Justification by Faith Only
by Glenn Conjurske
The caution of conservatism is always wise, and conservative men are
always the best reformers. Those who lack the wisdom, and therefore the
caution, of conservatism are apt to react too far, and reform too much.
They are rarely satisfied till they have thrown out the baby with the
bath water. They see a deep-seated error, and think only of removing themselves
as far from it as they can, but in so doing they proceed to an equal error
on the opposite side, passing by the truth, which lies midway between
the two errors.
Martin Luther was just such a warm-blooded man as was in peculiar danger
here. He saw the deep-seated legal theology of the papacy, and reacted
so strongly against it that he threw out the baby with the bath water,
and entrenched himself in a theology which was as antinomian as the papal
had been legal. The baby which was thus thrown out with the dirty bath
water was that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Not that
Luther meant to throw this out, but he spoke of justification by faith
in so extreme and unguarded a manner as to practically accomplish it.
The doctor's [Luther's] wife said to him one day: 'Doctor, how is
it, that under popery we prayed so frequently and so fervently, and that
now our prayers are so cold and unfrequent?' We do not admire Luther's
answer. The doctor replied: 'Popery is the devil's worship, and
the devil incessantly urges on his servants to practise that worship.'
Perhaps he does, but does not God urge his servants to practice the true
worship? Does not Scripture urge them even to Pray without ceasing?
Luther's answer is lame. We suppose the truth of the matter is that antinomian
theology always tends to apathy and carelessness in religion. It always
tends to destroy practical piety. Only let men believe that nothing depends
upon their piety, and their piety will soon decline.
Now Luther was the father of Protestantism. He set the tone and direction
of Protestant theology. He fixed its terminology. All Protestants in Luther's
day were called Lutherans. They were thus labelled by way of reproach,
but the label was accurate, for they all followed in Luther's wake, and
all adhered, in general, to the theology of Luther.
Now what concerns us in the present article is Luther's doctrine of justification
by faith only. The Bible plainly teaches justification by faith, but it
never mentions justification by faith only, so as to imply the exclusion
of everything else. The plain fact is, the expression faith only
is used only once in the Bible with any reference to justification, and
in that one instance we are plainly told that justification is not
by faith only. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified,
and not by faith only. (James 2:24). We suppose this plain statement
of the book of James was the real and only reason that Luther could not
brook this epistle, but ejected it from the canon of Scripture as an
epistle of straw, and affirmed that it has nothing of the
nature of the Gospel about it.
In citing his reasons for believing James no apostolic work, he says,
First: Flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture, it
ascribes righteousness to works, and says that Abraham was justified by
works, in that he offered his son Isaac, though St. Paul, on the contrary,
teaches, in Romans iv, that Abraham was justified without works, by faith
alone, before he offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis xv.
Now although this Epistle might be helped and a gloss be found for this
work-righteousness, it cannot be defended against applying to works the
saying of Moses in Genesis xv, which speaks only of Abraham's faith, and
not of his works, as St. Paul shows in Romans iv. This fault, therefore,
leads to the conclusion that it is not the work of any apostle.
Thus wrote Luther in 1522, in the first edition of his German New Testament.
The portion in which he called James an epistle of straw was omitted in
subsequent editions, as were some other depreciatory remarks upon the
epistle of James, but the doctrine which moved him to pass so unjust and
derogatory a sentence upon the work of the Holy Ghost was yet maintained.
That doctrine was justification by faith only. This doctrine
was the cornerstone of Luther's theology. This it was which he called
the article by which the church stands or falls.
We believe in justification by faith, as the Bible plainly teaches it,
but Luther's doctrine is not the doctrine of the Bible, but an immoderate
reaction against the legal theology of Rome
----a reaction which
passed by the Bible doctrine of a repenting, living, working faith, and
entrenched itself in the doctrine of faith alone, without the repentance,
righteousness, or holiness upon which the Bible conditions our salvation.
There is but one single point, says Luther, in all theology ----genuine
faith and confidence in Jesus Christ. This article comprehends all the
Thus all the rest of Scripture is practically made a dead
letter, and in this point Luther has a great following to this day. Nor
is it Scripture alone which Luther's faith only sets aside,
but Scriptural holiness also. To Melancthon he said, Sin, sin mightily,
but have all the more confidence in Christ; rejoice more vehemently in
Christ, who is the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the world. While
we are in this world, we can do no other than sin, we must sin. ...
I am now full of the doctrine of the remission of sins. I grant
nothing to the law, nor to all the devils. He who can believe in his heart
this doctrine, is saved.
But in fact, no man is saved by believing any doctrine whatsoever, much
less any such doctrine as this. John writes that ye sin not.
Where does the Bible say anything like Sin, sin mightily, but have
all the more confidence in Christ? If this be not the direct reverse
of the language of Holy Scripture, then what I have been reading these
thirty-five years is not the Bible at all. What is this but to say, Let
us continue in sin, that grace may abound?
----a thing which
the Bible roundly condemns.
But observe, all of this slighting of Scripture and of Scriptural holiness
is the legitimate offspring of Luther's doctrine of justification by faith
only. We know that for five centuries this doctrine has been the sacred
cow of Protestantism. We know that, especially in this day, to hint that
it may not be true is to lay our poor neck on the chopping block, while
we hand the broad-axe to all the defenders of antinomian orthodoxy. But
we rest our cause, and our neck too, upon the Bible, and those who will
take off our head must chop off half the Book with the same stroke. Nor
will it be the Old Testament only which they must eliminate, but much
of the New Testament also, including the epistles of Paul. Indeed, if
they would but interpret my writings with the same wanton dexterity with
which they interpret those of Paul, they would have no more controversy
with me than they have with him. But me they take at face value. Paul
To return to Luther, it is a plain and demonstrable fact that he couched
his doctrine of justification in language which was unscriptural. The
Bible speaks of justification by faith, but never in one instance does
it mention justification by faith only. The nearest it comes to this is
far indeed, for it affirms that our justification is not by faith
only. Now I have long observed that when a man is obliged to state
his doctrine in terms which are not Scriptural, this is an almost certain
indication that the doctrine so stated is no more Scriptural than the
terms are. I do not now refer to such doctrinal terms as Trinity,
which we all know is not in the Bible, but which does not set aside the
terminology of the Bible. I refer rather to altering the terminology of
Scripture itself, by adding to it, taking from it, or substituting something
else in its place, so that the actual terminology of Scripture is impugned
as inadequate or misleading. I vividly recall a dispute I once had with
a certain man, over a certain text of Scripture, in which I answered every
one of his arguments by simply quoting the text. He, on the contrary,
was absolutely unable to quote the text as it stood, but as often as he
referred to it must either add or subtract, invert or alter, substitute
or rearrange, so that in the course of that altercation he must have quoted
the text six or eight different ways, but never once the right way. This,
I say, was proof enough that his position was false, though we never had
another clue. The words of the Bible itself are set aside as inadequate
or misleading. They must be augmented or diminished, thus compelling the
Book to say something more or less than it does say, so to bring it into
conformity to an unwarranted doctrinal extreme.
Now this is precisely what Luther's faith only does. Only
is Luther's word, not God's, and Luther added it not only to his theology,
but to his Bible also. Where the Bible speaks of justification by faith,
Luther must compel it to say faith only. In Romans 3:28 an
exactly literal translation of the Greek reads thus:
We reckon therefore a man to be justified by faith without [the] works
of [the] law.
The common English version slightly alters the grammatical structure of
the sentence, without altering its sense, thus:
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds
of the law.
