Archaic Language in the Bible
by Glenn Conjurske
One of the most common pleas which we hear for rejecting the old English
Bible, and replacing it with some new version, is the archaic language
of the old version. Even many who acknowledge the excellency of the King
James Version are in favor of rejecting it because of its archaic language,
or at any rate of so far revising it as to remove the ancient and archaic
language from it. A number of plausible arguments may be urged in favor
of such a course, but to my mind, taken all together, those arguments
amount to just about nothing, for they do not begin to offset the weightier
arguments on the other side. Yet for some reason the advocates of such
a change have never been able to discover the weighty arguments against
it. This may be due merely to very shallow thinking, but I suspect it
generally flows from something worse than that.
In the first place, we ought to expect an old book to contain old language.
Why would anyone wish it otherwise? If I read a book a hundred years old,
by C. H. Spurgeon or J. C. Ryle, I expect to find a little of archaic
language in it. If I read a book a century and a half old, by Peter Cartwright
or Charles G. Finney, I expect a little of archaic language. So if I read
Wesley or Whitefield, and more so if I read Bunyan or Baxter. Should I
then expect to read a book which is from two to three thousand years old,
and find nothing archaic in it? Children can go to school and read Lincoln's
Gettysburg Address, and understand it, too, if they want to, though the
first word in it is archaic. That word (fourscore) has of course been
removed from the modern Bibles.
But query: what makes it even desirable to remove the old language from
a book which everybody knows to be old? We expect an archaic flavor in
a book which is known to be old. This is perfectly natural. There is no
reason to object to it, or to expect anything else. You may remove the
archaic language from the Bible, but you cannot remove its archaic content.
Replace all of its archaic words, and still it will speak of oxen and
wagons and camels and horses and chariots, not cars and trucks and tractors.
Still it will speak of swords and spears, not guns and hand grenades.
Still it will speak of the sundial, and not the clock.
But this is a minor matter, and I leave it for something more important.
I will grant that if we were just now translating the Bible for the first
time into English, and had no previous Christianity and no previous Christian
heritage in our mother tongue, it would certainly not be wise to translate
into language as archaic as that of the King James Bible. There would
be no reason for such a course. But this is not our case. We have had
a Bible in English for hundreds of years. We have a Christian heritage
in the English tongue
----the deepest and most extensive Christian heritage
which exists on the face of the earth ----and the archaic language of the
King James Bible and its predecessors is an integral part of that grand
heritage. Almost everything that is of real value in our Christian inheritance
is based upon the King James Bible, or an earlier version. To remove the
archaic language from the Bible is in effect to cast to the winds our
whole Christian heritage. This may seem to be an unwarrantably strong
statement, but I believe that upon careful examination it will be found
to be strictly true. If, for example, you cannot understand or appreciate
the King James Version because of its archaic language, then of course
you cannot understand or appreciate John Bunyan's immortal Pilgrim's Progress,
nor anything else he wrote, either. As C. H. Spurgeon very well says:
It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last,
you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned
upon Scriptural models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavoured
with the words of the Lord. I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of
what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost
like reading the Bible itself. He had studied our Authorized Version,
which will never be bettered, as I judge, till Christ shall come; he had
read it till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and, though
his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his
Pilgrim's Progress ----that sweetest of all prose poems, ----without continually
making us feel and say, `Why, this man is a living Bible! Prick him anywhere;
and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible
flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is
full of the Word of God.'
The same will be found to be true, though in varying degrees, of John
Wesley and George Whitefield, of Spurgeon himself, of Baxter and Flavel,
of John Fletcher, of Adoniram Judson, of C. H. Mackintosh, of Gipsy Smith,
of William R. Newell. It is not merely that such men continually quote
from the King James Bible, but more: their very hearts and souls and minds,
their very language and patterns of thought, are formed by it. The language
of the King James Bible permeates their ministry. Mark well, then, if
the archaic language of the old English Bible stands in the way of your
using and profiting from it, then in the nature of the case it must stand
equally in the way of your entering at all into the vast and glorious
Christian inheritance which lies before you. But here I suppose I have
probed a little closer to the quick than I had intended, for the real
fact is, the majority of those who shun the old English Version because
of its archaic language are men and women who are so shallow and empty,
or so profane or worldly, that they care nothing about the writings of
Whitefield and the Wesleys, or C. H. Spurgeon or C. H. Mackintosh.
But some there are who have neither design nor desire to abandon the heritage
of Christianity which exists in the English language, who will yet reject
the King James Version because of its archaic language. They can, they
suppose, delve into the old language in their own private study, but it
is not acceptable in public preaching or in the public worship of the
church. But such a position betrays very shallow thinking. If the ancient
language of the King James Bible is not acceptable in the public reading
and preaching of the Bible, then of course it must be rejected from the
hymn book also. No more can such folks sing that sublime verse of the
great Charles Wesley:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
Nor, I love thy kingdom, Lord, The house of thine abode. Nor, Come
ye disconsolate, where'er ye languish. Nor More love to thee, O Christ,
more love to thee! Nor Perfect yet it floweth Fuller every day, Perfect
yet it groweth Deeper all the way. Nor, Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer
to thee! Nor I gave my life for thee, My precious blood I shed, That
thou might'st ransomed be, And quickened from the dead. Nor Take my
life, and let it be, Consecrated, Lord, to thee. Nor Guide me, O thou
great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land: I am weak, but thou art
mighty, Hold me with thy pow'rful hand. Nor...
----but what need is there
to proceed? It is perfectly obvious that anyone who feels any need whatsoever
to replace the old Bible because of its archaic language must of necessity
feel exactly the same need to replace the old hymn book. If they use the
old hymns while they replace the old Bible, they only prove themselves
to be insincere and hypocritical in their objections to the archaic language.
The archaic language in the Bible they find to be an insuperable difficulty,
yet they use the very same language every time they open the hymn book,
and it never enters their minds to object to it. Verily it is a wrong
spirit which moves them. If they can and ought to sing the old hymns in
the public meetings of the church, then on the same basis they can stick
to the old Bible, and ought to if its archaic language is their ostensible
reason for rejecting it. And it here appears with the utmost plainness
that any attempt to abandon the archaic language of the King James Bible
must of necessity carry with it an abandonment of the whole heritage of
the English-speaking church.
I expect that the sincere of heart, who really love the spiritual treasures
bequeathed to them by generations and centuries past, will readily yield
to the force of this argument. Yet some will contend that though it may
be acceptable to subject the initiated, who are Christians already, to
the archaic language of the old Bible and the old hymns, yet such a course
is unacceptable in the work of the gospel. In dealing with the unconverted
we ought to abandon the old Bible, and use one in contemporary English.
But again, the very ones who insist upon such a course will never think
twice about singing in their gospel meetings Rock of ages, cleft for
me, Let me hide myself in thee. Nor would they hesitate to quote an
ancient English proverb in its ancient English dress. May I give them
one which they seem to have missed? Consistency, thou art a jewel! The
most prominent of Neo-evangelicals, who would not be caught dead with
a King James Bible in their hands, will yet sing continually in their
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd'st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!
Those who can sing such a song in their gospel meetings, and yet cannot
preach the gospel from the old Bible because of its ancient English, must
pardon those of us who are accustomed to think, if we happen to think
them not quite sincere in their objections to the archaic language. It
seems that they must in reality have something else against the old Bible,
besides its old English.
