by Glenn Conjurske
There are numerous ministries and publications among Fundamentalists
which might be properly called watch-dog ministries. They
seem to suppose it their mission to expose and oppose every erroneous
teaching, every compromise, and every moral lapse which comes to the surface
in the modern church. God knows there is work enough in the church of
the present day to keep a good number of such watch-dogs busy, but the
editor of Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks declines to engage in it.
Not, certainly, because I have any fear of controversy. And not, certainly,
because I am soft or Neo-evangelical, or can see no wrong in the modern
church. The very reverse of that is true. A glance or two at the modern
church reveals that almost everything is wrong. Still, I decline to cry
down every new instance of compromise and worldliness. Much less do I
trouble myself with the filth of Hollywood, the evils of popular music,
the scandals of the White House, the injustice of the courts, or the hypocrisy
on Capitol Hill. The plain fact is, I am unaware of most of the details
of the evil in both the church and the world, and quite content to remain
so. This is my deliberate choice. I have something better to do with my
time. We expect the world to be ungodly
----it can never be anything
else ----and we see no profit in calling the attention of the saints
to every fresh instance of its wickedness. We expect modern Evangelicalism
to compromise at every turn of the path ----we expect it to be shallow
and worldly ----and we really think there is precious little to
be gained by crying up every fresh instance of its departures from the
spirit or the substance of Christianity. This we hold to be little better
than a waste of our readers' time ----and much more of our own.
Let it be understood that everyone who engages in this watch-dog
type of ministry, in order to properly do his job, must engage in a continuous
course of reading of the publications of the modern church. I decline
this. I believe it at best a waste of time, and I have no time to waste.
If I must read Moody Monthly and Christianity Today, and all the shallow
and worldly stuff which proceeds from Moody Press and Zondervan Publishing
House, from Dallas Theological Seminary and Wheaton College, from Jerry
Falwell and Tim LaHaye, from John MacArthur and Jill Briscoe, from Focus
on the Family and Back to the Bible Broadcast, from the home school movement
and the King James Only camp, where shall I find time for Wesley and Burgon
and Spurgeon and Ryle? Where shall I find time for William Carey and Adoniram
Judson, for the history of the Reformation, and the old-time Methodist
biographies? If I must spend my time wading through chaff, where shall
I find time for edification and inspiration?
We really think that those who spend their time on the chaff are doing
a positive disservice to their own souls, and so also to the souls which
are dependent upon their ministry. I generally find but little of depth
or spirituality in these watch-dog ministries. I find indeed, that they
are for the most part occupied with the most elementary matters of truth,
or even of common morality, and busy themselves continually to affirm
those rudimentary things which ought to go without saying. Beyond this
they do not lead their people, and I fear it is because they do not go
much beyond this themselves. The merest babe may expose the errors of
Romanism, but he has accomplished precious little when it is done. I have
known people who have been devoted for years to these watch-dog ministries,
and yet remained ignorant of some of the simplest matters of Scripture,
concerning the ways of God and the ways of faith
----and as deficient
in character as they were in understanding.
Such ministries are commonly occupied with the very worst sorts of error,
those errors which undermine the very foundations and threaten the very
being of Christianity. The more subtle errors, of lesser dimensions, they
apparently do not see at all, and so of course cannot lead their people
to see them. I suppose if they were more occupied with learning and teaching
the truth, and less with discovering and exposing error, they might enter
into heights and depths of truth of which till now they have not so much
as discovered the existence. As they now operate, they may lead some out
of the most destructive of errors, but cannot lead them to much in the
way of solid truth. They are laboring to maintain a Christianity which
is barely Christian, or at best a kind of Christianity which leaves a
great deal to be desired.
Some of these ministries bring rather forcibly to mind an incident which
occurred some years ago. A Sunday school teacher in a worldly evangelical
church, a personal acquaintance of mine, once called me to ask me how
she could get through to the young people concerning drugs
and fornication and such like problems. I told her, I don't have
the slightest idea. I have never given it a thought. We have no such problems
in our church. The only thing I could tell her was to get the children
out of the public schools, and get the radio and the television and the
worldly literature out of the house, though even this would fall far short
of positive Christianity. Yet this was more than she wanted. She was laboring
to maintain a Christianity which was barely Christian
Christian at all ----to keep the gunwales of the boat barely above
the surface of the water, of which the boat itself was full ----while
I labor to labor to keep the boat dry. These folks never seem to take
alarm till the gunwales are just sinking beneath the surface, where we
ought to take alarm, and take action too, at the first sign of a leak.
But these folks live as it were in Sodom, and must vex their righteous
souls from day to day with the wickedness of the place. I choose to remain
in ignorance of the evil, walking with God in the plains of Mamre, as
Abraham did. What were the evils of Sodom to him? He certainly knew the
place was evil
----probably knew it better than Lot did ----but
he remained in blissful ignorance of most of the details of that evil.
The Bible gives us a broad and general description of the evil character
and course of the world, and this is enough. It is really a waste of time
to familiarize ourselves with all the latest details. A great sufficiency
of these will come under our notice without any seeking on our part. I
do not need to know all the details of Hollywood filth in order to reject
it. To become familiar with all these things is to lose something of our
dread and abhorrence of them. The things to which we are accustomed cease
to shock us. We become comfortable with that which ought to startle and
scandalize us. I do not teach the saints to reject the radio and television
because they have reached a certain degree of filthiness, but because
they are the world, and because All that is in the world ... is
not of the Father ----because whosoever will be a friend
of the world is the enemy of God. This settles the matter, without
any knowledge of the details. It is not only the filth of the world which
is defiling. That which is apparently clean may be even more so, as it
is more likely to deceive, though as much against God as the rank and
I look at how I have spent the past third of a century myself, delving
deeply into all the old men of God of the centuries past, seldom looking
at a newspaper or any modern Christian literature, and think in contrast
how very little I would have to offer my readers if I had spent those
years sorting out all the new errors and downward trends of the modern
world and the modern church. I see those downward trends clearly enough
indeed, that I see them much more clearly than many who make it their
business to study them ----but I do not trouble myself to learn
all the latest details. I have something better to do with my time.
This is reason enough for me to refuse this type of ministry, but I have
another reason, at least as cogent. I do not believe the literature of
the modern church is a mere loss of time. It is not merely unprofitable,
but detrimental. It does not merely stand in the way of good. It does
evil. Those who spend their time in such literature not only dwarf their
souls, but damage them. The constant exposure to worldliness, to irreverence,
to compromise, to rationalism, to wresting of the Scriptures, to subtle
pleas for compromise and lukewarmness under the names of love and peace
and moderation and balance, to subtle sophistry which calls good evil
and evil good, to cunning craftiness which attaches good motives and noble
ends to every evil thing, and evil motives to every good thing, to perverse
judgement which always finds pride under a threadbare coat, and a good
heart under jewels and ruffles, to refined carnality which reproaches
spirituality, and glorifies worldliness as the highest form of Christianity,
to love for those who hate the Lord, and denunciations of those who love
the truth, to artful semantics by which new connotations of old terms
are silently insinuated upon the readers
----all this must have
some effect on those who constantly imbibe it. Their own senses are dulled.
They lose their own discernment.
