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Vol. 9, No. 7
July, 2000

The Epidemic of Amateurism

by Glenn Conjurske

The title of the present article is culled from the last page of the little book by A. W. Tozer, recently reviewed in these pages, on The Menace of the Religious Movie. Tozer writes, “I heard the president of a Christian college say some time ago that the Church is suffering from an 'epidemic of amateurism.' This is sadly true.” Tozer's book was written at least two generations ago, and if this was “sadly true” then, it is much more so today. This is now a doctrine and a principle. Everyone is encouraged to assume places for which they are not fit. People are encouraged to write poetry, who could not write a poem to save their lives, and they will likely find somebody eager to publish their amateur productions also. I have seen pieces take the prize in national poetry contests which were not poetry at all, but only ill-written prose. Everyone must write, and print too, though he has nothing of value to say, and no ability to say anything. The church today absolutely groans under a load of shallow and mediocre books and magazines and “newsletters,” and boys and girls must write for them. Pulpits are filled with “preachers” who cannot preach, and Sunday schools with “teachers” who are no more fit to teach than they are to fly. It is just the same with music. Every boy who can whistle a string of notes, or every girl who can hum one, can now be a composer, and some church will be found which is happy to sing these juvenile productions, and praise them too, and so encourage the epidemic of amateurism.

Indeed, it is looked upon as a great offense to discourage it. We might wound somebody's “self-esteem.” That must be avoided at all cost. Better to have a dog-catcher conducting a symphony orchestra, than that his precious self-esteem should be wounded. Better pass the whole class than wound the self-esteem of those who cannot make a passing grade. This is actually done in public schools all over this country. But this is directly against the way of God, and the way of the Bible. The Bible says, “Be not many teachers.” The Bible says, “to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Where does the Bible ever exhort us not to think of ourselves more meanly than we ought to think? If this is all the danger, as modern psychology would have it, why is this great danger never addressed in the Bible? Where does the Bible warn us of “low self-esteem”? Do our modern psychologists know better than God? The fact is, we suppose that modern psychology comes from the devil. Most of our self-esteem is a good deal too high, and we may thank God for whatever lowers it.

But it is as hard for me as it is for anybody else to wound people's self-esteem. I have never enjoyed this, and never will. But then my business is not to make people feel good, but to help them to be good. To give them to believe that they are something, when they are not, is the surest way to prevent their ever becoming anything.

And this is but one of the evil effects of the epidemic of amateurism. Whatever evils it may occasion in the amateurs themselves, its effects upon others are no better. The flooding of the church with inferior publications, and the filling of the pulpits with inferior preaching, is a great loss to the whole church of God. It is no better than a waste of time to read most of the modern publications, or to listen to the most of modern preaching, and all this stands directly in the way of the edification which might be, if the pulpit and the press were left to men of stature. We speak nothing here of the unsoundness of modern ministry. Even supposing it all sound, the prevailing incompetence stands in the way of the good which might be. A great man today could scarcely gain a hearing in the midst of the babble of the voices of the incompetent.

But these are only the immediate effects, the short-term evils, of the epidemic of amateurism. Wisdom looks to the long-term effect, and sees this to be still worse. The final effect of the epidemic of amateurism is an end of all greatness. Only caress and promote the incompetent, and there will soon be no other kind to promote. Any and every system which makes it easy to excel marks the beginning of the end of all greatness. It destroys initiative. It renders toil and tears useless. When the incompetent are promoted, there is no reason to be competent. The public school system, which routinely passes those with failing grades, and lowers the standards to the level of the students, has destroyed the intellectual prowess of the nation. In the name of education, it has created a nation which cannot think, and which can scarcely read, to say nothing of writing correct grammar or literary English. And in the names of liberty and democracy, amateurs of every description have been caressed and encouraged and promoted till the only examples men have to follow are the amateurish and the mediocre, and the whole nation has thus been reduced to mediocrity.

America has no great men----neither in church nor state. What little I hear from time to time of the speeches of congressmen or Presidents----or candidates for those offices----what little I hear of the leading preachers of the church----is all the veriest mediocrity, or worse. Dull, dry, sterile, shallow, artificial, witless, and passionless. Empty rhetoric and shallow platitudes, without substance and without heart. America calls itself the greatest nation on earth, but the greatness is all past. She reaps today the fruits of her former greatness, but it is all physical, material, and commercial. In the realms of the soul and spirit, she has no great men today.

But what is infinitely worse, she wants none. She has no use for them. They stand in her way. The light of the sun is fatal to the ambitions of the glimmering stars. Who would care to admire the soaring of the eagle, when he might flutter to the top of some fence-post himself, and be admired by a dozen clucking hens? And as in the nation, so also in the church. It is too hard on modern pride to sit at the feet of greatness. Every man would rather preach himself, than to sit at the feet of a great preacher. Every man would rather write his own book, than to read the book of a great man. He would rather produce a shallow and mediocre magazine himself, than to read solid substance in another man's. The real root of the reign of mediocrity is nothing other than pride----and thus it is that a proud nation is reduced by its own pride to such a condition that it has nothing left to be proud of. Yet the pride remains.

Now to anyone who will think, it must be perfectly obvious that to encourage this system of amateurism is to discourage all achievement, and so to put an end to all greatness. To publish the books and the articles of the amateur is to dwarf his advancement. To set the amateurs up to preach is to keep them amateurs for ever. Public recognition of every kind ought to be reserved for the worthy. Public ministry belongs to the qualified and the competent. The public platform ought to be extended as the reward of merit. To give it to anyone else is the surest way to discourage worth and merit and competence.

A certain fellow of the Open Brethren persuasion once assured me that the young men must learn to preach by preaching. If so, let them go out and preach to the corn fields, as Gipsy Smith did. The corn stalks have ears enough, and they will be none the worse for the hearing. But let him spare the church of God. John the Baptist did not learn to preach by preaching, yet he was one of the greatest preachers ever to walk the earth. Meanwhile, this fellow who assures me that men must learn to preach by preaching has been at it for a quarter of a century, and has not learned to preach yet. Give the pulpit to an amateur, and, unless he be a rare bird, he will remain an amateur.

The epidemic of amateurism damages the amateurs themselves, it damages those who must be the readers and hearers of their amateur productions, and it leaves the church destitute of examples worth following. The latter, we suppose, is the greatest of the evils. Men who follow mediocre examples will remain mediocre, while a constant exposure to greatness has a natural tendency to reproduce it. In the first place, the presence of true greatness tends to move men to humility. When the sun shines, the moon pales. The stars fade away. In the presence of greatness, men find their own level. Tyros and novices keep their seats when George Whitefield is preaching. It dispels their illusions of their own abilities. But further, it moves them to aspire, and gives them a pattern to follow. But alas, modern pride has grown to such proportions that the greatness which ought to move men to humility and aspiration is more likely to provoke their envy and resentment. They would rather hear no greatness, see no greatness, and do no greatness----and the modern church will give them their wish.

But when we turn to the Bible, we find just the reverse of all this. The Bible is not a handbook of mediocrity. Greatness pervades the book. It passes by the inferior. It is a record of the giants, devoted in general to the greatest men, and limited for the most part to their greatest acts. It is full of the powers of Samson, the triumphs of David, the exploits of his mighty men, the faith of Abraham, the translation of Enoch, the sublime powers of Abigail, the courage of Esther, the patience of Job, the victories of Moses and Joshua, the grand acts of Elijah and Elisha, the devotedness of Paul----whatever, in short, is worthy of emulation----this, along with the failures of these men, and whatever may depict their character, for the Bible is a moral book. But the insignificant men it passes by. The record is devoted to Elijah, and tells us nothing at all of the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal----nothing but the fact that they existed. There was nothing in them to emulate. We suppose they were good men, but they were not great men, and inspired biography passes them by.

