The Ancient Men on the Old Docrine that
The Terms of Discipleship Are the Terms of Salvation
Written and Compiled by Glenn Conjurske
The scriptures which set forth the terms of discipleship are the following.
I quote them in full, that my readers may have no doubt concerning what
I speak of. Some of these texts use the word disciple, while
others do not, but the terms are the same in all of them. Those terms
are, simply put, the renunciation of self
----of all that we have,
even to life itself. Those terms are explicitly made the terms of discipleship
in some of these scriptures, while in others they are explicitly made
the terms of salvation, and in yet others, obviously both.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me:
and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And
he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of
me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life
for my sake shall find it. (Matt. 10:37-39).
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken
all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto
them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration,
when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall
sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every
one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or
mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive
an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Matt. 19:27-29).
The same is found in Mark 10:28-30 and Luke 18:28-30, in both of which
eternal life is also promised to those who forsake all for Christ.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever
will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for
my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain
the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall
be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed,
when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy
angels. (Luke 9:23-26). The same is found in Matthew 16:24-26, and
Mark 8:34-38, where its application to salvation is as clear as it is
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said
unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother,
and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life
also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross,
and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending
to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether
he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation,
and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying,
This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going
to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth
whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him
with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off,
he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise,
whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot
be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33).
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life
in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12:25).
We do not see how anybody could honestly apply these scriptures to anything
but salvation. That they were universally applied to salvation before
the present antinomian age is without doubt. But one thing must be borne
in mind in dealing with old writers. They cannot be supposed to be addressing
the issues of the present day, nor to have any knowledge of the present
state of doctrine or practice in the church. They wrote for their own
day, and they cannot be expected to explicitly affirm what no one then
denied, nor to explicitly deny what no one affirmed.
The necessity of discipleship to salvation is rarely stated explicitly
in old writers. Though it is perfectly evident that all their application
of the terms of discipleship is to salvation, yet they no where say so
explicitly. Many commentators and preachers spend all their words to explain
and define in what sense we must forsake all, and in what sense we must
hate father and mother, while they never trouble themselves to insist
upon the necessity of such denial of self in order to salvation. There
was no need, for that was taken for granted by preachers, writers, hearers,
and readers alike. It was held by all, and denied by none. The fact is,
it is not easy to find explicit statements on the subject in old writers.
The reason is, there was no occasion to affirm what no one denied. It
is another strange and singular fact that these solemn texts are never
mentioned at all by many of the great men of the past, in many volumes
of their complete works. This is certainly the mark of a deficiency in
emphasis in Protestant theology. So far as I can learn, among the thousands
of sermons which Spurgeon published during his lifetime, he printed but
two on discipleship. Those two are so clear and forceful (see below) as
to leave no doubt whatsoever of his doctrine, but what if he had omitted
those two? Then we should have cavillers enough, to proclaim their doubts
that Spurgeon ever preached any such legal gospel, or held any such popish
heresy. We may perhaps suppose that he preached more on the subject than
he printed, but at any rate there is no doubt whatsoever as to what he
believed. If there was any deficiency in him, it was not a deficiency
of doctrine, but only of emphasis, for it goes without saying that if
this doctrine be true, it ought to be emphasized. We see the same deficiency
in many others.
Yet where these texts on discipleship are mentioned at all, they are applied
to salvation. It is certain that this was not generally denied until modern
times. Most of the older writers, therefore, never raise the issue at
all, of whether the terms of discipleship are the terms of salvation.
They assume it. This itself is significant, for in reality it constitutes
proof that the whole church was agreed on the subject. There was no occasion
to labor to prove what no one denied. The necessity of discipleship to
salvation is everywhere assumed in their remarks, and sometimes shines
through with unmistakable clarity, however incidentally. They did not
apply these texts to some advanced state of spirituality, beyond what
is found in ordinary Christians, but to nothing other than salvation itself.
Whether explicit or incidental, whether clear or vague, all their application
of the terms of discipleship is to salvation, never to anything else.
My readers may consult, for example, the commentary of Matthew Henry,
and they will find those texts which I have set forth at the beginning
of this article invariably applied to salvation, yet he does not express
himself in such a pithy form as may be quoted here, for I cannot transcribe
whole pages. I quote only what is clear and explicit.
As always, I limit my quotations to those who are well known and esteemed
in the church, and to those statements which are indisputably on my side.
Some, perhaps, will dispute even these, for passion and prejudice dispute
everything. I write for those who sincerely desire the truth. They will
find in these quotations that these old men of God held the terms of discipleship
to be the terms of salvation. I print in bold type those things which
are particularly pertinent. I do not pretend to endorse every sentiment
or expression in what I here transcribe. I quote only to establish the
fact that these men held discipleship to be necessary to salvation. And
here I direct the reader to take particular note of the titles of the
pieces from which these extracts are taken, for those titles alone are
sufficient in a number of cases to establish the fact that the writers
apply these scriptures to salvation.
John Wycliffe (1320??-1384) The Morning Star of the Reformation
Crist seiþ at þe bigynnynge, If ony man come to him
and hate not þes seven þingis, he mai not be Cristis disciple,
and so he mai not be saved.
[With the spelling modernized, Christ saith at the beginning, If
any man come to him and hate not these seven things, he may not be Christ's
disciple, and so he may not be saved.]
----Select English Works of John Wyclif, edited from Original Mss.
by Thomas Arnold. Oxford: Clarendon Press, Vol. I, 1869, pg. 189.
Richard Baxter (1600-1691) Puritan
It was not for nothing Christ would have the first-fruits of his gospel
church, (who were to be the example of their successors,) to sell all,
and lay it down at the feet of his apostles: and it is his standing rule,
that whoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be his
disciple, Luke xiv.33. In estimation, affection, and resolution, it must
be forsaken by all that will be saved; and also in practice, whenever
God calls us to it. You can have but one happiness; if you will needs
have it in this world, in the contenting of your flesh, there is no hope
of having it also in another world, in the fruition of God. If you think
not God and heaven enough for you, and cannot let go the prosperity of
the flesh for them, you must let go all your hopes of them. God will not
halve it with the world in your hearts, nor part stakes with the flesh;
much less will he be below them, and take their leavings. Heaven will
not be theirs, that set not by it more than earth. God will not call that
love to him sincere, which is not a superlative love, and able to make
you even to hate all those things that would draw away your affections
and obedience from him, Luke xiv.26,27. There is no talk of serving God
and mammon, and compounding you a happiness of earth and heaven. Do therefore
as Christ bids you, Luke xiv.28
Sit down and count what it must cost you, if you will be saved, and
on what rates it is that you must follow Christ. Can you voluntarily,
for the love of him, and the hope of glory, take up your cross, and follow
him in poverty, in losses, in reproaches, through scorns, and scourgings,
and prisons, and death? Do you value his loving-kindness better than life?
Psal. lxiii.3. Can you deny your eyes and appetites their desire? Can
you consent to be vile in the eyes of men, and to tame your own flesh,
and keep it in subjection, and live a flesh-displeasing life, that having
suffered with Christ, you may also be glorified with him? Rom. viii.17.
If you cannot consent to these terms, you cannot be christians, and you
cannot be saved.
----Directions and Persuasions to a Sound Conversion,
The Practical Works of Richard Baxter. Ligonier, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria
Publications, 1990, vol. II, pg. 626.
If you will Turn and Live, do it unreservedly, absolutely and universally.
