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Vol. 10, No. 10
Oct., 2001

The Character of the Prodigal Son

by Glenn Conjurske

Because I have so many books, some people like to accuse me of having learned my doctrines from books instead of from the Bible. No matter if that were the case. Truth is truth, whether we learn it from a book, or a preacher, or directly from the Bible. If there is anything wrong with learning the truth from a book, then it must be equally wrong to learn it from a preacher, and I ought not to preach, nor anybody else to listen to me. Nor ought any man to write, nor anybody to read what they have written. But the fact is, the charge is false. I have learned very little of my doctrine from my books----almost nothing, really. I have often been delighted to find those doctrines, which I held from the Bible, to be taught in the books of the old men of God, but I learned them from the Bible, before I read the books. The case is different, however, with what I have to say here----at least with the kernel of it. This I learned from the old evangelist Bob Jones----not from a book, but from a recorded sermon. The parable of the prodigal son had been one of my favorite scriptures for years, but I had always begun with the prodigal in the far country, regarding the early part of the parable as only setting the stage. But Bob Jones gave me a nugget of truth which I had never seen, by pointing out that the prodigal was no good while he yet remained in his father's house. He had no character, and the proof of it lay in the fact that he was discontented in a good place.

There are various reasons why a man will be discontented in a good place, and none of them good ones. Three things usually make men discontented in a good place. Those things are lust, pride, and ingratitude. The lust which hankers for something which the good place does not afford us, the pride which thinks this place does not give us our due, and the ingratitude which fails to appreciate the good which we have, or those who have provided it for us. All these we see in the prodigal son. These three things made him discontented in a good place, and these three moved him to leave it.

First, lust. There were no harlots in the father's house. There were no rollicking, frolicking good times. There was no drinking to excess. There was no freedom from restraint. For such things he lusted, and after them he must go. The lusts of others may seem more noble than those of the prodigal, but may be as base in fact. There is no opportunity for ministry here----that is, no place of distinction, no opportunity to shine in the eyes of men. Base lusts often parade under noble professions.

Next pride. These discontented souls always feel horribly slighted. No one gives them their due. They are overlooked and passed by. Nobody makes anything of them. Nobody asks them to preach. Nobody puts them into office. I have known some who were discontented in a good church for no other reason than this.

Finally, ingratitude. The prodigal son is the prototype of an ungrateful soul. He owed all that he had to his father, yet he cared nothing for him. He cared for nothing but his own personal advantage, and in order to procure it he would despise and forsake his father, and break his heart. His father was nothing to him but the means of his own advancement, and if his father failed to advance him as he thought he deserved, he would leave him in a moment.

I intend to further develop the character of the prodigal a little further along, but first I must turn aside and speak a little of how we ought to deal with such souls, for it is certain we shall have plenty of them to deal with. Discontent runs rampant in modern society, and as much in the church as in the world. How ought we to deal with such souls? There are two courses open to us. We may either pamper and humor them, in order to keep them from flitting off to the far country, or we may deprive and deny and thwart them, and so precipitate their departure. The modern church seems largely given to the former of these ways. Give the discontented soul an office, and he will be happy. If you thwart and cross his pride, he will depart for other climes, but if you feed that pride, he will stay, and thus you may keep him on your membership roll, to swell your numbers, and avoid the reproach which is generally cast upon a church when people leave it. If you deny his lusts, he will depart for greener pastures, but if you feed those lusts he will stay. Therefore the churches must bring in modern music, and games and recreations, and parties and movies and dancing, and who can tell what the end will be? And so by humoring these discontented folks, we destroy not only their own souls, but the work of God also.

The plain fact is, the father did nothing to keep the prodigal at home. He gave him, of course, all that was good, but he brought no harlots or gaming tables to the house.

But I return to the character of the prodigal. His pride and lust and ingratitude----indeed, his real moral worthlessness----are all manifest in the audacity of his request. “Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me”!! Was ever presumption greater than this? The plain fact is, “the portion of goods that falleth to me” was a pure fiction. No goods fell to him while his father lived. He had no right, no claim, no shadow of a title to anything his father possessed, until his father died. But pride is always presumptuous. It always supposes itself slighted. Give a proud man just exactly what he deserves, and he will be incensed at the indignity offered him. Neither does it ever enter his head to consider whether he is worth any more than he is given, but he will always blame and censure and resent those who fail to give him what he fancies his due.

Neither does it ever enter his head to wait upon God for his desires. Of patience he knows nothing. He must demand his due, and if that fails, he will compass sea and land in search of it, and treat every man with contempt who fails to minister to his purposes. He never stands on the ground of faith, any more than of patience, but must grasp what he desires now, and grasp it himself. And the blame for every failure to attain his ends will be laid on other shoulders than his own.

“Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me”! Such was the presumption and audacity of the demand, that this prodigal ought really to have been ashamed to look in the mirror. We dare say his betters were embarrassed to be associated with him, yet he felt no shame. He was only asking his due. Such is the pride, and such the audacity, of discontented souls.

The father's response to this audacious request may seem strange. “And he divided unto them his living.” No earthly father with a grain of sense would do so, but the father in the parable represents God, not man, and his action represents the ordinary way of God, in giving abundance of good things to the worthy and the unworthy alike. “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” This world is the scene of man's trial and probation. God therefore gives them rope enough to hang themselves, and abundance enough to squander in riotous living.

The shamelessness of this discontented soul next appears. “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.” This was doubtless his intention from the beginning, but he must wait a few days after his audacious request, to give a little appearance of decency to his departure, like the man who procures the death of his wife, and waits two or three weeks before he marries his lover. All of this shamelessness and audacity is the natural fruit of the pride which lies at the bottom of his restless discontent.

His ingratitude appears at the same time. He was happy enough to receive his father's goods, but he cared nothing for his father. He would spend his father's goods in riotous living in the far country, and never waste a thought on the broken heart of his father back home. Pride and ingratitude are bosom companions, for the more a man values himself, the less he values others. I have studied discontented souls, and I have seen pride and ingratitude and unbelief and impatience growing rampant in their hearts, all aiding and abetting each other.

And wherever these evil passions prevail, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” These passions warp the vision, and the man who is controlled by them sees only the evil in the good place in which he is, and only the good in the evil place to which he would go. This was obviously the viewpoint of the prodigal ere ever he left his father's house, and it is the view of many another discontented soul in a good place.

But the case of such souls is actually worse than this. They not only see the evil where they are, and the good where they would go, but they always magnify them both. They magnify the bad where they are, and slight the good, while they slight the bad over there, and magnify the good. But even this is not all. It helps but little to magnify nothing, and they must therefore imagine evils in the good place, and imagine good in the other.

Nor does this process end when they take their departure. Having left a good place, for no better reasons than pride and lust and ingratitude and impatience, they must now justify their leaving. Their own conscience is doubtless uneasy with their place in the far country, and with the motives which brought them there. It must require something resembling a miracle for the prodigal to leave his father as he did, and dwell as he did in the far country, and yet have no qualms of conscience about it. To quiet the misgivings of his own mind, therefore, concerning his own position, it must become a passion with him to make the far country look as good as he can, and his father's house as bad as he can. I have seen the same in discontented souls in the present day----so much so that I have learned to predict that this would be their course. They leave the good place praising it, acknowledging that all they have they owe to their father, affirming they would by all means stay if it were not for such and such little difficulties, but in a few months or a year their tune is changed, and the longer they remain away, the more evils they find to condemn in the place they have left. Strange that they never saw all those evils when they were under their noses, which they can now see so plainly from a distance, but then their mind was stifled by the evil influence of that place, and now it is enlightened. Yet the real fact is just this: having left a good place for a bad, they must justify their move by making the good place look bad, and the bad place look good, and so they are compelled to call good evil, and evil good. All this I have seen in these discontented souls, in some measure before they take their departure, but much more so afterwards. The whole business is nothing but the most glaring hypocrisy, but dear self must be justified at all hazards.

