With the usual and welcomed Puritan intensity and exhaustiveness, 17th century minister David Clarkson takes the reader (or the hearers – this originally was a sermon) deep into Ephesians 5:5-6
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Focusing on the connection of covetousness with idolatry, Clarkson highlights the truth that idolatry is not primarily an outward activity but a false worship of the heart. He shines light on the lies that we have believed in our hearts and how the affections of our soul tell us who and/or what we truly honor. He distinguishes between:
1. Open , outward idolatry, when men, out of a religious respect, bow to or prostrate themselves before anything besides God.
2. Secret and soul idolatry, when the mind and heart is set upon anything more than God; when anything is more valued, more intended; anything more trusted, more loved, or our endeavours more for any other thing than God.
Most of the time I felt like someone was repeatedly hitting my soul with a baseball bat. This is a good thing. It did not feel like abuse, merely the experience of being confronted with hard truth that won’t be moved by the excuses of my flesh. But this truth was not hard like a brick wall that imprisoned me, but hard like a bone saw that painfully yet life-givingly was slicing away a poisonously gangrene limb.
Clarkson leaves few stones of the heart unturned and unexposed. Just when you think the situation is hopeless, just when Clarkson has painted a picture so dark and has laid the weight of God’s law on the readers heart so heavily that even the most disciplined saint would feel like the vilest idolator, he points us to our only true hope of escape. “Cling to Christ!
Unlike some (thankfully not all!) Gospel-centered preaching and teaching today, I felt that Clarkson did a great job of balancing the need of forgiving grace and transforming grace. Here’s an example of this from his section on mortifying the flesh. You can see where he does not introduce a false dichotomy between striving with all our effort for holiness while depending solely on Christ for our salvation and sanctification.
Be much in mortifying duties:
1, Search out your lusts; get more acquaintance with the distempers of your hearts;
2, Be ashamed of them;
3, Acknowledge them, with all their aggravations, be humbled for them in the sight of God, frequently, seriously;
4, Cut off the occasions which nourish, support them;
5, Beat down your bodies, and bring them into subjection; rather forbear lawful liberties, than yield any encouragement to your lusts by them;
6, Cry unto God for strength against this great multitude; look on them as more dreadful than an host of armed enemies; as more dangerous, more pernicious;
7, Bewail them as your greatest afflictions;
8, Act faith on Christ crucified, and by the power of it draw crucifying virtue from him; it is through his strength only that you must conquer.
The life of this sin is bound up in the life of unmortified lusts. Crucify these, die daily unto them, and this sin will die, will fall with them.
I will be returning often to this sermon for encouragement, a hard look in the mirror, and the reminder that there is nothing or no one more worthy of my affections, time, effort, thoughts, and life than my Savior Creator King Jesus Christ.
“…those who most delight in fulfilling their lusts, be it a worldly, or an unclean, or a revengeful lust, they exalt their lusts above the God of heaven, and worship them; and this is a more heinous idolatry than to fall down and worship the sun or moon, angels or saints, because these are more worthy of honour than base lusts; nay, it is worse than to worship the devil, since Satan himself, being a creature, is not so vile as the lusts of men.”