scripture, as that which was of no use, but rather dangerous unto them. What shall these men, then, betake themselves unto? Shall they reject the notion in general, that there ought to be such a representation made of Christ unto the minds of men, as to inflame their devotion, to excite their faith, and stir up their affection to him? This cannot be done without an open renunciation of him, and of the gospel as a fable. Wherefore they will find out another way for it, another means unto the same end,—and this is, by making images of him of wood and stone, or gold and silver, or painting on them. Hereby they supposed he would be made present unto his worshippers; that he would be so represented unto them, as that they should be immediately stirred up unto the embraces of faith and love. And herein they found sensible effects, unto their great satisfaction; for their minds being dark, carnal, and prone to superstition, as are the minds of all men by nature,—they could see nothing in the spiritual representation of him in the gospel that had any power on them, or did in any measure affect them. In these images, by the means of sight and imagination, they found that which did really work upon their affections, and, as they thought, did excite them unto the love of Christ.

And this was the true original of all the imagery in the Church of Rome, as something of the same nature, in general, was of all the image-worship in the world. So the Israelites in the wilderness, when they made the golden calf, did it to have a representation of a deity near unto them, in such a visible manner as that their souls might be affected with it: so they expressed themselves, Exod. xxxii. 1. Wherefore in this state, under a loss of spiritual light and experience, men of superstitious minds found themselves entangled. They knew it necessary that there should be such a representation made of Christ as might render him a present object of faith and love, wherewith they might be immediately affected. How this was done in the gospel they could not understand, nor obtain any experience of the power and efficacy of it unto this end. Yet the principle itself must be retained, as that without which there could be no religion; wherefore, to extricate themselves out of this difficulty, they brake through all God’s commands to the contrary, and betook themselves to the making images of Christ, and their adoration. And from small beginnings, according as darkness and superstition increased in the minds of men, there was a progress in this practice, until these images took the whole work of representing Christ and his glory out of the hands, as it were, of the gospel, and appropriated it unto themselves. For I do not speak of them, now, so much as they are images of Christ, or objects of adoration, as of their being dead images of the gospel; that is, somewhat set up in the room of the gospel, and for the ends of it, as means of teaching and instruction. They shall do the work which the gospel was designed of God to do; for as unto this end, of the representation of Christ as the present object of the faith and love of man, with an efficacy to work upon their affections, there is in the Church of Rome a thousand times more ascribed unto them than unto the gospel itself. The whole matter is stated by the apostle, Rom. x. 6–8, ‘ The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart : that is, the word of faith, which we preach. The inquiry is, how we may be made partakers of Christ, and righteousness by him: or, how we may have an interest in him, or have him present with us. This, saith the apostle, is done by the word of the gospel which is preached, which is nigh unto us,-in our mouths, and in our hearts.

No,’ say these men, we cannot understand how it should be so; we do not find that it is so,—that Christ is made nigh unto us, present with us, by this word. Wherefore we will ascend into heaven to bring down Christ from above; for we will make images of him in his glorious state in heaven, and thereby he will be present with us, or nigh unto us. And we will descend into the deep, to bring up Christ again from the dead; and we will do it, by making first crucifixes, and then images of his glorious resurrection, bringing him again unto us from the dead. This shall be in the place and room of that word of the gospel, which you pretend to be alone useful and effectual unto these ends.’

This, therefore, is evident, that the introduction of this abomination, in principle and practice destructive unto the souls of men, took its rise from the loss of an experience of the representation of Christ in the gospel, and the transforming power in the minds of men which it is accompanied with, in them that believe. Make us gods,’ say the Israelites, ‘to go before us; for as for this man Moses,’ who represented God unto us, “we know not what is become of him.’ What would you have men do? Would you have them live without all sense of the presence of Christ with them, or being nigh unto them? Shall they have no representation of him? No, no; make us gods that may go before us,—let us have images unto this end; for how else may it be done we cannot understand. And this is the reason of their obstinacy in this practice against all means of conviction; yea, they live hereon in a perpetual contradiction unto themselves. Their temples are full of graven images, like the house of Micah,—’houses of gods;’ and yet in them are the Scriptures (though in a tongue unknown to the people), wherein that practice is utterly condemned; so that a man would think them distracted, to hear what their book says, and to see what they do in the same place. But nothing will reach unto their conviction, until the of blindness and ignorance be taken from their minds. Until they have spiritual light enabling them to discern the glory of Christ as represented in the gospel, and to let in an experience of the transforming power and efficacy of that revelation in their own souls, they will never part with that means for the same end, which they are sensible of to be useful unto it, and which is suited unto their inclination. Whatever be the issue, though it cost them their souls, they will not part with what they find, as they suppose, so useful unto their great end of making Christ nigh unto them, for that wherein they can see nothing of it, and of whose power they can have no experience.

But the principal design of this discourse is, to warn others of these abominations, and to direct unto their avoidance; for if they should be outwardly pressed unto the practice of this idolatry, whatever is of carnal affection, of blind devotion, or superstition in them, will quickly be won over unto a conspiracy against their convictions. Nothing will then secure them, but an experience of the efficacy of that representation which is made of Christ in the gospel. It is, therefore, the wisdom and duty of all those who desire a stability in the profession of the truth, continually to endeavour after this experience, and an increase in it. He who lives in the exercise of faith and love in the Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed in the gospel, as evidently crucified, and evidently exalted therein, and finds the fruit of his so doing in his own soul, will be preserved in the time of trial. Without this, men will, at last, begin to think that it is better to have a false Christ than none at all; they will suppose that something is to be found in images, when they can find nothing in the gospel.