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
----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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
----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
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
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
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
----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
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
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
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
When Martin Luther spent his lonely days and nights
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
----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
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
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
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
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.
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
2.That there is but one duty now, but one command
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
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
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.
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.