Has this nothing to teach us? Whatever the Bible teaches us, it is not to exalt the mediocre, nor to promote the unqualified, nor to nurse the “self-esteem” of the incompetent.

But I have been told that I discourage people. I set the standard so high that few can attain to it. And no doubt I do discourage some people. Indeed, I do my best to discourage everybody from thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. I tell the ten-cent poet----as softly and gently as I can----that his poem is a dime, not a dollar. But why should this discourage him? He has either missed his calling, or failed to do his work. If the latter, he ought to thirst, and aspire, and labor, and toil, and do better. If the former, he ought to abandon his poetry, and aspire to something within his reach. Ah! but this is too hard on his pride. It is his dear “self-esteem” which is wounded. Yet if he would take that self-esteem to God, he would find it more peremptorily wounded than ever I would dare to do.

We suppose Spurgeon may have discouraged some folks also, when he said, “Oh, poetic brother, do try your hand at prose!” But we must perhaps discourage him further still, for he may be as unfit for prose as for poetry. We may have to tell him to put his pen away, and try his hand at disciplining his children, or being diligent in his business, or shoveling his sidewalk. We may have to tell him to silence his tongue, and try his mind at thinking, or his soul at feeling. We may have to tell him to cease his writing till he learns English. We think it a positive sin to flood the church with shallow and mediocre writing, whether prose or poetry.

We suppose John Wesley may have discouraged Joseph Benson (then only about thirty-three years of age), when he wrote to him, “I have no objection to your printing a few copies of those two sermons to oblige your friends in the neighbourhood.” “A few copies”!----”to oblige your friends in the neighbourhood”! This looks rather insulting, and was doubtless a little softer method of telling him not to print them at all. We suppose that Wesley discouraged another young man also, who had sent him a manuscript to read. Wesley told him, “Before I read it I cannot but mention a little remark which I have frequently made. There are many good-natured creatures among the Methodists who dearly love to make matches; and we have many other good-natured creatures who dearly love to make authors. Whereas it is the glory of the Methodists to have few authors. And a young man can hardly be too slow in this matter.” This was a none-too-gentle hint, and doubtless discouraged the young man. It was no doubt intended so to do----not to dishearten him, but to discourage him from what he had no fitness for. Wesley was a wise man, and this was solid wisdom. It is the glory of any people to have few authors. On that plan the great men are able to gain a hearing, and the people may find solid worth in what they read. It was the glory of ancient Israel to have few authors, but what those few wrote was worth something. God has never, in any age, called many to write, nor is he ever likely to do so, until he aims to call the whole populace to waste their time and their money on the shallow, the unsound, and the unprofitable. Many prophets and apostles never penned a word. Elijah and Elisha never wrote a page. Perhaps they had no ability to do so, or no call of God for it. But they so lived that others have written about them from that day to this. Here is true greatness, and this is every way above filling reams of paper with mediocre chatter. Modern technology and modern wealth make it easy to write, and easy to print too, but has God called you to this? Has he gifted you for it?----or has the “epidemic of amateurism” rendered the gifts and calling of God superfluous?

Yes, we discourage the amateur from affecting to be somebody. We discourage the amateurs from aspiring to be “published authors.” We discourage the novices from preaching. We say with James, “Be not many teachers.” Hold your pen, and your tongue too, till you have something to say. Watch the eagles soar for a while. Delve into the masters----the old masters----of theology, and poetry, and history, and biography. Walk among the giants. Fill your mind with the great and the renowned, flood your soul with the illustrious and the superior, and you may assimilate a little of it. You may never soar so high as the eagles, but you may soar a little higher for studying them.

April of the present year I published my poem on “Blank Verse and Modern Poetry.” Some of my readers may wonder what difference it makes, or what the issue is. I trust the preceding article will make it plain.

The Ascendancy of Intellecualism & the Revision of the English Bible

by Glenn Conjurske

In the early years of Protestantism, the English Bible was revised numerous times, the New Testament having passed through more than a dozen revisions in its first fifty years, besides minor variations in the various printings of what may be regarded as a single revision. This was natural. These translators were treading on new ground, and could hardly be expected to bring the work to perfection at once. Tyndale says in the epilogue to his 1526 New Testament, “Them that are learned Christianly, I beseech, for as much as I am sure, and my conscience beareth me record, that of a pure intent, singly and faithfully I have interpreted it, as far forth as God gave me the gift of knowledge and understanding, that the rudeness of the work now at the first time, offend them not, but that they consider how that I had no man to counterfeit, neither was helped with [the] English of any that had interpreted the same, or such like thing in the scripture beforetime. Moreover, even very necessity and cumbrance (God is record) above strength, which I will not rehearse, lest we should seem to boast ourselves, caused that many things are lacking, which necessarily are required. Count it as a thing not having his full shape, but as it were born afore his time, even as a thing begun rather than finished. In time to come (if God have appointed us there unto) we will give it his full shape,” &c.

So, in general, speak all the early translators. The need for further revision was generally felt. We think, however, that those who appeal to the frequent revisions of the early Protestant Bibles, as a justification for the revising mania of the present day, are very much out of their way.

The fact is, after more than a dozen revisions in half a century, the English Bible had become so satisfactory that the desire for revision greatly subsided, and nothing further was done in that direction for a whole generation, namely, from 1572 to 1604. There still remained, however, one fly in the ointment, and he a large one. There were two rival versions of the Scriptures in common use, while some of the earlier versions were without doubt still used also, especially the Great Bible. The conformists held in general to the Bishops' Bible, and the Puritans in general to the Geneva. Neither of the rival versions possessed superiority enough to gain the ascendancy over the other. There was, therefore, no common ground of appeal. This fact alone called for a further revision. This it was, primarily, which the revisers sought to remedy.

“But it is high time ... ,” they say in their preface----and I modernize the spelling, “to show in brief what we proposed to our selves, and what course we held in this our perusal and survey of the Bible. Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, (for then the imputation of [Pope] Sixtus had been true in some sort, that our people had been fed with the gall of Dragons in stead of wine, with whey in stead of milk:) but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against.”

This they proposed to themselves, and this, in general, they accomplished. Theirs was the work of much more time, much more care, and many more persons than any previous revision, and it was in fact a grand success. We do not pretend to anything like perfection or finality in the King James Version. Neither do we pretend, but rather assert with all confidence, that the version then produced came so near the finality attainable in a translation that it is a great deal easier now to mar than to mend it. This has been demonstrated by all attempts at its revision. The version which those men produced gradually gained the ascendancy over all others, and that during a time of great unrest and party strife, so that all the jarring sects of England----Conformists, Puritans, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, Quakers, and all others----came all to rest together on the same foundation, all acknowledging the same ground of appeal, all prizing the same English Bible as their greatest treasure. The King James Version did not immediately assume this place of ascendancy, but acquired it gradually, by virtue of its own inherent excellence and superiority.

Now observe: their object was to make of many rival translations one principal good one. That work they did, and did it so well that their version maintained an undisputed supremacy for three centuries. The revisers of the present day did not enter upon their labors to do such work (for there was no call for it), but precisely to undo it----not to create one principal good version, as the universal standard of appeal, but precisely to thrust out of court the standard which already existed, and replace it with a hundred jarring voices----and surely they have no business to plead the precedent of the King James translators.