But some profess to have forsaken the old Bible for a modern version for
the sake of their children, who cannot be expected to understand the ancient
English. But this is perhaps the most foolish objection of them all. Children
are masters at learning languages. The most stupendous feat of learning
ever accomplished is effortlessly performed by every toddler when he learns
his mother tongue. Coming to the task with no previous knowledge, and
without the benefit of any formal instruction, he quickly picks up the
meanings of hundreds of words, along with all the intricacies of grammar.
If his parents speak two languages, he learns them both. And can he not
learn the meaning of thee and thou and hast and hath?
Cannot his parents take the effort to explain to him the meaning?
If the old English Bible is but used in the home it will likely require
no more effort to teach children the old English than it takes to teach
them the new. But suppose it does take some effort. Is not the effort
worth taking? Do you wish to raise a child who is incapable of entering
into all of the treasures of English Christianity, a child who is kept
from the delights of John Bunyan and John Wesley by a language barrier?
For let me reiterate, the old English Bible and all the treasures of English
church history must be taken or left together. They are bound together
by ties which naught can sever, the primary tie being the old language
itself. I greatly fear that many of those who forsake the old Bible have
more than half a design to forsake also the old paths and the ancient
landmarks of the old Christianity. Most of them, indeed, have forsaken
them already. Contemporary Christianity suits them much better, and
what do they care about C. H. Spurgeon or C. H. Mackintosh? But whether
they design this or not, it is the natural effect of the course which
they take. The Jews have been wiser. Scattered over the globe, and speaking
every language except that in which their sacred oracles and their sacred
traditions are couched, many of them have been careful to teach their
children the Hebrew language, thus to give to them the key by which they
might enter into their inheritance. But our shallow generation of Christians
throw away the key and the inheritance together, and count themselves
wise for so doing. Alas.
On the Death of A. B. Simpson
by the editor
In the article on Groaning in the April issue of this magazine (pg.
89), in speaking of the sickness of which A. B. Simpson died, we made
the statement that the `Official Authorized Edition' of his biography,
published by the Alliance which he founded, refuses to tell us about it,
or even to mention the fact that he died. A reader has pointed out to
me that this is not true. The biography does mention the fact that he
died, as follows:
On Tuesday, October 28th, he spent the morning on his verandah and received
a visit from Judge Clark, of Jamaica, conversing freely, and praying fervently
for Rev. and Mrs. George H. A. McClare, our Alliance missionaries in Jamaica,
and for the missionaries in other fields, who were always in his mind.
After the Judge left him he suddenly lost consciousness and was carried
to his room. His daughter Margaret and a little group of friends watched
by the bedside with Mrs. Simpson till his great spirit took leave of his
worn out body and returned to God that gave it, early on Wednesday morning,
October 29th, 1919.
It was at first unaccountable to me how I could have missed this, for
I had read the book and taken notes on it (many years ago, however), and
not only so, but well knowing the necessity which the advocates of Simpson's
doctrine are under to ignore or suppress the facts in order to maintain
the doctrine, I had made a careful search (though obviously not careful
enough) of the book for an account of his last sickness and death, while
writing my article on Groaning. I see now that the apparent reason
that I missed it is that it is not placed at the end of the biography
proper where I expected to find it, but in the midst of the tributes from
other authors which follow the biography proper. I stand corrected, and
thank the brother who pointed out to me my mistake.
I do not wish, however, to leave the matter here. It is a fact that the
closing years and the death of A. B. Simpson formed a palpable contradiction
to the doctrine which he taught. It is another fact that his followers
have been known quite commonly to suppress or deny the facts in order
to maintain the doctrine. And it is another fact that his official authorized
biography does refuse to tell us the real facts about his sickness whereof
he died, or about any of his other infirmities, or his consulting a
physician. All of this must be learned from other sources. Of his last
sickness the book tells us virtually nothing, and nothing that would lead
us to believe there was anything seriously wrong with him. It says, Just
before the Annual Council in May he suffered a slight stroke of paralysis,
which prevented him and Mrs. Simpson from going to Troccoa where the Council
was held that year; but he recovered so rapidly that none of the brethren
was detained at Nyack. When the delegates returned, they found Dr.
Simpson recovered almost to his condition previous to the stroke. He passed
through the summer with little change...
Simpson's doctrine contradicted not only the Bible, but the facts of his
own experience. That contradiction is thus stated by Henry W. Frost: ...when
Dr. Simpson wrote his book on miraculous healing (Gospel of Healing, pages
66, 67), he had recourse to this language, it being, with the facts before
him, the best statement which he could make: `When the end comes, why
need it be with painful and depressing sickness, as the rotten apple falls
in June from disease and with a worm at the root? Why may it not be rather
as the ripe apple would drop in September, mature, mellow, and ready to
fall without a struggle into the gardener's hand?' As a matter of fact,
though Dr. Simpson did not intend it to be so, this is spiritual camouflage.
For the illustration used is the covering up of the ugly truth that death
is an enemy; that he insidiously lays hold of saint and sinner alike;
that he brings disease of some sort, sooner or later, upon all; and, finally,
that he gives the fatal grip, and the individual, no matter what his prayer
and faith may be, dies. So the time comes, universally, when the theory
of physical life in the Spirit breaks down and fails. Dr. Simpson found
it so, and his last sickness and final death were anything but like the
dropping of an apple in September into the gardener's hand.
Yet his biography does not present such a view of the facts, but seems
to relate what little information it gives us in such a way as to confirm
Simpson's doctrine concerning death. This is a practical necessity, for
those who hold this doctrine must hold it in spite of the facts, and it
was to point out this necessity that I made my original statement on the
subject. And though my statement was incorrect in part (concerning his
death), it was correct in stating that the book refuses to give us the
facts concerning his last sickness. Simpson's followers were forced by
his doctrine into this suppression of the facts. They had only one other
alternative (besides the alternative of giving up the doctrine), that
being to admit the facts, and account for them by denying the sanctity
of Simpson's life. Some of them took that ground also, as Rowland V. Bingham
points out: In rushing to the defence of their theory they have shown
more concern for it than for their late leader, and in their effort to
vindicate their healing doctrine have cast the most cruel aspersions upon
him, one of their leaders saying in our hearing that if he had been in
right relationship with the Lord he would not have suffered as he did
from physical sickness and infirmity in the last year or two of his life.
We do not believe in thus beclouding the end of this or any other godly
man who simply experiences what Paul describes as the natural process
of `our outward man decaying.'
We do not believe in denying either the real sickness or the real sanctity
of a man like A. B. Simpson, and we do not believe in the doctrine which
forces his followers to do one or the other.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
The Prophet's Commission
by Glenn Conjurske
See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms,
to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build,
and to plant.
The prophet's commission consists of two parts, a negative part
root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down ----and
a positive part ----to build, and to plant. A little child may see
that the negative part comes first, and that there is twice as much of
it. Some have objected to my saying so, contending that it is not valid
to attach any significance to the number or the order of the things listed.
Yet I have no doubt that if the number and order were reversed ----if the
positive were listed first, and in twice the quantity ----they would not
hesitate to attach a great deal of importance to it. Their real difficulty
seems to be not so much that we insist upon the negative first, and in
twice the quantity, but that we insist upon it at all. The one-sided theology
of the modern church ----with its emphasis all on the side of love, grace,
mercy, and forbearance ----and the worldly spirit of the modern church ----full
of softness and compromise ----have combined together to give to modern
evangelicalism a strong dislike for all negative preaching, or negativism,
as they call it. Yet this is the preaching which God requires of his prophets.