Think not to capitulate with Christ, and devide (sic) your heart betwixt
him and the world; and to part with some sins, and keep the rest; and
to let go that which your flesh can spare. This is but self-deluding:
you must in heart and resolution forsake all that you have, or else you
cannot be his Disciples, Luke 14.26,33. If you will not take God and Heaven
for your portion, and lay all below at the feet of Christ, but you must
needs also have your good things here, and have an earthly portion, and
God and Glory is not enough for you; it is in vain to dream of salvation
on these terms: For it will not be.
----A Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live, by Richard Baxter.
London: Printed by R. W. for Nevil Simmons, 1648, pg. 281.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Congregationalist
In order to a man's being properly said to make a profession of Christianity,
there must undoubtedly be a profession of all that is necessary to his
being a Christian, or of so much as belongs to the essence of Christianity.
... If we take only a part of Christianity, and leave out a part which
is essential to it, what we take is not Christianity; ... Thus it is essential
to Christianity that we repent of our sins, that we be convinced of our
own sinfulness, that we are sensible we have justly exposed ourselves
to God's wrath; that our hearts renounce all sin, that we do with our
whole hearts embrace Christ as our only Saviour, that we love him above
all, are willing for his sake to forsake all, and that we give up ourselves
to be entirely and for ever his, &c.
----A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, The
Works of President Edwards. New-York: S. Converse, vol. V, 1829, pg. 279.
A true and saving coming to Christ, is (as Christ often teaches) a coming
so as to forsake all for him.
----ibid., pg. 307.
John Gill (1697-1771) Calvinistic Baptist
He that loveth father or mother more than me, &c.] ... That man
therefore, that prefers father and mother to Christ, and their instructions,
and orders, to the truths and ordinances of Christ; who, to please them,
breaks the commands of Christ, rejects his Gospel, and either denies him,
or does not confess him, our Lord says, is not worthy of me; ... it is
not fit and proper, that such a person should name the name of Christ,
or be called by his name, and should be reckoned one of his disciples;
he is not fit to be a member of the church of Christ on earth, nor for
the kingdom of heaven, but deserves to be rejected by him, and everlastingly
banished his presence: for otherwise no man, let him behave ever so well,
is worthy of relation to Christ, and interest in him; or of his grace,
righteousness, presence, kingdom and glory.
----Exposition of the New Testament, on Matthew 10:37.
If any man come to me, &c.] Not in a corporeal, but in a spiritual
way; nor barely to hear him preach; but so come, as that he believes in
him, applies to him for grace, pardon, righteousness, life, and salvation;
professes to be his, submits to his ordinances, and desires to be a disciple
of his; and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and
brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
----Exposition of the New Testament, on Luke 14:26.
Adam Clarke (1760?-1832) Methodist
He that loveth father or mother more than me] He whom we love the most,
is he whom we study most to please, and whose will and interests we prefer
in all cases. If, in order to please a father or mother who are opposed
to vital godliness, we abandon God's ordinances and followers, we are
unworthy of anything but hell. [The words in bold type are obviously
in exposition of the words of the text, not worthy of me.]
----Commentary, on Matthew 10:37.
The principles of the Christian life are, First. To have a sincere desire
to belong to Christ. If any man be WILLING to be my disciple, &c.
Secondly. To renounce self-dependance and selfish pursuits.
deny HIMSELF. Thirdly. To embrace the condition which God has appointed,
and bear the troubles and difficulties he may meet with in walking the
Christian road. ----Let him take up HIS CROSS. Fourthly. To imitate Jesus,
and do and suffer all in his spirit. ----Let him FOLLOW ME. ...
For whosoever will save his life] That is, shall wish to save his life
the expense of his conscience, and casting aside the cross, he shall lose
it, ----the very evil he wished to avoid, shall over take him; and he shall
lose his soul into the bargain. [The words which I print in bold type
are particularly telling as an affirmation of the author's doctrine, for
though he explicitly (though mistakenly) refers yuch to the temporal life
in the text, rather than to the soul, he yet asserts that the soul will
be lost also.]
----ibid., on Matthew 16:24-25.
George Whitefield (1714-1770) Episcopalian & Methodist
But as we must deny ourselves in our understandings, so must we deny,
or, as it might be more properly rendered, renounce our wills: ...
And I cannot but particularly press this doctrine upon you, because
it is the grand secret of our holy religion. It is this, my brethren,
that distinguishes the true Christian from the mere moralist and formal
professor; and without which, none of our actions are acceptable in God's
Thirdly, We must deny ourselves, as in our understandings and wills,
so likewise in our affections. More particularly, we must deny ourselves
the pleasurable indulgence and self-enjoyment of riches: 'If any man will
come after me, he must forsake all and follow me.' And again, to shew
the utter inconsistency of the love of the things of this world (with
the love of the Father) he tells us, 'unless a man forsake all that he
hath, he cannot be my disciple.' ...
But to proceed: As we must renounce our affection for riches, so likewise
our affections for relations, when they stand in opposition to our love
of, and duty to God: ...
Proceed we therefore now to the third and last general thing proposed,
to offer some considerations which may serve as so many motives to reconcile
us to, and quicken us in, the practice of this duty of self-denial. ...
Thirdly, Think often on the pains of hell; consider, whether it is not
better to cut off a right hand or foot, and pull out a right eye, if they
offend us, (or cause us to sin,) 'rather than to be cast into hell, where
the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.' And think withal, that
this, this must be our case shortly, unless we are wise in time, deny
ourselves, and follow Jesus Christ.
----Sermons on Important Subjects, by George Whitefield. London:
William Tegg, 1867, pp. 335-341.
Charles Wesley (1708-1788) Episcopalian & Methodist
I preached in the wood on that dreadful word, 'Sell all,' never with
more assistance. How has the devil baffled those teachers, who, for fear
of setting men upon works, forbear urging this first universal duty! If
enforcing Christ's own words is to preach works, I hope I shall preach
works as long as I live.
----Journal of Charles Wesley, June 16th, 1741.
Albert Barnes (1798-1870) Presbyterian, New-School
He that loveth father or mother, &c. The meaning of this is clear.
Christ must be loved supremely, or he is not loved at all. If we are not
willing to give up all earthly possessions, and forsake all earthly friends,
and if we do not obey him rather than all others, we have no true attachment
to him. Is not worthy of me. Is not fit to be regarded as a follower of
me, or is not a Christian. ...
He that findeth his life, &c. The word life in this passage is used
evidently in two senses. The meaning may be expressed thus: He that is
anxious to save his temporal life, or his comfort and security here, shall
lose eternal life, or shall fail of heaven. He that is willing to risk
or lose his comfort and life here for my sake, shall find life everlasting,
or shall be saved.
----Albert Barnes' Notes, on Matthew 10:37 & 39.
Charles G. Finney (1791-1876) Presbyterian & Congregationalist
But let us look at this theory in the light of the revealed conditions
of salvation. 'Except a man forsake all that he hath he cannot be my disciple.'
----Lectures on Systematic Theology, by Charles G. Finney. London:
William Tegg and Co., 1851, pg. 51.
Now let us ask, What is this thing which he requires? He says, 'Follow
thou Me'. What does this mean? ...
Of course it implies confidence in him who commands
in the exercise of which you commit yourself fully to obey him and trust
all consequences to his disposal. ...
It implies, also, a willingness to be saved by him
----that is, saved
from sin. You make no reservation of favourite indulgences; you go against
all sin and set yourself earnestly to withstand every sort of temptation.
