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Vol. 1, No. 11
Nov, 1992


by Glenn Conjurske

It is a common thing to hear comments concerning preaching or conversation which has dealt with negative or unpleasant themes, to the effect that such preaching or conversation is unedifying. And sometimes it may in fact be so. But it seems that in the modern church the word “unedifying” has practically become a synonym for “unpleasant.” The prevailing idea seems to be that edification is something which gives you pleasant feelings, though a little consistency would teach people that on that basis a great deal of the Bible must be unedifying, such as Matthew 23, Ezekiel 23, the last three chapters of Judges, the 137th Psalm, and numerous other passages.

But such notions are very far from the truth. To edify is to build up, and “edification” in the Greek is in fact the same word as (in the plural) is translated “buildings” in Matthew 24:1 and Mark 13:1-2. To edify is not to make you feel good, but to make you better----to make you wiser, stronger, holier, more loving, more humble, more gentle, more faithful, more useful. And it often so happens that those things which will contribute most to that end are not the pleasant and positive things, but just the reverse.

Paul speaks a great deal about edification in I Cor. 14, and in so doing he draws a sharp contrast between speaking in tongues and prophesying. “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification” (vs. 3), but when a man speaks in tongues, “the other is not edified” (vs. 17). Why not? Because “if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you?” (vs. 6), for though it may give the man a warm and glowing feeling, it adds nothing to him----does not build him up. “I thank my God,” says Paul, “I speak with tongues more than ye all. Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” (Vss. 18-19). And it is evident throughout this chapter that the edification of which Paul speaks consists of being built up in understanding. Tongues, therefore, do not edify, for they add nothing to the understanding.

Not that Paul would limit edification to the realm of understanding. I suppose he speaks of that alone in this chapter because it is among the smallest parts of edification, and tongues do not even contribute that. But Paul is far from limiting edification to understanding, for of that ministry

which he insists is edifying (prophesying) he speaks thus: “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convicted of all, he is judged of all, and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” (Vss. 24-25). Now to be convicted of all and judged of all can hardly be regarded as a pleasant thing, but it is a profitable thing, and is therefore equated with edification.

Gipsy Smith thus contrasts the prevailing ideas about edification with the true conception presented in this passage of Scripture: “We want them to go away and say, `That is just beautiful.' The people will not say it is just beautiful if we are faithful. We want people to go away and say, `Oh, I did enjoy that!' I never heard of anybody enjoying a surgical operation, and that is what every sermon ought to be. It ought to be a piercing to the quick. It ought to be a stirring of the man within. It ought to be the undoing of things and making us feel and realise what we are in the presence of Almighty God.”

Even if we put edification on its lowest ground, a mere increase of understanding, even that is likely to contain much that is unpleasant, if it is the real truth of God in which we are increasing, for Solomon says, “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Eccl. 1:18). He does not call wisdom vanity (and it surely is not), but he does call it vexation of spirit (vs. 17). There is a great deal more truth than men realize in the old proverb which says, “Ignorance is bliss.” But we have more to do on the earth than be happy. In knowledge and wisdom there is profit, however unpleasant it may be, and therein is edification.

But Solomon speaks yet more forcefully along the same lines, saying, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his

heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to

hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.” (Eccl. 7:2-5). Sorrow and sadness are better than enjoyment and mirth, because by them the heart is made better. That is to say, sorrow and sadness are edifying. Therefore the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning. He chooses that which may be unpleasant for the present, but profitable for the future. To “hear rebuke” is never a pleasant thing, but

it is edifying. The wise therefore say, “Let the righteous smite me: it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me: it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.” (Psalm 141:5). The Geneva Bible here reads, “Let the righteous smite me: for that is a benefite.”

Fools take another course. They cannot endure the rebuke which sound doctrine administers to their ways. They therefore “heap to them

selves teachers, having itching ears.” (II Tim. 4:3). They want teachers who will edify them----that is, make them feel good. Real edification they refuse. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists can smugly apply this scripture to the liberals and modernists and cultists, while they are just as guilty themselves. They want, of course, a teacher who preaches the Deity of Christ, the blood atonement, and the inspiration of Scripture, but do they want a teacher who administers rebuke to them, or who leads them to “the house of mourning?” Do they want a teacher who requires them to change their ways? There is no real edification without this.

But then there is more to edification than rebuke and stern requirement. To edify souls we must encourage them. The law is all stern requirement, and it is the strength of sin. It is the strength of sin precisely because it condemns and discourages. It builds no faith. It offers no hope. Edification must proceed on a different course. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort [or encouragement] of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4). The ministry which edifies is that which preaches the heart of God, the love of God, the grace of God, the ways of God with men of like passions with ourselves, in such a way as to give hope, to build faith, and so to encourage. The ministry which consists only of stern requirement----only of scolding and exhortation----might rather be called wearing out the saints, than building up the saints.

But caution is called for here. Some weak and half-hearted souls are always looking for encouragement----that is, always looking for someone to pat them on the back and tell them they are doing all right----when in fact they are not doing all right. Encouragement is not to be administered by lowering the standard----a course which is fatal to both the souls of men and the testimony of the church----but by inspiring hope to make a start, and faith to press on. “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Heb. 12:12-13).

To maintain the proper balance here is no doubt one of the most difficult tasks before us. Most of us are inclined to be either too soft or too hard----yes, and many of us are both: too hard in some situations, and too soft in others. But observe, a balance is not to be maintained by paring down either one side or the other, but by giving equal weight to both sides. Let the standards of God's holiness be maintained without flinching and without abatement. Let the old man be put off. Let the right eye be plucked out, and the right hand cut off. Let your members which are upon the earth be mortified. The surgeon who spares half of the diseased organ does his patient no favor. But let him cut with a tender hand. Let him not soften the truth, but let him speak it in love. “A soft tongue breaketh the bone.” (Proverbs 25:15). Or, as an old English proverb has it, “A light hand makes a heavy wound.” Here is the real key to edification. Breaking bones is never pleasant business, but a soft tongue will make it as pleasant as such a thing can be. A soft tongue is a gentle, tender, loving tongue, but this of course must often be understood of a soft tongue speaking hard truth. “Rebuke with soft words and hard arguments,” says another old English proverb.

But a good physician does not administer the same medicine to every patient, and neither does a good physician of souls. What is life to one may be death to another. The discouraged and downcast may need no hard arguments or cutting truths at all, but only the tear of sympathy, only the touch of a tender hand, only the sound of a gentle voice, only the healing balm of love. Bones which are broken already need to be healed. “Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” (Ps. 51:8). That is no edification which stops short of this.


Catherine Booth on Keeping Up the Standard

[Catherine Booth (1829-1890) was the wife of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.]

