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Vol. 10, No. 4
Apr., 2001

Did Many Things

by Glenn Conjurske

“For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” (Mark 6:20).

In this cryptic sentence, “he did many things,” we have a most felicitous description of a faulty, partial, and half-way repentance. In these three words lie depicted, as perhaps nowhere else in the Bible, the strivings and struggles of many a vacillating soul, goaded by conscience and faithful preaching to do many things, yet constrained by some darling lust to stop short of a thorough and saving repentance.

Yet through a variation in the Greek text, à and B conspiring together almost contra mundum, this most precious word of Scripture has disappeared from most of the modern versions. The Revised Version of 1881 exhibits the place, “And when he heard him, he was much perplexed; and he heard him gladly”----the natural effect of which is to leave us all “much perplexed.” Why did Herod hear John gladly, when all that he gained by it was to be “much perplexed”? What pleasure was there in this? “Common sense,” says the judicious Christopher Wordsworth, “is staggered by such a rendering. People are not wont to hear gladly those by whom they are much perplexed.” The common people, we are told in Mark 12:37, heard Christ gladly, but this was because he spoke home to their hearts and minds, surely not because they were “much perplexed” by him. Was Herod so devoid of sense as to delight to be mystified? Yet this inane reading is followed in the Berkeley Version, and the New American Standard and New International versions, for the modern revisers of Scripture generally tread in one path, like a horse in blinders, maugre sense and maugre reason, and apparently in blissful ignorance of all that has been said on these themes by wiser men in better days.

The new reading was followed for a time even by the conservative critic F. H. A. Scrivener, and in his reason for following it we may read some profitable lessons. He writes, in the second edition of his Introduction, “”'Did many things” Engl. vers. I think it must have occurred to many readers that this is, to say the least, a very singular expression.' So writes Mr. Linwood, very truly..., for nothing can well be more tame or unmeaning.” And on the strength of his opinion that the expression is “tame and unmeaning,” he proceeds to reject it, saying, “Hence we do not hesitate to receive a variation supported by only a few first-rate authorities, where internal evidence ... pleads so powerfully in its favour.”

But here I must point out that while Scrivener's critical principles were essentially sound, he had one great weakness. He was ever too ready to yield up his objective principles to the subjective claims of internal evidence----claims which on further reflection might prove to be a mere chimera----and on that basis to set aside the most compelling external evidence. “Tame and unmeaning”?! God forbid. I do not hesitate to say that these four words----but two words in the Greek----have as much depth of meaning packed into them as any four words in the New Testament. “He did many things”----laid aside one sin after another, restored what he had taken unlawfully away, ceased from his oppressions, curbed his tongue, left off his drunkenness. We speak conjecturally, of course, as to the details, but the plain fact is, a wicked life requires amendment in “many things,” and, pricked in conscience by the preaching of this holy man, he was moved to do many of those things.

But Scrivener evidently lacked the capacity to see this meaning. There was a time when we saw nothing of it ourselves. Scrivener was better able to determine the text than to interpret it. He excelled in the gathering and the weighing of textual evidence, but, as is not unusual in such cases, fell behind in the spiritual discernment which could lay hold of its meaning. And in this we behold the real danger of his proceedings. Because he cannot understand the reading, he must reject it.

And here we must pause and reflect. Do not the proceedings of this able critic lead us as it were by the hand to the reason for the existence of the textual variation here? The alteration from “did many things” to “was much perplexed,” though a change of but two letters, was probably not an accidental one. It is one of those evidently purposeful emendations in which à and B abound. Some scribe evidently found “did many things” tame and unmeaning, and must therefore alter it.

But Scrivener, we are happy to report, lived to understand the passage, and so to retract his rash judgement. In a note in his third edition he writes, “It is only fair to retain unchanged the note on Mark vi.20, inasmuch as the Two Members of the N.T. Company (p. 47, note 1) have exercised their right of claiming my assent to the change of dðïßåé into zðüñåé. I must, however, retract that opinion, for the former reading now appears to me to afford an excellent sense. Herod gladly heard the Baptist, and did many things at his exhortation; every thing in fact save the one great sacrifice which he could not persuade himself to make.”

Yet seeing “an excellent sense” in the words would hardly be sufficient reason to revert to them, if the preponderance of external evidence had been against them. That excellent sense was in the words from the beginning. If Scrivener saw it not, others did. Scrivener's ally, John W. Burgon, had written on the words years earlier, “His [John's] exhortations had sometimes even disposed the Tetrarch to acts of obedience; and those not few in number. But Herod had entered on a career of sin; and the pathway of such ever 'goeth down to the chambers of Death.”'

But having thus, as we suppose, contributed a mite or two towards the rescuing of a most precious text of Scripture from the onslaughts of a mistaken and infatuated criticism, it remains to say a few words concerning its spiritual content.

Herod was a man, of like passions with other men. He had a heart, and he had a conscience, and since he was a sinner, the two were often at war with each other. He loved Herodias, and gave free reign to the passion of his heart, at the expense of truth and righteousness and conscience, for he had stolen her from his brother.

But while Herod's passions drew him one way, reason and conscience drew him another. He “feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy.” He heard him gladly. He yielded to many of his holy admonitions, and did many things. But the one thing needful he could not be moved to do. His darling sin he held fast. He would not give up his brother's wife.

It was thus that the battle raged, between reason and conscience on the one side, and lust and passion on the other. What troubled thoughts the man must have had, what restless nights, what yearnings and strivings, what excuses and rationalizations, as his soul was tossed back and forth between the claims of conscience and the passion which ruled him. One thing after another he will yield, but he will carefully spare his pet passion. He would have heaven, but he would discount the cost. He would save his soul, but like many another sinner, he would save it on easier terms than those laid down by the Son of God. He would yield to the claims of conscience where the cost was not too high. He would part with those sins which he could spare, and yet all the while hold fast to his darling passion. Lying, cursing, thieving, slander, drunkenness, oppression, ostentation----all these might be cast out, but Herodias will be held to his bosom still. The right foot may be cut off, and the right hand also, but she will be spared.

It was thus that Herod did many things, while he left his darling sin untouched, and thus it is that many a sinner discounts the cost of repenting, casting out what his flesh can spare, and holding fast his darling sins.

But what avails such repentance? What did it avail Herod? He was no doubt at some trouble and expense thus to “do many things,” for no self-denial comes cheap. His will must be crossed, his cravings denied, his appetites deprived, his hopes and designs thwarted. All this was no doubt costly, but all fell short of what the Lord demanded of him. What will it avail me to lay down ninety dollars for my ticket, when the price is a hundred? What will it avail to part with many sins, when God demands that we repent of all? “If you will Turn and Live,” says Richard Baxter, “do it unreservedly, absolutely and universally. Think not to capitulate with Christ, and devide 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.”

It may be at small cost that the gambler forsakes his drinking, or the drunkard his dice----the vain woman her fornication, or the licentious man his finery----the sportsman his riches, or the miser his games----but while every man spares his own pet passion, there will be no holiness on the earth, and if no holiness, then no salvation. Modern antinomian orthodoxy has of course discovered an easier way----discovered that what we do with sin has nothing to do with the question of our salvation, that “it is a Son question, not a sin question,” but the whole host of ancient men of God stand resolutely against this. Matthew Henry writes on our text, “Here we see what a great way a man may go toward grace and glory, and yet come short of both, and perish eternally. ...

