by Glenn Conjurske
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one
morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when
he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no
place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. (Heb.
Esau is here called a profane person
----not profane in the modern sense
of the word, as a user of profane language ----but a secular person, a
person with a purely secular point of view. This is evident in the profane
act to which this scripture refers: he for one morsel of meat sold his
birthright. He bartered away the future for the sake of the present
moment. He bartered away the spiritual for the mundane. He attached little
value to the spiritual, to the eternal, to the inheritance, to the blessing.
Esau despised his birthright, Moses tells us (Gen. 25:34). To despise
anything is to esteem it lightly, to attach no proper value to it. One
morsel of meat was more to him than the birthright and all the blessing
Esau was, as Delitzsch says, so profane..., so low-minded, so utterly
lost to a sense of higher things, that for one poor dish he gave up or
sold...the rights of the first-born to a double portion of the inheritance
of his father (Deut. xxi.17), and what to the mind of faith was the most
precious privilege of all, the continuation of that patriarchal line in
which were enshrined the promises. For the inheritance and pastoral wealth
of his father he cared not, being wildly devoted to the chase, and still
less for the promise made to Abraham and Isaac, having no eye or heart
but for the immediate present. His viewpoint was earthly, temporal,
mundane, with no eye (because no heart) for the spiritual and eternal.
The same is seen in the parable of the great supper (Luke 14:16ff.), in
the men who despised the gospel feast, caring only for the things of this
----the piece of ground, the wife, and the five yoke of oxen. The
same is seen in the contemporaries of Noah (Luke 17:26-27), who were given
up to eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, all unconcerned
about the judgement of God which hung heavy over their heads. The same
is seen in the men of Sodom (Luke 17:28), who were wholly taken up with
eating and drinking, buying and selling, building and planting, and cared
nothing about the judgement which was about to overtake them. The same
is seen in the rich fool (Luke 12:16ff.), who had much goods laid up for
many years on this earth, but had nothing provided for the vast eternity
into which his naked soul was about to enter. All these are profane
persons, as Esau was.
We see the opposite of this in the men of faith of all ages, whose eye
was always fixed upon the future blessing
----the things hoped for ----the
things not seen ----the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that
fadeth not away ----the city which hath foundations, whose builder and
maker is God ----the better country ----the recompense of the reward ----and
who lived in accordance with those hopes. Their course has always been
therefore just the opposite of Esau's. As profane persons lightly esteem
the spiritual and the eternal, men of faith lightly esteem the temporal
and the mundane. As profane persons give up the future good in order to
secure the present, men of faith give up the present good in order to
secure the future. Abraham gave up his country and his kindred in order
to secure the promised blessing. (Gen. 12:1; Heb.11:8). Moses gave up
the pleasures and treasures of Egypt in order to secure the recompense
of the reward. (Heb. 11:25-26). Paul suffered the loss of all things,
and counted them but dung, that he might win Christ. (Phil. 3:8). Others
were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better
resurrection. (Heb. 11:35). This is the invariable way of faith, and
those who know nothing of this, but hold to and pursue after the present
gain and good, and are not rich toward God, are in reality as profane
as Esau, whatever faith they may profess.
Esau was utterly devoid of that faith which sets a proper value upon the
future inheritance, and which therefore seeks first the kingdom of God.
All his thoughts were for the present, and he bartered away the inheritance
for the gratification of the present moment. He had none of that faith
which, while it seeks first the kingdom of God, expects that God will
add to it the necessities of the present moment. All his course was dictated
by unbelief. By faith we look not at the things which are seen, but
at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal,
but the things which are not seen are eternal. (II Cor. 4:18). Esau
had none of this, but regarded only the present, and, after the usual
way of unbelief, magnified the present difficulty
----for we can hardly
suppose he was actually at the point to die, as he claimed (Gen. 25:32).
If he had strength enough to come in from the field, he was not likely
to die when he arrived. His whole viewpoint, and all of his actions, were
the opposite of the way of faith. Paul, too, had difficulties. We were
pressed, he says, out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we
despaired even of life. (II Cor. 1:8). Yet Paul had faith, and his reckoning
was just the reverse of Esau's. He minimized the present trouble, calling
it, our light affliction, which is but for a moment. (II Cor. 4:17).
Here, then is the difference between a profane person, who lives in the
realm of unbelief, and a holy man, who reckons and walks by faith. The
profane despise the eternal verities, attaching but little weight to either
the promised blessings or the threatened judgements of God. Their thoughts
are engrossed with things temporal and earthly, and in those they live
and move and have their being. They eat and drink, buy and sell, and build
and plant, and care no more for the fire and brimstone which is about
to fall from heaven than they do for heaven itself. All of this is exactly
reversed in the men of faith. Their faith gives substance to the unseen
things which are so lightly esteemed by the profane. They live and move
and have their being in those unseen and eternal realities. Their whole
course is determined with reference to them. They despise both the good
and the evil of this present life, in just the same sense in which the
profane despise the things of the life to come. They are not controlled
by them. Their course is not determined by them. At the call of better
and higher things, they forsake all that pertains to this life. Yea,
at the call of those eternal realities they can suffer the loss of all
things, and count them but dung, take joyfully the spoiling of their goods,
and love not their lives unto death. They neither pursue the goods of
this world, nor shun the cross of Christ. They follow Christ, who emptied
himself, made himself poor, and for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, despising the shame.
But when the Son of man cometh, will he find faith on the earth? The
world is one vast assemblage of Esaus, and what is worse, most of the
churches are filled with them also, though they are not likely to suppose
themselves to be profane persons as Esau was. Esau made a conscious and
deliberate choice to barter the future inheritance for the necessities
of the present moment. Most profane persons never make such a conscious
choice, though there can be but little doubt as to which side their choice
would be on if they were forced to a decision. It is evident enough which
side their heart is on, from the choices which they make every day of
their lives. They profess to value the eternal inheritance (and no man
who has any sense of God at all can totally despise it), but their lives
give the lie to their lips. See how they spend their time. See how they
spend their money. See how they spend their energies. See what things
engross their thoughts and plans and studies. See how much they play,
and how little they pray. See how they lay up treasures on the earth.
See how quickly they will compromise to avoid the reproach of Christ.
See how they shrink from the offence of the cross. See how they nurse
and pamper and paint and adorn the perishing body, while they scarcely
deign to feed the immortal soul. See how they let the opportunities for
eternity slip away from them, while they grasp with unerring hand the
opportunities for time.