But the King James Version did not immediately gain the ascendancy of which we speak, nor did the desire for revision immediately subside. “More than a generation then passed away, during which the Authorised Version was steadily growing in public favour, and vindicating year by year its distinct superiority, not only over the Bishops' Bible, but over the popular Genevan Bible. And it was, perhaps, owing to this last fact that we find Dr. Lightfoot urging, in a sermon preached before the House of Commons in August, 1645, the desirableness of a revision of the Scriptures. And apparently with some effect; for, in 1653, a bill was actually introduced for a new revision. Some preparatory steps were taken; but happily the Parliament----the Long Parliament----was dissolved, and the plan entirely fell through.”

So spoke Bishop Ellicott, the chairman of the New Testament Revision Company, on his presentation of the finished revision to the Upper House of Convocation in 1881. But why “happily,” if, as the same man elsewhere assures us, the old version “needed revision almost in every verse”? Ah, just this. Ellicott supposed the scholarship of 1653 incompetent to revise the Bible, while he and his colleagues were quite equal to the task. We think the reverse was the fact.

But having spoken of the dissolution of the Long Parliament, he immediately adds, “For two hundred years all desire for any further authoritative revision had entirely died out.” Now it will certainly be worth inquiring why all desire for revision died out, and we believe there is only one answer. The fact is, the version then in the hands of the English people was so excellent, so adequate, so satisfactory, that they felt no reason to further amend it. Not that they dreamed it was perfect. No, but they deemed it so excellent that the most learned and devout men----Catholics, Protestants, and Jews----could hardly say enough in its praise. It reigned supreme, approved in the minds of the learned, and loved in the hearts of the unlearned. I venture to trouble my readers with a few examples of its praise.

The earth has rarely seen a man more learned than S. C. Malan, in languages both ancient and modern. The not unlearned Burgon was obliged to apply so often to Malan for information on the ancient versions of Scripture that he assures us that the latter “must be heartily sick of me by this time.” Of that knowledge Burgon supposed Malan to be “perhaps the sole living depositary in England.” In reviewing the (Baptist) American Bible Union's revision of the book of Job, the learned Malan writes, “Meanwhile, let not English readers of their ENGLISH BIBLE grow cold in their love of it. Those among them who know neither Hebrew nor Greek, may read and believe it with entire assurance of its truthfulness; and those who can judge for themselves of the original texts, must bear me witness, that I form a just estimate of the merits of the AUTHORIZED VERSION of the ENGLISH BIBLE. As I have said already, it is not perfect, for it is the work of man; but, as yet, it is best, as having been made with all the care and devotedness that men could bring to bear upon so important an object.

“Best, faithful, and true, then,----such as it is,----it has proved an infallible guide to many pilgrims on their way to heaven. Of old, fathers in learning, examples of piety and of an earnest and humble walk with GOD, believed its testimony; with it they walked on earth, and with it also they died. 'They counted HIM faithful that promised,' on the sole witness of their ENGLISH BIBLE; and if now they have not inherited HIS promises, what better hope have we than they?

“Let English readers of their Bible then, rest satisfied with it, and at peace; nay, rather, let them be thankful for so great a national blessing. When another, and, a really better, version is offered to them, they may then choose for themselves. Meanwhile, we see, by the examples brought forward, that however easy it is to alter, it is not so easy to amend, the consecrated pages of the ENGLISH BIBLE.”

A century earlier Adam Clarke was one of the most learned men in the church, though a humble and self-educated Methodist preacher. He writes, “At an early age I took for my motto Prov. xviii.1: Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” He “separated himself” from everything not contributing to the knowledge of Holy Scripture, and so pursued all wisdom. He was particularly learned in languages, ancient and modern, read regularly from the LXX and the Hebrew Bible, and translated the whole Bible himself. Of the King James Version he writes, “Those who have compared most of the European translations with the original, have not scrupled to say that the English translation of the Bible, made under the direction of King

James I., is the most accurate and faithful of the whole. Nor is this its only praise; the translators have seized the very spirit and soul of the original, and expressed this almost every where with pathos and energy. Besides, our translators have not only made a standard translation, but they have made their translation the standard of our language; the English tongue in their day was not equal to such a work, 'but God enabled them to stand as upon mount Sinai,' to use the expression of a learned friend, 'and crane up their country's language to the dignity of the originals, so that after the lapse of 200 years the English Bible is, with very few exceptions, the standard of the purity and excellence of the English tongue. The original from which it was taken is, alone, superior to the Bible translated by the authority of King James.' This is an opinion in which my heart, my judgment, and my conscience, coincide.”

So speaks the learned Adam Clarke. The friend whom he quotes, as he tells us in a footnote, was “the late Miss Freeman Shepherd, a very learned and extraordinary woman, and a rigid papist”----so that we can hardly suppose it was prejudice which moved her so to admire the King James Version.

But we shall quote yet another learned papist. In speaking of the love of the people for the King James Version, the Roman Catholic Dublin Review contains this eloquent lamentation: “Who will not say that the uncommon beauty and marvellous English of the Protestant Bible is not one of the great strongholds of heresy in this country? It lives on the ear like a music that can never be forgotten; like the sound of the church-bell, which the convert hardly knows how he can forego. Its felicities often seem to be almost things rather than mere words. It is a part of the national mind, and the anchor of national seriousness. The memory of the dead passes into it. The potent traditions of childhood are stereotyped in its verses. The power of all the gifts and trials of a man is hidden beneath its words. It is the representative of his best moments; and all that there has been about him of soft, and gentle, and pure, and penitent, and good, speaks to him for ever out of the English Bible. It is his sacred thing, which doubt has never dimmed, and controversy has never soiled. In the length and breadth of the land, there is not a Protestant with one spark of righteousness about him, whose spiritual biography is not in his Saxon Bible.”

The above passage reminds us exactly, in every thought and emotion, of a similar passage from John W. Burgon, but when Burgon writes so, our modern scholars attribute it to inveterate prejudice. What will they say of these sentiments from a Roman Catholic, whose prejudices were all exactly the other way, who writes only to lament the invincible strength of what to him was the great stronghold of heresy?

All who are devoted to the Old English Bible----myself included----must bear the reproach of prejudice, though I was once as prejudiced against it, as I now am for it, when I was young, and inexperienced, and intellectual, and shallow, and rash, and ignorant. S. C. Malan, whose judgement we have given above, answers the charge of prejudice thus modestly and simply: “...as to the ENGLISH BIBLE, I may say, without assumption, that I am familiar with all the old versions, and with many modern ones. So that my veneration for the AUTHORIZED VERSION proceeds, not from 'prejudice,' but from knowledge and experience.” So say I too. I am familiar with all the ancient English versions, comprising a dozen distinct translations, from the Anglo-Saxon to the Bishops' Bible, besides the various revisions and editions of all these----familiar also with all the more recent versions of any significance----and my judgement is that the King James Version is far and away superior to them all. This is not prejudice. I was once strongly prejudiced against the King James Version, but I have undergone the same transformation as C. H. Spurgeon, who as a young man cried aloud for revision, but as an old man called the old version “almost miraculously good”----which is more than I would say, by the way. But in spite of all my former prejudices, little by little the old version gained the ascendancy with me, the same way it did with a great host before me, by its own intrinsic superiority. We do not believe any of the new versions have thus gained their adherents. Nay, they were embraced before the ink was dry, precisely on the basis of prejudice, or judged by one issue, such as the modernization of the English.