“He did many of those things which John in his preaching taught him. He was not only a hearer of the word, but in part a doer of the work. Some sins which John in his preaching reproved, he forsook, and some duties he bound himself to; but it will not suffice to do many things, unless we have respect to all the commandments.”

J. C. Ryle, in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, writes (of course) to the same purpose on the passage, saying, “We see, in the second place, how far people may go in religion, and yet miss salvation by yielding to one master-sin.

“King Herod went further than many. He 'feared John.' He 'knew that he was a just man and a holy.' He 'heard him, and did many things' in consequence. He even 'heard him gladly.' But there was one thing Herod would not do. He would not cease from adultery. He would not give up Herodias. And so he ruined his soul for evermore.

“Let us take warning from Herod's case. Let us keep back nothing----cleave to no favourite vice,----spare nothing that stands between us and salvation. Let us often look within, and make sure that there is no darling lust or pet transgression, which, Herodias-like, is murdering our souls. Let us rather cut off the right hand, and pluck out the right eye, than go into hell-fire.”

Such half-way repentance as Herod's will avail nothing before a holy God, and no more will it avail if it goes nine tenths of the way. There will be no heaven without the forsaking of all sin.

But if this half-way repentance will not secure heaven when we die, neither will it secure much of anything while we live. Nothing but universal and unreserved repentance will secure our character here. The man who does not stand against all sin will have no power to withstand any of it, when assaulted by temptation. How quickly does Herod go from doing many things at the word of John, to taking off his head at the word of Herodias! And so it is with all who play at repenting. They have no power to stand against sin, and will soon find themselves slipping, not only back into those sins which they had renounced, but even into those which they had ever abhorred and avoided. Who would have believed yesterday that Herod would murder John today? Yesterday he feared and esteemed him. Yesterday he heard him gladly. Yesterday he yielded to his admonitions, and “did may things.” Today he takes off his head. Who would have dreamed it?

But here is the fruit of half-way repentance. Those who will not stand against all sin have no security against any. Prudence and pride may keep them from many sins, but give them the right temptation, and they will yield. They do not reject sin as such, and so cannot stand against its onslaughts.

Is not this the real explanation of the shameful backslidings of a myriad of professing Christians? Deceived by a false gospel, they never made any unconditional commitment in the first place, never any unreserved submission to the will of God, never any rooting out of bosom sins, never any determination to fight against sin as such, and how can they maintain what they never had? The very principle on which they stand is to yield to such sin as they please, while they part with such sin as they can spare, and how then can they stand against any? They cannot so much as maintain the ground which they had gained, for the sin which they could dispense with yesterday may appear in another light tomorrow, and they may repent today of a former day's repentance. Tomorrow's temptations may be stronger than today's, and he who “did many things” yesterday may do a thing or two less tomorrow. This will be almost inevitable, if he has not laid the axe to the root of the tree, and resolutely determined to forsake all sin as such. This was exactly the case with Herod, and thus all the ground which he had gained was thrown away at once, when he was overtaken by an unexpected temptation. His associations and his word entangled him, and he knew not how to say nay. It was his principle to spare sin. He had put the axe to many of its branches, but he spared the root, in order to save one darling bough, and the rest of the branches would grow again.

Such was the half-way repentance of Herod, and such, we are sure, is the half-way repentance of many a Fundamentalist of the present day. If these do not backslide altogether in the present life, it will not be the fear of God which keeps them from it. And if they live out their whole lives in the possession of their make-shift repentance, they will find that it avails them nothing in the day of judgement.

So maintained Harry Ironside----no legalist, I presume----in a sermon entitled, “How Herod Lost his Soul.” “Friend,” says he, “do you realise what an easy thing it is to lose your soul? Just cling to one sin; just let one sin come between you and God. Possibly some one is saying, 'But you mistake the nature of your audience if you think we would stoop to the sin of which Herod was guilty.' Very well, if you know that to be true, if you know that you have never been guilty of these things, never stooped to these things, what other sin is it that is standing between you and your God?

“When the Word of God is brought home in power to your soul, and you hear a voice within saying, 'Now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation' (2 Cor. 6.2), and conscience says, 'Yes, I ought to yield to God,' what is it that rises before you, and you say, 'Oh, but----but----if I become a Christian, I cannot go on with that; I cannot do that any more; I will have to give that up, and I am not prepared for that.' You love that sin more than Christ; you love your sin more than a place in Heaven, and, therefore, you will have to sink with your sin into outer darkness, unless God in mercy still gives you repentance.”


The Zeal of Thine House

Abstract of a Sermon Preached on December 10, 2000

by Glenn Conjurske

“And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables, and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” (John 2:13-17).

The first thing we see here is the action of Christ. He went into the temple and saw it filled with money-changers, and men selling oxen and sheep and doves. He looked the situation over, and left the temple. Went out and found a stick and some small cords. Tied the cords to the stick to make a whip, and returned to the temple with the whip in his hands, and quiet determination in his heart. He then took that whip and drove them all out of the temple, men and animals together. He walked up to the tables covered with money, and turned them over, so that the money was running all over the floor, and every man's money mixed up with every other man's. He dealt more mildly with the sellers of doves, merely telling them, “Take these things hence,” but they, seeing the scourge in his hands, and having seen what he did to the rest of the folks, no doubt meekly obeyed him.

Now the immediate effect of all this was undoubtedly that he was condemned by most of those that observed him. He was harsh in spirit. He was unloving. He was unreasonable. He was proud. He was a trouble-maker. All these things had gone on in the temple for many years, under the eyes and in the presence of many good men, and they hadn't made any fuss about it, much less had they come in as rabble-rousers to scramble the money and scatter the animals. There was a good purpose for these practices, and they had the sanction of Holy Scripture besides, for God had told his people to turn their offerings into money, and carry it in their hand to the house of God, and there buy what they needed for their worship.

All these reproaches the Lord no doubt had to bear for his actions that day. But I tell you, the house of God today stands in need of the same sort of purging, and those who undertake to purge it will have to bear all the same sort of reproach. The house of God today is the church of God, and it is full of abominations worse than sheep and oxen and money-changers' tables. The house of God today is full of the world's music, and the world's dress, and the world's literature, and the world's politics, and worldly principles of every description, and carnal pleasures, and a great host of carnal men making money from it all, and the prophet of God who sets himself to drive these things out of the house of God will be called harsh and unloving and legalistic and proud, the same as his Lord no doubt was.

But that isn't what I intend to preach on tonight. The disciples had a different reaction. They observed the Lord whipping and driving men and beasts, and upsetting tables filled with money, and the scenes which were enacted before their eyes brought a word of the Bible to their minds. They “remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” The actions of the Lord were a vivid picture of the principle set forth in that scripture.

