Authority in the Church
by Glenn Conjurske
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves. (Heb.
13:17). This and other scriptures plainly teach that there is and ought
to be authority in the church. Before we speak, however, of the scope
and purpose of that authority, we must clearly establish the nature, the
necessity, and the purpose of authority in general.
All rightful authority proceeds from God. There is no power but of God:
the powers that be are ordained of God (Rom. 13:l)
----where the meaning
of the words power and powers is authority and authorities.
Any authority which any man rightfully possesses has been delegated to
him by God, and is therefore an extension of the authority of God himself.
God has established the authority of parents over their children, husbands
over their wives, kings and magistrates over their citizens, masters over
their servants, and elders over the church.
What is authority? The authority of God consists of the right and the
power to enforce conformity to his will, and this is the nature of all
authority. The authority of parents over their children consists of the
right and the power to enforce conformity to their will. So the authority
of masters over their servants. So the authority of kings over their subjects.
But since their authority comes to them from God, it must be understood
that their own will is not the final standard, and it is an abuse of authority
to make it so. Authorities themselves are under authority, as the centurion
who said, I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. (Matt.
8:9). All human authorities are ultimately under the authority of God,
so that their authority does not consist of the right to require conformity
to their own will as such, but to their will as it is conformed to the
will of God. Authority exists, and has been established by God, for the
purpose of requiring and enforcing conformity to what is right. Nevertheless,
in most cases where authority is abused, and used for selfish purposes
at the expense of its subjects, God still recognizes that authority, and
requires submission to it. Servants be subject to your masters with
all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
(I Pet. 2:18). The same is true if authorities are ignorant and incompetent,
so that those who are under them actually know better than they do. God
still recognizes the authority of those whom he has placed in power, and
requires submission to them.
To this principle, however, there are two exceptions. The first is that
in every case in which any authority requires of us anything which we
know to be wrong, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29).
To that there is no exception. We are to suffer wrongfully under tyrannical
authority if we must (I Pet. 2:19), but to do wrong we never have any
right. The other exception is that no abuser of authority or incompetent
authority is to be tolerated in the church of God. A father, a mother,
a master, a king, may all of them be selfish and abusive, or ignorant
and incompetent, and yet God recognizes their authority still, and requires
submission to it in all things, excepting only that in which it would
be sinful to comply. The only qualification necessary to exercise such
authority is to hold the position which gives it to them. Not so in the
church of God. There God lays down stringent qualifications for those
who are to rule in the flock of God, and no man has any right to exercise
authority in the church of God unless he meets those qualifications. Neither
has the church any business to recognize the authority of a man who fails
to meet those qualifications.
Authority exists for the sole purpose of enforcing conformity to a standard.
Where there is no authority to enforce, there is no authority at all.
Authorities do not exist merely to suggest and advise, but to require
and enforce. Were it a mere matter of advising, a subject has as much
right to advise the king, as the king has the subject. A wife has as much
right to advise the husband as the husband has the wife, but she has no
right to require submission of him. A child may suggest to his parents
(providing he does so with proper deference and respect), but he may not
require anything of them. Servants may give advice to their masters, but
they may not require them to act upon it. The person, on the other hand,
who holds the place of authority has the right to require and enforce.
The Bible uses several emblems of authority, and these emblems clearly
set forth the nature of authority:
Bands and cords. Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their
cords from us, say sinners who cannot brook the prohibitions of God
(Ps. 2:3). Bands and cords are to restrict and restrain, and obviously
to do so forcibly.
The yoke. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own
masters worthy of all honour. (I Tim. 6:1). Thy father made our yoke
grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father,
and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
(I Kings 12:4). Take my yoke upon you
----that is, submit to my authority
(Matt. 11:29). The yoke is to restrain and control, to enforce the will
of the driver upon the team.
The rod. If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then
will I visit their transgression with the rod. (Ps. 89:31-32). Withhold
not correction from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod, he
shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his
soul from hell. (Prov. 23:13-14). And he that overcometh, and keepeth
my works unto the end, to him will I give power [authority] over the nations:
and he shall rule them with a rod of iron. ( Rev. 2:26-27). And she
brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.
(Rev. 12:5). But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever
and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom (Heb.
----where sceptre is the same word in the Greek as rod in
the other scriptures. The rod is the obvious symbol of enforcement ----of
enforcing conformity to a standard by inflicting punishment.
The sword. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.
Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power [authority]? Do that which is
good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of
God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for
he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger
to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (Rom. 13:3-4). And out
of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations:
and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, ... And he hath on his vesture
and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Rev.
19:15-16). The sword obviously signifies the power to enforce by inflicting
punishment, even to the taking of life.
And observe at this point, this God-given right to require and enforce
conformity to a standard exists for two distinct reasons: for the good
of the individual who is under the authority, and also for the good of
the society of which he is a part. The parental rod is used for the good
of the child, to correct him and deliver his soul from hell, but it also
exists for the good of the family to which the child belongs, to prevent
the unruly individual from destroying the peace and harmony, or ruining
the name and prospects, of the whole family. The magistrate's sword is
also for the good of the individual, to deter him from doing evil, but
where that fails, a greater good must take the precedence, and the offender
be cut off for the good of the commonwealth. All of this is clear in the
scriptures quoted above. The King of kings and Lord of lords comes with
both a sword and a rod
----a rod to govern and control, and a sword to
cut off those who will not be governed. I shall have more to say on this
when we come to speak of authority in the church.
Such is the nature of authority. What is the necessity of it? It is needed
because many are ignorant of what ought to be done, and because many are
unwilling to do it. The ignorant need a teacher, of course (and the rulers
in the church must be apt to teach
----I Tim. 3:2), but they need a
ruler also. It may require a great deal of time and pains to bring the
ignorant to understand what is good and right and wise, and are they to
be left to do as they please in the mean time? Their own good, as well
as the good of the society (family, church, etc.) to which they belong,
forbids this. Children do not possess the wisdom of their parents. They
do not understand as their parents do what is right and wise. Parents
are therefore given authority to require them to do what is right and
wise, whether they can understand it or not. Those parents who allow their
children to do as they please, while they endeavor to guide and advise
and persuade and instruct them to do better, fail entirely to exercise
the authority which God has placed in their hands. Children ought by all
means to be given guidance and instruction, but they ought first to be
required to do what is right. This is necessary for the good of the child
and the good of the family.
But there is another reason for the existence of authority, more compelling
than that of people's ignorance. If we could suppose every human being
to know what the will of God is, yet we cannot suppose them all willing
to do it. Every child who knows the will of his parents is not necessarily
willing to do it. The yoke may be enough for those who are willing to
submit to it, but for those who are not, the rod is in order. The power
to enforce implies the power to punish. The parent holds the rod. The
king holds the sword. I believe that there is only one exception to this
rule, which is that, so far as I can see, Scripture gives no such power
to the husband, and in the nature of the case there ought to be no occasion
The necessity of authority among the people of God is graphically set
forth in the last five chapters of the book of Judges, all of which C.
