Submitting One to Another
Abstract of a Sermon Preached on July 26, 2000
by Glenn Conjurske
Is it ever right for a husband to submit to his wife?
Is it ever right for parents to submit to their children?
Is it ever right for a king to submit to his subjects?
I believe without question that all these things are good and proper,
and I aim to prove it to you from the Bible. In Ephesians 5:21 Paul says,
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. This
requires all of us, regardless of our position or authority, to submit
to others, regardless of their inferior station. Submitting one
----each to all, husbands to wives and wives to
husbands, children to parents and parents to children, servants to masters
and masters to servants.
Long ago I read a beautiful statement of this from Cathy Rice, the wife
of Bill Rice. She was endeavoring to teach the women to submit to their
husbands, but some of them did not like the doctrine, and asked her, Do
you mean to tell us that you always do whatever your husband asks of you?
She assured them that she did. When she went home she asked Bill, Haven't
I always done everything that you have asked me to? He assured her
that she had, and added, And I have always done everything that
you have asked me to. This is submitting one to another.
But you will say, this was easy for them. They had a good marriage. They
were in love. No doubt, and no doubt this did make it easy. They were
agreed in their principles also, and this no doubt made it very easy.
But I tell you, where the submission is more difficult it is also more
necessary. The more strained the marriage, the less agreement there is
in principle, the worse the relationship between parents and children,
the more necessary this submission becomes, especially on the part of
those who hold the authority. A gentle submission on their part will tend
greatly to make the relationship better, where a stubborn insistence upon
their own way will make it immeasurably worse. Submission one to another
will ease the tensions and smooth the path of all concerned.
But here I must caution you against a false and evil use of this text.
Much of the modern church, under the influence of modern feminism, perverts
this text entirely, and uses it to teach that the husband owes the same
kind of submission to the wife that the wife owes to the husband. Marriage
is a partnership, with nobody in charge. Years ago I knocked
on the door of a Baptist pastor. His wife came to the door, and I asked
her facetiously, Is your master at home? She looked offended,
and said, My partner is. She would not call him her lord,
as Sarah called Abraham. They were equal partners, and nobody was in charge.
But I tell you, if the husband has the same obligation to submit to the
wife as the wife has to the husband, you create an impossible situation.
Nobody has the determining power. They must either always agree, or have
a tie vote, with nobody to break the tie. Each holds one of the reins,
and the poor horse is likely to be mighty confused at times.
But speaking of horses, I recall a story I heard years ago from John R.
Rice. He spoke of a man who was taken to court for adulterating his rabbit
sausage with horse meat. The judge asked him if he didn't put a little
horse meat in his rabbit sausage. He admitted that he did. How much,
asked the judge. Fifty-fifty, he replied. Fifty-fifty!
exclaimed the astonished judge, to which the man replied, Yes, Sir:
one horse and one rabbit. And John R. Rice added, And when
a woman tells me her marriage is a 'fifty-fifty proposition,' I can tell
you who the horse is, and who's the rabbit.
But I do not believe any of this modern doctrine which makes husband and
wife equal, with neither of them holding the authority, and both of them
equally obliged to submit to each other. This is as unscriptural as it
is impossible. The plain fact is, the wife owes a submission to her husband
that he does not owe to her, and children owe a submission to their parents
that their parents do not owe to them.
We are dealing here with two different kinds of submission. All those
who are under authority have an obligation to submit to the commands imposed
upon them by that authority, but all of us, authority or no authority,
have an obligation to submit to the wishes of all the rest. Submission
to the commands imposed by authority is mandatory. Submission to the wishes
of those who are under us is voluntary. You will tell me that if this
submission is voluntary, then it cannot be an obligation, but I tell you,
Nonsense. Love is voluntary also, and yet we are obliged to
love. Christians have an obligation to support their preachers, and yet
their gifts are voluntary. There are many things which are voluntary,
and yet obligatory. This submission is voluntary in that it is at our
own discretion when or how much of it we do, but we are certainly obliged
to do it. The scripture does not merely advise us to do this, but orders
The submission to authority proceeds always in one direction, from the
subject to his superior. The submission to each other's wishes proceeds
equally in both directions. This it is that Paul speaks of in First Corinthians
7, 33 and 34. He that is married careth for the things that are
of the world, how he may please his wife, and she that is
married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
This works equally in both directions, while the authority of the husband
remains intact. He holds the determining power, and the veto power.
But the man who holds authority over others, and does not make it his
constant study to please them and submit to their wishes, is utterly unfit
to exercise his authority. All authority comes from God, and it is designed
to be a benefit to its subjects, but if a man holds authority, and cares
nothing to please his subjects, or to submit to their wishes, that authority
will be nothing more than a heavy burden on their backs. He is unworthy
the name of father or husband, for he is really a tyrant.
And I will tell you another thing. No man's position of authority is secure
unless he makes it his study to submit to those who are under him. If
he cares nothing for their wishes, they will care nothing for him. We
see a plain example of this in the foolish son of the wise Solomon. In
I Kings chapter 12 we read of Rehoboam's accession to the throne of Israel.
The people come immediately to him, saying, Thy father made our
yoke grievous. Now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father,
and his heavy yoke which he laid upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
The king requires three days in which to give an answer. He first asked
the old men, who stood before his father, and they told him wisely, If
thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them,
and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants
But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given
him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him.
This was utterly foolish. Why consult with anybody at all? The young men
that were grown up with him had no more sense than he had himself, and
he ought to have known that the old counsellors of Solomon must have been
wise. But he played the fool, and took the counsel of the young men, and
how utterly foolish it was soon appeared.
He spoke to the people after the counsel of the young men, saying,
My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke; my father
also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the
people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither
have we inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel. Now
see to thine own house, David.
What else could he have expected? By showing the people that he cared
nothing for their grievances, and that he would not serve them nor submit
to them, he showed them that he was utterly unfit to rule them. His answer
reeks of pride. He would show them who was king, but all he showed them
was that he was utterly unfit to be a king. From that moment both his
person and his authority were despised, and this could hardly have been
You will tell me this was very naughty, it was rebellion, it was resisting
the authority which was established by God, it was rejecting the Lord's
anointed. Perhaps so, but still it was inevitable. Abuse of authority
always spawns the rejection of that authority
----and it is certainly
an abuse of authority to refuse to submit to the reasonable suits of our
subjects. Those who stand in positions of authority represent God, and
yet they are utterly unlike him if they care nothing for the feelings
and grievances of their people.
And as it was with Rehoboam, so it is with every man who holds authority.
If he does not make it his business to submit to the wishes of his subjects,
his whole course will wear away at his own authority. All his deportment
will weaken his own position, till his person and position and power are
all despised. This is inevitable. You may preach the divine right
of kings till your tongue is tired, and bring all your powers of
reason, and all your strong scriptures, to prove the God-given powers
of husbands and parents and elders, and it will all avail you nothing,
unless you make it your business to submit to the wishes of your subjects.
Apart from this, they may submit to you of necessity, but it will never
be a willing submission, and they will long for the day when they may
escape from the burden of your authority. I know children today who are
longing for their escape from their parents' authority, and it is the
parents' fault, not the children's. If you submit to their wishes, you
secure their hearts. If thou wilt be a servant unto this people
this day, the old counsellors say, and wilt serve them, and
answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants
for ever. You will secure their hearts, and when that is done all
is done. But if the heart is not secured, nothing is secured.