'Tis true, they have never made a conscious decision to relinquish the
eternal blessing for the mess of pottage, but neither have they ever made
the contrary choice. There is nothing in them of the Abraham, who gave
up country and kindred to secure the promised blessing. There is nothing
in them of the Moses, who gave up the pleasures and treasures of Egypt
for the reproach of Christ and the afflictions of his people, in order
that he might secure the recompense of the reward. There is nothing in
them of the Noah, who toiled for one hundred and twenty years amidst the
reproaches of the world in order to secure the salvation of God. There
is nothing in them of the Paul, who suffered the loss of all things and
counted them but dung, that he might win Christ. They profess indeed to
value the birthright, but the life which they live every day indicates
only too plainly that they attach more value to the mess of pottage. The
fact is, they really expect to possess both
----the mess of pottage here
and now, and the blessings of the birthright hereafter. Supposing themselves
to have faith, they have never made those choices which faith invariably
makes, nor lived the life which men of faith have always lived. They have
never seriously reckoned with the solemn pronouncement of the Son of God,
But woe unto you that are rich! for YE HAVE RECEIVED YOUR CONSOLATION.
Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh
now! for ye shall mourn and weep. (Luke 6:24-25). They have never seriously
reckoned with the solemn words which Abraham spoke from Paradise, Son,
remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise
Lazarus evil: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (Luke
But in all of this they are in reality nothing different from Esau, for
though he deliberately sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, yet
when the time came to receive the blessing, he expected to receive that
also. He did not utterly despise the blessing; he only despised it comparatively.
And so when he heard that his brother had received the blessing, he
cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father,
Bless me, even me also, O my father. (Gen. 27:34). But God held him
to the choice which he had made. He found no place of repentance, though
he sought it carefully with tears. He found, too late, that he could
not barter away the blessing and possess it too. And so every man will
find who lives his life in actual and practical disregard (whatever he
may profess) of the eternal verities, while the perishing things of the
present life engross his thoughts and plans and energies. He is a profane
person, as Esau, who every day of his life barters the enduring substance
of eternity for the perishing things of time, and in the end he will find
that God will hold him to the choices which he has made.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
What Manner of Time
by Glenn Conjurske
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched
diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching
what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did
signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the
glory that should follow. (I Peter 1:10-11).
It is plain from this scripture that the Old Testament prophets did not
understand everything in their own prophecies. It was the Spirit of
Christ which was in them that spoke, and not merely themselves. Therefore
they searched diligently into their own writings. The one thing in
particular into which they thus searched was the matter of time. The prophecies
left them ignorant of this.
The prophecies spoke of the sufferings of Christ as well as of the
glory that should follow
----but as to the time of these things, the
very prophets who wrote them were puzzled. They were puzzled not only
concerning what time, but even concerning what manner of time. That Messiah
would suffer was plainly foretold, as it was also that he would reign
in glory, but both are sometimes mixed together in the same prophecy,
thus presenting this enigma concerning what or what manner of time.
Many of the Jews sought to solve the enigma by believing in two Messiahs.
David Baron, a converted Jew, writes, Most Talmudic Jews believe in
two Messiahs; Messiah Ben Joseph, who shall be killed, and Messiah Ben
David, who shall reign. A little deeper thought might have led them
to the realization that both Joseph and David passed through both the
sufferings and the glory, and in this they were both types of the one
and only Messiah.
The true solution to the enigma, of course, is not in two Messiahs, but
in two comings of the one and only Messiah. Yet those two comings were
not clearly distinguished in Old Testament prophecy. The two events were
sometimes seen together as though they were but one, like two mountain
peaks viewed from a distance
----the one appearing to touch the other.
But when we view them near at hand, it then appears that a great valley
lies between them.
The first obvious example of this is in the first Messianic prophecy in
the Bible, in Genesis 3:15. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt
bruise his heel. Here are plain prophecies of both the first and second
advents of Christ, with nothing whatever to distinguish them. Satan bruised
the heel of Christ at his first advent. Christ will bruise the head of
Satan at his second advent. If the bruising of Christ's heel is properly
applied to his death, the bruising of Satan's head must certainly apply
to his complete destruction. That bruising is well described by John Gill
thus: that is, destroy him and all his principalities and powers, break
and confound all his schemes, and ruin all his works, crush his whole
empire, strip him of his authority and sovereignty, and particularly of
his power over death, and his tyranny over the bodies and souls of men,
yet Gill is blind enough to refer all of this to the first coming of Christ,
saying, all which was done by Christ, when he became incarnate and suffered
and died. Yet Paul says, in an obvious reference to this prophecy, And
the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. (Rom. 16:20).
This is not yet done. It will be done at the second coming of Christ,
when he will come with ten thousands of his saints (Jude 14), when
the saints shall judge angels (I Cor. 6:3). The prophecy in Genesis
3:15 looks at both advents of Christ, without a hint to distinguish them,
and even places the second advent before the first.
Another clear example of the same thing will be found in Isaiah 61:1-2.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed
me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the
brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of
the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of
the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God. In Luke 4:18-21 the Lord
read this scripture in the synagogue, and said, This day is this scripture
fulfilled in your ears. But he did not read it all. He stopped short
before the day of vengeance of our God, and closed the book. The acceptable
year of the Lord had reference to the first coming of Christ, the day
of vengeance of our God to his second coming. Yet in the Old Testament
prophecy the two are run together without a hint that they were to be
separated by a vast period of time.
In addition to these prophecies which view both of his advents together,
there are also numerous passages which speak of one or the other of them,
all without a word to indicate which coming is spoken of, or even to indicate
that there would be more than one. Observe, then, the following indisputable
facts concerning the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of Christ:
The Old Testament prophesies the coming of Christ, but never spells out
the fact that he would come twice. It did prophesy of both comings, but
without distinguishing them, sometimes mingling them both together as
though they were but one indivisible event. But though these two advents
were not explicitly distinguished, yet there was enough said of them that
men might have distinguished them, and apparently ought to have done so,
for the Lord reproves the disciples on the road to Emmaus for being slow
of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken (Luke 24:25),
and this with reference to the very two things which puzzled the prophets
of old, the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Ought not Christ
----or, as we may legitimately translate it, Was
it not necessary for Christ to suffer, and to enter into his glory?