He [Satan] gradually lowered the standard of Christian life and character, and though, in every revival, God has raised it again to a certain extent, we have never got back thoroughly to the simplicity, purity, and devotion set before us in these Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles. And just in the degree that it has approximated thereto, in every age, Satan has got somebody to oppose and to show that this was too high a standard for human nature, altogether beyond us, and that, therefore, Christians must sit down and just be content to be “Oh! wretched man that I am” people to the end of their days. He has got the Church into a condition that makes one sometimes positively ashamed to hear professing Christians talk, and ashamed, also, that the world should hear them talk. I do not wonder at thoughtful, intelligent men being driven from such Christianity as this. It would have driven me off, if I had not known the power of godliness. I believe this kind of Christianity has made more infidels than all the infidel books ever written.

Yes, Satan knew that he must get Christians down from the high pinnacle of whole-hearted consecration to God. He knew that he had no chance till he tempted them down from that blessed vantage ground, and so he began to spread those false doctrines, to counteract which John wrote his epistles, for, before he died, he saw what was coming, and sounded down the ages:----“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” The Lord revive that doctrine! Help us afresh to put up the standard!

Oh! the great evil is that dishonest-hearted people, because they feel it condemns them, lower the standard to their miserable experience. I said, when I was young, and I repeat it in my maturer years, that if it sent me to hell I would never pull it down. Oh! that God's people felt like that. There is the glorious standard put before us. There power is proffered, the conditions laid down, and we CAN all attain it if we will; but if we will not

----for the sake of the children, and for generations yet unborn, do not let us drag it down, and try to make it meet our little, paltry, circumscribed experience. LET US KEEP IT UP. This is the way to get the world to look at it. Show the world a real, living, self-sacrificing, hard-working, toiling, triumphing religion, and the world will be influenced by it; but anything short of that they will turn round and spit upon!

----Aggressive Christianity, by Catherine Booth; Boston: McDonald & Gill, 1883, pp. 23-24.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

John Wesley

I graduated from Bible school in 1968 knowing little more about John Wesley than the fact that he existed. Yet I was somehow aware that he was a man of God, and my interest was therefore aroused to know more about him. My desire was not granted until June of 1971, when my wife and I and a friend drove from our home in Madison to Alec R. Allenson's, then in Naperville, Illinois. We spent the better part of the day hunting through his stock of used books. This was no small task, as there were twice as many books in the place as there was room for. Each aisle had two stacks of books (from knee to waist high) the full length of each side, with just enough room in the middle to put one foot in front of the other. All these must be moved to get to the books on the bottom shelves, and then moved back again. Most of the shelves had books two rows deep, so that the first row must be removed to see the second. But I was as a hummingbird in a flower garden, and did not mind the trouble at all. Among the other treasures I took home that day were An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, by John Wesley, an abridged edition of his Journal, and his Forty-four Sermons (the latter two of which I have since given away). I soon read his Appeal, and so did my friend. His reaction was, “There is more of real Christianity in that book than in any other book I have ever read”----which was just what I thought myself.

Philip Doddridge wrote concerning this to John Wesley (March 15, 1746), “I have been reading (I will not pretend to say with what emotion) the fourth edition of your Farther Appeals: concerning which I shall only say, that I have written upon the titlepage, `How forcible are right words!”'

Coke and Moore write in their life of Wesley, “His Appeals...answer the idea, which the term masterly production usually gives us. They were written in the fulness of his heart; while beholding the whole world lying in the wicked one, he wept over it. We could almost venture to assert, that no unprejudiced person can read them, without feeling their force, and acknowledging their justice. It is certain they have convinced many who were deeply prejudiced; and those too of considerable learning. It has been remarked, that those who truly preach the gospel, do it with a flaming tongue. We are ready to make a similar remark respecting these Appeals. The flame, the power, and yet the sobriety of love, are highly manifest in them. We cannot but earnestly recommend them to all, who desire to know what spirit he was of, while contending against almost the whole world; and whether it really was for the truth of God, he so contended.”

There are other titles of note by Wesley, but I do not mention them individually, as they are usually met with only in his Works. These have been printed many times, and the fourteen-volume edition has been in print very recently, if it is not so at this moment. I have the old seven-volume edition published in New York in 1831, with notes and translations by John Emory, and I am quite happy with it, though many of its pages are very brown with age. It contains two volumes of sermons, two of journals, and three of miscellaneous works (including letters), all with a good index.

Of biographies there are many. Though I can't prove it, I have a suspicion that there have been more biographies written of John Wesley than of any other man who ever lived, and this is a good indication of his real greatness. With recent biographies you generally need not concern yourself. Most biographies of Wesley have been written by Methodists, and most of Methodism had become very worldly in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and drifted to modernism by the beginning of the twentieth. Modern biographies in general are shallow and unspiritual. The following six standard works are all by Methodist preachers:

The Life of the Rev. John Wesley, Including an Account of the Great Revival of Religion in Europe and America, of which He Was the First and Chief Instrument, by Thomas Coke and Henry Moore, 1792. This of course is scarce. I have seen only two copies of it. I bought one at Baker's for $5, and I have seen another at Kregel's for $50.

The Life of the Rev. John Wesley, etc., by John Whitehead, two volumes, 1793 and 1796, embodying also a not very satisfactory life of Charles Wesley, based mostly on his journal. This is also very scarce, the only copy of it I ever saw for many years being an 1844 reprint, for which I paid the very reasonable price of $7.50 at Baker's. Since then I have seen another copy or two.

The Life of Rev. John Wesley, etc., by Henry Moore, two volumes, 1825. This also embodies the life of Charles Wesley.

The Life of Rev. John Wesley, by Richard Watson, 1831. An excellent popular biography, and not terribly scarce, having been printed a number of times in England and America. Abel Stevens in his History of Methodism calls Watson “the most commanding intellect of Wesleyan Methodism,” and Wesley's “best biographer.”

The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, by L. (Luke) Tyerman, three volumes, 1870-71. A great storehouse of information for the serious student of Wesley, and not so scarce but that a diligent searcher might find it. I have seen several copies, priced from $50 to $100, and I have just learned that it has been reprinted. On his first page Tyerman thus characterizes his predecessors: “Hampson's [which I have never seen], ready for the press when Wesley died, is extremely meagre, and was the work of an angry writer. Coke and Moore's, issued in 1792, was a hasty publication, written currente calamo, to get possession of the market; and, like most things done in haste, was exceedingly imperfect. Whitehead's, dated 1793-6, was composed in the midst of disgraceful contentions, and was tinged with party feeling. Southey's, printed in 1820, has literary charms; but, unintentionally, is full of errors, and, for want of dates and chronological exactitude, is extremely confusing. Moore's, published in 1824, is the fullest and most reliable; but, to a great extent, it is a mere reprint of Whitehead's, given to the public about thirty years previously. Watson's, issued in 1831, was not intended to supersede larger publications, but was `contracted within moderate limits, and' avowedly `prepared with special reference to general readers.”'

The Life of John Wesley, by John Telford, 1886, revised and enlarged in 1902, is another good general biography. Telford, like Tyerman, was one of Methodism's real historians. He also edited the “standard edition” of The Letters of John Wesley, published in 1931 in eight volumes. I found great pleasure as well as profit in reading through these volumes, and regard them as one of my most valuable possessions. There is also a “standard edition” of Wesley's Journal, also in eight volumes, edited by Nehemiah Curnock. It is scarce, and I have never seen a set I could afford.