Such a commission takes for granted, of course, that the earth is filled
with things which need to be rooted out and pulled down and destroyed
and thrown down, and filled also with people who love to have it so.
Were it not for people who are wrong, things would be right. But there
is a constant downward tendency in everything which sinful man touches
constant tendency to build up the wrong, and allow the right to go to
decay. This is due not only to the wickedness of the wicked, but also
to the ignorance and carelessness of the godly. This is plainly seen in
I Cor. 3:9-17, which reads:
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry [that
is, God's field or garden], ye are God's building. According to the grace
of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the
foundation, and another buildeth thereupon. But let every man take heed
how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that
is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation
gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man's work shall
be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed
by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.
If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive
a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but
he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are
the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any
man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy.
There are not two classes of works spoken of here, but three:
If any man's work abide, verse 14.
If any man's work shall be burned, verse 15.
If any man destroy the temple of God, verse17.
Corresponding to these three sorts of works, there are three distinct
outcomes. As for the first, he shall receive a reward. As for the
second, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved. As for
the third, him shall God destroy.
In the last of these three we see the wicked, who purposely oppose and
destroy the work of God. In the other two classes we see the godly, sincerely
laboring to build up the temple of God. Some of them do solid and enduring
work, and are rewarded for it. Others build with wood, hay, and stubble.
They themselves are saved, but their work is worthless. The day of judgement
shall declare it to be worthless, but for the present, on the earth, the
wood, hay, and stubble which they have built into the temple of God remains,
and stands along with the gold, the silver, and the precious stones. For
this cause there is a constant need, even among the godly, of prophets
of God, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw
Yet how few are the true prophets of God who have graced the history of
the earth! How rare in any period the men like Menno Simons and John Wesley,
who both could and would stand against the prevailing corruptions of the
age! Many even of the best and greatest of men have very largely failed
to carry out the prophet's commission. They have by-passed the negative
portion of the commission, and proceeded prematurely to building and planting.
They have been zealous enough to build up the walls of Jerusalem, but
they have seen no necessity to remove the much rubbish which filled
the place. (Neh. 4:10). They have endeavored to build up the wall in the
midst of the rubbish, or upon the rubbish.
The reasons for this failure are essentially two: incapacity, and unwillingness.
First, incapacity. It is a rare thing to find a man who is able to fulfill
the prophetic office. In the nature of the case a prophet must be able
to see farther and more clearly than those around him. How is this to
be attained? He comes into a temple in which wood, hay, and stubble have
been accepted the same as gold, silver, and precious stones
rubble is used for building material, and defended by the elders of Israel.
He is taught to interpret the Scriptures in such a way as to maintain
the prevailing errors ----and taught so in all probability by men who are
better than himself. He is taught the traditions of the elders along with
the word of God, and it usually happens that in the practical workings
of things the traditions of the elders are given precedence over the word
of God. The word of God must be interpreted so as to conform to the traditions,
and very rarely do we meet with a man who has the ability to see through
the sophistries by which error is maintained. Few ever see beyond the
system in which they have been bred.
This is remarkably illustrated by a conversation I had some years ago.
I worked with a man who belonged to a Calvinistic church, and was of course
a Calvinist. Just after he was converted, two men from this church had
knocked on his door, and he was led by them into the Calvinistic church,
and so into the Calvinistic system. I was endeavoring to convince him
that there was no real faith or spiritual understanding in his holding
the system he held, but that he held it because his teachers did, in the
same way a Mormon holds the doctrines of Mormonism. To that end I asked
him, If two Arminians instead of two Calvinists had come to your door
after you were converted, and you had been led by them into an Arminian
church, would you be a Calvinist today? He looked genuinely surprised
that I would ask such a thing, and replied, Why, no. I'd be an Arminian!
Now it was my turn to be surprised. I had hardly expected so ready and
frank an admission of what I nevertheless believed to be the truth. But
he seemed to have not the shadow of a notion that there was anything amiss
in such a state of things.
And no wonder, for this is the general, the well-nigh universal state
of things. Who is able to rise above it? Only the man who possesses, as
Caleb did (Num. 14:24), another spirit from that which prevails among
his contemporaries. That other spirit consists of whole-hearted devotedness
to the cause of God. It is the spirit that purges out laziness and lukewarmness,
and cultivates zeal and single-eyed faithfulness. It is the spirit which
hungers and thirsts for the power and blessing of God, and labors and
travails to obtain it. It is the spirit which seeks for knowledge and
understanding as for silver, and searches for wisdom as for hid treasure.
The more a man possesses of this spirit, the more he sees of things which
need to be rooted out, pulled down, destroyed, and thrown down, and thus
the more capable he becomes of carrying out the prophetic commission.
But to be a prophet a man must be willing as well as able. Many who begin
in a fair way to attain to a little of the discernment necessary to exercise
the prophetic office, cool down and retrace their steps when the cost
becomes apparent. They would rather fellowship with other Christians
than stand alone for the truth. They would rather work with other Christians
than pursue the lonely path of reproach and ostracism which belonged to
Elijah and Jeremiah. Here a little and there a little they fail to stand
for the things which would thrust them into that path. Here a little and
there a little they sacrifice truth in order to maintain peace. They know
well enough that if they were boldly to teach what they know to be the
truth, the chair which they occupy in the seminary or Bible college would
soon be declared vacant. They know well enough that if they were boldly
to stand against such and such things, they would no longer be welcome
to preach at such and such places. So they compromise the principles of
truth in order to maintain their sphere of influence. They lack the single
eye, and so little by little, by compromising and temporizing, they lose
the truth which they knew, but for which they would not stand
light which is in them becomes darkness. They then preach a positive
message, and oppose as divisive and legalistic the men who speak with
the voice of a true prophet of God.
The cost to carry out the prophet's commission almost turned Jeremiah
back to the same course of guilty silence. For since I spake, he says,
I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord
was made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily. Then I said, I will
not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word
was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary
with forbearing, and I could not stay. (Jer. 20:8-9). Strong as the
temptation was to desist, yet Jeremiah was possessed of enough of that
other spirit to impel him onward, and enable him to pay the price to speak
as a prophet of God. That price was a great one, as appears in this his
doleful lamentation: Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me
a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither
lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them
doth curse me. (Jer. 15:10).
When a man sets himself in earnest to fulfill his God-given task of rooting
out and pulling down and destroying and throwing down, it is almost inevitable
that those who have no understanding of the issues involved will reproach
him with being harsh and unloving. But it was no harsh spirit which moved
Jeremiah. His soul was filled with pain and his eyes with tears over the
defections of the people from the right way. He would have preached a
positive message if he could have. When the other prophets began to
preach a smooth, easy, positive message (Jer. 28:1-4), the heart of
Jeremiah immediately responded with, Amen! The Lord do so! The Lord
perform thy words which thou hast prophesied! (Verse 6). Yet he had
spiritual sense enough to know very well that the positive message could
not be true, and he therefore must immediately add, Nevertheless, hear
thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all
the people: the prophets that have been before me and before thee of old
prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of
war, and of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet which prophesieth of
peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the
prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him. (Vss. 7-9).
Jeremiah's message here is too plain to be mistaken: when a prophet comes
with a positive message, and fails to lift up his voice against many,
this fact alone presents a strong presumption that the Lord has not sent
him. All the former prophets, with one voice, spoke hard things. And it
is equally true that all of the false prophets have always spoken smooth,
easy, positive things.