Luther, however, revamps the structure of the verse, saying, in his 1522
So halten wyr@ nu, da@ der mens< gere<tfertiget werde, on zu thun
der wer> de@ gese}@, alleyn dur< den glawben.
This, rendered as literally as possible into English, only altering his
infinitive to a gerund, is,
So hold we it now that the man is justified without doing the work of
the law, only through faith.
The insertion of this word only caused great offense. Luther
defended it with his usual scorn, and his usual intemperate obstinacy,
saying, If your papist will make himself a thorough pest about the
word sola, 'alone,' tell him directly, Dr. Martin Luther will have it
so, and he says, A papist and an ass are one thing. Sic volo, sic jubeo,
sit pro ratione voluntas. [So I will, so I command: let my will stand
for a reason.] ...
Let this be the answer to your first question, and pray, answer
such asses in no other way concerning their vain braying about the word
sola than this: Luther will have it so, and says, He is a doctor above
all the doctors in all popedom. So shall it remain. Henceforth will I
hold them in complete contempt, and have them held in contempt as long
as they are such people
----I should say, such asses.
Luther defended his innovation on the basis of the requirements of the
German tongue, arguing at length that full and clear German requires the
insertion of only, but this defense is really lame. The Codex Teplensis,
the Mentel Bible, DeWette's version, and Darby's Elbefeld New Testament
are all German, and none of them saw any reason to add only
here. If Luther had not restructured the verse, he also could have dispensed
We suppose there is no difference between German and English in this point,
yet William Tyndale, while adhering to Luther's doctrine of faith
only, did not follow him in his translation, but rendered very properly,
We suppose therefore that a man i| iu\ified by fayth with out the deed|
of the lawe.
Neither did Luther himself add only in numerous other places,
where clear and powerful German would have required it as
much as here. And taking all this together, we are unable to suppose the
requirements of the German tongue were his reason at all, but only an
excuse made after the fact. There is a great deal of doctrinal content
in this word only, and Luther's doctrine was his ultimate
purpose for adding it. He admits this, and vigorously defends the insertion
on doctrinal grounds also.
I was not, he says, merely following and relying upon
the nature of language when I inserted solum, 'alone, in Rom. 3.
Rather, the text and the meaning of S. Paul demanded and forcefully necessitated
it. For here he deals with the main part of Christian doctrine, namely,
that we are justified by faith in Christ without all works of the law,
and he cuts away all works so completely that he also says of the works
of the law (which is indeed God's law and word) that they do not aid justification.
... But when we cut away works so completely, this must be the meaning,
that faith alone justifies. Whoever would speak clearly and plainly about
this cutting away of all works must say, 'Faith alone justifies us, and
not works.' The matter itself, besides the nature of the language, compels
But concerning the doctrine of this text, the works which Paul excludes
are the works of the law, while the introduction of the word
only naturally excludes the works of repentance and faith
----neither of which have anything to do with the law ----and
thus turns Paul directly against himself, who preached everywhere he went,
from the beginning to the end of his career, to the Jews and to the Gentiles,
that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for
repentance. (Acts 26:20). The works of repentance and faith certainly
embrace obedience and righteousness, though not the perfect righteousness
which the law requires. The third chapter of Romans does not stand in
direct contradiction to the rest of Paul's writing, nor to the uniform
message of his preaching. His subject in Romans 3 is the works of the
law, as a cursory glance at the chapter is sufficient to establish. In
the very next verse (the 29th) he says, Is he the God of the Jews
only? Is he not of the Gentiles also? Why this? ----why here? ----except
that it is the works of the law which fill his mind. It is the works of
the law which he means to exclude ----the law which the Gentiles
never had. It is certainly none of his thought to exclude works
meet for repentance, when he assures us elsewhere that this is the
very thing he preached wherever he went through all his life.
That Paul everywhere insisted upon this obedience and righteousness, as
necessary to salvation, must be perfectly plain to anyone who has ever
read his epistles, in which he says, for example, in Romans 8:13, For
if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit
do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live
in Ephesians 5:5, For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean
person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in
the kingdom of Christ and of God ----and again in Galatians
5:21 that they which zdo such things (such 'works of the flesh')
shall not inherit the kingdom of God. No man can inherit the kingdom
of God, nor have any hope of it, till he ceases to do such
Now the plain fact is, any doctrine of faith only, which allows salvation
to consist with such works of the flesh, makes void the doctrine of Paul
as much as ever it does the law of Moses. The doctrine is no more Scriptural
than the terminology. And yet both the terminology and the doctrine of
Martin Luther have so far prevailed among Protestants that the whole movement
has struggled, like a bull in a net, for five centuries, trying to reconcile
the plain doctrines of the Bible with Luther's extreme doctrine and unscriptural
terminology of salvation by faith only. To the more sound and Scriptural
theologians the supererogatory word only has been a cumbersome
burden, to be maintained only at the expense of speaking such a brand
of double-talk as has practically made only to mean nothing
at all, while the antinomian theologians have been only too glad to embrace
the word as a queen and a goddess, and allow her to reign supreme, and
to determine all things
----yet all alike have maintained this dear
word only as a sacred cow, and defended it as though it were
the very word of God. To maintain justification by faith only,
some of the sounder theologians have so weighted and freighted faith as
to make it equivalent to the fulfilling of all righteousness, while the
faith of the antinomian theologians is no more than an empty notion in
an empty head, yet they all hold by Luther's word only.
How much better to cast aside the gratuitous word only, and
return to the terminology of the Bible, which tells us peremptorily that
our justification is not by faith only,
with the apostle Paul, repentance toward God, AND faith toward our
Lord Jesus Christ ----to preach the Gospel of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God as he preached it himself (Mark 1:1), saying,
Repent ye, AND believe the gospel.
But men find this course simply impossible. They shun it as heresy. Since
Luther's supererogatory only has been superimposed upon the
Bible, the very mind of the church has been dyed with it, and men cannot
shake it off. How easily they can shake off the crystal clear statements
of the Bible!
----yet Luther's only must remain.
----I may be thought most presumptuous to affirm that the great
Reformer's doctrine of justification was an unwarranted extreme, but I
am not the first to think so. Luther's most devoted friend and ally evidently
thought so about five centuries before I did. I refer, of course, to Melancthon.
In listing the principal points of difference between Melancthon
and Luther, Melancthon's biographer writes, Melancthon conceived
that Luther carried his doctrine respecting justification by faith only
to such an extent as to nullify the importance and obligation of good
works, so that his statements required explanation. Luther's statements,
that is, required to be so explained as to make them square with the plain
statements of the Bible. The theology of the present day, however, has
long since abandoned any such endeavors to explain Luther. His doctrine
of justification by faith only has so long been established
as the standard of orthodoxy, that it is the business of the present generation
to so explain the Bible as to make it square with the unscriptural terminology
of Luther ----and many and miserable are the shifts by which the
Bible is thus emptied of its plain meaning, in order to maintain inviolate
the one-sided and unguarded doctrine of Martin Luther.