The Life of Wesley which Tyerman mentions by Robert Southey was generally regarded by lovers of Wesley as more of a caricature than a biography, and Richard Watson dealt with its misrepresentations in Observations on Southey's Life of Wesley, which has been appended to some editions of Watson's life of Wesley. Southey professes to get all his information from published works. The only original things in his work, therefore, are his opinions, and they are not very valuable.

John Wesley was a star of the first magnitude. Among all of the truly great men of the history of the church, he was certainly one of the greatest. Let all who thirst for the true spirit of real Christianity see that they know John Wesley.


C. H. Spurgeon on John Wesley

Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.”

----C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, vol. I, pg. 176.

It will be time for us to find fault with John and Charles Wesley, not when we discover their mistakes, but when we have cured our own. When we shall have more piety than they, more fire, more grace, more burning love, more intense unselfishness, then, and not till then, may we begin to find fault and criticize. For my part, I am as one who can see the spots in the sun, but know it to be the sun still, and only weep for my farthing candle by the side of such a luminary.

----The Two Wesleys, by C. H. Spurgeon, pg. 63.


An Extract from


by Thomas Olivers

[Thomas Olivers was one of Wesley's itinerant preachers. The footnotes in the following extract are not added, but are part of the original work by Olivers.]

`Twas thus our faithful guide his course pursued,
Nor toil nor danger shunn'd to do us good;
But gladly bore the cross, that we the prize might gain,
And one with him and God in endless ages reign.

Nor was his toil and care to us confined;
He daily sought the good of all mankind;
That they might seek and know, in this their gracious day,
The way to endless peace, and cast their sins away.

He wish'd that all might find their pardon seal'd,
Their fears removed, and feel their conscience heal'd;
That peace, and joy, and hope, might here their portion be,
And love, and sweet delight, to all eternity.

For this his cheerful feet pursued their way,
Through winter's nights, and summer's sultry day;
Through woods and floods he pass'd, and o'er the boist'rous main,
Nor e'er was known to shrink, or of his toil complain.

While o'er the mountain-tops he often went,
He met the rapid storms with sweet content;
Then swiftly moved along the dark and doubtful track,
And chid his coward steed, who fain would turn his back.

He often rode, as through the land he pass'd,
Full thirty miles before he broke his fast;
Then added thirty more before he stopp'd to dine;
And ten or twenty more before his preaching-time.

When worn with toil, and age, and long disease,
He rode an easier way, his friends to please;
But neither friends nor age his wonted speed could stay,
For now he often went his hundred miles a day.

To live for God, while in this vale of tears,
He rose at four o'clock for threescore years;
Then spent the live-long day in something great and good;
Nor lounged one hour away, nor ever ling'ring stood.

When he in youthful days his course begun,
And rose resplendent like the rising sun,
Both earth and hell pursued, and waged a dreadful fight,
To blast the opening bloom, and quench the kindling light.

For this the rich and great their influence spread,
And sleeping shepherds raised their drowsy head;
While formal saints exclaim'd, where'er he show'd his face,
And Scandal croak'd around her false and foul disgrace.

By these the human herds were gather'd round,
And sought with sticks and stones, or aught they found;
Who tore his raiment off, and bruised his sacred head,
Nor could they scarce refrain before they thought him dead.

Through tumults, toils, and strife, he urged his way,
And dared the ills of life his feet to stay;
The ills he saw and felt but raised his bosom higher,
And kinder pity gave, and more intense desire.

As truth is great, and will in time prevail,
His foes fell off, and would no more assail;
But turn'd their hate to love, and own'd the truth he taught,
And bless'd the happy day which such glad tidings brought.

Now thousands turn'd, and twice ten thousand more,
And mourn'd the hated deeds they did before;
Then half the wond'ring world their gratitude express'd,
And threw their arms abroad, and clasp'd him to their breast.

Yet still he onward went, with steady pace,
As much unmoved by smiles as by disgrace;
Nor would he aught abate, though oft besought with tears,
But kept one even pace for MORE THAN THREESCORE YEARS.

That this is no romance, one instance hear,
And may it rend in twain each sluggard's ear!
His last day's work but one he plann'd, and thought to ride
A HUNDRED MILES AND EIGHT, and preach and write beside.

To feed his flock he put forth all his might,
And preach'd the word both morning, noon, and night;
Nor did he ever cease, while we had time to hear,
But preach'd, or someways taught, A THOUSAND TIMES A YEAR.

Besides the rest, which we assert as facts,
He wrote in all above two hundred tracts;
And yet, in every year, a thousand missives sent
Through this and various isles, and every continent.

'Twas thus his years, and days, and hours were spent;
And thus he used the goods his Master lent;
'Twas thus,----we say no more, but this great truth rehearse,
He did what man could do to bless the universe.


“Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs”

by Glenn Conjurske

A number of years ago a Charismatic acquaintance of mine asked me why I don't sing any spiritual songs. I was totally at a loss to know what he could mean, but told him that I do sing spiritual songs, and have a whole hymn book full of them. “No,” he said, “those are hymns.” He then gave me to understand that the Scriptures speak (Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16) of three different kinds of songs----hymns being those which are found in the hymn book, psalms being those which are taken from the Scriptures, and spiritual songs being the modern choruses. I was rather amazed that anyone could seriously hold such an arbitrary view of the passage of Scripture, but at the time attributed it to this individual's pride and shallow thinking. I have since learned, however, that this notion did not originate with him, but is (with some variation, it may be) very widely held in the Charismatic movement, and among some neo-evangelicals.

The interpretation is, of course, a new one. It did not exist a generation ago, and could not have then existed, for these so-called psalms and spiritual songs did not then exist. The same shallow and worldly church which gave birth to the music invented the interpretation.

And if this is what is meant by “psalms and spiritual songs,” I frankly avow that I do not sing them, nor do I allow them to be used in the work which God has given me to do. I have a number of good reasons for refusing them, and no reason at all to adopt them.

To begin with, that kind of music is a departure from the old paths. This new music is of a completely different kind than that which has been used for generations in the real church of God. I fully understand that this does not necessarily make it wrong. Some old paths need to be departed from, for they are wrong, or defective. But before we depart from the old paths, we ought to have good and compelling reasons to do so. There are no such reasons to depart from the hymns of the old hymn books. Though for various reasons many individual hymns are unworthy of the place which they hold in the churches, the kind of hymns found in the old hymn books are every way sufficient----many of them being deep in thought and spiritual experience, beautiful in music and in poetry----and satisfying to spiritual souls, as they have been for many generations.

But lo! the modern worldly church----the modern Charismatic and Neo-evangelical movements----cannot be satisfied with the solid spiritual food which has fed the spiritual for many generations. They are hankering for something new and different and contemporary. Therefore they must abandon the old hymn books as far as they dare (and many of them have abandoned them altogether, and really despise them), and put in their place these modern “psalms” and “spiritual songs.” What we have here is a deliberate departure from the old paths, on the part of modern movements which are determined to depart from the old paths, and which generally despise them.