And this may bring us to the fundamental error of discontented souls. The evils with which they ought to deal lie within themselves, but they will never dream of dealing with those. Their pride moves them always to blame something outside themselves. The fact is, they are discontented entirely because of their own pride and lust and impatience and ingratitude, but they attribute all their discontent to the place they are in, and especially to the persons who are over them in that place, whose authority determines their lot. These must therefore become the objects of their continual censure, while their dear self is never censured at all. They are oppressed, denied, deprived of their due, slighted, undervalued, mistreated, and they must be off to better climes, where people know how to value them as they deserve.

Now as a general rule the best thing to do with such discontented souls is to let them go. We ought not to drive them away, but we may do well to hold the door open for them. The far country will cure them better than ever the father's house can do. They may spend the days after their departure praising the far country and condemning the father's house, but this is hypocrisy----much more on their tongues than in their hearts----and unless their pride knows no bounds, they can hardly help but feel the reverse of what they speak. There is at any rate a good hope that when they are perishing with hunger in the far country, they may come to themselves----come to reality, to see things as they are, and see themselves as they are. And then how changed! The boy who a while ago thought himself too good for the father's house, who thought himself slighted and undervalued and oppressed, can now think of nothing but “I have sinned, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” And with a right view of himself comes a right view of other things also. Now the far country and the father's house are reversed. Now there is “bread enough and to spare,” even for the lowest servants, in that oppressive house, under the roof of which he could not bear to abide. Now that glorious far country is but “perishing with hunger.” Now it is “I will arise and go,” not from my father, but “to my father.”

And yet observe, there has not been one iota of change in the father, nor the father's house, nor in the far country. They remain just what they were. All the change has taken place in the prodigal himself. His pride is turned to humility, and he who felt himself slighted and oppressed before is now willing to take the lowest place. His lusts and impatience and ingratitude are all banished. His audacity is all gone, and in place of his shameless presumption, in demanding the portion of goods which he fancied to belong to him, he is now a humble suppliant, begging for the privilege to earn a little of what he before expected as his right. “Make me as one of thy hired servants.” Now he thinks only, “I am no more worthy to be called thy son,” when in fact, for the first time in his life, he is worthy to be called a son.

Would that all the proud and discontented souls would thus come to themselves. Alas, some of them seem utterly incurable. Though they perish with hunger for years, yet they never come to themselves. They learn no more lessons from their failures than from their disappointments. The blame always belongs to somebody else. They flit from place to place in the far country, ever full of hope for greener pastures in the next place, always condemning the place for which they lately expressed such hopes, as soon as they have tried it, and usually treating with contempt the persons who made that place what it was, but never dreaming of finding any fault with themselves, nor of returning to the place which they never should have left. They are just what the prodigal was ere he left the father's house, and such they remain.


My Two Great Windfalls of Understanding

by Glenn Conjurske

Solomon admonishes us, in Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” This I have made it my business to do for more than a third of a century.
I have inclined my ear to wisdom, and applied my heart to understanding. I have indeed sought her as silver, and searched for her as for hid treasures. I have compassed the land in quest of the best of books, denied myself many other things to buy them, labored day and night to read and digest them, and diligently sought for wisdom by prayer, by meditation, by observation, and by inquiry. I have studied God and studied man, studied sin and studied holiness, studied the world and the devil, studied what is, and what has been, and what will be, and what ought to be. And I may say without ostentation----though painfully conscious of how little I know----that God has blessed my endeavors, and the result of this course has been a gradual increase of understanding, so that I now have a good stock of the commodity which I have sought, the same as the man has who has spent the past thirty-five years in the pursuit of mammon----though I have as little of money as he probably has of wisdom.

But in addition to the gradual increase of understanding which is the natural result of the course which I have diligently pursued, two real windfalls of understanding have come to me, both of which made my previous knowledge to appear to be mostly ignorance. It was as though I had been ascending a mountainside by slow degrees and great toil, my vantage point little by little growing larger, till I reached the peak, and suddenly there burst upon my sight such a prospect as I had not dreamed of before. This has happened to me twice, the first time when I was somewhere about twenty-five years old, and the second when I was forty.

The first was more than a quarter of a century ago. It was then that I saw plainly that the two statements of the apostle John, that “God is light” and “God is love,” are the two great pillars of revelation. They tell us what God is, and this is the foundation of all else that is. These are the two sides (and there are but two) of God's moral nature, and the understanding of this made the Bible a new book to me. I saw that the whole book is in its essence an exposition and illustration of these two statements. Light is figurative, and stands for holiness, while love is literal, and self-explanatory. Law and grace, judgement and salvation, heaven and hell, “the goodness and severity of God,” all these are but so many manifestations of the light and the love which comprise the nature of God. His holiness mandates repentance, while his love elicits faith. The true religion which James describes is but a mirror of these two sides of the nature of God, “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” This is love and holiness.

I saw that much of the false theology in the church is the result of exalting either side of the nature of God, at the expense of the other, and that the truth is only to be learned by giving full weight to both sides. The Bible cautions us not to turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Those who turn aside to the right exalt the holiness of God at the expense of his love, resulting in a harsh, bigoted, or legal theology. Those who turn aside to the left exalt the love of God at the expense of his holiness, resulting in softness, compromise, and antinomian theology. I saw the great dilemma which sin has interposed between the holiness and the love of God, his holiness calling for the judgement of the sinner, and his love calling for his pardon. I saw that the holiness of God demands an eternal hell, while his love provides an eternal heaven, and that there never can be any middle ground between the two.

I saw too that as “God is light” comes first in order, before “God is love,” so the holiness of God is first revealed and first maintained. The law comes before the gospel. Repentance comes before faith. God labors in all his dealings with man to maintain both his holiness and his love, but where one of them must be sacrificed, it will always be his love. Holiness is a necessity, love a luxury. While love has desires----and exceeding strong ones----holiness has claims. Even the love of God, though it yearns to the last degree, cannot forgive without an atonement, nor without the repentance of the offender. God will never maintain his love at the expense of his holiness, but where he must, he will maintain his holiness at the expense of his love. Heaven is a place where the holiness and the love of God are both maintained. In hell his holiness is maintained, in the punishment of the obstinate, at the sacrifice of his love. There is no third place----no place where his love is maintained at the expense of his holiness. There never can be such a place, and those who suppose heaven to be a place where the love of God is maintained at the expense of his holiness know nothing of the matter. The only place where the love of God will ever be given free reign at the expense of his holiness is here and now on this earth, and that only for a little season, while the Spirit of God strives with sinners to bring them to submission to the claims of his holiness, and the day of judgement will make right every wrong which is now passed over in the forbearance of God.

