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Vol. 9, No. 3
Mar., 2000

Mary & Martha

by Glenn Conjurske

Mary and Martha were sisters, linked together by all the ties of nature, and all the ties of grace also, for they were both godly. “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister.” Moreover, these sisters are so linked together in the Bible that we can scarcely treat of one of them without the other----can scarcely think of one of them without thinking of the other.

Mary was a child of God who was often censured by her fellow-saints, and as often defended and commended by her Lord. This is a matter of no small importance to us, for in her censors we may see the mind of man, and in her Advocate the mind of the Lord. This being the case, it may be we may see our own mistaken thoughts in the censures of her fellows, and the correction of those thoughts in her vindication by her Lord.

We first see Mary censured when she and the Lord were guests at the house of Martha. “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42).

Observe now, “Mary hath chosen that good part.” She was not altogether oblivious to the fact that there was a dinner to be cooked----lodgings to prepare----needs to be met. Surely she knew all that as well as Martha did, but how could she for this lose the opportunity to sit at the feet of Christ, and hear his word? She chose, therefore, to let go the one, for the sake of the other.

Her choice was ill taken by her sister. While Mary sits at the feet of her Lord, feasting her soul upon the heavenly wisdom which fell from his lips, her placid soul basking in the heavenly sunlight, and her heart burning within her, Martha labors to prepare a feast for their bodies, “cumbered about much serving,” “careful and troubled about many things,” and no doubt troubled more than all over the fact that Mary has left her to serve alone. She long stews over this, casting many a fretful glance from her kitchen to the placid scene of which the Lord was the center----first at her negligent sister, then at her delinquent Lord, who encouraged the conduct of Mary----till at length she can bear it no more. She leaves her kitchen and comes “to him,” for she has no intention now to call calmly and kindly upon her sister to help her. She is agitated----irritated----and will make her sister feel her delinquency. She will cast a reproach upon Mary for her neglect, and in the ears of the Lord and all the company too. “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”

“My sister hath left me to serve alone.” Thus she reproaches Mary. She does not merely rehearse her hard place, nor her need for assistance, but will lay the blame for it all upon Mary. “My sister hath left me to serve alone.” But this is not all of it, nor the worst of it. She must reproach the Lord also. It is to the Lord that she says, “Dost thou not care?” And with her final stroke she reproaches them both together: “Bid her therefore that she help me”----commanding him (whom she had but a breath ago called “Lord”) to mend his own neglect, by mending the neglect of her sister. Need I say----”How like a woman is all this”? This is all the language of emotion, and no doubt of warm and pent up emotion too, for she certainly did not speak such things the moment Mary sat down at the feet of the Lord----though it was doubtless then that she began to feel them. It was while Mary heard his word that Martha was cumbered with serving. The tense of these verbs is imperfect, teaching us that this state of things had continued some while, Martha no doubt becoming more and more peeved, till she must give vent to her feelings in words.

But how little she gains by this fretful burst of feeling. The Lord is hardly thus to be moved, though we have all no doubt employed such tactics upon him at one time or another. She receives no sympathy from him, nor any redress either, but a reproof which must have stung her to the quick. There is something singularly expressive in his “Martha, Martha.” Wrongly charged with delinquency by her, he meant to make her feel her own delinquency, and what could better accomplish this than “Martha, Martha”? We think it safe to say that there is always some emotional content in the calling of a person by name in conversation----the more so if it is a person well known and loved. Salesmen and advertisers endeavor to impose upon the gullible by this very tactic----only they do it without one whit of sincerity, nor any emotion but the love of money. When a friend calls a friend by name in conversation, there is some emotional content in it, something which expresses emotion, whether of tenderness, or censure, or sympathy, or some other thing, and a name twice repeated is always a mark of strong feeling. The Lord's “Martha, Martha” was certainly of this sort, and was no doubt a word which Martha felt.

But this was only the introduction. He gives her no countenance, no redress, but reproves her altogether, and altogether vindicates her sister whom she had censured. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” I observe that he takes no notice of the reproach she had cast upon himself. All his care is to vindicate Mary. Neither does Mary speak a word in her own defense. What need of this when her Lord is her Advocate? Had Mary undertaken to defend herself, feeling would doubtless have run high, and we had seen arguments enough on both sides, and probably reproaches also. The Advocate of the accused prevents all this, and Martha is put in her place, while Mary is established in hers.

Yet we do not see Martha leave off her serving, and humbly take her place by the side of her sister, to sit at the feet of Christ and hear his word. She is too deeply involved in her service for this. She could not extricate herself if she would. The potatoes would boil dry. The turkey would burn. Methinks she hastens back to her kitchen to give vent to her tears, though they are not the tears of penitence. Her fretful glances out the kitchen door have ceased now. She keeps her back to the door, to hide her tears. “Nobody appreciates me, not even the Lord. Nobody helps me. I toil alone over the hot stove in the kitchen, while they all sit and talk, and nobody cares. And the Lord, instead of reproving them, encourages them, and humiliates me before all the company.” Every fresh thought of that reproof must bring fresh tears to her eyes. This was doubtless hard to bear, yet we remark that if she had not first openly reproached the Lord and her sister, the Lord had never humbled her as he did.

And here we must step back and draw some lessons from this scene. There is many another child of God who is too cumbered with serving to sit at the feet of the Lord and hear his word, and yet if the Lord causes them to feel this, they find themselves too involved to mend the matter. They have too many commitments, too many responsibilities. Too much depends upon them. They cannot extricate themselves, not even to sit at the feet of the Lord. They must either give up their place of service altogether, or neglect the one thing needful, and how many are willing to do the former, for the sake of the latter?

We observe also that the child of God who is most busy in serving is not necessarily in the best state of heart. It was Martha's business to do, Mary's to be, and Mary was certainly in the better spiritual condition of the two. No reproaches against her Lord proceeded from her lips, nor any accusations against her sister either, while she who is “cumbered about much serving” has hard thoughts in her heart against her Lord, and against her sister, and reproaches in her mouth against them both. The heart of Mary is placid and serene, that of Martha chafing and annoyed.

We would not pretend for a moment that Martha's doing was not pleasing or acceptable to the Lord. It surely was, but Mary's being was more so. It was the one thing needful, which Martha had neglected. What did it matter if the guests had no feast that day? Methinks no one had censured Martha if she had discreetly excused herself from serving that day, that she might sit with them at the feet of the Lord, to hear his word. Had they not a better feast, from the lips of the Lord, than any which her hands might prepare? What did it matter if the Lord had no feast? He had meat to eat that she knew not of, and it was a small matter to him whether his stomach was full, while he could open the treasures of heaven to such a soul as Mary's. We think Mary gave him a better feast than that which Martha prepared.

Mary chose the one thing needful. Martha neglected it. And here I must turn aside to note that the “one thing needful” is certainly not salvation, as it is commonly treated in tracts and sermons, and even in the commentaries of those who ought to know better. There is no question of salvation here. Both of these women were godly, and surely saved. The one thing needful was to sit at the feet of the Lord and hear his word----to make this our first business, before and above all service for him.