The Protestant church did not follow Melancthon, but Luther. The controversies
of the Protestants with the Romanists, which prevailed in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, served to perpetuate the reactionary spirit
of Luther, and to entrench all of Protestantism in a one-sided doctrine
of justification by faith only, which was strongly antinomian in tendency,
and which of necessity made void much of the word of God. Various doctrines
which are as plain as day on the face of Scripture came to be shunned
as heresy or popery, and woe be to the man who stood for the truth of
the Gospel. John Wesley was called a papist, and accused of dreadful
heresy by no less than Lady Huntingdon, and the orthodox antinomians
accused Richard Baxter of having done more to strengthen Popery,
than ever was done by any Papists. We think these great pillars
of the church would be called papists today also, if modern Fundamentalism
only knew a little more of what they preached. But the modern church,
like the ancient Jews, builds the sepulchres of the dead prophets, while
it stones the living ones, though there may not be a whit of difference
Yet observe, Luther was not a consistent antinomian. His antinomianism
was doctrinal. He would have abhorred the practical antinomianism which
prevails in the church today, and he would have recoiled likewise from
the sweeping doctrinal antinomianism of the present, which unblushingly
makes void the Scriptures at every turn of the path. Of Luther's antinomian
tendencies the biographer of Baxter writes, So much importance did
Luther attach to this doctrine ['gratuitous justification'], that he not
only viewed it as the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiæ; he
himself looked at the law with something like suspicion of its being unfriendly
to the grace of Christ. Jealousy for the honour of the main principle
of his system, led him frequently to employ language about the law, unguarded
and dangerous in its tendency; and to speak of James and his epistle,
as if he considered them inimical to his sentiments. Notwithstanding this,
the general views of Luther were too enlightened and scriptural to consist
with any important or practical error. He took care to obviate the inferences
men might draw from some of his statements, by explanations, or caveats,
that sufficiently mark the limits within which they must be understood.
We cannot endorse all of this, but in general it is not far from the truth.
We quite agree that Luther's language was dangerous in its tendency,
and we think it had been far better for him to repudiate that dangerous
language, than to be continually obliged to so explain it as to keep men
from running to dangerous extremes with it.
The excellent, wise, and thoroughly evangelical Richard Cecil says, Man
is a creature of extremes. The middle path is generally the wise path;
but there are few wise enough to find it. Because Papists have made too
much of some things, Protestants have made too little of them. ... The
Popish heresy of human merit in Justification, drove Luther on the other
side into most unwarrantable and unscriptural statements of that doctrine.
But query: where can we find today a man who would pronounce Luther's
language unwarrantable and dangerous? The fact is, almost the whole of
modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism has embraced all the most dangerous
of Luther's hazardous speech, and pursued it to extremes which Luther
himself would have abhorred. His prudent explanations have been discarded,
and his most antinomian tendencies have been pursued to further extremes,
and established as the standard of orthodoxy. Here and there a feeble
voice is raised against this, but those voices are all too few, and generally
all too vague. I know some who sincerely aim to combat the evils of antinomianism,
but who are so steeped in it themselves that all their efforts are ineffectual.
They remind us of an ecumenical Anglican standing against Romanism, or
a man swinging a fly swatter with the flapper gone. They may lop off an
occasional branch of antinomian doctrine or practice, but they religiously
maintain the roots of it.
One of those roots is certainly the prevailing doctrine of justification
by faith only
----without contrition, repentance, or works meet
for repentance ----without doing the will of God ----without
obedience, righteousness, or holiness. Not that Luther meant all this
by it, but his language at any rate implied it. Another root of the prevailing
antinomianism is the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, without human
responsibility. Another is the false doctrine of human inability. And
in addition to all these, many drag in an unscriptural form of dispensationalism,
by which they thrust out head and shoulders the Gospel of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, declaring that Christ did not preach the
Gospel at all, but only the law.
That all this is usually done with the worthiest of motives we can readily
grant. It is done to exalt God, and Christ, and grace, and faith, and
the gospel, and to debase sinful man. But with what result? God is so
far exalted as to make him the author of sin. Christ is so far exalted
as to make him the minister of sin. The grace of God is so far exalted
as to make it an excuse for sin. Faith is so far exalted as to make it
indifferent to sin. The gospel is so far exalted as to make it establish
the works of the devil, instead of destroying them. Man is so far debased
as to deny the image of God in him, making him a mere lifeless puppet,
or a mere inert piece of clay. And by all these miserable extremes the
Bible itself is utterly made void, and the plain terms of salvation which
it everywhere demands are altogether abrogated. However worthy the motive,
this is will-worship, and no one will have the thanks of God for it.
Not that we would accuse most men of consistency in such horrendous doctrines.
It must be a near impossibility for a good man to be consistent in such
doctrines, and therefore throughout the history of Protestantism we see
good men building up these doctrines with their right hand, while they
tear them down with their left. They hold these extreme and unscriptural
notions indeed, supposing them to be derived from the Bible, but at the
same time they hold those sounder doctrines which are derived from the
Bible in fact, and many and curious are the shifts by which they seek
to reconcile the two. Many others do not seek to reconcile them at all,
but hold them both intact, apparently never thinking so far as to discern
that they cannot both be true. It may be that when they look at the glories
of Christ and the gospel, and the deformities and the wickedness of the
human race, then they sing in rapturous tones of free salvation, unconditional
grace, and justification by faith alone. But when they see the awful effects
of their extreme notions, they are ready to become legalists
again, and preach repentance, obedience, and holiness.
Such was the case with Luther himself. In the eloquent strain of John
Fletcher, As for St. James, I need not quote him. You know that,
when Luther was in his heat, he could have found it in his heart to tear
this precious epistle from among the sacred books, and burn it as an epistle
of straw. He thought the author of it was an enemy to free grace, an abettor
of Popish tenets, an antichrist. It is true, the scales of prejudice fell
at last from his eyes; but, alas! it was not till he had seen the Antinomian
boar lay waste the Lord's flourishing vineyard all over Protestant Germany.
Then he was glad to draw against him St. James's despised sword.
From another pen I cull another statement of both the extreme nature of
Luther's doctrine, and his moderation of it in later life. Luther
himself, in his late years, very much modified and mitigated those statements
to which this stigma [of antinomianism] attaches... In this matter, as
in many others, he must divide the blame with his opponents. The extreme,
and therefore false, teaching of the Papal doctors of the times immediately
preceding the Reformation on the subject of good works, and the practical
abuses which resulted from that teaching, naturally produced a violent
reaction. That Luther pushed this reaction into the opposite extreme is
not to be wondered at, or too severely blamed. He wrote and taught on
this subject, as on all others, one-sidedly, with a hatred
impetuous, and reckless ----of that error which had well-nigh slain
his own soul, and which he honestly believed to be slaying the souls of
thousands around him.
And here I take my leave of Luther. Before doing so, however, I must avow
that I would be very sorry if any of my readers should imbibe any prejudice
against the man from the things which I have written. Let them understand
that I have nothing but the profoundest love and veneration for Martin
Luther. He was a man of God, and one of the greatest of them. Yet he was
a man, and so subject to infirmity and error. I believe he was mistaken
in the matter which I have rehearsed above
----faulty, too, in the
manner in which he maintained his ground ----yet not to be too
severely blamed, considering all the facts of the case. In spite
of all infirmities, he was a man of God.
But I must yet speak of the shifts by which good men have endeavored to
reconcile Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone with the plain
doctrines of the Bible. John Wesley held that ...previous to justifying
faith, there must be repentance, and, if opportunity permit, 'fruits meet
for repentance.' Yet he must reconcile this with justification
by faith only, and so must add,
And yet I allow you this, that although both repentance and the
fruits thereof are in some sense necessary before justification, yet neither
the one nor the other is necessary in the same sense, or in the same degree,
with faith. Not in the same degree; for in whatever moment a man believes
(in the Christian sense of the word) he is justified, his sins are blotted
out, 'his faith is counted to him for righteousness.' But it is not so
at whatever moment he repents, or brings forth any or all the fruits of
repentance. Faith alone, therefore, justifies; which repentance alone
does not, much less any outward work. And, consequently, none of these
are necessary to justification, in the same degree with faith.
