The History of an Idol, its Rise, Reign and Progress: by J. C. Philpot, excerpted from his “Reviews” 1855

JC Philpot a mid 19th Century Pastor/teacher from the 1830’s till his death 1867, No one speaks and teaches as this man has from any pulpit in this present age. The Lord has caused me to find this man a few years back, and it has not been until the past year where I truly settled down to read his sermon’s. They are rich in truth, and very meaty. Reading his sermons has caused me to come to a deeper understanding of my walk with the Lord, experiential teachings of his walk, his failures and how it all relates to our individual walk with the Lord. In his sermons I have found common ground where I’ve seen and experienced just what he had. There is no flamboyancy, or colourful language, just plain simple and deep Gospel’s truth. May the Lord bless you and I pray you will also find blessing’s in this man’s teaching of God’s Word.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

Idolatry is a sin very deeply rooted in the human heart. We need
not go very far to find of this the most convincing proofs. Besides
the experience of every age and every climate, we find it where
we would least expect it—the prevailing sin of a people who had
the greatest possible proofs of its wickedness and folly, and the
strongest evidences of the being, greatness, and power of God.

It amazes us sometimes in reading the history of God’s ancient
people, as recorded in the inspired page, that, after such
wondrous and repeated displays of his presence, glory, and
majesty, they should again and again bow down before stocks
and stones. That those who had witnessed all the plagues of
Egypt had passed through the Red Sea by an explicit miracle,
were daily living on manna that fell from heaven and water that
gushed out of the rock, who had but to look upward by day to
behold the pillar of the cloud, and by night the pillar of fire to
manifest the presence of Jehovah in their midst—that this people,
because Moses delayed coming down from the Mount, should fall
down before a golden calf, and say, “These are your gods, O
Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt,” does
indeed strike our minds with astonishment.

And that this sin should break forth in them again and again
through their whole history down to the period of the Babylonish
captivity, in spite of all the warnings of their prophets, all the
terrible judgments of God, all their repeated captivities, and,
what would be far more likely to cure it, all their repeated
deliverances, does indeed show, if other proof were lacking, that
it is a disease deeply rooted in the very constitution of fallen
man.

If this be the case, unless human nature has undergone a
change, of which neither scripture nor experience affords any
evidence, the disease must be in the heart of man now as much
as ever; and if it exists it must manifest itself, for a constitutional
malady can no more be in the soul and not show itself, than there
can be a sickness in the body without evident symptoms of
illness.

It is true that the disease does not break out exactly in the same
form. It is true that golden calves are not now worshiped, at least
the calf is not, if the gold be, nor do Protestants adore images of
wood, brass, or stone. But that rank; property, fashion, honor,
the opinion of the world, with everything which feeds the lust of
the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are as much
idolized now as Baal and Moloch were once in Judea, and
Juggernaut now is in the plains of Hindostan, is true beyond all
contradiction.

But what is idolatry? To answer this question, let us ask another.
What is an idol? Is not this the essence of the idea conveyed by
the word, that an idol occupies that place in our esteem and
affections, in our thoughts, words and ways, in our dependence
and reliance, in our worship and devotedness, which is due to
God only? Whatever is to us what the Lord alone should be, that
is to us an idol. It is true that these idols differ almost as widely
as the peculiar propensities of different individuals. But as both in
ancient and modern times the grosser idols of wood and stone
were and are beyond all calculation in number, variety, shape,
and size, so is it in these inner idols of which the outer are mere
symbols and representations.

Nothing has been too base or too brutal, too great or too little,
too noble or too vile, from the sun walking in its brightness to a
snake, a monkey, an onion, a bit of rag, which man has not
worshiped. And these intended representations of Divinity were
but the outward symbols of what man inwardly worshiped—for
the inward idol preceded the outward, and the fingers merely
carved what the imagination had previously devised. The gross
material idol, then, whether an Apollo, “the statue which enchants the world,” or a negro fetish, is but a symbol of the inner mind of man.

In that inner mind there are certain feelings and affections, as
well as traditional recollections, which sin has perverted and
debased, but not extinguished. Such are, a sense of a divine
Creator, a dread of his anger and justice, a dim belief in a state
after death of happiness or misery, an accountability to him for
our actions, and a duty of religious worship. From this natural
religion in the mind of man, a relic of the fall, sprang the first
idea of idolatry—for the original knowledge of God being lost, the
mind of man sought a substitute, and that substitute is an idol—
the word, like the similar term “image,” signifying a shape or
figure, a representation or likeness of God.

Against this therefore, the second commandment in the
Decalogue is directed. Now, this idea of representing God by
some visible image being once established by the combined force
of depraved intellect and conscience, the debased mind of man
soon sought out channels for its lusts and passions to run in,
which religion might consecrate; and thus the devilish idea was
conceived and carried out, to make a god of SIN. Thus bloodshed,
lust, theft, with every other crime, were virtually turned into gods
named Mars, Venus, Mercury, and so on; and then came the
horrible conclusion, that the more sin there was committed, the
more these gods were honored. Need we wonder at the horrible
debasement of the heathen world, and the utter prostration of
moral principles produced by the worship of idols—or at the just
abhorrence and wrath of God against idolatry?