I. Scofield's Reference Bible very aptly labels Confusion: civil and
religious. The reason for that confusion is set forth in the last verse
of the book: In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did
that which was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6 says exactly the same
thing also, and twice more (18:1 and 19:1) we are told that there was
no king in Israel. There was confusion because there was no authority.
This confusion is apparently not to be attributed to the determination
of the people to do wrong, for the Scripture twice tells us that every
man did that which was right [righteous, or upright] in his own eyes.
The difficulty was in his own eyes. He had no proper understanding
of what was right. And it is evident that this is essentially the state
of things we may expect to find in the church of God. The church is a
society composed of the godly, and, except in the case of false converts
admitted unawares, it may be assumed that the first principle of their
lives is to do the will of God. Yet they may have very faulty notions
as to what the will of God is, and they may be very conscientiously stubborn
in clinging to those ideas
----and to the practices which those false notions
dictate. One conscientiously believes in laying up treasures upon the
earth. Another conscientiously believes in worldly sports and recreations.
Another conscientiously believes in polygamy. Another conscientiously
believes in admitting the unconverted or the disorderly to the Lord's
table. One believes he should not work to earn his living, but trust God
and spend his time praying. A woman believes in adorning herself in gold
and silver and fine apparel. Another believes herself called of God to
speak in the church. A man believes the same, though he has no gift or
ability for it. They are all wrong, but they all think themselves right.
They need to be taught, to be sure, but in the mean while are we to allow
the church to be a scene of confusion? Not so, for God has established
authority in the church, and that authority exists for the purpose of
requiring conformity to a standard of righteousness, holiness, and order.
This is the nature and purpose of all authority, and all who belong to
the church are required by God to obey them that have the rule over
you, and submit yourselves.
Here we must again insist upon the fact that it is the responsibility
of those who have the rule in the church to rule in the church
merely to preach, to exhort, to advise, to counsel, to persuade, but to
rule. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour.
(I Tim. 5:17). He must be one that ruleth well his own house, having
his children in subjection with all gravity, for if a man know not how
to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God.
(I Tim. 3:4-5). This plainly indicates ruling by authority, as do also
the words obey and submit in Hebrews 13:17. This means requiring
obedience, enforcing submission, as is obviously the case when a man rules
well his own house. I have known good preachers, with high standards,
who failed altogether to rule or exercise any authority in their churches,
and the churches were in a muddle of disorder, apparently having no standards
at all. The business of elders is not merely to preach, but to rule, and
the best of preaching cannot take the place of good discipline.
How are elders to go about this business? Very simply. They must determine
according to the wisdom which God has given to them what things are essential
to the good of the church and the people in it, and require submission
to those things. What if people will not submit? Then they prove themselves
to be people of the wrong spirit, such as do not belong in the church,
and they are to be excluded from it. Their presence in the church will
foment discord and discontent, undermine the authority of the elders,
and destroy the harmony and the testimony of the church. It is to be taken
for granted that those who are humble and godly will submit to the authorites
which God has established in the church. Those who will not do so are
to be excluded from the church, both for their own good, and for the good
of the church.
There is room here, of course, for a great deal of abuse, as there is
with all authority. This is so because in the final analysis every position
of authority gives to its holder the power to enforce his own will upon
those who are under him. In the church of God, therefore, the place of
authority itself is protected by stringent qualifications, in order to
assure that the will and understanding of the men in authority will be
governed by the will and word of God. Some may wonder why God does not
dispense with authority altogether, and instead of requiring the saints
to submit to their elders, simply require all to submit to himself. He
does require all to submit to himself, yet many have but a very limited
understanding of what his will is, and others have little intention of
submitting to it, though they are determined to remain in the church.
A ruler in the church is there to insure that the will of God is done
there, and of course he must exercise his authority in accordance with
what he understands the will of God to be, though the people under him
may have different ideas. Their understanding of certain things may be
the exact opposite of what their elders think, yet they are responsible
to submit to their elders.
And here I must affirm that such a situation is precisely the reason for
the existence of authority in the church. If everybody in the church,
if every babe in Christ, understood as well as the elders do what the
will of the Lord is, there would be no reason for the elders' authority.
When the babe in Christ and the father in Christ are perfectly agreed
as to what is right (and both, of course, determined to do what is right),
what possible occasion could there be for authority? What need to obey
or submit? It is only when the shepherd and the lambs disagree that there
can be any occasion for the lamb to submit and obey
----and it is for such
occasions that authority exists in the church.
But as said, there is room for a great deal of abuse here, either in the
case of a Diotrephes, who uses his authority for his own ends, or in the
case of a sincere man who is ignorant and unspiritual. For this cause
God has placed some very precise safeguards around this position of authority.
In the first place, the persons who are to exercise this authority are
called elders. This assumes that they are men old enough to have some
experience and wisdom, which will fit them to rule others. Age, however,
is not enough. Scripture lays down some rather stringent qualifications
for those who are to rule in the house of God, one of which is that he
must demonstrate his ability to do so by ruling his own house well (I
Tim. 3:4-5). All of these qualifications are obviously given to keep unqualified
men out of the place of authority. The church has no business to put unfit
men into authority, nor to acknowledge the authority of those who may
This is a very serious matter, for the church, and the individual saints
who comprise the church, are commanded by God to submit to those who rule
in the church, and to obey them. And this submission and obedience is
in matters of the utmost consequence, for this life and the life to come.
The church has no right to acknowledge the authority of unfit men, any
more than it has to refuse the authority of those men who are fit, and
whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over the flock of God (Acts 20:28).
The fact that the qualifications for elders are twice (I Tim. 3 and Tit.
1) so largely and carefully laid down in Scripture indicates that the
church has a solemn obligation to know the men who are so qualified, and
acknowledge the authority of them, and of them only. And we beseech
you, brethren, writes Paul, to know them which labour among you, and
are over you in the Lord, and to esteem them very highly in love for their
work's sake. (I Thes. 5:12-13). And not merely to esteem them, for Paul
says also, I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas,
that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves
to the ministry of the saints), that ye submit yourselves unto such, and
to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. (I Cor. 16:15-16).
This is not even necessarily a question of official position in the church,
but of character, though it is to be presumed that those who have the
character should occupy the position
----and certainly none others should.
All of this is of the utmost importance. The men who are in authority
over you have the power to determine to what you will submit. You had
therefore better exercise the utmost care in determing to whom you will
submit, precisely as every woman ought to do when she marries. Nor are
you at liberty, as she is, to determine that you will retain your independence,
and submit to nobody. A woman is at liberty not to marry, but if she does
determine to marry, she is not at liberty to refuse her husband's authority.
In determining to marry at all, she determines to submit to her husband.
And in determining to identify with the people of God, you determine to
submit to those whom God has placed in authority over them, assuming that
such men exist. If there are such, whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers
in the church of God, you must submit to them in order to submit to God,
for God commands it. And as you must do this, so you may do it, for Scripture
is clear and explicit in its statements of the qualifications. Yet so
careless are Christians and churches about this matter, that the places
of authority in many churches are filled by men who lack half the qualifications.