And this we regard as of peculiar importance in the present day, when every novice has the “preaching fever”----yea, and the writing fever too----and all who have scarcely begun to learn anything of the word and ways of the Lord are bent upon ministry of one sort or another. We think there is much more of the flesh in this than there is of faith. All this may stand upon no better foundation than pride. Martha's service was seen of men, and doubtless approved of men, while Mary appeared to be doing nothing, and was reproached accordingly. But while Martha was doing something, Mary was being something, and this was more acceptable to the Lord than the other. Moses was not doing anything in the back side of the desert for forty years, but he was being something, without which he would have been altogether unfit for the doing which God had in store for him.

These things, I say, are of peculiar importance in the present day. Six or eight hundred years ago things were at the opposite extreme from where they are today. The contrast was sharply drawn between what was called the active life and the contemplative life, and the latter was much glorified above the former. Yet it was the monks and nuns who so glorified it, and we think these were not half so active as they ought to have been----nor half so contemplative either, for that matter. But today the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme, largely, we think through the influence of D. L. Moody, whose whole life consisted of work, so that no ordinary man could keep pace with him. The result of this, of course, was that while his work was very broad, it was not very deep. We think the title of one of his books----To the Work! To the Work!----well expresses the effect of his ministry on the church. Every raw convert must be put immediately to work, and this was doubtless usually at the expense of the one thing needful. John R. Rice and the Independent Baptist movement in general have taken up the same banner, and doing has become all, while being is little regarded. Winning the most and building the biggest is all their thought, while being seems never to have entered their minds. We do not shine in the eyes of men for being. Our church statistics are not published in The Sword of the Lord for being. Mary receives no praise from the guests for the fine dinner. All her praise comes from her Lord, and with that she is content. That she seeks. That she chooses. Martha's serving is quite consistent with pride and self-seeking, and with hard thoughts and hard words against the Lord, and against her sister who was better than herself----quite consistent, too, with her neglect of the one thing needful.

Some, however, will doubtless escape the force of all this by contending that the real fault in Martha's serving lay in the fact that it was all mundane and temporal. We think otherwise, for these reasons:

1. If this was the real fault of Martha's serving, why did the Lord not tell her so? Nay, why did he plainly tell her something else? “One thing is needful,” he told her, but gives her no intimation that that one thing was that her service be rather spiritual than mundane. Quite otherwise. He tells her that the one thing needful was “that good part” which Mary had chosen, to sit at his feet and hear his word.

2. If Martha's serving be not representative of the spiritual “work of the Lord,” then such work does not appear in the passage at all, and the whole contrast is between sitting at the Lord's feet to hear his word, and mundane serving, with no reference at all to preaching or any sort of spiritual service. Such an omission, if a fact, would really cripple the whole account.

3. Further, it is every bit as possible to neglect the “one thing needful” for the sake of preaching or winning souls, as it is for mundane service. Much of the work of the Lord necessarily consists of mundane things.

4. The determining consideration, however, is this, that there are many things in the Gospels of a purely temporal nature, which are nevertheless to be applied to the spiritual sphere. Such are, for example, the feeding of the five thousand, Peter's walking on the water, and many of Christ's healings. A spiritual application of these is so natural as to be in fact irresistible, and all the best preachers and expositors have always used them so. Moreover, in some of the Gospel accounts the spiritual and the mundane are so mixed together that we are compelled to apply the mundane part in a spiritual sense. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” In the first clause we have the mundane washing of physical feet, in the second, spiritual fellowship. The second clause renders it impossible to confine this washing to the physical realm. This is spiritual washing, and those who find nothing more here than the washing of physical feet have missed their way altogether.

Martha was “careful and troubled about many things,” “cumbered about much serving,” that serving being representative of the service of Christ in general, whether mundane or spiritual.

But “Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her.” These words not only reprove Martha, but instruct Mary also, teaching her to keep her place at his feet. Mary no doubt needed this, for it was now doubly difficult to keep that place, under the reproach of neglecting her duty and doing nothing.

But we must remark that there are two sides to every question, and there are doubtless Marys enough who stand in need of a nudge or two to get up and help their sisters, for it is nothing but laziness which keeps them at the Lord's feet. Self-importance may keep some there also, for some there are who seem to suppose that the servants of Christ have nothing to do but give them personal attention and personal instruction. We do not mean to imply that serving is not important, or that we ought to spend our lives doing nothing but sitting at the feet of the Lord and hearing his word. We would not press the Lord's words too far, as though this were the only thing needful, in any case, at all times. The Lord does not call it “the one thing needful,” but only says, “one thing is needful.” It was the “one thing needful” to one in Martha's place, who was accustomed to neglect it. Among the many things about which she was careful and troubled, this was the one thing needful to her. Without this the heart is left barren, and the passions unsubdued----as Martha's reproaches testify----and so the service itself must lose much of its value in the eyes of him who looketh not on the outward appearance.

But granting that there are two sides to the question, and granting that Martha was not wholly wrong in her serving, yet we must firmly resist the popular notion that neither of the sisters was more wrong nor more right than the other: they were only different. “We need our Marthas, and we need our Marys.” Such a notion is the fruit of that soft and shallow thinking which is afraid to censure anybody, which knows nothing but love, love, love, and which really knows but little of truth or righteousness. If Mary and Martha were merely different, though equally right, why does the Lord censure Martha, and defend Mary?

Perhaps they were different. Some folks may be naturally active, and others naturally contemplative. The restless, active soul must then deny himself and sit at the feet of the Lord, as much as ever the placid dreamer must deny himself when it is time to work. The facts are these. Mary is commended for sitting at the feet of the Lord, but she is not reproved for not serving. Martha is reproved for neglecting to sit at the feet of the Lord, and she is not commended for her serving. Even the Lord's reference to her serving contains a mild rebuke, for “Thou art careful and troubled about many things” can hardly be taken as anything else.

Yet humiliating as the Lord's censure doubtless was, Martha seems to remain just what she was. We see these sisters in a similar situation again in the twelfth chapter of John, and again we read, “and Martha served.” It was natural enough for her to serve on the former occasion, when she received the Lord into her own house, but here they were in the house of Simon the Leper, as we learn from Matthew 26:6. Yet still Martha must serve. “There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” We can hardly doubt that Mary was another, for she has hardly forgotten the good part which she has chosen, nor the Lord's assurance that it shall not be taken from her. Yet Mary's heart is burning with love, and she would serve also. She sits now and hears his word as in times past, but the look in her eye is distant and dreamy. Her mind is abstracted. Her sitting at the Lord's feet and hearing his word has had its effect, and her knowledge of his mind goes beyond that of even the apostles, who “understood not” of his death, for “it was hid from them.” (Luke 9:45). She has long understood and believed in the coming death of her Lord, and she has “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly,” which she keeps for his embalming. The Lord tells us this when called upon to defend her, saying, “against the day of my burying hath she kept this.” She knows the time draws near. Her heart overflows with love, and she yearns to pour out that love upon him, not merely upon his dead body. Her revery proceeds to a purpose, her purpose to a plan. She rises up therefore, and leaves the room, leaves the house, gathers up her skirts and trips nimbly to her own house, wasting no time, we are sure----yet for this she will leave her place at his feet. She shortly returns with her precious treasure. “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.”