But some will argue that whatever the origin of this kind of music may have been, there are good people who use it, yes, and good people who produce it, too. No doubt. But those departures from the old paths do not proceed from the Spirit of God, but from the world and the flesh, and the fact that some good people are carried away in the stream does not change the character of it. There are good people who are led into every kind of mistake under the sun----into shallow and unsound doctrines and practices of every description. But God has not sent me to argue in favor of every mistake into which good people may fall. It is my business rather to go and teach them better. The movements which have produced such music, and which generally use it, are sinister in origin and injurious in tendency, and the presence of some good people in them does not change their character.

The origin of the new kind of music is the only reason which I need for refusing it, but its character is additional reason. Here I shall say but little of the modern choruses, which came into being with modern youth movements in the church. They are a little older than the so-called “psalms,” and in music are not nearly so great a departure from the old paths, though their words are usually shallow. I turn my attention to the “psalms” or “Scripture songs,” as they are sometimes called. In music they are a complete departure from the old paths in which the church of God has walked for many generations. It is modern folk music, patterned after the music of the world----and after the most shallow sort of music which the modern shallow age has produced. Most of it that I have heard hardly deserves to be called music at all, for one of its most obvious features is that it has little or no musical structure. This, of course, is necessary and inevitable, for it is music designed to be sung with prose rather than with poetry. The world has been driven to this kind of music, by a generation which is unable to write poetry. I have seen enough to sicken me of modern poems, some of which have won national poetry contests, and which are not poems at all, but only poorly written prose. The music, of course, to which such poems are sung must be as lacking in musical structure as the poetry is in poetic structure. And when the church has determined to sing prose, it has of course been driven to the same kind of music----which is hardly music at all, but just a string of notes.

An excellent article on “Hymnology,” which appears in the 1859 and 1860 issues of Bibliotheca Sacra, begins with the following statement: “A GOOD Hymn Book must be a good manual of religious experience. The Ideal of a perfect Hymn Book is that of a perfect expression of the real life of the church, in forms perfectly adjusted to the service of song. It excludes, on the one hand, lyric poetry which is only poetry, though it be on sacred themes; and, on the other hand, it is equally unfriendly to devotional rhymes which, though truthful, are so unworthy in respect of poetic form as to degrade the truths they embody; and yet again, it rejects, as unbecoming to the sanctuary, those religious poems which are both true to the Christian life and unexceptionable in their poetic spirit, and yet are of such rhythmic structure as to be unfit for expression with the accompaniment of music.” It never occurred to the church of that generation to attempt to sing words with no poetic structure at all. Right or wrong, this is a complete departure from the old paths in which the church of God has walked for centuries. It necessitates the introduction of a completely different kind of music, and a kind which is decidedly inferior to the old kind.

One of these “psalms” I have heard which actually had some musical merit, and some musical structure, however loose. We heard it played on the piano (not sung), and my wife picked up the music and began to play it herself. Of the words we knew nothing, but my wife wrote to a friend who had been present when we heard it played, and asked her for the words. She wrote them out and sent them, but we found it impossible to put the words and the music together. I was pretty sure she had sent us the words to a different song, but my wife found another friend who knew the song, who showed her how to put the words and the music together. How was this done? Very ingeniously----though very unnaturally. The words of course must be wrested from their normal and expected cadence. Those whose taste has been vitiated by familiarity with the shallow music of the modern world, or its imitation in the modern church, may have some relish for this, but I have none. Give me “The God of Abraham Praise,” or “From Greenland's Icy Mountains”----without the postmillennialism of the fourth verse. I have since seen the modern song in a collection of “the very best” for “praise and worship,” and from that source I learn that it is intended to be sung as a round! And this is worship? No----it is modern fun-and-games Christianity.

The man who first introduced me to these “psalms,” more than twenty years ago, told me that they were “just little ditties,” and that is the most apt description of them which I have heard. A dear friend of mine, who is a former Charismatic, tells me that the music to one of the most popular of the “spiritual songs” in her Charismatic group was written by a five-year-old child, and this was boasted of as a marvelous thing.. But she adds, “Almost any five-year-old could have written it.” And this is another evil of the whole business. It is not only a reflection of the extreme shallowness of the modern church, but an encouragement to that shallowness. Every babe and novice, who have no ability whatsoever for it, are set to ministering the word or writing music, and thus shallow pride reigns supreme, and the church is filled with shallow and unsound books which ought never to have been written, shallow sermons which ought never to have been preached, and shallow whatnot under the name of “psalms and spiritual songs.” People who could write neither music nor poetry to save their lives can dash off these “spiritual songs” in five minutes, and often claim that they have received them by divine inspiration, too! Well, it is certain enough that they have put no sweat or tears into them. It is high time for those who have drunk of the old wine to stand up and say, “We have no desire for the new: the old is better.”

So much for the music. When we come to speak of the words, we shall of course be regarded as perverse if we have anything negative to say, for the words are from the Bible, and many of them even from the King James Version. And this is always the triumphant argument of the advocates of this modern music: “Surely you cannot object to the words, for they are Scripture.” Well, no doubt they are, but then they are very often Scripture misunderstood, misapplied, and wrested from its context. Even in their words most of them are “just little ditties”----a verse or two that will make you feel good, while the rest of Scripture is ignored, and neither sung, nor preached, nor lived. Another dear friend of mine recently told me that she was once quite taken by a “Scripture song” on the words “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” She went to her Bible to find the words there and read them in their context, and found the words immediately following to be, “therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” Then the real truth of the matter dawned upon her: they would never sing that part.

My first introduction to these “psalms” came about in connection with a group of which a woman was the leader. I went to one of their meetings, which was a picnic. After the eating was finished, they began to “sing psalms.” I observed that much of what they sang was entirely without spiritual understanding, as for example in continually applying scriptures prophetic of the millennium to the present time. I sat and listened for some time, until they sang from the forty-seventh psalm, “For God is King of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen.” I then ventured to speak up, and pointed out that they were singing about “singing with understanding,” and yet obviously had no understanding of the things which they sang. I tried to point out the real meaning of the scriptures, and how incongruous it was to apply them to the present evil age. The woman in charge replied, “That's your theology: we're going to sing psalms.” This same group, by the way, always spoke contemptuously of theology. I lent one of the men Wesley's Appeal----a moving and powerful book, full of the spirit of Christianity----but after reading a little, he returned it to me, asking to be excused from “theology”! I fail to be impressed when such movements boast that what they sing is Scripture.

Beyond that, I emphatically affirm that the Bible was never intended by God to be the church's hymn book, any more than it was intended to be a creed, a collection of sermons, or a systematic theology. It is no way suited to be any of those things. It is the quarry whence we draw the foundation stones and building blocks for all of those things, but the Bible in itself is none of them. A man of God will quarry out those building blocks and build with them. Martin Luther says, “He that has but one word of God before him, and out of that word cannot make a sermon, can never be a preacher.” What would be thought of a man who stood up to preach, and did nothing but quote Scripture? You would say, it was not a sermon at all, but only a feeble attempt at preaching by a man who had no ability to preach. So exactly it is with these modern psalms and Scripture songs. They are feeble attempts to produce hymns, on the part of those who have no ability to do so----no ability to write either poetry or music.