It involves also a present decision to follow him through evil or good
----whatever the effect may be on your reputation. You are ready
to make sacrifices for Christ, rejoicing to be counted worthy to suffer
shame for his name. ...
Let us next inquire, WHY shall we follow him? ...
You owe it to yourself to take care of your own soul. God lays on you
the responsibility of saving your own soul, and you most (sic: read must)
bear it. No man can bear that responsibility for you. ...
One more thought as to yourself. Such as you make yourself by obeying
or not obeying this precept, you will be to all eternity. What you do
in this matter will have its fruits on your destiny long after the sun
and stars shall have faded away. You have no right to live so that, when
you die, men shall say, There goes from earth one nuisance, and hell has
more sin in it now than it ever had before.
----On Following Christ, The Way of Salvation, by Charles
G. Finney. London: R. D. Dickinson, 1896, pp. 360-364.
II. What sinners must do to be saved. ...
3. You must renounce yourself. In this is implied, ...
(3.) That you renounce your own will, and be ever ready to say not in
word only, but in heart
----'Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'
You must consent most heartily that God's will shall be your supreme law.
(4.) That you renounce your own way, and let God have his own way in
7. You must forsake all that you have, or you cannot be Christ's disciple.
There must be absolute and total self-denial. ...
You must no longer think to own yourself
----your time, your possessions,
or any thing you have ever called your own. All these things you must
hold as God's, not yours. In this sense you are to forsake all that you
have, namely, in the sense of laying all upon God's altar to be devoted
supremely and only to his service. When you come back to God for pardon
and salvation, come with all you have to lay all at his feet. Come with
your body, to offer it as a living sacrifice upon his altar. Come with
your soul and all its powers, and yield them in willing consecration to
your God and Savior. Come, bring them all along ----every thing, body,
soul, intellect, imagination, acquirements ----all, without reserve. Do
you say ----Must I bring them all? Yes, all ----absolutely ALL.
----Conditions of Being Saved, by Charles G. Finney.
The Oberlin Evangelist, Oberlin, Ohio: Vol. X, No. 21, Nov. 8, 1848, pp.
John W. Burgon. (1813-1888) High-Church Episcopalian
So likewise, whomsoever (sic) he be of you that forsaketh not all that
he hath, he cannot be My Disciple.
Thus does our LORD gather up into a single sentence the teaching of
the seven verses which go before. So slow and laborious is the work of
----so formidable is He with whom we have to do, ----that unless
there be a forsaking of all things, a man is not fit to be CHRIST'S disciple.
----A Plain Commentary on the Four Holy Gospels, Philadelphia:
Herman Hooker, Second American Edition, 1864, vol. II, pg. 530, on Luke
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of
the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST:
----'and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them.' ...the
necessity of Holy Baptism in order to becoming CHRIST'S Disciple, and
therefore to Salvation, is to be noticed, as clearly implied in the very
terms of our LORD'S Commission to His Apostles.
----ibid., vol. I, pg. 259, on Matt. 28:19.
Jacob Knapp (1799-1874) Calvinistic Baptist
There are numerous influences which operate on inquirers to embarrass
their efforts after salvation. Some are holding on to their companions,
and are unwilling to give them up for Christ. Others are depending on
something which they have done, or intend to do, instead of depending
on Christ alone. Some are unwilling to abandon an unlawful business, or
go give up their unlawful gain. Others again have contracted bad habits,
such as the use of tobacco, wine, rum, whiskey, or dancing. Every person
is willing to give up something, but not the particular idol which they
worship. They make reservations, and say, 'Pardon, O Lord, thy servant
in this one thing.' But Christ says, 'Whosoever doth not forsake all that
he hath, cannot be my disciple.'
----Chapter on How to Instruct Inquirers, Autobiography
of Elder Jacob Knapp. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1868, pg. 218.
C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) Calvinistic Baptist
First, then, it is clear from our text that TRUE RELIGION IS COSTLY.
What, then, is the expense? What is the cost of building this tower
or fighting this war? The answer is given by our Saviour, not by me. I
should not have dared to invent such tests as he has ordained; it is for
me to be the echo of his voice and no more. What does he say? Why, first,
that if you would be his, and have his salvation, you must love him beyond
every other person in this world. ...
The next item of cost is this
----self must be hated. ...
Next, the Saviour goes on to say that if we would follow him we must
bear our cross. ...
But, more than this, the Saviour, as another item of cost, requires
that his disciple should take up his cross, and come after him: that is
to say, he must act as Christ acted. ...
Last of all, we must make an unreserved surrender of all to Jesus. Listen
to these words: 'Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he
hath, he cannot be my disciple.' ... No man has truly given himself to
Christ unless he has also said, 'My Lord, I give to thee this day my body,
my soul, my powers, my talents, my goods, my house, my children, and all
that I have. Henceforth I will hold them at thy will, as a steward under
thee. Thine they are
----as for me, I have nothing, I have surrendered
all to thee.' You cannot be Christ's disciples at any less expense than
this: if you possess a farthing that is your own and not your Master's,
Christ is not your Master. It must be all his, every single jot and tittle,
and your life also, or you cannot be his.
These are very searching words, but I would remind you once again that
they are none of mine. If in expounding them I have erred, I am grieved
that it should be so, but I am persuaded I have not erred on the side
of too great severity. I confess I may have spoken too leniently. The
words of the text lay the axe to the root, and are sweeping to the last
degree. Oh, count ye, then, the cost! and if any of you have taken up
a religion which costs you nothing, put it down and flee from it, for
it will be your curse and your ruin.
Is there any getting to heaven without this cost? No. But may we not
be Christians without these sacrifices? You may be counterfeits, you may
be hypocrites, you may be brethren of Judas, but you cannot be real Christians.
This cost is unavoidable, it cannot be bated one solitary mite.
----Counting the Cost, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,
vol. XX, 1874, pp. 111-116.
'One thing thou lackest.' What was the one thing that this young man
lacked? It was the full surrender of his heart to God in Christ. He had
not done that. ...
Christ knew that the one thing he lacked was the full-giving up of his
heart to God, and therefore he said, 'Follow me, for if you really do
love the Eternal Father, you will follow his well-beloved Son; if your
heart is fully given to God, you will be willing to be obedient to Christ,
to take him for your Leader, Master, Saviour, Guide, Friend and Counsellor.
Now, in this the young man failed. He could not so give himself up wholly
to God; he could not, at that time at any rate, so give himself up as
to be completely Christ's servant. Now, no man who fails in this respect
can enter heaven. Christ will save you, but a part of the agreement on
your part must be this: 'Ye are not your own, but are bought with a price.'
If you would have Christ's blood to redeem you, you must give up to Christ
----your body, your soul, your spirit, your substance, your
talents, your time, your all. ... He claims that you do now make over,
if you would be saved, yourself and everything you have by an indefeasible
title-deed to the great Lord of all whose you must be. If you would be
saved by the blood of Jesus, you are not from this day to choose your
own pleasures, nor your own ways, nor your own thoughts, nor to serve
yourselves, nor live for yourselves or for your own aggrandisement. If
you would be saved, you must believe what he tells you, do what he bids
you, and live only to serve and honour him.
----Lovely, but Lacking, Storm Signals, by C. H. Spurgeon.
London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1885, pp. 44-46. The sermon contains much
more to the same effect.
J. C. Ryle. (1816-1900) Evangelical Episcopalian
It costs something to be a true Christian. Let that never be forgotten.
To be a mere nominal Christian, and go to Church, is cheap and easy work.