Of course I did not see this foundation----really could not have seen it----until I first saw a great deal of the superstructure which rests upon it. Yet when I apprehended the two sides of God's nature as holiness and love, more than a quarter of a century ago, it made the Bible a new book to me----opened it up in all its fulness----and since that time I have been as it were on a mountain peak, beholding the exquisite harmony and symmetry of the great panorama of truth, and never tiring of the view. Every nugget of truth falls naturally and effortlessly into its own place, with no straining of either the parts or the whole, and we positively pity those who must be always racking and straining, hacking and hewing, to try to make their systems hold together, or to try to reconcile them with the Bible.

All this may look cold enough on paper. We know indeed that it is elementary enough. This is not the realm of fine-spun theories or profound mysteries, but of the simplest of truths, and yet those simple truths never cease to ravish the soul, for here we learn what God is, and what can we know more than this? If all this appears cold on paper, I am sorry for it, and can only say that my own eyes flow with tears in the contemplation of it.

My second windfall of understanding opened up to me rather what man is. This came about at the age of forty, fourteen years ago, when I gained a clear perception of the difference between the soul and the spirit. I cannot say that this made the Bible a new book to me, but it shed a great flood of light on many things which I knew already. The only sound or helpful thing which I have ever read on the difference between the soul and the spirit was found in Facts and Theories as to a Future State, by the Plymouth Brethren F. W. Grant. I read this book of 600 pages through thirty years ago, and the few pages which it devotes to the soul and the spirit set my mind inquiring in the right direction. It was not, however, till I studied the soul and the spirit in the Bible itself, with the aid of the Englishmans' concordances, that the matter became quite plain to me. This, as said, shed a flood of light on many other things, as the difference between personality (the soul) and character (the spirit), and the difference between inclination and volition, the former belonging to the soul, and the latter to the spirit. Jonathan Edwards, by confusing together inclination and volition (both of which are properly called willing) made out a make-shift proof for the bondage of the will, but the proof is a perfect nullity to anyone who understands the difference between the soul and the spirit. What Edwards in reality did was to reason that the spirit is bound because the soul is----that our choices are necessary because our desires are----that volition is outside our control because inclination is----yet every child knows by experience that this is not true. But to proceed, the apprehension of the diverse natures of the soul and the spirit threw a flood of light on the difference between sin and sins, the nature of self-denial, the nature of repentance, the nature of love and hate, the nature of true religion. It taught me what it means to serve God in the spirit----made plain what we can help and what we cannot----taught me what we can do and what we cannot----made plain why no flesh can be justified by the law----and opened a grand vista of understanding on the difference between masculine and feminine natures, for the spirit predominates in the masculine nature, and the soul in the feminine.

Of course I say too little here to impart much light to my readers. I aim rather only to whet their appetites. Those who have read Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks for the past ten years have already received, here a little and there a little, a great deal of the fruits of this understanding.

But I look forward, and press forward, in the same pursuit of wisdom which has occupied me for thirty-five years, and I wonder if another such windfall may come to me. God knows how much I have yet to learn.

I trust I know it in some measure myself, for I have a great many unanswered questions, and I feel deeply how little I know on many matters.

But one word of caution. Though I write to encourage my readers in the pursuit of wisdom, yet I dare not allow them to expect any easy acquisition. Let them observe, I never sought any windfall of wisdom. Such a thing never entered my mind. I shun as a delusive snare the idea of getting anything for nothing, and much less wisdom. I never sought it, and do not seek it now, but only continue on in my same old course of gradually and painstakingly acquiring the commodity which is more precious than rubies. Apart from that gradual increase of wisdom, by diligent study and hard experience, those windfalls which came to me would not have been possible. We cannot build upon nothing. And we fear that those who seek a windfall of wisdom are probably actually seeking vainglory more than they are wisdom. Unfortunately, such folks are very likely to imagine they have found a rich vein of pure wisdom, when in fact they have found only fools' gold. That which is of slow building is solid, and no man who knows anything of the nature of true wisdom would dream of anything but a gradual acquisition. Yet the gradual and painstaking ascent of the mountain may put us in a good position to reach the peak, which may open to us a vista unknown and scarcely dreamed of before.

The Faith of Abraham

Abstract of a Sermon Preached on July 22, 2001

by Glenn Conjurske

Paul calls Abraham “the father of all them that believe,” obviously not because he was the first who believed, but because of the pre-eminence of his faith. Abraham's faith, though not perfect, was yet of the sterling sort, and of a high degree also. Not perfect, surely, and it is a most interesting fact that we may learn so much of the ways of unbelief by studying the man of pre-eminent faith. More on that in its place. Meanwhile, we only affirm that as Abraham had great faith, his faith was greatly tried. I have long supposed that the greater our faith, the greater the trial of our faith will be. The Lord never tried anyone in his earthly ministry, as he did the woman to whom he said, “O Woman, great is thy faith.” Great faith will bear a great trial, and only shine the brighter, where little faith would faint and fail. The greater our faith, the greater the trial we may expect.

Paul speaks twice of the faith of Abraham, once in Romans 4 and once in Hebrews 11, and both times in connection with the trial of his faith. Abraham's faith was subjected to two great trials, first to obtain his Isaac, and then to slay him. These trials were not of the same sort. The first was of a milder nature, but long continued, wearing, and tedious. The second was sharp and short. God subjects our faith to both these kinds of trials.

Of Abraham's faith we read in Romans 4, “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were; who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”

I have preached so often on this phase of Abraham's faith that I need say the less about it this morning. But I observe in the twenty-first verse that he was fully persuaded of the promise. This is the key to all the rest. Without this he must certainly have broken down. He did indeed break down once, when he took Hagar to be his wife, and thought to procure the promised seed by her. This was the impatience of unbelief. Men are unwilling to wait for God when they have little or no expectation that God will act for them after all. They must be always grasping, running hither and thither, meditating one scheme after another by which they can take themselves what they have no faith to wait upon the Lord for, and almost always compromising in the process, lowering standards, giving up principles, and calling good evil, and evil good. Of all this I have seen a great plenty, for though I have seen many who follow Abraham in his impatience and unbelief, I have seen few indeed who follow him in his faith and patience. And of course all such impatient spirits will call all their schemes and their grasping by the most noble names. This is zeal for the cause of Christ. This is doing the will of God. Waiting upon God they will call by hard names. This is laziness. This is lukewarmness. Yet faith will have its day and its reward, and all those things which unbelief and impatience have obtained by their grasping will prove to be only trouble in the end. So it was with Ishmael.

Ishmael was born of unbelief, and for many years Abraham clung to that scheme of his own, thinking to fulfill the promise of God himself, without any help from God. He must compromise to take Hagar, lower standards, give up holy principles, and of course look about for others who would sustain him in his waywardness, by their example or approval. He would doubtless now plead Sarah's approval, as much as he should have God's. But he can have no very strong confidence that God is in the project at all, and he must labor to pawn off his devious plan upon the Almighty. “And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” There never was any occasion for him to so plead for Isaac, but he had his misgivings about his own plan, and none of that certainty which belongs to faith. Such was Abraham's unbelief. But it was not thus that God would be glorified. He had his own plan, and he would not own Abraham's. His word was, “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed.” This had been rather assumed than affirmed in the original promise given to Abraham. It was only the impatience of unbelief, on the part of both Sarah and Abraham, which had abandoned that assumption, but now that God affirms it explicitly, Abraham lays hold of it again, and it is on this foundation which he stands when he is a hundred years old. The case is now hopeless, physically and naturally. His own body is now dead----whatever that may mean, though certainly not dead in any technical or absolute sense. I don't think it can mean anything more than weakened by age. Sarah's womb is dead also. Her natural cycle is ceased, and she can no more bear children----not that she ever could. It is in such a plight that Abraham hopes against hope, and staggers not at the promise through unbelief. Here it was that he was fully persuaded, both that the promise was of God, and that God was able to perform it.

Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees,
And looks to that alone,
Laughs at impossibilities,
And cries, It shall be done.

So sang Charles Wesley of the faith of Abraham, but all this concerns Abraham's faith to obtain his Isaac. He had a greater trial to come, which required still greater faith. To obtain his son he must look to the promise alone. To slay him he must look to the command alone----and to such a command!

The long, weary years of languishing are over, and he has now entered into his rest and enjoyment, in the possession of the promised seed. The Lord has blessed him, the Lord has kept his word, the Lord has vindicated his faith, the Lord has made him to laugh, and repaid him for all his weary years of waiting. He walks now under the clear blue sky, and basks in the warm sunshine of heaven. But while he does so, a thunderbolt falls upon him without warning, which must have well nigh overwhelmed him. God said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

This is a trial of an entirely different sort from his weary years of waiting. But the fact is this, there are two great spheres in which our faith must operate. We must have faith to endure, and faith to act----faith to suffer, and faith to obey. God tries our faith in both spheres. The long continued trial was a test of the endurance of Abraham's faith. This sharp and short one is a test of the obedience of his faith. Both of these trials were extremely difficult to flesh and blood, but we suppose the second required the greater faith. It was hard, no doubt, to wait twenty-five years for his son, but it was a son he had never seen, never known, never loved. It is another matter to slay that son after he is known and loved. God knew this, of course, nor does he make any attempt to shield Abraham from the full force of the trial. Just the reverse. “Take now thy son,” he says, “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him up for a burnt offering.”

Now observe, there is only one way that Abraham could obey such a command. He must have the absolute certainty that it came from God. He must be fully persuaded that it was God who required this of him. For the faith to endure, he must be fully persuaded of the promise. For the faith to obey, he must be fully persuaded of the command. It is this certainty which gives to faith all its stability and stamina. And we can have that certainty, and we must have it. Without it we will certainly break down under trial. The certainty which we need may encompass more than an explicit command of God, such as Abraham had. We must be “fully persuaded” of our call and commission, sure of our ground. We may act without this----so long as it is easy to act----but we cannot endure. We will break down. A fellow who was going to Peru as a missionary----
not, as I suppose, because he was called of God, but because he was restless, and determined to go somewhere----asked me what he should do if he had no success, if people did not support him, and if he found himself useless and friendless and penniless in the place to which he was going. I told him I would not tell him what he should do, but would tell him what he would do. Said I, “If you are certain that God has called and sent you there, you will stick it out, regardless of every difficulty, but if you lack that certainty, you will quit and return home.” He quit and returned home in a year. I believe that if he had walked by faith, he never would have gone out in the first place. By faith he would have endured where he was, endured the years of longing and languishing, as Abraham did waiting for his Isaac, as Moses did in the back side of the desert, as David did in the wilderness. But these restless, unstable souls never walk by faith. They have no “faith and patience”----and no patience because no faith. They have no faith to endure the obscurity of the back side of the desert, but must always be grasping for the throne, the kingdom, the pulpit, the ministry, the limelight, and yet they soon prove that they have no faith to endure that either. What they call faith is nothing but grasping, impatient unbelief.

Anybody can act, and endure also, when things are easy. The whole army of Israel can rush to the spoil when the giant is slain, but they stood trembling and paralyzed when he was alive and threatening. It took a David to act, and it was the certainty of faith which enabled him to do so. He knew his divine call, knew his divine ground, and could therefore stand firm on it, giant or no giant. It is for the hard times we need faith. The hard times and the hard commands are the test of faith, and to stand under those tests we must be “fully persuaded” that the ground we occupy is of God. We may have that certainty, and we must have it. It belongs to the nature of faith. But we will not obtain that certainty in the same manner that Abraham did. God will not speak directly to us. We gain our certainty from the Bible, and not necessarily from any direct or explicit command, but from a broad spectrum of principles. Yet our certainty may be just the same as Abraham's was, and indeed, it must be, if we are to walk by faith.

To Abraham the certainty of faith was a plain necessity, to enable him to act at all, to slay his son. In his long trial of endurance, everything was against him but the promise of God. To that promise he must cling in the face of difficulties, impossibilities, and a quarter century's contrary experience. It was only the certainty of faith----being fully persuaded of the promise----which enabled him to endure at all. And now, in this sharp and short trial, he needed the same certainty, for here everything was against him but the command of God. Everything----wife, heart, conscience, truth, love, principle, reputation, family, friends, enemies----literally everything would have taken him clean contrary to the obedience of faith; everything, that is, but the command of God. If he had not been fully persuaded that the command was of God, he could not have acted at all.

Consider what things stood in the way of his obedience. First, in order to do what was right, he must seemingly do what was wrong. And not only wrong in the eyes of others, but wrong in his own eyes also. Now it was God who put him in this place. It was God who commanded him. It was God who made the trial as severe and difficult as he could make it. And rarely does God ask easy things of us. When he will try the faith of Abraham, it is not “Abstain from candy for three days,” but slay thy son. Do what is not only extremely difficult, but what appears to be wrong. Renounce father and mother, or wife, or children. Disobey your husband. Slay your son. God requires what no man could bring himself to do at all, except for the positive command or call of God. And to act at all in such a case, we must have the certainty that we are called of God to do so. We realize, of course, that God never intended that Abraham should actually slay his son. But Abraham didn't know that. And it is a plain fact that God sometimes calls us actually to do those things which are seemingly wrong----and things which will certainly be regarded as wrong by others.

In the next place, therefore, consider the great reproach which would come to Abraham for this act of obedience to God. Abraham had a reputation. He was a godly man, a man of faith, a righteous man, the friend of God, a man who had left all, and gone out not knowing whither he went, to obey the call of God, but all of this will count for nothing when he puts forth his hand to slay his son. All his righteousness and faithfulness, all his sterling character for the past twenty-five years, will be ignored and forgotten, while he is condemned for this one act. Who knows but what Abigail endured the same reproach for aiding the Lord's anointed? There are some who would overlook all of her obvious goodness, all her transparent sterling worth, while they condemn her for this one thing, that she acted against her husband's will----and that when he was obviously in the wrong, and when she obviously acted by faith. Hannah may have endured the same reproach, for leaving her son at the temple as soon as he was weaned. Such reproach was sure to fall upon Abraham when he slew his son. It would avail nothing to plead that God led him to this, that God required this of him. He would be told he was mistaken, deluded, insane. He was in violation of the most rudimentary righteousness, and who would believe that God had anything to do with it? It was his pride, his self-will, or some delusion of the enemy, but it was not the will of God, and the perpetrator of such a deed would be condemned even by the best of men, and all his record of godliness forgotten.

Such was the reproach which Abraham would have to bear for rendering to God what was God's, and the only thing which could sustain him in the face of that reproach was the certainty that his course was of God. He was fully persuaded that it was God who required this of him, and therefore he would go forward through thick and thin, through evil report and good report. When his old friends and allies condemned him, he would remain just where he was. Their arguments and their reproaches were alike powerless to move him, for he knew that his course was of God. He was fully persuaded.