But when, how much, how often, ought superiors to submit to the wishes
of their underlings? They ought to submit as much and as often as they
----as much as wisdom and reason and conscience will allow it.
On any other plan they deny the wishes of others merely at their own whim.
We know there are two sides to every question. We know that we have in
this day a great horde of self-willed persons who dislike authority as
----except when they hold it themselves. A man fifteen hundred
miles away once took me to task for determining everything in the congregation
without consulting the people. I told him the charge was false. When I
mentioned the charge to some of you, you told me it was ridiculous.
I never determine anything without consulting the people. I may not consult
every babe and every child, or every person on every matter, but I consult
the people in general. I may hold the determining power in my own hands
is right, this is of God ----but I always consult the feelings of
the people. If I had determined the matter of my own will, we would use
fermented wine in the Lord's supper, as Christ and the apostles certainly
did, but I found some of the people strongly against it, and I was glad
to submit to them. I don't always submit. I will not admit certain hymns
in our meetings merely because somebody likes them. I won't admit all
the hymns which I like myself. Truth must prevail over pleasing music,
and even over spiritual emotion, and reason and wisdom must prevail over
the tastes and wishes of us all. I cannot, therefore, always submit to
the wishes of everybody, but I make it my business to consider them. To
submit to the wishes of those who are determined to have their own way
will do no good to them or anybody else, and to submit to the belligerent
wishes of anybody is only to invite more of the same. The determining
power must lie somewhere, or we will have anarchy and confusion.
I asked you at the beginning whether it is ever right and proper for husbands
to submit to wives, or parents to children, and some of you indicated
you believe it is. You believe, in other words, that it is right for those
who hold the positions of authority to submit to those who are under them.
But let me ask you a further question. Is it ever right and proper for
God to submit to man? Is it ever right for the supreme ruler of the universe
to submit to the wishes of his creatures? It certainly is, and he certainly
does so. But observe, it is never proper for him to submit to their commands
or demands or dictates. Neither will he ever do so, unless to take the
wise in their own craftiness, or to destroy the wicked by their own devices.
But God submits to the wishes of his people, and in all this we see those
two kinds of submission of which we have spoken before. We are obliged
to submit to the commands of God, while he is pleased to submit to our
wishes. The latter fact is the foundation of our praying.
Take one plain example. God sent his prophet to Hezekiah, saying, Set
thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live. Hezekiah
turned his face to the wall and wept sore. He labored to change the mind
of God. He said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have
walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that
which is good in thy sight. And God heard his prayer, saw his tears,
and submitted to his wishes.
And I want you to observe well the significance of this. If God, the supreme
ruler of the universe, will submit to the wishes of his sinful creatures,
what right have the petty powers which he has created to disregard the
wishes of their subjects? It must be the height of hypocrisy for a husband
or a parent to treat with cold indifference, or contempt or anger, the
wishes of their wives or children, and then go to God with their own wishes,
and expect God to hear them. Even if we believe ourselves in the right,
and the wishes of others altogether mistaken, yet mild and gentle measures
become us, who are sinners ourselves. If we are in the right, and others
in the wrong, yet we cease to be right as soon as we adopt high-handed
measures. You think you are right, but no man has any more right to force
the conscience of another to make him do right, than he has to force his
conscience to make him do wrong. It may sometimes be necessary to force
the heart, but this we ought to do with reluctance. Where it concerns
a matter which means a great deal to the other party, we ought to do so
only with the greatest hesitation, where there is some compelling necessity
for it. There are doubtless cases where we ought not to do it at all.
High-handed measures may secure us a temporary advantage or victory, but
they will always work against us in the end, where mild and gentle ways
will secure the hearts of the others, if they do not convince their minds.
But I do not preach any such foolish doctrine as that we ought always
to submit to the wishes of our subjects. This would make authority a non-entity,
and it would make wisdom useless. Parents who always submit to the wishes
of their children make spoiled brats of them. This is foolish. But yet
I tell you, it ought to hurt us to deny the wishes of our subjects. My
little boy came to me some time ago with a rather large request, which
I was obliged to deny. I was simply unable to grant it. And yet I dare
say I felt the disappointment much more than he did. I feel it still
it often ----though I dare say he has long since forgotten about
it. And I still often meditate upon how I might grant it yet.
We ought sometimes to deny the wishes of our subjects. Reason and wisdom
and conscience may often require this of us. We hold our authority for
the benefit of our subjects, not merely for the immediate happiness of
every individual as such. Sometimes the will of one must be sacrificed
to the good of the whole church or family, and sometimes for the good
of the individual himself. But we have no right whatever to treat their
wishes with cold indifference, or to purposely cross them, merely to show
them who's boss. This is contemptible, and in the end it will bring
their contempt upon us. But it is not the contempt of our subjects which
concerns me here, but the disapproval of God. Our text says, Submitting
yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
But what has the fear of God to do with your submitting to the wishes
of those who are beneath you? Much every way. Turn with me to Colossians
4:1. Here we are told, Masters, give unto your servants that which
is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
And what does this have to do with the matter. Just this, that your Master
in heaven will deal with you as you have dealt with others, Give,
and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken
together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the
same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
God will see to it that you receive the same treatment which you have
dealt out to others. If you have treated the wishes of your wife or your
----or your husband or your parents, for that matter ----with
cold indifference, God will treat your own wishes the same way. When you
are crying to him, and wondering why he will neither hear nor heed your
prayers, you need only look at the way in which you have treated the petitions
of others. This is what the fear of God has to do with the matter.
Again in Ephesians 6:9, And, ye masters, do the same things unto
them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven;
neither is there respect of persons with him. He has been exhorting
servants to obey their masters, and render them good service, and now
he turns to the masters, and says, do the same things unto them.
Do the same things to them that you expect them to do to you. Not, of
course, that masters are to obey their servants, but they are to submit
to their wishes
----to honestly and carefully seek their welfare
and their happiness, the same way that you expect them to seek yours.
Any why this? Because your own Master is in heaven, and he will do to
you as you have done to others. As you have measured to others, he will
measure back to you, and good measure, pressed down, shaken together,
and running over. If you therefore value your own happiness, you ought
to be very careful about the happiness of others, and submit to their
wishes in the fear of God, in whose hands lies your own welfare.
If you ask when, and how often, and how much we ought to submit to the
wishes of others, I say, Do unto others as you would have God do unto
you. Measure to others as you would have God measure to you. Most of us
probably have more sense than to expect God to submit to our every whim.
We can easily forgo this, if he will but grant us the things which mean
the most to us. Then study to do the same to your wives and your children
to say to your husbands and parents. All of you submit to one another,
and certainly in those things which matter most to the others. Make this
your business, and God will make it his business to do the same to you.
Well, but you will ask me if I practice what I preach. I think I do, though
I know I am a poor failing creature. I like to feed the birds, and have
a couple of bird feeders outside my study window, but the chipmunks like
to come and eat everything. And they don't eat their fill as the birds
do, and then go their way, but fill their cheeks with load after load,
and carry it off, leaving nothing for the birds. So I got myself a B-B
gun, and began to make war on them. But one of my daughters told me the
gun has an awful sound, and makes her blood run cold.