But to hear Christ's voice, and follow Christ, and believe in Christ,
and confess Christ, requires much self-denial. It will cost us our sins,
and our self-righteousness, and our ease, and our worldliness. All
must be given up.
----Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, by J. C. Ryle, on Luke
William Kelly (1820-1906) Plymouth Brethren, Exclusive
On the Lord's departure great multitudes go with Him, to whom He turns
with the words, 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother,
and wife and children, and brethren and sisters; yea, and his own life
also, he cannot be my disciple.' ...The Lord would not permit that the
multitude, then following Him, should flatter themselves that they at
least were willing to partake of the supper, that they were incapable
of treating God with the contempt described in the parable. So the Lord
tells them what following Himself involves. The disciple must follow Christ
so simply and decidedly that it would seem to other eyes a complete neglect
of natural ties, and an indifference to the nearest and strongest claims
of kin. ... And more than this: it is a question of bearing one's cross
and going after Him. 'Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after
me, cannot be my disciple.' It is not enough to come to Him at first,
but we must follow Him day by day. Whoever does not this cannot be His
Again, the Lord does not hide the difficulties of the way, but sets
them out in two comparisons. The first is of a man that intended to build
a tower, who had the folly not to count the cost before beginning. So
it would be with souls now. Undoubtedly it is a great thing to follow
Jesus to heaven, but then it costs something in this world. It is not
all joy; but it is well and wise to look at the other side also. Then
the Lord gives a further comparison. It is like a king going to war with
one who has twice as many forces. Unless I am well backed up, it is impossible
for me to resist him who comes against me with twice my array; much less
can I make head against him. The inevitable consequence of not having
God for us is, that when the enemy is a great way off, we have to send
an ambassage and desire conditions of peace. But is it not peace with
Satan, and everlasting ruin? 'So likewise, whosoever he be of you, that
forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.' ... It is well
therefore to look all [the cost] thoroughly in the face; but then to refuse
Jesus and His call to follow, not to be His disciple, is to be lost forever.
----Notes on the Gospel of Luke, (by William Kelly),
The Bible Treasury, [edited by William Kelly], vol. VIII (1870-1871),
Here we have the statements of High-church and Evangelical Episcopalians,
Presbyterians and Plymouth Brethren, Baptists and Methodists, and I could
doubtless give much more of the same, were it not for the paucity of my
library. I may say with confidence that the Reformers and Puritans would
stand with me to a man, for they had too much conscience to make void
the Scriptures after the modern fashion, nor did they know anything of
the modern notions of grace. And with the above quotations before them,
----cavil personified ----cannot deny that
these men held the terms of discipleship to be the terms of salvation.
The antinomian preachers of the present generation think to follow in
the train of these evangelical prophets of yore, but the ignorance of
modern times has left them in utter darkness as to what these ancient
men actually preached. Can we hope to be pardoned for laying the plain
facts before their eyes? Alas! the readers of Olde Paths & Ancient
Landmarks must now say that Edwards and Ryle and Spurgeon and Kelly were
as defective in their views of salvation by grace as Conjurske is. But
Conjurske does not stand on the words of Edwards and Ryle and Spurgeon
and Kelly, but upon the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is his
words which explicitly, unmistakably, and indisputably make the terms
of discipleship to be the terms of salvation. With those scriptures before
him which we have rehearsed at the beginning of this article, we really
cannot understand how any man can deny this and yet be honest with his
own mind and conscience. What is eternal life ----what is losing
or saving the soul ----if it be not salvation?
A Popular Gospel Tract of Yesteryear on the Terms of
This tract is entitled The Plain Mans Plain Path-way to Heaven.
Of when it was first published I know nothing, but the Four and
thirtieth Edition, from which I quote, was printed in 1665. Neither
do I know anything of who the author might be, nor does it much matter,
for this was the doctrine of all the orthodox and the godly, and if the
tract had been written by anybody from Richard Baxter to Matthew Henry
the doctrine would be just the same. On the way of salvation this tract
The way to Heaven is a strait and narrow way, a hard way, and a thorny
way, and whoseover would be saved, must walk in this way. Beloved, I beseech
you to consider, Heaven cost our Saviour a dear price, his precious life
and blood, and had he not shed his blood, it had been impossible for us
to have come to Heaven. And beloved, consider also, that notwithstanding
it cost Christ his Life to purchase heaven for us, yet it is no easie
matter to get to heaven: the way to heaven is altogether up the hill,
and though it be painful and difficult, yet it is worth our pains at last,
there are treasures in heaven, joyes unspeakable, and full of glory, such
St. Paul saith, I Cor. 2.9, that eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
neither hath it entred into the heart of man to conceive the things that
God hath laid up for those that love him. God hath laid them up for us.
Did we but seriously consider the happiness of the saints in heaven, we
should be willing to undergo any thing here below, so we might get thither.
It is the opinion and fond conceit almost of all men, that they shall
go to heaven, and they hope to be saved as well as the best, though they
walk not in the way. But let them take heed how they deceive their own
souls, for the Scripture says plainly, that those that would be saved,
must first be new creatures, they must be born again, John 3. Except a
man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Secondly,
they must not live after the flesh and lusts of men, but after the will
of God, I Pet. 4.2. And how doth God in his word say men should live,
if they would be saved? First, we must live a life of faith, He that believeth
shall be saved; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, the wrath
of God abideth on him, John 3.36. Secondly, he that would be saved must
repent, God commands all men every where to repent, Acts 17.30. Repentance
must follow after faith. Thirdly, we must be willing to forsake all for
Christ. And the young man said unto him, Good master, what shall I do
to be saved? saith Christ, Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor,
and follow me, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, Mat. 19.21. Men
must not say, I have bought a farm, I have married a Wife, therefore I
cannot come. Fourthly, those that would be saved must be holy and unblameable,
walking as Christ walked: they must dye unto sin, and live unto righteousness,
for no unrighteous person shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, I Cor.
6.10. Heaven is the reward of holiness. Having your fruit unto holiness,
and the end everlasting life, Rom. 6.22. And lastly, he must not do this
once or twice, but he must serve the Lord in righteousness and true holiness
all the dayes of his life, Luke 1.75. For he that continues unto the end
shall be saved, Mat. 20.21. Therefore unless men be such as God in his
word requires they should be, in vain do they say they hope to be saved
by Christ, unless they live as Christ lived, holy as he was holy; for
certainly all those that live in sin, and dye in sin without repentance,
shall come short of heaven.
The River Milk & Honey Falls
by Glenn Conjurske
In Leviticus 20:24 we read, But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit
their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth
with milk and honey.
The Lord says here, as he says repeatedly elsewhere, that he will give
this land to his people Israel. This is grace, and perhaps a glance or
two at the land that flowed with milk and honey might serve to correct
some modern false notions concerning grace. We suppose that if ancient
Israel had entered the land of Canaan with the modern notions of grace
in their heads, they would have gone immediately on a tour of exploration
to discover the River Milk and Honey Falls. Did they not have the word
of the Lord, many times repeated, that this good land flowed with milk
and honey? And did not the Lord repeatedly promise to give it to them?