Another great evil in our day is that many who fill the places of authority
in the churches have no idea that they are there to rule. They preach,
and may do a good job of it, too. They advise, and exhort, and instruct,
and persuade, but they do not rule, but rather allow every man to do that
which seems right in his own eyes. The result is a lowering of all standards,
and a weakening of the testimony of the church. And those who ought to
rule, but fail to do so, seem to have little sense of the fact that Christ
will hold them responsible for the state of the churches under their care.
They watch for your souls as they must give account. (Heb. 13:17).
The angels in the second and third chapters of Revelation are held responsible
by Christ for the state of their churches. But I have a few things against
thee, because thou hast them there that hold the doctrine of Balaam. ...
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which
thing I hate. (Rev. 2:14-15). The angel's wrong was in having them there
the church. He ought to have used his authority, and the one tool of discipline
which God had placed in his hands, and excluded them from the church.
The error of the people was in holding evil doctrines. The sin of the
angel was in allowing them in the church, and this Christ held against
To the angel of the church in Thyatira the Lord says, I have a few things
against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth
herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication,
and to eat things sacrificed to idols. (Rev. 2:20). The angel suffered
her, allowed her to continue in her course. He ought to have used his
authority to put a stop to her course, excluding her from the church if
she would not change her course. So with all who walk disorderly, and
all who live in sin. Yet I have known elders grieved to gray hairs over
the disorders in their churches, who yet suffered them to go on. They
might advise and exhort and preach and pray and weep, but they did not
rule. I surely believe in all of those other means. I believe that a man
who rules well will do so primarily by those means, rarely using the rod,
and using it only when other means fail, yet if he does not use the rod
at all, he does not rule at all. Many will contend that it is not the
business of elders to exclude the refractory from the church, but the
responsibility of the whole church. I do not doubt that it is the responsibility
of the whole church, yet it is peculiarly the responsibility of the elders,
as is evident from the fact that Christ holds the angel, not the church,
responsible for having unfit members in the church.
All of this concerns authority in the church, but there is a further thing
taught in the Bible, which is authority over the churches. The apostle
John in his second and third epistles styles himself the elder, yet
it ought to be evident that this cannot mean he was an elder in a local
church, for if that were all that were meant by it, there would certainly
be no propriety in using the title when addressing others at a distance,
for he would not have been an elder to them. The nature of what John writes
also indicates his authority over the churches, for he says, I wrote
unto the church, but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among
them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds
which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content
therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth
them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (III Jn. 9-10).
This was not a local church to which John belonged, or where he lived.
If I come, he says, intending to visit the place and deal with Diotrephes
deal with him, no doubt, as an elder would deal. That is, he did not intend
merely to give advice, either to the church or to Diotrephes, but to rule
well in the matter ----to bring Diotrephes to submission, or exclude him
from the church, for those are the only two alternatives open to elders
in the church.
Paul, too, exercised authority over the churches, as is evident in the
fact that he ordained them elders in every church, (Acts 14:23), and
sent Titus to ordain elders in every city, and set in order whatever was
lacking (Tit. 1:5). And to Corinth Paul writes, For though I should
boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for
edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: that
I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters; for his letters,
say they, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and
his speech contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we
are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed
when we are present. (II Cor. 10:8-11). His word consisted of instruction,
exhortation, and entreaty. In contrast with this he sets his deed. His
deed will not consist merely of more words, but of something more than
words. It will consist of enforcement, which is the proper business of
So he writes elsewhere to the Corinthians, who were puffed up, thinking
they knew better than Paul, What will ye? Shall I come unto you with
a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (I Cor. 4:21). The
rod, of course, is the emblem of authority. If they would yield to his
instruction and entreaties, well: if not, he would use the rod.
On the former of these passages Charles Hodge writes, The apostle had
authority (i.e. the right to rule) and he had ability, inherent power,
to enforce that authority. On the latter passage he says, It is plain
from this, as from numerous other passages, that the apostles exercised
the right of discipline over all the churches; they could receive into
the communion of the church, or exclude from it, at their discretion.
From all of these scriptures it is plain that the Bible presents to us
a picture of authority over the churches every bit as much as it does
of authority in the church
----yea, even where there was no authority in
the church, where no local elders had been established. But here arises
a difficulty. Who is to exercise that authority? The answer is really
simple enough. All authority comes from God, and he to whom God commits
it is to exercise it. The real question is, To whom has God committed
authority over the churches? And the answer which will generally be given
is ----to no one at all. That authority was given to the apostles, because
they were apostles, and to no one since the apostles. So Hodge continues,
in the same places already quoted from him, The authority in question
was given when he was constituted an apostle, with not only a commission
to exercise dominion, but a grace, or inward gift of the Spirit, rendering
him infallible as a teacher and investing him with supernatural power.
And again, This prerogative was inseparable from their infallibility
as the messengers of Christ, sent to establish and to administer his kingdom.
But in this we see a strange thing. Hodge, as a Presbyterian, certainly
believed in authority over the churches. Indeed, he happens to be the
Presbyterian who wrote a set of two large volumes, The Constitutional
History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the purpose of
which is to demonstrate that presbyteries and synods did both claim and
exercise authority over the churches. Thus in practice he disallows the
only authority over the churches which he will allow doctrinally, confining
that to the apostles only, while he sets up in actual practice that which
he disallows doctrinally.
But Hodge makes another mistake. He makes the authority of the apostles
to rest upon their infallibility. But there is not a word of Scripture,
nor anything in the nature of authority, either, which makes the exercise
of it dependent upon infallibility. Not only so, but the notion that the
apostles were infallible, or that they were inspired men, however
popular, is nothing more than a myth. The Scriptures, the writings, which
God gave to us through the apostles, are inspired, and so infallible,
but the men were neither the one nor the other. What is the meaning of
Paul withstanding Peter to the face (Gal. 2:11), if they were both infallible?
Nothing of the sort. The apostles were fallible men, the same as the rest
of us, yet they were fit to exercise authority over the churches, by virtue
of their wisdom, experience, and spirituality.
Two questions, then, face us. First, have there been any since the apostles
who have been thus fit to exercise authority over the churches?
I believe few would hesitate to answer that in the affirmative. Next,
does that fitness constitute a commission to do so, or is a special, supernatural
commission required? If the latter, clearly all are excluded except the
----and it may be that the apostles themselves are excluded, for
it would be difficult to prove that they ever received any commission
But observe, the same reasoning which would restrict authority over the
churches to the apostles has been used (by J. N. Darby and the Plymouth
Brethren) to prove that we cannot now have elders in the churches. Elders
in the New Testament were not elected by the people, but established by
the apostles, or by men sent by the apostles, and Darby wrote several
lengthy treatises to prove that since we have no apostles or apostolic
delegates now, there can be no elders now
----at least none officially
established as such. He insists strongly upon the fact that the instructions
concerning the qualifications for elders were not given to the churches,
but only to Timothy and Titus, who were delegated by Paul to establish
We of course admit the fact, but deny the conclusion. If these instructions
were only for the delegates of the apostle, and none of the rest of us
have any authority to act upon them, why are they in the Bible? The fact
that they are in the Bible indicates that they are for the churches, and
that we may act upon them
----may at any rate recognize such men as are
fit to be elders, and submit ourselves to them. Is not this precisely
what Paul instructs the Corinthians to do? I beseech you, brethren,
(ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia,
and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with
us, and laboureth. (I Cor. 16:15-16).