But methinks the modern advocates of revision will find the above statements simply unaccountable. Those men we have quoted, however learned, must have judged by an entirely different standard than that which prevails today. And I reply, Most certainly they did! They judged by a sounder standard. Their learning was of a different sort. It was deep, broad, solid. It was comprised of wisdom as well as knowledge. It consisted of more than Winer and a chart of the inflexions of luw. They judged by the standards of common sense and spirituality. They knew that men had hearts, and they were not willing to sacrifice them on the altar of the petty grammarians. They had not learned to value minute, forced, and false distinctions more than spiritual substance. They did not bow at the shrine of a fastidious intellectualism, nor worship a meticulous pedantry, misnamed “accuracy.”

Well, but I am reminded that I have a heart also, and that I have allowed it to run away with me, and so have gotten a little ahead of myself. No matter. These things need saying, whether soon or late.

We have noticed above that after the King James Version had gained its place of ascendancy, “For two hundred years all desire for any further authoritative revision had entirely died out.” Those two hundred years were not years of spiritual stagnation. They witnessed the solid spirituality of a great host of the old Puritans, the birth of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, of Baxter's Call, and Alleine's Alarm. They witnessed the powerful Methodist revival on both sides of the Atlantic, a profusion of local revivals in numerous places, the inauguration of world missions, and its vigorous prosecution to all the ends of the earth. It was not the rise of spiritual vigor which renewed the desire for Bible revision about the middle of the nineteenth century, but precisely the decline of it. The call for revision came as the fruit of the ascendancy of intellectualism. This was not a higher or better learning, but a learning of a more contracted sort. The chairman of the company which produced the Revised Version of the New Testament, in speaking of the renewal of the desire for Bible revision in the middle of the nineteenth century, says, “The ztrue, though remote zfountain-head of revision, and, more particularly, of the revision of the New Testament, must be regarded as the grammar written by a young zacademic teacher, George Benedict Winer” ----so that it was no idle reproach of the revisers' critics that the fear of Winer was always before their eyes, though their chairman did not avow it till twenty years later. This “young academic teacher,” who did not hesitate to jettison Greek grammar in order to deny the Deity of Christ, was supposed (at last!) to have laid the foundation of a true exegesis, which had never existed before. Ellicott, of course, in referring to the “true fountain-head” of the movement for revision, supposes he is describing its strength, whereas in fact he is laying bare its weakness. A supposedly scientific, actually fastidious and pedantic, always unspiritual, and often inaccurate brand of “accuracy” had come to prevail over all other considerations----whether of heart, mind, soul, Greek, or English----and to call aloud for the scrapping of the venerable version which had held undisputed supremacy in the minds of the learned, the hearts of the unlearned, the spirits of the great, and the souls of the spiritual, for two and a half centuries.

Thus the pride of intellectualism did its work, so that where beauty, symmetry, faithfulness, and spiritual power had been universally admired before, now nothing could be seen but “errors and inaccuracies.” This by a species of judgement which would belittle the beauty of Vashti herself, if she had a few freckles. The “scholarship,” before which the revisers bowed so reverently, was in fact largely incompetent, mistaking what its numerous critics most aptly called “meddling hypercriticism,” “flat technicality,...always fatal to grandeur,” “a pitiful piece of pedantry,” “minute micrology,” “pedantic peculiarities of scholarship,” “schoolboy translations,” “some pedantic scheme of syntactical symmetry,” “wooden renderings,” “pedantic and awkward”----mistaking all this, I say, for some superiority of wisdom, which had never existed in the world till the latter half of the nineteenth century.

We think a juster estimate of that scholarship fell from the lips of the wise and learned Christopher Wordsworth, when the Convocation of Canterbury was debating the question of revising the Bible. Says he, “I deeply honour all genuine Biblical criticism. A man must be a fanatic if he attempts to interpret Scripture without it. But I know, also, that there is such a thing as Biblical criticism which is proud and self-confident, and which, being elated with spiritual pride, is always punished with spiritual blindness. Such was the Biblical criticism of many of the ancient Hebrew Rabbis, who were indefatigable students of the letter of Scripture, and who enjoyed many philological advantages for interpreting the Old Testament which are not possessed by us; and yet the Apostle St. Paul distinctly asserts of them that 'the vail was upon their hearts in the reading of the Old Testament.' Such also are many Biblical critics in our own day; and I would not willingly surrender the English Authorised Version to be rudely tampered with by their hands.”

But in the proportion that such criticism began to prevail, about the middle of the nineteenth century, the desire for a revised English Bible began to assert itself. The first systematic move in that direction resulted from the controversy between the Baptists and the Bible Societies, first on the mission fields, and then in Britain and America, and really stood upon a single issue. The Baptists would have baptizw translated “immerse,” and therefore, like the man who burnt the house to kill the mice, they must revise the whole Bible. In the process, however, they manifested much of the same intellectualism which produced the English Revised Version, and their version never offered any serious competition to the King James Version, not even among the Baptists. This was an American work, done by the (Baptist) American Bible Union, and another American revision was in the works also.

At about the same time the revision of the Bible was first broached in England, the (interdenominational) American Bible Society produced an amended version of its own, but the scholars who produced the revision were quickly rebuffed by the people who were obliged to use it. The Bible Society was about to lose its constituency. At a meeting of the Board of Managers in 1858, it was affirmed, “There are auxiliary Societies that write us, 'Send us no more new Bibles.' It is something serious when old friends thus speak.”

Again at the same meeting, “Public sentiment is opposed to the new emendations. However much the Bible Society is loved throughout the land, and whatever may be its historical greatness, the moment it abandons the old foundations, the people will lose their confidence in its character, and withhold their co-operation from its work. The old Bible is what the people want for circulation, and they will not put up with anything else.” “The people,” by the way, were no mere ignorant rabble, but doubtless included thousands of pastors and teachers who knew the original languages of Scripture. The American Bible Society retraced its steps, and deliberately consigned its revision to the same oblivion which awaited that of the American Bible Union.

England, at that time certainly more conservative than America, produced no revision until it supposed the public would accept it. In 1856 overtures were introduced in both Parliament and Convocation for the revision of the Bible, but according to the London Times, in an article which I believe was written by Bishop Ellicott, who chaired the company which revised the New Testament, “Neither the clerical nor the lay mind was prepared for such a leap in the dark as the appointment of a commission to modify the venerable Version that has so long maintained its supremacy.” Five Clergymen, however, including Ellicott, and Henry Alford, the leading advocates of revision, undertook to produce tentative revisions of several books of the New Testament. These----being much more conservative than the revision of 1881----were favorably received. Meanwhile, “As year by year went onward, every change in public opinion was closely watched by those who had taken part in the revision just mentioned, and especially by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol [Ellicott] and Dean Alford. It was thought in 1869 that many things pointed to a revival in the interest felt in the revision. The Bishop and Dean frequently conferred on the subject, consulted all those who were in any degree likely to forward the undertaking, and at length obtained the hearty aid and support of Bishop Wilberforce.”

Wilberforce introduced the subject in Convocation in 1870, and received the support of that body. The work began, with Wilberforce himself as chairman, but he withdrew after only two hours' attendance.

In conclusion we have only to ask, What change was there in the climate of England between 1856 and 1870? What produced the growing desire for the revision of the Bible? We believe it was the growing prevalence of an unspiritual intellectualism, which we have sufficiently characterized above. Yet that intellectualism prevailed only among a certain class of men. It was not universal. It did not extend to the common people, nor to the scholars of the best sort. “There was thus a real danger,” says the bishop, who was closely watching public opinion year by year, “unless some forward step was quickly and prudently taken, that the excitement might gradually evaporate, and the movement for revision might die out, as has often been the case in regard of the Prayer book, into the old and wonted acquiescence of the past.”