We know that what is given is a gift, and our modern preachers know also
that we cannot work to obtain a gift. We cannot do anything to acquire
a gift, except only to receive it. On this basis our modern theologians
must know, since God repeatedly promised to give the land of Canaan to
Israel, that Israel did not have to fight to obtain it, nor to put forth
any effort to drive out the Canaanites. Then grace would be no more grace,
and the land no more a gift. And if I tell a poor beggar that I will give
him his supper, if he will come to my door at supper time, he might with
perfect reason and justice scorn my gift and my grace, which would require
him to walk to my house to receive it. If I knew anything at all of the
nature of grace, I would carry his supper to the curb or the park bench
where I found him. We suppose there may have been some excuse for the
old Israelites, if they had had such notions of grace, but there can hardly
be any excuse in our day, since the Lord has bid us labor for the meat
which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give
But to return to the milk and honey, God has said repeatedly that the
good land which he gave to Israel flowed with milk and honey. What was
the nature of that flowing? Where in the land of Canaan might they find
the River Milk, or Honey Falls? Where the upper springs or the nether
springs of milk or honey? The fact is, they might find water flowing after
that fashion, but milk or honey never. And yet God repeatedly said that
the land flowed with milk and honey. He never called it a land that
floweth with water.
We believe that the land flowed with milk and honey indeed, and believe
also that all this was the gift of God's grace. And yet it is perfectly
plain that Israel must labor to possess the land itself, and labor again
to possess the milk and honey with which it flowed.
Whatever milk the land of Canaan contained was to be gotten from the udder
of a goat or cow, and it was to be gotten by work. Perhaps most of my
readers have never milked a cow, nor ever watched anyone else do so, but
I have done so, and I can assure them that it is work
always pleasant work, either, for sometimes the cow kicks the bucket,
or puts her foot in it, or steps on the foot of the milker, or swats him
in the face with her tail. But even if the placid animal stands as still
as a statue, it is work to milk her. The milk floweth from
her one squirt at a time, in a quantity which might fill a couple of thimbles,
and every squirt to be obtained by human exertion, for it is perfectly
plain to me that God never invented a milking machine, and it must be
plain to all my readers that ancient Israel never possessed one. They
had no network of pipes through which the milk flowed from the cow's udder
to a refrigerated stainless steel tank. Yet God told them that the land
flowed with milk.
I milked cows as a boy on my grandfather's farm, but he then had milking
machines. We only stripped, or finished them, by hand. There
was little work in this. But when I began to preach in Colorado, a third
of a century ago, I sometimes helped the ranchers who lived next door.
They raised cattle for beef, but milked two or three cows, and always
by hand. I have never been anything but a country boy in heart, but at
that time I had lived three years in the city, attending Bible school,
and was certainly not very muscular. When I went to work to milk one of
those cows, filling a bucket one squirt at a time, every squirt obtained
by means of manual squeezing, certain muscles in my hands and arms were
very soon very weary, and very sore. They ached with every squeeze, and
yet squeeze I must, or the milk would cease to flow. I was
too proud to quit, or to let anybody know I was in pain, so I milked my
cow as though it were easy, and thus the land flowed with milk. And no
otherwise than this did the land of Canaan ever flow with milk.
And so it was also with the honey. Honey was to be found, evidently in
abundance, in the land of Canaan, in the clefts of the rock, in hollow
trees, or wherever else the bees chose to put it. But all that abundance
of honey was carefully guarded by abundance of bees. And the proverb tells
us, Honey is sweet, but the bee stings. The bees in the land
that flowed with honey no doubt stung also, so that it was not labor only,
but danger also, to obtain that honey. Yet honey there was, and abundance
of it too, for those who were hardy and diligent enough to procure it.
We suppose some Hebrew scholars may be at hand to inform us that we make
too much of the word flow
does not mean flow after all. We cannot pretend to be very
learned in that department, only this much we know, that whatever the
lexicons and commentaries and concordances may tell us, common sense tells
us that when the Lord used this word flow, he meant to indicate
an abundance of milk and honey. If he had meant anything less than this,
there had been no purpose for him to speak at all. To tell us that the
land flows with milk and honey is to tell us that it abounds with milk
and honey, and yet this is such abundance as could be of no use to any
but the industrious and the diligent. As it was with the manna in the
wilderness, so with the milk and honey in the land. And as it was with
the material abundance of grace which God gave to his earthly people,
so it is also with the spiritual riches of grace which he has given to
us. All comes to us bit by bit, squeeze by squeeze, squirt by squirt,
drop by drop, and never without diligence and exertion on our part. The
God who has promised all the riches of his grace has bid us also to strive,
to fight, to run, and to labor, and it is no faith whatsoever, but only
presumption, to think to obtain those riches in any other manner.
All this was understood by the good divines of yesteryear, before men
had learned those modern notions of cheap and easy grace which prevail
today. John Bunyan wrote of The Strait Gate: or, The Great Difficulty
of Going to Heaven, And, more particularly, this word strive
is expressed by several other terms: as, 1. It is expressed by that word,
'So run that you may obtain.' 2. It is expressed by that word, 'Fight
the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life.' 3. It is expressed
by that word, 'Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat
that endureth to everlasting life.' 4. It is expressed by that word, 'We
wrestle with principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness
of this world.' Therefore, when he saith, strive, it is as much as to
say, Run for heaven, fight for heaven, labour for heaven, wrestle for
heaven, or you are like to go without it.
The River Milk and Honey Falls no more exist today than they did when
Israel entered the land of promise. So run, therefore, so
strive, so labor, that ye may obtain.
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Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated
by the Editor
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He that loses his temper is in the wrong.
This of course does not mean merely that he is wrong to
lose his temper. That goes without saying. The meaning of the proverb
is, the fact that he loses his temper is the proof that the position for
which he contends is wrong. Do you see two men vigorously contending over
some matter, each accusing the other, each defending himself, one of them
calm and cool, the other heated to the boiling point? The hot man is the
wrong man. An evil conscience or the felt weakness of his position is
at the root of his warmth. Deep down, he knows very well that he is wrong,
but he is not about to admit it, and for certain reasons which are not
far to seek, his own uneasiness about his position causes him to boil
with rage. He no doubt supposes that the indignation which he manifests
strongly testifies to his sincerity and the uprightness of his position,
but in fact it testifies just the reverse, and the more fiery his indignation,
the more false it proves his claims and his course to be. For the
wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God, (James 1:20),
and neither does the righteousness of God work the wrath of man. The wrath
of man proclaims rather that his character is bad, his course and claims
all wrong, and his sincerity suspect.
This is a fact of human nature, and may sometimes be used with advantage
to test a man's sincerity. If we are buying a used car, or anything used,
and suspect the seller may not be telling the truth, the best way to find
out is to suggest that we may not believe him. If he remains calm, and
offers to prove the fact, he may be telling the truth, but if he loses
his temper, or becomes sarcastic and insolent, he is almost certainly
lying. His fear of detection unsettles him. Where truth and reason are
against them, men take refuge in passion.
I saw a vivid example of this at the time of our recent move. We were
attempting to divest ourselves of various things, such as a pile of scrap
metal, and a certain man had told us he wanted this, and had promised
to haul it away. He promised, but did not perform. After several promises
and delays, the time had come when we could wait no longer, as we had
promised to be off the property by the first of the month. I therefore
went to him, and told him that if he didn't remove the things the next
day, we would do so ourselves. In response to this I was met with such
a display of rage and cursing as I had never witnessed in my life, with
lie after lie, of course, to justify his previous delays, along with a
great deal of additional matter quite foreign to the topic at hand, to
cast dust in the air, and divert my mind from his delinquency. Knowing
that A soft answer turneth away wrath, I continued to speak
calmly to him, but found this beast was hard to tame. His own uneasy conscience
spurred him on, to affect the greatest conceivable indignation against
me, though he must have certainly known that I had done nothing amiss.