And what difference is there between thus recognizing and submitting to
local elders, and recognizing and submitting to the authority of a man
of God over the churches? Who gave John Wesley his authority over the
Methodists? God did. God raised him up
----called him and qualified him
for the place ----the same as the Lord raised up judges in Israel of
old (Judges 2:16), and the people recognized and submitted to their authority.
Judges by definition are men who have authority to rule. Some of them
had a supernatural call (though not necessarily to rule, any more than
the apostles had), and some had not ----but even if they all had, that
would accomplish nothing unless it were recognized by the people. And
in the nature of the case it is a much safer thing for the people to recognize
the God-given qualifications of a man, than a supernatural call. And this
was really the case with the judges. The Lord raised them up; the
people submitted to them ----though they had no official position at all.
The fact is, John Nelson Darby was every bit as competent to establish
elders as were Timothy and Titus. He had the same instructions in his
hands. Moreover, God had raised him up, and placed him over a people
who could not have existed or been what they were but for him. The people
knew this, and willingly followed him, so that some complained that he
had more power than all the bishops in the Church of England. Yet doctrinal
scruples kept him from actually exercising the authority which God had
evidently placed in his hands.
Wesley had no such scruples. He exercised authority over the Methodists.
Who would deny his right to it? The Methodists owed their existence and
their character to him. God had evidently raised him up for the work,
and the people readily acknowledged his authority. They knew that the
condition of association with the Methodists was submission to his authority,
and they refused not to render it, for they believed both the movement
and Wesley's place in it to be of God, and they valued their own place
in it enough to yield deference to the man whom God had evidently placed
over them. Wesley's administration was far from perfect, for Wesley himself
was far from perfect, and it would be an easy thing to point out defects
in his system, yet Methodism was better off under his rule than it would
have been without him.
I have no thought of seeking out or electing men to exercise authority
over the churches. Such a course would be folly. There have been but few
men in any generation (or any century, for that matter) who have been
fit to occupy such a place. There were but few judges, few prophets of
God, few men of the caliber of John Wesley and Menno Simons. If there
are men of God, whom God has raised up to renovate and rule in his church,
this will be evident to spiritual minds, and there will be no need to
seek or appoint, but only to acknowledge and submit, as Israel did with
their judges. They did not appoint them. God raised them up. There were
long periods of time when there were no judges, and the nation languished
for lack of them, as the churches do at the present moment for lack of
competent rulers in and over them. Yet the people had no business to make
judges, but to look to God to raise them up. When God did raise them up,
it was their wisdom to receive them as benefits from God, and acknowledge
and submit to them.
Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske
Adoniram Judson may be called the father of American missions. When he
devoted himself to the cause of missions (in 1810), his church (Congregational)
had no missions program, but as a result of an appeal to its leaders by
Judson and some like-minded friends, they organized the American Board
of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, under which Judson was sent out.
While en route to India, expecting to work in proximity to William Carey
and his colleagues (who were English Baptists), he began to study the
Scriptures on baptism, so as to be able to maintain his ground against
the Baptists, but the result of the study was that he embraced the Baptist
position. He was therefore baptized, resigned from the Congregational
board, and appealed to the American Baptists, who organized their own
mission board, and adopted him as their missionary. He lived a life of
suffering and usefulness as a missionary in Burmah, but this is not the
place to rehearse it. Suffice it to say that I regard him as one of the
best and most spiritual of missionaries, and I suspect that Judson, from
far-away Burmah, exercised more influence than any man in America to infuse
life and spirituality into the Baptist denomination. I earnestly recommend
his life to any who can get their hands on a record of it.
The first biography of Judson which I acquired is Memoir of Adoniram Judson,
by J. Clement, published in 1851. It is a book of 336 pages, which the
author refers to as an outline sketch, hoping it might sharpen the
appetite for the larger work then in preparation. Half of the material
in this book is quoted from Judson himself.
The larger work referred to is A Memoir of the Life and Labors of Rev.
Adoniram Judson, D.D., by Francis Wayland, published in 1853 in two volumes
of over 500 pages each. Wayland was president of the Baptist missionary
society under which Judson served, and in compiling the book he had the
use of Judson's journals and official correspondence, as well as the help
of his widow, and the book is as full as we could desire. We must remark,
however, that it is hardly fair for Wayland to append the D.D. to
Judson's name, and continually refer to him as Dr. Judson, for when
Judson was alive he declined as inconsistent with the commands of Christ
and the general spirit of the Gospel the doctorate which had been conferred
upon him (by Brown University)
----and Wayland certainly knew this, for
he was president of Brown University. I found my copy of this in the religious
section of a secular bookstore in Milwaukee, and paid $25 for it.
A third biography is The Life of Adoniram Judson, by his son, Edward Judson,
a book of 600 pages, published in 1883. It is full and spiritual, and
all that we could wish in a biography of Judson. Much of the material
in this book also comes from Judson's widow, Edward's stepmother.
Judson was married three times
----and to no ordinary women ----and the
lives of his wives are also full of interest. His first wife, Ann H. Judson,
worn out with sufferings, sicknesses, and fatigues, died at the age of
36, in 1826. James D. Knowles wrote a Memoir of Ann H. Judson, published
in 1829. I once saw an old leather-bound copy of this at Kregel's, priced
at $7.50. That was a lot of money to me at the time, and I hesitated buying
it. Someone else did not hesitate, so I lost my chance, and it was many
years before I saw another copy. I have since learned, however, that this
book was printed in many editions ----at least sixteen. Where are all of
Judson's second wife was Sarah Boardman Judson, the widow of George Dana
Boardman, also a missionary to Burmah. She died in 1845, and her life
(entitled Memoir of Sarah B. Judson) was written by Fanny Forrester,
who became the third Mrs. Judson.
The life of the third Mrs. Judson, Emily, is written in an excellent volume
by A. C. Kendrick, entitled The Life and Letters of Mrs. Emily Judson,
a book of 426 pages, published in 1860.
All three of Judson's wives are commemorated in a volume published in
1851, by Arabella W. Stuart, entitled The Lives of Mrs. Ann H. Judson
and Mrs. Sarah B. Judson, with a Biographical Sketch of Mrs. Emily C.
Judson. The imprint on the spine is more practical: The Three Mrs. Judsons.
This is a well-written book of 356 pages, 168 devoted to Ann, 137 to Sarah,
and less than 40 to Emily, who was yet living. Half of the 40 are given
to Emily's account of Judson's last days (and this may be the most valuable
part of the book), and many others to her poetry, so that there is precious
little about herself.
At a later date Walter N. Wyeth also wrote the lives of the three Mrs.
Judsons, in three separate books, which were published in 1888, 1889,
and 1890. They are entitled Ann H. Judson (230 pages), Sarah B. Judson
(179 pages), and Emily C. Judson (179 pages). Wyeth is not a very clear
writer, and he seems sometimes to take for granted that we know the things
he is supposed to be telling us, and so comments on the facts instead
of relating them. Of the three, I think the book on Emily is the best.