For this she is reproached as before. “But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?” Again her Advocate steps forward in her defense, and shows us that he understands her heart and mind as well as she understands his. “When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” Here was high praise. Mary's service was spiritual, and highly regarded by the Lord, though censured by her fellow-disciples. John records this censure as coming from Judas, but he was not alone in it. The other gospels tell us that “some” thus reproached her, and “his disciples” also. “And they murmured against her”----another imperfect tense. They spoke not one word, but many. They carried on a session of murmuring. “The word,” says F. C. Cook, “is strong, used by St. Mark only, and always to express extreme indignation: it implies that they were rebuking her, and that vehemently.” And so it often happens. The most spiritual, whose service is the most acceptable to the Lord, are misunderstood and maligned by their fellow disciples, rebuked and reproached, advised and counselled.

And indeed, Mary's service appears foolish enough. Martha's service was practical, to meet an obvious need. Mary's was entirely superfluous, like that of David's three mighty men, who broke through the ranks of the garrison of Philistines, merely to get David a drink of water, for which David had no need. Their purpose was not to meet any need of their captain, but solely to express their devotion to him. This was all the purpose of Mary also, and all that her fellow-disciples could see in it was, “Why this waste?” There was no need. If there had been a need, a drop or two of the ointment would have been sufficient. Why pour out the whole of it, and break the box besides? For no other purpose than to express her devotion, and this service was highly commended by the Lord.

Martha's service is always to meet the needs of men. Mary aims always at the heart of her Lord. Martha's service is good. Mary's is better. Can the Lord be well pleased, can he be satisfied, if his bride is nothing to him but a servant? Martha must be censured even in her service. Mary receives nothing but unqualified praise, and that of the highest sort.

But though Mary aimed only at the heart of her Lord, yet her service was not without its effect upon her fellow-disciples. “The house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” And “Not that 'house' only,” as Burgon remarks, “but the universal Church of CHRIST, has been filled with the fragrance of her action.” Mary aimed at nothing of this, but it was the natural effect of what she did aim at. Once in a while----surely not often----we may meet with an old saint of God who has made it the business of his life to sit at the feet of the Lord, and hear his word, and we soon find that his countenance, his conversation, his presence irradiates the odour of the ointment of heaven, “very costly.” He may not be cumbered about much serving. He may be an invalid. It is not what he does, but what he is. Who that knows anything of the heritage of the saints has not read accounts of some servant of the Lord going to the room of some invalid, to encourage the sufferer, only to find the room filled with the fragrance of the ointment of heaven. The poor invalid could not do much, but he could be something, and this was acceptable to God, and profitable to men also.

Recorded Christian Music

Abstract of a Sermon Preached on November 21, 1999

by Glenn Conjurske

I begin with what is called contemporary Christian music, though I intend to go deeper than this. And here the first question is not, What is wrong with contemporary Christian music, but, What is wrong with everything which goes by the name of “contemporary”? The plain fact is, it is always changing. This is necessarily implied in its very name. Contemporary music is music which belongs to the times, and music of course which changes with the times. And if you want to know the exact truth of the matter, contemporary music is worldly music, for it is the world which is always changing. The church of God is not given to change as the world is. The church has no reason to change. The church stands upon the solid rock of Holy Scripture, which is the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. It never changes. What was right a thousand years ago is right today. What was wrong a thousand years ago is wrong today. Not that the church knew everything which was right a thousand years ago. There is always room to learn, and so far to change, but such change will certainly not make us contemporary, for we will change in the opposite direction from the world.

But this “contemporary” music changes with the world, and it must be perfectly plain to anyone who has eyes in his head that “contemporary Christian music,” and the music of the world, are one and the same thing. You know that many of these “Christian recording artists” aspire to “cross over” from their “gospel” music to the secular sort, the same as a minor-league ball player aspires to play in the major leagues. Some also “cross over” from the secular to the (mis-called) sacred, but not by the narrow gate of repentance or conversion, and not by altering their style of music. The music is the same on both sides.

At any rate, contemporary Christian music is music which is always changing----changing with the times----and in such times as these what good can we expect here? When we look back at what contemporary Christian music was thirty years ago, and then look at what it is today, and see the vast extent of the change which it has undergone, we must be perfectly horrified to think what it will be tomorrow. But the plain fact is, anyone who has a grain of spiritual sense must be perfectly horrified to see what it is today. It is neither more nor less than the fleshly music of the world, with the name “Christian” tacked on to it, and this justified by the half-Christian words which accompany it.

Now turn to Second Timothy, the third chapter. There we read of the perilous times which shall come in the last days. I believe those last days are upon us. Daniel describes “the time of the end” by saying that “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4). No better description than this could be found of the time in which we live. By means of the automobile and the airplane, many run to and fro, to an extent that men could not even have dreamed of till the advent of the twentieth century. The same is true of the increase of knowledge----knowledge from the depths of the sea, to the back side of the moon, to far-distant galaxies. Knowledge to split the atom, and knowledge to perform genetic manipulation of plants, and animals, and man. Close-up photographs of the surface of Mars and the rings of Saturn. The increase of knowledge in the present day is perfectly astounding. A century ago men could hardly guess what Daniel's prophecy could mean, but now we see it before our eyes. This is “the time of the end.” And if it is, then these perilous times are upon us, times in which men in general are “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” times in which they are “heady, high-minded, and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” And yet these same times are those in which men have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof----times in which half the population of the country claims to be evangelical. And our chapter tells us, “from such turn away.”

But those who listen to contemporary Christian music do not turn away “from such,” for you may be certain that the most of these “recording artists” are precisely those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. If they came and applied for membership in this church, we would be obliged to refuse them, but the plain fact is, they would never apply, for they would not want their style cramped after our fashion. “From such turn away,” the Bible says, but those who listen to their music do not turn away from them, but in fact put themselves under their influence. They don't listen to this music after the manner of a papal inquisitor reading a Protestant book. No, they listen to it for pleasure, or for spiritual profit, and in any case they certainly put themselves under its influence.

But Paul has a different plan. He speaks of those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, and immediately presents himself as an example on the other side. “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions,” etc. Thou hast fully known all this, and therefore he adds, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” But to put yourself under the influence of these modern singers is generally to put yourself under the influence of persons of whom you know nothing, and if you did but know their “doctrine and manner of life,” and had any spiritual sense yourself, you must certainly refuse that influence.

When I was a student at Bible school, thirty-five years ago, there was a popular “contemporary” quartet----”contemporary” then, though doubtless much out of date now----of the so-called “Southern Gospel” type, which was much admired by some of the students. This group came to the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids for a concert, and some of the students must of course go to hear them----against my advice, I must say. They went, and of course paid their money for this “ministry of music,” but some of them came back with their eyes opened, informing me that these men had large diamonds flashing from most all their fingers. You can't see the diamonds when you listen to the recordings, but you pay for them, when you buy the recordings, or go to the concerts.