I can best illustrate this by an experience of my own. Many years ago
we bought a bushel of tomatoes to can. As usual, the growers picked them
too green, and while we waited for them to ripen, they began to spoil.
We set to work, therefore, to can them, and I went to work to cut out
the bad spots. But it is not possible to see where the spoiled part ends,
and the sound part begins. I must determine this by smell. I would cut
out what appeared to be spoiled, and smell the remainder, to determine
whether I had cut away enough. There is, of course, a great difference
in the smell of a sound tomato and a spoiled one, and I, of course, could
tell the difference. But before I had proceeded very far with this work,
constantly smelling partially spoiled and partially sound tomatoes, I
lost my ability to tell the difference. At length I came to a stand, and
said to my wife, I must have a tomato to smell which I know is good, so
that I have a standard of comparison. Without that I could not proceed.
I could of course have told the difference between a rank and rotten tomato
and a perfectly good one, but the difficulty lay in trying to determine
if there yet remained a little of the spoiled part in the tomato from
which I was trying to cut it out. My ability to discern was not obliterated,
it was only dulled. And this I believe is exactly what usually happens
with those who spend a good deal of their time poring over the literature
of the modern church. Their own discernment is imperceptibly impaired.
Their own standards begin to come down, and they begin to drift.
And at this point I may notice another evil which is almost certain to
accrue from a constant exposure to the literature of the modern church
lesser evil, to be sure, but a real one for all that. Those who become
thoroughly familiar with modern literature must of necessity become familiar
with its non-serious tone, and its undignified language, and we greatly
fear that to become familiar with these things will generally mean to
become comfortable with them. Thus these watch-dog ministries commonly
write in the same half-slang, non-literary language themselves, and the
tone which pervades their publications lacks all the dignity, the gravity,
and the sobriety which we see in the Bible, and in the old literature
of the church.
I am not opposed to exposing error. I certainly do some of it myself.
Yet I make it my main business to so teach the truth, and so to establish
men in the truth, that they will see the error themselves. I heard years
ago of a class to teach people to recognize counterfeit money, and was
told that the students in the class were never shown a counterfeit bill.
I asked a banking executive concerning this, and he assured me it was
the truth. The fact is, those who are thoroughly familiar with the genuine
stuff cannot be deceived by the counterfeit, where a careless acquaintance
with the real will leave us an easy prey to the false. And just so it
is with the truth of God. Let men know the Bible doctrines of the ways
of God, the ways of faith, the ways of the devil, the nature of sin, the
character, course, and end of the world, the nature of the soul and the
spirit of man, the real responsibility of man, and such truths as these,
and they will perceive on their own account where these truths are violated.
Let it be understood that truth is simple and single, while error has
a thousand faces. Truth is old and unchanging, while a new error may arise
every month. I will not always be here to expose every new error, but
if I can establish my people in the truth, they can survive without me.
Every new attempt at counterfeiting will differ from the last one. Of
what use is it, then, to show the people a counterfeit bill, in order
to teach them to detect counterfeits? They may learn from that bill to
detect another which has come from the same run of the same press, but
there are a thousand others, which may differ as much from the false bill
which they have seen as they do from all the true ones. The true bills
are all alike. To know them is to be able to detect every counterfeit,
whereas to know a hundred counterfeit bills will not secure us when we
meet the hundred and first.
I confess that I am largely ignorant of the doings of the modern church.
I know nothing of the latest compromises and evil associations of Billy
Graham or Jerry Falwell or James Dobson. I do not follow the downward
course of Wheaton College and Dallas Seminary and the Moody Bible Institute.
I read but little of the literature of the modern church. But I frankly
suppose that what I read in its stead gives me a deeper knowledge of the
truth, and that deeper knowledge of the truth enables me to spot more
error in an occasional glance at modern Christianity than some of our
watch-dogs will do in a lengthy study of it. It is by choice that I am
ignorant of most of the literature of the modern church, and I surely
intend to remain that way. I believe that ignorance to be, in general,
a benefit to both myself and my readers.
by Glenn Conjurske
Seven years have swiftly flown since I published my article against fiction,
an article which was highly praised at the time by friend and foe alike.
My indictment against fiction in that article was that it draws too bright
a picture of life, gives too much hope, conducts us as it were to a fantasy-land,
in which everything is as we wish it, and so makes reality unbearably
dull and boring. Leading us to expect more of life than it ordinarily
has to offer, it conducts us at last to disillusionment and unbelief.
I find my judgement exactly confirmed by Lorenzo Dow, who says of romantic
----Observe, they exhibit characters which no
where in real life exist, and yet young minds are too frequently captivated,
and thereby form an idea ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ------;
and must of course be disappointed, and consequently made unhappy, perhaps
for life. This is one of the many evils of novels to society!
But my readers must understand that my opinion is that of a man who for
many years has not read fiction
----and Lorenzo probably read as
little of it as I do. But I have recently found abundant confirmation
of my position from a man who obviously read a great deal of it, a century
and a half ago. He appears to know the whole field ----all the popular
books and authors of his time ----and in reviewing a number of popular
novels he says, ...all exciting fiction works upon the nerves, and
Shakspeare can make 'every particular hair to stand on end' with anybody.
We suppose that the true sensation novel feels the popular pulse with
this view alone ----considers any close fidelity to nature a slavish
subservience injurious to effect, and willingly and designedly draws a
picture of life which shall make reality insipid and the routine of ordinary
existence intolerable to the imagination. It draws a wholly
false picture of life, and of course a very pleasing picture, such
as must naturally make us weary of life as it is.
This man writes, it is true, of what was then called the sensation
novel, but adds also, Of course no fiction can be absolutely
commonplace and natural in all its scenes and incidents; some extraordinary
conditions seem unavoidable in its machinery. We quite agree. If
fiction were commonplace, no one would read it. It is precisely the unnatural
and the extraordinary
----precisely the picture which is brighter
or more exciting than reality ----which gives it all its appeal.
This is one of its greatest evils, and this, we suppose, is common even
to the most innocent of fiction.
But little fiction is quite innocent. The necessary excitement, we suppose,
must usually be attained by means of something which is morally tainted.
Our reviewer quotes another to the effect that it is the way of these
novels to be destroying conventional moralities, and generally unfitting
the public for the prosaic avocations of life, and adds himself,
And sensationalism does this by drugging thought and reason, and
stimulating the attention through the lower and more animal instincts,
rather than by a lively and quickened imagination; and especially by tampering
with things evil, and infringing more or less on the confines of wrong.
Excitement is indispensable to fiction, and this is hardly to be attained
by a rehearsal of the commonplaces of life. No, it requires freedom from
the restraints of the routine and the ordinary. We suppose this freedom
from ordinary restraints a simple necessity to fiction. Thus,
writes our reviewer, story-writers of every age and style seem,
by one consent, to ignore for their heroines the most universal and inevitable
of all relationships. The heroines of fiction have no mothers. Though
granting that there are occasional exceptions to this, he continues, The
mere novelist finds the mother a dull and unmanageable feature.
She in fact stands in the way of that freedom from restraint which makes
fiction exciting. We know that there are thousands of girls who have never
found any warmth or sweetness in the word mother. Their mothers
are selfish and cold, or sharp-tongued and wrathy. They elicit neither
respect nor love. Yet the worst of mothers are a great restraint against
evil. Of the fallen girls in the brothels we are told, a girl who
has been trapped into this kind of a life never wants to reveal her real
name, because of the sorrow and shame it would bring to her parents. ...