And it is of that principle that I intend to speak tonight. The zeal of the house of God ate up the Lord, and the same zeal will eat us up also, if we have any zeal. But I desire to make this practical. It is easy enough to take a text of Scripture like this one, and apply it to ourselves in our thoughts, when the application is only imagination, and we are not eaten up by any zeal at all. What does it mean to be eaten up? Sometimes at our love feasts we have a nice cake or pudding, and it gets eaten up, and what is left of the cake when that happens? Nothing. Nothing is left. It is consumed. And I tell you, if the zeal of the house of God consumes us, it will do this in some very practical and tangible ways.

In the first place, it will eat up our money. All of us, I know, have certain obligations and necessities, for which we must use our money, but what do we do with the rest of it? Does the house of God consume it? Does the testimony of Christ eat it up? Have you no books to buy to feed your soul with, no poor preacher of the truth of God to support, no books or tracts to print, no testimony of Christ for which to live? If the zeal of the house of God does not consume your money, it is hardly honest to say it consumes you.

But I would wrong your souls if I left you with the impression that a zeal for God will eat up only your extra money, which you don't need for your necessities. It must be a rather mild experience to be eaten up after such a fashion. The zeal of the house of God consumed all the money of the poor widow, when she cast in her two mites, and this was not money which she could spare. No, she cast in “all her living.” If she had waited till she had something she could spare, she would never have given a mite at all. A burning zeal makes no cautious calculations concerning how much it can spare. It consumes all. It consumes what we cannot spare.

We have never been quite so poor as the poor widow. The lowest I have ever been reduced was three mites----three cents that is----though at the time I was out of most everything else also. We were travelling at that time, trying to preach the gospel, and not only was I reduced to three cents----all the money I had in the world----but I didn't know if or when another three cents would come to me. God took care of my immediate need at the time, and a young man to whom I endeavored to preach the gospel----and who knew nothing of my need----gave me a five-dollar bill. But there have been times when we were poor for years together, and when we needed anything we added it to the wish list----not luxuries, either, but things which the rest of the world would regard as necessities. Yet in all those years I did not cease to buy the books which would feed our souls, and the souls of those to whom I minister, with the good things of God. So the zeal of the house of God ate up my money. I grudged to spend what little I had for the things of this life, and delighted to lay it out for the things of God.

But let me tell you, if you allow the zeal of the house of God to consume your money, it will consume your reputation also. There are certain Christians, who apparently have nothing better to do, who make it their business to blacken my reputation. I have heard numerous rumors about myself, most of them reproachful, and none of them true. I have heard that I go to bed with the chickens, to save electricity. Not true. I usually get up before the chickens, but I don't go to bed with them. I have heard that I live in a house without electricity and running water----as though it were a sin to do so. But it isn't true. We have electricity enough, and sometimes have more running water than we want. When we moved into our former residence, the first time we had a rain storm we had to stand and hold dish pans over the bed to catch the “running water.” When one dish pan was full, we exchanged it for another----and we aren't done yet with drips and buckets and dish pans. I have heard another rumor about myself, that I have a large library of expensive books, and my children wear rags. And what if it were true? What godly man would rather provide nice clothes for his chilren than good books? But it isn't true. I wear some rags sometimes, but my children don't. Here is this rag in which I preach every week, but why should I be ashamed of it? It's a good coat----100 percent cotton----warm and comfortable. Only the elbows have holes in them, and only the cuffs are tattered. But I don't wear this to be singular, much less to try to appear spiritual. My reasons are entirely practical. It is next to impossible to find another like it----made of cotton, with a good metal zipper, and a good fit----and if I do find one, I can't afford the price. While this one has yet a little wear in it, therefore, I intend to use it, while I pray God to give me another one. Peter Cartwright wore worse rags than this, and so did the apostle Paul. I would like to face off with some of these spreaders of rumors some time. I wouldn't castigate them for telling lies about me. I would only tell them, I am not worthy of such rumors as these. You attribute more zeal to me than I have. I am not so great a fool for Christ's sake as you make me out to be. Most of these tellers of tales have never met me face to face, and those who have certainly wouldn't tell their tales to my face. One of them was called to account for it once, by the other men in his church, and as soon as they heard I was in town they arranged a face-to-face meeting between us. Then he was mum, and had nothing to say against me, but only high praise for my ministry, and I had to remind him of the things he had said about me in my absence. But I think one of the main things he had against me was that my kind of Christianity was a reproof to his kind. Only manifest a little zeal for the real Christianity of the Bible, and your reputation will suffer for it.

But I pass on. If the zeal of the house of God eats us up, it will eat up our time. Again, a certain amount of your time is necessarily given to mundane matters----to obligations and necessities. But how do you spend the rest of it? Laboring to lay up treasures on the earth? Pursuing recreations and pleasures? Lying in a warm bed till a late hour of the morning? I used to do so, when I was ungodly. Now I often have eight hours of work behind me before the time when I used to get up. But how do you spend your “spare time” when you are up? Having a good time with your friends? If so, how are you different from the ungodly world? The Lord's time was literally eaten up by his zeal for the cause of God. He was thronged with people. He scarcely had time to eat or sleep. He often rose up a great while before day, and often spent the whole night in prayer.

When the disciples saw the life and acts of the Lord, it brought this scripture naturally to their minds. “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” Many of his servants have followed in his steps. Is there any danger, any chance, that your life will bring this scripture to anybody's mind?

But there is another thing which may come closer to home. If the zeal of the house of God consumes us, it will likely consume our health. It consumed the health of Epaphroditus, when “for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” Zeal does not sit down and make cautious calculations. It does not ask, Can I perform this service without harm to my health, without harm to my savings, without harm to my prospects? It gives itself, health and all, to the work of Christ. Epaphroditus did so, and Paul commends him for it. The zeal of George Whitefield consumed his health. He would often preach for an hour or two to a vast multitude of souls, and then go out and vomit blood. Charles Wesley wrote of him, “George preaches himself to death.” His friends continually admonished him to spare himself, but in vain. The fact is, zeal cannot resist. It knows not how to spare itself. On the last day of his life he rode fifteen miles from Portsmouth to Exeter, where he found a great multitude gathered in the fields to hear him. One of his companions told him he was more fit to go to bed than to preach. Whitefield answered, “True, sir,” and then turned aside and prayed that he might have strength to preach once more, and then go home and die. He preached for two hours, on “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith,” and then rode to Newburyport. He was fatigued, ate an early supper, excused himself early. He took a candle in his hand, and started up the stairs to go to bed. But pausing on the stairway, he saw the hall filled with people who wished to hear him, and he stood on the stair case and preached to them till the candle burned out in the socket. He then went up to bed, and died before morning. While he was dying, one who attended him told him he should not preach so often. He replied that he would rather burn out than rust out. Thus did the zeal of the house of God consume his health, and his life, taking him to an early grave at the age of 55.

Francis Asbury's health was also consumed by his zeal for the house of God. He was sick a good part of his life, but it never stopped him. Sometimes he was too sick to mount his horse, but he would have somebody carry him from the pulpit to his horse, and set him on it, and he would ride to his next appointment, where they would carry him from his horse to the pulpit, and he would preach again. When he was too lame to stand he would preach kneeling or sitting. Sometimes he would arrive at his preaching place nearly frozen, and loving hands would not only carry him to the meeting house, but thaw him out also.