This much I will say of “contemporary” Christian music, but I must go deeper, and speak of all recorded music. Those who listen to it, of course, have their reasons. At any rate, we are sure some of them do. We are pretty sure also that some of them don't. They simply do what others do, without ever inquiring whether it be good or bad, right or wrong. Perhaps this is the case with most of those who listen to recorded music.

Yet some no doubt have their reasons. Perhaps fifteen years ago a Christian man was recommending to me the music of a certain singer and preacher. He told me, “I go to work in the morning, and work all day in the ungodly world, and when I come home at night I feel spiritually depleted and empty. But when I put on one of these recordings, it lifts me right up, and fills me with the joy of the Lord.” Now the man whose music he was thus recommending to me was Jimmy Swaggart. This was before Swaggart's scandals were before the public. But I must confess, I do not believe the spiritual up-lift which he got from such a source was worth anything.

But I do not believe this is any spiritual up-lift at all. It may not have the remotest connection with anything spiritual. If I were feeling barren and empty, I could turn the radio to some “Golden Oldies” station, and receive the same kind of up-lift by listening to Skeeter Davis sing,


”Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don't they know it's the end of the world,
'Cause you don't love me any more?”

This is no spiritual up-lift at all, but purely an emotional up-lift. We might receive the same kind of up-lift from any pleasing music, sacred or secular. Polkas would do it for some, or classical music. It is proof, certainly, of the power of music, but of nothing more than that.

Well, then, if we so believe in the power of music, why would we object to the use of it? We certainly do not object to the use of music in its place, but here I must call your attention to one obvious fact. God never created recorded music, nor any of the means by which to record it. He placed man on the earth without any such thing, and the fact is, man lived on the earth through almost the whole of his existence without any such thing. If you need this spiritual or emotional up-lift, then you need what God never gave to man, and what all the godly have lived without from the foundation of the world, and that through all those centuries in which they were obliged to face toils and hardships and persecutions of which modern man knows nothing. The apostle Paul never had it when he languished in prison, no, nor when he was pressed out of measure outside the prison, so that he despaired even of life. All this affliction God saw, and yet God deprived him of the pleasure and the solace of recorded music.

When Martin Luther spent his lonely days and nights----his lonely weeks and months----imprisoned in the Wartburg castle, subject to all the depression and discouragement of such a place and such a plight, subject even to dark hallucinatory imaginations, so that he supposed the devil bodily present in the room with him, and threw the ink stand at him, ah! how soothing it would then have been, if he could have but turned on the radio, and listened to some pleasing music! But God gave him no such thing. But you will say, It wasn't yet invented----as though that could be any trouble to God! God could have arranged its invention on the spot, next door to the flaming sword which kept man out of Eden, or next door to the Wartburg Castle which confined Luther. In lieu of that, he could have opened heaven, and let Luther listen to the angels sing. But he did no such thing. He left him to suffer without any such solace. He deprived Luther, in his great trials, of what you think you need in your petty trials.

So too when Elijah dwelt in the cave, discouraged to death, praying that God might take away his life. He had no musical recordings to soothe him. Neither had Joseph when he languished in the prison, nor John Bunyan, when he languished in the prison, nor Adoniram Judson when he languished and suffered in the prison. Was God remiss for sixty centuries? Does modern man know better than the Ancient of Days? Is man wiser than God? Is man better than God?

The plain fact is this, either recorded music is totally unnecessary for any spiritual purpose whatsoever, or God was totally remiss in the matter for sixty centuries.

I could ask some further questions also. Is modern man better off than the whole race has been through the whole of its existence? Is the Christianity of the present day----augmented by such a boon----is it a higher, better Christianity than ever the world had seen before the present century? Have the triumphs of faith of the present day surpassed all those of the preceding sixty centuries, when men had none of the benefits of recorded music? Are the saints stronger today than ever they have been in history? Is holiness purer? Has worldliness declined? Is faith brighter? Does the trumpet of testimony give a more certain sound? If this recorded music is in fact beneficial, then surely we must be able to point to some of the benefits of it. Where are they? The plain fact is, the church is in such a low condition today, so weak and so languid, that we can scarcely tell if she is alive or dead, and this while she is almost immersed in recorded music.

I believe I have proved by fair argument that recorded music is totally unnecessary, but I contend further that it is a positive detriment, and that in more ways than one. We know that for all its boasted benefits, the church today is in a perilously low condition. Recorded music has certainly done nothing to remedy that. All its influence is on the other side. The fact is, like the automobile and the telephone, and all the wonders of modern technology in general, recorded music appeals to and strengthens all the worst propensities of our nature. We are all of us weak enough, but this music panders to our weakness, and makes the weak weaker. When Elijah was pouting in the cave, God didn't send him any music, but accosted him with, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” “Quit you like men! Be strong!”

If you stand in need of recorded music, this is no strength, but weakness altogether, like that of some babies I have known, and toddlers too, who were addicted to their pacifiers. Only let the slightest inconvenience overtake them, only let the slightest contrary wind ruffle their fur, and immediately they must be soothed by sucking. Well, God created that need, and created their mother's breast to satisfy it, but some babies could wear out three mothers a day. They need to be restrained, and taught to deny themselves too. This is strength. It is weakness to have to suck to cope with our infant troubles. Recorded music panders to our weakness, the same as the pacifier does. Babies raised without it are emotionally the stronger.

Ah, but some tell me they are weak----and it is no sin to be weak. No, but it may be sin to cultivate our weakness. I doubt any of you are as weak as I am, in frequent suffering with a bad back and a bad heart, often tossing and turning in pain and uneasiness while you sleep, often depressed and restless and discouraged, despised and rejected, forsaken of friends, dogged by poverty, I could use the solace of recorded music as much as anyone, but I don't believe it healthy. It strengthens our weakness, and weakens our spirits. “Our fathers chained in prisons dark” had none of this, nor any of the men of faith who “dwelt in dens and caves of the earth,” or “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” They must have needed this as much as we do, but God never gave it.

We all have troubles enough, but where does God prescribe listening to music? What saith the Scripture? Read with me from the fifth chapter of James, the thirteenth verse. “Is any afflicted? Let him turn on the radio. Is any merry? Let him listen to music.” No, that wasn't a modern translation, but I read it with my modern glasses on. But what does James actually say? “Is any afflicted? Let him pray,” not listen to soothing music. “Is any merry? Let him sing,” not listen to music. This was the way of all the saints since the foundation of the world. Does the modern church really know better? Is the modern method actually productive of more good, or a higher state of spirituality?

But I know what people will say. The standard objection, which I hear whenever I speak against any kind of worldliness, or point out the dangers of any of man's inventions, is this: “But you drive an automobile.” Yes, I drive an automobile, but I don't listen to one. I don't feed my mind and soul with it. Neither do I put my body into the hands of some flashy young “driving artist,” to let him carry me whither he will, as you do your soul with some “recording artist.” And if I didn't drive an automobile, I would probably drive a horse. We must use some kind of locomotion to get from one place to another.