In nearly all cases, the chief concern is that their parents
in particular, their mothers ----might discover that they are in
lives of shame. Their mothers are the greatest deterrent to evil
which they have known. We would not pretend that their mothers' influence
was all that it should have been. It failed to save them from a life of
shame. But still it was the greatest deterrent to evil which they had
We doubt that the writers of fiction purposely or consciously omit mothers
from their productions, much less that they do so for any sinister purpose.
But their thoughts and aims run in another channel, a channel which is
little likely to lead them to a mother. They are no more likely to think
of a mother than a paratrooper or scuba diver does of a bicycle. All their
aims lie in another direction. This exceptional condition of early
----freedom from restraint, and untimely liberty of choice
and action ----then, belongs to the youth of all fiction.
And what sort of example can such characters set?
Fiction's freedom from restraint is no mere pleasing dream, but a corrupting
moral evil. There is nothing more violently opposed to our moral
sense, in all the contradictions to custom which [these novels] present
to us, than the utter unrestraint in which the heroines of this order
are allowed to expatiate and develop their impulsive, stormy, passionate
characters. We believe, it is one chief among their many dangers to youthful
readers that they open out a picture of life free from all the perhaps
irksome checks that confine their own existence, and treat all such checks
as real hindrances, solid impediments, to the development of power, feeling,
and the whole array of fascinating and attractive qualities.
And the evil certainly goes yet deeper. To draw an ideal character who
is without the ordinary external restraints of life is certainly a great
evil, but fiction can hardly stop here. The most exciting fictional characters
will always be those who are likewise short of internal restraints. The
heroine of this class of novel is charming because she is undisciplined,
and the victim of impulse; because she has never known restraint or has
cast it aside, because in all these respects she is below the thoroughly
trained and tried woman.
Unerring instinct, unrestrained emotion, uninhibited action, irresistible
----and the reviewer cites numerous examples of these
from the novels of which he writes ----such things as these must
be the staple of any fiction which is not too dull to read. The characters
are swept on, by internal or external forces beyond their control, to
scenes of pleasure and intrigue. All this is a great moral evil, tending
to divorce the reader as much from principle and morals as it does from
But I turn to another facet of the theme. It is really a great mystery
to me how anyone professing godliness can have any interest in fiction.
Human nature is my constant study, but it is truth I want, not fiction.
I want reality, not imagination. All this was impressed most powerfully
upon my mind in the recent reading of the account of a murder trial which
took place in Scotland in 1856. A beautiful young woman was accused of
poisoning her former lover. She had loved him passionately, sacrificed
her chastity to him, and written of this repeatedly in the letters which
she sent him. Her feelings for him having grown cold, however, she was
engaged to another lover, but continued her contacts with the first, and
her professions of love for him also, making every possible endeavor to
get her letters back from him. He would not yield them, and died from
arsenic immediately after a supposed (but unproved) contact with her.
She had openly bought arsenic on several occasions, claiming that she
used it for cosmetic purposes. Throughout her trial, which was for her
----for murderers were hanged in those days ----she remained
calm, self-possessed, and even buoyant, intently observing everything
and everybody in the packed court room. She showed a little uneasiness
when her letters mentioning her immorality were read, but otherwise no
emotion at all, except one deep sigh when the verdict of not proven
was read. At that point the crowd burst into wild cheering, though strictly
forbidden by the judge to express any response to the jury's judgement.
I have condensed to a single paragraph the main elements of this affair,
the details of which occupied a number of large pages of fine print in
the Guardian, where I read it. My only reason for mentioning it here is
to state that though I believe it the most intriguing thing I have read
in my life, I was conscious throughout that if this had been fiction
identical in every word to the truth ----the whole thing would have
been the most intolerable emptiness. All the intrigue, all the interest,
would have been utterly gone, if I had but suspected that what I was reading
had never happened. I can scarcely conceive of anything more unprofitable
than to imagine such things ----unless it be to read them. It is
perfectly plain to me that, as we must lose our taste for reality in just
the proportion that we relish fiction, so those who are devoted to truth
must lose their taste for fiction.
Dave Hunt Again on Social & Political Action
In our November 1999 issue we published, and commended, the following
testimony from Dave Hunt:
As for social or political action, it is very clear from the biblical
record that in spite of political corruption and rampant injustice, neither
Christ, His apostles nor the early church ever engaged in it. For us to
do so today is to stray from both the teaching of Scripture and the example
of Christ and the first Christians. We are not called to improve the world
but to call people out of the world to heavenly citizenship through repentance
and the new birth in Jesus Christ.
This appears plain enough. The apostles never engaged in social or political
action, the church today is astray to do so, and this is founded upon
the principle that we are not called to improve the world. This is as
much as I could say myself, and I assumed on its basis that Mr. Hunt agreed
with my own stand. I was quite surprised, therefore, to read the following
in the April 2000 issue of his Berean Call:
Nowhere and at no time have I said a Christian should not get involved
in politics, much less that Christians should not vote, yet I'm accused
of this. On the other hand, while there may be much good that could be
done at lower levels such as serving on a school board, I doubt that anyone
could rise very high in politics without compromising his or her Christianity
or without being unequally yoked with unbelievers.
It is really difficult to understand how both of these statements could
come from the same pen. The apostles never engaged in political action,
the church is astray which does so, and yet Hunt has never said we ought
not to do so. I really thought he had said so, in the words quoted above.
And how will we be any less yoked with unbelievers on a lower level
of politics, than on a higher level? And if we are not called to improve
the world, how are we justified in attempting to do so at lower
levels? Do not the public schools belong to the same world as the
national legislature? We fear that Mr. Hunt has little understanding of
what the world is. But be that as it may, we cannot tell how to reconcile
his two statements.
We sent the above to Mr. Hunt, to give him opportunity to explain himself.
He responded (in part),
You misrepresent me in saying that '...Hunt has never said we ought
not to [engage in political/social action].' In fact, I have said we ought
not. You even say that is the way you understood the words you quote first
from me. I have not changed that position. At the same time, however,
I have also said, 'The Bible does not forbid political or social action'
(TBC Jan '97). That agrees with the statement you also quote from me,
'...at no time have I said that a Christian should not get involved in
politics.' You find these two statements ambiguous; I don't.
But this leaves me just where I was. Observe:
I have said we ought not [to engage in political or social action].
At no time have I said that a Christian should not get involved
I do not find these statements ambiguous
reverse ----but inconsistent. The one appears to be a direct contradiction
of the other. But Mr. Hunt explains as follows:
To further clarify what you perceive as a contradiction, I believe
there is a difference between holding a political office to administer
righteousness, and being out in the streets engaged in social or political
action to reform an ungodly world. Obviously, true Christians would rarely
be voted in by non-Christians, especially to high office. But I find nothing
in the Bible to suggest that it is wrong for a man or woman of God (Joseph,
Daniel, Esther, et al.) to hold political office...
Nor is one serving on a school board therefore by very definition
unequally yoked with unbelievers. One who in that capacity votes, for
example, to allow the teaching of creation in the schools is hardly yoked
with those who oppose it.