So I told her I would put it up and not use it. This was something that
obviously meant a great deal to her, and I would be a fool
something worse too ----not to submit to her wishes in such a matter,
though from my viewpoint her wishes were not very reasonable. They may
not even be very reasonable from her viewpoint, but her viewpoint is not
reason, but emotion. She may know better ----she grants many things
must be killed for many reasons ----but still she cannot help feeling
what she feels, and I will not go on wounding her feelings if I can help
it. Just this morning a squirrel came to clean out my bird feeder. I walked
outside and approached him, but he sat there and looked at me. I clapped
my hands, but still he sat there. I walked almost up to him, and by slow
stages he sauntered off. I could have shot him ten times, but no: That
gun has an awful sound, and It makes my blood run cold.
So I left it on the shelf, and the squirrel went free, to come again as
he pleases. He has chewed holes in the wall and ceiling of my shed, and
I would love to get rid of him, and before he has a wife and a brood of
little ones too. I may do so yet, somehow, but as to the gun, I submit
to the feelings and wishes of my precious daughter, and you may call me
weak and foolish if you please.
Thus we ought to submit one to another. If the matter evidently means
a great deal to the other party, and we have no sufficient reason to deny
----and our own pride or selfishness is hardly a sufficient reason ----we
ought to submit to their wishes. And if those who stand in the positions
of authority will aim always thus to submit to their subjects, their yoke
will be an easy one, and their inferiors will be glad to bear it.
Menno Simons (1505?-1559)
on the Terms of Salvation
In the second place we exhort you in the language of Christ, Repent
ye, and believe the Gospel, Mark 1:15. Oh, thou faithful word of
grace! Oh, thou faithful word of divine love! thou art read in books,
sung in hymns, preached with the mouth, with life and death proclaimed
in many countries, but in thy power they desire thee not; yea more, all
those who rightly teach and receive thee, are made a prey for the whole
world. Alas, beloved Sirs, it will avail us nothing to be called christians,
and boast of the Lord's blood, death, merits, grace and Gospel, as long
as we are not converted from this wicked, impious and shameful life. It
is in vain that we are called christians; that Christ died; that we were
born in the day of grace, and baptized with water, if we do not walk according
to his law, counsel, admonition, will and command and are not obedient
to his word.
----The Complete Works of Menno Simon. Elkhart, Indiana: John F.
Funk and Brother, 1871, First Part, pg. 17.
Behold, dear reader, the repentance we teach, is to die unto sin, and
all ungodly works, and live no longer according to the lusts of the flesh,
even as David did, 2 Sam. 13:12; 18:1. When he was reproved by the prophet
on account of his adultery, and for numbering the people, he wept bitterly,
called upon God, forsook the evil, and committed these sinful abominations
no more. Peter sinned very grievously but once, and no more. Matthew,
after being called by the Saviour, did not again return to his ways of
life. Zaccheus and the sinful woman did not again return to their impure
works of darkness. Zaccheus made restitution to those whom he had defrauded,
and gave half of his goods to the poor and distressed. The woman wept
very bitterly, and washed the feet of the Lord with her tears, and wiped
them with the hair of her head; she anointed them with precious ointment,
and sat humbly at his feet, to listen to his blessed words.
These are the precious fruits of that repentance, which is acceptable
to the Lord. . .
Such a repentance we teach, and no other, namely, that no one can glory
in the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins, the merits of Christ, and
count himself pious, unless he has truly repented. It is not enough that
we say, we are Abraham's children, that is, that we are called christians
and esteemed as such, but we must do the works of Abraham, that is, we
must walk as all true children of God are commanded by his word, as John
writes, If we say, we have fellowship with him (God) and walk in
darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as
he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood
of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sins, 1 Jn. 1:6,7.
I ask all my readers, if they ever have read in the scriptures, that an
impenitent, obdurate man, who fears not God nor his word, who is earthly
minded, sensual, devilish, and lives according to his lusts, can be called
a child of God and a joint heir of Christ? I believe you will be constrained
to answer, no. But he that with all his heart, ceases from evil and learns
to do well, to him the grace of the Lord is proclaimed throughout the
whole scriptures, as the prophet says, Wash ye, make you clean;
put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil;
learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless,
plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.
Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though
they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool, Isa. 1:16-18. Again,
If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed,
and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall
surely live, he shall not die; all his transgressions that he hath committed,
they shall not be mentioned unto him, Ezek. 18:21,22. And further,
read and search the whole scriptures, the true instructions and testimonies
of the holy prophets, evangelists and apostles, and you will find it clearly
set forth, how this godly repentance is to be earnestly received and practiced,
and that without it no one can receive grace, enter into the kingdom of
heaven, or ever hope for it.
----ibid., pg. 18.
But if you, by any means, wish to be saved, your earthly, carnal, ungodly
life, must be reformed; for the Scriptures teach nothing but true repentance
and reformation, and present to us [to move us to repent] admonitions,
threatenings, reprovings, miracles, examples, ceremonies and sacraments;
and if you do not repent, there is nothing in heaven or on earth that
can save you; for without true repentance, we are comforted in vain. The
prophet says, O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err,
and destroy the way of thy paths, Isa. 3:12. We must be born from
above, must be changed and renewed in our hearts, transplanted from the
unrighteous and evil nature of Adam, into the true and good nature of
Christ, or we can never be saved by any means, whether human or divine.
Wherever true repentance and the new creature are not (I speak of adults),
man must be eternally lost; this is incontrovertibly clear. Upon this
every one may confidently rely, who does not wish to deceive his soul.
----ibid., pg. 169.
Catherine Booth on Mock Salvation
[Catherine Booth was the wife of William Booth, founder of the Salvation
Army. I should point out that when she speaks of being actually
saved, she means actually delivered from sin.
No mere intellectual beliefs can save men, because right opinions do
not make right hearts. Alas, we all know the little practical effect opinions
have on character. ... As a French infidel, answering a caviller against
holiness, said the other day, You believe and sin, I do not believe
and sin: where is the difference? It seems to me I am the better of the
two. Exactly, for however true or grand a man's beliefs, of what
use are they if he does not act them out? Can faith save him?
Nay, verily, but such a faith can damn him.
Further, any theory which leads men to suppose that they are safe without
being actually saved is the most dreadful of all.
Such a theory adds an intellectual opiate to the deceit of the heart,
and prevents the truth from troubling the conscience. Now, the only use
of appealing to the understandings of the unregenerate, is, that through
their understandings you may get at their hearts, but if Satan has blinded
their minds by some intellectual opiate, there is no chance. The
understanding is darkened, the conscience seared, and the soul paralyzed.
These are the worst people in the world to preach to; when I had to preach
to them, how I groaned many a time for a congregation of heathen. I have
found such now in the Salvation Army
----I mean, a people whose
understandings are not darkened by these false theories and intellectual
conceits. One can get the light in through their heads into their hearts,
and this is the reason of our success with them; and is not this the reason
why the publicans and the harlots have always gone into the kingdom of
God, while the natural children of the kingdom have been left out?
A man is either saved or not; the fact is independent of his theory, and
it is of comparatively little consequence what his theory may be if he
be saved. Hence many savages and Catholics have rejoiced in a consciousness
of pardon, while many evangelicals have never known it. A man is either
under the dominion of sin, or else he is delivered from it. If he is under
the dominion of sin, what an awful theory is that which makes him believe
he is saved. Could the devil have invented a more damning theory than
that? And yet, alas! alas! he allures millions to destruction through
it, who otherwise would take alarm and begin to seek salvation. He says
to all the qualms of conscience and the pangs of remorse, You are
all right, you believe this or the other, your faith is orthodox, you
are safe, frequently quoting separated or mutilated texts to back
up his lying insinuations, such as
----By faith ye are saved;
He that believeth shall be saved; You are complete in
Him, etc. This latter phrase has come to express, in numbers of
instances, the most utter ruin to which the human soul can be brought.