I have now to speak of the saddest book in my library. It is Why She Became
a Spiritualist, by Abby A. Judson, Daughter of Adoniram Judson, Missionary
to the Burmese Empire. The book was published in 1891. I have the third
edition (1895), published by Abby herself. The book belittles and repudiates
everything Christian (including the Deity of Christ, his miracles, the
blood atonement, and even the personality and masculinity of God), while
it exalts ancient Egyptian religion, the pure and self-denying Buddha,
Thomas Paine's magnificent...`Age of Reason,' and, in short, everything
anti-Christian. Our souls echo the title, and cry out, Why? That question
we cannot answer, but this much we know: at the age of ten Abby was left
in America to be educated by others, while her father returned to Burmah.
As a result of her secular education, she became much enamored with great
but ungodly men, and could not bear the thought of their being in hell.
Thus was her heart turned away from the God of the Bible. What makes the
whole matter the more painful is that Judson's third wife, Emily, had
very narrowly escaped from the same snare herself, and doubtless might
have kept the dear girl from it. Emily actually pled with Judson to entrust
his dear Abby to her, and take her back to Burmah with them. But her pleadings
did not prevail, and the girl was left in America.
All of the books mentioned in this chat are scarce, and I have never seen
but one copy of most of them. It is high time some of these should be
reprinted, especially that by Wayland, or that by Edward Judson.
LETTER ON ORNAMENTAL AND
by Adoniram Judson
To the Female Members of Christian Churches in the
United States of America.
DEAR SISTERS IN CHRIST: Excuse my publicly addressing you. The necessity
of the case is my only apology. Whether you will consider it a sufficient
apology for the sentiments of this letter,
----unfashionable, I confess,
and perhaps unpalatable, ----I know not. We are sometimes obliged to encounter
the hazard of offending those whom, of all others, we desire to please.
Let me throw myself at once on your mercy, dear sisters, allied by national
consanguinity, professors of the same holy religion, fellow-pilgrims to
the same happy world. Pleading these endearing ties, let me beg you to
regard me as a brother, and to listen with candor and forbearance to my
In raising up a church of Christ in this heathen land, and in laboring
to elevate the minds of the female converts to the standard of the gospel,
we have always found one chief obstacle in that principle of vanity, that
love of dress and display,
----I beg you will bear with me, ----which has,
in every age and in all countries, been a ruling passion of the fair sex,
as the love of riches, power, and fame has characterized the other. That
obstacle lately became more formidable, through the admission of two or
three fashionable females into the church, and the arrival of several
missionary sisters, dressed and adorned in that manner which is too prevalent
in our beloved native land. On my meeting the church, after a year's absence,
I beheld an appalling profusion of ornaments, and saw that the demon of
vanity was laying waste the female department. At that time I had not
maturely considered the subject, and did not feel sure what ground I ought
to take. I apprehended, also, that I should be unsupported, and perhaps
opposed, by some of my coadjutors. I confined my efforts, therefore, to
private exhortation, and with but little effect. Some of the ladies, out
of regard to their pastor's feelings, took off their necklaces and ear
ornaments before they entered the chapel, tied them up in a corner of
their handkerchiefs, and on returning, as soon as they were out of sight
of the mission house, stopped in the middle of the street to array themselves
In the mean time I was called to visit the Karens, a wild people, several
days' journey to the north of Maulmain. Little did I expect there to encounter
the same enemy, in those wilds, horrid and dark with o'ershadowing trees.
But I found that he had been there before me, and reigned with a peculiar
sway, from time immemorial. On one Karen lady I counted between twelve
and fifteen necklaces, of all colors, sizes, and materials. Three was
the average. Brass belts above the ankles; neat braids of black hair tied
below the knees; rings of all sorts on the fingers; bracelets on the wrists
and arms; long instruments of some metal, perforating the lower part of
the ear, by an immense aperture, and reaching nearly to the shoulders;
fancifully-constructed bags enclosing the hair, and suspended from the
back part of the head; not to speak of the ornamental parts of their clothing,
the fashions and the ton of the fair Karenesses. The dress of the female
converts was not esssentially different from that of their countrywomen.
I saw that I was brought into a situation that precluded all retreat ----that
I must fight or die.
For a few nights I spent some sleepless hours, distressed by this and
other subjects, which will always press upon the heart of a missionary
in a new place. I considered the spirit of the religion of Jesus Christ.
I opened to 1 Tim. ii. 9, and read these words of the inspired apostle:
I will, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness
and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.
I asked myself, Can I baptize a Karen woman in her present attire? No.
Can I administer the Lord's supper to one of the baptized in that attire?
No. Can I refrain from enforcing the prohibition of the apostle? Not without
betraying the trust I have received from him. Again: I considered that
the question concerned not the Karens only, but the whole Christian world;
that its decision would involve a train of unknown consequences; that
a single step would lead me into a long and perilous way. I considered
Maulmain and the other stations; I considered the state of the public
mind at home. But what is that to thee? follow thou me, was the continual
response, and weighed more than all. I renewedly offered myself to Christ,
and prayed for strength to go forward in the path of duty, come life or
death, come praise or reproach, supported or deserted, successful or defeated
in the ultimate issue.
Soon after coming to this resolution, a Karen woman offered herself for
baptism. After the usual examination, I inquired whether she could give
up her ornaments for Christ? It was an unexpected blow! I explained the
spirit of the gospel. I appealed to her own consciousness of vanity.I
read her the apostle's prohibition. She looked again and again at her
----she wore but one, ----and then, with an air of modest
decision that would adorn, beyond all outward ornaments, any of my sisters
whom I have the honor of addressing, she quietly took it off, saying,
I love Christ more than this. The news began to spread, the Christian
women made but little hesitation. A few others opposed, but the work went
At length the evil which I most dreaded came upon me. Some of the Karen
men had been to Maulmain, and seen what I wished they had not; and one
day, when we were discussing the subject of ornaments, one of the Christians
came forward, and declared that at Maulmain he had actually seen one of
the great female teachers wearing a string of gold beads around her neck.
Lay down this paper, dear sisters, and sympathize a moment with your fallen
misssionary. Was it not a hard case? However, though cast down, I was
not destroyed; I endeavored to maintain the warfare as well as I could,
and when I left those parts, the female converts were, generally speaking,
arrayed in modest apparel.
On arriving at Maulmain, and partially recovering from a fever which I
had contracted in the Karen woods, the first thing I did was to crawl
out to the house of the patroness of the gold necklace. To her I related
my adventures, and described my grief. With what ease, and truth too,
could that sister say, notwithstanding this necklace, I dress more plainly
than most ministers' wives and professors of religion in our native land!
This necklace is the only ornament I wear; it was given me when quite
a child, by a dear mother, whom I expect never to see again, (another
hard case,) and she begged me never to part with it as long as I lived,
but to wear it as a memorial of her. O ye Christian mothers, what a
lesson you have before you! Can you, dare you give injunctions to your
daughters directly contrary to apostolic commands? But to the honor of
my sister be it recorded, that, as soon as she understood the merits of
the case, and the mischief done by such example, off went the gold necklace,
and she gave decisive proof that she loved Christ more than father or
mother. Her example, united with the efforts of the rest of us at this
station, is beginning to exercise a redeeming influence in the female
department of the church.