Hunt gives further examples of issues in which he assumes that the Christians
will invariably vote against the ungodly, and therefore not be yoked together
with them. This assumption is certainly against the facts. There are numerous
political issues in which many of the ungodly will vote with the Christians.
In fact, it is scarcely possible to find an issue in which this will not
be the case. But observe, Mr. Hunt's argument assumes that whenever a
Christian votes on the same side with an unbelieving Catholic, Mormon,
Lutheran, etc., then that Christian is unequally yoked together with the
unbeliever. We think he is unequally yoked to sit on the same board at
all. And on Mr. Hunt's assumption, no Christian could ever accomplish
anything on a school board, or in any other political office, unless the
Christians themselves formed a majority
----a thing which is extremely
unlikely, to say the least.
Mr. Hunt also tells me, There is nothing in the Bible to forbid
a Christian from publicly opposing, for example, a nude club or homosexual
bathhouse being built in his town. Can you give me a verse forbidding
I cannot. I am not governed by proof texts, but by principles. So, we
suppose, is Mr. Hunt. And Christians may certainly preach against sin
without any political involvement.
Hunt continues, Such local protests may be successful at least for
a time. I have only said that we are not called to make society moral
but to preach the gospel. I have found fault with those who dedicate their
lives to attempting to reform the world (something not commanded and which
won't work) while neglecting to preach the gospel (which we are called
to do) and offering no correction to an apostate church.
It would appear that it is not engagement in politics which Mr. Hunt opposes,
but only an inordinate degree of it
----dedicating our lives to
it. We are not called to make society moral, yet we apparently are called
to oppose the spread of immorality (a nude club) in our own
Mr. Hunt suggests further, Romans 13 says that rulers 'are God's
ministers...for good...to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.'
Yes, certainly. But observe, the passage does not confuse the rulers and
the Christians together, nor does Paul ever do so elsewhere. He gives
the most explicit instructions to parents, children, husbands, wives,
masters, servants, elders in the church, members of the church, and subjects
of political rulers, as to how to conduct themselves in their respective
positions, but not one word to rulers. Rather, He is the minister
of God to thee for good. They [not we] are God's ministers,
attending continually upon this very thing.
Paul appealed to Caesar, and even affirmed his Roman citizenship, when
his own personal rights were violated, but we never see him laboring in
any manner whatsoever to suppress the bars or brothels or bath houses.
He labored to save sinners, and so to separate them from the ungodly world,
not to make the world better, or cleaner, or more decent, or more righteous.
Mr. Hunt seems to agree with this in principle, but fails to apply the
principle consistently. I have done my best not to misrepresent him. I
think his stand on the subject is true and wholesome in essence, and only
wish it were more solid and consistent.
by Glenn Conjurske
Having read my sermon on Forsaking All, in the June issue
of this magazine, a reader objects, on the basis of Greek grammar, to
the use which I have made of Matthew 28:19-20. He writes,
You seem to understand the verse as if it were a series of commands:
Make disciples, baptize them, teach them to observe all things. If this
were the case, then you would have a valid point.
However, the Greek construction reveals that there is but one command
in this passage. It is the verb: 'to make disciples.' The other verbs
in the passage revolve around this one main verb. The other three verbs
are adverbial participles: 'having goneBaptizingTeaching.'
These are probably instrumental participles indicating the means by which
the action of the main verb ('make disciples of') is accomplished. In
other words, HOW are we to make disciples? We are to do this by baptizing
them and by teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has
commanded us. Thus making disciples is not synonymous with conversion
(the initial act of becoming a Christian), but rather making disciples
involves a PROCESS which begins with baptism but continues with a total
program of teaching and indoctrination. Discipleship involves far more
than conversion and extends far beyond initial faith and baptism. It is
a process that continues throughout the Christian life: 'If ye continue
in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed' (John 8:31).
First, I do indeed understand the verses as a series of commands. Technically
there may be but one command in the text, but practically there are four.
Though three of them are participles, yet they are as much commands as
the one which is an imperative. Nor can we obey the second command till
we have obeyed the first. The Greek says literally, Having gone,
make disciples. This construction is very common in the Greek New
Testament, where no one would dream of denying that both things are commanded.
All English versions, therefore, commonly render them both as imperatives,
connected by and. Nor does the English stand alone in this.
It is so rendered also in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian,
Danish, and doubtless other languages. Earlier in the same chapter (Matthew
28:7) we find the same construction of the same verb, and read, Go
quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen. The presence of
the word quickly establishes beyond question that the aorist
participle (Go) is to be understood as a command. Among other
examples of the same construction, I mention these:
----Go and search diligently for the young child.
----Go ye and learn what that meaneth, &c.
----Go and shew John those things which ye see and
----Go ye and tell that fox, &c.
----Go, shew yourselves unto the priests.
----Go and prepare us the passover.
All these employ the same construction of the same verb as is used in
Matthew 28:19. Go, then, has the force of a command, regardless
of its grammatical form. Bengel calls the aorist participle this
injunction, to go forth, which is certainly what it is.
Next, my correspondent says, These are probably instrumental participles
indicating the means by which the action of the main verb ('make disciples
of') is accomplished. Observe, probably. There is no
certainty of it. There are other possibilities just as legitimate grammatically,
and more probable on other grounds, as I suppose. The order of the words
can hardly be without significance. There is no doubt at any rate that
going must precede making disciples, and it seems equally probable that
baptizing and teaching them is to follow.
My correspondent further affirms that making disciples involves
a PROCESS which begins with baptism. We think further reflection
will reveal to him a fatal flaw here. Discipleship cannot begin with baptism.
To all but the high-church sacramentalists, baptism must follow repentance
and faith. It must follow decision and resolve. If these participles are
indeed instrumental, indicating by what means we are to make
disciples, then there is a fatal omission, or a fatal inversion, in the
text itself. That omission can only be supplied by taking these four things
as a series of commands, of which the second means to make disciples,
which of course is to be accomplished by preaching and persuading them.
Having done that, we are to baptize them, and teach them whatsoever Christ
has commanded. To make discipleship begin with baptism can only reduce
us to the methods of Jesuits and high churchmen. More on that in a moment.
I did not consult any commentaries when I preached my sermon on Forsaking
All, nor afterwards when I wrote the abstract of it which appeared
in the June magazine. Since receiving this letter, however, I have consulted
a few, and find some very diverse interpretations. Some there are who,
with my correspondent, take the participles
----a part of them,
at any rate ----instrumentally, but with a result which is not likely
to commend itself to my readers. John W. Burgon (a high-church Anglican)
quotes verse nineteen, and writes, Rather, ----'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.
I observe in passing that Burgon, with virtually all men prior to the
present antinomian age, regarded discipleship as necessary to salvation,
though my readers will not care for his method of making disciples, by
baptizing them. Yet how can we avoid this, if the participles are
Adam Clarke views the text as I do, saying, teach, maqhteusate,
make disciples of all nations, bring them to an acquaintance with God,
who bought them, and then baptize them, &c. Adam Clarke's judgement
is not always equal to his learning, but his knowledge of Greek is certainly
not to be despised.