These intellectuals seized the moment, therefore, and produced their revision. It was the work of scholastics, otherwise called “scholars.” The English companies contained a large element of college professors----more than half of the Old Testament company, and at least a third of the New Testament company----while others who were not associated with any college were as scholastic as the rest. The nucleus of these companies was formed by the Convocation of Canterbury, and formed of its own members, so that they contained of necessity a large proportion of clergymen. The American companies, however, consisted almost entirely of college professors. Thirteen of the fourteen revisers of the Old Testament bore the title of “Professor.” Seven of the thirteen New Testament revisers bore the same title, and of the remaining six, one was a university Chancellor, one a college President, and another (the chairman) the ex-President of Yale College. These intellectuals spent half a generation upon their work, and that with so much of self-confidence as to predict its certain triumph over the old version. But they found that the people did not want it. Even many of those who had originally favored a revision, were obliged to reject the revision which was produced. The work was a grief of mind even to some of the Revisers themselves, who were more conservative and spiritual than the majority, and the book was soon as neglected as the American revisions mentioned above, while the old version retained its undisputed sway for nearly another century.

That century, however, brought about very great changes. The unspiritual intellectualism which in the last century prevailed primarily in academic circles has become widespread and general. It is indeed one of the prevailing evils of the modern church----some of the others being antinomianism, lukewarmness, worldliness, and a lack of seriousness. Today the people prefer an intellectual Bible over a spiritual one. They want a Bible which speaks tamely to the head, rather than one which speaks powerfully to the heart. They want “meddling hypercriticism” and “minute micrology.” Nothing else can please intellectuals so well as this. They revel in minute technicalities, while spiritual substance is beyond their ken. What they want most of all is a new Bible----a New American Standard Version, a New International Version, a New King James Version----a version which will sing them the pleasing song that this shallow age has attained to a wisdom and enlightenment which none of our forefathers possessed----that the old version, therefore, stood in need of extensive revision in almost every verse. It is a very pleasing emotion to despise and contemn the bread upon which the good and the great have lived for four centuries. This feeds the pride of modern intellectualism. Hence the desire for revision, which was so feeble in 1870 that a few scholastics were obliged to seize the moment, lest it should die out and fade away, has grown to such proportions today as to become a fever and a mania. We believe we have given the reader its true pedigree in the present article.

On the Spelling & Pronunciation of “Jehovah”

by Glenn Conjurske

We have heard a hundred times that “Jehovah” is not the correct spelling of the name of God----that due to Jewish superstition, or Jewish reverence, the name of God was not spoken, and was written with the vowels which belong to the word for “Lord”----and that the proper form of “Jehovah” is actually “Yahweh.” And as often as we hear this, we reply that whatever the Hebrew is, or once was, “Jehovah” is the proper form of the word in English. “Jehovah” is the name which holds all the heart associations of all the godly, and has done so for nearly five centuries, since Tyndale translated the Pentateuch. “Yahweh” is cold and unfamiliar, and would never have been heard of in English but for the perversity of certain modernists, who had no love for old spiritual landmarks, but rather an intense aversion to them, and therefore a strong desire to remove them out of the way. The mouthings of these modernists had no effect on the spiritual and the conservative, but they have taken hold with certain intellectuals, with whom a pedantic and picayune brand of “accuracy” takes precedence over every other consideration. We give no quarter to such intellectualism, and indeed know not how to believe it sincere. When these intellectuals have cast out “Jesus” in favor of “Yaysous,” we shall then believe them sincere in casting out “Jehovah” for “Yahweh”----though farther then from the right than they are now.

I do not speak Hebrew, but English. My grandfather came from Germany, where he spoke German. His proper name was Heinrich Iohann von der Lieth----or perhaps Heinrich Iohann v. d. Lieth----in Germany. When he came to America his proper name was Henry John Vonderlieth. If he had insisted on being called Heinrich Iohann in America, he would have made himself a laughingstock----and I might have inherited enough of his picayune chromosomes to insist upon “Yahweh.”

The name of my ancestors on the other side was Kendzierski, but in America, after using such incorrect forms as Conjwiski and Kedzorski, my grandfather settled upon the “incorrect” spelling of Conjurski. My father, being a thorough individualist, altered this to Conjurske, doubtless for reasons sufficient to himself. I have resisted any temptation to revert to Conjurski, though some of my relatives spell it that way, and many of my acquaintances insist upon spelling it so also. But I think it would be mere wrong-headedness to return to Kendzierski. Many, perhaps most names are altered in transferring from one tongue to another, including a great number of the names in the Bible. My wife's ancestors were called Gesicht in Germany, but happily translated this to Face in America. My grandmother's name was Kowalczyk, but when the family came to America it was altered to Smith, which I am told is a translation of the Polish Kowalczyk. My cousins are called Smith to this day, nor can I think of any sound reason to call them Kowalczyk. I have heard of Müllers who spell their name Miiller, and pronounce it Miller. Evidently upon coming from Germany to America, they encountered some intelligent dunce in an immigration office, who, finding no “ü” in his typewriter, must needs type “ii”----a fine example of ingenuity without sense. And it is not only typewriters which balk at foreign names, but tongues also. English tongues are uncomfortable with many foreign names----Hebrew names in particular----and it is something worse than pedantry to put our tongues through lingual gymnastics merely to be “correct.” It will be a sad day when we must learn a dozen foreign languages in order to speak our own.

Now “Yahweh” is precisely one of those words which is altogether foreign to the English mode of speech. “Yahveh” is a slight improvement, but is still anything but comfortable to an English tongue, having nothing in it of the ease of “Jarvis” or “Yankee.” We do not end words with -eh. If we were to name a child Eveh, she would certainly be called Eva or Evie, for we cannot re-educate ten thousand English tongues. We want -ee, or -ess, or -en, or -ent, or -ay, or -ah----or most anything but -eh. My rhyming dictionary lists not a single word which ends with such a sound. It is altogether foreign to English. So foreign, indeed, that some of our modern intellectuals have not yet framed their tongues to say it. They write “Yahweh,” and say “Yahway.” This is mere mindlessness, though it is hard not to call it by a stronger term. It is indeed a classic example of the wedding of ignorance and pride in modern intellectualism. While contending for the original form of the word, and despising the traditional “Jehovah,” they unwittingly abandon their own ground in their pronunciation----for it is certain they never got “Yahway” from the Hebrew.

I speak English, and intend to continue to do so. I care not a whit for what the Hebrew is or was for “Jehovah.” Neither do I know much about it. We know that men “began to call upon the name of Jehovah” about the time of the birth of Enos, the son of Seth. (Gen. 4:26). Did they then speak Hebrew? We see the name Jehovah in the mouth of Lamech, the father of Noah, before the flood, and in the mouth of Noah after the flood, and both long before the confusion of tongues. Did the patriarchs speak Hebrew? Is “Jehovah” a Hebrew term, translated from the primitive language of the race, or is it a term transferred from that language----for God may have done one or the other when he confounded the tongues----or was the primitive language Hebrew? The modernists evidently know all these things----probably know also that the confounding of tongues is a myth----but I profess my ignorance. The form “Yahweh” is at any rate conjectural, though pressed by its adherents as the very truth.