But notwithstanding these favorable signs, nothing, really nothing, is
yet done. And why? This mission and all others must necessarily be sustained
by continual supplies of missionaries, male and female, from the mother
country. Your sisters and daughters will continually come out, to take
the place of those who are removed by death, and to occupy numberless
stations still unoccupied. And when they arrive they will be dressed in
their usual way, as Christian women at home are dressed. And the female
converts will run around them, and gaze upon them, with the most prying
curiosity, regarding them as the freshest representatives of the Christian
religion from that land where it flourishes in all its purity and glory.
And when they see the gold and jewels pendent from their ears, the beads
and chains encircling their necks, the finger rings set with diamonds
and rubies, the rich variety of ornamental headdress, the mantles, and
the wimples, and crisping pins, (see Is. iii.19,23,) they will cast
a reproachful, triumphant glance at their old teachers, and spring with
fresh avidity, to repurchase and resume their long-neglected elegances;
the cheering news will fly up the Dah-gyne, the Laing-bwai, and the Salwen;
the Karenesses will reload their necks, and ears, and arms, and ankles;
and when, after another year's absence, I return and take my seat before
the Burmese or the Karen church, I shall behold the demon of vanity enthroned
in the centre of the assembly more firmly than ever, grinning defiance
to the prohibitions of apostles, and the exhortations of us who would
fain be their humble followers. And thus you, my dear sisters, sitting
quietly by your firesides, or repairing devoutly to your places of worship,
do, by your example, spread the poison of vanity through all the rivers,
and mountains, and wilds of this far distant land; and while you are sincerely
and fervently praying for the upbuilding of the Redeemer's kingdom, are
inadvertently building up that of the devil. If, on the other hand, you
divest yourselves of all meretricious ornaments, your sisters and daughters,
who come hither, will be divested of course; the further supplies of vanity
and pride will be cut off, and the churches at home being kept pure, the
churches here will be pure also.
Dear sisters: Having finished my tale, and therein exhibited the necessity
under which I lay of addressing you, I beg leave to submit a few topics
to your candid and prayerful consideration.
1. Let me appeal to conscience, and inquire, What is the real motive for
wearing ornamental and costly apparel? Is it not the desire of setting
off one's person to the best advantage, and of exciting the admiration
of others? Is not such dress calculated to gratify self-love, and cherish
sentiments of vanity and pride? And is it not the nature of those sentiments
to acquire strength from indulgence? Do such motives and sentiments comport
with the meek, humble, self-denying religion of Jesus Christ? I would
here respectfully suggest, that these questions will not be answered so
faithfully in the midst of company as when quite alone, kneeling before
2. Consider the words of the apostle, quoted above from 1 Tim. ii.9
will also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness
and sobriety, not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.
I do not quote a similar command recorded in 1 Pet. iii.3, because the
verbal construction is not quite so definite, though the import of the
two passages is the same. But cannot the force of these two passages be
evaded? Yes, and nearly every command in Scripture can be evaded, and
every doctrinal assertion perverted, plausibly and handsomely too, if
we set about it in good earnest. But preserving the posture above alluded
to, with the inspired volume spread open at the passage in question, ask
your hearts, in simplicity and godly sincerity, whether the meaning is
not just as plain as the sun at noonday. Shall we then bow to the authority
of an inspired apostle, or shall we not? From that authority shall we
appeal to the prevailing usages and fashions of the age? If so, please
to recall the missionaries you have sent to the heathen; for the heathen
can vindicate all their superstitions on the same ground.
3. In the posture you have assumed, look up and behold the eye of your
benignant Saviour ever gazing upon you with the tenderest love
you, his daughters, his spouse, wishing above all things that you would
yield your hearts entirely to him, and become holy as he is holy, rejoicing
when he sees one after another accepting his pressing invitation, and
entering the more perfect way.
4. Anticipate the happy moment, hastening on all the wings of time,
when your joyful spirits will be welcomed into the assembly of the spirits
of the just made perfect. You appear before the throne of Jehovah; the
approving smile of Jesus fixes your everlasting happy destiny; and you
are plunging into the sea of life and love unknown, without a bottom
or a shore. Stop a moment; look back on yonder dark and miserable world
that you have left; fix your eye on the meagre, vain, contemptible articles
of ornamental dress, which you once hesitated to give up for Christ, the
king of glory; and on that glance decide the question instantly and forever.
Surely you can hold out no longer. You cannot rise from your knees in
your present attire. Thanks be to God, I see you taking off your necklaces
and earrings, tearing away your ribbons, and ruffles, and superfluities
of headdress, and I hear you exclaim, What shall we do next?
question, deserving serious consideration. The ornaments you are removing,
though useless, and worse than useless, in their present state, can be
so disposed of as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the sick,
enlighten the dark minded, disseminate the Holy Scriptures, spread the
glorious gospel throughout the world. Little do the inhabitants of a free
Christian country know of the want and distress endured by the greater
part of the inhabitants of the earth. Still less idea can they form of
the awful darkness which rests upon the great mass of mankind in regard
to spiritual things. During the years that you have been wearing these
useless ornaments, how many poor creatures have been pining in want! How
many have languished and groaned on beds of abject wretchedness! How many
children have been bred up in the blackest ignorance, hardened in all
manner of iniquity! How many immortal souls have gone down to hell, with
a lie in their right hand, having never heard of the true God and the
only Saviour! Some of these miseries might have been mitigated; some poor
wretch have felt his pain relieved; some widow's heart been made to sing
for joy; some helpless orphan have been taught in the Sabbath school,
and trained up for a happy life here and hereafter. The Holy Bible and
valuable tracts might have been far more extensively circulated in heathen
lands had you not been afraid of being thought unfashionable, and not
like other folks; had you not preferred adorning your persons, and
cherishing the sweet seductive feelings of vanity and pride.
O Christian sisters, believers in God, in Christ, in an eternal heaven,
and an eternal hell, can you hesitate, and ask what you shall do? Bedew
those ornaments with the tears of contrition; consecrate them to the cause
of charity; hang them on the cross of your dying Lord. Delay not an instant.
Hasten with all your might, if not to make reparation for the past, at
least to prevent a continuance of the evil in future.