The zeal of Henry Moorhouse consumed his health also, what little he had of it. He died at the age of forty. His heart was very poor, and the doctors told him he must quit preaching. He asked them how long he would live if he took their advice. “Perhaps a year,” they said. “And how long will I live if I go on preaching.” “Perhaps six months.” “Then I'll take the six months, and preach Christ as long as I can.” And a great host of missionaries have burned out their health in Africa, “the white man's grave,” and other uncongenial climates, many of them dying when their work had scarce begun.

Prudent men will of course tell us that these were all fools, to throw away their health and their lives. Whitefield was a fool to preach himself to death. Yes, yes, and the poor widow was a fool also to cast in all her living, and Epaphroditus was a fool to go forth for the work of Christ, not regarding his life. The great host in the book of Revelation who “loved not their lives unto the death” were all fools. It is foolish to be eaten up, when a little prudence might prevent it. I have always stood solidly against any wanton, senseless throwing away of life or health. To volunteer for martyrdom is hyperspiritual suicide. But for all that, zeal does make us fools, fools for Christ's sake, fools for a cause, which is dearer to us than time or money or reputation or health or life. And all of us, fools and prudent alike, will soon enough stand before the judgement seat of Christ, to give account of ourselves. Then the zealous and the zeal-less will stand together, and put in their pleas. One will say, “See, God, how prudent I was. I held on to my money, and died worth a million. And you know, if the cause of Christ had ever stood in need of a hundred dollars of my money, there it would have been, safe in my bank account. I didn't foolishly throw it away.” And the next will say, “I was prudent also. I conserved my health, and lived till the age of eighty, to be a steady influence for good and for God in this dark world.” And the next, “I cautiously avoided all those foolish extremes which would have squandered my reputation. I carefully guarded it, so that I might maintain my influence for Christ.” And last of all the poor fool must speak, and say, “I was a fool for Christ's sake. I saw a cause, felt a need, and my heart burned within me, and I couldn't resist. I didn't know how to cautiously conserve my resources in the day of battle. I just spent myself, spent my time, spent my money, spent my health, spent my life, in the cause for which I lived. I was a fool. Can you forgive me for this?”

You judge now who you would rather be, and what you would rather be saying then.

Joseph Alleine on the Terms of Salvation

[Alleine is both well known and unknown. A hundred and forty years ago Charles Stanford wrote, “In our own day, 'Joseph Alleine' is little more than a name;----a name that stands on the title-page of an old book, called, 'AN ALARM TO THE UNCONVERTED.”' The same remains true today. His name is known, and his book, but little more. I therefore take the occasion to introduce him.

He lived a short life, of only 35 years, from 1633 to 1668, during which he was twice imprisoned for preaching the gospel. As if conscious of the shortness of his time, he had a just view of its value, and one of his biographers writes that “he had such a panic sense of the value of time, and the importance of study, that nothing could induce him to relax his labours.” “When but a schoolboy (as I have heard) he was observed to be so studious, that he was known as much by this periphrasis, The lad that will not play, as by his name.”

Prior to the Act of Uniformity he was assistant to George Newton, vicar of Taunton, who writes of him, “He was infinitely and insatiably greedy of the conversion of souls[,] wherein he had no small success in the time of his ministry: And to this end, he poured out his very heart in prayer and preaching; he imparted not the gospel only, but his own soul. His supplications, and his exhortations, many times were so affectionate, so full of holy zeal, life, and vigour, that they quite overcame his hearers: he melted over them, so that he thawed and mollified, and sometimes dissolved the hardest hearts. But while he melted thus, he wasted, and at last consumed himself. ...

“Thus he did wear himself away, and gave light and heat to others. He usually allowed himself too little sleep to recruit and to repair the spirits which he wasted with waking. His manner was to rise at four o'clock at the utmost, many times before, and that in the cold winter mornings, that he might be with God betime, and so get room for other studies and employments. His extraordinary watchings, constant cares, excessive labours in the work of his ministry, public and private, were generally apprehended to be the cause of those distempers and decays, and at the last of that ill health of body, whereof in the end he died.” Thus did the zeal of the house of God eat him up.

He is chiefly known today as the author of the Alarm to the Unconverted, from which we quote below. Of that book the preface to the second Edinburgh edition of his life and letters says, “The perusal of his 'Alarm to the Unconverted' has been blessed to thousands of persons; and the editions through which it has passed have been exceedingly numerous. If a favourable judgment may be pronounced on a work from the popularity which it obtains, and if utility be the proper test of merit, then may the 'Alarm' claim a high degree of attention, and its author may be justly ranked among those men of genius whose pious exertions have procured them the title of BENEFACTORS: For, if we except the 'Pilgrim's Progress' and 'Robinson Crusoe,' scarcely has any treatise in the English Tongue, whether allegorical or in the form of history, had a circulation more extensive and beneficial than this serious and sensible production.”

The book was also early published under other titles, such as The True Way to Happiness, and A Sure Guide to Heaven. The well known commentator Robert Jamieson says, “That little work has obtained an extraordinary circulation, and, both in earlier and more recent times, new editions of it have been published, with prefatory recommendations from the greatest divines of the age.”

From that little book, recommended by the greatest divines of the ages, we proceed to quote Joseph Alleine on the conditions of salvation. ----editor.]

Forthwith renounce all thy sins. If thou yield thy self to the ordinary practice of any sin, thou art undone, Rom. 6.16. In vain dost thou hope for life by Christ, except thou depart from iniquity, 2 Tim. 2.19. Forsake thy sins, or else thou canst not find mercy, Prov. 28.13. Thou canst not be married to Christ, except divorced from sin. Give up the traitour or you can have no peace with Heaven. Cast the head of Sheba over the wall. Keep not Daliliah in thy lap. Thou must part with thy sins, or with thy soul. Spare but one sin, and God will not spare thee. Never make excuses: thy sins must die, or thou must die for them, Psal. 68.21. If thou allow of one sin, though but a little, a secret one, though thou maist plead necessity, and have a hundred shifts and excuses for it, the life of thy soul must go for the life of that sin; Ezek. 18.21. and will it not be dearly bought?

O sinner, hear and consider. If thou wilt part with thy sins, God will give thee his Christ: is not this a fair exchange? I testify unto thee this day, that if thou perish, it is not because there was never a Saviour provided, nor life tendered: but because thou preferredst (with the Jews) the murderer before a Saviour, sin before Christ, and lovedst darkness rather than light, John 3.19. Search thy heart therefore with candles, as the Jews did their houses for leaven, before the passover: labour to find out thy sins. Enter into thy closet, and consider, What evil have I lived in? what duty have I neglected towards God? what sin have I lived in against my brother? and now strike the darts through the heart of thy sin, as Joab did through Absalom's. 2 Sam. 18.14. Never stand looking upon thy sin, nor rolling the morsel under thy tongue: Job 20.12. but spit it out as poison, with fear and detestation. Alas, what will thy sins do for thee, that thou shouldst stick at parting with them? They will flatter thee, but they will undo thee, and cut thy throat while they smile upon thee, and poison thee while they please thee, and arm the justice and wrath of the infinite God against thee. They will open hell for thee, and pile up fuel to burn thee. Behold the gibbet that they have prepared for thee. Oh serve them like Haman, and do upon them the execution, they would else have done upon thee. Away with them, crucify them, and let Christ only be Lord over thee.

