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Vol. 1, No. 8
Aug., 1992

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 gospel meetings:

“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.”----Jeremiah 1:10.

The prophet's commission consists of two parts, a negative part----“to 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----a 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 down.”

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----in which 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----and the 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 faithful testimony----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 the rubbish----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 or unloving.

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, pp. 73-76.

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----whatever 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 shower.

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 and diligence!

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 Calvin.”

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 is lost.

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 leaders, 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!

Worldly Weddings

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 and simple.

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----worldliness----sin.

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.


Future Punishment

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 were unconscious.

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?

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