Yet John Wesley was one of the few Protestants who ever had the discernment
or the courage to explicitly call in question Luther's doctrine of justification.
He wrote, Being alone in the coach, I was considering several points
of importance. And thus much appeared clear as the day:
...That a pious Churchman who has not clear conceptions even of
Justification by Faith, may be saved. Therefore, clear conceptions even
of this are not necessary to salvation: That a Mystic, who denies Justification
by Faith, (Mr. Law for instance,) may be saved. But if so, what becomes
of articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ? [A doctrine by which
a church stands or falls.] If so, is it not high time for us
Projicere ampullas, et sesquipedalia verba;
[To throw aside big bombastic words;]
and to return to the plain word, 'He that feareth God, and worketh righteousness,
is accepted with him?'
Jonathan Edwards wrestled with the same point, and while affirming in
the most explicit manner possible that faith is not the only condition
of salvation, yet sets himself to uphold Justification by Faith
Alone, saying in a sermon by that title, From these things
we may learn in what manner faith is the only condition of justification
and salvation. For though it be not the only condition, so as alone truly
to have the place of a condition in an hypothetical proposition, in which
justification and salvation are the consequent, yet it is the condition
of justification in a manner peculiar to it, and so that nothing else
has a parallel influence with it; because faith includes the whole act
of unition to Christ as a Saviour. This is probably the best that
can be done to reconcile justification by faith alone with
the plain doctrines of the Bible, but we can see no reason to learn to
speak such double-talk, solely to save the word only, which
is not the word of God at all.
Richard Baxter stands on the same ground as Edwards, saying in the first
place, I ever held that it is onely faith, and not works, that is
the receiving of Christ, and that faith being the onely receiving Grace,
... it was therefore by God peculiarly destinated, or appointed to the
office of justifying, as fittest to the glorifying of Free-Grace, and
of God-Redeemer therein. Thus faith is held to be peculiarly
appointed to be the actual means of justification, yet it is certain
that Baxter held repentance and sincere obedience to Christ to be equally
necessary. The full title of his book from which we quote is, Rich:
Baxter's Confession of his Faith, Especially concerning the Interest of
Repentance and sincere Obedience to CHRIST, in our JUSTIFICATION &
SALVATION. It is the purpose of this book of well over 500 pages
to insist upon the necessity of repentance and obedience to our justification
and salvation. The book, like most of Baxter's controversial writing,
is so abstract and technical, so full of nice distinctions and Latin terms,
as to offer but little which I can quote in an article such as the present,
yet the reader may take the following as a sample.
Nothing but sin needeth pardon by Christ: And he never pardoneth
any while they are in their Rebellion, and under the full dominion of
sin: But when they in heart and Covenant Return to their Allegiance, to
their rightful Lord by the Redeemer, then doth he pardon all sins past
while they were in Rebellion, and putteth them in a sure way of the pardon
of their future imperfections of obedience: so that all their future pardon
[is] but of imperfections, or sins consisting with their Allegiance, which
still imply sincere obedience.
And further, Yea, this Righteousness, which consisteth in Remission
of our past sins, doth in order of Nature follow our inherent Righteousness;
There is no Adult person that ever partaketh of this, commonly called
Imputed Righteousness, till he have first the inherent Righteousness of
Faith and Repentance, which contains a resolution, for future New Obedience;
though yet he have not actually so obeyed: yea, and that actual obedience
followeth in the same minute of time according to the opportunity of exercising
it, and thats ever in forbearing evil; and as soon as may be in doing
good. Translated into plain English, the remission of sins is conditioned
upon a resolution of obedience, and upon actual obedience, so far as opportunity
----that is, in the language of Paul, upon repentance and
works meet for repentance.
In summarizing his belief, Baxter says (among other things), That
all the foresaid Conditions, Faith, Repentance, Love, Thankfulness, sincere
Obedience, together with final Perseverance, do make up the Condition
of our final Absolution in Iudgement, and our eternal Glorification.
Much more does Baxter write in the same vein, and though this is ponderous
writing and heavy reading, the importance of what he has to say is such
that I venture to quote him once more:
There is so great Ambiguity in the term Works, that I think it occasioneth
much of our contentions. 1. By works may be meant in general, any good
action. ... [The term may be taken also] 7. For sincere obedience to the
Lord that bought us, according to the gracious terms of the Gospel. 8.
For the External part of this obedience, distinct from Love, Trust, &c.
1. Paul never took Works in the first sence, so as to exclude them
from being conditions of Justification: For then he should have excluded
Faith and Repentance.
2. Nor did he so take them in the seventh or eighth sence, excluding
them from from being conditions of our final Justification.
But we must bring this treatise to a close. We have given the reader the
plain facts as to the origin of the expression justification by
faith only. It is not the word of God, but an unwarranted alteration
of that word, stemming from the reactionary doctrine and spirit of Martin
Luther, and stamping Protestantism from that day to this with an inveterate
tendency to antinomianism. Most of the best and greatest men of Protestantism
have opposed that tendency, but they have generally failed to oppose the
terminology and the false assumptions which lay at its root. Many have
vigorously defended the root, while vigorously opposing the fruit. We
suggest a sounder method. Let Luther's only be banished, and
let the church of God return to the doctrine of Paul, of repentance
toward God, AND faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Let the heralds
of salvation return to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
who preached, Repent ye, AND believe the gospel. With all
the modern preaching of faith only, surely we might expect the modern
preachers to manifest a little more of faith in the plain word of God,
without accretion or alteration. For this we plead.
Bible Revision: Mending or Marring?
by Glenn Conjurske
There is always risk in mending anything. To mend or not to mend will
depend, of course, upon the character of what we are mending. If it is
well enough, it is wisdom to let it alone. We may make it
worse instead of better, and even supposing we are able to make it better,
this may entail only a very small gain at a very great cost.
The wise, therefore, let well enough alone.
Well enough, we are well aware, is not the same thing as perfect.
There is no perfection under the sun. Adequacy is the most we can hope
for, and with that it is generally our wisdom to be content. Alas, there
is a generation which never knows what is well enough. It
is a heady and proud generation, which has a great penchant for spying
faults. It beholds the greatest of men with cool disdain, seeing nothing
but their deficiencies. America, in particular, is full of such folks,
the natural outgrowth of American national pride and the principles of
democracy. It is really no coincidence that most of the Bible revision
in modern times has been the work of Americans.
But we grant that there are faults in the old English Bible
of them very obvious. Yet we think it in general the best wisdom to let
them alone. Why so? Because, as a few old proverbs insist,
Blaming is easy, improving is hard.
One mend-fault is worth twenty spy-faults.
Every fool can find faults that a great many wise men can't remedy.
The proud, the shallow, and the rash suppose themselves capable of mending
every fault which they can spy, but the more they mend the more they mar.
We know that there are defects in the old version. We grant too that some
few of them could be remedied with ease. Others, however, could not be
remedied by all the king's horses and all the king's men, and the great
difficulty is that our spy-faults cannot tell the difference. They know
not what to mend, and what to let alone. It has never once entered their
heads that they might be incapable of mending a fault which they are capable
of discovering. They mend apace, therefore, and mar as fast as they mend.
They employ a hatchet to remove a freckle, and the scar which they leave
is immeasurably worse than the freckle which they removed.