----”Directions for Conversion,” An Alarme to Unconverted Sinners, by Joseph Alleine. London: Printed by E.T. and R. H and are to be sold by Nevil Simmons, 1672, pp. 148-150.

Consistency in Translation

by Glenn Conjurske

There are many who contend most vehemently that we ought to translate the Bible consistently----that we ought always to render the same Greek word by the same word in English, or at any rate, that we ought to do this “wherever possible.” All the advocates of Bible revision point to the inconsistent translation of the King James Version as one of its greatest defects. And while we grant that there is a measure of truth in these contentions, we think there is also a great deal of shallow thinking, and of ignorance besides. We suppose there are some good reasons to translate consistently, and some good reasons not to do so. Which of those reasons ought to prevail in any particular instance is to be determined by wisdom, but it is certain that no such wisdom can be found in those who see only the reasons on one side, and know nothing of the existence of those on the other.

If we are to translate into English, we must know the peculiarities of English, and not merely of English grammar and vocabulary, but of English thought. There are certain patterns of thought which are common to those who speak English, and those thought patterns are as much a part of the English language as are its grammar and vocabulary. Those thought patterns may have but little effect on English grammar, but they have a great effect on English style, and to ignore them is to produce a style of English in which an Englishman is not at home, however readily he may understand it.

This is exactly what the old Revised Version did. These revisers thought of nothing but literal accuracy----and picayune accuracy, we must add. They were immersed in the Greek----or in mistaken notions of the sense of the Greek----and the peculiarities of English were apparently none of their concern. Hence they produced a version which, even where it is more accurate, is less English, and therefore less comfortable to English ears. The wise and learned Christopher Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln, thus characterizes the Authorized and Revised versions:

“...what the Revisers seem to have regarded as a special merit----namely, minute literal accuracy, and which in a certain sense is useful (as in an interlinear translation, according to the Hamiltonian system), yet for such purposes as for public reading in a church, is a fault and a hindrance rather than a merit and a help.

“The best of all translations is that which makes you forget that it is a translation, and tempts you to think that it is an original. The worst translation is that which, when read aloud, is perpetually reminding you that it is a translation; and this evil is increased if this literal translation is substituted for another version to which you have been accustomed from your childhood, and which has the merits of greater ease, freedom, and fluency. To pass from the latter to the former is, as it were, to alight from a well-built and well-hung carriage which glides easily over a macadamised road, and to get into one which has bad springs or none at all, and in which you are jolted in ruts with aching bones over the stones of a newly mended and rarely traversed road, like some of the roads in our North Lincolnshire villages.”

The comparison is very apt, and it seems to me that one of the primary reasons for this is that the Revisers, along with most of their modern successors, have simply failed to recognize the existence of English patterns of thought. The fear of Winer is ever before their eyes. They think of nothing but scientific correctness. They know nothing but rigid grammatical rules. Those rules, as we have often pointed out, ignore altogether the existence of the heart, but that is not the full extent of the evil. In some matters they ignore the mind also. They know no more of English thought patterns than a blind man does of colors. He learns the shape of the thing by feeling it, and supposes there is nothing more to know. All who speak English are of course governed, in their speech and their writing, by English patterns of thought. They use them instinctively and unconsciously. But here lies the danger. That which is unconscious may easily be unrecognized by those who fail to observe and to think. Translating is a different operation than speaking or writing, and here the instinctive and the unconscious will give way, if they are not consciously maintained. But they cannot be consciously maintained by men whose thinking is too shallow to recognize their existence. The grammar book in their hands becomes their only rule, and they use it to set at defiance those unconscious patterns of thought which would surely prevail, if they proceeded without any conscious thought at all. Thus a little learning is shown to be a dangerous thing. It leads them astray, where a deeper, broader learning would keep them true.

But I proceed to an example of English patterns of thought. We who speak English love to double our expressions, whether nouns, verbs, or adjectives. Many of these doubled expressions have become permanent parts of the English tongue, such as aid and abet, safe and sound, high and dry, born and bred, numerous and sundry, pet and caress, peace and quiet, pots and pans, beck and call, part and parcel, flit and fly, wit and wisdom, over and above, tossing and turning, each and every, faults and foibles----where nobody intends two things, but one. All these doubled expressions are permanent fixtures in the English language----as permanent as their component parts. Indeed, in some cases more permanent. Hue and cry may be found as an entry in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, while “hue” alone has passed out of existence, being found “now only in the phrase hue and cry,” as Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary affirms.

In some of these doubled expressions, the meanings of the two parts may be distinguished. In others they may not, but are strictly synonymous----or were so in their original meanings----as time and tide, each and every, beck and call, fond and foolish, and let or hindrance. Where they may be distinguished, there is rarely any intent on the speaker's part that they should be. This is merely speaking in full, forceful, emphatic English----simply conforming our speech to English habits of thought. And in addition to these standard expressions, every writer of literary English uses numerous doubled expressions of his own, so that we meet constantly with such phrases as dark and doleful, dark and dismal, goods and chattels, light and airy, roomy and spacious, tall and lofty, proud and arrogant, tomes and volumes, and so on, as far as the imagination and the vocabulary extend. This has nothing in the world to do with accuracy or correctness or grammar, but it is nevertheless a characteristic of the English language, for it is the way of the English mind. Englishmen thus speak and write unconsciously, for the English mind naturally runs in that channel.

So thoroughly characteristic of English habits of thought are these double expressions, that some of the early English translations of the Bible did not hesitate to incorporate them, where there was nothing to correspond to them in the Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. George Joye was particularly given to this. In Isaiah 11:6, where we now read, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,” Joye renders, “that the wolfe myght dwel and acorde with the lombe.” Where we read, in Isaiah 32:6, “to make empty the soul of the hungry,” Joye has the very expressive “pilling and polling the hongrye soule.” Where we read that the rich man “fared sumptuously every day,” the Geneva Bible tells us that he “fared wel and delicately everie day.” In most cases, however, the translators of the English Bible have resisted any propensity to doubly render the words of the original, and we suppose this is wise in a volume in which we all feel ourselves bound to make something of everything. There remain a few such double renderings in our English Bible. “Safe and sound” in Luke 15:27 is one example.

All these things we rehearse in order to endeavor to establish the fact that there are characteristics of the English language which have nothing to do with grammar, but which arise solely from English habits of thought. I suspect that such matters are not to be learned from grammar books at all. Certainly I did not learn them there, for I have never read an English grammar in my life. I learned these things from reading and speaking and writing the English language, and from observation and thought concerning what I was about. They have nothing to do with English grammar, and yet a great deal to do with the English language.

From these things we proceed to something of more importance, and which forms the proper subject of the present treatise.

