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Vol. 9, No. 8
Aug., 2000

“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 rest.”

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 they wrest.

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 New Testament,

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 with it.

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 this.”

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 also----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”----who says 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 things.

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,”----to preach 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.

Well----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 between them.

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----blind, 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 affords----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----some 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 at all.

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 upon.

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 words----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 it either.

“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.”

Robert Young----”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.”

Henry Alford----”the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

J. N. Darby----”the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Revised Version----”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.”

Berkeley Version----”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----and 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----unless 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----especially 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----for 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----Wycliffe, 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 thy getting----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----fathers 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----anything, 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----not right.

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----made 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----and 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----or 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----offers 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 way augmented.

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 of God----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.

Editorial Policies

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.