Four hundred false prophets stood before Ahab and preached smooth things
to him, to tickle his ears. (I Kings 22:6). Micaiah alone would preach
the truth, and of him the king said, I hate him, for he doth not prophesy
good concerning me, but evil. (Verse 8). Yet Micaiah must be fetched,
at the insistence of godly but infatuated Jehoshaphat. The messenger sent
to fetch him, however, felt obliged to counsel him to preach a positive
message: And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto
him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets delcare good unto the
king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one
of them, and speak that which is good. (Verse 13).
Many since Micaiah's day have taken it upon themselves to counsel the
prophets of God, and the counsel is always of the same character: Be
a little more careful not to offend the people. Leave such and such subjects
alone. Be a little more positive in your preaching. Leave controversial
and divisive things alone, and preach to edify. That is to say, build
and plant, but don't root out and pull down.
How vividly I remember being thus counselled, nearly a quarter of a century
ago. I was preaching in a little church in a little town in Colorado,
and the graduating high school students chose me to preach at their baccalaureate.
The invitation hung as a millstone about my neck, for I knew very well
that the school was the world, and I wanted nothing to do with it. Yet
I knew the people expected it of me, and I very reluctantly (and I believe
wrongly) agreed to do it, determining, however, at any rate to bear a
----and it would have been such a testimony as the people
would never have forgiven me for. But the messenger who gave me the invitation,
the principal of the school, told me he wanted to see me before I preached.
He evidently knew enough about me to know what to expect from me, and
therefore he must counsel me. Said he, We want something encouraging,
about how human nature always triumphs, and so forth. Well, said
I (with all the firmness I could muster, for I was but a green youth,
and he more than twice my age), I'll tell you, I have only one message
to preach. What the Bible says is what I preach. In a moment his countenance
was changed toward me, and such animosity I have seldom seen on a human
face. He discharged me from the unwelcome task of preaching at the baccalaureate,
and engaged a Baptist preacher from a neighboring town, who preached to
them nothing either good or bad.
Unfortunately, most of this kind of counsel comes to the prophets from
the godly, or those who profess to be so. The greatest prophets usually
receive the most counsel, and usually from those who are the least fit
to give it. We are already, says C. H. Spurgeon, the best advised,
instructed, lectured, bullied, persuaded, threatened, warned, denounced,
be-rated, and scolded man in England. No man, says Gipsy Smith,
gets more advice than I do or takes less notice of it. And his biographer
adds, The old phrase, `water off a duck's back' seems to apply particularly
in his case. Probably that is one reason for his success: he has done
what he felt compelled to do, and said what he had to say. Those who have
come to him to teach him his business
----and they have been many ----have
found him quite ready to defend himself. This was not pride in the prophet
of God, but rather a simple consciousness of the divine origin of his
message and his commission, along with a clear understanding also of the
character of the counsel and the counsellors.
The true prophet goes on in his God-given task of rooting out and pulling
down and destroying and throwing down, in spite of all counsel from either
the godly or the ungodly. He goes on in this course because simple faithfulness
to God and to truth requires it of him. But he has another reason, perhaps
equally weighty. He knows that little effectual building and planting
will be accomplished without first rooting out and pulling down and destroying
and throwing down. The Lord's prescription for effectual work is, Break
up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. (Jer. 4:3). It is as
foolish to sow among thorns in God's garden as it would be to do the same
in the garden in your back yard. The man who will work with everybody,
preach in any church, plant in every thorn-filled garden, and build upon
any and every shaky foundation or heap of rubble, does little more than
pour water upon the earth
----unless, of course, he goes into those situations
to root out and pull down and destroy and throw down. This must be done
not with harshness, but with conviction ----not with arrogance, but with
authority ----not with a lash, but with love ----yet it must be done.
There were three prominent evangelists among the Baptists of America in
the last century, A. B. Earle, Jacob Knapp, and Jabez Swan. Of the latter
of these we read, In some fields peculiar chronic difficulties were
encountered. Both ministers and churches had long been negligent of discipline
and the practical application of vital ecclesiastical principles. To use
Mr. Swan's own illustration, they had plowed and cultivated the centre
of the field, leaving a large margin on all sides, of bushes and briars,
concealing the fence and furnishing a rendevous for serpents, insects
and vermin, with an unmolested growth advancing toward the centre of the
field. His idea was to plow up to the fence. Brush, vines, snakes and
burrowing creatures belonged on the outside of the enclosure. But it was
hard work to put the plow into these bosky, briery, serpent-haunted margins.
Such courage met with opposition and not unfrequently with peril.
When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem he found the city so filled with rubbish
that there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. (Neh.
2:14). He did not dream of building the wall upon the rubbish, yet this
is exactly what those preachers do who leave negative preaching alone
and proceed to building and planting. They build in very fact a wall which
if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. (Neh. 4:3).
The rubbish which filled Jerusalem is a fit emblem of the human traditions,
false doctrines, carnal weapons, and carnal practices which have filled
the church during the most of her existence. The man who does solid and
effectual building and planting is the man who first goes to work to remove
----to gather out the stones (Is. 5:2), to root out the thorns
(Jer. 4:3) ----to root out and pull down and destroy and throw down.
Of course every man who engages in this business will be accused of being
devisive, harsh, unloving, censorious, critical, judgemental, cynical,
carping, fault-finding, condemnatory, captious, uncharitable, unbrotherly,
and what not. Some men, of course, are so, but what is the chaff to
the wheat? Jeremiah was none of this, but just the contrary. He was
the weeping prophet. Why, he says, is my pain perpetual, and my
wound incurable? (Jer. 15:18). He preached with a broken heart, and
with tears flowing from his eyes. Whatever else he was, he was not harsh
And real love does not deter a man from rooting out and pulling down and
destroying and throwing down, but rather moves him to it. Whom the Lord
loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (Heb.
12:6). As many as I love I rebuke and chasten. (Rev. 3:19). He that
spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him
betimes. (Prov. 13:24). Faithful are the wounds of a friend. (Prov.
27:6). This is the way of love, and there is no harshness in it. The wounds
and chastening and scourging which a loving hand administers are no doubt
painful to the person who receives them, but they are painful also to
the person who administers them. Yet the cause which calls for the wounds
is more painful still to him, and therefore he goes on with his unpleasant
task of rooting out and pulling down and destroying and throwing down.
As for that love which fails or refuses to do these things, the plain
fact is, there is more of the love of self in it than there is of love
for the souls of men or the cause of Christ. It is love for my own reputation,
my own ease, my own peace, my own position, my own sphere of influence,
or my own salary, and it is the very thing which stands in the way of
being a true prophet of God.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
A. B. Earle on the Power of Love
Many a minister of good talents and character, and who is willing to
work hard in his calling, is moving about from place to place, unsuccessful,
and unable often to obtain even a support, because his heart is not filled
with the love of Christ. But let him obtain that blessing and he becomes
a new man. The tone of his voice is changed; his countenance beams with
peace; his heart is warm; his preaching tender and persuasive; even his
old sermons are delivered with a new and strange power and charm; the
empty seats in his church fill up; new and warmer friends gather about
him; conversions are continually occurring under his labors, and the people
say, He seems like another man.
The love of Jesus has developed, warmed, and energized all his powers,
and made him humble, and yet courageous for the truth.