Since beginning to write this article I providentially stumbled across a statement from Sir Robert Anderson, which so exactly expresses my own thoughts that I cannot forbear quoting it. Sir Robert says, “Even supposing, for example, that Yahweh is the correct orthography of the great covenant name, we may be quite sure that JEHOVAH is the name by which God would call Himself in addressing us----that name which is enshrined in the religious thought and worship of all the English-speaking races of the world. For Yahweh would be mere jargon save to the Hebraist; and it is very doubtful whether the Hebraist's knowledge of the etymology of the term would not mislead him as to its significance.”

Further, “Now to the believer, as such, the question of the spelling or the etymology of the name is of no more importance than that of the type in which it is printed.” Quite so, and it is really a wonder that those who must have the Hebrew form can content themselves with “Yahweh,” when they might write äåäé.

But Sir Robert once more: “I venture to suggest that the use of Yahweh, or Yahveh, savours of pedantry. It is justified on two grounds; 1st, traditional authority (for the contempt which the critics feel for 'traditional beliefs' does not apply if the tradition be Rabbinical); and 2ndly, that it carries its own meaning. To which plea I answer that its etymological meaning is not its meaning as used in Scripture. It is not an English word, and its use is therefore precisely the same kind of pedantry as, e.g., using Firenze instead of Florence.

“The vowels of our magnificent word Jehovah are accounted for thus: The old Hebrew MSS. had no vowels, but when the name occurred, the Jews suppressed it from feelings of reverence, and read Adonai instead; and the vowels of this name were inserted under the line to remind the reader of the keri, or word to be read. As a matter of fact, the name was uttered daily in the blessing of the priests (Dict. Christ. Ant., vol. i., p. 198); and the spelling of the many names with which it is incorporated (such as Jehoida, Jehoshaphat, &c.) would indicate that Jehovah may be correct. Yahveh is a mere guess which may be right or may be wrong.”

So we think also. The pride of modern intellectualism, however, makes abundant amends for its ignorance, and modern pedants assert with all confidence that Yahweh is right, while Jehovah is wrong. We only tell them in reply that their hearts and their heads are both wrong. We are exceeding grieved to see professed Fundamentalists so enamored with the shallow mouthings of the modernists, and so abandoned to an unspiritual intellectualism, that they cannot brook what Sir Robert so aptly calls “our magnificent word Jehovah”----”that name which is enshrined in the religious thought and worship of all the English-speaking races of the world.” But hearts are nothing to these folks who have discovered that they have heads. We wonder that our modern intellectuals have not begun to call their wives by the “correct” forms of Riv'kah and Nahghami and Shahron (accented on the last syllable!), instead of the traditional forms of Rebekah, Naomi, and Sharon. Have they no Hebrew scholars to enlighten their minds on so important a matter? My Sharon at any rate is safe.

And my readers must pardon me if I drive this point home. Like him who “thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone,” I would count it but small accomplishment to discountenance the modern notions about “Yahweh.” I aim to lay hands on the whole intellectual brood----with nobler ends, however, than that of Haman. These intellectuals lack the capacity to understand what is amiss in “Yahweh.” They see but one dimension, and often enough see wrongly in that one. These are not the folks who preach with tears or pray with fervency. They perceive the spiritual and the emotional but dimly, or not at all----and too often despise it if they do see it. They would be sure to find fault with the “incorrect form” of a four-leaf clover, where the simple peasant can delight in it.

The fact is, this “Yahweh” is not mere shallow thinking. It is a pernicious brand of worldliness. Our Evangelical intellectuals have allowed the modernists to determine for them what the issues are, and the modernists, having nothing important or spiritual to do, have descended to the academic and the trivial, and troubled their heads with pedantry, and conjectures about “words and names.” The Evangelicals, alas, reverently bow to their dicta. If the modernists say this is an issue, then an issue it is. If the modernistic scholars were now to trouble the world about the spelling or pronunciation of “Rebekah,” the Evangelicals would soon learn that this is a major issue, and the intellectuals among the Fundamentalists would tamely follow them. But modernists care nothing one way or the other about Rebekah. It is only the dear and the familiar things of God which they care to undermine.

But we shall be told that William Tyndale was mistaken when he formed the word “Jehovah,” and that all the early English Bibles were mistaken to follow him. Now that we are enlightened, we have no more business to acquiesce in the old error. And I tell you that somebody was mistaken also to thrust “James” into the English Bible. Why do you not thrust it out? And your mother was evidently mistaken when she named you “James,” thinking to give you a “Bible name.” Why do you not insist upon being called “Yacob”? Indeed, why do you not find fault with every name in the Bible which contains a “J”? They are all “incorrect”----for there is no “J” in either Greek or Hebrew. Why will you bow to common sense where it concerns your own name, or your wife's, but thrust it out of court where it concerns the name of God? To me it is no manner of concern what the original Hebrew for “Jehovah” may have been----or whether it is Hebrew at all. “Our magnificent word Jehovah” is English, and we shall use it and love it as long as we do “Jesus” and “Moses” and a hundred other “incorrect” forms. Our souls shall be stirred by “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,” till we tread the brink of Jordan, and till he lands us safe on Canaan's side. If we then learn that some other language is spoken in the courts of heaven than we now speak on earth, it will then be time enough to part with “Jehovah.”

Greet One Another with a Holy Kiss

by Glenn Conjurske

We have never greeted anybody with a holy kiss. We have always been content to greet our friends and brethren with a handshake, and we have supposed that in so doing we are doing all that this scripture requires of us. Some there are, however, who insist that we must obey this scripture literally, that we must greet one another with a literal kiss, that this “holy kiss” is an ordinance of the Lord, and that if we do not greet one another with a kiss, we are in fact disobedient to a plain command of the Lord.

We think quite the contrary. We think that those who contend for a literal obedience to the letter of this injunction do not actually obey it half so much as I do with my holy handshake, and indeed I will be so bold as to say that they do not obey it a tenth as much as I do----though they kiss and I shake hands. There is such a thing as keeping the letter of the law, while we fail altogether to keep its spirit, and this I believe to be exactly the case with those who think to keep the letter of this law. They kiss indeed, but how their kisses could be called a greeting is hard to tell.

I have been present among certain godly people who use this so-called “holy kiss.” I have observed it. My readers may be certain that I did not participate in it, but I have seen it, and I must say that----with one exception, to be rehearsed shortly----it was the coldest kissing I have ever beheld in my life, the exact reverse of anything warm or affectionate, and such as in its very nature could serve only to nullify the spirit of the apostolic exhortation to “greet one another.” In the nature of the case a greeting must be warm and affectionate, not cold and cautious, but all the holy kisses which I have ever seen were so cold and cautious as to be absolutely devoid of anything remotely resembling a warm greeting.

Only one other time in my life have I ever beheld a kiss so cold and cautious, and that was certainly an unholy kiss. Half a dozen years ago I was ministering to a little congregation in Massachusetts. One of the women there had a prodigal son, and she begged me and another fellow to find him. We had heard that he was in a certain city, and had heard also that he was living at a shelter for the homeless. We went there to search for him, but found him not. We went several times, and spent many hours waiting and watching for him, with the result that we eventually found him, and took him home to his mother. Meanwhile, we became acquainted with some of the inhabitants of the shelter. One of them was a man of about sixty, and an evident leader among them. With him we had some conversation. He pointed out to us a prostitute who lived across the street from the shelter, and who often went to the corner liquor store to buy liquor for the men at the shelter, evidently paying for it herself. On one occasion I watched her give a bottle of liquor to this man, after which they kissed each other. It was as cold a kiss as I ever saw, a very cautious peck on the lips, both of them appearing to be afraid they would catch something----for she was a prostitute, and he a pervert, as I had good reason to believe. Yet this frigid unholy kiss was the exact epitome of those equally frigid holy kisses which I have seen among the godly. And to all such kissing I say, if you mean to greet one another with a kiss, then by all means kiss, in good earnest, with warmth and affection. If this is a greeting, by all means make it a real one, a warm and affectionate one, a greeting worthy of the name. You will shake my hand warmly and heartily. Why must you kiss each other so coldly and cautiously?