Some will contend, however, that though the rest of the Scriptures were never intended to be sung, the book of Psalms was so intended. I grant it, and you gain nothing by it. For if the Psalms were intended to be sung, they were intended to be sung entire, and not “just little ditties” extracted from them here and there. Why do these folks not sing whole Psalms? But further, if the Psalms were intended to be sung, they were intended to be sung by the Jews, not by the church. You may sing the entire book of Psalms, and never once voice the word “Father,” nor ever the name of Jesus Christ, nor ever mention the cross, the precious blood of Christ, the gospel, the cause of missions, or anything distinctively Christian.

Here, then, I take my stand. There is no reason at all to depart from the deep and soul-satisfying wells of song from which the church of God has drawn for many generations. If we must have more of it, let us have more of the same sort----if indeed the church of our day can produce it. The new are not to be compared to the old. I am not saying there is no good in them. There is some good in the modern versions of the Bible also, but they are not to be compared to the old. There is good in them, but not enough good, and those who understand what the issues are would never dream of replacing the old version with the new ones, or even of setting them side by side on a level. There is no reason to do so. The old is not perfect, but it is better. And so with the old hymns also.

But some will no doubt ask, if the modern Charismatic interpretation of Ephesians 5:19 is not the true interpretation of the passage----if that is not the proper distinction between “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”----what is? To that I give the same answer I have always given, long before I ever heard of the modern interpretation: I don't know! I don't know that there is any distinction intended, and if there is, I don't know what it is, any more than I can tell you how to distinguish between “prayer and supplication.” And if we look to the real scholarship of the church, we shall come to just the same result----they don't know either. The sanest of them usually avow that they don't know what the distinction is, or don't believe any distinction is intended. Those who attempt to make a distinction are not very successful, for we get just about as many interpretations as there are interpreters.

John Gill (an eighteenth-century Baptist) contends that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” correspond to three Hebrew terms which are used as titles of David's psalms, and that these terms, therefore, all three of them, refer to the Old Testament book of Psalms. (See his commentary on Eph. 5:19).

Adam Clarke (a Methodist) writes in his commentary, “We can scarcely say what is the exact difference between these three expressions,” yet goes on to suggest that psalms are those of David, hymns “extemporaneous effusions in praise of God uttered under the influence of the Divine Spirit, or a sense of his special goodness,” (whatever that may mean), and songs “premeditated and regular poetic compositions”----the reverse of the modern interpretation.

S. T. Bloomfield says in his Greek Testament, “It should seem that by yalm. [psalms] we are not to understand the Psalms of David only; but also the compositions of those persons who had the spiritual gifts. ...such yalmoiV [psalms] differed in no material respect from u{mnoi [hymns]. ... How far the w/jdaiV pneum. [spiritual songs] differed from both is not clear.” Yet he ventures to suggest, “The difference seems to have been, ----that the two former celebrated the praises of God in strains adapted to be sung in chorus; while the w/jdaiV [songs] were poems on some religious subject, and it is probable were usually only recited; or if sung, sung as our solo anthems.”

Henry Alford says in his New Testament for English Readers, “in psalms (not to be confined...to Old Test. hymns; see I Cor. xiv.26; James v.13. The word properly signified those sacred songs which were performed with musical accompaniment,----as hymns without it: but the two must evidently here not be confined strictly to their proper meaning)”----that is, no such distinction is here intended. “Songs” he calls “the general name for all lyrical poetry.” If this is so, then “spiritual songs” is the proper designation for the old hymns, and not for the “little ditties” which the modern worldly church calls spiritual songs.

Charles Ellicott says in his commentary, “In a passage so general as the present, no such rigorous distinctions seem called for; yalmoV" [psalm] most probably...denotes a sacred song of a character similar to that of the Psalms...; u{mnoV" [hymn], a song more especially of praise,...wj//dhVV [song], a definition generally of the genus to which all such compositions belonged.”

Much more to the same effect might be rehearsed, but this is enough. Three things may be observed in these comments. 1. Among those commentators who venture to make a distinction between these terms, there is no agreement as to what that distinction is. 2. None of them ever so much as dreamed of the distinction which is so confidently made by modern evangelicals and charismatics. 3. They are generally uncertain as to what the distinction is, or even that any distinction is intended.

But alas, our lot is cast in a shallow and unspiritual age. And alas again, that portion of evangelicalism which has the least depth and the least spirituality speaks with the most confidence as to the meaning of this passage of Scripture, and contends for an arbitrary distinction, which was never heard of before the present generation, and which has nothing in it to recommend itself to sound judgement. Let them sing their modern music if they will, but to claim that the Bible authorizes it----or commands it----this is too much.


No Man Durst Join

by Glenn Conjurske

Preached August 21, 1988, recorded, transcribed, and revised.

“And of the rest durst no man join himself to them.”----Acts 5:13.

I have recommended to various people throughout the years that if you want to know what real Christianity is, read the book of Acts. And if you want to have your spirit imbued with the spirit of New Testament Christianity, read the book of Acts. Take the first eleven chapters of the book of Acts, and read them, and read them, and read them, and read them, and read them, until they become a part of your soul, and till you just live, and eat, and sleep, and breathe, and think, and talk New Testament Christianity. As I said to you a little bit ago when I preached on the spirit of the apostles, if you want a revival of New Testament Christianity, it's well you should know what it is that you want a revival of.

One thing that you find in the Christianity of the New Testament is that nobody dared to join it. Now I believe that if we are going to have New Testament Christianity, we've got to come to that place. We have got to get into such a position that all the world around about us looks at us and would not dare to join us. You say, “Well, that looks like defeating our purpose. I thought we're supposed to preach the gospel and go out there and win souls.” Yes, we are: and in order to be in a position where we are capable of winning souls, we need to be in a position where the world will not dare to join us.

Now there are a number of reasons why that's so, because God himself won't join us or give us his power unless we are in that position----and we cannot have New Testament Christianity without the power of the Holy Spirit of God. And we are not going to have the power of the Holy Spirit of God if we have a church that the world can look upon and agree with, or that the world can look upon and not find anything to disagree with, that the world can look upon with favor, or that the world can come in and join and not be afraid of. In order to have a church which God can join, we've got to have a church which the world can't join. Now this is what happened in the New Testament Christianity that is recorded in this book of Acts. It says, “Of the rest of the people nobody dared to join.” It tells you twice in the passage that we read that great fear fell upon the people. The plain fact is that people were afraid to join. It tells you in the thirteenth verse that they dared not to join. This implies fear. Fear keeps you from daring to do something.

Now the rest of the people who didn't belong to this New Testament church did not dare to join it. They were afraid. They were afraid obviously for one reason, because they had just heard a report that two of the apparently faithful members of this church had been struck down dead by the mighty power of God because they played the part of a hypocrite.

