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Vol. 1, No. 5
May, 1992

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. 1:8)----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 for it.

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----not 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 be there.

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----in 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 him.

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----and 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 authority.

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 apostles----and it may be that the apostles themselves are excluded, for it would be difficult to prove that they ever received any commission to rule.

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 the elders.

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

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 these books?

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.


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 honest tale.

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 anew.

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,----constituted 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 handsome necklace,----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 on.

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 God.

2. Consider the words of the apostle, quoted above from 1 Tim. ii.9----“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 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----upon 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?----an important 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----the 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 burned up.

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,
A. Judson.

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 implied.

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”----“from 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 of Prophecy

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 Divine-human?

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 ideas?

----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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