Ah! but here arises an insuperable difficulty. The men who thus kiss each other cannot make these kisses warm and affectionate. I repeat, they cannot. This kissing of men, and on the lips besides, is so repulsive to their masculine natures, that they cannot do it with that heart which is absolutely indispensable to a greeting. The men themselves who engage in this unnatural kissing profess that they must “crucify the flesh” in order to do it at all. But I tell them, it is not the flesh which they must crucify, but nature. Alas, the hyperspirituality----for such it really is----which will have no greeting but a kiss, actually delights to crucify the nature which God has created. They profess that they must overcome their feelings in order to engage in such kissing at all, but I tell them they have no right to overcome those feelings. When they fight thus against nature, they fight against God.

Not that I expect them to acquiesce in this. No, for those who advocate this kissing are commonly of the hyperspiritual sort, who suppose that they do God service to fight against the nature which he has created, supposing this to be the apex of spirituality, and supposing it acceptable to God in just the proportion that it is difficult to men. It is really no coincidence that some of the same folks who advocate these holy kisses stand also for the most extreme hyperspiritual notions of courtship and marriage, marrying on the supposed spiritual basis of the will of God, rather than the natural basis of love. It is nature which they seem determined always to undermine. To kiss another man on the lips is against nature. They would have no such feelings of repugnance if it were women they were kissing, though they might very likely have some feelings of another sort. While their kisses between men and men are much too cold to constitute a greeting, those between men and women would very likely be much too warm----and meanwhile, certainly much too dangerous. We may shake a woman's hand without danger, where kissing is out of the question. Indeed, I have heard one of the hyperspiritual teachers who insists upon these kisses actually advise the young ladies to walk up to a young man and shake his hand----as a prelude, of course, to “spiritual conversation”----but why does he not tell her to kiss him? What Bible authority does he have for a handshake? When they greet their own sex, nothing but a kiss will do.

Well, but they will tell us that it is God who has commanded that we greet one another “with a holy kiss,” and it is God who has created human nature, and surely he has not commanded anything which is against the nature which he has created. Our nature is corrupted by sin. When we have overcome that corruption, we shall then be glad to kiss one another. All this they say, and on this basis they strive to overcome those feelings of revulsion which one man feels towards kissing another.

To this I may answer in the first place, that custom and culture become to us as it were a second nature, and this may be quite as impossible to overcome as our first nature. Whatever the men of the East may have felt two or three thousand years ago, the men of our day and culture feel a revulsion to kissing other men. Those who practice this so-called “holy kiss” feel this revulsion as strongly as anybody, as is manifest by their cold kissing, and also by their frank acknowledgements.

Our nature as it now exists (though this may be second nature, and the result of our culture) is repulsed at the very thought of men kissing men. But this is not all, for I believe it is our first nature, as God created it, which is revolted by the thought of kissing another man on the lips. Neither do I believe that Paul ever contemplated any such thing when he said, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” When the prodigal son returned home, his father “fell on his neck and kissed him.” When Jacob returned to the land of Canaan after an absence of many years, “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Kissing was the common form of greeting among them, and it was warm and affectionate, but we have no reason to suppose they kissed each other on the lips. This we think to be the invention of modern hyperspirituality, which seems always determined to fly in the face of nature to the full extent that it can.

To kiss another man on the lips is against our nature as God created it. And to kiss another man at all, whether on the cheek or the neck or anywhere else, is so far against our acquired nature, or culture, as to give us all a strong revulsion against it. For these reasons this kissing cannot be used as a common form of greeting among us, as it was among the men of the East in another day. I cannot speak for women. I suppose few of them would have such a revulsion against kissing another woman, as men naturally have against kissing other men. Yet I suppose that even women must be repelled by the thought of kissing other women on the lips. This is unnatural even to the affectionate natures of women, and it cannot be comfortably used as a common greeting.

For these reasons, then, we contend that those who practice this “holy kiss” do not fulfill the apostolic injunction at all, and cannot do so after the manner in which they attempt it. They do it with a kiss, but it nothing resembles a greeting. They keep the letter of the law, but not its spirit.

We ought, of course, to observe both the letter and the spirit of the law, wherever this is possible. We contend, however, that in the present instance it is simply not possible. To keep the letter, we must sacrifice the spirit. To keep the spirit, we must sacrifice the letter. If we aim at the letter, we may kiss, but it has nothing in it of the nature of a warm and affectionate greeting. The spirit is sacrificed to the letter. On the other side, if we keep the spirit, we must sacrifice the letter. If we greet one another indeed, with a warm and affectionate greeting, we cannot do it by a kiss. We must use such a form of greeting as we are comfortable with----and nothing will suit so well as a handshake, which has always been our common form of greeting, as it is in most of the world. We ought, in every instance, to keep both the letter and the spirit of the law if we can, but in this instance we simply cannot. Those who keep the letter sacrifice the spirit. Those who keep the spirit sacrifice the letter. We frankly doubt that anybody in our culture either does or can keep them both.

But observe, when we are obliged to sacrifice either the letter or the spirit of the law, it is always the letter which is to be sacrificed. This is an axiom. It is never right to sacrifice the spirit of the law in order to keep the letter, though it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice the letter in order to keep the spirit.

But supposing the advocates of this cold greeting could find some form of kissing which was not repulsive to them, and which could therefore actually answer the purpose of a warm greeting, still they would fail to fulfill the apostolic injunction by half, for the fact is, all those that I know who insist upon fulfilling the letter of this command greet only half of those whom Paul commands them to greet. Paul says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” but these folks have never yet done so, and I hope indeed they never do. The men among them greet the men, and the women among them greet the women. The men never greet the women with a kiss, nor the women the men, so that while they suppose themselves alone to be actually obedient to the divine command, they actually disobey it by one half.

We hope none will be found to pretend that when Paul says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss,” he means no more than that the men should greet the men, and the women the women. He certainly means that all the saints should greet each other. When the Bible tells us to “love one another,” this certainly means that all of us should love all the rest, whether male or female. When it tells us “by love” to “serve one another,” this certainly means all, of either sex. So too when it requires us to “forbear one another in love.” Could anyone dream that the men are only to bear with the men, and the women with the women? So likewise of “admonishing one another,” “forgiving one another,” etc. All these injunctions are to be carried out by all the saints towards all the others, regardless of their sex. And so also, most certainly, when the same Bible exhorts us to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” We are to greet all the saints, as much as we are to forgive or admonish them.

But here another insuperable difficulty arises. Though we have no doubt that kissing was the common form of greeting in Paul's day, and that it was certainly used between men and women, our culture and manner of thinking will simply not allow it. When Jacob met Rachel, he kissed her. This was no romantic kiss, but simply the common greeting. If this was a romantic kiss, he was unprincipled to give it, and she worse to receive it. He would have kissed her mother in the same manner, and her father too.