Now I believe that if we ever are going to be fit to do the work of God in this world, we have got to have a church which nobody will dare to join. For two reasons: for the sake of the people themselves who are doing the joining, and also in order that we may get the approbation of God himself. You know that the absolute necessity in the church of God is purity. Always in the people of God the absolute necessity is purity. When God sent Joshua into the land to take that land by force of arms, he told Joshua when he went in, “Every place whereon the sole of thy foot shall tread, that have I given unto thee”----past tense----“I have given it to you: it's yours.” And he also said, “There shall no man be able to stand before you all the days of your life.” Now those look like unconditional promises, don't they? God didn't even say, “Every place the sole of your foot shall stand upon, that I will give to you.” He said, “I have given it to you. It's all yours. It's already yours. I have given it to you, and there's not a single man----not all those giants, the sons of the Anakims in the land of Canaan----they can't stand against you. Not all those people with chariots of iron----they can't stand against you. Not all of those people in the cities great and walled up to heaven----they can't stand against you. None of those people in whose eyes you were as grasshoppers, and as grasshoppers also in your own eyes when looking at them----none of those people are going to be able to stand before you. Not a man shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life.” And Joshua went in with that confidence and with those promises, and in the second battle he was defeated----because the sin was inside the camp. And all of God's promises----“Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things”----“Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it”----“And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”----all those promises are conditioned upon having a holy church. If the church is unholy, God himself won't join it. Basically you can bring this down to one question: What kind of a church do you want? A church that the world won't dare to join, or a church that God won't care to join? Because you only have those two choices; there's no other kind of church on earth.

Now when I look around me on the face of the earth today, and in this country which I am familiar with, I have never known of a church which the outsiders would not dare to join. I have never seen or heard of a church which was such that people would not dare to join it. Now that is the solemn proof that New Testament Christianity does not exist in America today. Any of you ever seen or known of such a church, that nobody would dare to join? I never did. But this is the church of the New Testament. The fact of the matter is, most of the churches in our day are laboring to be on the other side of the spectrum----are laboring to be the kind of a church that everyone will want to join. You may see the leaflets that they publish and hand out to the people, which say, “We're the friendly church, we're the church where your family will feel at home.” Anybody ever see any of those leaflets? The message that they're trying to get across to the world is, “We are the kind of church that you will want to join. We offer love, acceptance, forgiveness.” You can see a billboard in this town that says that. Most of the churches are laboring to be the kind of a church that people will want to join. But if you want New Testament Christianity, you ought to get it in your mind that you ought to be the kind of a church that nobody will want to join, and even the kind of church that nobody will so much as dare to join.

Why not? Why will the people of the world not dare to join a New Testament church? Well, you look back at the illustration that I gave you from the Old Testament, of sin in the camp----Achan in the camp. That sin was going to be put away, and Achan and all of his were stoned. Now people will say, “Well, that was under the law, but we're under grace.” All right, you want me to tell you the difference between being under the law and under grace? Under the law, the people themselves had to take up the stones and cast them at those offenders and put them to death. Under grace, God does the work himself. God strikes them dead himself. But God hasn't changed. God's name is Jealous, just as much today as it was when the law was given on the burning mount of Sinai. God is holy, just as much as he was then, and God will not go with a church that is not holy any more today than he would go with Israel's armies when Achan was in the camp with the Babylonian garment and the wedge of gold hidden under the tent. If you want New Testament Christianity, the absolute all-essential thing is the power of the Holy Spirit of God. You can't get the power of the Holy Spirit of God, unless you have a holy church. And if you do have a holy church, you will have a church that the people of the world will not dare to join.

In the first place, you will have a church that they have no desire to join. I believe this with all my heart. I believe that if you take any sinner out of the world----I don't care how clean a sinner he is----and put him into a holy church, the first thing that he would want is to get out of it. And the proof that the churches----most of the churches that you and I are familiar with----do not have the power of God----do not have the Christianity of the New Testament----the proof of that is that unconverted people can continue in those churches for years, and never get converted, and never be uncomfortable there. You take a sinner and put him in heaven, and he wouldn't want to stay there. You take a sinner and put him in heaven, and he'd get out of that place as fast as he could. He can't even bear the light of the life of a real, devoted, earnest Christian down here on earth. He stays as far away from it as he can. What would he do in heaven, with the glorious light of God's holiness shining all around him? He wouldn't want to be there. No more would he want to be in a holy church.

But it is more than just not desiring to join the church. It says the people didn't dare to. They were afraid to. Twice in this chapter it says, “great fear fell upon them.” They were afraid to join. Now what is it that the people are afraid of? First of all, people are afraid of reproach. It tells you in Acts 28, verse 22: the Jews say to Paul, “for as concerning this sect, [that is: the church of God] we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” How many people do you know that want to join a group, whatever that group may be, which is everywhere spoken against? People are afraid of reproach; they want to be well thought of. They want to be esteemed and respected, and they don't want to join a church which is everywhere spoken against. So they stay away.

Well, it goes deeper than reproach----actual hatred. Matthew 10:22 says, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.” People are afraid of being hated of all men. People don't want to join a church which is hated of all men. (By the way, it says this, I think, four times in the New Testament: “Ye shall be hated of all men,” or “hated of all nations.”) People don't want to join a church where they will be hated of all men. The fact of the matter is, a good share of the people who go off and join some liberal church do it for the sake of prestige. They do it for the sake of being accepted and well thought of by all men. Now if you set up a church over in this corner of town where everyone knows that we are hated of all men, who's going to come flocking to our doors to join it? They won't dare to join.

But it goes deeper than reproach and hatred----persecution. II Timothy 3:12 says, “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” If we don't suffer persecution, there's something wrong. Something wrong with our Christianity. If you want New Testament Christianity, you want the kind of Christianity that brings persecution upon you. Now who wants to be persecuted? You know, a little idea just struck me. Maybe some day----I don't think we can do it now, because I don't think we have New Testament Christianity here in this congregation any more than other churches have it, though I believe we're aiming at it, and I believe we're on the right track to get it----maybe some day we ought to print up a little leaflet, and say, “Join us. This is what we have to offer: the reproach of Christ, to be hated of all men for his name's sake, and to suffer persecution.” And as a little leaflet that I read the other night said, “We have all these good, friendly, pleasant things to offer you; come and try us out. Come and see.” We could publish a little leaflet that says, “Come with us, and we'll offer you this: To be hated of all men for Christ's sake, and to suffer persecution for Christ's sake. To suffer affliction and reproach, hunger, nakedness, peril, sword. Be counted as sheep for the slaughter, killed all the day long.” And then we could put at the bottom, at the end of this little sales pitch: “If you don't believe it, come and see. Come and see if we aren't hated of all men. Come and see if we aren't the sect everywhere spoken against. Come and see if we aren't sheep counted for the slaughter. And then come and join.” But you wouldn't have too many people joining............or would you? Maybe you would after all. We'll take that up later.

But it wasn't only the things that came upon them from the outside that caused the people to be afraid of real Christianity, and afraid to join it. Not only that hatred, that reproach, that persecution, that comes upon them from the ungodly world, but the holiness of God manifested is what they feared. You can't join that church and be a hypocrite.