But next, how would he answer to Sarah for this? This was her Isaac, her laughter, the child for which she had languished for a quarter of a century, the child for which she had longed and hoped, her tree of life, when her heart had long been made sick by hope deferred, the child which she had suckled and dandled and loved. When Ishmael had but mocked him, her verdict was decided and peremptory: “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” And what would she now say when his father slew him? Well might Sarah have denied his right to act at all in such a case, for Isaac was her child as much as his, and did he not grievously wrong her in depriving her of her son? All this Abraham doubtless felt, and nothing could have moved him above it but his certainty of his ground. He knew that he was led of God, commanded of God, and surely God had more right to Isaac than Sarah could have. If Sarah is wronged, God must answer for it, for Abraham is certain that God requires this of him, and he must render to God the things that are God's, whatever the feelings, or rights, or arguments of Sarah might be.

Finally, what would he do with the promise of God if he slew his son? For twenty-five years that promise had been the dearest thing he knew. For twenty-five years he clung to that, when he had nothing else to which to cling. All the faithfulness and truthfulness of God hung upon that promise----for can God promise, and not perform? Isaac was not the fulfillment of that promise, but only the necessary foundation of it. “In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Abraham had no fulfillment of this as yet, and without Isaac could have none. “So shall thy seed be”----as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea. Abraham had no fulfillment of this, and without his Isaac could have none, for God had said to him, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Abraham certainly knew that to slay his son would be to thrust the fatal knife into the promise of God as well, and how could he do so? There was but one way: he was fully persuaded that God required this of him. Without this he would have been paralyzed. Everything but the command of God stood directly in the way of his obedience, while the command alone moved him to it. He could never have moved a hand or foot to obey, had he not possessed the certainty that his course was of God.

That certainty he had, and this it was that moved him not only to obey, but to count upon God for a miracle to salvage his own promise. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Understand, the Old Testament account says nothing of this. How does Paul know it? How does Paul know that Abraham went to the sacrifice counting upon God to raise his Isaac from the dead? The same way we might know it. It was a simple necessity. And mark, it was no certainty concerning the command that led Abraham to expect God to raise Isaac from the dead. No, it was his old certainty in the promise. Once upon a time, “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” That promise remained yet unfulfilled. God has promised him a seed as the sand of the sea, and he has received but the first grain, from which all the others must spring. How shall he put that first grain to death with his own hands? But as then, when he had not so much as a single grain, “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief,” yea, “he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb,” so now he staggered not at the command of God, nor troubled himself about the deadness of Isaac. Once upon a time it was his own body and the womb of Sarah which must live that the promise might be fulfilled. Now Isaac must live. But he troubled himself about neither the one nor the other. God could see to that. “Where there is life there is hope,” men say, but Abraham could hope when life was gone. God had wrought once to give him his Isaac, in spite of the deadness of Sarah's womb, and he could work now to give him back, in spite of the death of Isaac himself. And all this because Abraham was fully persuaded, of both the promise and the command.

This is the proper ground of faith, and upon this ground every soul of man may stand if he will. Not that we think many do. No, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Not much of it, surely. Faith links the soul directly to God, whether to his promise or his command. It therefore enables us to stand alone, against the whole world, as Noah did. It enables us to stand in the greatest of difficulties.

But where are we to get that certainty of faith? How are we to become fully persuaded of either the promise or the command of God? By a course which is really very simple, though not at all easy. We must walk before God. We must have a single eye. We must seek no approval from men. We must renounce father and mother, and wife and children, and Pharaoh and Pharaoh's daughter, and country and kindred, and seek that approval which comes from God only. “Get thee out” was at the foundation of all Abraham's certainty. Not only so, but we must hate our own life also. We must mortify our pride and our lusts, embrace the reproach of Christ and the offence of the cross, and seek no great things for ourselves----unless it be by prayer. Pride and lust and unbelief and impatience are all bosom companions, and 'tis little use to think of faith where pride or impatience are indulged, or the reproach of Christ shunned. Then man and self become our reference points, and we can no more walk before God than a politician who is always reading the polls. Faith withers, and certainty is gone. We are double-minded, thinking to please both God and man, and so unstable in all our ways. Unstable because we have no fixed principle on which to stand, or by which to walk. Our principle is to be accepted with men----for noble ends, of course!----and the compass becomes a weather vane. The certainty of faith will make us as solid as a rock. Without it we shall be carried about as the sands before the waves.

Beware of Dogs

by Glenn Conjurske

Dogs are a strange combination of good and evil. “Man's best friend” they have been called, for the good that is in them, and many a man has found them so. Many have endured the evils of the dog's constitution, for the sake of what is noble and useful in them. There is perhaps no better example of loyalty on earth than that of a dog to its master, and yet the same dog that will faithfully serve his master will attack and maim his master's friend, upon no provocation whatever.

Now when the Bible bids us, in Philippians 3:2, to “Beware of dogs,” this of course means to beware of their evil characteristics, not their good, and it of course assumes that all dogs in general possess the same evil attributes. To beware is to be wary, and we are to beware of specific dangers, which we may easily recognize, if our eyes are open.

But observe, this is only if our eyes are open. Observation has been called every man's university. Would that this were true! Observation is the university in which every man may enroll, but in which few men do. Most men go through the world with their eyes closed, and learn almost nothing of what they might learn easily enough, with neither time nor effort, if only they had their eyes open. The fact is, most of us see or hear dogs every day----every night, too----and if our eyes are open, we may easily learn the nature of a dog, and so learn what it is that Paul bids us beware of. Of course I know that men's eyes are not literally shut, nor their ears either, but there is a grand difference between seeing and observing. There are many who see all, and observe nothing. An excellent old Italian proverb, which I discovered a few days ago, most truly affirms that “The eye is blind if the mind is absent.” The difficulty is not that men do not see, but that they do not think. What they see goes as it were in one eye and out the other, and never takes root in the mind, or becomes the theme of any thought or meditation.

We must observe to learn, and every man has abundant opportunity of observing dogs. I have observed them for about fifty years, and I may pass on some of my observations to my readers. Ere I do that, however, we must establish one point. When Paul bids us “Beware of dogs,” he of course has no reference to the four-footed kind. He refers solely to dogs of the human variety. It may be that the dog is man's best friend for the simple reason that the two are so much alike. But however that may be, it is a certain fact that there are a great many human beings who partake largely of the nature of the dog, and these are the dogs Paul advises us to beware of. Yet we can have no idea in the world to whom the apostle refers, unless we know something of the nature of literal dogs. Knowing that, we may easily see a striking correspondence between those of the four-footed variety, and certain creatures which walk upright on two feet, and of these latter we ought to beware.

One of the first and most obvious things we may learn of the nature of dogs is that they are prone to attack. I learned this early, when I was a little boy of about four years. I was at my grandmother's house. The dog was eating from his dish. I squatted beside him, and gently patted him on the head. In a split second he snarled and snapped, and fastened his teeth on my knee cap. I came away, of course, crying bitterly, with a ring of bloody tooth marks above and below my knee cap. The fault, of course, was all my own----for dog owners never blame their dogs for anything----and I was told I should never pet a dog while it was eating. This advice I religiously observed for many years, but I don't believe my bloody knee had anything to do with the fact that the dog was eating. The fact was, he was a dog. He was prone to attack, prone to return evil for good. I only showed him a little affection, and he must bite me. He was not a wild or vicious dog, but a common house pet, yet he was a dog, and therefore I must feel his teeth. Dogs in their nature are prone to attack, and to inflict injuries all out of proportion to any real or fancied offense offered to them.