Worse still, the spy-faults generally lack the sense to tell what is a
real fault. They have a disposition to see faults, and commonly make faults
even of virtues. They usually make things worse even when they undertake
to mend real faults. How much more when they mend what needed no mending
These thoughts were suggested to me when I sat down to read the book of
Genesis from the revision of the American Bible Union. I had proceeded
no further than the second verse when it became evident enough that the
mending was actually marring.
The second verse of Genesis reads, in the old English version, And
the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of
the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Whatever may be said for its accuracy
----and of that I shall speak
below ----the simplicity and grandeur of this cannot be improved
The same verse in the American Bible Union's version* reads, Now
the earth was waste and empty; and darkness was over the face of the abyss;
and the Spirit of God was brooding over the face of the waters.
Here are at least half a dozen changes, or seven changes in seventeen
----a rate of alteration which proclaims that the old version
must be almost hopelessly bad. This is abundant illustration of my thesis.
Those who know not how to let well enough alone, know not
how to tell what is well enough, and what needs mending, nor how to mend
Now is just meddling
----though we might better call
it trifling. They cannot pretend any necessity of either Hebrew or English
for this. And abyss? What is this? Hades? Over
is pedantry, one of those flat technicalities which is fatal to grandeur,
as Lord Grimthorpe would speak.
But was brooding is the alteration which I wish to pursue.
To that end I have consulted as many revisions of the old version of Genesis
as I possess, with the following result:
King James Version
----the Spirit of God moved upon the face
of the waters.
American Bible Union
----the Spirit of God was brooding over
the face of the waters.
----the Spirit of God fluttering on the face
of the waters.
Isaac Leeser (Jewish)
----the spirit of God was waving over
the face of the waters.
----the Spirit of God moved upon the face of
J. N. Darby
----the Spirit of God was hovering over the face
of the waters.
----the spirit of God moved upon the face
of the waters.
Jewish Publication Society
----the spirit of God hovered over
the face of the waters.
Alexander Harkavy (Jewish)
----the spirit of God moved upon
the face of the waters.
I. M. Rubin (Jewish)
----the spirit of God hovered over the
face of the waters.
Revised Standard Version
----the Spirit of God was moving
over the face of the waters.
----the Spirit of God was moving over the
surface of the waters.
New American Standard Version
----the Spirit of God was moving
over the surface of the waters.
New International Version
----the Spirit of God was hovering
over the waters.
New King James Version
----the Spirit of God was hovering
over the face of the waters.
I could cite yet others, but this is enough
----enough to demonstrate
that all this mending is nothing more than marring. Whatever gain may
be pretended in the new renderings, it is nothing sufficient to offset
the loss. The grandeur and simplicity of the old version are destroyed,
and we think that grandeur and simplicity are as much a part of the original
as the meaning of the words.
Ah! but they will tell us the new versions are more accurate
it is hard to tell whether we should laugh or cry. But for the moment
I do neither, and simply ask, Who will tell us this? The new translators? ----who
cannot agree among themselves as to whether the Spirit of God was moving,
or brooding, or hovering, or waving, or fluttering? Who are they to tell
us the new versions are more accurate? Henry Alford and Alexander Harkavy
(a learned Jew, and the author of a Hebrew lexicon) testify that the old
version of this verse stands in need of no mending at all. The English
Revisers testify the same ----except that their inveterate modernism
refuses to capitalize Spirit. Three more of the versions cited
hold with move, though switching to the pedantic progressive
rendering of the tense ----another stroke which is fatal to grandeur
and simplicity. And I might suggest that if God had been concerned about
such minute points of grammar as this, he would never have given us this
account in Hebrew, which lacks the precision of Greek or English. But
be that as it may, the simple preterite in English so often and so naturally
bears the imperfect sense, that there is little occasion for what is called
a progressive verb, even where that is the undoubted sense of the original.
But these remarks lead me naturally to another example. The old version
informs us in John 4:6 that Jesus, being wearied with his journey, sat
thus on the well. The Revised Version must alter this to by
the well, but even the meddling hypercriticism of that
version left sat thus intact. So does the New King James Version.
Sat, however, must be altered to was sitting by
Alford, Young, Samuel Lloyd, and the New American Standard Version. This
only destroys the simplicity of the old version, for any child might divine
that sat thus on the well must mean was sitting thus
on the well. The modern revisers will doubtless tell us that was
sitting is clearer, and we will grant it, though we deny there was
any need for it. The new rendering is unambiguous. Its meaning cannot
be mistaken. But what need was there? If the dime were reduced to half
its size, we grant there would be less likelihood of mistaking it for
a penny, but there was little enough likelihood before
men were blind. Just so, these revisers have made a little clearer what
was clear enough before, and to do so they have lowered the dignity and
simplicity of the narrative. While engaged in writing this article I asked
an unsuspecting (and intelligent) woman what the scripture means when
it says that Jesus sat thus on the well. She, knowing nothing
of why I asked, replied, He was sitting on the well. This
is clear enough in the old version. The progressive rendering of the verbs,
so popular in the modern versions, is in most cases quite unnecessary,
and in many cases positively wrong. At best it savors of pedantry, and
generally lowers the literary tone. But dignity, simplicity, and literary
tone are nothing to the modern revisers. This is manifest on every page
of their work.
But another bevy of revisers steps forward with other ideas of how the
verse should be mended. Darby must have sat just as he was,
but informs us in the margin that just as he was is literally
'thus.' In other words, the old version was perfectly correct,
as well as perfectly literal, and perfectly intelligible. Just as
he was is a distraction, and likely to suggest thoughts foreign
to the narrative, though for some unaccountable reason it is adopted by
Samuel Lloyd, the Berkeley Version, and others also. We can hardly avoid
the impression that these translators are merely playing parrot. There
is no reason on earth for such an expanded translation.
The American Bible Union Version, apparently determined to differ from
the old version, but forgetting to consult the Greek, gives us the certainly
incorrect sat down beside the well. The Revised Standard Version
does the same, and sat down is parroted by the New International
Version also. We might translate an aorist thus, but not an imperfect.
The capricious and liberal Berkeley Version goes still further astray,
giving us the certainly incorrect dropped down just as He was by
the well. And all this, we suppose, in the name of accuracy.
But here my readers must pardon me. They may call me harsh, relentless,
negative, or what they please, but while they do so, let them consider
whether what I say is true. We know well enough where sat down
came from. Some men who suppose themselves scholars, but who
lack all the qualifications of scholarship, saw sat down in
a Greek lexicon, and whatever their eyes behold in a lexicon
if it differs from the old version ----is sure to appear on the
pages of their Bible revisions, without regard to sense or reason, Greek
or English. The work of the revisers of 1881 has been aptly called school-boy
translation, and our modern translators are more puerile still.
The new versions rather forcibly remind me of a hair-brained rendering
which surfaced in my Greek class at Bible school. We school-boys
were struggling through the first chapter of John, and when one eager
fellow was called upon to read his translation of a verse, I was quite
astonished to hear him render egeneto as appeared in history.
But the secret was soon out. He saw this in a lexicon, and must needs
transfer it to his pages. And after just the same manner do our modern
Bible revisers do their work, manifesting ever and anon that they lack
all the sense requisite to the proper use of a lexicon, even where the
lexicons are right. But lexicons are sometimes wrong. Arndt and Gingrich
actually translate the verse before us, Jesus sat down, just as
he was, by the well ----but this is incompetence. Kaqezomai
may mean to sit down, but not in the imperfect tense. Common sense disallows
this. The only possible meaning is that he was sitting. The fact is, kaqezomai
is used half a dozen times in the New Testament, and it never means to
sit down. The boy Jesus was found sitting in the midst of the doctors
in the temple. (Luke 2:46). Mary sat still in the house. (John 11:20).