You know, one of the things that the whole world is talking about nowadays is the hypocrites in the church. There wasn't anybody talking about the hypocrites in the church in the fifth chapter of the book of Acts. There weren't any hypocrites in the church. If there were, the power of God simply fell from heaven and destroyed them. And they wound them up and carried them out and buried them. Do you want God to do that to the hypocrites in the church today? Do you want God to do that here in this church? I hope we don't have any hypocrites here. But I want such a church as that we can't have any. I want such a church as that a hypocrite would not dare to join, and if he did, God himself would put him out. I want to see a church which an unsaved person cannot join----in the first place, because he's afraid to and won't dare to, and in the second place, because if some way he managed to get in, God himself would purge him out. We need a church that is hated of all men, reproached by all men, and suffering persecution, so that the world would be afraid to join it.

But there's one other thing that the world is afraid of. They're not only afraid of the results of holiness. In other words, they're not only afraid of the reproach and the persecution that holiness brings upon itself. They are afraid of holiness itself. Now that is the very truth: the world is afraid of holiness. I believe there have been some holy churches in history, some churches that did suffer persecution for Christ's sake, some churches that were hated of all men----that were the sect everywhere spoken against. And one of those churches was the early Methodist church. They were hated by all men, reproached, persecuted, and people were afraid to join them----not merely because of the reproach and the persecution, but because of the holiness itself. The world doesn't want it. I have a book by Hester Ann Rogers. It's a story of her life. She talks about this. She belonged to the Church of England

----was bitterly prejudiced against the Methodists, just like everybody else was----regarded them as fanatics or worse, but she was under conviction of sin. Under deep conviction of sin, and she didn't know how to get any relief, and she didn't get any relief in the old, cold, dead church that she was going to, and she continued under deep conviction of sin, but didn't know how to get saved----didn't know what to do with her sins. One time an acquaintance of hers persuaded her to go hear the Methodists. She was filled with bitter prejudice against them. She didn't want anybody to know that she was going to hear the Methodists, so she went at five o'clock in the morning (and they always had meetings at five o'clock in the morning). She went secretly at five o'clock in the morning, and the preacher preached, and what he preached went home to her heart, and she felt it. She felt the power of it. She felt the power of the Spirit of God in that meeting, and she came to a clear conviction in her own mind, “These people are the people of God, and they show in truth the way of salvation.” She said, “Now a new difficulty arose, because I knew that if I persisted even in hearing the Methodists----to say nothing of joining them----if I persisted in so much as hearing the Methodists, I must literally give up all.” If I become identified with the Methodists, even as a hearer, it will mean literally giving up all. My reputation will be gone. My friends will be gone. My position will be gone. Maybe my possessions will be gone. Maybe they'll come to my house and tear down my house like they have the houses of so many other Methodists. Maybe they'll carry my goods out into the street and set fire to them, or carry them home if they want them. Maybe they'll beat me bloody and leave me lying in a ditch. Maybe it'll cost me my life. But to become a Methodist will literally cost me all. Therefore people don't dare to join the Methodists, or to join any church that has real New Testament Christianity, because it costs them everything they've got.

Now there is no Christianity if it doesn't cost you everything you've got. Christ's words are so plain on this that I don't know how the whole church can read the Bible and mistake it. He says “if you want treasure in heaven, sell what you have and give to the poor. Sell all, and come and follow me.” He says, “if you want to be my disciple, deny yourself, take up the cross. If you want to be my disciple, hate father and mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters, and your own life also. If you want to be my disciple, you must forsake all that you have. Forsake houses and lands, father and mother, brethren and sisters. Take up your cross and die.” Real Christianity does cost you everything you've got, and if the kind you've got doesn't cost you everything you've got, it isn't real Christianity. My point here, though, is: Who wants to join such a group? Who wants to join a church which they know will cost them everything they've got in the world? If people have to look at us, and point the finger at us and say, “If I join with them, I know that it will mean literally giving up everything I possess----my reputation, my friends, my relatives, my family, my possessions, my position, maybe my life----I have to give it up”----they would say, “I don't dare to join.” Unless. Unless you've got a person like Hester Ann Rogers was, who was so borne down with conviction from the Holy Spirit of God----and not only conviction of her sins, but also the conviction, “These are the people of God; they're teaching me the true way of salvation. Yes, it is going to cost me everything I've got in this world to join this despised, hated, persecuted people----but if I don't join them, it's going to cost me my soul.”

Now in Acts 5:13 it says, “of the rest durst no man join himself to them.” But the people magnified them from a distance. But verse 14 presents a strange enigma. It says, “and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” Now isn't it strange that when the modern church labors to become acceptable to the world, and labors to become a church that offers love, and acceptance, forgiveness, and friendliness, and all the pleasant things that you're looking for, and a church where everybody can come and feel at home, they don't have multitudes added to them? But here's a church that nobody dared to join, and everybody was afraid to go near, and yet multitudes were joining it. How did that happen?----or is that a plain contradiction? How can you have a church that nobody will dare to join, and multitudes of men and women joining it? Well, you get a church that no ungodly person will dare to join, and God will join that church. And God will pour out his Spirit, and he'll begin to send forth conviction, and pour out such conviction of sin that people will be left with just this plain alternative: I either join that church and lose everything I've got in the world, or I stay outside and lose my soul forever. And when that's the question, some of those who did not dare to join suddenly do dare to join. And they're not false converts, either. You don't have multitudes joining the churches today, but of those whom you do have joining, multitudes are false converts. They never had a plain issue. They never had to count the cost. They never had a plain issue of joining a people who were despised and rejected of men----a people who were persecuted for Christ's sake, and who bore the reproach of Christ, and who were living in poverty----who were counted as sheep for the slaughter----who were living in peril, nakedness, sword, and all of the things that come upon the people of faith in all ages. Never had to look at a people like that, and say, “I will join though it cost me all things.” All they have to join is a church that offers love, and acceptance, and forgiveness, and friendliness, and good times, and picnics, and ball games, and----heaven at the end. And so you get multitudes of false converts joining the churches, and the more false converts you get joining the churches, the farther away God moves. God would not go forth with Israel's armies, in spite of his solemn oath and promise to Joshua that he had given him the land----every piece of it whereon the sole of his foot should tread----and that no man would be able to stand before him all the days of his life. In spite of God's solemn promise to Joshua, when there was one unholy man in the camp, God simply said, “I will not go forth with your armies any more.” Now what is God going to do when you've only got a few real, solid, devoted saints in the church, and the church is filled up with unconverted, false converts? If you don't have a church that the people won't dare to join, you can't even do the work of God. You can't even present the right issue to the people that you are trying to evangelize. You could preach to them and say, “You have to forsake all that you have in order to be Christ's disciple.” And they can turn around and look at your church and say, “Well why didn't you, then?” And they can see plainly enough, “I can join your church without forsaking all that I have.” What good is it for you to preach?