Unfortunately, there are human beings who have the same characteristics. I recall years ago talking to a woman who used to belong to our church, trying to moderate her in her dealings with others. I told her that her nature was confrontational. She didn't know how to deal mildly or gently with people. She was prone to attack. I little dreamed at the time that in a few years she would be attacking me, and leading the pack against me, for she was then as loyal as I could expect anybody to be. Her loyalty put me off my guard, and I failed to be wary where I ought to have been. This same girl often lost her temper at me, but I brushed it off, and loved and trusted her anyway, where the Bible tells me to “Make no friendship with an angry man.” (Prov. 22:24). And if not with an angry man, certainly not with an angry woman. “Beware.” “Make no friendship.” If a wrathy woman, who loves to lose her temper and storm and rage, complains that she has no friends, tell her she doesn't deserve any, but make no friendship with her. There are reasons why she is wrathy, deep-seated deficiencies in her character----pride and contentiousness and lack of self-denial----and you had better “beware” while you can. You may regard the angry bark as harmless enough, but you may one day feel the teeth.

If we observe the dog, to attempt to learn why he is so prone to attack, we may make some very interesting discoveries. I would be reluctant to attribute pride to a beast, but I think I may safely call it extreme self-importance. He thinks he is the king of his master's domain, and he treats all others as intruders. He never gives the benefit of the doubt, but treats every man who sets foot near the place as an enemy, and supposes it his prerogative to attack them all. Nothing shall infringe upon his sovereign sphere. He nothing considers that he is but a low quadruped, nor that those whom he attacks bear the image of God. His supreme self-importance sets him above them all. Neither does he consider that those who walk by his fancied domain have done him no wrong, nor ever intended to. He must treat them as enemies, and forth in an instant to molest or attack them!

When I lived in Grand Junction, Colorado, during my early married life, my wife and I used often to walk to the grocery store or other places, but I was obliged always to carry a large club, to ward off the dogs which would invariably attack us. I suppose most everybody alive has had similar experiences. About twenty years ago I was knocking on doors to try to preach the gospel, in a small town in Kansas. I observed a large red dog sitting on the porch at one house, and so of course determined to pass by that house. Knowing something of the nature of dogs, I determined not only to pass by the house, but to give it a wide berth. I chose, therefore, to “pass by on the other side,” and accordingly walked to the other side of the street. This was not good enough for the dog. He came across the street to attack me, and followed me snarling and growling, with his great teeth dangerously close to my person. Now experience has taught me that in spite of all their propensity to attack, dogs are very cowardly, and in spite of all their threats, will virtually never attack a man to his face. I therefore turned and faced him, and walked slowly backwards, looking him in the eye. Meanwhile his owner, no doubt hearing his vicious barking, came out to rescue her poor baby from my relentless stare. We think the owners who permit their dogs to threaten every man who sets his foot near their property are much more guilty than the dogs. If such dogs were whipped every time they threatened a stranger, they would soon learn to leave them in peace. But this woman had no idea of that, and it apparently never entered her mind to call off the dog----perhaps she knew she was powerless to do so----and leaving the dog to threaten as he pleased, she began to admonish me to “just turn around and walk away,” assuring me that the dog would not bother me! I had more sense than to take her advice, and replied, without taking my eyes off the dog, “Lady, he is bothering me,” but she seemed to have no ability to comprehend that. By walking backwards and looking the dog in the eye till I was beyond his fancied domain, I managed to escape without feeling his teeth.

Many such experiences have I had. When I was a boy of twelve, I was riding my bicycle on a country road. Upon coming near a farm house, I saw a large German Shepherd in the yard, but as the driveway was a very long one, I had no doubt I could be long past it ere the dog could reach the road, and I began to pedal harder. This dog, however, was an intelligent one, and as soon as he saw me he started out on a run diagonally across the field, so that he met me at the corner of the lot. I was riding as fast as I could, and managed to outrun him.

Dog lovers will of course defend the animals, and tell us they are only “guarding their turf,” but the defense is very lame. Suppose they are guarding their turf. Must they therefore be vicious and irritable? Who gave the dog the right to threaten or injure every man who comes to do business with his master? Must they deny every man his rights, in order to maintain fictitious rights of their own? “Guarding their turf” or not, this is ridiculous. But no. I have been attacked by stray dogs, who had no turf to guard. I was riding my bicycle early one morning, before the rest of the world was out of bed, passing by the parking lot of a large public building. I saw lying in the lot what looked like a large crumpled over-coat, but when I came near, the coat got up and came over to attack me. I was nearly past him ere he discovered my presence, and so easily outran him. But I must come back by him on my return home, so I stopped and cut myself a large maple stick. The dog was ready for me when I returned----wide awake this time----and came out as I expected for the attack. But I was ready for him also, and stopped him in his tracks with one blow of my maple club. But whose turf was this animal guarding? He was only a stray, and this was certainly not his home, but he was full of self-importance, and fancied himself king wherever he lay his carcass. Supposed also that he had some right to attack a man who had never done him any wrong, nor ever would have. He must merely assert his supremacy, and I have known dogs enough in human shape, who are apparently possessed with the same compelling need.

When I was a small boy, we had spent the day at my grandmother's house. When we returned home, we were met by a large and vicious stray dog, stationed in the middle of the driveway, and determined to attack us as intruders. My father (much braver than I!) made us all stay in the car, while he got out and beat the dog off the property. It was our property, not his, but such is the self-importance of the dog that he imagines himself the emperor wherever he may set his foot, and he can bear no rival there.

Now there are people enough who display the same supreme self-importance. The rights of others are nothing. They will attack their betters upon any little provocation, or no provocation at all. And such is their exaggerated opinion of themselves, that they always suppose themselves competent to attack their betters. Like the merest little handful of noise and dog fur, which will attack without misgiving an Angus bull or a half-ton pick-up truck, so do these puffed up creatures attack their betters over anything or nothing, and tread the rights of all men under their feet. One of these who attacked me once, claimed it as a doctrine, which he thought to prove from the Bible, that I ought to give up my human dignity, and so allow him to attack me freely, and walk upon me as he pleased. We ought to beware of such two-footed dogs, steer clear of them, and give them a wide berth. It would be well for us all if such dogs were to be found in the world only, but some are usually found in the church also. They freely oppose others, but if any man dares to question them, this is attributed to pride. Their supreme self-importance can no more bear a rival than the dog can bear that a stranger should set foot near his own fancied domain. All position and prestige belongs to them by right, and if they do not receive their due, somebody will feel their teeth for it.

The next thing we observe in dogs is that they are very cowardly. I learned as a boy never to turn my back to a dog, unless I meant to outrun him. I observed that a dog which would threaten to the face would move around behind for the actual attack, and bite the calf or the ankle. Dogs will rarely attack face to face, but always bite from behind. They are the true original of the “back-biter.” Of the two-footed sort of such dogs we ought by all means to beware. But how are we to know them? They will speak fair to our face, and how are we to know that they are biting us behind our back? The confrontational woman, whom I mentioned above, once complained bitterly to me because I had spoken something to her disadvantage to a third party in another state. Meanwhile I learned from the third party that these two had been running up “astronomical telephone bills” talking about me!----while I knew nothing of it. Those who are bitten by the back-biter are usually the last to know it, and how then are they to beware?