Complete in Christ! complete without any true repentance,
without any offering of the heart, without the slightest change inward
or outward, complete in Him, while living without Him, having
no conscious connection with Him whatever; complete without losing one
evil feature of the godless life, without receiving one grace of any kind,
without doing or suffering anything, except perhaps a whispered I
believe; complete all in a minute, since somebody pointed to a text
with which perhaps the poor victim had been familiar all his life. Complete
in Christ with a gnawing consciousness at the heart that is as sinful,
as empty, as powerless, and as joyless as ever; complete as a poor corpse
would be complete, if painted and dressed in the clothes of a living man!
May God save you from any such mock salvation as this.
----Popular Christianity, by Mrs. Booth. Boston, Mass.: McDonald,
Gill & Co., 1888, pp. 44-47.
A Letter on the Rich Young Ruler
& the Terms of Salvation
by Glenn Conjurske
Thanks for forwarding to me the remarks of M
---- ---- H ---- ---- ----.
Naturally, I preach a false gospel. If so, it ought to be
easy enough to prove it false. But none of my opponents answer my arguments.
Only say false gospel, and all the work is done, without ever
touching the substance of the matter. This is easy, and there is
safety in numbers. But I think men like Mr. H ---- ---- ----
would have work enough, and hopefully some second thoughts also, if they
would seriously endeavor to answer what I have written.
---- ---- ---- says, Christ did NOT tell
the rich young ruler to submit to Christ unconditionally. No, not
in those words, but he did in essence. To forsake all and follow Christ
is to submit to him unconditionally. Is not this obvious? But as is typical
of modern orthodoxy, he wants to put a rigidly literal or technically
extreme sense upon the command, and then assert that no one has kept it,
not even myself. Thus he uses the letter of the command to set aside its
spirit. Let us rather say with Richard Baxter, In estimation, affection,
and resolution, it must be forsaken by all that will be saved; and also
in practice, whenever God calls us to it. This is the spirit of
the thing, as I have shown in my sermon on Forsaking all.
I do not suppose that even the rich young ruler understood the command
in any rigidly literal sense. I do not suppose he thought the Lord expected
him to sell the clothes off his back, and follow him naked. Meanwhile,
all my arguments on the passage remain unanswered.
Nor does Mr. H
---- ---- ----deal fairly with my words.
He says, His REAL gripe is that 'since that time I have learned
that all the great preachers of the past have held that repentance, righteousness,
holiness, and discipleship are the necessary terms of salvation...' (pg.
270). As the title of his Journal indicates..., the author's REAL authority
is not the Bible but selected parts of Church History. Thus he quotes
half of my sentence, puts three dots for the rest of it, and then inserts
in its place what directly contradicts the part of my sentence which he
My whole sentence, with the next, reads thus: Since that time I
have learned that all the great preachers of the past have held that repentance,
righteousness, holiness, and discipleship are the necessary terms of salvation,
but I did not learn these things from the great men of past, but from
the Bible alone, taken at face value, and implicitly trusted. I learned
these doctrines, not from the men of the past, but from the same Book
from which they learned them. And this is the plain truth. I did
not learn these things from church history at all, but from the Bible,
and since that time
----since I learned them from the
Bible ----I have also learned that all the great preachers
of the past have held the same doctrines. But I held the doctrines
before I had read enough of the men of the past to know what they held.
I think you have read enough of my writings to vouch for it that the Bible
certainly is my authority. I do not hesitate to differ from Wesley and
Spurgeon and Baxter and Bunyan, when the Bible calls for it. How could
I do otherwise, when they so often disagree with each other? But on the
terms of salvation they are all (essentially) agreed, and I am with them,
and so is the Bible.
But supposing my gospel is false and legal, it must be harmless enough,
since it was preached by all the great evangelists in history. I only
repeat, no stronger or more explicit statement on the subject could be
imagined than that which I have quoted from Spurgeon. Let all who accuse
me of preaching a false gospel affirm now that Spurgeon also preached
a false gospel. Honesty and consistency demand this of them. They cannot
deny it, with my quotations from Spurgeon before them. But you know it
is usual with men to build the sepulchres of the dead prophets, while
they stone the living ones, though there be not a whit of difference between
But I do not cite Spurgeon or anyone else as authority, but only because
I know how easily the present age can brush off Glenn Conjurske, and because
I hope they will give more deference to the united voice of the well known
and highly esteemed men of God of past ages
----not to submit to
their dicta as authoritative, but to consider what moved them to believe
as they did. And neither do I appeal to some selected part of Church
History, as H ---- ---- ----- characterizes it,
but to the united voice of all the well known men from the church fathers
to the present time, though the twentieth century witnessed a large departure
from the old doctrines.
But Mr. H
---- ---- ----- will direct me to a selected
part of Church History ----an extremely narrow part, and certainly
not representative of the broad spectrum ----The Marrow of Modern
Divinity. I must say, he had to scrape hard to find an ally! and he selects
a man who is unknown for anything except this book, and almost altogether
unknown. I quote all the great evangelists and leaders of movements, whose
names are household words in the church to this day, and deservedly so,
while not one in a thousand has ever heard of Mr. Fisher. His book, The
Marrow of Modern Divinity, was condemned for its antinomianism by the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1720. It has been very popular
with many, primarily, no doubt, because its main thrust is to establish
high Calvinism, and Calvinists almost always judge everything and everybody
by the single issue of Calvinism. I have little doubt that many Calvinists
who esteem that book would peremptorily reject its antinomianism, if they
thought so far as to perceive it. But their general assumption is that
if it is Calvinistic, it is sound, and they inquire no further. But regardless
of that, the part which you sent to me is as thoroughly antinomian as
anything could well be, and it certainly stands in direct contradiction
to the plain doctrines of Baxter and Bunyan and Matthew Henry and Wesley
and Whitefield and Edwards and Spurgeon and Finney and Moody and Torrey ----and
many more of the same stamp, including virtually all the great men in
the history of the church. No doubt some of them might unguardedly echo
some of the sentiments expressed in the Marrow when they were dealing
with convicted and despairing sinners, but they said enough on the other
side whenever a shade of antinomianism appeared.
And The Difference Between the Law and the Gospel which this
paper sets forth is utterly false. I agree entirely with its definition
of the law, as a system which requires perfect obedience, but the corollary
of that is not that the gospel requires no obedience at all
condition ----no moral work. Taken at face value, this will
exclude even faith. At any rate it is blatant antinomianism. He goes beyond
even the modern antinomians, and finds the law not only in the synoptic
Gospels, but even in Paul. Of every text which savors of moral responsibility,
we are to say, That does not apply to me. It would be difficult to conceive
of antinomianism more glaring than this. It sweeps away Synoptics and
John and Christ and Peter and Paul with one stroke. But this is the natural
fruit of his high Calvinism. It is a very small step for those who believe
in total inability and irresistible grace to abrogate altogether man's
moral responsibility. Repentance is certainly a moral work,
and it is certainly required by the gospel. And as I have often pointed
out before, it is confusion to make repentance a work of the law. The
law requires no such thing, and in the nature of the case cannot. There
is no place for repentance under a system which requires perfect obedience.