(Luke 24:26). There was enough said in the Old Testament to necessitate
the belief in those sufferings and in that glory, and therefore there
was enough said to necessitate the conclusion that the Messiah would come
twice ----once to suffer and die, once to conquer and reign ----once in
humiliation and weakness, once in power and glory. Yet the fact is, so
far as we are aware, no one ever did draw that necessary conclusion. No
one ever did make that distinction ----though some approached it, in their
expectation of two Messiahs. The prophets who wrote the prophecies never
understood it. Alas, many Christians in the present day still remain in
the same ignorance, as slow of heart now to believe the prophecies of
Christ's glory as the disciples then were to believe those of his sufferings.
Such continue to apply all, or almost all, of the Old Testament prophecies
to the first coming of Christ, though in order to do so they must completely
empty many of them of their obvious import, making them to mean something
altogether other than what they say.
When we turn to the New Testament prophecies of Christ's coming, we find
a state of things exactly similar. The coming again of Christ is spoken
of in generic terms, in such a way as that we might very well suppose
it to be one indivisible event. But when all that is said is examined
with due care, we are forced to the conclusion that the second coming
of Christ is not one indivisible event
----no more than his advent prophesied
in the Old Testament was one indivisible event. His coming again to receive
his saints to himself and take them to that place which he has gone to
prepare for them in heaven, and his coming to execute judgement on the
ungodly and establish the kingdom of God on earth, are two events as dissimilar
as his coming to suffer and to die, and his coming to judge and to reign,
which were prophesied in the Old Testament. The fact that the New Testament
may fail to explicitly distinguish these two events, or may seem to speak
of them both as though they were but one, is nothing to the purpose ----for
the same thing exactly is indisputably true of the Old Testament prophecies
of his first coming.
But further, neither is it anything to the purpose to be told that for
eighteen centuries no one in the church saw these two distinct events,
for we know as a certain matter of fact that the Old Testament spoke of
two distinct comings of Christ, and yet no one ever saw it at all, during
the whole time that the Old Testament economy was in force. They struggled
with the difficulties which the prophecies of Messiah's sufferings and
Messiah's glory presented to them, but they never found the answer to
those difficulties, simple as that answer was.
One reason for the failure of the Old Testament saints to see these things
lay in the cryptic, the obscure, the non-explicit nature of the prophecies
themselves. It was a matter of great enough difficulty to them even to
know which particular prophecies referred to the Messiah at all. That
has remained in some cases a difficulty even to the saints of the present
dispensation, but it must have been a thousandfold more so then.
But there is another reason that many of the Jews failed to see the two
comings of Christ in the Old Testament. That reason is found in the reproof
which the Lord administered to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
They were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken.
They looked (and rightly) for a conquering and reigning Messiah, but were
slow of heart to believe in a rejected and suffering Messiah. He
Lord of hosts ----shall be for a sanctuary: but for a stone of stumbling
and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel. (Is. 8:14).
Peter tells us that this stone of stumbling and rock of offence is the
stone which the builders disallowed (I Pet. 2:7-8), that is, a rejected
Christ. Paul tells us that Christ crucified is unto the Jews a stumblingblock.
(I Cor. 1:23). In other words, the stone of stumbling and rock of offence
was their own Messiah, fulfilling their own Scriptures. Peter nearly stumbled
over this stone of stumbling, refusing the explicit statement, concerning
his rejection and suffering, of him whom he already acknowledged as the
Messiah, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord. (Matt. 16:21-22). John
the Baptist nearly fell over this rock of offence, and received the mild
reproof from the Lord, Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended
in me. (Matt. 11:6).
It is no wonder, then, that the Jews never saw the two advents of Christ
in the Old Testament prophecies, when they were so slow of heart to
believe all that the prophets had spoken concerning the most salient
feature of his first coming. Turning to the present dispensation, we meet
with just the same state of things. We are asked with an air of triumph,
If the New Testament speaks of two distinct comings of Christ, why did
the saints never see this for eighteen centuries? We ask in return, If
the Old Testament speaks of two distinct advents of Christ, why did the
Old Testament saints never see this at all? But we proceed to answer the
question put to us:
Part of the answer undoubtedly lies in the non-explicit nature of Scripture
in general, and of these prophecies in particular
----the same in the New
Testament as in the Old Testament. This is sufficient in itself to account
for the apparent ignorance of the early fathers of the church on the subject ----every
bit as sufficient as the non-explicit nature of the Old Testament prophecies
is to account for the ignorance which prevailed in that dispensation.
The early fathers of the church might have seen these things, but seemingly
did not. Little wonder, this, for the church in those days was so often
distracted with severe persecutions that there was but little leisure
for quiet study. When those persecutions ceased, the church quickly sank
into such a state that it could not see the distinction between the rapture
of the church and the manifestation of Christ to the world. The hope of
Christ's coming was soon lost. The church settled down into a secularized
spiritual kingdom which was of this world, and ceased to pray thy
kingdom come. And much worse, men rose to the leadership of the church
who believed equally in the divine inspiration of heathen philosophy and
the Scriptures of God. They set themselves to reconcile the two. The result
was the same as it usually is when men seek to reconcile falsehood with
the Scriptures. The falsehood was maintained, and the Scriptures practically
given up. The heathen philosophy was allowed to stand at face value, while
the Scriptures were subjected to a spiritual interpretation which
made them mean anything but what they said. A millennium of darkness followed,
rightly called the dark ages. The Reformation recoiled from this spiritual
interpretation in general, but retained it in the field of prophecy. Thus
Protestantism came into existence blindfolded on prophetic themes, and
existed for three centuries almost completely destitute of the light which
is necessary to be able to see the distinction between the rapture of
the church to heaven and the establishment of the kingdom on earth. That
kingdom itself was spiritualized. The antichrist was spiritualized. Daniel's
seventieth week was spiritualized. In many cases even the return of Christ
was spiritualized, and made to be a spiritual coming, at conversion,
at death, at the destruction of Jerusalem, or in some event of providence.
Now the plain fact is, when men were walking in such a mist of darkness
on all of the most elementary points of prophecy, it was a simple impossibility
for them to see the finer points. When they did not believe in a literal
tribulation, how could they believe in a rapture of the saints before
it? If they could not see the distinction between Israel and the church,
how could they see that the church would be raptured, while Israel was
required to face the time of Jacob's trouble?