I have but one suggestion. When one comes to me to assassinate the character of another, I may suspect at any rate that she will do the same to me behind my back. Dogs are cowardly, and so are back-biters. They will constantly speak behind the back what they would never dream of speaking to the face. Even if they intend a face-to-face attack, they will first work behind your back, to raise a pack of sympathizers. One of the pack which once attacked me loved to rehearse the list of names which were on his side, always including some names to which he had no right, and others of which he ought to have been ashamed. But so they proceed to the attack, their confidence bolstered not by the goodness of their cause, but by the strength of their numbers. This is the anatomy of church splits, most of which would never occur but for the tongues of the back-biters.

Another characteristic of dogs is that they love to raise clamors. They are utterly destitute of the faculty by which we distinguish the weighty from the frivolous, or by which we distinguish something from nothing, but must raise a great hue and cry over every little occurrence which would be altogether beneath the notice of sounder minds. If the cows are in the corn, or the stable door left open, the dog will speak never a word, but what clamors he will raise over nothing! A chipmunk venturing out of his hole, or an invasion by a hostile army, is all one to a dog, and he will bark as though the sky were falling over both the one and the other. The shining of the moon, an automobile stopped too long at the corner stop sign, the neighbors shutting a car door, a siren or train whistle in the distance, a loon calling, or a fox barking----all these are the signals to bound up in his self-important dignity and raise a great clamor, and as often as not every dog within hearing will join in the general yapping, not one in a dozen of them having any idea why they are barking.

And so do the human dogs also. What clamors have I seen raised over the most frivolous nothings! What divisions of families and churches and nations have ensued from such clamors! And like the barking of all the dogs in the neighborhood, some cry one thing, and some another, and the more part know not wherefore they are come together. A great faction is raised, to depose the king, or to oust the preacher, though it would be hard to find any three in the crowd who could agree together as to why he should be ousted. One is unhappy because she cannot find a husband, another because his crops have failed, another because his paycheck is too small, another because bootleg liquor is against the law, but all are agreed the king must be deposed.

I once had such a pack of hounds----or sheep acting like hounds----barking and howling at me, all determined to condemn me, all agreeing that my offenses were very grievous, but none of them knowing exactly what they were. The original charges against me were that I tease people, that I don't communicate well with people, and that I always think I am right. I told them that the first charge was true----and bent over backwards to mend anything that might be offensive in my teasing, but found that nothing would satisfy them but an unqualified admission that I deliberately trampled on people's feelings. The second charge was ridiculously false----
and I proved their proofs to be a tissue of mistakes----but even if true, it was my misfortune, not my sin. The third was also ridiculously (not to say maliciously) false, and I proved it false by numerous examples. Ah! but the clamor was raised already, and the three charges soon grew to a hundred. Indeed, they changed every day. When I told them their charges were frivolous, this was soon made out to be the greatest sin of all----for who can convince a dog that the sporting of the chipmunks in the yard is not as serious a matter as the invasion of a foreign army? The dog raises his clamors purely on the basis of his own self-important dignity. He must have something to bark at, some occasion to make himself heard, some occasion to assert his superiority, and it really matters but little what it is. Reason has not the remotest connection with the matter. He will bark at the burglar or the moon, and it is all one to him. He is supremely self-important, easily stirred up, and determined to be heard. Therefore he will raise clamors over anything or nothing. And I have seen the two-footed variety do so also.

But suppose it to be a flock of sheep which attack their shepherd----or fight among themselves----and not a pack of dogs. Can a sheep be called a dog? We hardly think so, and yet Paul's warning is surely practical, not technical. We do not judge every man who sometimes shows the nature of a dog to be nothing but a dog, any more than we judge every man a hypocrite who is guilty of hypocrisy. Brethren may be overtaken in faults. Some of whom I have written were apparently true sheep, yet they displayed much of the nature of the dog, and I saw them join forces in their vicious biting with some who were dogs indeed, against my solemn admonitions that they ought to be ashamed of their allies. But they were governed by pride and passion, and would not hear. Paul writes, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Biting and devouring are certainly the behavior of dogs, not sheep, and yet it is to the churches of Galatia that he writes such things. It would seem that a true sheep may retain something of the nature of the dog, or fall back into it, and so far as he does, we ought to beware of him.

To all the above I may add that dogs do not forget injuries. They hold grudges. They are as vengeful as they are vicious. If the dog once attacked the mail man, and the man, in self defence, gave the pooch a kick, he will be his mortal enemy for ever. No matter that the whole thing was the dog's fault. The fact is, this man kicked him, and he will not forget it. His hair will bristle, and he will set himself for another attack, whenever he smells the approach of the same man. In the great clamor which was raised against me some years ago, the woman who led the pack began her attack by bringing up a matter which was five years old, and a matter, too, in which I was as innocent as an angel. She felt injured by it, but in reality she was wronging me to feel so. And many such ancient matters did she throw in my face, in most of which she knew nothing of the facts. She had treasured up fancied injuries until they burst the dam. One of her allies brought a matter against me which was ten years old, and of which I had never heard a word in those ten years----a very frivolous matter, too. He had mentioned some trial of his own, and I responded with, “I know what you feel. I have been there myself.” And this was treasured up against me for ten years, and then solemnly brought forth as the grand proof of my pride! What I had spoken in sympathy was taken as an assertion of equality, and this was a great offence. Now this displays the nature of the dog, who stands supreme in his own self-importance, and can bear no challenger. Of such dogs we ought to beware, if we can but find them out.

So much for the nature of the dog. I may have overlooked some things, for I have had but one short life in which to observe the creatures. But I must extract another nugget or two from the text. There are certain silly notions which prevail in modern Evangelicalism on the subject of judging. Some hold that it is wrong, and others that it is impossible, to judge another man's character. Such notions are silly, for they set common sense at defiance, affirming it to be impossible to judge, when in fact it is impossible not to. And not silly only, but dangerous also. Shall a woman marry a man without judging his character, because it is wrong to judge? Shall a church receive a man into its membership, or put him into office or into the pulpit, without judging his character, because it is wrong to judge? This is silly, and these notions are directly against the Bible also. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Yea, “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” His doings are seen, and by these his character is known.

But modern Evangelicalism has made judging out to be the greatest of sins, and by this means it shields and covers all other sins. We know that there is a certain judging which the Bible disallows, but for all that we must judge men's characters. How can we “Beware of dogs,” if it is wrong----if it is impossible----to tell who or what a dog is? Some, by misunderstanding Paul's admonition in I Corinthians 5:12 & 13, have made it illegitimate to judge the character of anybody outside the church, but this is a great mistake. The advice of our text assumes that we are capable of distinguishing the nature of the dog in men, and that it is right to do so. The Lord judged Herod a fox, and judged some others to be wolves, and yet others to be wolves in sheep's clothing, and this was not merely the pronouncement of omniscience. No, he judged their character by their deeds, and we may do the same. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” and when we see the nature of the dog in a man, we had better beware of him. Put no confidence in him. Keep our distance from him. This is wisdom.