But we need not dwell on this part of the subject. There is
another form of idolatry much nearer home; the idolatry not of an
ancient Pagan or a modern Hindoo, but that of a Christian.
Idolatry is the very breath of the carnal mind. All that “the old
man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” desires,
thirsts after, is gratified by, or occupied with, is its idol—and so
far as a Christian is under the influence of this carnal mind, this
old man, this evil heart of unbelief, this fallen Adam-nature, this
body of sin and death—all which are Scripture terms to express
one and the same thing—he bows down to the idol set up in the
chambers of imagery.

There is an old Latin proverb, that “love and a cough are two
things impossible to be concealed;” and thus, though an idol may
be hidden in the heart as carefully as Laban’s teraphim in the
camel’s saddle, or the ephod and molten image in the House of
Micah, (Judges 18:14), yet it will be discovered by the love
shown to it, as surely as the suppressed cough of the
consumptive patient cannot escape the ear of the physician.

Nor need we go far, if we would but be honest with ourselves, to
find out each our own idol—what it is, and how deep it lies,
what worship it obtains, what honor it receives, and what
affection it engrosses. Let me ask myself, “What do I most love?”
If I hardly know how to answer that question, let me put to
myself another, “What do I most think upon? In what channel do
I usually find my thoughts flow when unrestrained?” for thoughts
flow to the idol as water to the lowest spot in a field.

If, then, the thoughts flow continually to the farm, the shop, the
business, the investment, to the husband, wife, or child; to that
which feeds lust or pride, worldliness or covetousness, selfconceit
or self-admiration—that is the idol which, as a magnet,
attracts the thoughts of the mind towards it.

Your idol may not be mine, nor mine yours; and yet we may both
be idolaters. You may despise or even hate my idol, and wonder
how I can be such a fool or such a sinner as to hug it to my
bosom; and I may wonder how a partaker of grace can be so
inconsistent as to love such a silly idol as yours. You may
condemn me, and I condemn you; and the word of God’s grace
and the verdict of a living conscience condemn us both.

O how various and how innumerable those idols are! One man
may possess a refined taste and educated mind. Books, learning, literature, languages, general information, shall be his idol. Music,
vocal and instrumental, may be the idol of a second; so sweet to
his ears, such inward feelings of delight are kindled by the
melodious strains of voice or instrument, that music is in all his
thoughts, and hours are spent in producing those harmonious
sounds which perish in their utterance. Painting, statuary,
architecture, the fine arts generally, may be the Baal, the
dominating passion of a third. Poetry, with its glowing thoughts,
burning words, passionate utterances, vivid pictures, melodious
cadence, and sustained flow of all that is beautiful in language
and expression, may be the delight of a fourth. Science,
mathematical or mechanical, the eager pursuit of a fifth. These
are the highest flights of the human mind; these are not the base
idols of the drunken feast, the low jest, the mirthful supper, or
even that less debasing but enervating idol—sleep and indolence,
as if life’s highest enjoyments were those of the swine in the sty.

An idol is not to be admired for its beauty or loathed for its
ugliness, but to be hated because it is an idol. You middle-class
people, who despise art and science, language and learning, as
you despise the ale-house, and ballfield, may still have an idol.
Your garden, your beautiful roses, your verbenas, fuchsias,
needing all the care and attention of a babe in arms, may be your
idol. Or your pretty children, so admired as they walk in the
street; or your new house and all the new furniture; or your son
who is getting on so well in business; or your daughter so
comfortably settled in life; or your dear husband so generally
respected, and just now doing so nicely in the farm. Or your own
still dearer SELF that needs so much feeding, and dressing and
attending to—who shall count the thousands of idols which draw
to themselves those thoughts, and engross those affections which
are due to the Lord alone?

You may not be found out. Your idol may be so hidden, or so
peculiar, that all our attempts to touch it, have left you and it
unscathed. Will you therefore conclude that you have none?
Search deeper, look closer; it is not too deep for the eye of God,
nor too hidden for the eyes of a tender conscience anointed with
divine eye-salve. Hidden love is the deepest of all love; hidden
diseases the most incurable of all diseases. Search every fold of
your heart until you find it. It may not be so big nor so ugly as
your neighbor’s; but an idol is still an idol, and an image still an
image, whether so small as to be carried in the coat pocket, or as
large as a gigantic statue. Every man has his idol; but it is not every man who sees it; few
groan under it.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21


“The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from my heart,
And worship only Thee.”

The Lord bless each and everyone of you, and may we all grow in the Likeness of Our Lord!
In His Eternal Love,

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