After meeting his ragings and cursings for some time with calm, though
firm, answers, I managed to quiet him enough that he could speak civilly,
and then he gave me another promise, that he would certainly be there
to pick up the metal the next day, with repeated asseverations of I
give you my word. I knew what that was worth, but he gave me another
proof of it, for he never did come for the metal.
And so it happens in disputes of all sorts. The man who loses his temper
is the man who is in the wrong.
But does this proverb apply in disputes which are purely doctrinal? I
think not. The man who becomes heated in doctrinal controversy is of course
wrong in spirit, and his indignation may very well indicate that he feels
the weakness of his own arguments, and perhaps does not believe them himself
his doctrine may be true for all that. He may know the truth through no
fault of his own ----may have been indoctrinated in it from his
cradle. There are bigots for truth as well as error, and the fact that
a man loses his temper in controversy is no proof that his doctrine is
wrong. If this were so, we would doubtless have to repudiate every dogma
under the sun, for there are carnal bigots of every shade of doctrine.
A man's losing his temper in a doctrinal dispute certainly proves him
to be wrong in one way or another ----may prove him to be hypocritical
in the profession of the doctrine itself ----but it does not prove
his doctrine wrong. A man may be calm and placid in a lengthy dispute,
until his weak point is touched, until the finger is laid upon the point
in which he is not sincere, and then he will immediately lose his placid
temper, and become heated and sarcastic. I argued nearly a whole day once
with an atheist, and he was calm and reasonable until I backed him into
a corner, and he could not answer my arguments. Then he immediately replaced
arguments with sarcasm and reproaches. This happened repeatedly throughout
But the proverb belongs to personal disputes, and there, without question,
He that loses his temper is in the wrong. In a church division
a number of years ago, one of my chief antagonists repeatedly testified
before all that my spirit was right, while the spirit of himself and his
faction was wrong, and yet as often affirmed that I was right in
spirit, but wrong on the issues, while contending that they were
wrong in spirit, but right on the issues
issues were entirely personal, without so much as a hint of
any doctrinal difference between us. I could only affirm that if they
were in fact wrong in spirit, but right on the issues, this
must have been the first time such a thing had happened in the world.
But I believe no such thing. That wrong spirit ----and several times
actual loss of temper ----was in reality a telling indicator that
their position was wrong. I have seen other instances of the same thing
also, even in long-continued disputes. Where one of the parties is always
calm and mild, and the other often hot and wrathy, there is no question
whatever which one of them is in the right. It is an uneasy conscience,
insincerity, and felt weakness which heats men to the boiling point ----or,
as we ought rather to affirm, which heats them at all.
An End of All Perfection
by Glenn Conjurske
I have seen an end of all perfection. (Psalm 119:96).
There is no perfection under the sun. In the nature of the case there
cannot be. Those who expect to find it here are laboring under a delusion.
They know nothing of the ways and purposes of God, as they are plainly
revealed in the Bible.
Plainly revealed, I say, though we may not find them enunciated
in explicit didactic statements. We learn them only by a grasp of the
content of the whole book. From that book we learn that this world is
a platform for the exhibition of the ways and principles of both good
and evil. God does not nip evil in the bud
----where has he ever
done so? ----but allows it to have its way, to run its course, and
to bear its fruit. He puts in the sickle of judgement only when the vine
of the earth is ripe. Till then he allows it to do its work. He lets the
leaven alone till the whole lump is leavened. He exhorts us to purge it
out, and will doubtless give us all the help we require to accomplish
this, if we make an earnest effort to do so, but where man allows the
evil to work, God does nothing to stop it. Alas, the best endeavors of
the best of men are too often half-hearted and haphazard, ill-advised
and ill-executed, and God works no farther than man does. Though many
are reluctant to believe it ----indeed, determined not to believe
it ----the affairs of this world and this life are actually committed
into the hands of man, and actually dependent upon the wisdom and the
labors of men for their outcome. All history testifies to this, and so
does all Scripture.
This being the case, we will find no perfection under the sun. Those who
seek a perfect church, or a perfect pastor, will never find one under
the sun. Those who labor for the perfect unity of the church follow a
pipe-dream. It will never be
----never can be ----while man
is both a sinner and a free agent, and while God allows evil to run its
course. Those who seek perfect understanding will never see it till they
have put off this tabernacle. Those who think to attain to perfection
in doctrine ----or think they have attained it ----are the
merest children in understanding, and immeasurably inferior to those who
have never dreamed of perfection. A thousand years would be much too short
in which to attain perfection in doctrine, and most of us will never see
a tenth of that. The cumulative wisdom of the church is of untold value
here, but alas, instead of building on the wisdom of their forefathers,
one generation commonly casts away what the preceding generation had acquired.
Even the most careful economy of the cumulative wisdom of our fathers
cannot gain our end, for one lifetime is too short in which to ingest
it. The plain fact is, there is no perfection under the sun.
All the advocates of perfection in every sphere think to stand on the
ground of faith. They all have one plea, and this of the most pious and
spiritual sort. God is able, they say. And what if he is?
God was able to keep Adam from falling, but he moved not a finger to do
so. He could have bound Satan in the pit, but he let him run free in Paradise.
He could have called aloud to Eve from heaven, to break the serpent's
spell, but he uttered not a word. Adam and Eve were responsible
so ----and it is none of the business of God to over-ride the responsibility
which he himself has established. It is none of his purpose to take into
his own hands those things which he has solemnly committed into the hands
of man. God is able to keep you from falling also, and he
will do so also, but not infallibly, not miraculously, not without any
diligence on your own part. If ye do these things, he tells
you, ye shall never fall. (II Peter 1:10). It is thus he will
keep you from falling, but not otherwise. God was able to keep Cain from
slaying Abel, but he did nothing of the kind. Cain was responsible, and
it was none of God's business to set aside the responsibility which he
had established himself. God could have taken the life of Cain in order
to spare the life of Abel, but he failed to do so. He could have withered
the outstretched arm of Cain, as he did that of Jeroboam, but he did no
such thing. He allowed the evil to work, to run its course, and to bear
its fruit. One sinner destroyeth much good, (Eccl. 9:18),
and God will ordinarily stand by and see that much good destroyed, ere
he will move a hand to destroy that one sinner. This is his way, as the
whole Bible testifies. This has been his way, from the beginning of the
world, and this will be his way till the day of judgement. This world
is the platform upon which all the ways of good and evil are to run their
course, and God declines to stand in their way.
Men ask a thousand questions as to why God allows the manifold evils of
the world to run on unchecked. Why does God allow the wealthy and unprincipled
publishers of pornography to corrupt the boys of the nation. Why does
God allow filthy pimps and panderers to seduce innocent and unsuspecting
girls? Why does God allow the peddlers of drink and drugs to debauch their
thousands of victims. Why does God allow the world to perfect and polish
its thousand glittering snares, to lead the whole race down the primrose
path to perdition? The answer to these and a thousand other such questions
is just this, that the responsibility of man is real. God has actually
committed the affairs of this life into the hands of man, and there he
leaves them. As Charles Wesley speaks,
A charge to keep have I,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
And this is a real charge, the outcome of which is actually dependent
upon us. Neither is it an easy charge. The reward goes to none but those
who overcome, and the snares of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and
the wiles of the devil give us a myriad temptations of the most difficult
sort, all of which must be overcome if we are to reach heaven and glory.
Nor are we responsible for our own souls alone. We are our brother's keeper.
Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, pastors, elders, rulers
these are responsible for the souls committed to them. They must give
account of their charge, for that charge is real.
Nevertheless, this world is also the platform for the conflict of good
and evil, and when good and evil do battle together in the persons of
the responsible agents which God has placed here, God is of course on
the side of good, and his grace is as much a reality as is our responsibility.
He gives grace and power to those who earnestly strive to enter in at
the strait gate. He answers the petitions of those who pray, Lead
me not into temptation. He answers our prayers for others as well
as for ourselves, though he does not answer them in such a way as to relieve
us of our responsibility. The man who puts his white cat in the coal bin,
and prays God to keep it white, will not be likely to get any answer from
God. Nor will the mother who teaches her daughter to dance, while she
prays that God will keep her pure, nor the father who puts his son in
the public schools, and prays God to make him holy. Yet God answers prayer,
and does so with mercy and grace also, giving us glorious deliverance
even where we have most grievously failed
----yet always in such
a manner as to maintain our responsibility intact.
I have affirmed above that God will ordinarily stand by and see much good
destroyed, rather than destroy the one sinner who does it, but this is
not always the case. When goodness and faithfulness and truth and righteousness
are engaged in the conflict with pride and unbelief and unrighteousness
the principles of good do battle with the principles of evil ----God
stands of course on the side of good, and he is ready to make bare his
arm for the cause of truth, ready to answer prayer, ready to show himself
strong for those who show themselves faithful. But then it is never to
be forgotten that the cause of truth and righteousness is committed to
man as a sacred trust, and it is presumption, not faith, to expect God
to do all himself, when he has committed the business to us. Train
up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart
from it. This is our business, and though we may surely expect the
arm of the Almighty to aid us, yet we may not expect him to act in our
The whole sublunary scene is the sphere of man's responsibility. That
responsibility has been established by God himself, and it is hyperspiritual
folly to expect him to disregard it, and do all himself. Every gift of
----love, marriage, children, life, health, chastity, truth,
unity, harmony, purity, the Bible, our mother tongue ----all of
these are committed to man as sacred trusts. The responsibility to keep
them necessarily implies the ability to corrupt them. To deny that ability
is to deny that responsibility. To expect God to keep himself what he
has entrusted to us is presumption, not faith. If he had any intention
to do it without us, he would never have entrusted it to us ----though
faith may expect the help of God in the fulfilling of the responsibilities
which he has laid upon us.
Further, to expect God to restore what he has committed to us, and which
our carelessness or perverseness has lost, is equal or greater presumption.
God committed perfection to man once, in Paradise, but God neither kept
that perfection for man, nor restored it when man had lost it. This is
none of his purpose. The responsibility of man is real. It is established
by God himself, and neither faith nor tears will move God to set it aside.
The tears of Esau availed nothing. He could not regain what he had profanely
cast away. Nor could Adam. Nor can we. God gave us a perfect Bible once,
but the carelessness and the perverseness of man have corrupted it in
a thousand ways. To expect God to have preserved it from corruption, or
to expect him now to restore it to perfection, displays only the most
inveterate ignorance of all the ways of God, from the beginning of the
world to the day of doom. If men but understood this, the simplest, most
elementary, and most prominent doctrine of the Bible, the King James Only
movement would not exist. Man might have retained his purity in Paradise,
and might surely have expected the sustaining grace of God in order to
do so, but to expect that grace to do all, without the diligent watchfulness
of man himself, is not faith, but only presumption. And any expectation
that God will restore that purity in this life is vain. Man might have
kept the text of Scripture pure also, had he been diligent and careful
to do so, and might have expected the help of God in the matter also,
but in this man failed. The text of the New Testament might have been
preserved with comparative ease, had anyone taken effectual steps in that
direction from the beginning, but no one thought of it till it was too
late, and the text was hopelessly corrupted. No one thought of closing
the gate till the horse was out
----or of securing the fish till
they had all swum out to sea ----and it was none of God's business
to do the work of man for him. Those who expect this know nothing of the
ways of God.
The Bible says, What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit
is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them
were committed the oracles of God. (Romans 3:1-2). The word committed
in this verse is the same word as is everywhere translated believe
or trust, but here, being transitive, means to entrust. Thayer's
lexicon (by all means the best) gives the transitive sense as to
intrust a thing to one, i.e. to his fidelity. This is exactly right.
The Bible was entrusted to the fidelity of man, and God has not taken
back that trust. The next verse (as it ought to be translated) says, For
what if some were unfaithful? shall their unfaithfulness make the faithfulness
of God without effect? So it is rendered in sense, though varying
in expression, by Robert Young, Henry Alford, Samuel Lloyd, the Revised
Version, and others, and I have no doubt that this is the true meaning.
Mark, then, the word of God is committed as a trust to man. Though some
have been unfaithful, the faithfulness of God remains. Yet the unfaithfulness
of man is as real as the faithfulness of God, and its effects as real
also. Man has actually marred and corrupted the sacred trust which was
placed in his hands, and marred it beyond recovery, yet God is faithful
to secure the essence and adequacy of it. And no otherwise than this will
any of the promises of God be fulfilled in this life. Man has actually
abused and misused the sacred deposit, yet God has been faithful to maintain
his own cause in spite of all. This it is which the faithfulness of God
secures in every sphere, and this is elementary doctrine, written plainly
upon the face of Scripture from beginning to end. Let the advocates of
perfection find one exception if they can.
It is confidently affirmed by all the advocates of perfection in every
sphere, God has spoken. God has promised. Therefore we may confidently
expect him to do as he has said. Yes, yes
----and who preaches faith
in the promises of God more than I do? ----but what has God spoken?
Where has God ever promised to take back into his own hands what he has
once entrusted to man? John Newton's reverie concerning his jewel may
provide some basis for this, but where does the Bible? When has God ever
promised to over-ride the responsibilities which he has laid upon man?
Those responsibilities are the most patent and pervasive fact of man's
existence under the sun, filling the Bible in every part, from the garden
of Eden to the great white throne, and every promise of God implies them.
Every promise of God is made in the context of those responsibilities,
and takes them for granted. To divorce the promises of God from the responsibilities
of man is but one more manifestation of the shallow presumption of hyperspirituality.
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning
a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation,
against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of
the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak
concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent
of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. (Jeremiah 18:7-10).
All are quick to acknowledge the first half of this, but the second half
is little believed. Nevertheless, the sword cuts both ways, and this scripture
plainly establishes that both the threats and the promises of God always
assume the real responsibility of man. We all wish it otherwise, of course.
We all want an indulgent mother for our God, and not a firm father. We
all want a God who makes it his business to shield us always from the
consequences of our sins and our mistakes, and to assume himself the responsibilities
which he has laid upon us, to do himself the work which he requires of
us, but there is no such God in the Bible. A mother who entrusts a basket
of eggs to the hands of her child may quickly take them back again when
she sees the careless manner in which he treats them, but the God of the
Bible will do no such thing. He may expostulate, he may warn, he may chasten,
but he will leave the basket of eggs in our hands. Man's entire history
under the sun is the history of his probation and responsibility, and
this is so woven into the very warp and woof of the Bible that the Book
itself must stand or fall with it.
The Bible, however, is a much abused book, and men find many things there
which exist only in their own imaginations. By means of a few proof texts
those usually misunderstood ----they think to set aside the tenor
of the whole Book. I appeal therefore to my readers' own experience. Can
you take fire into your bosom and not be burned? Can you squander your
substance, and yet have plenty? Can you have your cake, and eat it too?