Another characteristic of English patterns of thought is that we shun----we might almost say abhor----the repetition of the same word in the same context. And in translating this is a matter much more necessary to be observed than the propensity for doubling which we have spoken of above. Though the presence of doubled expressions is pleasing to English ears, their absence is not likely to be felt at all, whereas the presence of repeated words will be felt by everyone. Those who speak or write pure English will study to avoid this, whether consciously or unconsciously. When we see examples of such repetition in print, they are likely to grate upon the ear, and leave us with the impression that the writer is crude and ignorant. To take an extreme example, “This book was disappointing, because this book omitted the very things we had hoped to find in this book.” Such a sentence must grate upon the ears of every Tom, Dick, and Harry who have gotten a tittle or two beyond Dick, Jane, and Sally. Yet observe, there is nothing grammatically wrong with it. This is no matter of accuracy, nor intelligibility either, yet it certainly is a matter of English, for this is such a sentence as no one who speaks English would ever write. It violates English habits of thought. We avoid such repetitions at all cost, by means of a liberal use of pronouns and synonyms, or by recasting the structure of the sentence.

There are, of course, innumerable exceptions to this. It is often quite acceptable to repeat the secondary words in the sentence, so long as we vary the main one. There are times when we purposely repeat words, for emphasis or some other effect. There are times also when very necessity compels repetition, when there is no suitable synonym at hand. But granting all this, it yet remains a fact that as a general rule English habits of thought shun and avoid the repetition of the same word in the same context. So strong is our abhorrence of this that we labor to avoid a repetition of even the same sound, unless for a play on words, or some peculiar effect. We do not say, “He was of a taciturn turn.” I recently penned the following sentence, in my article on justification by faith only: “His guarding explanations have been discarded, and his most antinomian tendencies have been pursued to further extremes, and established as the standard of orthodoxy.” One of my proof-readers called my attention to “His guarding explanations have been discarded,” as an offense, however mild, against the English ear. I agreed with her, and altered the sentence to “His prudent explanations have been discarded,” choosing rather to weaken the sense than to let stand an expression which might draw attention to itself, and so distract the mind from its substance.

And we suppose the translators of the English Bible have chosen to do exactly the same on a number of occasions. Whether this was wise or not is a question which remains. Those who subject every other consideration to a pedantic sort of technical “accuracy” will of course condemn it. Those who perceive the popular character of the Bible, and suppose that an accuracy which is adequate may be all that is attainable without sacrificing too much in other realms, will view the practice more favorably. But it seems to me that the modern revisers of the Bible have supposed themselves in possession of the answer, while they knew nothing of the question. They have proceeded in entire ignorance of the propensity in English thought which formed the reason for the inconsistent and apparently capricious renderings of the older versions. All alike have treated the inconsistency of the King James Version as one of its gravest defects, and all alike have failed to recognize the need to vary the phrase, which is thrust upon us by our unconscious English thought patterns.

Speaking on this point, John W. Burgon says, “It would really seem as if the Revisionists of 1611 had considered it a graceful achievement to vary the English phrase even on occasions where a marked identity of expression characterizes the original Greek. When we find them turning 'goodly apparel,' (in S. James ii.2,) into 'gay clothing,' (in ver. 3,)----we can but conjecture that they conceived themselves at liberty to act exactly as S. James himself would (possibly) have acted had he been writing English.” Yes, and we suggest that this is an obvious business of a translator, and not an unimportant one. While he studies to transfer the meaning of the Greek with faithful accuracy, he must aim to please the English ear in the process. He must produce a version which will not only inform the mind, but dwell in the heart also. Burgon grants that the old version goes too far in varying the phrase, yet aptly remarks under the page heading “THE SAME WORD MUST BE DIVERSELY RENDERED IN DIFFERENT PLACES,”----”For it is sure sometimes to happen that what seems mere licentiousness proves on closer inspection to be unobtrusive Scholarship of the best kind.” But the makers of the Revised Version, the prototype of all the modern “school-boy translations,” mistook the wisdom of the older versions for carelessness or caprice, and mistook their own ignorance for wisdom or “accuracy.” With one voice they attacked the inconsistent renderings of the version which they set their hands to revise.

J. B. Lightfoot, one of the triumvirate of unspiritual intellectuals----the other two being Westcott and Hort----who did more than anyone else to determine the character of the Revised Version, affirms that “when the translation of the same word is capriciously varied in the same paragraph, and even in the same verse, a false effect is inevitably produced and the connexion will in some cases be severed, or the reader more or less seriously misled in other ways.” This is the dictum of pedantry, not of scholarship. Lightfoot forgot that he was translating into a language in which every refined author purposely and habitually varies the term when the same thing is meant, and that in the same paragraph, and the same sentence. And who is “seriously misled” by this? If “Old MacDonald has fifty head of cattle, and they are all fine cows,” what “false effect” is “inevitably produced” by this? None but a tyro would dream of repeating “cattle” in the second clause. The English mind will simply not allow it. Yet the poor pedant, zarmed with a zstack of lexicons, and zequipped with a zpile of commentaries----(and it is thus that every English author varies the phrase when no difference whatsoever is intended in the meaning)----will sit down to give us a treatise on the difference between cows and cattle. If “Jack immediately punched John in the nose, and John forthwith returned the favor,” who will be “seriously misled” by this? Nay, if “Jack loves Jill, and she adores him zalso,” our little word “also” may serve to teach even the pedants that “loves” and “adores” are but one thing, not two. We only vary the expression because we are English, and this is the way of the English mind.

Those who insist, then, upon consistent translation for the sake of accuracy are usually wide of the mark. In most cases accuracy has nothing to do with the matter. This is purely a matter of style. How, for example, are we “seriously misled” in Matthew 25:32 by “He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats”? This is one of the instances which Lightfoot cites as an example of the attempts of the old version “to improve upon the original.” We think it no more than a proof that they were translating into English, and that they understood what they were about.

We realize, however, that it is quite possible to proceed too far in that direction. We question, for example, the propriety of rendering in Romans 7:7-8, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” There is so much doctrinal content in the word “lust,” as there is also in this passage, that we think it had been better repeated, regardless of style. Perhaps it was a practical necessity to say “covet” in the second instance, for to alter the form of something so familiar as one of the ten commandments would surely create a greater stumbling-block than it could remove, yet “lust” might better have been retained in the third instance.

We think too that Tyndale was mistaken, in his translation of the epistles to the angels of the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3, to give us (in his 1534 revision) “messenger” five times, “angell” once, and “tydinges bringer” another time. This was evidently a variation purely for the sake of style. He had given us “angell” all seven times in his original Testament of 1526. But there was really no call for any variation for the sake of style, for the English mind only dislikes repetition in the immediate context, and certainly not in these references which are separated from each other by epistles more or less lengthy. And if there was no call to vary the phrase, there was every reason not to. Who and what the “angels” are has been much discussed, but the foundation of that discussion must surely be the certainty that there was one such angel in each of the congregations. If five have messengers, another an angel, and the last a tidings bringer, an element of confusion is likely to be thrown into the discussion before it begins.

Yet where the words have no particular doctrinal significance, there is no call for consistency. Even Lightfoot admits that “The exigencies of English might demand some slight variation,” but he seems to have little sense of what those exigencies of English are. He objects to rendering the same phrase, within a single paragraph, “These things have I spoken unto you,” “These things have I told you,” and “I have said these things unto you.” This we think is pedantry gone to seed.