And this is an all-sufficient answer to the question, If the pretribulation
rapture of the church is taught in Scripture, why did no one see it for
eighteen centuries? The fact that no one taught the doctrine before 1830
is just what all the facts which we know would lead us to expect, and
it is really irrelevant. The fact that the early fathers of the church
apparently did not see this is no more surprising than the fact that the
whole Jewish people remained ignorant of the two advents of Christ which
almost all post-tribulationists acknowledge are taught in the Old Testament.
But we must go further. Suppose, as post-tribulationists contend, that
the apostles themselves were ignorant of the pretribulational rapture
of the church. I don't believe that Paul was ignorant of it. Peter, perhaps.
The Old Testament did speak of two advents of Christ, but not of three,
for this doctrine of the rapture is among those mysteries which concern
the church alone, which were not revealed in the Old Testament, and which
were revealed to the church primarily through Paul. Peter evidently did
not know everything which Paul knew, for he speaks of things hard to be
understood in Paul's epistles. As for John, I don't know how he could
have been ignorant of it, at least not after he received the Apocalypse.
But suppose the apostles were all ignorant of it. What of it? We know
that the Old Testament prophets, the very men who wrote the prophecies
of the two advents of Christ, were ignorant of the distinction between
them. But the fact remains that they did ignorantly write of those two
comings, and what they wrote in those prophecies does in fact necessitate
the distinction of which they themselves were ignorant. And if the apostles
themselves (or some of them) were ignorant of the distinction between
Christ's coming for the church and his coming to judge the world, that
cannot change the fact that what they wrote necessitates that distinction.
Post-tribulationists may argue with great strength that the coming of
Christ for his church and his coming to judge the world are nowhere explicitly
distinguished in the New Testament. I grant that they are not, but I argue
in turn that the two comings of Christ which are confessedly foretold
in the Old Testament are nowhere explicitly distinguished there. What
manner of time was the grand difficulty into which the prophets themselves
searched. In this matter there is not one whit of difference between Old
Testament prophecy and New Testament prophecy, and it is certainly unfair
for post-tribulationists to pose as an insuperable difficulty in the New
Testament that which they cannot but acknowledge to be a fact in the Old
Testament. Moreover, I insist further that this is fully consistent with
the normal way of Scripture. It is the normal way of Scripture to decline
to spell out explicitly those things which are nevertheless surely to
be believed among us. It reveals enough to us to lead us to those things
as the proper and necessary conclusions from what Scripture says, but
the things themselves are not explicitly revealed. Between the things
which the Scriptures say and the conclusions which are to be legitimately
drawn from those things, there may lie a long and laborious process of
reasoning, a diligent searching into the difficulties presented to
us by the facts and statements of Scripture. This, Peter informs us, the
prophets of the Old Testament did. This Darby did also, and was led by
what the Scriptures say to the true solution of the difficulty, the divinely
intended conclusion of the matter. Before Darby's day there had been but
little searching into these matters. The whole prophetic scheme had
been so vitiated by unbelief and allegorical interpretation that men were
unable to understand or ask the proper questions, and so were totally
incapable of finding the answers. When men began to take prophecy at face
value and believe it, new difficulties arose, which never could have been
felt by those who spiritualized away the plain revelations of the prophetic
Scriptures. Feeling those difficulties, they began to search into what
or what manner of time the Spirit did signify, when it spoke of the
coming of Christ to take his saints to the place prepared for them in
heaven, and the coming of Christ to judge the world and establish his
kingdom on earth. Thus searching, they were led unerringly to the
distinction which pretribulationists hold today.
It is not my purpose in this article to detail all of the things in the
prophetic writings which necessitate that distinction, though there are
many such things. I just touch upon a few points. Jude says, Behold,
the Lord cometh, with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgement
upon all. Now if the Lord comes with his saints, this indicates that
he has previously come for them, and taken them up to himself. But further,
and of much more weight, if he executes judgement upon all at his coming
which consists of sudden destruction,...and they shall not escape ----and
if this coming is supposed to be the same coming as that in which his
saints are caught up to him ----the establishment of his kingdom on the
earth is then precluded as an impossibility. We then see all of the godly
caught up and glorified, and at the same time all of the ungodly judged
and destroyed, and who is left to inherit the kingdom? Not one soul. These
facts alone absolutely necessitate the distinction for which we contend.
The fact that the Jewish economy obtains during the seventieth week of
Daniel points to the same thing. The crowned elders in heaven before the
first seal is opened in the Book of Revelation require the same conclusion ----for
none receive their crowns until he comes who says, Behold, I come quickly,
and my reward is with me. (Rev. 22:12). Other facts could be mentioned,
but these will suffice to indicate that however new the pretribulational
doctrines may be, they are not based upon cunningly devised fables, but
are conclusions drawn upon solid and substantial evidence ----evidence,
indeed, which requires those conclusions.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
May Christians Go Into Debt?
by Glenn Conjurske
Owe no man any thing.
This scripture is so plain that it ought to need no comment. Yet many
Christians in our day are so accustomed to explaining away Scripture that
they have never been able to arrive at the plain and obvious meaning of
these words. They have reasoned and explained and twisted and turned and
contorted and wrested the words until they have been made to mean anything
but Owe no man any thing. Now I really suspect that if they were but
willing to obey this scripture, they would very soon discover that it
means Owe no man any thing. I have often heard it objected that if
we did not go into debt, we could not buy a house. And I have always given
one uniform answer to this objection: God has not told me to buy a house,
but he has told me to Owe no man any thing. (I do not own a house,
by the way, but rent one.) It may be that it will cost something to simply
obey this plain command of God
----it may be that you will be forced to
rent (and live in) a place you would rather not, for a price you would
rather not pay ----but what of that? Where did the modern church ever get
the notion that there was no cost involved in obedience to God? We are
pilgrims and strangers on the earth. This is the present portion of
faith, whether we can afford to buy a house or not.
Common sense (and I should think common honesty also) requires us to take
these words in their plain and obvious sense. But the modern church has
attempted to redefine the word owe in such a way as to make it mean
to fail to pay what we owe. This is expressed in the New International
Version (the most unfaithful of the popular modern versions) by Let
no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another
rendering which is false upon its face, for if language means anything
it gives us permission to leave the debt of love unpaid ----to leave it
outstanding. It is apparently in an endeavor to avoid this stark meaning
of their rendering that they thrust in the word continuing, without
the shadow of a reason in the original. This rendering is a faithful expression
of the unfaithfulness of modern evangelicalism, but it is not a translation
of the word of God.