But we of the present day and the present culture are simply not capable of such things. The practice of these people, in greeting their own sex only with a kiss, is the fullest proof we could ask that a kiss is not suitable as a common greeting. However we may wish to explain the fact, or whether we leave it unexplained, the fact remains that such kissing cannot stand in the place of a common greeting among us. It will almost always be too warm or too cold----certainly too cold when men kiss men, and almost certainly too warm, or too dangerous, when a man kisses an attractive woman, especially if he thinks no “holy kiss” is valid unless it be on the lips. And we suppose such a kiss would be at least as dangerous to the woman who received it, as to the man who gave it. Godliness will not exempt a woman from feminine susceptibilities. Neither will she be safe if he kisses her cheek, or her neck. Men may kiss men forever, and their kisses remain cold and cautious, but we fear that if men and women were to begin kissing, those cold and cautious pecks would easily evolve into something longer and warmer----in the thought, if not the act, in the wish, if not the deed. Yet we do not believe that any man obeys the apostolic command to “greet one another” by greeting men only.

Paul seems to imply a danger in the business by his always specifying a holy kiss----which must certainly mean a kiss untainted by any romantic intents or feelings, a kiss not exciting any physical desires. We think such a kiss a virtual impossibility in modern America. It may be possible between men and women who could not feel any romantic attraction for each other, but in a myriad of other cases it is simply impossible.

Now if those who contend for these holy kisses as an ordinance of the Lord, which cannot be dispensed with without direct disobedience to an explicit command of God----if they are still of the same mind after reading the preceding pages, then we ask them to show us their faith by their works. Let us see warm, affectionate kisses between men and men, such as actually merit the name of a greeting. And let them show us warm, affectionate, and holy kisses between men and women, for no otherwise can they obey the apostolic injunction to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” For our own part, we believe we fully carry out the spirit of this command by a holy handshake, and we think it outside the realm of possibility to fulfill the letter.

A Modern Mistake on Romans 14

by Glenn Conjurske

A young lady has recently read some of my comments on painted women and long-haired men, and remarks, “The words 'Pharisee' and 'legalism' come to mind. ... see Romans Chapter 14, Mr. Conjurske!” I may assure the young lady that I have seen it, but I have not seen in it what she finds there. The real theme of Romans 14 is what some modern Evangelicals have called “a love-limited liberty.” That is, our liberty to do what is right is to be limited by love----love, that is, for those who are weak, and so likely to make some wrong of our right. “Let not your good be evil spoken of.” (Rom. 14:16). This is the essential message of the whole chapter. It goes without saying that Paul never contemplates any liberty to do anything which is wrong. Yet is it perfectly plain also, from all his epistles, that Paul certainly believed that many things----such as men wearing long hair----were wrong. None of those things are contemplated in this chapter at all.

But somehow this plain message has been misconstrued by modern Evangelicalism, and has practically been used to teach that nothing is either right or wrong. Paul wrote to advise us in certain cases to abstain from what is right, but this has been perverted into permission to indulge in what is wrong. We suppose that this mistake thinks to stand upon his general prohibition of judging, and also upon such statements as that which is found in the fifth verse, which says, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” By means of this verse the modern church has practically rid itself of any standards of righteousness at all. Every man becomes his own standard. Whatever he thinks is right is right, and what is wrong for one may be right for another. The plain commandments of the Bible are thus made void, such as that forbidding adornment with gold and silver for women, and long hair for men. If anyone is but “fully persuaded in his own mind” that these things are right, then to him they are right, though the apostles of Christ say they are wrong.

Now the plain fact is, the Bible both commands and forbids many things. The things it commands are necessary. The things it forbids are wrong. Those things of which it says nothing, and which are not wrong in themselves, but are morally indifferent, are neither required of us, nor forbidden to us, but are allowable, at our own pleasure and our own discretion. It is to this class alone that Romans 14 applies, to things such as meats and wine, which are permitted, but not commanded. We are thus at liberty to use them, or to abstain from them, and Paul's exhortation is to forgo the use of things which are permissible, in cases where our indulgence would cause offense, or cause another to stumble.

But observe, in the nature of the case the chapter cannot have anything to do with things which are either commanded or forbidden. If the thing is commanded, we have no right to forgo it. If it is forbidden, we have no right to indulge in it. The chapter applies only to those things which are allowable, but not necessary.

To take one simple example, it is indifferent whether a woman wears a brown dress or a blue one. She is neither commanded nor forbidden. She is at liberty. But she is not at liberty to wear a tight dress, nor a short one, for she is commanded by the Bible to dress modestly, and common morality would require this of her if the Bible did not exist. Now a woman who claims her liberty to wear short or tight dresses, because she is “fully persuaded in her own mind” that there is nothing wrong with them, is simply misusing Paul's message. It may be due to her ignorance that she sees no wrong in them, but her ignorance cannot make wrong right.

If her mistake is mere ignorance, she may be sincere and in some measure excusable. But we fear there is generally something other than ignorance at work here. It is the common reaction of modern Evangelicals to label as “Pharisees” and “legalists” all who have higher standards than they have themselves. This is reproachful, and manifests a wrong spirit. Indeed, we suppose that in many cases it manifests an uneasy conscience----for it seems that the reproaches of modern Evangelicalism are generally reserved for those who have higher standards than their own, and rarely administered to those who have lower standards. I do not mind the young lady's reproaches. I am used to such things, and am more than happy to return love to her in the place of the reproaches which she directs towards myself. But I would like to teach her better. I would like to see a better spirit in her, as well as better standards of righteousness.

And is there not some inconsistency----some hypocrisy----in these charges of Pharisaism and legalism which modern Evangelicals direct against all who have stricter standards than their own? If they actually believe their own doctrine, that whatever we hold to be right is right for us, what right do they have to label as a “legalist” a man who has other standards than their own? Or has it come to this, that it is always right to believe everything right, and always wrong to believe anything wrong? If so, there is an end of all holiness. Supposing we have a generation of young people who are fully persuaded in their own minds that fornication is permissible, is it therefore right for them? And if I tell them that it is wrong, and they are wrong to indulge in it, am I a legalist? We hope the young lady who calls me a legalist would hold herself that fornication is sin, and that those who indulge in it are sinful to do so. Yet because in lesser matters I hold a higher standard of righteousness than she does, I must be called a legalist. Instead of casting such reproaches, we would rather see this young lady seriously inquire into the reasons for my standards. But to assume without further inquiry that her own position is the right one, and deal reproachfully with those who hold a higher position----this is not the way of either love or truth.

We are often told that Romans 14 forbids us to judge one another. We know that, but it remains true that wrong is wrong, and it remains the business of a preacher of righteousness to say so. The judging forbidden here concerns things indifferent----eating and drinking----not sinful things, not the love of the world, the pride of life, or the lusts of the flesh.

But I turn to another subject, unrelated to the preceding, but in answer to the criticisms of the same young lady. Her remarks were prompted by my “Short Method of Evaluating the Modern Bible Versions,” in which I paint a dark picture of modern Evangelicalism in general, and of Dallas Theological Seminary in particular, in order to indicate the true character of the Bible versions which the modern church has produced. My critic cannot see “what lipstick, mascara, and eyeliner has to do with the trustworthiness and accuracy of the modern versions.” It may have a great deal to do with it----more, I suppose, than the “private life” of the President has to do with his ability to rule the country. The real question is, do the worldliness, intellectualism, and liberalism which prevail in the modern church have anything to do with the curtailing of spiritual ability? If they have, then the conclusions of my article are valid, and it is a sad day when conservatives embrace the Bible versions of modern Evangelicalism. Not that I would dream of resting the whole case here. I have given solid and objective proofs from time to time of the pervading liberalism and the real incompetence of the popular modern Bible versions.

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