Lightfoot devotes nearly fifty pages to his plea for consistency, faulting the old version under the titles, “Artificial distinctions created,” and “Real distinctions obliterated.” We would not pretend to any perfection in the old version, in this matter or any other, and yet we deny that the problem is half so vast as Lightfoot supposes. Intellectuals and pedants stumble where common men find no difficulty. Pedants see only words where men of common sense see things, and if the same thing is called by two different words, they do not raise a great hue and cry over it, nor go hunting in the lexicons for hidden mysteries. The spiritual are likewise occupied with things, while the intellectual lose the spiritual substance in their preoccupation with words, and we do not hesitate to say that many of these intellectuals would be far better off if they had never learned a word of Greek.

But more. There are certainly cases in which we must translate inconsistently as a matter of accuracy, and not merely of style. Every word in either Greek or English has a range of possible meaning. The meaning of a single word, when used twice in one sentence, may be drawn from different portions of its range of meaning. Thus the same word, even in the same sentence, may mean two different things, so that we may need one English word for its first appearance, and another for its second. We rarely have an exact equivalent between Greek and English. That is, we rarely have words in the two languages which encompass exactly the same range of meaning. A letter in the Guardian of April 20, 1870, when the attempt to revise the English Bible was just beginning, lays down as the first two principles of the revision, “1. Translate a word in the original by the same English word wherever possible. 2. When the word in the original is varied, vary also the English word.” The letter of course condemns the proceedings of the King James translators. A seasonable rejoinder appeared the following week, saying, “To say that each Greek or Hebrew word should be represented by one English word only, implies the assertion that there is an English word capable of representing adequately the various shades of meaning which the original word may be made to convey. But it is notorious that exact equivalents for words in another language are hardly ever to be found. One language has many words to express what another expresses by the use of one only. It may be that some one word in English would suffice in all cases to represent, after a fashion, the one word in the original; but to use one word only in our Bibles, where in other books we use three or four, would be making a translation not into the English language, but into a sort of technical jargon, which would enable our book to serve as 'an Englishman's Concordance to the Greek Testament.' Our translators were certainly right in determining to give us an English book, applying fairly the force and variety of which English is capable to express the ideas which the men of old wrote in such language as they were masters of. What sort of dialect would it be rightly called in which we could write----'until this day remaineth the same vail not unvailed in the reading of the Old Testament'? The fact is that where one word in language A can be represented by several words in language B, it must upon occasion be represented by different words, or else the real force of the original is not given. It is very seldom indeed that two words in common use at the same time are exact synonyms: sometimes the distinction is a broad one which you can put into a dictionary; sometimes it is one of those delicacies the perception of which goes to make the difference between a clear and expressive style and a clumsy, inexact one. It is not without reason that missionaries have been accused of cramping and spoiling the languages of their converts by sticking to one word or phrase, where in free speech a native would have availed himself of much more varied, and in the same proportion much more powerful and exact, expressions. If our version is to be revised, let the very first rule be that it be in English, and in as good and idiomatic English as the revisers know how to put together.”

This is wise speech, and we contend that varying the phrase in translating is often essential, not only to good English style, but to accuracy also. In Mark 8:35-37----”For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”----is exactly correct, and we should be as far astray to put “soul” in the first two instances as we would be to put “life” in the latter two. The Revised Version retains these renderings, although, being misled by their false notions concerning consistency, they put “soul” in the margin for the first two appearances of the word. But “soul” no more belongs in the margin here than it does in the text. What nonsense is this, that “whosoever will save his soul shall lose it”? The principle which entails such nonsense must be a mistaken one. Is it not the great business of our life to save our soul----even at the expense of our life? “Soul” and “life” may be expressed by a single word in the Greek, but in English we require two.

But it just occurs to me that even this is not all. If we were to translate this sentence----”Is it not the great business of our life to save our soul----even at the expense of our life?”----if we were to translate this into Greek, we would not only use the same word for “soul” and “life,” but two different words for the two appearances of the English “life.” For “life” in the first instance we would say ----or perhaps , but certainly not ----but for “life” in the second instance, and of course for “soul.” And some pedants would likely censure us for creating artificial distinctions and obliterating real ones.

We plead for common sense, and for real wisdom, both of which are apt to be set aside by a rigid adherence to rules----and the more so when the rule itself is formulated in ignorance of the issues.

The Woman with the Issue of Blood

by Glenn Conjurske

We know little enough about this woman, and the brief account which we have of her tells us more about her Lord than about herself. We meet her but once, where she meets the Lord. He was enroute to the house of Jairus, in response to a most pressing invitation, for this man's only daughter lay at the point of death. The disciples and a throng of people follow him. Through this crowd the woman presses her way. “And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment.” Observe, she came behind him. She did not come as another had done, crying, “Lord, that I might receive my sight!” nor as others, who “besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment,” nor as this Jairus, who “besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death.” Her malady was a shame and an embarrassment. Her feminine modesty deters her from speaking of it----from looking a man in the face to talk of it----for this much we may be sure of, that she was no brazen hussey of the modern sort, stripped of her natural modesty by the radio and the television, by the news-stand literature, and by the public school classroom. She was a creature of God's making, and lived when men did not make it their study to undo the work of God in her. For twelve years she has “suffered many things of many physicians.” Suffered many things, for it was suffering but to declare her malady to a physician, and it may be that the remedies prescribed were as bad as the disease. Suffered many things, for the doctors, then as now, would prescribe by trial and error. When one thing gave no relief, another would be tried, and always of course for money, whether the remedy would kill or cure. When one physician failed, she would seek out another, suffering again to declare her malady, suffering to take the prescribed remedies, suffering to find no relief, and suffering to see her living flowing out with her life. All this went on for twelve weary years, weary years in which her malady was always the uppermost thing in her mind, weary years of watching her life flow out of her, of watching day by day for some little change for the better, and watching in vain, her hopes raised by each new physician and every fresh remedy, only to wither again in the trial, and the final result of all being that she “had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.”

Methinks her spirit must languish away with her body. Twelve years, many physicians, many remedies, one great overshadowing anxiety resting always upon her spirit, many embarrassments to harrow her delicate soul, and no relief, but rather the reverse, her health fast waning, and her money gone. Who can doubt that a dark and hopeless despondency had settled upon her spirit? But now in her extremity she

”... saw, through the gloom, a bright, beckoning ray.”

She “heard of Jesus.” She heard of a physician who charged no fees, who healed with a touch, who cured with a word, who caused the lame to walk and the blind to see, who opened the ears of the deaf and loosed the tongues of the dumb, who cleansed the lepers and raised the dead. She “heard of Jesus,” heard, perhaps, only a flying rumor, but what earnest inquiries did she make after him. How diligently she sought for substantial information. What new light now sprang up in her languid eyes, what new hopes in her drooping soul, what new life even to her weakened frame! What trekkings she now makes to find those who had actually seen and heard him----those who had watched him heal the sick----those who had once been in plights as bad as her own, and were now made whole. Every scrap of information is as cold water to a thirsty soul. “Faith cometh by hearing,” and she hears and believes.

And as faith had moved the hands of Noah, and the feet of Abraham, so it moves the feet of this woman. She will now find the Lord, and her earnest inquiries continue. Where was he last? Where was he going? Where can I find him? We know not whether her search was long or short----whether her journeyings were many or few. Only this we know, that faith and need will persevere, and she found him----found him thronged by a crowd of people, pressing his way to the house of Jairus, whose only daughter lay at the point of death.