Not thus did the saints of the past deal with this text. They did not
explain away its plain meaning, though many of them seemed to regard the
precept as merely good advice, and not as a binding commandment. And it
is true that with the whole Bible before us we cannot regard debt as something
sinful in itself. But there are a number of things which were allowed
under former dispensations, and which therefore cannot be regarded as
in themselves sinful, which are yet forbidden to Christians
nature of the present dispensation requiring things of us which were not
required of others. Debt is one such thing. Outward adorning of our persons
is another. The Old Testament contains cautions against debt, such as
The borrower is servant to the lender, but it contains no precept
forbidding it. The New Testament, however, does contain such a precept,
and a true spirit of devotedness to Christ will not revert to the lower
standard of the old economy merely because it is convenient to do so.
Yet we can make room for the honest ignorance of those who have regarded
the prohibition of the New Testament in no other light than the cautions
of the Old Testament. Such a one was George Whitefield, who was most of
the time in debt himself, yet never dreamed of trying thus to explain
away the plain meaning of this text. With obvious reference to Romans
13:8, he wrote to John Wesley in 1747, I hope ere long to be delivered
from my outward embarrassments. I long to owe no man any thing but love.
This is a debt, Reverend Sir, I shall never be able to discharge to you,
or your brother. We believe that the eminent saints who have taken Owe
no man any thing at face value in its obvious sense, but regarded it
merely as good advice, were of an altogether different spirit from those
of the modern church who seek to explain away its plain meaning, in order
to justify their own course ----especially when the reasons for their debt
may usually be summed up in the one word worldliness.
I will not contend that debt is evil in itself, or that it is always wrong.
Sometimes people are driven to it by what they regard as sheer necessity,
as David was driven to eat the shewbread, which it was not lawful for
him to eat. Sometimes people are forced into it by circumstances beyond
their control, and their debt may rather be regarded as their misfortune
than their sin. Yet I will affirm that deliberate going into debt is usually
against faith. To borrow money to procure what God has as yet withheld
from me is of the same character as it was for Abraham to take Hagar into
his bosom in order to obtain the promised seed. It was not of God, and
it was not of faith. The way of faith is to wait patiently for the Lord,
and to do without what he does not give
----though I do not mean by this
to exclude means which God himself sanctions, such as honest industry
Numerous examples might be given to show that debt is unwise, for many
eminent saints have suffered much because they have chosen to borrow,
or to make themselves surety for others who have borrowed. My purpose
here, however, is not to show that debt is unwise, but to show that it
The first thing we must deal with is the meaning of the word owe,
which many in the modern church have sought to redefine. The word is ojfeivlw
in the Greek, and is defined as follows by standard Greek lexicons. (I
cite only those definitions which are pertinent, or closely related to
those which are pertinent. In other connections the word has other connotations,
such as I ought or would that!
----but these are nothing to the
Liddell and Scott: to owe, have to pay or account for, to be debtor,
and absol[utely], to be in debt; to be bound to render.
Pickering: to owe, to be indebted to, to be under an obligation, to
be bound by duty, necessity, etc.
Thayer: to owe; prop[erly] to owe money, be in debt for; absol[utely]
to be a debtor, be bound; to be under obligation, bound by duty or necessity,
to do something.
Cremer: to be indebted, to owe; to be under obligation to; to have to
pay a money debt.
Abbott-Smith: to owe, be a debtor; to be bound or obliged.
Arndt & Gingrich: owe, be indebted; lit., of financial debts: owe
someth. to someone; fig., owe, be indebted (to) someone (for) someth.;
Owe no man any thing, then, is a true and accurate translation, and
really cannot be improved upon. If any are disposed to defect from this
to an explanatory paraphrase, they ought at least to give a true and faithful
paraphrase. Such would be Be in debt to no man for anything. But Let
no debt remain outstanding is inaccurate and unfaithful, unless indeed
it be taken to mean have no standing debts, or in other words, no
debts at all
----but neither the framers or the users of this version would
allow such a meaning.
I proceed to give a number of statements from men of God of past generations.
From these it will plainly appear that they took Owe no man any thing
at face value in its plain and obvious meaning, and obeyed it.
George Müller (l805-l898). `Sell that ye have, and give alms.'
Luke xii.33. `Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.' Rom. xiii.8.
It may be said, surely these passages cannot be taken literally, for how
then would the people of God be able to pass through the world. The state
of mind enjoined in John vii.17, will cause such objections to vanish.
WHOSOEVER IS WILLING TO ACT OUT these commandments of the Lord LITERALLY,
will, I believe, be led with me to see that, to take them LITERALLY, is
the will of God.
----Those who do so take them will doubtless often be
brought into difficulties, hard to the flesh to bear, but these will have
a tendency to make them constantly feel that they are strangers and pilgrims
here, that this world is not their home, and thus to throw them more upon
God, who will assuredly help us through any difficulty into which we may
be brought by seeking to act in obedience to His word.
I would just observe, that we never contract debts, which we believe
to be unscriptural (according to Romans xiii,8;) and therefore we have
no bills with our tailor, shoemaker, grocer, butcher, baker, &c.;
but all we buy we pay for in ready money. The Lord helping us, we would
rather suffer privation, than contract debts.
C. H. Mackintosh (1820-1896). We take Romans xiii.8 in its plain, broad
sense. We believe it teaches us to owe no man anything. Would to God it
were more fully carried out. It is painful beyond expression to see the
sad lack of conscience among professors, as to the question of debt. We
would solemnly call upon all our readers, who are in the habit of going
in debt, to judge themselves in this matter, and to get out of a false
position at once. It is better far to sit down to a dry crust, and to
wear a shabby coat, than live well and dress well at our neighbour's expense.
We regard it as positive unrighteousness. Oh! for an upright mind!
The first grand business of a person in debt is to get out of it. We
must be just before we are generous.
C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). At a meeting to raise funds for his Metropolitan
Tabernacle, while it was being built, Spurgeon said, Of all things I
do abhor a debt. I shall feel like a guilty sneaking sinner if I come
here with even a hundred pounds debt upon the building. `Owe no man anything,'
will stare me in the face whenever I try to address you. I do not believe
that Scripture warrants any man in getting into debt. It may stimulate
the people to raise more money; but, after all, attention to the simple
Word of God is infinitely better than looking at the end which may be
attained by the slightest deviation from it. Let us not owe a farthing
to any living soul; and when we come here for the opening services, let
us find that all has been paid.
The Bible never tells us to get out of debt; it tells us we are not
to have any.