Bloomfield takes the same ground in his Greek Testament, saying, Here
we have that great commission granted by Christ to his Apostles and their
successors, with respect to all nations (both Jews and Gentiles) embracing
three particulars, ìáèçôåýåéí,
i.e. 1. to disciple them, or convert them to the faith; 2. to initiate
them into the Church by baptism; 3. to instruct them when baptized, in
the doctrines and duties of a Christian life. Bloomfield was both
a textual critic and a commentator on the Greek text, and we suppose at
any rate that he knew Greek.
So also another able textual critic and wise commentator, Christopher
make disciples of. ìáèçôåóáé
is preparatory to äéäÜóêåéí,
which marks a continual habit. That is, making disciples of men,
which is done once for all, is preparatory to teaching, which is a continual
process. But if making disciples is preparatory to teaching, the teaching
certainly cannot be the means of making the disciples. So thought Christopher
But supposing the text is indeterminate. Supposing it proves nothing about
the matter in hand. We have proved from other scriptures, which are as
clear as they are forceful, that the terms of discipleship are the terms
of salvation, and my correspondent does not offer to dispute that.
He tells me, however, Discipleship involves far more than conversion
and extends far beyond initial faith and baptism. It is a process that
continues throughout the Christian life. We grant it, of course.
But observe, if being a disciple is a life-long process, becoming
a disciple is done at once, and is the equivalent of being converted.
The terms of discipleship are the terms of salvation. What shall
we have therefore, asks Peter
----for having fulfilled the
terms of discipleship. In the world to come, eternal life,
answers the Lord. To refer this to anything but salvation is to wrest
----If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples
indeed. True enough, but let us adhere to Greek grammar. If
ye continue is subjunctive, and presents a condition for future
fulfillment, but the text does not say, If ye continue in my word,
then shall ye become my disciples. No, but If ye continue
in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed ----then are ye
genuine disciples. The construction may be unusual ----perhaps even
difficult ----to hang a present indicative upon a subjunctive condition,
which is future. But we think the meaning is clear enough. Our continuing
is the proof of the genuineness of our discipleship, not the means by
which we become disciples.
Sharing the Gospel
by Glenn Conjurske
It is very common in our day to hear people talk of sharing the gospel
worse, sharing their faith. Such language is wholly unscriptural. The
Bible speaks of preaching the gospel. The word share never
appears in the Bible at all.
But we will not make a man an offender for a word. If he uses the wrong
word, and means the right thing, charity can overlook that, though we
may attempt to teach him better. But share is not a mere mistake
in terminology. It is a pernicious departure from the truth. In the first
place, it is never right to depart from the terminology of the Bible.
To depart from Bible terminology is generally a departure from its substance
also. But mark, we do not speak of the use of synonyms. If a man will
proclaim where the Bible says preach, or instruct where the Bible says
teach, this may be harmless doctrinally, though it may betray a restless
mind and a liberal disposition, which are too prone to abandon the old
landmarks. But synonyms are harmless enough in themselves, and we may
find plenty of them in the Bible itself.
Share, however, is no innocent synonym for preach.
Its meaning is entirely different, and the expression sharing the
gospel is the embodiment of a concept altogether foreign to Scripture.
The Bible commands us to preach the gospel. It sends us to a wicked world,
which does not want the gospel, as messengers from heaven. The message
is unpopular, and so are its preachers. There is no friendship evangelism
in the Bible. The offense of the cross is real. The preaching of the cross
divides men. It provokes opposition and persecution. It is a confrontation
between light and darkness. This unpopular message we are to preach.
But a soft, lukewarm, worldly form of Christianity, known as Neo-evangelicalism,
wants nothing to do with anything unpopular. It will have none of the
offense of the cross. It will avoid at all cost the reproach of Christ.
It finds preaching too hard, too offensive. It must therefore share the
gospel. This is soft, and positive, and non-confrontational. It has nothing
to do with denouncing sin, or pronouncing woes and damnation. It is a
sweet, pleasing thing, like sharing a box of candy.
As to sharing our faith, this is mere jargon. I suppose anyone
who seriously proposed to share his faith might soon find
he had none to spare, and so none to share. And I observe also, as is
usual in the ways of Neo-evangelicalism, this talk of sharing our
faith stands all on the positive side. The negative side of the
gospel has little place in the message which these folks preach
share ----and never in my life have I heard anyone talk
of sharing his repentance.
But this new terminology is no innocent mistake. It is as deliberate a
departure from the ways of God as it is from the language of Scripture.
Neither can such terminology be employed without harm. Those who use it
betray the fact that their minds are influenced already by the devious
ways of Neo-evangelicalism, and the terminology itself is calculated to
promote those ways.
But my concern is for Fundamentalism. I speak to strengthen the
things which remain, which are ready to die. We expect Neo-evangelicals
to be soft and worldly. We expect them to shun the reproach of Christ,
and the offense of the cross. But we are grieved exceedingly to hear this
talk of sharing the gospel from conservatives and Fundamentalists. Can
we not expect the Fundamentalists to be Fundamentalists? Alas, we cannot.
We expect the Neo-evangelicals to be Neo-evangelicals, and long experience
has taught us to expect the Fundamentalists to be Neo-evangelicals also.
How can they be anything else, when they read the literature of Neo-evangelicalism,
and listen to its music and its radio programs? They imbibe its spirit.
They speak its language, and see nothing amiss in it. We suggest to those
who think themselves conservatives or Fundamentalists, and who yet speak
of sharing the gospel, that it is high time they wake up and
reconnoiter, and see whither they are drifting, and why.
D. A. Waite & F. H. A. Scrivener
by Glenn Conjurske
The Dean Burgon News, (#62), edited by D. A. Waite, contains the following
statement, under the title Scrivener's Greek:
The Dean Burgon Society has reprinted Dr. Frederick Scrivener's
Annotated Greek New Testament. It is the exact Greek text that underlies
the King James Bible. He has put in BOLD LETTERS the words that Westcott
and Hort changed from that Textus Receptus text.
This, like most everything which proceeds from the Dean Burgon Society,
is a tissue of mistakes and misstatements. In the first place, Scrivener's
Annotated Greek New Testament is a fiction. Scrivener never published
a book with that title. Nor, by the way, is this in any sense Scrivener's
----certainly not a text which he endorsed or approved. Scrivener
did not publish it as Scrivener's Greek New Testament, but
as the text presumed to underlie the King James Version. He
declined to publish any text of his own, believing the preliminary work
for such an undertaking was not yet done. Nor is it yet done, though we
have impatient souls enough to publish Greek texts.
Second, this is not the exact Greek text that underlies the King
James Bible, and Scrivener plainly says so in his preface. In the
compiling of this text, he tells us, It was manifestly necessary
to accept only Greek authority, though in some places the Authorised Version
corresponds but loosely with any form of the Greek original, while it
exactly follows the Latin Vulgate. Thus Scrivener could not compile
a Greek text exactly agreeing with the King James Version. A fine Greek
text he would have, if he must print Latin words in it. This he declined
to do, and therefore the text which he published does not exactly agree
with the King James Version.
Third, Scrivener has not put in BOLD LETTERS the words which Westcott
and Hort changed. If he had, doubtless every page would be different
from what it is. What he has done is put in bold letters the words which
the English Revisers changed. Of the text of those Revisers Westcott says,
I absolutely decline to hold myself responsible for the text of
the Revised Version. And again, I must, however, emphatically
decline to accept the title which has been given me as 'one of the editors
of the text.' ...the text of the Revisers does not represent the peculiarities
of my own personal opinion. How then are these the changes which
Westcott and Hort made?