The Spirit has opened his eyes, that he may understand the Scriptures.
He has been endued from on high with the power of love. The blessed
Spirit accompanies all his labors. He gathers many souls into the fold,
has a foretaste of heaven while here on earth, and, at last, goes to his
final reward, where he hears the Master say, Well done.
An incident in my own experience, some twenty years ago, taught me a lesson
I shall never forget:
I commenced a series of meetings in a town in New York, with the Congregational
and Baptist churches united. I thought myself fully prepared for the work,
and entered into it looking for immediate and large results.
My first aim was to preach so as to lead the churches nearer to Christ.
Accordingly I prepared five sermons for Christians, as clear and pointed
as I knew how to make them. The first four had no apparent effect. I wondered
at it. The fifth was prepared with a scorpion in the lash; it was a severe
one, and the last harsh sermon I have preached, and the last I ever expect
to preach; but this, too, was powerless.
I then went to my closet, and there on my knees asked Jesus what could
be the difficulty with those Christians. It did not enter my mind that
the trouble could be anywhere else than among them. I had preached with
tears in my eyes, and been anxious to see a revival, and had no thought
but that the preacher was in a right state. But there in my closet God
revealed to me my own heart, showing me that the difficulty was with myself,
and not with the church; I found myself as cold as those I was trying
to benefit. My tears, even in the pulpit, had been like water running
from the top of a cake of ice when the warm rays of the sun are falling
upon its surface, but which becomes hard and cold again as soon as the
sun goes down.
I told the Congregational pastor of what I had discovered, and asked him
the condition of his own heart. He frankly confessed that he was in the
same state as myself.
We prayed together several times. I felt that I could not live in that
state and accomplish much. Accordingly I went home and shut myself in
my room, resolved to spend the night in prayer, if necessary. O, the struggle
of that night! Hour after hour I wrestled alone with God. My heart had
been full of coldness, and I not aware of it. No wonder the churches had
not come up to the work! I renewedly and repeatedly gave myself to the
Savior, determined not to let the angel depart until my heart was filled
and melted with the love of Jesus. Towards morning the victory came. The
ice was all broken, melted, and carried away; the warmth and glow of my
first love filled my heart; the current of feeling was changed and
deepened; the joy of salvation was restored.
In the morning I went out, took the unconverted by the hand, and said
the same things as on days previous; but now they were melted to tears
over their sin and danger.
I prepared and preached another sermon to the churches
----no lash, nothing
harsh about it. They broke down, confessed their own need of a special
preparation of heart, and gave themselves anew to the work, which from
that hour went forward rapidly and successfully.
----Bringing In Sheaves, by A. B. Earle; Boston: James H. Earle, 1875,
Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske
The Golden Age of Christian Literature
The Victorian era was the golden age of Christian publishing
in the English tongue. Queen Victoria reigned over England from 1837 to
1901, and during that time the streams flowed both deep and wide from
the presses of the English church. Almost everything we could hope for
was published in the English tongue during the Victorian era, and usually
done in such a manner as to leave nothing to be desired, with introductions,
notes of explanation and documentation, indexes, and glossaries
the case required. Original sources were consulted and put to good use,
archives and libraries ransacked, old manuscripts hunted down and collated
and published, foreign works translated into English, older English works
reprinted, and works produced, on almost every subject, which became the
standards in their field, and remain so to this day.
I would not imply that nothing of this sort was done before or after the
Victorian period. Books like Vaughan's Life of Wycliffe (1828) and Braithwaite's
books on Quakerism (1912 & 1919) would give me the lie if I did, as
would William Orme's Life and Times of Richard Baxter (1830), and Workman
and Pope's edition of The Letters of John Hus (1904). But the works of
this nature which came before this era were as the smattering of raindrops
preceding the thunderclap which unleashes the downpour. For fifty years
(1840-1890) the heavy rain continued to soak the soil, but seemed to abate
with the declining years of the reigning Queen, tapering off to a light
rain, and at last dwindling to the few scattered drops which follow the
The primary reasons for this decline are easy enough to spot. The first
reason is modernism, which swept through the church during the last decades
of Victoria's reign, and had largely triumphed by her death. Modernism
robs men of purpose and commitment. The second reason is that the hardy
spirit of former generations was rapidly giving way to the softness of
modern times. This was no doubt largely brought about by industrial and
technological advances, but whatever the causes may be, the modern
age is obviously soft and lazy, providing very poor soil in which to try
to produce true scholarship, and as a matter of plain fact, the scholarship
of the Victorian era scarcely exists today. It is not merely that we have
no man alive who could write such a book as Trench's Synonyms of the New
Testament, but that we have scarcely any who can read it. All of the lexicons
and concordances must be coded to Strong's, and folks complain that
they cannot understand the King James Bible! Oh! that these chats
may serve to inspire the reader with a little of thirst and commitment
To account for the rise of the golden age of Christian literature would
be more difficult, and I shall not attempt it, but content myself with
a look at some of the factors which comprised it.
One of the most characteristic of those factors consists of the many publication
societies which flourished during the Victorian era, bringing before the
church a veritable flood of the best of its own heritage, all edited and
printed in the best fashion. Many of those societies arose during the
first decade of the Victorian period. The Parker Society was instituted
in 1840, for the Publication of the Works of the Fathers and Early Writers
of the Reformed English Church, and its works are familiar to all serious
seekers of good books. The Hanserd Knollys Society also arose during this
decade (1846), For the Publication of Early English and Other Baptist
Writers. Among its early publications were the original text of Bunyan's
Pilgrim's Progress, and The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, by Roger Williams.
The Wycliffe Society was established in 1844, for reprinting a series
of the more scarce and valuable tracts and treatises of the earlier Reformers,
Puritans, and Nonconformists of Great Britain. The Ecclestical History
Society was Established for the publication and republication of Church
Histories, &c. in 1847. The Calvin Translation Society came into
being in 1848, for the publication of translations of the works of John
Another factor which gave great impetus to the Christian publications
of this period was the flourishing of numerous thriving publishing houses,
devoted to the production of solid and substantial works. The first of
these which I shall mention is Samuel Bagster of London, who in the first
decade of the Victorian era gave us a reprint of Myles Coverdale's Bible
of 1535, The English Hexapla, and the two Englishman's concordances, and
continued for many years to produce critical works of the best sort, including
S. P. Tregelles' Account of the Printed Text of the New Testament (1854),
The Englishman's Greek New Testament (1877), Gesenius's Hebrew Grammar,
and all sorts of similar works.
One of the most enterprising of publishers a little later in the period
was T. & T. Clark, of Edinburgh, who published The Ante-Nicene Christian
Library in 24 volumes, the works of Augustine, Calvin, and John Owen,
the commentaries of Lange, Keil and Delitzsch, and others, Hebrew and
Greek grammars (such as Winer's), and lexicons (as Thayer's and Cremer's).
I readily grant that Clark's publications were generally intellectual
rather than spiritual, occupied with the letter of Scripture rather than
the spirit of Christianity, and so containing but little food for the
soul. But they are not without value on that account. The letter without
the spirit is not sufficient, but if the letter is despised the spirit
Robert Carter and Brothers of New York also issued a great variety of
books, including some of the best sort, among which we may mention Samuel
Davies' Sermons, D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation, The Scots Worthies
by John Howie, The Life and Letters of Joseph Alleine, Annals of the American
Pulpit by William B. Sprague, Robert Moffat's Missionary Labours and Scenes
in Southern Africa, and Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History.