Once sin, and all is lost, for Cursed is every one that continueth
not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Repentance can avail nothing. Repentance is peculiarly a Gospel requirement,
as Spurgeon and others have pointed out long before me. I observe an almost
complete silence concerning repentance in this paper. It is only mentioned
once, in a clause which is too obscure to make much sense of. But it is
the most shallow sort of thinking to suppose that it must be either perfect
obedience or mere believing. There is plenty of solid ground between them,
such as that occupied by Richard Baxter, who insists that sincere obedience
(not perfect obedience) is required by the Gospel, and is the condition
of eternal life. Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all
them that obey him. This is clear enough, but, of course, antinomian
theologians will wish to retranslate the verse.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated
by the Editor
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
God made the country, and man made the town.
This is strictly true, as a plain matter of fact, but the proverb is
not a mere truism, nor a mere statement of fact. Its intent is a moral
one, designed to express the superiority of the country over the city.
God knows better, and builds better, than man can do. God made the
country, and, not content with God's handiwork, man made the
God is of course the builder of a city which hath foundations, whose
builder and maker is God, (Heb. 11:10), but this city belongs to
a heavenly country. (Heb. 11:16). It is there, where man is
pure from all taint of sin, where there will be no evil communications
to corrupt good manners, where love and good fellowship will reign supreme,
that God hath prepared them a city. But God never built a
city on earth. Though man was commanded to be fruitful, and multiply,
and replenish the earth, yet God gave him no cities to fill. The
whole earth was then the country, and the Lord placed man
in a garden, not in a jungle of bricks and concrete. The whole earth was
country, and God's first command to man, to be fruitful, and multiply,
and replenish the earth, mandated that it should remain that way.
When man gathered together in one place, to build the city of Babel, this
was in direct contravention of the command which God had given him. God
made the first pair gardeners
----farmers, if you will ----and
their immediate posterity were farmers also, tilling the ground and keeping
sheep, and living therefore in a rural atmosphere. All this till Cain
went out from the presence of the Lord, (Gen. 4:16) ----shortly
to be followed by, he builded a city.
It is strictly true, then, that God made the country, and man made
the town, and true also that the country bears the stamp of the
wise and benign hand of God, while the city bears the image of sinful
man that made it. Look at the country and we see quiet restfulness, beauty
and serenity, peace and contentment. Look at the city and we see dirt
and din, hustle and bustle, wealth and luxury, evil communications, greed,
and crime, and sin.
Alas, even the country is too often defiled by the presence of man, so
that a thousand times, in seeing the beautiful landscape strewn with beer
cans, or defouled with vile graffiti, or in beholding the country quiet
destroyed by reckless dirt bikes or racing speed boats, or by ball games
or nasty music blaring from loud radios, the profound and beautiful lines
of Reginald Heber have forced themselves into our mind:
Where every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile.
We make no apology for loving the country, nor for our aversion to the
city either. The Lord himself was often alone on the mountain top, or
in the wilderness. This was his closet of prayer. And what quiet rest
we find in the peaceful country fields and lanes! What delightful times
of prayer and meditation, as we walk through the woods on some old fire
lane or deer trail, or ride our bicycle on a quiet country road! Our soul
then exactly echoes the sentiments of Francis Asbury, who spent much of
his life alone on the back of a horse, and mostly in the country. Says
Now, I say to my body, return to thy labour; to my soul, return
to thy rest, and pure delight in reading, meditation, and prayer, and
solitude. The shady groves are witness to my retired and sweetest hours:
to sit, and melt, and bow alone before the Lord, whilst the melody of
the birds warbles from tree to tree
How sweet to me are all the moving and still-life scenes which now
surround me on every side!
----The quiet country-houses; the fields
and orchards, bearing the promise of the fruitful year; the flocks and
herds, the hills and vales, and dewy meads; the gliding streams and murmuring
brooks; and thou, too, solitude ----with thy attendants, silence
and meditation ----how dost thou solace my pensive mind after the
tempest of fear, and care, and tumult, and talk experienced in the noisy,
Such delightful times we often seek ourselves, and often enjoy, and what
could inspire a poet's pen like this? We yield to the inspiration upon
occasion, perhaps once a year, and present to our readers some of our
children thus begotten. If these may serve to inspire any with the love
of the country, we will consider ourselves well paid for our labor.
Away from dirt, and din, and care,
I breathe the quiet country air,
At rest in sweet serenitude,
And hushed and holy solitude.
I view the panorama wide,
My soul's delight
The cloudless blue above my head,
The aging barn, of faded red,
The open fields, the shady glens,
The sun-clad hills, the clucking hens,
The gravel roads, the old stone pile,
Th' enchanting scent of chamomile,
The cattle grazing on the hill,
The blue jay scolding, sharp and shrill,
The songsters warbling in the trees,
The cow-bell tinkling o'er the breeze,
The rooster's crow to wake the day,
The frogs to sing the night away,
The wayside buttercup to bloom,
The rose to yield its soft perfume,
The bees to buzz, the breeze to blow,
The grass to wave, the creeks to flow,
The sun to shine, the crows to call,
And calm content enfolding all.
Ah! country wide! in thee I roam,
In every field and glen at home,
At peace in every meadow green,
On every sunny slope, serene,
Content by every gurgling brook,
At rest in every wayside nook,
Where every daisy blooms for me,
And every sound is harmony.
Ah, here my captive soul would dwell,
Enchained by some idyllic spell,
My lingering footsteps still remain,
In every quiet country lane,
Where every shaded road invites
To placid scenes and soul delights.
Ah, here my tranquil soul would stay,
Amidst the smell of new-mown hay,
Where grayed and tott'ring fence-posts stand,
And all is peace on every hand.
Where Time Stands Still
I walked today where time stood still
Of country bliss I took my fill
In country meadow, country glade,
In country sunshine, country shade,
Beneath a spreading maple tree,
Immersed in calm serenity,
My God above, my thoughts within,
And worlds away from care and din.
Here every daisy blooms for me,
And all the goldenrods agree;
The brown-eyed Susans meet me here,
Irradiating country cheer;
The purple asters add their hue,
And nameless beauties not a few.
The blue jay screams: I enter bliss;
What therapeutic noise is this!
What restful tones!
----what soothing sound! ---
With placid country all around.
The unsuspecting antlered deer,
Serene, majestic, wanders near;
The lofty spruces stately stand;
The blushing berries wait my hand;
The smiling sun above me shines;
The breezes whisper through the pines;
The milkweed's fragrance floods my soul,
And country quiet fills the whole.
No bustle here, no city rush,
To blight my tranquil spirit's hush;
No cares to haunt, no tasks to call,
No hurry here
----no time at all ----
No fleeting minutes passing by,
No hours to flit, no time to fly;
No haste disturbs, no cares arise,
For time stands still in Paradise.