And how is it that the leaders of the King James Only movement, men with
doctor's degrees, can never get the simple facts straight, not even in
that field in which they pose as authorities? They view the whole field
through the eyes of prejudice, and therefore can see nothing aright. They
can never so much as see the simple facts which are open and apparent
before the eyes of all. Those who rely on these men have been hoodwinked.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated
by the Editor
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Believe not all that you see, nor half what you hear.
Seeing is believing, a more common proverb says, but first
we must be sure of what it is we see. An eye-witness is by all means the
best, but is certainly not infallible. The eye is but a camera. The image
must be interpreted by the mind. This, in most cases, is simple enough,
and if the mind were the only interpreter of the image, we should generally
fare well, but the heart must interpret also, and our prejudices and predilections
are likely to distort the meaning, if not the image itself. A man who
dislikes his neighbor will naturally put an evil construction on whatever
he sees. A foolish mother will put a favorable construction on the most
glaring evil in her child.
But more, even where no prejudice distorts the vision, a passing glimpse
is easily mistaken. When we moved to our present abode, I wished to determine
where the property lines were, as the place had never been surveyed. It
was an easy matter to find the front corners, as they were on the center
line of Boyce Drive, the one 250 feet, and the other 600 feet, from the
intersection of the center lines of Boyce Drive and Highway 17. I therefore
took my wife out at about 5:30 one morning, as soon as it was light enough,
to make the measurements from the intersection of the center lines. I
had hoped there would be little traffic at that early hour, but in this
I was mistaken. We had a hundred-foot tape measure, I on one end, and
she on the other. As we were attempting to get my wife positioned exactly
on the intersection of the center lines, a number of cars came down the
highway, and we had to move off, carrying the tape measure between us.
A little while later a sheriff's deputy drove in, and asked me if I had
been down at the corner that morning. I told him I had. He asked me who
was with me. I told him it was my wife, and asked him why he wanted to
know. He told me he had received a report that I had my wife tied by the
hands, and was leading her down the road with a rope. Someone had seen
But observe, he had seen only a passing glimpse, in the dim morning light,
as he drove by at high speed. He was probably some officious, meddlesome
fellow, who was looking for an opportunity to use his new mobile telephone.
He was probably deficient in brains also, for his interpretation was foolish
----as the poor tied woman was making no resistance, nor
appealing to any passing motorists for help. The rope by which
she was drawn was not taut, but trailing on the ground between us. At
any rate, what he saw was not to be believed. He had seen nothing clearly,
and imagination supplied the lack. He had not seen her hands tied ---yet
I wonder if he would have sworn that he had in a court room.
About the same time one of our neighbors reported us to the authorities
for several offences, such as having seven children, and dumping buckets
of water in the yard, possibly to preserve a failing septic system.
This neighbor had seen us dumping buckets of water in the yard, but his
interpretation of the fact was nothing more than malevolence. The fact
was, we were watering the trees we had planted.
And all this brings us to the second half of the proverb. If we cannot
believe all that our own eyes see, if we are all liable to think we have
seen what in fact never happened, how much less are we to credit all that
others claim to have seen
----or heard. We must sift the evidence.
Was this a passing glimpse at high speed, or something carefully scrutinized
over a period of ten minutes? Was it dark, or raining, or snowing? Was
the sight near at hand, or half a mile away? And who is the witness? Is
this person calm, objective, and intelligent, or dense and emotional?
And what are his prejudices? Does he dislike the person he testifies against?
It behooves us to consider the source. I commonly discount
the testimony of certain persons on certain subjects, for I know their
feelings and prejudices. I commonly discount the testimony of others,
for I know their incompetence.
There is a tendency in most of us to jump to conclusions from what we
see or hear, and what we hear from others may consist more of their own
conclusions than of what they actually saw. I know some folks who are
particularly prone to this. Let them but overhear one word in a conversation,
and immediately their imagination builds a castle upon it. They have an
uncanny ability to misinterpret everything. Their conclusions are always
far astray from the facts. From such persons I want to learn exactly what
the bare facts are, and not what they think their significance might be.
But even here these witnesses fail. They are unable to repeat a conversation
in the same words in which it was spoken. Their imagination colors it,
and alters the original substance. I have observed this times without
number. And if the story has passed from mouth to ear half a dozen times,
each one relating his interpretation of what he heard, there may be nothing
left of the truth in the final result.
In the passing of time the memory may fail us also. Worse still, many
have little inclination to speak the truth. Some boys like to cry Wolf.
They want attention. The pride of some exaggerates everything. They have
seen bigger and faster and more wondrous than anyone else has seen
bigger and faster and more wondrous than has ever existed. For all these
reasons, we cannot believe half of what we hear.
This proverb is a very wise one, most properly distinguishing between
the testimony of the eye and that of the ear, and advising us to discount
what we see ourselves by a little, and what we hear from others by more
than half. The proverb implies also that we must think, and sift the evidence,
to discern what we may credit, and what must be viewed with suspicion
there is to be nothing arbitrary in our discounting of the evidence. He
who believes nothing is as foolish as he who believes all, and he who
believes what he likes is the greatest fool of all. To believe not all
that we see or hear does not mean to reject what we do not like, but to
reject what is not true, and this implies an intelligent sifting of the
testimony, in order to discern what we can safely accept.
Prayer and Resignation
With Particular Reference to Seeking a Husband or Wife
Abstract of a Sermon Preached on March 26, 2000
by Glenn Conjurske
I have been asked if you have to be willing not to have a husband, in
order to get one. And I tell you, No. My observations rather indicate
that you have to get one in order to be willing not to have one.
But seriously, how do you know what the will of God is? Do you know that
it is God's will for you to have a husband? And if you don't know it,
are you possibly fighting against the will of God to pray for one? And
supposing you are, must you give up the fight
----must you be willing
to go without a husband ----before God will give you one?
Such questions as these are extremely common among young people today.
When I was a student at Bible school, it seems there were two kinds of
young people there, those who feared it might be God's will that they
should not marry at all, and those who feared it might be his will that
they should marry somebody they didn't like. Yet it plainly appears to
me that there is a great deal of ignorance at the bottom of such fears,
and worse still, a great deal of unbelief.
We read in I Peter 4:19, Wherefore let them that suffer according
to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing,
as unto a faithful Creator. We see two things here. Though we suffer,
and though that suffering be according to the will of God, yet God is
a faithful Creator. Some suffering, then, is according to the will of
God, and suffering comes in two forms
----either to be deprived
of what you want, or to be afflicted with what you don't. In either case
you have the same resource. Do good, and commit your soul to your faithful
Now let us understand what a faithful Creator is. Suppose God had created
a whole race of human beings, who by their nature which he created stood
in need of physical food, and suppose then that he placed that whole race
not in the garden of Eden, but in some barren desert in which there was
nothing to eat. The whole race would suffer, and in a matter of weeks
the race would be extinct. But could you call such a God a faithful Creator?