J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1895). Hudson Taylor resigned from the Mission
Society under which he had gone out to China, because it was in debt.
His account follows. During the latter part of this year my mind was
greatly exercised about continued connection with my Society, it being
frequently in debt. Personally I had always avoided debt, and kept within
my salary, though at times only by very careful economy. Now there was
no difficulty in doing this, for my income was larger, and the country
being in a more peaceful state, things were not so dear. But the Society
itself was in debt. The quarterly bills which I and others were instructed
to draw were often met by borrowed money, and a correspondence commenced
which terminated in the following year by my resigning from conscientious
To me it seemed that the teaching of God's Word was unmistakably clear:
`Owe no man any thing.' To borrow money implied, to my mind, a contradiction
----a confession that God had withheld some good thing, and
a determination to get for ourselves what He had not given. Could that
which was wrong for one Christian to do be right for an association of
Christians? Or could any amount of precedents make a wrong course justifiable?
If the Word taught me anything, it taught me to have no connection with
debt. I could not think that God was poor, that He was short of resources,
or unwilling to supply any want of whatever work was really His. It seemed
to me that if there were any lack of funds to carry on work, then to that
degree, in that special development, or at that time, it could not be
the work of God. To satisfy my conscience I was therefore compelled to
resign connection with the Society which had hitherto supplied my salary.
R. A. Torrey (1856-1928). Speaking of a time when he lived without any
salary or stated income, Torrey says, Never one penny of debt was incurred
for one single hour; I had taken the ground that I owe no man anything
either for myself, the family, or the work, for running into debt is not
trusting God, it is disobeying God, for He says, `Owe no man anything.'
These quotations are all from men well known and highly esteemed in the
church of God. It is evident from their words that they took Owe no
man any thing at face value, believed it, obeyed it, and regarded it
as wrong to do otherwise. Know, then, ye Baptists, who admire C. H. Spurgeon,
that if he must live in your house or preach in your church, he must regard
himself as a guilty sneaking sinner. Know, ye open Brethren, that
George Müller would rather have suffered privation than to borrow
money as many of you do. Know, ye exclusive Brethren, that C. H. Mackintosh
regarded the course which many of you take as positive unrighteousness.
Know, ye fundamentalists, that R. A. Torrey, the greatest of the fundamentalists,
regarded contracting debts as disobeying God. These testimonies are
clear enough, and so is the testimony of the apostle Paul: Owe no man
Those who have acted contrary to this scripture in the past may find themselves
in a hard place. They may not be able to get out of debt at once, nor
will reasonable men expect it of them, any more than we would expect a
man who has been a glutton for twenty years to lose a hundred pounds in
a day. We would, however, expect him to go to work at it in good earnest.
Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske
My Card File Boxes
One of the first things I look for in buying certain kinds of books
as histories ----is to see whether the book has a good index. A good subject
index (not merely an index of proper names) greatly increases the usefulness
of a book, by enabling you to find what you want in it. And experience
has taught me to make my own index to every book which I read, whether
the book comes with an index or not. This I do by continually noting down
items and their page numbers in the back or front fly leaves of the book
as I read it. I use extra sheets of paper if I need them. In the rare
event that I read a borrowed book, I make such an index on a sheet of
paper, and file it away for the anticipated day when I may procure a copy
for myself. I do not note down every item in the book, but any item which
interests me ----anything which I suppose I may ever wish to refer to again.
In a very good book, such as the autobiographies of Peter Cartwright and
Charles G. Finney, I will have several pages of entries in small handwriting.
In the journals of John Wesley and Francis Asbury I have several pages
in each volume. In a poor book I may have only a few entries. Experience,
I say, has taught me this. In my early days I would often read some worthwhile
thing, but fail to note it down, and in after times spend hours in searching
for it, perhaps not even remembering what book I had read it in.
Now if an index to a book will greatly increase the value and usefulness
of that book, why not an index to a library? My first card file box is
in fact an index to my library. It came about this way:
I left Bible school with the strong impression that miracles are not for
the present age. They ceased with the apostolic age, and we are not to
expect them today. This impression was greatly strengthened the following
year by the reading of Sir Robert Anderson's The Silence of God. But when
I read books like John Wesley's Journal, A. J. Gordon's Ministry of Healing,
and even A. C. Gaebelein's autobiography (Half a Century), it became plain
to me that those miracles, which were not supposed to happen, occasionally
did happen. I am well aware that at this point many Christians would simply
deny the facts in order to maintain the doctrine, but I was not made of
such stuff, and I knew that the men who related these miracles were men
of sound sense and solid godliness. I therefore took an index card and
wrote Miracles at the top of it, and began to collect these scattered
accounts together. Cards on other subjects followed, and the system has
been growing ever since. Whenever I finish reading a book, I sit down
with my cards, and transfer to them the notes which I have made in the
book. I do not transfer all the notes
----if I did, I would have numerous
cards with but one entry ----but only those on recurring and easily classified
subjects. Each card has a subject heading at the top, and entries beneath
it listing author, abbreviated title, and page numbers.
A glance through my cards would reveal such subjects as: Anointing with
----Antinomianism ----Baptism of Holy Spirit ----Boldness in prayer ----Camp
meetings ----Cannibalism ----Church discipline ----Debt ----Dress & jewelry ----Earnestness ----Extemporaneous
preaching ----Fasting ----Hardships ----Inability ----Invitation ----Irresistible
preaching ----Itinerant preaching ----Jesting ----King James Version ----Love
of sin ----Ministerial education ----Ministerial incompetence ----Music ----Non-resistance ----Ordination,
refused or never received ----Persecution ----Poverty ----Rain in answer
to prayer ----Repentance ----Reproach ----Riches ----Salvation from sin ----Self-good
as motive ----Solitude ----Tears in hearers ----Tremble before preaching ----Universal
offer of salvation ----Unpardonable sin ----Visions, trances ----Wine.
This list is incomplete, and intended only to be suggestive. Your subjects
will depend on what most occupies your heart and mind. In the same file
box I also have a set of biographical cards, on which I note references
to persons. The usefulness of this simple system I have abundantly proved
over and over. For example, though I quote from threescore and ten books
in my Good Preaching, I actually wrote that book in one week, and that
without doing any preparatory research for it. All of the research
had been done little by little over the years, and all the fruits of it
were ready to hand in my card file box.