Buy the Truth, and Sell It Not
by Glenn Conjurske
So we are commanded in Proverbs 23:23, which reads in full, Buy
the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Strange things have been made of this verse by the hyperspiritual. Some
years ago I had a certain reader of this magazine
----I cannot call
him a subscriber ----who very solemnly admonished me concerning
my practice of selling my books and magazines. This, he told me, was in
direct disobedience to this plain command of the Bible, not to sell the
truth. When I sent out the yearly renewal notices for the magazine, he
would write me a letter and send me a check, usually for more than the
subscription amount, but without a single word as to whether he wanted
the magazine, or what the money was for. I guessed that this was his way
of securing the magazine without directly contributing to my delinquency
in selling it. He would not buy a book or tape recording from me, but
wanted to send me (from Mexico) a blank tape or computer disk, have me
copy the works on his blanks, and send them back to Mexico. This, I told
him, was foolish, as the postage to send his materials from Mexico and
back would cost him more than it would to buy them from me, but that he
could not do, without compromising his principles. We are forced to wonder
where the man got his Bible. If he did not buy it, someone else did, and
of course someone sold it. The man must have had no library worth the
name, and no books in it worth reading ----for good books are not
to be had for nothing.
I have good reasons for selling my books and magazines, and reasons which
have nothing to do with making money. I am sure I have given away more
books than most people have, especially in my younger days, but as years
increased, and my wisdom began to keep pace with my zeal, I realized that
unless we are extremely careful to whom we give them, to give a book away
is nearly the same thing as to throw it away. It will probably not be
read. Few in our day are serious readers, and those who are will usually
wish to choose their own books. I really cannot afford to give away many
books, but if I could, I would not judge it wise to do so. If a person
is willing to pay money for a book or magazine, this tells me that he
actually wants it, and will probably read it.
But such reasons go for nothing with those who stand on Sell it
not. They will contend that all such arguments are just carnal reason,
and disobedience besides. Very well, then, let us meet them on their own
ground. The plain fact is, the hyperspiritual are always as inconsistent
as they are shallow. They never know what the issues are, and arrive at
their mistaken notions by exalting certain texts of the Bible at the expense
of other texts equally explicit. In the present instance, the matter is
worse still, for in fact they exalt one half of the text at the expense
of the other half. It must be perfectly plain to anyone who thinks about
this text that it has nothing to do with money. If it has any relationship
whatsoever to literal buying or selling, or any exchange of money, then
it stands in direct contradiction to itself. If Sell it not,
means sell it not for money, then Buy the truth must mean
buy it for money. And thus in every last instance the seller must sin
in order that the buyer may obey. The man who refuses to buy a book from
me, lest he contribute to my delinquency in selling it, is himself disobeying
this Scripture by refusing to buy it. Buy the truth, the text
commands, but he must sin against this plain command of God, in order
to keep me from the sin of selling it. Either that, or the seller must
sin in order that the buyer might obey. Here we behold the usual inconsistency,
and the usual shallow thinking, of hyperspirituality.
But there is more. I think that in this we see also the usual pride of
hyperspirituality. If it were half as concerned about its own sins as
it is with the deficiencies of others, methinks it would soon discover
that, on its own ground, to decline to buy the truth for money is as great
a sin against this text as it is to sell it for money. The text says plainly
and explicitly, Buy the truth. But these folks never perceive
this, but go on year after year judging and chiding the carnal man who
sells the truth, and living themselves the whole time in direct disobedience
to the plain command of the same text, to Buy the truth.
But the above considerations must make it perfectly plain that the text
has nothing directly to do with money, though indirectly it may. Its plain
meaning is to obtain the truth, to secure the truth, at any expense. Buy
----for there is no question but that it will cost you something.
It may cost you friends, position, money, travel, labor, study, seeking,
searching, tears, reproach. Let none of this deter you. Whatever its cost,
buy it. And having done so, sell it not. Hold it fast, nor
part with it for any consideration under heaven. Hold it as priceless,
not for sale, not for love, nor money, nor ease, nor pleasure,
nor promotion, nor peace, nor rest, nor friendship. Sell it not
for the pastorate of a wealthy church. Sell it not for a position
on the faculty of a prestigious school of theology. Sell it not
for the esteem of the denominational leaders. Sell it not
for the love of a beautiful woman. Sell it not for peace in
your household. Sell it not for any worldly advantage, for
any earthly pleasure.
This is the plain meaning of the text. It speaks nothing, except only
incidentally, of the buying or selling of the paper and ink with which
the truth is printed, but of the truth itself. To be sure, some part of
the expense of buying the truth will likely be to buy the books which
contain it, but the text speaks not of this, but of the truth itself.
So John Wesley writes in his Explanatory Notes on the Old Testament,
----Purchase it upon any terms, spare no pains or cost.
Sell it not
----Do not forsake it for any worldly advantage.
Adam Clarke likewise,
Buy the truth] Acquire the knowledge of God at all events; and in
order to do this, too much pains, industry, and labour cannot be expended.
And sell it not] When once acquired, let no consideration deprive
thee of it. Cleave to and guard it, even at the risk of life.
And Matthew Henry at more length,
(1.) We must buy it, that is, be willing to part with any thing
for it. He does not say at what rate we must buy it, because we cannot
buy it too dear, but must have it at any rate; whatever it costs us, we
shall not repent the bargain. When we are at expense for the means of
knowledge, and resolved not to starve so good a cause, then we buy the
truth. Riches should be employed for the getting of knowledge, rather
than knowledge for the getting of riches. When we are at pains in searching
after truth, that we may come to the knowledge of it and may distinguish
between it and error, then we buy it. Dii laboribus omnia vendunt
concedes every thing to the laborious. When we choose rather to suffer
loss in our temporal interest than to deny or neglect the truth then we
buy it; and it is a pearl of such great price that we must be willing
to part with all to purchase it, must make shipwreck of estate, trade,
preferment, rather than of faith and a good conscience. (2.) We must not
sell it. Do not part with it for pleasures, honours, riches, any thing
in this world. Do not neglect the study of it, nor throw off the profession
of it, nor revolt from under the dominion of it, for the getting or saving
of any secular interest whatsoever.
And John Gill likewise, with more prolixity, but not less power,
...and this men should buy, not books only, as Aben Ezra interprets
it, such as explain and confirm truth, though these should be bought;
and especially the Bible, the Scriptures of truth; yet this does not reach
the sense of the text: nor is it merely to be understood of persons supporting
the Gospel ministry with their purses, by which means truth is preserved,
propagated, and continued: no price is set upon it, as being above all;
it should be bought or had at any rate, let the expense be what it will:
buying it supposes a person to have some knowledge of it, of the excellency,
usefulness, and importance of it; and shews that he sets a value upon
it, and has a high esteem for it: it is to be understood of his using
all means and taking great pains to acquire it; such as reading the word,
meditating upon it, attending on the public ministry, and fervent and
frequent prayer for it, and a greater degree of knowledge of it; yea,
it signifies a person's parting with every thing for it that is required;
as with his former errors he has been brought up in, or has imbibed; with
his good name and reputation, being willing to be accounted a fool or
a madman, and an enthusiast, or any thing for the sake of it; and even
with life itself, when called for; and such a man will strive and contend
for it, stand fast in it, and hold it fast, and not let it go, which is
meant by selling it; truth is not to be sold upon any account, or for
any thing whatever; it is not to be slighted and neglected; it should
not be parted with neither for the riches, and honours, and pleasures
of this life, nor for the sake of a good name among men, nor for the sake
of peace, nor for the avoiding of persecution; it should be abode by,
and not departed from, though the greater number is against it, and they
the rich, the wise, and learned; and though it may be traduced as novel,
irrational, and licentious, and be attended with affliction. Also wisdom,
and instruction, and understanding; that is, buy these also, and sell
Need we cite more? All this is sane, sound, solid, sensible, spiritual.