Could he thus show himself faithful to his creation, faithful to his own
design and purpose, faithful to himself? I really think not. A faithful
Creator is one who is faithful to his own design in creation, and the
same God who created a race which stands in need of food placed them in
a paradise which was filled with it. When he drove them out of Paradise
for their sin, still he gave them food, though they must obtain it by
the sweat of their brow. When he conducted his people through a desert,
where there was nothing to eat, he gave them manna from heaven. When they
found nothing to drink in the same desert, he gave them water from the
rock. When he created Adam with an inbred need for a wife, he created
a woman to satisfy that need. This is the way of a faithful Creator.
We may suffer according to the will of God, but we may look to a faithful
Creator for an end of our sufferings, an end which the Bible calls the
end of the Lord
----that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender
mercy. Now the question is, Do we have to be willing that our sufferings
should never have an end in this life, in order to receive the end
of the Lord?
And here I pause. I do not pretend to know everything. The judgments
of the Lord are a great deep, which we cannot fathom. His
ways are past finding out. It may be that in certain
cases he wills that we should suffer till death shall end our sufferings,
but in that case, your resigning yourself to the will of God will bring
you no relief. If God wills that you shall have no husband while life
shall last, your resigning yourself to this will not procure you one.
I have spoken to you before of Lizzie Johnson, who suffered intensely
for twenty-seven years, till death released her. For the first eight years
of her suffering, it was her passion, and her constant prayer, to be well.
Yet God denied it. She eventually resigned herself to his will, and the
issue of this was that she was a pattern of happiness, though her sufferings
continued. In some such cases as this, we can only put our hand upon our
mouth and stand in awe, confessing that the ways of God are past finding
Yet we may make a few observations even here. We do not know that even
Lizzie Johnson could not have been healed by faith, if she or someone
else had continued to pray in faith for it. We do know that she was a
pattern of happiness in her sufferings, where we suppose it may not be
possible for many to be thus happy when deprived of a wife or husband.
To be happy there is a particular gift of God, which according to Paul
is the possession of but few. And further still, as it is the will of
God we are speaking of, God has not revealed his will as to whether you
should suffer sickness or find relief
----he would not remove Paul's
thorn in the flesh ----but he has revealed his will as to whether
you should be married. On this subject, instead of fearing what the will
of God might be, we ought to read his Book, and find out what it is. When
we have done that, we may pray in confidence.
Meanwhile, it remains that we must sometimes suffer according to the will
of God, and therefore we want patience as well as faith. That same scripture
which teaches us to look for the end of the Lord teaches us
to wait for it with patience. Ye have heard of the patience of Job,
and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and
of tender mercy. So speaks James 5:11.
But if we want patience, no less do we want faith, and by faith we may
obtain things from God. That doctrine which supposes God to have an iron
and inflexible will, not to be moved or altered by our praying, is just
unbelief. That unbelief naturally belongs to Calvinism, and that Calvinism
has exerted a very broad influence in the church of God, even over those
who would disclaim any connection with it. I preach to move men, and I
pray to move God, but if God has already established all by an inflexible
will, then it is no more use to pray than it is to preach. God had already
decreed that Hezekiah should die, and already revealed his will to that
effect, yet Hezekiah prayed, and God reversed the sentence. God said to
him, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will
add unto thy days fifteen years. The tears and the cries of Hezekiah
moved God, and yours will move him also. Many Calvinists have taught that
we must be willing to be damned in order to be saved, but this is really
unbelief. It is a denial of the goodness of God. It assumes that it can
be the will of God to damn his creatures, though he plainly says he is
not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
And as in the greater matters, so in the lesser also. God never required
you to be willing to be damned in order to be saved, and no more does
he require you to be willing to be single in order to be married. I suppose
it generally lies outside the realm of possibility to be willing to be
damned, and for many it may be just as impossible to be willing to be
single. And where does God require this of you? This is a low and unworthy
view of God. It makes out the great lover and giver of the universe to
be a hard master, who would rather deny us than bless us. It forgets altogether
that God has said, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered
him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
To be willing to do without a husband assumes that it may be God's will
to permanently deprive you of what you need. But here there is no necessity
to assume anything concerning the will of God. He has revealed his will.
Turn to the seventh chapter of First Corinthians. The subject of this
chapter is to marry or not to marry. He begins in the first verse with
It is good for a man not to touch a woman, that is, not to
marry, but he immediately proceeds, in the second verse, with Nevertheless
avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman
have her own husband. And this is not mere permission. The Greek
is imperative. We have no imperative in the third person in English, and
so we render it, let every man and let every woman,
but this is an imperative command. This is the means which God prescribes
to avoid fornication. This is his will. God does not command anything
which is against his will. If your mother said, Let us all get to
bed now, would you sit on the couch wondering if it were her will
But further, God does not command anything which is impossible. Whosoever
you are, whatever your looks or your intelligence or lack of it, you can
have a husband. This may not be easy, but it is possible. You may need
a good deal of faith and patience, and repentance and holiness too, but
this is all possible.
But God speaks further. In I Corinthians 7:9 he says, But if they
cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
To burn means to have an intense desire. If they cannot contain, they
cannot suppress that desire, cannot rise above it. In all such cases God
says, Let them marry
----another imperative. In all
such cases he says, It is better to marry than to burn. This
then is a revelation of the will of God. You may think that to avoid
fornication does not apply to you. You are in no danger. You have
character enough to avoid it. Perhaps you do, though you may find you
have less character than you think, when temptation presses you hard.
But perhaps you do have character enough. Certainly there are some who
have, as Joseph did. But I tell you, character will avail you nothing
for your burning. To commit fornication is an act, consequent upon a choice,
which lies in the spirit, over which you have control. But this burning
is a desire, which lies in the soul, and you cannot eradicate it. The
Bible says, If they cannot contain. All the early English
Bibles here said, If they cannot abstain, but this fails to
express the truth. You may have character enough to abstain, but this
will not help you to contain. Your desires may be intense and overwhelming,
and you cannot put them down. Those desires belong to your nature, and
God does not intend that you should put them down. He tells you to satisfy
them. If they cannot contain, let them marry. The hyperspiritual
will step in here with doctrines which browbeat folks, as hyperspiritual
doctrines always do. They will tell you that you could put those desires
down if you would, or if you were more spiritual, more holy, less sinful,
etc., etc. I have heard one of these hyperspiritual teachers affirm that
it is wrong to have any such desires at all. Put them on the shelf,
he will tell you. You are to be fast asleep in Jesus, with
no thoughts or desires in the direction of marriage, till the Spirit of
God wakes you up by some undefined spiritual process, and tells you it
is his will for you to marry. But all this sets aside the plain word of
God as much as it does the human nature which God has created. Paul says,
If they cannot contain, and what business have these hyperspiritual
teachers to tell you that you can? Do they know better than Paul?
Now if you are troubled about the will of God, here it is. To avoid fornication,
let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.
If they cannot contain, let them marry. If you are burning
with desires for marriage, It is better to marry than to burn.
Here is the will of God, as plainly expressed as words can make it. And
why should you fear that the will of God for you is other than what he
has revealed it to be for all?
And this chapter has yet more on the subject. Paul recommends a single
life, in verse 35, in order to be free to wait upon the Lord without distraction.
