Covington, GA., May 1, 1860.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
These are the closing words of the inspired Apostle in his first epistle to his brethren, and they are certainly very expressive, and as applicable now to the people of God as they were eighteen centuries ago. The gospel dispensation continues, God’s purpose to call sinners by his grace, and the work of grace in the hearts of those who believe, is the same, and the same human depravity dwells in the mortal bodies of the saints now as formerly. Notwithstanding they have been called into an experimental union with heavenly things, and have passed from death unto life, and at times rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and speak forth his praises, yet they often become carnally minded, and manifest, or show forth the works of the flesh, and say and do that which is forbidden by the laws of Christ.
John addresses them as little children. They were the children of God inasmuch as they were born of God, and were partakers of the Divine Nature, and were in reality, so far as their spiritual existence is concerned, the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. As the descendants of Adam in their experience of revealed truth they had received the spirit of adoption, for God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying Abba Father. When grace reigns in the hearts of God’s children they all feel little, no one wishes to excel his brother through pride and vain glory, but each feels to be the least, or less than the least in the kingdom of God. They are willing to be taught of the Lord, and will not arrogate to themselves any superiority over their brethren, but are humble, childlike, and love to sit at the feet of Jesus, and learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart. In the 1st verse of the 2nd chapter, John calls them my little children, which, to our understanding, signifies that he, as an Apostle and Minister of Christ, had begotten them through the gospel, and was qualified to teach, instruct, and admonish them in the things of the kingdom of God, as it is well known to the saints, or should be, that the preaching of the gospel and ministry of the word, and gifts bestowed upon the church are for the perfecting of the saints, and for the edifying of the body of Christ, &c. Those whom God has made alive from the dead, or in other words, have been born of the Spirit, need milk, and proper nourishment to grow and thrive in the gospel church and kingdom. Much depends upon a sound active church and a faithful ministry relative to the growth, instruction, and proper nourishment administered to young believers and little lambs of the flock. These little children in our text, were in a teachable condition, and as such, were prepared to receive instruction from the inspired Apostle. And all that John knew, the Lord had taught him, and he was, therefore, prepared to teach and instruct them, and to the Lord belonged all the glory.
Keep yourselves from idols. Amen. How important is this declaration and command. And yet how much it is overlooked, and not heeded by many of the professed followers of Jesus. John said in another place, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” yet it seems to be the only consideration in the minds of many who profess better things. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Some have sold their profession of Christ’s name for a mess of pottage, or some worldly gain, like Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright, or like Demas of old, as Paul said, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.” II Tim. 4:10.
But the saints are commanded to keep themselves from idols. Well, what is an idol? We answer, it is an image, form, or representation of something consecrated as an object of worship, or a person loved and honored to adoration, and also anything upon which we set our affection, aside from the Supreme Creator of all things, the God of heaven and earth. Therefore to bow down, reverence, and adore any creature, or thing of human invention as an object of love and special regard is idolatry, and the Scriptures teach that covetousness is idolatry. The seat of idolatry is in the heart or soul of man, and whatever is desired unlawfully is a great sin before God.
As we before stated, sin dwells in the mortal bodies of the saints, and is opposed to the holy and heavenly principle of eternal life which is implanted in them which believe. Paul said to his brethren, “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies that ye should fulfill it in the lusts thereof.” Or in other words, “Let not sin have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” God does not command his people to do what they are not able to perform, but gives them grace according to their day. Therefore, for the saints to keep themselves from idols, is to follow Christ, and to do what he has commanded, and not to have their affections set upon any of the vanities of this world, as to make them objects of special regard and esteem. This world with its thousands of allurements pleases the fancy and imagination, and is apt to draw one’s mind on to forbidden objects.
When gospel ministers are faithful in their calling and profession to do what the Great Head of the church has commanded, and when the disciples of Jesus are also faithful in their practical course in the statutes and commandment’s of Zion’s King, they keep themselves from idols. Nothing can harm them so long as they follow that which is good and well pleasing to God. Amen, or so let it be, is the concluding word and sentiment of the Apostle in this epistle, and should be remembered by all the saints.
Joseph L. Purington.