But publishers cannot print books until men write them, and I believe
the biggest single factor which elevated the Victorian period above those
before and after it was simply individual initiative. It was the individual
initiative of Thomas Jackson which produced The Life of Charles Wesley
in two volumes in 1841. The initiative of the same man brought forth The
Journal of Charles Wesley in two volumes in 1849, and The Lives of Early
Methodist Preachers in six volumes in later years. It was the individual
initiative of G. Osborne which gave us The Poetical Works of John and
Charles Wesley in thirteen volumes from 1868 to 1872. It was the individual
initiative of Luke Tyerman which gave us The Oxford Methodists, and the
lives of Fletcher, Whitefield, and Wesley. It was the individual initiative
of Abel Stevens which gave us The History of Methodism in three volumes,
the History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in four volumes, and single
volumes on The Women of Methodism, and other subjects. This, to mention
only a few from but one denomination.
It was individual initiative which produced the indefatigable and painstaking
labors of Tregelles and Burgon and Scrivener in the field of textual criticism,
and the unmatched works of Francis Fry on the English Bible. It was individual
initiative which produced the Englishman's concordances in 1843 and 1844,
Young's concordance in 1879, Strong's in 1890, Walker's in 1894, and Moulton
and Geden's in 1897. It was individual initiative which produced The Life
and Times of John Huss, by E. H. Gillett, in two volumes in 1864, Christopher
Anderson's Annals of the English Bible in two volumes in 1845, and John
Eadie's History of the English Bible in two volumes in 1876. It was the
individual initiative of R. C. Trench which produced his works on miracles,
parables, English proverbs, English words, and New Testament synonyms.
It was individual initiative which translated into English The Complete
Works of Menno Simon, the two books of Louis Gaussen on the inspiration
and the canon of Scripture, and G. B. Winer's Grammar of New Testament
Greek. It was individual initiative which gave us William B. Sprague's
Annals of the American Pulpit in nine volumes, and Henry Alford's Greek
New Testament in four volumes. It was individual initiative which produced
the virtual libraries which flowed from the tongues and pens of men like
C. H. Spurgeon, J. N. Darby, and William Kelly. Much more could be said
of the initiative of that era. We have but little of it in the church
today, and alas, but little of such ability even where there is initiative.
A number of great movements also contributed to swell the streams which
flowed from the Christian presses in those days
----movements the like
of which we have not seen for generations. The Plymouth Brethren movement
had just come into being, and was in its prime. Much of the Methodist
movement, particularly in America, was still spiritual and energetic.
The missions movement was at the height of its vigor, and many of the
great missionary classics were produced, including the great lives of
Adoniram Judson and his wives, Carey, Marshman, and Ward, by Marshman's
son John, George Smith's lives of William Carey and Alexander Duff, The
Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, by their son John, and Moffat's own Missionary
Labours and Scenes in Southern Africa.
When we turn from that age to look at our own, we can only weep over the
contrast. There is little initiative even to read today, to say nothing
of writing. Everything about the church in our day is shallow
its standards, its preachers, its preaching, its authors, and its books.
We may humbly thank God that ever the Victorian era of Christian publication
existed, and thank him too that some of the standard and classic works
of that day are still available in this. The diligent searcher for them
may find many more, and the diligent reader of them will find a great
blessing. It is too much to hope or dream that such a flood of worthy
Christian books will ever be produced again in the church of God, but
I am fond enough to hope that a flood of them might be reprinted, and
readers raised up to make use of them. May the great God of all flesh
bring it to pass!
by Glenn Conjurske
George Müller writes under the date of Dec. 1, 1869, [Received]
2l. with the following letter: `Dear Sir, We walked to church on our wedding-day,
therefore we are enabled to send you a cheque for 2l., which would otherwise
have been spent in carriages. From yours very truly, John and Hannah.'
This donation is worthy of being noticed. 1, Is it not becoming the disciples
of the Lord Jesus, who are continually in one way or other surrounded
with poverty in the world and in the Church; and who have continually
opportunities to use their means for the Lord's work: to ask themselves,
Is there any way, in which I may save something out of my expenditure
for the poor and for the work of God? Verily thus it should be, and thus
it will be, whenever the heart goes out in personal attachment to the
Lord Jesus. 2, Are we not, as the disciples of the Lord Jesus, in great
danger, of being conformed to the ways of the world, in our mode of living,
in our furniture, in our dress, in our spending otherwise much on ourselves?
This danger not only is obvious; but alas! many of the children of God,
though scarcely aware of it, it may be, are carried away by the tide of
worldliness, so that, in the things referred to, there is scarcely the
least difference between themselves and the world. Now this should not
be so, and will not be so, if our Lord Jesus Himself is set before us
as our pattern. By these remarks I do not mean to say, that the believers
in the Lord Jesus should aim after singularity in their mode of living,
etc., as if their religion consisted in this; yet, on the other hand,
as `we are besought by the mercies of God, not to be conformed to the
world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind,' the latter
will not be the case, if we are like the world in the particulars which
have been referred to. 3, Are the dear young couple, who sent the 2l.,
the worse for having walked to church, instead of spending this money
in hiring carriages? Verily not! 4, Is it not always well to make a good
beginning, and may we not say, that this is particularly important in
beginning the marriage life? Surely it is. I therefore commend `John and
Hannah,' and pray, that, as they have begun, so they will continue: and
I trust that their example may not be quite lost on the reader.
Of his own marriage, which took place in 1830, Müller writes, Our
marriage was of the most simple character. We walked to church, had no
wedding breakfast, but in the afternoon had a meeting of Christian friends
in Mr. Hake's house and commemorated the Lord's death; and then I drove
off in the stage-coach with my beloved bride to Teignmouth, and the next
day went to work for the Lord.
We may hope that John and Hannah's example was not entirely lost upon
the orignial readers of George Müller's Narrative, but it is a certainty
all too evident that the example of George Müller himself has been
entirely lost upon the modern fundamental church. Christian couples in
our day, of course, do not spend two pounds to hire a carriage, for most
of them own horseless carriages of their own, but they scruple nothing
to spend hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars, for no other purpose
than to make a grand show which lasts for an hour or two, and then is
gone. And conformity to the world is the one and only reason for most
of the expenditure. That conformity to the world would be sinful enough
in itself, even if it did not involve the waste of so much of the Lord's
money, but the great expenditures of money involved render the whole business
simply inexcusable, and to my mind the extravagant and worldly weddings
which prevail among fundamental Christians today are one of the surest
indications of how very little there is left on the earth of the spirit
of the Christianity of the New Testament.
That conformity to the world takes many forms, a few of which I feel compelled
to mention. The men of our day, as said, usually have no occasion to hire
a carriage, but they will spend a great plenty of their Lord's money to
hire a tuxedo. For what? To show their style! To make a grand show of
themselves. This is nothing other than the pride of life, and in the eyes
of God it is nothing other than sin. And if men are going to give account
to God for every idle word which they speak, how much more for this vain
show. Many may never think far enough to determine why they do such a
thing. They do it merely because others do it, because it is therefore
the thing to do. In that case it is conformity to the world, pure
The ladies, of course, go much deeper. They do not merely rent a dress,
but buy or make one, usually a very extravagant one, and usually at the
expense of some hundreds of dollars. Pardon me, but common sense ought
to forbid such a thing, even if you had never heard of the Bible. Common
sense ought to teach you the foolishness of spending a great sum of money
for a dress which is to be worn only once, and for a few hours of time
at the most. Nay, common sense ought to teach you the folly of spending
any money at all for a dress that is to be worn but once. Why cannot a
woman wear the same clothes to her wedding that she wears on other days?