But more. I am fully aware of the evils of the automobile. I use it as I use the rest of the world. I hold it loosely. I use the thing for necessary transportation, without loving it or approving the desires and principles which created it. Is this the way you use recorded music? The two things are so far different in kind, that I must take leave to doubt the sincerity of those who endeavor to align them.

But recorded music is a positive detriment for another reason. It stands in the way of serious thought and deep meditation. I tell you plainly that in reading the literature of the church today, in conversing with the Christians of the present day, I find them in general to be so absolutely shallow that I am ready to despair of teaching the truth of God in such a day as this. The people in general have no ability to think, and no capacity to understand. And I believe that recorded music is one of the primary things responsible for such a state of things. You cannot think with music playing in your ears. You may think some pious thoughts----may even get some pious thoughts from the music----but I mean you cannot engage in any deep or serious thought about anything. You cannot meditate. You cannot wrestle with any questions of conscience or doctrine or practice. Your mind is soothed and placid, and if you keep it that way by frequent indulgence in recorded music----or constant indulgence, as is the case with many----this becomes the habit of your mind, and you lose your ability for any depth of thought. I believe this is where most of the church is today, and I believe recorded music is largely responsible for it, though television is another large contributor.

Some will say they do not use this music for solace, but for profit. If so, I think they are further astray than those who use it for solace. This music stands in the way of their profit. Paul says, “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all.” (I Tim. 4:13 & 15). Where does he tell us to listen to music, that our profiting may appear to all? The plain fact is, recorded music stands directly in the way of the very things to which Paul tells us to give ourselves wholly, that our profiting may appear to all. Reading. Doctrine. Meditation. Recorded music thrusts all these directly out the door, and shuts the door against their entrance, and so precludes the very things which Paul prescribes for your profit. It makes the mind passive and placid, and really unfits it, at least for the time being, for the more solid work which Paul prescribes.

You understand now, I am not speaking here of the evil sort of music which is called “contemporary.” I am speaking of all recorded music. Take the most conservative that can be found. Take the a cappella recordings of the conservative Mennonites----though by my standards there is enough that is objectionable even in those, and to refuse the use of musical instruments, while we listen to musical recordings, looks to me like straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. But waive that. Take the most conservative and unobjectionable recordings you can find, unless you mean to make your own----take the a cappella Psalms of David, sung by the old Calvinists----and still I ask, What ever gave any child of God the notion that God intended for us to listen to recorded music at all? Are we merely to do what the rest of the world does, without ever inquiring concerning its character or effects? Where is anything like this prescribed in the Bible? You will tell me they had singers in the temple of the Jews. Yes, they had----though this argument can be of no possible use to those who refuse musical instruments----but this temple singing was not easily accessible, nor available at all times. To listen to this could only have been a very occasional thing. It is one of the great evils of modern technology that it gives us constant access to a great profusion of those things which God gave to man only sparingly and occasionally. Everything is cheapened by this, and man himself very much weakened.

Do I then recommend the occasional or moderate use of recorded music? To begin with, I would have to distinguish between “occasional” and “moderate.” “Occasional” might mean once a year. “Moderate” might mean every day----must at least mean something which is frequent or habitual. At for “occasional,” I will not go so far as to condemn every instance of it, regardless of its purpose. I am not relentless, neither do I know everything, and I desire to give as much as I can here. This much I will say. I believe it to be a spiritual experience when I sit down at the piano, and sing, or try to sing through my tears,

”He speaks, and the sound of his voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,”


“Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind,
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come,”


“Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see:
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
Love paid the ransom for me.”

I say, I believe this is spiritual experience, spiritual as well as emotional, and I can rarely sing through such verses without being moved to tears, and so choked up that I can scarcely sing at all, for when I sing my own soul is involved in the matter. But I wonder how many have any such experience in listening to others do their singing for them. Perhaps you do, and if so I will not condemn it, but I doubt most people do. It hardly seems that God intended we should be mere spectators, or auditors, in the matter of singing, and my experience indicates that singing and listening to singing are not the same thing. There may not be so much difference between them as there is between getting married and watching a wedding, but it would seem there is difference enough. Singing engages your own soul, your own mind and emotions. Listening to music makes the mind passive and placid, and stands in the way of anything deep or solid. It is pleasant, no doubt, but is it profitable? One of the hidden evils of recorded music lies precisely in the fact that it is so good. It is commonly produced by the best musical talent in the land, and is therefore immeasurably more pleasing than anything which most of us could produce ourselves, with our own voices or instruments. The very beauty of it----the extreme pleasure of it----makes it addictive, and much of both the world and the church is quite addicted to it. Yet if “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth,” how dead must she be who lives her whole waking life with this enchanting pleasure flooding her soul?----and what gain if she substitutes Christian for secular music? Recorded music offers us incessant indulgence in the most delightful pleasure, and many indulge in it with little or no restraint. This works directly against the very principle of self-denial----weakens the will, disinclines us to self-denial----and so works directly against real religion. Everything which is very pleasing is dangerous. Hence the Bible says, “Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee.” But most people really surfeit themselves on recorded music, precisely because it is so pleasing, and so their good is actually turned to evil.

As for the “moderate” use of recordings, I can hardly recommend that, for though we might thus decrease the dangers already spoken of, we will hardly eliminate them, and there is another danger awaiting us here. Supposing you can find some recorded music which is all good----not fleshly, spiritual in both substance and performance, Scripturally sound and solid, not shallow, not mere sentimentalism----supposing you can find some such. By hard looking you might. And supposing you use this in moderation. What is the danger of that?

First of all, I believe that the moderate use of this music will contribute to the weakening of our moral faculties, and stand in the way of our growth and our profiting, the same as the constant use of it will, only in a lesser degree. This is danger enough. But a further danger is, it opens the door to something worse. It puts the camel's nose in the door of the tent, and the whole camel will not be far behind. In the first place, there are very few Christians who have spiritual principle and discernment enough to tell what is good and what not in Christian music. In this sphere, most of them need a shepherd, to lead them by the hand. When they listen to any Christian recordings, they open the door to more, and to worse. I speak what I know. The very Christian radio stations which pride themselves on being conservative in the music which they use are drifting along with the rest of the church. Conservative they may be, when compared to other stations, but they are not so conservative this year as they were a few years ago, and they will be still less so a few years hence. There is music which the conservative Christians listen to today which no Christian would have tolerated at all forty years ago.

But supposing you are one of those rare souls who actually has spirituality enough to judge of what music is sound and solid, and will never drift at all. Can you say the same of your children? Of the souls under your care? They see your example. You listen to recorded music, and so will they, but they have none of your depth of discernment. They will let down the standards from where you hold them. They will drift, if you don't. You open the door, but they will determine what comes through it. So you cause the weak to stumble. Better far to keep the door closed.