And for your guidance allow me to suggest two fundamental principles
one based on 1 Tim. ii.9 ----all ornaments and costly dress to be disused;
the other on the law of general benevolence ----the avails of such articles,
and the savings resulting from the plain dress system, to be devoted to
purposes of charity. Some general rules in regard to dress, and some general
objects of charity, may be easily ascertained; and free discussion will
throw light on many points at first obscure. Be not deterred by the suggestion
that in such discussions you are concerned about small things. Great things
depend on small; and, in that case, things which appear small to shortsighted
man are great in the sight of God. Many there are who praise the principle
of self-denial in general, and condemn it in all its particular applications
as too minute, scrupulous, and severe. The enemy is well aware that, if
he can secure the minute units, the sum total will be his own. Think not
any thing small which may have a bearing upon the kingdom of Christ and
upon the destinies of eternity. How easy to conceive, from many known
events, that the single fact of a lady's divesting herself of a necklace
for Christ's sake may involve consequences which shall be felt in the
remotest parts of the earth, and in all future generations to the end
of time ----yea, stretch away into a boundless eternity, and be a subject
of praise millions of ages after this world and all its ornaments are
Beware of another suggestion made by weak and erring souls, who will tell
you that there is more danger of being proud of plain dress and other
modes of self-denial than of fashionable attire and self-indulgence. Be
not insnared by this last, most finished, most insidious device of the
great enemy. Rather believe that He who enables you to make a sacrifice
is able to keep you from being proud of it. Believe that he will kindly
permit such occasions of mortification and shame as will preserve you
from the evil threatened. The severest part of self-denial consists in
encountering the disapprobation, the envy, the hatred of one's dearest
friends. All who enter the strait and narrow path in good earnest soon
find themselves in a climate extremely uncongenial to the growth of pride.
The gay and fashionable will, in many cases, be the last to engage in
this holy undertaking. But let none be discouraged on that account. Christ
has seldom honored the leaders of worldly fashion by appointing them leaders
in his cause. Fix it in your hearts that in this warfare the Lord Jesus
Christ expects every woman to do her duty. There is probably not one in
the humblest walks of life but would, on strict examination, find some
article which might be dispensed with for purposes of charity, and ought
to be dispensed with in compliance with the apostolic command. Wait not,
therefore, for the fashionable to set an example; wait not for one another;
listen not to the news from the next town; but let every individual go
forward, regardless of reproach, fearless of consequences. The eye of
Christ is upon you. Death is hastening to strip you of your ornaments,
and to turn your fair forms into corruption and dust. Many of those for
whom this letter is designed will be laid in the grave before it can ever
reach their eyes. We shall all soon appear before the judgment seat of
Christ, to be tried for our conduct, and to receive the things done in
the body. When placed before that awful bar, in the presence of that Being
whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and whose irrevocable fiat will fix
you forever in heaven or in hell, and mete out the measure of your everlasting
pleasures and pains, what course will you then wish you had taken? Will
you then wish that, in defiance of his authority, you had adorned your
mortal bodies with gold, and precious stones, and costly attire, cherishing
self-love, vanity, and pride? Or will you wish that you had chosen a life
of self-denial, renounced the world, taken up the cross daily, and followed
him? And as you will then wish you had done, DO NOW.
Dear sisters, your affectionate brother in Christ,
MAULMAIN, October, 1831.
The Gospel According to Abraham
by Glenn Conjurske
Galatians 3:8 informs us that the gospel was preached to Abraham: And
the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,
preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations
be blessed. All real gospel preaching contains two elements, namely,
conditions to be fulfilled by man, and promises to be fulfilled by God.
This is clear in many scriptures. Repentance and remission of sins should
be preached in his name among all nations. (Luke 24:47). Repent ye
therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts
3:19). Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
(Acts 16:31). If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and
shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou
shalt be saved. (Rom. 10:9). Every scripture, of course, does not state
every promise, nor does every scripture state every condition. Some scriptures
state only the promise, or only the condition, but the other is always
Thus the gospel is something to be obeyed, and also something to be believed.
The conditions call for obedience. The promises call for faith. Since
no one in our day doubts the part about faith, I say no more about that.
As for obedience, we read in Romans 10:16, But they have not all obeyed
the gospel. In II Thessalonians 1:7-8, The Lord Jesus shall be revealed
from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on
them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Christ is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that
obey him. (Heb. 5:9).
Both the conditions and the promises are clearly stated in the gospel
preached to Abraham, though Paul quotes only the promise, and only part
of it, as suits his present purpose. The whole passage from which he quotes
is as follows: Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy
country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land
that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will
make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them
that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all
families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 12:1-3). In this we plainly
see both conditions and promises, and Abraham both believed and obeyed.
Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
(Rom. 4:3). By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place
which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went
out, not knowing whither he went. (Heb. 11:8).
What did the gospel consist of, which was preached to Abraham? It consisted
of present self-denial with a view to future reward. It consisted of the
command of God to give up his present portion, and the promise of God
of a future inheritance. Its first word was get thee out
thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house. That
is, Abraham must give up his present portion, forsake it, and leave it
behind him. This was of course the condition of receiving the future inheritance,
and obedience belongs as much to faith as does expectation of the promised
blessing. By faith Abraham...obeyed, and he went out. He set his eye
upon the promised inheritance, and gave up his present portion. This obedience
was not optional. The Bible knows nothing of an unconditional gospel,
though some in our day think they have discovered one, and most others
have contracted the conditions down to almost nothing. Faith they
call this, but it is not the faith of the Bible, but the faith of devils.
Nay, it is not even the faith of devils, for the devils believe and
tremble, while many evangelicals and fundamentalists, who profess to
be saved by faith alone, believe and laugh and play, and no more obey
than the devil does. I spoke once with a young man who claimed salvation
through faith, but whose faith had nothing to do with obedience, for he
was living in open sin. I asked him, What if Noah had believed God but
refused to build the ark? He replied, God would have saved him anyway.
Here is the modern delusion which is peddled from pulpits everywhere as
salvation by faith.
Abraham's faith was another thing. By faith he expected the inheritance,
and by faith he obeyed the condition. The condition was present self-denial,
and his obedience to that condition determined the course of his whole
earthly life. He set his eye upon a place which he should after receive
for an inheritance, but of which he never received so much as to set
his foot upon in this life. He therefore lived a life of self-denial.
He not only went out, not knowing whither he went, but By faith
he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling
in tabernacles [tents, that is] with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him
of the same promise. (Heb. 11:8-9). Thus Abraham lived in accordance
with the gospel which was preached unto him.
Abraham also preached the same gospel. We have no record of his preaching
it during his earthly life, but when he had departed this life and gone
to paradise, and when he had dwelt for centuries in that place of love
and light, we see him then preaching the same gospel which he had heard,
and by which he had lived, during his life on the earth. It is the same
old gospel of present self-denial as the way to the future inheritance.
Nor can we find a stronger statement of it anywhere in the Bible than
we hear in the words of Abraham from paradise: Son, remember that thou
in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil
things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (Luke 16:25).
Here it is, as plain as the light. Present self-denial, future reward.
Present self-indulgence, future torment. The present cross, the future
crown. No cross, no crown. Hating my life in this world, and keeping it
unto life eternal. Loving my life, and losing it.
This is the same gospel which was preached by the Lord Jesus Christ. And
why did he here draw back the curtain of paradise and bring forth to our
view this declaration of Abraham, except to place his stamp of approval
upon it? And why, after the precious blood of Christ was shed, the atonement
made for the sins of the world, and the Saviour entered into the holy
place to make intercession for us, why did the Spirit of God then record
these words in the Scriptures of truth, except that they might be preached
to the whole world till the end of time? It is unthinkable that Abraham
could have spoken anything but the truth from his vantage point, and it
is equally unthinkable that the Lord Jesus Christ would have retrieved
these words from their utter oblivion, and brought them forth into the
clear light of day, unless they were the truth of God. They are the truth
of God, and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their message is this:
You have a choice to make. Will you have your good things in this life,
or in the life to come? Will you love your life in this world, and lose
it, or hate your life in this world, and keep it unto life everlasting?