Gilbert Tennent on the Terms of Salvation

[I first became acquainted with Gilbert Tennent about thirty years ago, and have been engaged through all those thirty years in a diligent search for some of his writings, but a search utterly fruitless in the channels which were open to me. I have lately learned that many of his works are available on microfilm, and have (thus far) obtained six or eight of them by interlibrary loan. Thus I am very happy to be able to add his testimony to the many which I have published on the terms of the gospel. Tennent (Presbyterian, 1703-1764) was the American Whitefield, stirred up to itinerant labors by the example and exhortations of Whitefield, and nearly rivalling him in the power and effects of his preaching. Though his Calvinism causes him often to muddle the matter, by making conversion something which is infused into us, yet the fact that, late in his life, he preached and printed ten consecutive sermons on Ezekiel 33:11----”Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die?”----is proof enough that he held the forsaking of sin to be necessary to salvation The following quotations, embracing both his earliest and latest ministry, are clear enough to establish the matter.----editor.]

Of Repentance: Which many take to be a legal Sorrow, with some Care after Reformation. But had not Judas and Ahab slavish mercenary Sorrow? Some People think that if they do but mourn (whatever Principle it be from) when they have committed some gross Crime, and take some Care afterwards for a while to avoid it, that they are true Penitents; but O Friend, this is far from true Repentance! thy mourning must be from Love. Psalm 51. Thy Hatred must be universal and implacable, 2 Cor. 7.11. And there must be a thorow Reformation after it. For it is he that confesseth and forsaketh Sin, that shall find Mercy. Without this you may go on sinning and repenting alternately, or by turns, and notwithstanding be damned at last eternally, Rev. 21.8 & 22.15.
----A Solemn Warning to the Secure World, from The God of terrible Majesty, by Gilbert Tennent. Boston: Printed by S. Kneeland and T. Green, for D. Hinchman, 1735, pg. 20.

1. WE should turn to GOD universally, young and old, Male and Female, White and Black, Bond and Free, Learned and Unlearned, Rich and Poor, Jer. 25.5. Turn ye again, every one from his evil Way, and dwell in the Land.

2. SINCERELY, affectionately, and thoroughly, with the whole Heart, with deep sorrow for our Sins, in the mean Time, forsaking all our Iniquities, in Affection and Practice, and turning to all commanded Duty, and to God in Duty; Joel 2.11,12,13. Turn ye even to me, with all your Heart, and with Fasting, and with Weeping, and with Mourning. The Term from which we are to turn, is our evil Ways, i.e. such Iniquities as we have made ours by evil Custom, all our evil Ways without excepting any, no not our Constitution Sin, that Achan must be slain, that right Eye must be plucked out, or we ruined; nor is it enough to forsake the outward Practice of Sin, while it is loved and indulged in our Hearts, no all such are base Pharisees and Hypocrites, whose Righteousness we must exceed on Pain of Damnation.
----Sermons on Important Subjects, by Gilbert Tennent. Philadelphia: James Chattin, 1758, pp. 158-159.

That God, who is absolute Lord of his own Treasures, and can dispense them to his Creatures, upon what Terms he pleases, has by positive Constitution made Conversion, or Holiness, which are but different Words for the same Thing, of absolute Necessity to Salvation.
----ibid., pg. 231.

And as to the Unconverted, I beseech you, by the Mercies of GOD, to pity your poor Souls, and to turn from your evil Ways to Jehovah speedily; remember while you delay this, you are Murderers, Self-Murderers, Soul-Murderers, Self-Soul-Murderers, your Blood is upon your own Heads, your Destruction is the Fruit of your own Wickedness and Obstinacy, in rejecting, against your own Souls, God's repeated Warnings and Invitations, and therefore it is but just that you should perish, and this you will be obliged to own at last, to God's Honour, and your own Shame; what unspeakable Anguish will a Reflection upon this, cause in your Consciences another Day, unless you speedily repent and reform, before it be too late, too late? O! think often upon the inexpressible Dangers and Miseries of your present Condition, cry to GOD earnestly and frequently for converting Grace, attend with Seriousness upon the Means appointed for that End; and, in particular, O hear now the gracious Call of God, in our Text, Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil Ways.----AMEN. AMEN. ----ibid., pp. 235-236.

...the Almighty had no Pleasure in the Destruction of Sinners, but would rather they should turn and live; and that in case they repented and reformed, he would readily accept of them, and prevent their ruin; but if they persisted in their Impiety, after all the Warnings given them, their ruin must be ascribed to themselves: Death is your own Choice, not mine, so long as you go on in the Way that leads to it, for whoso sinneth against me, wrongeth his own Soul; he that wilfully chooseth Sin, and continues in the Practice of it, does interpretatively chose Death, which is its Wages and Consequence. ----ibid., pp. 238-239.

JEHOVAH expostulates with Transgressors why will ye die? q. d. why do ye chose your own Ruin, “By walking in the Way of Impiety, that leads to, and issues in it? are not Sin and Punishment bound together, by such Chains as nothing but Repentance and Reformation can break?”
----ibid., pg. 240.

Whosoever will, i.e. is willing to forsake all Sin, all Self-Dependance, and accept a whole Saviour, with his Law and Cross, as well as depend entirely on his Blood, and live to him; every such Person is invited by the blessed God, to come and take the Water of Life freely; let his outward State be never so poor and mean, his Sins ever so many, or so great; and his Troubles for them, in his Apprehension, ever so small? All these are no Hindrances to Remission and Salvation, in case you believe. The

3. PARTICULAR in the Invitation, is the Duties invited to, which are these, 1st, To come to Christ, and his Benefits, which are doubtless intended by the Water of Life, in this Text: Now coming to Christ, most certainly signifies our believing in him; he therefore that believes that Christ is the Son of God, the Saviour of the World, able and willing to save all that come to the Father by him; he that seriously considers upon the Terms of Self-Denial, taking up the Cross, and following Christ, that the Gospel offers him, and his Benefits upon, and fully Consents to them; he that relies upon his Mediation entirely, for a Right to Happiness, under a Sense of Guilt and Impotency, and commits the Concerns of his Salvation into his Hands, with Freedom, Desire, and Hope, and in Consequence hereof, brings forth the Fruits of the Spirit, comes to Christ.
----ibid., pg. 325-326.

If any are for a GOSPEL that rejects Obedience to the Moral Law, there is no such Gospel in the BIBLE, Christ nor his Apostles never preach'd such a Gospel, but the contrary: It is a MYSTERY of INIQUITY and MISCHIEF: From such a Gospel good Lord deliver us!
----Discourses on Several Important Subjects, by Gilbert Tennent. Philadelphia: W. Bradford, 1745, pg. 338.

Now seeing that Christ ordered Repentance and Remission of Sins to be preach'd in his Name, to all Nations, as before observed, it evidently appears, that this is one important Branch of the COMMISSION Christ gives to his Ministers, and therefore is one Character by which we may be assisted in judging who they are. I may add to what has been said, that Repentance is excluded by the Covenant of Works, there is no Place for Repentance there, no Plank after Shipwreck; it requires nothing but perfect Obedience, and neither enjoyns nor admits Repentance, for it admits not of Pardon; and where there is no Forgiveness, there can be no Place for Repentance; Repentance and Forgiveness come in therefore by the New Covenant. From what has been said upon this Head, considered complexly, you may see, that if there be any Gospel-Duties at all, Repentance is one, and therefore that those who reject it, as legal, understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and have found out a PRETENDED GOSPEL different from what Christ and his Apostles preach'd.
----ibid., pp. 342-343.

Editorial Policies

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.