This, we are sure, is the plain meaning of the text. In this there is
moral weight, spiritual power, a grand formative influence, to govern
all the life and conduct of the whole earth, and is all this to be overlooked
entirely, passed by without a trace or a scent of its existence, in order
that we may censure and chide our brethren about selling their books?
Is all this to be reduced to a picayune technicality, which cannot apply
to one man in a thousand
----all to be lost in the fog of superficial
notions ----by that hyperspirituality which can see nothing in sell
it not but a command to take no material money for material books,
and which has never yet perceived anything at all in the command to buy
the truth? We counsel those who are wrapped up in these petty notions
to buy the truth indeed ----and, as some small part of the costly
transaction, to buy some good books.
My Conversion from Calvinism
by Glenn Conjurske
Thirty years ago I was as thorough a Calvinist as any man on earth. I
preached it to everyone, and led everyone into it, over whom I had any
influence. When I was a senior at Bible school, I was walking one day
from the school to the dormitory with a friend of the junior class. In
the course of conversation he said to me, I don't believe in election.
I stopped on the sidewalk, faced him, and said, You don't believe
in election? You come to my room with me, and before you leave you will
believe in it. I took him to my room, sat him down, and conducted
him through the ninth chapter of Romans. Within half an hour he capitulated,
and became a Calvinist himself. Of course I misused the chapter. I was
as ignorant as I was confident. I knew the answers without knowing the
questions. I preached with great forcefulness those scriptures which appeared
to support my position, misinterpreting them to boot, and somehow contrived
to bring over to my side all those which were against me. But I do not
believe my adherence to Calvinism was based upon mere intellectual mistakes,
though I was guilty of many. Its real roots were deeper. Its real foundations
lay in my moral deficiencies. I was cold and proud and intellectual. Of
love and gentleness and tenderness I knew but little. A God, therefore,
who had no love for ninety-nine hundredths of the human race, a God who
created ninety-nine of a hundred human beings for the purpose of damning
them to everlasting flames, was no offense to me.
My conversion from Calvinism, therefore, came about by means of two distinct
operations. One of those operations was intellectual, and the other emotional.
The first rectified my mind, and the second my heart. By the first, I
was brought to face certain texts of Scripture which I could not reconcile
with my Calvinism. By the second, my heart was thawed out by a feeling
sense of the love of God, so that I became more and more uncomfortable
with a system which paints God as having no love at all for the vast majority
of the human race, or only a hypocritical love, which weeps crocodile
tears over them, and says to them in word, Be ye warmed and filled
unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth ----but
in deed gives them not those things which are needful to the soul.
I must speak of those two operations separately.
And first, the thawing out of my heart. From the day of my conversion,
at the end of November in 1964, I was zealous and diligent and studious.
The first time I ever saw any Christian books for sale I bought one. In
less than a year after my conversion I went to Bible school, and then
began to buy books in good earnest
----which I would doubtless have
done earlier, if I had known of any place to buy them. But I had the good
fortune to go to Bible school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where there were
abundance of books for sale, new and used. Many Friday nights saw me at
the bargain tables at Zondervan's ----where some good books were
still to be had in those days. My little library began to take shape,
so that a friend avowed that he turned green with envy every time he came
to my room. The classroom instruction was mostly of an intellectual nature,
with little to warm the heart or exercise the conscience, and I became
quite intellectual myself. My heart did not keep pace with my head. I
was cold and hard, looking askance at active evangelism, my Calvinism
naturally leading me that way, and being encouraged in that direction
also by some (certainly not all) of the platform ministry at the school.
Yet I was earnest and serious in my walk with God, and even then he began
the work of thawing out my cold heart. The first recollection which I
have of anything in that direction is of a time when I was walking to
work, singing The Love of God. When I came to the lines,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
I broke down and wept. I recall another incident which occurred probably
more than a year later, when I was preaching in Colorado. I was speaking
with one of the women of our little church of the dying love of Christ,
and was so suffused with tears that I could not go on. She knew not what
to make of this, and said to me, Is anything wrong? These
incidents will indicate what kind of work was taking place deep within.
Nevertheless, I was in general cold and dry and intellectual, speaking
as the piercings of a sword, and preaching and praying without ever shedding
Yet somehow I became conscious of my deficiency, and penitent concerning
it. I began to take such steps as I could to remedy it. One thing which
I determined to do was to read books on evangelism and missions, and in
one of my book-buying trips to Grand Rapids, therefore, in the early 1970's,
I went on purpose to the Missions section upstairs in the
old Baker Book House on Wealthy Street, to look for such books as might
contribute to the warming of my cold heart. The Lord abundantly provided
for my desire, for there I found, and bought at a venture, Sam Hadley's
Down in Water Street. We suppose there is scarcely a book on earth so
calculated to thaw out a cold heart as this.
As the love of God became more and more of a reality to me, my Calvinism
became more and more of a burden, though I still held it firmly, supposing
the doctrines themselves to be true, and trying to infuse into them a
warmer spirit. My feelings at that time will be seen in the following
extract from my Journal, written on May 4, 1974:
I have at last gotten my hands on a copy of Jonathan Edwards' celebrated
sermon 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,' concerning which I observe:
I can well understand how it would serve to awaken people, as showing
them the horrors of their lost estate, but its tone is far from scriptural,
being an offensive Calvinism, which ascribes everything to the mere arbitrary
pleasure of God (Edwards uses such expressions repeatedly), and which
has very narrow views of the heart of God. This I may demonstrate by the
following extract: 'When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case,
and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength,
and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into
an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear
the execution of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand: there shall
be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind:
he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you
should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not
suffer beyond what strict justice requires: nothing shall be withheld,
because it is so hard for you to bear. Therefore will I also deal
in my fury; mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though
they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.
Ezek. viii.18.' Now is this, I ask, a true and faithful, a just representation
of the heart of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten
Son? It is not, as I shall very simply prove: when Scripture speaks of
God's inflicting wrath without pity, mocking at his enemies, laughing
at their calamity, and such like, it does not connect such things with
man's weakness and helplessness (as Edwards does here), but with his guilt
and hardness and impenitence, as the reader may see by reading the context
of the verse quoted above. And these connections are of the greatest importance:
if we divorce these things from their scriptural connections, we shall
get wrong thoughts about God. An unscriptural Calvinism (by Calvinism
I do not mean a belief in the absolute sovereignty of God
surely believe in that ----but the deductions and conclusions which
the fleshly mind draws from it) ----an unscriptural Calvinism, I
say, always tends towards narrow thoughts of the heart of God, always
tends towards representing God as having no tender feelings. I object
altogether to his saying that when God 'sees how your poor soul is crushed
... he will have no compassion upon you.' A righteous judge may have very
great pity and compassion for a criminal, and yet sentence him to death.
The heart of God, and that toward the lost, is seen in David's weeping
over his lost son Absalom (for David was a man after God's own heart).
Thus did I make the best that I could of a bad cause, faulting Calvinism
for its human accretions, but holding as firmly as anyone to its foundations.
My only aim was to be Biblical, and I supposed the essence of Calvinism
could be held in a less offensive manner than that of Edwards
unconditional predestination was compatible with the heart of God, as
it is revealed in the Bible. And I had but little choice. Believing the
doctrines of Calvinism to be scriptural, I supposed they must be compatible
with everything else in the Bible, though it were hard to tell how.