But mark, if you are burning, if you cannot contain, this has nothing
to do with you. A man who cannot contain cannot serve the Lord without
distraction, but will be distracted by every attractive woman who crosses
his path. William Grimshaw, two centuries ago, was bereft of two wives
by death, while he was yet a young man. He cast lots to learn whether
he should marry again, and the lot said No. So he remained
single, supposing this was the will of God. But he did not serve the Lord
without distraction. No, he was distracted by every woman he saw. He rose
early, went to bed late, and spent himself travelling and preaching, but
for all that he could never rid himself of his burning desires for a wife.
If I had been God, when Grimshaw cast that lot, I would have sent ten
thousand angels to make sure the lot said Yes. I don't know
why God allowed it to say No, when his faithful servant obviously
so needed a wife. But this I know, that God had already spoken. God had
already revealed his will. God had already said, If they cannot
contain, let them marry, and the man who is burning has no business
to inquire whether it is the will of God that he should marry. God has
already told him to marry. Grimshaw never did serve the Lord without distraction.
He strove and vowed and covenanted, and wrote and signed his vows with
his own blood, never again to burn for a woman, but the case was absolutely
hopeless. If you can wait upon the Lord without distraction in a single
state, very well, but if you cannot contain, by all means marry. This
is the will of God, as plainly revealed as anything in the Bible.
But I proceed to the next verses. But if any man think that he behaveth
himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age,
and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them
marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no
necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his
heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth
her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth
better. I have no time for an exposition of these verses, but I
call your attention to one thing. Twice in this passage he uses the word
need, or necessity. Same word in the original,
and same meaning in English. He advises a single life to those who have
no need to marry, but if necessity so require, let them marry.
This is strong language. Necessity is a strong word. But all
necessity is relative. A thing is necessary for some particular end. And
here the case is plain. It is necessary for most folks to marry, in order
to be kept from burning, in order to be able to contain, in order to wait
upon the Lord without distraction. They need to marry
is certainly not the will of God to deprive his children of what they
need. My God shall supply all your need, according to his riches
in glory in Christ Jesus. Not necessarily today. Not the first moment
you feel the need, yet by faith and patience you can procure what you
need. Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires
of thine heart. And observe, he does not say he will impose his
own will upon you, contrary to your needs and desires, but will give you
the desires of your own heart. This is the goodness of God, and it is
unbelief which doubts it, however pious the doctrines may seem which foster
But more. Do you inquire after the will of God? God tells you to do your
own will. He tells you this very explicitly, once in one of the verses
we have quoted already, and once again in a verse I shall mention shortly.
First, If any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward
his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, LET
HIM DO WHAT HE WILL, he sinneth not: let them marry. But I am obliged
to give a little explanation here. The grammar of this verse is difficult,
no matter how we look at it. Some hold him to be the girl's
father. Let her father do what he will. Let him allow her to marry. But
it seems to me that the next verse disallows this, for it says, Nevertheless,
he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath
power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will
keep his own virgin, doeth well. It is difficult to see how this
could apply to a father. He it may be who gives her in marriage, but the
standing stedfast, the power over the will, or in lieu of that, the necessity
to marry, must be in her, not in him. What can a father's power
over his own will have to do with the matter? To stand stedfast
in his will, against her need, could only be cruelty and tyranny. Feeling
this, William Tyndale, in his last revision, translates this keep
his own virginity. Darby and Kelly do the same. The evident meaning
of the passage practically requires this, though the word itself means
virgin. One thing I am sure of, that in the final analysis
the will in the verse must be that of the unmarried person,
not of the parent. To impose the will of a parent here would be, as Kelly
says in his notes on this book, beyond measure arbitrary and inconsiderate.
A parent may surely forbid marriage to the wrong kind of person, but to
determine whether a child should marry, or to whom, a parent has no right
at all. God does not impose any inflexible will of his own upon the unmarried,
much less does he subject them to the will of their parents, but tells
them to do what is comely, what is necessary, and what they will.
If this verse is not clear enough, I proceed to verse 39. The wife
is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband
be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the
Lord. It is the will of God that she should do her own will. She
is at liberty. The verse is spoken of the widow, but the same must apply
to anybody who is single and marriageable.
I am often accused of preaching hard things
----not that it is my
fault if I do. I preach the word of God, and there are many hard things
in it. But here I preach an easy thing ----so easy indeed that it
must be a great offense to all the hyperspiritual, who seem to delight
in depriving and torturing human nature, after the manner of monks and
ascetics. Here I preach an easy thing, and I do so because here God prescribes
an easy thing. Let him do as he will. She is at liberty.
Let her be married to whom she will. This is the goodness
of God, and this is the first fundamental of the faith of the Bible.
These two verses taken together eliminate the two great bug-bears which
worry the minds of godly young people. The first great question is whether
it is the will of God for you to marry at all, and the second, whom it
is the will of God that you should marry. And God assigns the determination
of both of these things to your own will.
Paul speaks further on the same subject in I Timothy 5:14. I will
therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house,
give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. In First
Corinthians he says it is better to marry than to burn, here that it is
better to marry than to be an idle busybody. In either case, I will
that the younger women marry. This he speaks by the Spirit of God.
This is the will of God, that the younger women should marry. Why then
would any young woman doubt that it was the will of God for her? This
Not that this will put you beyond all your difficulties, for you cannot
run to the department store and buy a husband. You may yet have a long
course of faith and patience before you, but this will remove one of the
major difficulties out of the way, and allow you to ask and seek and knock
with confidence that what you seek is right, and is the will of God.
But one further caution. The fact that God tells you it is better to marry
than to burn, the fact that he tells you to marry to avoid fornication,
the fact that he says peremptorily, Let them marry
of this is any sign you should marry the first thing that comes along,
without troubling yourself about his character, or without falling in
love before you agree to marry. This is folly. If you marry without love
it will leave you burning still, and as unable as you were before to wait
upon the Lord without distraction. Then you will know the meaning of my
quip at the beginning of this sermon, that you must get a husband to be
willing not to have one. Then you will know the meaning of the old proverb,
Marry in haste, repent at leisure. Ten thousand times ten
thousand of others have married hastily and foolishly, and are as unsatisfied
married as they were single ----perhaps more so ----so that
while the single envy the married, the married envy the single. You have
a great plenty of reason for the utmost caution here.
But I tell you, the doctrines which I am preaching this morning will free
your mind from a great burden of care, and enable you to concentrate your
caution where it will do some good. Many young people waste a ton of spiritual
energy on the fruitless questions of whether it is God's will for them
to marry, and whom it is God's will for them to marry. By some unknown
----unknown even to themselves ----they
usually manage to arrive, however haltingly, at a positive answer to the
first question. As to the second, they waste all their energies in a futile
quest for the right one ----the one God wills they should
marry ----and by the same sort of amorphous, ethereal, and inexplicable
spiritual processes they eventually determine upon one, and so, in thinking
to marry the right one, they marry the wrong kind. Then their
sorrows begin, when they find themselves married to one with whom they
cannot fall in love, or one who is unspiritual, unstable, insensitive,
or unkind. And the will of God will be blamed for it all.
Thus is God made out to be a hard master, just such a God as the devil
represented to Eve, studying our unhappiness, depriving us and denying
us, determined, apparently, never to satisfy those needs which he has
created within us. This is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible
says you are at liberty ----at liberty to be married, and to be
married to whom you will.
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.