My own bride did so. But common sense is thrown to the winds when worldly
custom speaks, and it seems that the most of those who call themselves
Christians have much less fear of being disapproved by God than they do
of being disapproved by the world. Such a calamity must be avoided at
all cost, and therefore not common sense only, but also conformity to
Christ and obedience to the Scriptures, are thrown wholly overboard in
order to conform to the customs of the world.
It is no secret that the Lord has spoken to forbid that outward adorning
of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel
(I Pet. 3:3), and who gave to Christian women a special dispensation for
their wedding day? And if the Lord had never spoken one word about women's
apparel, still there would be no excuse for such dresses, for he has spoken
of the pride of life and of conformity to the world. I have indeed heard
a Christian woman defend an extravagant wedding dress by saying, A woman
only gets to do this once, and this is her day: she may as well make the
most of it. This is nothing other than the pride of life
But it is not enough for the bride herself to appear in such attire. She
must have also a whole collection of such dresses, for a whole retinue
of maids and matrons. And these dresses are often of such a nature as
that they are not likely to be worn again, as indeed, if modesty is to
be considered, they are often not fit to be worn once. This is nothing
other than conformity to the world in all things, and throwing away the
Lord's money in order to effect it.
But I must go one step further, and touch the apple of the bride's eye.
Whence come wedding rings? From the same source as tuxedoes and wedding
dresses. They come from conformity to the world. But wedding rings come
ultimately from a more sinister source, even from the paganized worship
of the Church of Rome. Wedding rings were among the things objected to
by the Nonconformists, or Puritans, in the Church of England. In listing
those objections Neal says, To the ring in marriage. It is derived from
the Papists, who make marriage a sacrament, and the ring a sort of sacred
symbol. But wedding rings are no longer enough, and we must have engagement
rings also. Conformity to the world is the only rule in all things. Worldliness
has prevailed, and the example of the godly Puritans has been as entirely
lost upon the modern church, as has the example of the faithful George
Müller. It is time again for some hardy Nonconformists to make their
voices heard in the church of God.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
by R. A. Torrey
(An address delivered at the World Conference on Christian Fundamentals
at Philadelphia in 1919, and published in the report of the conference,
entitled God Hath Spoken, from which it is here reprinted. Obvious printing
errors are corrected. Incorrect punctuation I leave intact, only stating
that the stenographer is doubtless responsible for it, rather than Torrey.
Torrey did not write this, but preached it.)
The subject assigned me for this afternoon is Future Punishment. I shrink
from speaking on that subject. I have a dread that approaches horror of
speaking on that subject. I cannot tell you the pain I have in my heart
every time I speak on that subject. I have lain on my face before God
and sobbed as I have thought of what the Bible clearly teaches on the
subject, and thought also of what it involves. It has seemed to me time
and again that I could not have it so. I believe I would gladly die in
agony and shame if thereby I could make it sure that all men would somewhere,
sometime, somehow be brought to repentance and thus saved. To me the doctrine
of Future Punishment is not a mere matter of speculative theory that I
could discuss without emotion in cold intellectuality. I see it in its
practical bearings on the destiny and the sufferings of the people I see
around about me and thronging the streets. I see it and feel it in its
relations to real living men and women. I see it just as I see the recent
sufferings of women and children in Belgium, Armenia and Korea.
But as much as I shrink from speaking on the subject, I am glad to speak
upon it. Indeed, I asked to speak upon it in preference to a subject upon
which I was first requested to speak, but which I did not regard as fundamental,
and which has been left off the program. This subject is fundamental,
it is vital, it is of immeasureable importance. A man's stand upon this
subject is decisive for his usefulness for God or his uselessness. It
is at this point that more preachers and teachers who go seriously astray
in their doctrine begin their descent than at almost any other point.
When a preacher begins to wabble on Future Punishment, look out for him,
he is very likely soon to go astray on the Inspiration of the Bible,
and the Inerrancy of the Bible, then on the Atonement by Shed Blood,
then on the Virgin Birth of our Lord, then on His Literal Resurrection,
then on His Deity, and then
In a thirty years' close study of men who were leaders in the church of
Christ I have seen multitudes of men who were once a power for God shorn
of their power for good by accepting Universalist, Restorationist, Conditional
Immortality, Pastor Russellite and kindred views of future punishment.
I. The Bible
----the sole guide to the truth on this subject.
The first thing I wish to say this afternoon is that, the Bible is the
sole guide to the truth on this subject. We know absolutely nothing about
Future Punishment but what God has been pleased to tell us in this Book;
just as we know absolutely nothing about the future blessedness of the
saved except what God has been pleased to tell us in this Book. If you
are truly logical and not merely sentimental, if you give up what the
Bible teaches on the one subject you will give up what it teaches on the
other. If a man will believe that part of the Bible that he desires to
believe and rejects that part of the Bible that he does not desire to
believe, in plain unvarnished English he is a fool. If the Bible is not
true, we have no conclusive proof that there is either a heaven or a hell.
And if it is true about one, it is true also about the other. Some men
may be able to believe what they want to believe but to doubt or deny
what they want to doubt or deny. I am not built that way. My wishes play
no part in my decision, I have to be governed by my intellect; but, of
course, I know that a will surrendered to the truth and to God does more
than anything else to clarify the intellect.
So our whole inquiry will be, What does the Bible Teach on This Subject?
Some people are always running off on to their reasonings and their speculations,
but speculation on this subject is necessarily entirely vain. On such
a subject as this one the ounce of God's revelation is worth a thousand
tons of man's speculation. I sometimes show men what the Bible teaches
on this subject and they say, But how do you reconcile that with the
love of God? I reply, How do you know God is love? We owe that truth
entirely to the Bible. If the Bible is not true we have no proof that
God is love; and, if you reject what the Bible teaches about Future Punishment
and are logical, you must also give up your belief that God is love, and
your whole foundation for your universalistic and kindred hopes is gone.
II. What the Bible teaches about Future Punishment.
What does the Bible teach about Future Punishment? Of course, there is
not time to go into this subject in fullness in all its details, but we
can set forth the fundamental facts taught in the Bible.
1. First, then, the Bible teaches that as a result of sin, and especially
of the crowning sin of rejecting the Savior, there is to be after death
an immeasurable suffering for those who sin in this life, and do not repent
of their sins and accept Christ. There is no need to dwell at length on
that point. The old crude form of Universalism that no matter how a man
lives in this life he enters at once into blessedness at death has largely
disappeared, except from funeral sermons. If that were true, the kindest
thing that we could do for people in the slums and other unfortunates
would be to put them to death at once in some painless way. But take one
Bible statement and this statement gives the words of Jesus, Matt. 5:29,
R.V., And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and
cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members
should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell. Certainly these
words of our Lord mean that there is to be after death for those who sin
and do not repent, such intense suffering that the greatest present calamity
would be preferable to it.