Mary seeth two angels in white sitting. (John 20:12).
We may as well notice also that most of these revisions have thrust out
on for by or beside, perhaps on the
sole principle of differing as much as they can from the old version
there is nothing in either Greek or common sense to require this. Literally,
'upon the curbstone of the well,' says A. T. Robertson in his Word
Pictures, and though we must object to his bungling use of the term literally,
to describe what is not literal at all, yet his upon is literal,
and we suppose he gives the true sense. This is precisely what we have
always taken it to mean, since we have been able to read at all. And in
plain, common-sense, everyday English, that meaning is, on the well.
We quite object to the minute micrology which must equate
the well with the water, and so put the Lord by or beside
it. This is to turn the Bible into a hypertechnical scientific treatise,
instead of a book in common language for common men.
But to sum up, these several versions have altered the text in numerous
differing and discordant manners, but not one of them has mended it. Indeed,
there was nothing to mend. They have marred it, that is all.
We have remarked in a previous issue of this magazine that the old version
approaches so near to what is attainable in a translation that it is much
easier to mar than to mend it, and we think the instances we have rehearsed
in this article are good illustrations of this. And mark, we have mentioned
but two verses among ten thousand which have been dealt with in the same
manner in the modern versions. We are not opposed, per se, to a revision
of the old Bible, but we think the only kind of revision which could mend
the old Book without marring it would be a very sparing revision, and
in that case we question whether the gain would be worth the labor. We
do not believe the old book is perfect. We believe it has flaws enough
to satisfy all the sinister emotions of the most jubilant fault-finders.
But for all that we believe that the devotees and the victims of modern
scholarship, who have surrendered the old Book for some new
upstart, have been swindled.
Why the Editor is not an Expert on Anything
by Glenn Conjurske
A friend once applied to me for information on the history of the English
Bible, telling me he was glad to be able to appeal to an expert. I quickly
assured him that I am no expert, not on the English Bible nor anything
else. The fact is, many years ago I deliberately chose not to be an expert
in any field whatsoever. Not that my choice took exactly that form, but
practically it amounted to that. What I chose was to pursue a broad, general
knowledge, in all fields of profitable information. That choice practically
amounted to the determination not to be an expert in anything. No man
is likely to be an expert on any subject whatsoever without devoting a
lifetime to its study. Life is too short, our ignorance is too great,
there is too much to learn, to think of becoming an expert by anything
short of this. And seeing the great number of fields of profitable knowledge
which lie before us, and believing a partial knowledge of all of them
to be the best path to the greatest wisdom and the greatest usefulness,
I long ago chose to pursue exactly that. But the choice to seek profitable
knowledge in a dozen or a score of different fields necessarily precludes
a thorough knowledge of any one of them. This I chose, nor have I ever
seen any reason to regret it.
But in choosing a broad and general knowledge, I certainly do not mean
a haphazard study of everything and everybody
----no, nor a systematic
study of everything either. Far from it. I have my chosen fields, and
I have chosen those fields precisely because I judge them to be the most
profitable ----the most valuable for the work of the Lord. I generally
exclude everything secular, not because I believe there is no profit in
it, but because I believe there is little, and life is too short to spend
gathering stones, when I might gather gems.
My first choice, which I made many years ago, was to concentrate my studies
primarily upon the great men of God, the men whose names are household
words in the church. I supposed that there must have been some reasons
why these men were well known decades or centuries after their deaths.
They must have made a mark upon the world, and must therefore be men worth
knowing. I began, therefore, with the pursuit of the great men of God
Tyndale, Latimer, Menno Simons, Luther, Baxter, Bunyan, Wesley, Whitefield,
Carey, Judson, Spurgeon, Ryle, Finney, Moody, Torrey, and others of the
same stamp, besides many lesser lights.
This choice I made when I scarcely had knowledge enough to make any other,
yet I believe the choice was a wise one, and if I had to start afresh,
after thirty years of experience, I would make exactly the same choice,
and for just the same reason. But the knowledge which I gained by pursuing
this course soon enabled me to expand my horizons, and to add to the great
men of God the great movements of the history of the church. The Reformation,
the Methodist movement, the world missions movement, the Plymouth Brethren,
the Fundamentalists, along with a number of less importance, such as the
Presbyterians and the Quakers. For it goes without saying that I do not
regard all these fields as equally profitable. Quite the reverse. The
Methodist movement and the missions movements stand at the top of my list.
For years I have probably read more of Methodist biography than of any
other thing, nor am I sorry for it. I make no apology for it. Every now
and again I wade through a Baptist biography, and almost invariably feel
when I finish, Oh! for the Methodist fire! Oh! for the Methodist
spirit! Oh! for a book that will make the heart burn! Yet the Baptist
movement is of value also, and it would be folly to neglect it.
Church history in general, and Christian biography in general, I have
also avidly pursued. Other fields which I value highly are textual criticism,
old proverbs, the histories of revivals, Mormonism, old hymns, early English
religious writings, and the history of the English Bible. In all these
fields I have for many years diligently sought, bought, copied, and read
all the worthwhile books which I could find time and money for.
But the reader may guess the consequence, which is that I am no expert
on anything. I do not choose to be. In this day of shallow learning I
may be able to hold my own with the experts in some of my chosen fields,
but this is not because I know much, but because they know little. Not
that I recommend slovenly ways or careless study. I recommend nothing
short of the most zealous diligence. I recommend getting wisdom with all
----and I aim to set an example of what I recommend.
I aim to be as expert as I can in every profitable field, but I know very
well that the real result is that I will be expert in none. The jack of
all trades must be master of none. This price I willingly pay for the
wisdom which I seek. I do not care to be known as the church's foremost
authority on William Tyndale, or John Wesley, C. H. Spurgeon, or
Mormonism, or prophecy. I choose rather a broad, general knowledge, which
will contribute to a broad, general wisdom, which will issue in a broad,
general usefulness. This is my choice, and this choice I recommend in
general. Pride may move men in another direction, for we suppose pride
will love to be called an expert, but we think the love of truth and of
souls will generally move men to the same path we have chosen ourselves.
Beside all this, there is a peculiar danger in seeking to be an expert
in any one field. It contracts the mind. It deprives a man of the broad
perspective which is so necessary to sound thinking and sound judgement.
He descends as it were to the depths of a canyon, as narrow as it is deep,
and so forfeits his ability to see what goes on in the world outside.
While knowledge increases, the ability to make any proper use of it decreases.
There may be occasional exceptions to this, as in men of the stature of
John W. Burgon, but as a rule that field in which any man is an expert
naturally acquires, in his mind, an inflated importance, beyond its real
merits. His great knowledge, though most useful to others, to whom he
may impart it when occasion calls for it, becomes a detriment to himself.
For such reasons as these I choose to be no expert. I recommend the same
path to all who would be wise and useful.
A Few Words on Feminine Modesty
By A Pastor
Women possess by nature a very strong sense of modesty, while most of
them but little understand the details of what modesty consists of. We
have known a woman, determined to dress modestly, to discard all her immodest
clothes, and make new ones, and the new ones which she made were as bad
as the old ones she had discarded. Such facts serve as a very apt illustration
of the nature of the feminine constitution, in which the matters of the
soul predominate over those of the spirit. I beheld a telling example
of this just last night. Some children were rough-housing on the floor,
and one little girl was struggling in the hands of her large masculine
captors. Her sister, but little older than herself, rushed to her rescue,
not indeed to deliver her from her tormenters, but to pull down her skirt,
which had crept up in the fray. Such is the strength of feminine feeling
on this subject, and yet such is the ignorance which prevails among women
that I would be nothing surprised to see this same girl clothed in immodest
dress herself, when she is a little older. Women's feelings would always
put them right on this subject, if they had any corresponding apprehension
of the facts, but their notions of modesty are usually vague, and they
rarely understand its importance, for they have little conception of the
intensity of a man's desires, nor of the ease with which those desires
may be inflamed.