But I must speak of my second card file box, (now grown to a couple
of large file drawers) which is my card catalog. For years I felt no need
for any such thing. I knew what books I had, and where they were. I have
read of both C. H. Spurgeon and George W. Truett, that though they had
very large libraries, they could find any book they owned in the dark.
Truett's wife took it upon herself on one occasion, while he was away
preaching, to arrange his books for him in alphabetical order
which he could find nothing. To me alphabetical order on a bookshelf is
not order at all, but the most perfect confusion. Nathan Bangs (whether
a history by him or a biography of him) belongs on a bookshelf with Francis
Asbury and company, not with Robert Barclay (a Quaker), nor with Daniel
Baker and Albert Barnes (two Presbyterians). Gibson's Year of Grace, a
book on revival, may do very well with John Gillies, but not with John
Alphabetical order is just fine, however, in a card catalog, and when
we began to traverse the country in our old school bus, and I must remove
my books from their shelves, and put them in drawers and boxes, where
I could not see them, and where they were grouped more according to size
----I then felt the need for a card catalog. I made one, and
have since added to it all new books as I get them. I have found it to
be of great use when taking trips out of town to shop for books. I take
my card catalog along, and this prevents me from buying duplicates in
the cases (not so rare as they used to be) in which I cannot remember
if I have a book or not. But my cards tell me more than merely which books
I possess. They tell me what edition I have, the publisher, date, and
number of pages, whether a book is defective, whether it is a paperback,
etc. This knowledge may enable me to procure a better or fuller edition,
a better copy, a missing volume of a set, etc.
A third card file box I have started more recently
box. Here I keep a list of books I am hunting for, in alphabetical order,
to which I may add at any time. But the purpose goes much deeper than
this. Many authors continually reference their authorities in a very abbreviated
form, such as Lednum's History or Smith's History of the Christian
Church. I am interested in these books, but cannot learn so much as
the author's first name (though my Cyclopædia of Methodism, Baptist
Encyclopædia, or some similar work, will often help me here). To
get this information I must travel to a good public library and hunt through
the huge volumes in the bibliography room. Thus Lednum's History becomes
Lednum, John ----A History of the Rise of Methodism in America. Philadelphia:
published by the author, 1859, 435 pp. Now I know what it is I am looking
for. (And now you know what it is I am looking for ----information I rarely
divulge to anyone.) A pleasant side benefit of this business has been
that in searching out one title by an author, I have often discovered
others by him, which I did not know existed.
But one word of exhortation: the projects which I have described in this
chat can be of no possible use to you unless you are committed to the
cause of Christ in such a way that you are determined to spend your money
in procuring good books, and your time in reading them. The pitiful little
shelves of shallow modern paperbacks which preachers nowadays refer to
as their libraries are a disgrace to the ministry, not to say a disgrace
to Christianity. Oh, for some men of God, who will dig for knowledge and
wisdom as for hid treasures!
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
Prove All Things
by Glenn Conjurske
(A Sermon Preached on Nov. 8, l992, Recorded, Transcribed,
Open your Bibles with me to I Thessalonians, chapter 5, and the twenty-first
verse. It says, Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Father, teach us this morning. Open our minds, and Father, give us grace
to be able and to be willing to do what this verse commands us to do.
This verse says, Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.
Now prove is an old English word which has a different sense in our
day. What it means is to examine, to test, to try
----to put to the test.
I'm going to give you quickly a few other scriptures where this word is
used, so you can see what the word means.
I Corinthians 3:13. Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the
day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire
shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. That word try is
the same word as is translated prove in I Thes. 5:21. The fire is
going to try it
----that is, put it to the test, to find out if it's good
or bad, to find out if it's gold, silver, and precious stones, or wood,
hay, and stubble.
I Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat
of that bread, and drink of that cup. Examine
----the same word as
I John 4:1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits,
whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into
the world. Try the spirits
----the same word as is translated prove
in I Thes. 5:21. It means, put them to the test, examine them, test them,
check them out.
Now back to I Thes. 5:21. What he commands you to do here is to test,
to try, to examine, to put to the test
----what? All things. Now that
is a pretty big order. Test all things. Try, examine, all things. How
do you know that it's right for you to do certain things? You don't, unless
you have tried it. Try all things, and hold fast that which is good. What
happens here is that we are born into a world in which the multitudes
have turned away from God, and are doing their own will, their own thing,
whatever they please themselves. We grow up in such a world, and we grow
up doing essentially as the rest of the world does. Now we get converted.
We give up our own will. We turn our backs upon the world. We turn to
God, and say, I'm not going to do my own will any more. I'm going to
do your will. I'm not going to go my own way any more: I'm going to go
God's way. And this process ----proving all things ----is how you discover
what is God's way. You grew up doing the same things essentially that
the rest of the world does. When you were converted, you still kept doing
many things that the rest of the world does. How do you know you ought
to be doing those things? How do you know they are right? Well, most people
take custom as their guide. I'm not talking about the world now. I'm talking
about Christians. Most people take custom as their guide, and they do
as everyone else does ----and therefore may be doing a whole bushel basket
full of things that are wrong, that are not according to Scripture, and
don't even know that those things are wrong.
Why do you dress the way you dress? Why do you eat the way you eat? Have
you proved those things, and determined them to be good, and therefore
held them fast? Or do you just do as everybody else does
----do as you
always did? How do you furnish your house? What kind of activities do
you engage in? Is custom your guide, or the Bible?
Now we have a command here to put to the test all things, and I'm going
to try to suggest to you this morning what that means. All things means
things, big things ----right things and wrong things. You see, we have
no business to assume that anything is right. We are bound to put it to
the test, and of course the way to put it to the test is by the light
of Scripture. You are just as bound to put right things to the test as
you are wrong things. How else are you going to know that they are right?
That's implied in what the verse says. It says, Try all things, and hold
fast to that which is good. That means, of course, reject that which isn't
Now I think if there were some way we could get this text of Scripture
burned into the modern church, the modern church would be turned inside
out, revolutionized. It seems to me that most Christians go through their
whole lives, and never act on what this verse commands. Custom is their
guide. Why do you do such and such things? Well, that's the way our church
does things. Well, how do you know it's right? Why does everybody do just
what their church does? It is just assumed that it is right.
Now it's easy enough to point the finger at the Catholics or the Lutherans
or the liberals or somebody, and say, this is the way they think
evangelicals are very little different. You see, when you have this principle
burned into your soul, to test, and try, and examine all things, the first
thing that it does is that it makes you suspicious of everything. You
don't accept anything, unless you have first checked it out, and proved
it to be good. That may be a long, drawn-out process, because the fact
of the matter is, if you are a babe in Christ, you may not have the spiritual
capacity to be able to get to the bottom of every practical question.