The universal experience of the whole human race declares otherwise, and
the Bible speaks the same message.
But men think to enlist the grace of God, the power of God, the purpose
of God, the promises of God, faith, hope, miracles, dreams, impressions,
premonitions, anything, in order to set aside their own responsibilities
or individual ----to make void the universal testimony of Scripture
and the universal experience of humanity, to brush aside the consequences
of their sins and mistakes and follies, and to secure those good things
without their own endeavors, which they have neglected to secure by them.
But this will never be the case, though the grace of God stands ready
to aid us whenever we repent, and change our ways. Yet there is a limit
to what the grace and power of God will do. The mercy of God recovered
the lost axe, but we dare affirm that God would not have done this a second
time, had the man continued equally careless after his first deliverance.
For God to act so would be to make moral midgets of us. It is presumptuous
to expect God to do anything till we have repented of the follies which
have put us where we are. Some things, once lost, can never be regained
in this life. Others can be regained only in such a manner, or such a
measure, as will declare to the world that God will not be mocked. Though
God forgave David, and spared his life, he must yet say to him, Howbeit,
because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of
the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely
die, and no faith, no tears, no fasting, and no prayer could reverse
the sentence. Neither the grace nor the power of God will ever contribute
one iota to dim the dazzling light of the eternal fact that God will not
be mocked. Nothing is ever restored to any sinner except upon his repentance,
and even then he must bear many of the consequences of his former evil.
We speak, of course, of this life, which is the time of our probation
and responsibility. We expect paradise enough in the life to come.
The penitent thief is usually brought forward to set aside the reality
of man's responsibility, but he is actually a powerful confirmation of
our doctrine. It is true that he lived his whole life without God, in
sin and wickedness, and was forgiven at the last moment, and taken directly
to Paradise. All blessedly true, to the praise of the glory of the grace
of God. Yet observe, he was forgiven nothing except upon his repentance,
and doing such works meet for repentance as he then had time and opportunity
for. It is absolutely unthinkable that he could have been forgiven while
he continued to cast reproaches in the teeth of the Lord. There was a
great transformation in all his character and conduct. He humbled himself,
before the Lord and in the eyes of his fellow-thief. He rebuked him with
whom he had so lately been partner, in mocking the Lord
doubtless endured the scorn of his erstwhile companion in sin for this.
He became the humble supplicant of him whom he had so recently mocked.
None of this was done glibly. And yet for all this he received no respite
at all in this life. He was forgiven, and granted a place in Paradise,
but in this life he must yet receive the due reward of his deeds. His
soul was saved, but not his life.
And the same principles apply to our corporate responsibility, as to our
individual. We must suffer not only for our own neglect and sin, but for
that of our fathers as well. No man on earth has ever tasted of the tree
of life, since the day that Adam sinned, while every man has groaned under
the curse. There is no faith which can alter that. The promises and the
purposes of God will never relieve man of his charge, nor of the whole
of the consequences of his failure, though mercy may relieve him of some
of them. We must mourn today, as Jerome and Augustine did many centuries
ago, over the uncertainty of the text of Scripture in certain places,
because of the carelessness or the perversity of those to whom it was
But the promises! God has promised to preserve his word. God has promised
to preserve his church. God has promised to preserve his saints. The plain
fact is this, that God has never promised to do anything except in such
a manner as maintains our own responsibility intact, and every promise
of God assumes the real responsibility of man. This being so, perfection
is out of the question.
The saints of God are said to be kept by the power of God,
but kept how? In perfection? Nay, but in the veriest weakness, the best
of them offending in many points, so that in the final analysis the righteous
shall scarcely be saved. Paul prays by the Spirit of God, And the
very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit
and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, (I Thes. 5:23), and any man who wishes to put a technical
construction upon these words may find abundant material here in support
of perfection, but the facts remain, If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us
many things we all offend ----and the righteous
are so far from perfection that they shall scarcely be saved.
And mark, not a whit more is said of the church or of the Bible than of
----and no promises of preservation of the church
or the Bible will be fulfilled in any other manner than those which concern
the individual. They will be fulfilled as all else is upon this stage
of man's responsibility, not in perfection and power, but in poverty and
weakness. God can never have intended any more than this by any promise,
purpose, or prayer of the Bible, for any specific purpose which goes beyond
this must exist at the expense of his general purpose, to try the ways
and deeds of men, and to display all the fruits and consequences of both
good and evil.
No promise has been more relied upon as a pledge of perfection than this,
that I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it. From this men have drawn perfection in doctrine, perfection
in unity, perfection in government, but it is all the merest chimera.
Whatever the promise may secure, it secures nothing apart from the real
responsibility of man. It may just as well mean that the gates of hell
shall not prevail to destroy the church, as that they shall not prevail
to corrupt it. As a matter of fact, this promise notwithstanding, the
church was corrupted under the very eyes of the apostles, as the whole
New Testament testifies. The doctrine of the church was corrupted, its
morality was corrupted, its unity was destroyed. Paul is obliged to lament
that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me. (II
Tim. 1:15). Was not God able to prevent this? Perhaps he was, but not
by any means consistent with the responsibility of man. He might have
sent the black plague, to depopulate the churches of Asia, ere they could
forsake Paul, but this has never been his way. In I Corinthians 1:10 Paul
writes, Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions
among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and
in the same judgment. Thus he lays the responsibility for this upon
themselves. That they failed to fulfill that responsibility is notorious,
and it is equally notorious that God did not fulfill it for them. Their
actual condition is portrayed in I Corinthians 11:18, where we read, I
hear that there be divisions among you. This was certainly contrary
to the will of God. It is for those who rest in the fact that God
is able to explain to us why God did not remedy the situation. But
the plain fact is, God did all he could do to remedy it, consistent with
the real responsibility of man. He appealed to them to remedy it themselves
have disciplined them for failing to do so ----may have used various
other means besides ----but he did not remedy it for them.
And having spoken of their actual condition in verse 18, Paul goes much
farther in the next verse, saying, For there must be also heresies
among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
Must be, for this is the time of man's probation and responsibility, in
which God allows man to go his way, and evil to run its course and bear
its fruit. He will have a full display of all the ways of sin, so that
evil will never raise its head the second time. This earth is the theater
for that display, and this life the time of it. But whoso shall
offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for
him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned
in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it
must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence
cometh! (Matt. 18:6-7). The little ones are actually offended, and
it must needs be, not because God wills it, as some perversely suppose,
but because these things actually lie in the hands of men, and men are
sinners. That which is crooked, therefore, cannot be
made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. (Eccl.
1:15). Not till the day of judgement, and that day is not yet. When God
once entrusts anything into the hands of man, he does not take it back
into his own hands
----not till the day in which he calls upon the
man to render an account of his stewardship, and it will be too late then
for the power of God to help him out. The doctrine which makes a nullity
of the responsibility of man, by putting all back into the hands of God,
is very pleasing, as pleasing as John Newton's reverie ----but it
is not true. It contradicts every page of the Bible. Its only real effect
upon the inhabitants of earth is to make them morally careless. The more
we look to God to bear our responsibilities for us, the more careless
we become, and the more careless we become, the more we look to God to
bear our responsibilities for us. And shall this be called faith? This
is not trusting God, but tempting him, and God will have nothing to do
with either the doctrine or the practice.
And so long as the responsibility of man remains a reality, there will
be no perfection under the sun. God alone can secure it, and he must work
against his own purpose to do so.
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.