The devil has the whole world practically wallowing in sensual lusts,
by means of wanton literature, licentious films, and libertine doctrines.
And one of the major factors in the present avalanche of sensuality, as
potent as it is pervasive, is the revealing character of the ordinary,
everyday dress of the women. In this, alas, most of the godly are simply
conformed to the world, no doubt as oblivious to the mischief which they
do as Bath-sheba was when she bathed on the roof top. The mischief, however,
is real. Many godly women would be stunned and devastated if they but
knew what effect their dress has upon the hearts of the men who see them.
While they suppose themselves to dress in accordance with the behests
of modesty, they in fact offend every day of their lives against some
of its simplest dictates. Much of the dress of many Christian women would
have been considered abomination a century ago. Yet the men
and pastors and husbands ----who certainly know the effects of such
dress, and ought to do something about it, have capitulated to the world,
and hold their peace.
For the purposes of this paper, we may define immodest dress as anything
which is calculated to have an improper effect on the men who see it
to be perfectly plain, which is likely to excite the sensual desires of
a man. From the manner in which Christian women generally dress, we must
assume them to be either very ignorant here, or very wicked. I must assume
the former. I have known men who contend that these women certainly know
better, and dress on purpose to tempt the men, but I believe no such thing.
Bath-sheba never designed to tempt David. Her display of herself before
his eyes was entirely unintentional, though the effect of it was just
the same as if she had done it on purpose. And a myriad of godly women
do the same sort of thing every day, all unconsciously, by the revealing
manner in which they dress. I believe they are simply ignorant, and stand
in need of some plain speaking on the subject. This I aim to give them,
though the task is not a pleasant one.
I shall at any rate aim to speak as modestly as I can, while I aim to
speak clearly enough to accomplish something, and we trust none will blame
us for this. I loathe the unbridled freedom and explicit language with
which delicate subjects are usually treated in modern Christian literature.
I aim to avoid anything which might wound the delicacy of a sensitive
woman. But if their dress is less modest than my speech, they can hardly
complain if I endeavor to do something about it, though it may be impossible
to say anything effectual on this subject without causing some embarrassment.
Women may find some help in the following ditty:
Too tight, too slight, too bright
But this will require a few words of explanation.
Too tight. A large proportion of the offences against modesty, on the
part of Christian women, lie exactly here. They generally have some sense
of the wrong of wearing their clothes too skimpy. Many who are careful
to wear their neck lines high enough, and their hem lines low enough,
yet seem to have no sense at all of the evil of wearing their clothes
too tight. But the fact is, any clothing which is tight enough, or which
clings closely enough, to display the curves of the feminine figure, is
too tight. It is the sight of the feminine form which excites the sensual
passions of men, and any clothing which reveals that form is immodest.
Most slacks should therefore be rejected, even if there were no other
reason not to wear them. Likewise, sweaters, tee shirts, and everything
made of knit or stretchy material
----anything which naturally clings
to the body ----should be strictly avoided, unless it be very loose.
Even if loose, such materials are better avoided, as their soft look is
practically an invitation to touch, and though only the boldest of sinners
would dare to do so, a thousand others may be stirred with the desire
for it. A woman tells me that when she was in college she quit wearing
an Angora sweater, because the other girls could not keep their hands
off it. The sight enkindled the desire to touch, and it is certain that
many men who see such garments will be stirred with deeper and more intense
desires, though they would not dare to act upon them. As a furry kitten
naturally inspires the desire to touch, so also does soft or silky material,
and the more so when it appears on a pleasing woman.
But aside altogether from the inviting softness of knit and silky materials,
they naturally cling to the form, revealing instead of concealing it,
and this is their primary danger. Woven material, with weight and body
enough to hold its own form instead of clinging to the wearer's, is always
better than anything stretchy or silky. An ungodly song which was popular
on the radio when I was in high school rehearsed the pleasure of seeing
a woman in a sweater and a tight skirt. This is sensual pleasure, and
will Christian women serve and abet it? Unless she means to tempt her
brethren, a woman must wear her clothes loose enough to conceal her form.
She may plead that this is not stylish, but what have the children of
God to do with the styles of the children of the devil? Cast them off,
and do right.
And while she avoids tight blouses and sweaters, a woman ought to be careful
also of her undergarments. Many of these are designed on purpose to enhance
and display, or even to augment, her feminine form, so that by means of
foam and wire and puffs and pads she may entice the men with fictions
in addition to reality. What is this, but to poison the arrow which was
too apt to kill already? Yet godly women, ignorant alike of the purpose
and the effects of such dress, unthinkingly conform themselves to the
ways of the world. There are undergarments of another sort, however
rather to accommodate than to violate the feelings of feminine modesty,
designed rather to conceal than to display ----and women who are
full in the bosom should make it their business to find them.
The very idea of modesty, in any sphere, implies restraint and concealment.
It is the reverse of display. Any clothing, therefore, which puts its
wearer on display is immodest. Tight clothing displays everything which
it ought to conceal, and we think a woman who is modest in heart must
feel herself on display when she wears it. Yet spurred on by a wicked
world, the majority of women suppress their God-given feelings, and habitually
display themselves in tight clothing. They will never be modest till they
cast it off, and get something at least a size or two larger. Some may
have to cast off their pride to do this. Women who gain weight will continue
to wear their old clothes, or buy new ones of the same size, and pride
themselves that they can still get into them, when they are almost splitting
the seams. They might better maintain their pride by losing weight. Meanwhile,
if they would maintain their modesty, they have no choice but to lay aside
their old clothing, and get something larger and looser.
And girls who fill out into their natural womanly form must do the same.
As innocent as angels themselves, these girls often fling the fiery darts
of temptation to the hearts of all the men who see them, through the unconscious
display of their blossoming womanhood, by wearing the clothes which fit
them last year, but which are certainly too tight today. It would seem
a great pity to tax the minds of these angelic creatures with that knowledge
which will keep them as modest in appearance as they are in heart, but
something must be done. They may not need to understand the matter, but
they do need help to do as they ought. The fact is, the feminine form
is one of the most powerful forces on the face of the earth. It is a potent
drug, the powers of which will weaken and imperil the strongest, the wisest,
and the best men on earth. David fell before its charms, and a myriad
of others, who may not fall into actual adultery, will yet have their
hearts inflamed by it. Those who possess such an enchanting power
all women possess it in some measure ----ought at any rate to be
careful how they handle it. We have not the slightest inclination to lay
any blame on those innocent creatures who know not the powers of their
own femininity, but we think those who do know them ought to be careful
to watch over those who don't. Mothers ought to make it their business
to secure the modest appearance of these girls, and if mothers fail, then
fathers, or sisters, or brothers, or older women in the church.
Three centuries ago a veil or cape to cover the bosom was called a modesty-piece,
and some now think to secure modesty by requiring their women to wear
cape dresses, but I have seen cape dresses which were the
very reverse of anything modest, precisely because they were tight where
they ought to be loose. If the cape is as tight as the dress it covers,
and the whole dress is tight besides, dress and cape are both immodest.