But I would be utterly unfair, to myself and to the truth, if I were to
leave anyone with the impression that the emotional side of my conversion
was merely emotional
----that there was nothing objective in it,
or that the wish was father of the thought. Not so. I trust I am incapable
of such a conversion. The emotional process did no more than render me
capable of understanding the real issues. I plainly saw, as a matter of
plain objective truth, that Calvinism was utterly at variance with the
love of God, though I had no power to see this until the love of God became
a great reality to me, when I learned to feel it. The one scripture which
had more influence than any other in turning me from Calvinism was God
is love. This worked away, year after year, at the foundations of
the false system. Calvinists, we know, love to speak of the love of God,
but it is always the everlasting love of God for his people,
and the more consistent Calvinists, like A. W. Pink, expressly deny that
God loves anyone else. I surely believe that the satisfaction of the love
of God is bounded by his holiness, but Calvinism bounds the feeling of
it ----that is, the existence of it ----by his mere arbitrary
pleasure. Of God is love the system really knows nothing.
Meanwhile, the other process was proceeding, on a more purely intellectual
level. As I read Arminian writers such as Wesley and Fletcher, I found
that their arguments, and the scriptures which they cited, were easier
to ignore than to answer. I concluded that though the Arminians were wrong,
they were yet excusable, for it plainly appeared that they were actually
conducted to their position by taking the Scriptures at face value. We
Calvinists, of course, knew better. We knew that that vast array of Scripture,
upon which the Arminians stood, only seemed to support them. Taken at
face value, as a child would take them, those scriptures would require
us to be Arminians indeed, but when we understood the deeper wisdom of
----when we understood such deeper mysteries as total
inability, irresistible grace, and effectual calling ----and so
could find the deeper meaning under and around and between those texts
which the Arminians handled as children would, then we could be sound
Calvinists, all the apparently Arminian texts notwithstanding. These were
my thoughts on the subject for a period of perhaps two years.
Meanwhile, there were a few stubborn texts which would not yield before
this sophistry. One of those was elect according to foreknowledge
word which, taken as it stands, certainly makes election to depend upon
something in man. I was aware, of course, of the Calvinistic explanation,
which makes fore-knowledge to be in fact fore-ordination, but neither
my mind nor my conscience could be satisfied with such a shift. This text
troubled me for years, like a pebble in my shoe, so that I could never
be quite easy with Calvinism, while such a word existed.
But there was another, even more powerful. I would, and ye would
----where the will of the human ye prevailed
over the will of the divine I. This is clearer than crystal
in the Greek, where we read, How often I willed to gather thy children
together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye
willed not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. This verse
had more to do than any other with clinching my deliverance from Calvinism,
and Calvinists themselves must practically undo the hypostatic union to
salvage their system in the face of this scripture. The Lord, they say,
spoke only as a man here ----and how then do they know that he did
not speak only as a man everywhere?
But I was not converted by any one text, or thought, or feeling, or argument.
This was a long and gradual process, whereby the truth little by little
gained the ascendency in my heart and mind, and the error fell away, by
bits and pieces. So gradual, indeed, was the process, that I cannot point
to any day on which I gave up Calvinism, though the day on which I realized
that the change was wrought is still vivid in my mind.
I had compiled a little book on Whitefield and the Wesleys,
which was a collection of letters, sermons, poetry, etc., which detailed
their original union, their division over the doctrines of Calvinism,
and their strong reunion some years later. I finished the book, and laid
it by me, but in my reading over the next few years I found a number of
additional pieces which I wished to insert, and therefore I went over
the ground again, to enlarge and improve the book. When I had first compiled
it, I had written of the doctrinal differences between them, Wesley's
doctrine was so bad that Whitefield could not help strongly opposing it.
Coming upon this statement in my work of revising, I realized that I no
longer felt that way, but now supposed the truth to be on Wesley's side.
I put up my hands, and exclaimed, I'm not a Calvinist any more!
But doubtless some of my readers will not think much of such a conversion.
They would be better pleased if I had studied the matter out on some occasion,
and deliberately and consciously changed my opinion. And I tell them,
I do not think much of such conversions. I have seen too many of them.
Great bodies move slowly, an old proverb says, and it is usually
small minds which change rapidly. I have seen men change their doctrines
in a week or a day, and such change is rarely worth much. They may change
back again as quickly. Their change is based upon one or two considerations,
and probably superficial ones. A solid change from Calvinism to Arminianism
must be a deep one, encompassing many issues, and in the nature of the
case this can hardly be anything but gradual. Not, perhaps, so gradual
as mine was, but the fact is, I was occupied with other matters of importance,
such as revival and the terms of the gospel, and Calvinism was in the
There are many degrees of Calvinism, and I doubtless passed through some
of them, as Spurgeon also did. No man who has much of the love of God
in his heart can be a consistent Calvinist, and Spurgeon was one of the
most inconsistent Calvinists on earth. I have a constitutional abhorrence
----not that I would pretend I am never guilty
of it, for no man is perfect, even where he is strong ----and I
have always aimed at consistency in everything. Consistency is of the
essence of truth. I attribute my deliverance from Calvinism largely to
the fact that when I held it, I aimed to hold it consistently. I could
not brook the stupid trifling which claims that God chose a certain number
of particular souls to salvation, but that he did not choose not to choose
the rest. What would these Calvinists think of the man who stood before
the marriage altar and vowed his inviolate attachment to the woman at
his side, but balked at the clause, forsaking all others,
claiming that that was none of his business ----that he had nothing
to do with that ----thought nothing about it ----made no choice
at all in the matter? Calvinism as it is usually held is replete from
one end to the other with just such sophistry as this, and it is no wonder
if those who can hold to all this sophistry, fallacy, double-talk, and
tomfoolery ----it is no wonder, I say, if they can see no contradiction
between all this and the Bible. The man who carts a bushel of hens and
never hears their cackling is not likely to be much troubled if he takes
aboard another bushel. I believe if men would hold Calvinism consistently,
they would soon cease to hold it at all. Consistent Calvinism may be consistent
with itself, but is utterly at variance with the Bible. Spurgeon could
hold to the doctrines of Calvinism and the doctrines of the Bible too,
thinking them both of God, and simply avow his inability to reconcile
them. I saw no occasion for this, for I plainly perceived that if the
Bible were true, Calvinism must be false. It never deals fairly with any
of the difficulties which it creates. If it deals with them at all, it
is only to move them back one step, the same as the evolutionists do,
without ever resolving anything. This is shallow thinking, and men who
think a little deeper cannot be content with this.
The plain fact is, assuming that a man has faith and sincerity, there
are two things which are utterly destructive of consistent Calvinism.
Those two are feeling and thinking. The more a man feels with the Bible,
and the more he thinks upon its contents, the more uncomfortable he must
become with the fundamental doctrines of Calvinism. Here lies the real
explanation of the uneasiness which many of the greatest Calvinists in
history, such as Richard Baxter, have felt concerning some of the tenets
of Calvinism. It was feeling and thinking (and this of course in conjunction
with believing the Bible) which delivered me from Calvinism altogether
the love of God in my heart, and realizing in my mind that the tenets
of Calvinism are simply incompatible with the plain statements, as well
as the whole tenor, of the Bible.
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.