I am well aware that this argument is used as a catch-all for anything which anybody wishes to oppose, and it is sometimes used to proscribe things which God condones. I know that, but still I believe it valid here, for where does God condone recorded music? You will not die without that soothing sound. Luther didn't. Elijah didn't. Joseph didn't, and all these had more to endure than you do. Neither will your soul suffer for the lack of such music. Peter, Paul, and John had none of it, and yet I dare say their souls were as healthy as yours. Paul and Barnabas, shut up in the prison, backs bleeding, feet fast in the stocks, indeed sang, but they had no music to listen to. Would you sing in their plight, or turn on a recording?

It has been objected that King Saul had David to sing for him in his trouble of heart. Yes, he had, but this is a most unfortunate example for your cause. Saul was ungodly, and disobedient. The Lord had rejected and forsaken him. An evil spirit was upon him from the Lord, and he was troubled, perhaps depressed, or full of unrest. His real and only business at such a time was repentance. An evil spirit was upon him from the Lord, and he ought to have sought the Lord by repentance to have it removed, but instead of this he sought the music of David, to soothe him in his sins, and to abstract his mind from his troubles. We have little doubt that this is precisely the purpose of much of the world's recorded music, and it is doubtless the effect of much of recorded Christian music, if not its purpose.

Do I say there is no good in recorded music? Not at all. We may find good in most anything, even in garbage cans, but I don't hunt for my dinner there. Whatever good I can find in the garbage can I can find also at the grocery store. And whatever good you might find in recorded music you can find elsewhere also, and without the evils and dangers of it. Every saint of God lived without it for sixty centuries, and God never moved a finger to give it to them. It is absolutely unnecessary, and positively detrimental besides. Here I stand. I hope you stand with me.

The Cold of Snow in the Time of Harvest

by Glenn Conjurske

We read in Proverbs 25:13 “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.” The cold of snow in the time of harvest is a very rare luxury, and as pleasing as rare. But no: I must rather say it was a very rare luxury. It was, when Solomon wrote, but is so no longer. Modern technology has made the cold of snow in harvest one of the commonplace things of life. The question remains, is this good or evil? Is this beneficial or detrimental? We know that the cold of snow in harvest is a most pleasing thing, as excellent as a faithful messenger. It refreshes the soul. The question is, Is it good or evil that such an excellent thing should be so commonplace?

None will deny that Paradise was filled with most excellent and most pleasing things, but neither can we deny that God deprived man of the pleasure of Paradise so soon as he became a sinner. That life of pleasure, and ease, and comfort, which was entirely suitable for sinless man, evidently became quite otherwise when he became a sinner. God did not take all the pleasures of Paradise from man when he sinned, but he curtailed them all, and marred them all with thorns and thistles and pain and sorrow. The curse which God placed upon the earth so soon as man sinned has greatly reduced his pleasures and comforts, and greatly increased his toil and pain. This is evidently as God would have it, for it is God who cursed the earth, in response to man's sin.

But since the day that man was driven out of Paradise, he has engaged in one long course of discovery and invention, the purpose of much of it being to undo the effects of the curse under which he labors, and to return as near as he can to the comforts and pleasures of Paradise, while he remains outside it, and alienated from God as well. This is the grand end of most of modern technology. The Bible represents our pilgrimage through this world as a pilgrimage through the desert, a dry and thirsty land, while our heart and our hopes are fixed upon the land of promise, which flows with milk and honey. This is a healthy state of soul.

Providentially, within a few minutes of writing the above lines, I sat down to read, and came immediately to the following: “I feel this morning like a pilgrim and a traveller in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. Heaven is my home----there I trust, my weary soul will sweetly rest, after a tempestuous voyage across the ocean of life. I love to think of what I shall shortly be, when I have finished my Heavenly Father's work on earth. How sweet the thoughts of glory, while I wander here in this waste wilderness.” This, I say, is a healthy state of soul, but technology and invention have practically turned the waste wilderness into a second Paradise, and the effect of this can hardly be wholesome.

I have given a great deal of thought to the effects of modern technology. My readers doubtless know this. I have written a number of articles on this theme. Some of my readers have rather forcefully disagreed with these, while others have expressed great appreciation for them. For the benefit of both classes, I harp on this string once more. I aim only to know the truth, and to speak it. I do not condemn modern technology in toto. Neither do I endorse it all. I believe there is both good and evil in it. I believe that the evil generally outweighs the good, though this may not be so in every case. In my meditations I have sought to learn what are the curses of modern invention, and what its blessings. I have sought to sort out its good from its evil----to understand what are the best inventions of man, and what the worst. Among the worst are certainly guns and bombs. Among the best I place refrigeration, which gives us “the cold of snow in the time of harvest.” This appears to me to be one of the inventions of man which brings with it the most of blessing to the human race, with the least of curse attached. It brings us great pleasure and comfort, and carries with it very little of the corruption which the camera and the radio bring. The cold of snow in the time of harvest! A drink of ice-cold water on a sultry summer day! What harm can there be in this?

Yet I take nothing for granted. I labor to understand. My observations and meditations have taught me that there is generally a curse on the back of every blessing of man's invention. I therefore must still inquire, is there no evil in “the cold of snow in the time of harvest”?

I believe there is. The evil lies in the very profusion of good. It makes common what God has made a very rare luxury. He has declined to make the cold of snow in the time of harvest the common possession of man. God knows as well as man does how very pleasing it is to have such cold in the heat of harvest, yet God has given us none of it. In those very rare instances in which he gives it, it generally brings with it more of hardship than of pleasure. Crops are damaged or destroyed. Meanwhile, we must toil through all the heat of summer, with never a taste of the cold of snow. God gives us all the snow in the winter, when we least want it----when we would be glad to do without it. Yet we must suppose that God knows what is for the best interest of man, and knows it much better than we do. He is both good and wise. And being so, he has determined as a general rule to give us labor and toil, hardship and sorrow. These are good for us, in our present sinful state. They drive us to God, teach us our weakness and our dependence, exercise our conscience, keep us to our duty, while luxuries and pleasures appeal to all the worst propensities of our sinful nature----make good men bad, and bad men worse. God has therefore deprived us of the Paradise that was, in order to win us to the Paradise to come. For man to make a Paradise here and now, by his technology and invention, is to work directly against the wisdom and purpose of his Creator.

The profusion of luxuries has never yet been good for sinful man. An old proverb recognizes this, and affirms, “Man can bear all things except good days.” Good days make men soft, selfish, careless, covetous. They spoil us, and modern technology has made all our days good. It gives us in great profusion what God has given as rare luxuries, or not at all.

It ought to go without saying that God knows better than man, but we fear that on this theme the emotions of men have carried away their reason. We all want Utopia on earth, and if modern technology can give it to us, then modern technology is our dearest friend. But what sort of friend is this, which gives to us what our Father denies us? Would we want our children to have such friends? Is such a friend wiser than our Father?

The truth is, there are numerous facts which conspire together to confirm the wisdom of God in the matter. Whatever the innocence of Paradise may have been, and whatever the holiness of heaven and glory may be, ease, affluence, pleasure, prosperity, and luxury are dangerous in the present sinful state of the race. The world knows this----or once knew it----and rehearsed the fact in numerous old adages, now, we fear, mostly forgotten. Some of those old sayings are,

When prosperity smiles, beware of its guiles.