Too slight. A woman's clothing should clothe her. It should cover her.
The ungodly world studies how to make clothes which uncover the women
who wear them, and the result is short skirts, low neck lines, skirts
slit up the sides, bare midriffs, bare backs, bare shoulders, and indeed,
bare almost everything. Women who would do right can have nothing to do
with any of this. This means, of course, that they can have nothing to
do with the swimming wear of the world. A woman has no more right to go
half nude on a beach than she has anywhere else. I know of a Bible
Camp which requires the women to wear modest one-piece swimming
suits, but where will they find one of those? I have never seen
a modest swimming suit in my life-time.
But more. It is not enough to wear clothing which covers you while you
stand as a statue. It should cover you in all postures. A skirt which
covers a woman's thighs when she stands erect may expose them to full
view when she sits down or bends over. When I was in high school, one
of my teachers so arranged the seating, on the first day of school, as
to put all the most attractive girls in the front row, brazenly informing
the class that he did this so he could see their legs. One of the girls
foiled his wickedness by always draping a sweater over her knees, but
it apparently never entered the heads of any of them to wear longer dresses.
That was not stylish. Yet a woman who cares one whit for modesty can have
nothing to do with the dictates of style. Her skirts must be long enough
to cover her when she bends over, sits down, gets in or out of a car,
and in every other posture. And this certainly means her hem should be
at least as close to her ankles as it is to her knees. We know of Christian
schools which require the girls to wear their skirts down to the middle
of the knee when standing erect, but this is mere trifling
compromise ----and is certainly not modest.
Low neck lines are of course a great offense against modesty. These are
the badge of wanton women, and when a man sees a woman with a low neck
line, he naturally supposes she intends to tempt him. But women fail to
realize that a loose neck line may be actually worse in some postures
than a low one. A woman who wears a large, loose, or unbuttoned neck line
may reveal everything between her neck and her waist when she bends over,
or sits at a desk with a man standing over her. Women ought to examine
themselves by bending over in front of a mirror before they go out into
the view of the public. Some will be shocked at what they see.
Large, loose, short sleeves are also an offense against modesty. These
may be modest enough when a woman's elbows are at her sides, but when
she raises her arms, she opens a broad avenue by which everyone may see
inside her blouse. Her sleeves ought to be longer or tighter.
Too bright. This is a very small matter compared to the other two, but
it is not therefore unimportant. I heard a proverb when I was a boy, which
says, Red and yellow catch a fellow. This may not be quite
true, but it is true enough that red and yellow will catch his eye. A
woman in a bright red dress will catch a man's eye a block away, and likely
hold his eye too, and fill his heart with herself. And not only so, but
he will naturally think it her intention to catch the eyes and hearts
of men. She may as well wear a neon sign. Whatever her thoughts may be,
when a man sees a woman in a bright red dress, he naturally supposes she
is advertising herself
----seeking to draw attention to herself ----and
no man will suppose it is the attention of other women she seeks. We suppose
that no other color will give this impression so strongly as bright red,
but a woman who wishes to be modest ought to avoid gaudy colors in general.
But enough. It is distasteful to speak on such a theme at all. I do so
only because there is a crying need for it, and few enough in our day
who will say anything to the purpose on the subject.
Another Word on The Epidemic of Amateurism
by Glenn Conjurske
Since writing the article on this subject which appeared in our last issue,
I was at a relative's house, and saw a magazine page, containing a recipe,
lying on the kitchen counter. On the same page I saw the following, which
I copied into my notebook:
Free Poetry Contest
All amateur poets invited.
Find out the secrets of getting published.
Learn how to gain national exposure.
Discover how to immediately publish your poetry on the Internet.
Let the world hear your message.
Thus is the epidemic of amateurism encouraged. We would not discourage
every amateur from trying his hand at poetry, or anything else to which
he has a mind. Every master was an amateur once. But the above goes far
beyond this. It encourages every amateur to publish his amateur productions
to help him do so ----offers indeed to gain national exposure
for all the amateur drivelling which is worthy of nothing but the waste
basket. The above advertisement takes it for granted that every amateur
has a message which the world ought to hear. This is nothing more than
a direct appeal to the pride of all the incompetent. As for the
secrets of getting published, the only secrets of any value here
are to have something worth saying, and to say it well. Any other secrets
only encourage the advancement of incompetence and the reign of mediocrity.
We observe here also that one of the greatest evils of modern times is
the Internet, by means of which every amateur may immediately
publish his most childish trish-trash. Modern technology has contributed
to the epidemic of amateurism in numerous ways, but nothing has done so
much damage as the Internet. All the shallowest rantings of all the most
ignorant babblers, who know nothing, and could not write literary English
to save their lives, must now be posted on some Internet forum,
or web sight
----as I have seen it spelled by some of
the Internet intelligentsia. We advise all who value solid worth to avoid
the Internet as they would the plague. Sit down with an old book ----Wesley,
Torrey, Spurgeon, Bunyan, Henry, anything ----but avoid the Internet
if you value either intelligence or refinement. Modern literature is bad
enough, but the Internet is immeasurably worse, for this gives a cheap
and easy platform to every ignorant ranter, to publish himself what no
man of sense or refinement would ever publish at all, not even in this
degenerate age. By means of the Internet every nobody may be somebody,
every man's pride is caressed, and the epidemic of amateurism is every
A week after reading the above blatant endorsement of amateurism in a
modern magazine, an old magazine yielded the following suggestive piece:
'The business of a poet,' said Imlac, 'is to exhibit in his portraits
of nature such prominent and striking features as recall the original
to every mind. But the knowledge of nature is only half the task of the
poet; he must be acquainted also with all the modes of life; he must divest
himself of the prejudices of his age or country; he must consider right
and wrong in their abstracted and invariable state; he must disregard
present laws and opinions, and rise to general and transcendental truth,
which will always be the same. He must write as the interpreter of nature;
he must know many languages and many sciences.Enough,' cried out
the Prince; 'thou hast convinced me that no human being can ever be a
poet.' The attainments which Imlac enumerated as indispensable to the
formation of a poet are no less indispensable as human elements to the
formation of a commentator upon the Holy Scriptures. And mentally glancing
over the names of many celebrated adventurers in this undertaking, we
cannot help regretting that they were unable to imitate the modesty of
the Prince of Abyssinia.
So speaks the first page of The Christian Remembrancer for October of
1866, and not without wisdom. We, however, can no more endorse the dicta
of Imlac than we can the modern epidemic of amateurism. We think he sets
the standard as much too high as the modern world sets it too low. We
do not believe a man must know many languages or many sciences, to be
either a poet or a preacher. All we ask is competence. Let him be taught
----or of nature. Let him evince some depth of thought and
emotion. Let him know the human heart. Let him be fervent and eloquent.
Let him speak from deep and rich experience. Let him know how to use his
mother tongue. Let him but know what matters. We do not ask a man who
knows all the answers, but only a man who knows the questions. Let him
but rise above the dull and the commonplace. Let him be a prophet of God.
Let him exhibit something beyond the prevailing mediocrity. Let him have
something of value to say, which has not been said already by ten thousand
others. We ask no more than this, and for this we are accused of setting
the standard so high that no man can reach it. Alas for humanity, if the
charge be true. But we believe no such thing. We only set the standard
so high that no man may attain it with ease ----that no man may
reach it without toil and tears and time. We raise the standard to where
men ought to be, rather than dropping it to where they are. Any man who
has a standard lower than this ought to be ashamed of it.
OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without
alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise,
and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction
or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's
own position is to be learned from his own writings.