2. The second thing that the Bible teaches about Future Punishment is,
that the body shall share with the soul in the suffering of the lost in
the world to come. Take the verse that we have just quoted. In this Jesus
Christ says, the body
----and by the body he certainly means just what
he says, the body ----shall be cast into hell. Take another utterance
of our Lord, Matt. 10:28, R.V., And be not afraid of them that kill
the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is
able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Here is the most distinct
and definite statement possible that the body as well as the soul is to
suffer in the destruction of hell. Neither the blessed nor the lost
are to exist in the world to come as disembodied spirits. There is to
be a resurrection of the just and the unjust. This our Lord definitely
declares in John 5:28, 29, R.V. He says, the hour cometh, in which all
that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they
that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have
done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment. Resurrection has to do
with the body and the body only. The spirit does not tumble down and decay
and therefore needs no resurrection. The passage just quoted says, all
that are in the tombs. What is in the tombs ----the body, and the
body only. The spirits of the lost at death go into Hades; the body (and
the body only) into the tomb where it crumbles into dust. At the resurrection
the body is raised and the spirit joins it. At death the spirits of the
saved depart to be with Christ in conscious blessedness, which Paul says
is very far better than the most blessed experience in the body in our
present lives (Phil. 1:21-23). The bodies of the blessed who pass away
before our Lord returns crumble into dust. At the second coming of Christ
the bodies of the blessed are raised and reunited with the redeemed spirits.
The redeemed spirit hereafter at the second coming of Christ shall be
clothed upon with a redeemed body, fit partner of the redeemed spirit
that inhabits it, and partaker with it in all of its joy; and the lost
spirit shall be clothed upon with a lost body, fit partner of the lost
spirit that inhabits it, and partaker with it in all its misery. While
the bodily torments of hell are not the most important feature of Future
Punishment, while the mental agony, the agony of remorse, the agony of
shame, the agony of despair, is worse, immeasureably worse; nevertheless,
bodily suffering, a bodily suffering in comparison with which no pain
on earth is as anything, is a feature of Future Punishment.
3. In the third place, the Bible teaches that the sufferings of the lost
will be conscious, that the lost will not be annihilated or simply exist
in non-conscious existence. This is the plain teaching of Luke 16:19-31,
the story of the rich man and Lazarus in the future world. All manner
of allegorizing has been used in attempting to explain away these words
of our Lord, but these allegorical explanations are simply ridiculous.
The same thing is clearly taught in Rev. 14:9-ll compared with Rev. 20:10.
In Rev. 14:9-ll, R.V., we read, If any man worshippeth the beast and
his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand, he
also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed
in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone
in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And
the smoke of their torment goeth up forever and ever: and they have no
rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso
receiveth the mark of his name. Now this certainly describes conscious
suffering of the intensest kind and cannot be fairly and honestly interpreted
in any other way. In Rev. 20:10, R.V., we read, And the devil that deceived
them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the
beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night
forever and ever. These words unmistakably speak of conscious torment!
We are told that they shall have no rest day nor night, which would
be impossible language to use by any honest speaker or writer if the punishment
4. The fourth thing that the Bible teaches about Future Punishment is
that the future destiny of the individual depends entirely upon what he
does with Jesus Christ. One passage is sufficient to show that, though
a multitude might be adduced. That passage is John 3:36. He that believeth
on the Son hath eternal life; but he that believeth not the Son shall
not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
5. The fifth thing that the Bible teaches on this subject is, that Future
Punishment is endless. In Matt. 25:41-46, R.V., our Lord himself is recorded
as saying, Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart
from me, ye cursed, into eternal fire which is prepared for the devil
and his angels* * * and these (i. e., these on the left hand) shall go
away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life. It
is often said that the word aionios used in these two verses does
not by its etymology necessarily imply endlessness. Even were we to admit,
which we do not, that this were true, every scholar knows that it is one
of the laws of interpretation of any book that the meaning of words in
any language or any book must be determined by usage. What is the usage
in this case? This word is used seventy-two times in the New Testament.
Forty-four of these seventy-two times it is used in the phrase eternal
life, that eternal life is endless cannot be questioned. It is used
fifteen times in connections where the idea of endlessness is absolutely
necessary. This covers fifty-nine of the seventy-two instances in which
the word is used. In the fifty-nine instances the thought of endlessness
is absolutely necessary. In not a single one of the remaining thirteen
cases is it used of anything that is known to end. If usage can determine
anything, it determines to a demonstration that the usage of this word
in the New Testament necessarily implies endlessness. But that is not
all, the context as well as the usage demands that in this instance, in
connection with punishment, the word must imply endlessness. The context
is this, And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous
into eternal life. The same Greek word is used twice. As our Lord was
at least an honest man he could not use one word twice in the same sentence
with a different meaning, and if that life into which the righteous go
away is endless life, then the punishment into which the cursed go is
endless also. This cannot be denied without questioning either the intelligence
or honesty of the Lord Jesus.
But even that is not all. We read in the passage Rev. 14:9-11, which we
have already quoted, that the sufferings of the lost are forever and
ever, and that throughout this forever and ever they have no rest
day nor night. Here another Greek expression is used. There are two
forms of this expression, one of them literally translated is unto the
ages of the ages, the other is unto ages of ages, the only difference
between the two being the omission of the article in the latter form.
Now these expressions are used twelve times in the last book of the Bible.
In eight of these twelve instances the expression refers to the duration
of the existence, or reign, or glory of God or Christ. Once it is used
of the duration of the blessed reign of the righteous. And in three remaining
instances it is used of the duration of the torment of the devil, the
beast, the false prophet and the impenitent. If we deal honestly with
the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the inspired apostles, it is
impossible to read the doctrine of endless conscious suffering of those
who reject Christ out of the Bible. If anyone could produce me one single
passage in the Bible that, fairly construed, according to its context
and the usage of the words and grammatical construction, that clearly
taught that the punishment of the wicked would not be absolutely endless
and that somewhere, sometime, somehow all would repent and be saved, it
would be the happiest day of my life. But no such passage can be found.
I have searched for it from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter
of The Revelation but cannot find it, it is not there. I am thoroughly
familiar with the passages that men urge. I have formerly used them myself,
but they will not bear the construction that is put upon them if we deal
honestly with them.
6. In the sixth place, the Bible teaches that the question of our eternal
destiny is settled this side of the grave. We read in II Cor. 5:10, R.V.,
for we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ;
that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what
he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Now of course this has to do
primarily with the judgment of believers, but it shows that the eternal
judgment is determined by what is done in the body, what is done this
side of the grave, what is done before we shall shuffle off this mortal
coil. In Hebrews 9:27 we read, it is appointed unto men once to die,
and after this cometh judgment. The meaning of this is plain; namely,
the eternal judgment is determined before death. But our Lord Jesus Himself
says the decisive word, the word that would be decisive if it stood alone.
In John 8:21, I go away and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your
sin: whither I go, ye cannot come. Here our Lord says plainly that those
who die in their sins cannot go where He does, that the destinies of the
future are settled in the life that now is, settled this side the grave.
It is clear to anyone who will go to the Bible to find out what it teaches
and not merely to read his own views into it, that the Bible does not
hold out one ray of hope to any man who dies without having accepted Jesus
Christ as Savior and surrendered to Him as his Lord and Master, confessed
Him before the world in the life that now is. Many there are who undertake
to do this. They are taking a terrible responsibility upon themselves,
they dare to do what the divinely inspired authors of the Bible have not
done. They lull men to sleep in sin and worldliness and inaction. What
shall the harvest be?
Old articles are reprinted without alteration (except for corrections
of printing errors), unless stated otherwise. The editor inserts articles
by other writers if they are judged profitable for scriptural instruction
or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's
own views are to be taken from his own writings.