Men can bear all things except good days.

They must be strong legs that can support prosperous days.

Felicity eats up circumspection.

Prosperous men seldom mend their faults.

The most friendly fortune trips up your heels.

He that sitteth well thinketh ill.

And if ease and luxury are dangerous to selfish and sinful man, so hardship and affliction are good for him. As soon as he passed from the state of innocence to his present sinful state, God secured that he should have plenty of hardship and affliction, and little of ease and luxury. This is the goodness of God, as well as his wisdom, for

”...who would reach heaven and glory,

Did not suffering draw them there?”

So speaks a pleasing old hymn by Gray and Towner, and most truly too. It was suffering, it was being deprived, which brought the prodigal home, and this is generally the case. For this cause we read in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor,” for they are inclined to hear it. The rich, the prosperous, in general, have no such inclination. The nearer men can bring themselves to Paradise here, the less need they feel, and the less inclination they have, to seek the Paradise to come. For this reason we read also in Scripture, “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world?” (James 2:5). Not all the poor, of course, but the poor as contrasted to the rich. Nor is the election of God arbitrary. He chooses the poor because the poor choose him, being moved thereto by their poverty and sufferings, while the rich are content without God. It is no accident that so many rich men are the prototypes of lost souls in the Bible. “The rich young ruler”----”the rich fool”----”a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day”----all these are lost souls, for their ease and riches disincline them altogether from that self-denial which is the first principle of discipleship to Christ. The rich and prosperous rarely come home to God.

And when we are once brought home to God, it is hardship and want which serve best to keep our souls in a good condition. “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” (Psalm 119:67). Whether consciously or unconsciously, we all tend to regard our outward prosperity as a mark of the approval of God, while we similarly regard affliction as a mark of his disfavor. We mend our ways when we are afflicted. We become careless when we prosper. “Prosperous men seldom mend their faults.” This is universal human experience. Who then, we ask, has the greater interest in prospering us, in filling our hands with treasures and our laps with luxuries----God, or the devil? God, we know, cast sinners out of Paradise. Is it that same God who now labors to give that Paradise back to those sinners? Who can believe this?

What do I say, then? Is there evil in Paradise? Are the luxuries and comforts, is the pleasure and ease of Paradise evil? Surely not. There is no evil here, but danger. Yet to fill men's hands with dangerous things, when they are almost certain to abuse them and be harmed by them, can only be regarded as evil. Who would give guns and bombs to kindergartners? Nay, who would give them to convicted felons? There are laws against this. God very largely removed those dangerous things from the hands of man, so soon as they became a danger to him. Modern technology has very largely given back to man what God deprived him of. This is certainly evil, and is certainly the work of the god of this world, and not of the God of heaven. Most of the laborers from the beginning of the world toiled through the heat of the harvest-time, and never heard of ice cubes or ice cream, and if God ever gave them such a thing, it was a great rarity. Hail stones they might have had----and how eagerly would we take these up in the heat of summer, if we had no ice besides----yet these are no unmixed blessing in the time of harvest.

But we observe in speaking of “the cold of snow in the time of harvest,” that one of the many blessings of the Paradise to come is this, that “neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.” (Rev. 7:16). Modern technology gives us all that here and now. We refrigerate not only our food and drinks, but our buildings also. We call it “air conditioning” where I live, but when I was travelling in the South some years ago, I observed that the signs in front of the hotels said, “REFRIGERATED.” The comfort, the ease, the luxury of Paradise is all laid in our laps here and now, and this, frankly, spoils us. It makes us soft, lazy, lukewarm, unappreciative, ungrateful, unthankful. How many of my readers ever thank God for an ice-cold drink of water on a hot day? Yet how profusely would we all thank him for this, if it remained the rare luxury which it was through most of the history of the world.

In speaking of “the cold of snow in the time of harvest,” I speak of what I regard as one of the least harmful accomplishments of modern technology. I speak of that which brings to man the most good, with the least of evil attached. Yet even here it appears plainly enough that there is danger in it. And here we speak of but one small facet of man's accomplishments. When to “the cold of snow in the time of harvest” is added a similar profusion of comforts and luxuries of every imaginable description, who can doubt that the over-all effect of this is generally harmful? We see the wisdom of God in taking all this from man, as soon as he became a sinner, and we see the wisdom of Satan in giving it all back to him, while he remains a sinner.

The Best Books of the 20th Century

by Glenn Conjurske

It may be superfluous for me to speak on this subject, as I have spoken so much already of good books. But during the last week or so of the twentieth century someone asked me what I thought was the best book of the century. The question took me completely by surprise. My thinking in general transcends the centuries, and I had never given a thought to such a question. My first response was, “There is not much to choose from.” A few moments' thought, however, fixed my mind, and I responded, “By all means, Down in Water Street, by Sam Hadley”----first published in 1902.

I have since then given a little more thought to the subject, and may name a few more which I consider the best books of the twentieth century----exclusive, of course, of reprints, compilations, etc. Those would of course include The Revision Revised, by J. W. Burgon, and The Letters of John Wesley, edited by John Telford, and published in 1931, but I speak of what was written in the twentieth century.

The next thing which comes to mind is the Autobiography of Gipsy Smith, first published in 1901.

The rest of the century has hardly equalled these two, published at its very threshold, but we may yet name some books of worth. The turn of the last century also witnessed the evangelistic work of R. A. Torrey, which is well commemorated in Triumphant Evangelism (without date), by J. Kennedy Maclean. Some of Torrey's sermons were published also, and though it is hard to make a selection, we may mention Revival Addresses (1903) and Soul-Winning Sermons (1925). Indeed, if we were at liberty to consider the year 1900 as belonging to the twentieth century----and perhaps we are, since popular opinion has determined that the year 2000 begins the twenty-first, though we always begin every series with one, not zero----we could mention also numerous biographies of Dwight L. Moody, including those by W. R. Moody, J. W. Hanson, Henry Davenport Northrop, Edward Leigh Pell, A. W. Williams, and J. Wilbur Chapman. These all (with others besides) belong to the year 1900, and are all worth reading, but we really suppose they belong to the nineteenth century. Certainly their content does.

We may also mention among the better books of the twentieth century

S. H. Hadley of Water Street, by J. Wilbur Chapman (1906).

A Thousand Miles of Miracle in China, by A. E. Glover (1904).

Jimmy Moore of Bucktown, by Mel Trotter (1904), and These Forty Years, by the same (1939?).

The Life and Sayings of Sam P. Jones, by his wife (1906).

Moody Still Lives, by Arthur Percy Fitt (1936).

The Redemption of Paul Rader, by W. Leon Tucker (1918).

The Story of Lizzie L. Johnson, by Francis Wesley Warne (1927).

Miracles in Black, by John C. Wengatz (1938).

Goforth of China, by Rosalind Goforth (1937).