But now she has found him, her feminine modesty and shamefacedness will assert themselves. Her thoughts go back to her many physicians, and the shame she has felt, looking down at the floor, while to one after another of them she divulged the nature of her malady. Surely she might spare herself another repetition of that. Here is a man of God, a prophet, a great seer, and could he not see her malady, as Elisha saw Gehazi go after the Syrian's treasures? Did he not know the nature of her complaint, as Daniel knew the dream of the king? She need not look this man in the face. She need not speak to him of her malady. “For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” This was faith----faith in his knowledge, faith in his power, faith in his goodness. She “came,” therefore, “behind him, and touched the hem of his garment”----”and straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.”

But could she be content thus to take her blessing by stealth? After all the many things which she has suffered of many physicians, for twelve long years, after all her money was spent, and she was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, shall this man now heal her so painlessly, so perfectly, so instantaneously, so gratuitously, and shall she speak never a word to him? Shall those blessed ears hear never a word of gratitude? Shall that gentle heart receive no gratification from her happy tears? Methinks she desires to speak to him----desires, and shrinks from it----shrinks, and yet desires. Perhaps she has half formed a purpose to find him out in private, away from the multitude, and let the affections of her soul flow out with her tears, to bless so great a Saviour.

But the Lord is beforehand with her. He stops. The thronging multitude stops with him, while he asks, “Who touched me?” Peter and the other disciples, ever too ready to question and chide their divine Master, must now say, “Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?” But the touch of faith is another thing from thronging and pressing, and the Lord knew how to distinguish them. Observe, she had touched but the hem of his garment----touched his garment at a place where his garment touched not himself----touched thus the hem of his garment, while the thronging multitude pressed his garment and his body also----and yet he felt the touch of this woman. He felt it not with his body, but with his spirit. “Somebody hath touched me,” he says, though she had been careful not to touch his body. Yet she touched his heart and soul, and most truly he said, “Somebody hath touched me.” He knew and felt the faintest touch of faith, and when the disciples expostulate with him, his answer is ready: “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.”

“Virtue” is an old word which means “power.” “Power is gone out of me.” But we have never liked the translation “I perceive,” though it comes to us in an almost unbroken chain from William Tyndale. We think it weakens the sense. What the Lord says is simply, “I know that power is gone out of me.” That power could not have gone out of him involuntarily, or without his own will and choice. This was no blind force, no mere general shining of the sun or haphazard blowing of the wind, but a specific act of power, applied directly to the ailment of the woman, while her hand touched the hem of his garment. This was as much his own voluntary act as any he had ever performed. He knew, therefore, that power had gone out of him, and he knew exactly when, and how, and wherefore.

Why then does he ask, “Who touched me?” Surely not for his own sake. He knew who had touched him, knew why she had, and knew what he had done for her. It was certainly not to gain information that he asked. Neither was it to gain glory. We know how he shrank from this. We know how often he straitly charged those whom he had healed to tell no man, nor to make him known among the people. Why now the direct reverse of this? Surely this was not for himself. But if not, what was his purpose?

First, he did this for her. She needed this. Had she succeeded in keeping herself secret, we think she must have gone away feeling empty, in spite of the great joy of her healing. “Love looks for love again,” and to receive such love, and not to return it, must leave us feeling empty and unsatisfied, if not low and ignoble. To receive such mercy of the Lord, after suffering so much for so long, and to return no gratitude, no love, no thanks, no acknowledgement----this is the way of hogs and cattle, not of creatures made in the image of God. Though she naturally shrank from the exposure, yet she needed the opportunity. She came to the Lord with a need of twelve years standing in her body. He laid that need to rest, but in so doing created another need in her soul. That need he saw as well as the other, and therefore he asks, “Who touched me?”

She evidently felt that need, or she might have slipped away through the crowd, and left him standing and asking, “Who touched me?” By his asking she “saw that she was not hid”----not hid to him, though she was to all the multitude beside. Doubtless it would have suited her best to remain hid to the multitude, yet she cannot now but trust her benefactor, and the strength of her thankfulness to him must be determined by the magnitude of her sufferings and the hopelessness of her despair before. The value which she sets upon her new-found health must be in proportion to the time she languished without it, and all this must determine the measure of her gratitude. She shrinks, no doubt, from this exposure before the multitude, yet to him she owes her all, and she will give him his due. “When the woman saw,” therefore, “that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.” Yea, she “told him all the truth,” for now that he has prodded her to speak, she will not stint her words. And though difficult, we think it must have been a great relief and release to her soul to tell out the secret of her heart. It is simply unthinkable that she could have left him without a word, after receiving so great a benefit.

But we do not suppose he called forth this testimony solely for her sake. He did this for us----to teach us the efficacy of the hand of faith, however timid and trembling, which can but touch the hem of his garment, and so consummate a real link, however feeble, between our souls and the Saviour. He chose to call for this testimony “before all the people.” It was for the sake of all the people. A private expression of her gratitude had been much easier, but not so useful. And she does not hesitate. She yields herself up to his will, to be used for his ends, not consulting her own preference. As she had trusted him to heal, so she now trusts him not to harm, and there was as much faith in her open declaration as there had been in her secret coming, and devotion and gratitude besides.

And having moved her to speak to him, he will now speak to her. And here we meet with one of the most tender touches in all the Bible. He opens his mouth, and calls her “Daughter.” Never before has he addressed any female so, and never does he do so again. And yet it must be understood, this was no young girl to whom he spoke, but a grown woman, likely as old as himself, and perhaps older. She had suffered with an issue of blood twelve years, an issue which could only have begun when she had already passed beyond her childhood. Why does he call her Daughter? We suppose there is no term on earth of such endearing tenderness as “Daughter.” To address a woman so must be a tender touch on any occasion, but this occasion must exceed all others. Recall what the Lord was about when this woman touched him. He was making his way to the house of Jairus, at the pressing invitation of him whose only daughter lay at the point of death. What could have filled his thoughts and his feelings on such an occasion, if not the love of a daughter, if not the tender ties which bind a man's heart to a daughter, the empty void which the heart of Jairus was beginning already to feel, as those ties were about to be snapped asunder, and the pall of gloom which was any moment to fall upon his spirit, when he heard those soul-chilling words, “Thy daughter is dead”? And with all these tender emotions filling this great heart, which felt everything human in its perfection, he parts his lips to speak to the trembling woman at his feet, and forth comes the word “Daughter.” On any occasion, I say, this were the most tender word he could have spoken, but on this occasion it is too exquisite for words.

He has but one thing more to do to complete this operation. His power has given her health, and his word must give her assurance. It was his love which gave her both, and would not give the one without the other. “Daughter,” he says, “Be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” He will not allow her to depart dreading a relapse. Her blood will flow again, and he will not suffer her to be alarmed and anxious when it does, but takes care for the peace of her mind as well as the health of her body. She is not only to be healed by faith, but to live by faith also. That faith must rest upon his word----”Be of good comfort”----”Be whole of thy plague”----and thus resting she may live without fear the normal life of a woman, beholding the fountain of her own blood without consternation, but remaining in perfect peace. Having given her that word, he dismisses her, to “go in peace.”

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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.