Now, I believe we need such a church. We can talk about a revival of New Testament Christianity, but until we have a church that people won't dare to join, we don't have it. We don't have New Testament Christianity. Now I thank God we do have a little bit of it here. I know that there's a lot of people that really are afraid of us----they're afraid to come here. Not enough people, though. And not afraid enough, probably. But we want a church that people would not dare to come near. We want a people, as though we had a sign over the door that said, “Occupants have AIDS; occupants have the plague; beware; stay away; don't come near.” And you can be sure that all the ungodly who are not under powerful conviction from the Spirit of God----all the ungodly will stay away, until they are brought by the conviction of the Holy Spirit to the point where they are willing to make an absolute, unconditional surrender to God.

I have read the life of David Baron, who was a Jew, and he of course was raised, as almost all Jews are, to hate the name of Christ. Christ is “the imposter.” You use the words “the imposter” to a Jew, and he knows you're talking about Christ. He was raised to hate the name of Christ. But he found no rest for his sin-burdened soul in all the rites of Judaism. There was no day of atonement. There was no blood on the altar. And he spent a long period----I don't remember how long it was; I think three years, perhaps----under conviction of sin. Now these people are even forbidden to read the New Testament, but that weight of sin was upon him, and he couldn't find anything to get rid of that weight of sin that was upon him, and in desperation he began to read the New Testament. And he read it for a year, and little by little his prejudice began to break down, so that he didn't anymore hate the name of Christ----he admired his character, and so forth. But still, he could never bring himself to receive Christ as the Messiah. But his burden of sin got heavier and heavier, and he was crying to God day after day to “take away this awful load of sin off of my back.” And God didn't hear him, and God didn't answer him. One day in absolute desperation he got down on his knees, and he said, “God, take away this awful load of sin, for Christ's sake.” And the load was gone.

Now that's the kind of thing that makes real converts----when a person gets a load of sin on his back, and he can't get rid of it. And he gets desperate, and begins to pray to God and say, “I'll do anything to get rid of this load of sin,” and God says to him, “Go join that sect everywhere spoken against. Go join that despised, rejected people, who are killed all the day long and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Go join that people who are hated of all men, who teach in truth the way of salvation.” And he's likely to say, “God, anything but that. I'll climb Mt. Everest on my knees. I'll do anything, but don't tell me to do that.” So God lays his hand heavier upon him, until the person comes to the point of absolute desperation, where he will get down in absolute surrender and submission to God, unconditional surrender, and say, “God, I'll do anything to be forgiven of my sins. I'll even join that people that are hated of all men.” Now when that happens, you get a real convert. You get somebody that's really converted from sin to righteousness----somebody that's really converted from the power of Satan to God. Not half-converted or almost-converted like most of the converts that join most of the churches nowadays. Then he will join. He will walk boldly into that place even though it says on the door, “Occupants have the plague: beware.” And he will join-----gladly join----that people that no one else will dare to join.

Now this is what you have here in the fourteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the book of Acts, “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” In other words, the Spirit of God was at work with such power that there were multitudes being brought to that place of unconditional surrender----multitudes being brought to the place where they say, “God take away this load of sin, and I'll even go join that people that nobody will dare to join”----and multitudes came and joined. Now you want a revival of New Testament Christianity----that's what you want. The only thing you can do with a church that the world can join and be comfortable in it is make a lot of false converts----maybe a real one here and there----but you'll have a hard time converting God to that church. God is standing outside the door, knocking, and saying, “I counsel you, buy of me gold tried in the fire, buy eye salve and anoint your eyes that ye may see. Come to me and get the real thing, and then I'll come inside.” It's an awfully sad state of things when you have the world inside the church, and the Lord outside of it. If you want a revival of New Testament Christianity, you want a church that's got the power of God at work so that multitudes are added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women----but in order to get that, you've got to be in a church that nobody will dare to join. Hated of all men; persecuted; despised and rejected.

You see, there are multitudes of Christians all over this land who are talking about revival and praying for revival. And I believe they're sincere, too. The problem is, where do you find anybody that's willing to pay the price to get revival? Everybody wants this fourteenth verse----everybody wants multitudes joining the church, but nobody wants to be the church that nobody dares to join. Well, may I suggest to you that verse thirteen comes before verse fourteen? If you want to be the church that multitudes are joining----added to the Lord, by the way, not just to the church----then you've got to be the church that's everywhere spoken against. I just want to keep that before your mind. How to get there is another question. I believe just a little faithfulness to the word of God will get you there. Be faithful to the word of God, and be diligent and earnest and zealous in that faithfulness, and you will become the church that no one will dare to join. And then multitudes will begin to join you, but they'll get all the way off the side of the world, and all the way on to God's side, and come to the point of unconditional surrender when they do join you. You won't have to worry about filling the church up with false converts. You'll have the real thing, and I want it.

Let's pray. God, we ask that you yourself will be at work. Oh, Father, that you will purge unfaithfulness out of us----that you will purge laziness out of us----that you will purge a man-pleasing spirit out of us, and just make us willing to be the church everywhere spoken against that no one will dare to join; and teach us, Father, what we yet lack, in order that we might be faithful to the whole word of God, and that we might become the church that really exhibits New Testament Christianity. Amen.


J. N. Darby on the Person of Christ

Our precious Saviour was Man, as truly as I am, as regards the simple abstract idea of humanity, but without sin, miraculously born by divine power; and more than this, He was God manifest in flesh.

Now, having said so much, I entreat you with all my heart not to try to define and to discuss the Person of our precious Saviour; you will lose the savour of Christ in your thoughts, and you will get in its place only the barrenness of the human mind in the things of Christ, and in the affections which belong to them. I have begged the brethren to refrain from this, and they are all the better for it. It is a labyrinth for man, because he works from his own resources. It is as if one were to dissect the body of one's friend, instead of delighting in his affections and his character. In the church, it is one of the worst signs I have met with. It is very sad to get into this way, very sad that this should be shewn in such a light before the church of God, and before the world. I would add, that so deep is my conviction of man's incapacity in this matter, and that it is outside the teaching of the Spirit to wish to define the manner of the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus, that I am quite ready to suppose that even while desiring to avoid it, I may have fallen into it, and thus may have spoken in a mistaken way in something which I have said to you.

That He was truly Man, Son of man, dependent on God as such, and without sin in that condition of dependence----truly God in all His ineffable perfection: this I hold, I trust, dearer than life. To define everything is what I do not presume to do.
----Letters of J.N.D., Stow Hill Bible and Tract Depot, n.d., vol. l, pg. 282.

N.B. The Church of God would do well to cultivate the spirit of love and of reverence for Christ which is manifest in the above words of Darby. Such a spirit would, I believe, have kept the modern Church from ever entering upon some of the controversies of our day. When men presume to define, in cold intellectuality, what the Bible never pretends to define, on the manner of the efficacy of “the precious blood of Christ,” the controversy seems very nearly profane to those who sense the preciousness of that blood. Rather than defining and disputing beyond what is written on such a subject, let the pride of man keep still, and rather say, “This is holy ground: let us put off our shoes.” ----editor.

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