Some few more we might perhaps name, of the same caliber and the same era, but here I reach the end of my tether. What that belongs to the twentieth century can I put on a level with these? Now that my readers have seen my list, they probably know no more than they did before, except that I am incorrigible----and they may have known that. They see, at any rate, that I might as well have written this article in 1950 as in 2000. They see nothing here from the latter half of the century, but how can I help it? I have seen or heard the opinions of others on the same theme, and find that they have listed insignificant, unspiritual, and unedifying books from the present generation. I think they were incompetent to speak on the subject at all, as they are acquainted mainly with recent books, and know little or nothing of what belongs to the early part of the century. I know something of both, and say without the least misgiving, “THE OLD IS BETTER.”

But I turn to books of another sort, and can hardly omit to mention The Oxford English Dictionary, the first printing of which was finished in 1928, though it was begun in 1884. The first whole edition of it appeared in 1933, consisting of all the parts previously published in installments, and a large supplement. This dictionary owes its existence to a suggestion made by R. C. Trench in 1857, so that if its value may be judged by the time spent in the making, it must be of signal worth. My friends sometimes chide me for disputing with the dictionaries, which I must needs do at times, but they are not very likely to find me disputing with this one.

Another work worthy of mention is The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, edited by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad, and published in 1982. This work should have been done long ago, and though we may not always trust a text based on manuscripts only, without the fathers and versions, and though it may not even always represent the true majority text, yet its publication is a significant event. We think it sinful, however, that such a work is shackled with a copyright.

John Wesley on the Conditions of Salvation

compiled by the editor

[We shall always consider it one of the primary purposes of this testimony to stand against the antinomian gospel of the modern church. To that end we have printed in the past collections of this sort from D. L. Moody, William Tyndale, and perhaps others. We might present the same from the pens of C. H. Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, Charles G. Finney, Sam Jones, R. A. Torrey, and others of the greatest men of God and most useful evangelists of history. Those compilations would all say essentially the same thing, for however they differed in the details of their presentation, these men all agreed that no man could be saved until he gave up his sins, and submitted to Christ to obey him. And mark, all these stood for salvation by faith, but they did not suppose faith to be that empty, glib, unholy, antinomian thing which is commonly preached in the present day. Observe, these extracts must force the present generation to one of two things----either to renounce their own antinomian theology, or to repudiate as heretics almost all the men of God in history, till the time that C. I. Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer enlightened us all. I proceed to John Wesley. ----editor.]

Writing to Bishop Lavington in 1751, Wesley says, “You say, eighthly: 'Mr. Wesley affirms that the condition of our justification is faith alone, and not good works.' Most certainly I do. And I learned it from the Eleventh and Twelfth Articles and from the Homilies of our Church. If you can confute them, do. But I subscribe to them both with my hand and heart.”

Yet it is perfectly plain that by “faith alone” he did not mean what is meant by it nowadays, for a year earlier, in objecting to the doctrines of the Moravians, he wrote, “I do not admire their doctrine in the particulars that follow.

“1.That we are to do nothing in order to salvation, but barely to believe.

2.That there is but one duty now, but one command----to believe in Christ.

3.That Christ has taken away all other commands and duties, having wholly abolished the law.”

In 1759, “The truth is, we have been these thirty years continually reproached for just the contrary to what you dream of: with making the way to heaven too strait, with being ourselves 'righteous overmuch,' and teaching others they could not be saved without so many works as it was impossible for them to perform. And to this day, instead of teaching men that they may be saved by a faith which is without good works, without 'gospel obedience and holiness of life,' we teach exactly the reverse, continually insisting on all outward as well as all inward holiness. For the notorious truth of this we appeal to the whole tenor of our sermons, printed and unprinted----in particular to those upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, wherein every branch of gospel obedience is both asserted and proved to be indispensably necessary to eternal salvation.”

To his brother Charles, in 1772, “If we duly join faith and works in all our preaching, we shall not fail of a blessing. But of all preaching, what is usually called gospel preaching is the most useless, if not the most mischievous; a dull, yea or lively, harangue on the sufferings of Christ or salvation by faith without strongly inculcating holiness. I see more and more that this naturally tends to drive holiness out of the world.”

In 1774, “None of us talk of being accepted for our works; that is the Calvinist slander. But we all maintain we are not saved without works, that works are a condition (though not the meritorious cause) of final salvation. It is by faith in the righteousness and blood of Christ that we are enabled to do all good works; and it is for the sake of these that all who fear God and work righteousness are accepted of Him.”

Of the rich young ruler Wesley writes, “Yet he loved the world, and therefore could not keep any of the commandments in their spiritual meaning. And the keeping of these is undoubtedly the way to, though not the cause of, eternal life.”

Again, “'We no longer obey in order to lay the foundation of our final acceptance.' No: that foundation is already laid in the merits of Christ. Yet we obey in order to our final acceptance through his merits. And in this sense, by obeying, we 'lay a good foundation that we may attain eternal life.””'...previous to justifying faith, there must be repentance, and, if opportunity permit, 'fruits meet for repentance.”'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 that 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.”

(In this extract we observe a man laboring to reconcile the plain doctrines of the Bible with the Lutheran expression “faith only.” This we regard as a work of supererogation. Nor can we split the hair which concerns degrees of necessity. It seems to us that one thing may be more necessary than another only if the object of their necessity is different. If one thing is necessary to life, another only to health, the former, in that case, is more necessary than the latter. But if the object is the same, I can find no room for degrees of necessity. If repentance and faith are both necessary to salvation, it seems to me they must be equally necessary. But here I aim at no more than to show that Wesley certainly held both justification by faith and the necessity of repentance, as well as of fruits meet for repentance.)

The Love of the Brethren & the Assurance of Salvation

by the editor

Since printing the article on assurance of salvation I have come across the following statement from Harriet Newell. She left America in 1812, along with Adoniram Judson, as one of the first party of foreign missionaries to be sent out from this country, but died before her missionary work could begin. She had many doubts of her salvation.

I John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” The following extract will indicate the most excellent manner in which Harriet (as a girl of seventeen) used this test to deal with her doubts.

“How strong is Christian friendship. He who enjoined it upon his followers, to love God, has likewise commanded them to love one another. If I am a stranger to the joys of pardoning mercy; if I am an enemy to holiness; whence arises this union with Christians? What has produced this love to those, who resemble God? Formerly, I preferred the friendship and society of those, whose hearts were at enmity with God; who disliked the sublime and humbling doctrines of the gospel; but now I can say with Ruth, 'thy people shall be my people.' My soul is cemented to them; and if I am not greatly deceived, my affection is the strongest for those, who live nearest to God, and are most concerned for his glory. I love the most abject creature in existence, however despised by the wise men of this world, who bears the image of the lowly Jesus. Yes; how could I rejoice to give the endearing appellation of brother or sister, to one of the tawny natives of the East, whom grace had subdued.”*

Such is the Scriptural way of obtaining assurance of salvation, yet we cannot help but remark that the same test which brought comfort to this girl ought to move many professing Christians rather to alarm, for their friends are the children of disobedience.


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.