(John 12:25). Will you be rich and full and laugh now, and mourn and weep
and hunger then, or deny yourself and weep now, and laugh and be filled
then? (Luke 6:20-25). You have no other choice, if the Lord Jesus Christ,
the faithful witness, preached the truth of God. And you who prate so
much about salvation by faith, what is that faith worth which will not
so much as believe the most solemn words of the very Son of God, but lives
just as though he had never spoken them?
D. L. Moody used to tell of a Sunday school boy who, when the class was
asked if they would rather be the rich man or Lazarus, replied, I would
rather be the rich man while I live, and Lazarus when I die. The shrewd
little fellow has a myriad of followers in the modern evangelical church,
but every one of them is going to discover in the end that they were not
so shrewd after all. You cannot be the rich man while you live and Lazarus
when you die. You have a choice to make. It cannot be both. It must be
one or the other. It must be present self-denial and the future inheritance,
or present self-indulgence and future torment. There is no other choice,
for the gospel according to Abraham is the gospel of the Son of God.
Adolph Saphir on the Interpretation
People are often deterred from the reading of the prophetical portions
of Scripture by the assertion that it is difficult for unlearned men to
distinguish between what is figurative and literal in prophecy. I do not
see the difficulty. I think a child almost can distinguish between the
two. When we read that we are to have our loins girded and our lamps burning,
even a child knows there is no reference to a literal girdle and lamp;
but when the author of the Book of Job narrates the appearing of the angels
before God, and the presence of Satan among them, it is evidently meant
as a statement of fact. Why doubt for a single moment that when Zechariah
speaks of the feet of the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives the Spirit
meant to predict a literal event?
Consider, again, the prophecies already fulfilled. You argue with a Jew,
who does not admit that Jesus is the Messiah; you point out to him the
word of Micah concerning Bethlehem, of Isaiah concerning Christ's miraculous
birth, of the 22nd Psalm concerning His crucifixion, the prophecies about
the thirty pieces of silver, and the Messiah's entrance as a meek and
lowly king into Jerusalem, &c. But when the Jew refers to a number
of passages in which the coming of the Messiah is connected with the ushering
in of a period of universal peace and tranquillity, justice and knowledge,
with the glory of Israel in their own land, and the fulfilment of the
promise made unto the fathers, how can you attempt to explain such passages
spiritually, when you insist on the literal interpretation of the
other series of predictions?
But not merely the unbelieving Jews avail themselves of this inconsistency.
It is out of the arsenal of the orthodox that the weapons have been taken
with which the very fundamental truths of the Gospel have been assailed.
Time would fail me, nor is this the place, to show how the spiritualistic
interpretation, and subsequent undervaluing, of the Old Testament, paved
the way for Rationalism and Neology. If Jerusalem means no Jerusalem,
and Israel not Israel, if it is an Oriental way of clothing abstract ideas
into a concrete form, how natural was it for a man like Strauss, tired
of the miserable juggleries of the Rationalistic Liliputians examining
the giant body of Scripture, to explain the whole history of Jesus Christ
as a poetic embodiment of the profound and transcendental idea of the
Instead of blowing the trumpet of alarm, it were better for us to examine
ourselves whether we have truly and sincerely dealt with the Word of
God. When a learned Professor criticises the Epistles of Paul, and says
that the idea of substitution, of the shedding of blood being necessary
for the remission of sins, &c., is Jewish, and must be carefully distinguished
from the eternal and divine element in the teaching of the Apostle, can
the orthodox theologians find in this argument nothing to remind them
of their own mode of treating Jewish Scriptures, predictions, and
----Christ and Israel, by Adolph Saphir, Edited by David Baron; London:
Morgan and Scott, 1911, pp. 142-143.
Ann Judson's Commitment
(compiled by the editor)
Ann Hasseltine wrote in 1810, at the age of twenty, I feel willing,
and expect, if nothing in providence prevents, to spend my days in this
world in heathen lands. Yes, Lydia, I have about come to the determination
to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection
to relatives and friends, and go where God, in his providence, shall see
fit to place me. My determinations are not hasty, or formed without viewing
the dangers, trials and hardships attendant on a missionary life.
In 1811 Adoniram Judson, who was about to depart for the mission field,
and who had proposed marriage to Ann, wrote to her father, I have now
to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next
spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her
departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and
sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure
to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate
of India; to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult,
persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this,
for the sake of Him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for
you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and
the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting
your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness, brightened
by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from
heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
In 1816 she wrote to her parents from Burmah as follows: July 18. My
Dear Parents, I again take my pen to address you
----must again tell you
of trials and afflictions, which have more or less been our lot from our
first engaging in the mission. Mr. Judson, in consequence of too close
application to study during the hot season, has so far injured his head
and nerves, that he is entirely unable to study or attend to any thing.
It has been coming on gradually for four months, and it is not three since
he laid aside study altogether. For sometime after his eyes were affected,
I read to him in Burman, and in that way he was able to continue his studies.
But now the state of his nerves is such that he cannot even hear me read.
His digestive powers are so weak, that he is unable to take any nourishment
excepting rice and vegetables. We are seriously contemplating a voyage
to Bengal, hoping that the sea air, or some medical assistance, may be
beneficial. We cannot comprehend the design of Providence in these things.
If we go to Bengal, the mission must at least be given up for a time,
as there is no one to continue here. Whether we shall ever be able to
return or not, is uncertain. We had fondly hoped that by the time the
language was acquired, a wide and effectual door would be opened for the
preaching of the gospel among this people. But now our hopes are blasted,
and our brightest prospects darkened. And now, my dear parents, I think
I hear you say, Are you not discouraged yet? Is it not best to entirely
abandon your object, and come home to America, and settle down in peace
and quiet? No! by no means. We will still intercede with our heavenly
Father, not only to return us to this mission, but make this affliction
tend greatly to its advancement. Or if we may not be permitted to return,
we will beg and plead with others to come, and go on with the mission.
We will tell them it is possible for Missionary families to live in Burmah
without molestation. We will tell them what our eyes have seen, and what
our ears have heard of the horrid idolatry of this people, and how much
they need the commiseration of the christian world. We will do more. We
will return to Burmah with them and spend the remainder of our days, though
deprived of health and strength, in assisting them to acquire the language
and encouraging them in their arduous work. No, my dear parents, our hearts
are fixed on this mission, and with grace assisting us, we shall relinquish
it only with our lives.
She did relinquish it with her life, ten years later, after being subjected
to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, and persecution,
as they had expected. Her husband was away, and The last day or two
of her life, she lay almost motionless, on one side,
----her head reclining
on her arm. Sometimes she said, `The teacher is long in coming, and the
new missionaries are long in coming. I must die alone.' She did die
alone, and was buried under a hopia tree near their house, where she rests
with her babe, who soon followed her to the grave ----till the voice of
the Son of God calls her forth to shine as the stars for ever and ever.
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