I don't think I'm a babe in Christ, and I may lack that ability in some
things. But at least you do all you can towards it.
Now what kind of things should we put to the test? All things. Let me
suggest, in the first place, this means to put to the test all things
that everybody else is doing. One of the great difficulties of the modern
church is that it makes custom its standard. If everybody else is doing
it, then the church does it, without testing it to find out if it is right
or good. Why do you celebrate Christmas, if you do? (I hope you don't.)
Well, I grew up celebrating Christmas. Everybody does it. Therefore it's
right? Test it out. Find out. How do you test it? Well, first of all see
what the Bible says. What does the Bible say about Christmas? Nothing.
Have any of you ever seen a little tract entitled Everything the Bible
has to say about infant baptism
----and you open it up, and it's blank?
Why don't the Baptists publish one like that about Christmas? Or Easter?
But you see, most folks accept custom as the standard of their practice,
and never prove all things. The things that everybody else does are assumed
to be right. Now let me just drop a little hint in your ear on this. If
you want to take that kind of ground you should reverse it. The fact of
the matter is: the things that everybody else does are more likely to
be wrong than right. If you want to make an assumption, assume that the
things everybody does are wrong, rather than right. It would more probably
be true, though not necessarily. There are some things that everybody
does that are right, too ----everybody eats and drinks and breathes, and
there is nothing wrong with those things. In fact, there's something wrong
The things that everybody does. The observation of holidays. It never
enters most people's minds to question whether the thing is right or wrong.
Why not? Why does it never enter people's heads? I'm talking about Christians.
Why does it never enter their heads to question whether it is right or
wrong? Because their standard is wrong. Their standard is custom rather
than the Word of God. Why is it that when young Christian folks get married,
why is it that the bride goes out and gets a wedding dress? And the groom
goes out and gets a tuxedo? Why do they do that? Custom. It's what everybody
else does, therefore it must be right. I tell you it isn't right. It's
a waste of God's money. I got married about 25 years ago, and my bride
did not have a wedding dress. You can go home and weep for her if you
want, and write her a letter of condolence, but she did not have a wedding
dress. She got married in the same clothes that she wore on other days.
By the way, so did I. Custom was not my guide. She didn't have a wedding
ring, either, by the way. You have a wedding ring? Why do you have one?
Well, just because everybody else does. Did you ever stop to put that
to the test, and ask, Is this right or wrong? What does the Bible say
about it? What principles of the Bible are at stake? Where did this idea
of wedding rings come from? I told you about this book by Francis Wayland
that I was reading this morning. I just happened to read in it this morning,
when he talks about the evil example of some other denominations
evil influence upon the Baptists that came from following the example
of other denominations. He wrote this in 1857, and he said, I learn
that some of our brethren are introducing the ceremony of giving a ring
in marriage. All of the poor, unfortunate Baptist brides went without
wedding rings before the 1850's, and then the worldly among them introduced
them. Of course now it's universal. Where did it come from? From the Church
of Rome ----part of their sacrament. The Puritans opposed it. The Baptists
had nothing to do with it, but somehow the Church has sunk into a place
where custom has become the guide rather than Scripture, and folks merely
accept everything that the rest of the world does without questioning
it. Now that is the real evil. If you once learn to prove all things ----that
means question all things ----put everything to the test ----accept nothing
merely because the rest of the world does it, then you are on the right
track to getting straight in your life.
Well what about all things that the whole church does? You need to
question those, too. The whole church can be wrong just as well as the
whole world. I'm not saying purposely wrong, but ignorantly. There are
things in our day that the whole church is wrong on, which the whole church
was right on a couple hundred years ago, but the church has drifted down
into the world. Plain dress you know used to be the earmark of every godly
movement in history. I just happened to read this in Wayland's book. He
said the time was when you could immediately spot a Baptist or a Methodist
by their clothes, because they dressed plainly. You can't do that any
more. I guess you couldn't any more in Wayland's day, which was over a
hundred years ago. Now the church and the world dress just alike, generally
Well I want to suggest something else to you. You'll have to try, prove,
put to the test, question all things that great men and men of God have
done. There's an old proverb that says, Great men may greatly err, and
that is the truth. You need to put to the test all the things that great
men do, and things that men of God do. And that includes the things that
great soul winners do. You know I have heard this kind of thing in speaking
of men that are rightly esteemed and looked up to: you try to question
something that some prominent preacher does or says, and folks will come
back with, Oh, there's never been a soul winner like him! Look at all
the souls he's winning. And this is taken as proof that what he is doing
is right. It doesn't prove anything at all, except maybe that God is merciful.
We ought to question the things that great men do. We ought to question
the things that great preachers do, great soul winners, preachers that
can make your heart burn. And you know, this is where the difficulty comes
in. And it could be a difficultly right here, if I ever get to be a preacher
that can make your heart burn. I've seen this type of thing too often.
Folks will become impressed, maybe enamored, maybe enthralled, with a
preacher that can stand up and preach and make their hearts burn, and
then they go on and swallow everything he says. Half of it might be wrong.
We need to put to the test everything that great men and good men do and
teach. Well, of course, this implies you have to dig into the Bible. How
can you who may happen to be a babe in Christ, or a very ignorant and
----how can you put to the test the things that great men,
who are far above you, do? Well, you can. It's going to require some serious
digging, and humility, and growth in grace and knowledge. But it's your
responsibility to do it.
We ought to put to the test all things that good and great men do, and
you ought to put to the test all things that successful men do. The argument
from success is one of the biggest deceptions in the modern church. Sometimes
the reason things are successful is precisely because they are not right.
They succeed with the wrong kind of people. You can bring the world into
the church, and it will make the church successful
----make the church
grow in numbers ----make the church grow in enthusiasm, and make the church
decline in holiness, and devotedness to Christ. The argument from success
is not worth anything. There may be things that will actually apparently
produce the right kind of success. Not only success in numbers, and in
enthusiasm, but even success in spiritual things ----real, solid, spiritual
success. You ought to put those to the test, too. You know why? Because
a good man with good motives may adopt wrong methods ----may take a wrong
course, and have good success in it. But I will say this: if he had taken
the right course he would have had better success. Success doesn't prove
anything. Isaiah, you know, took the right course, and he wasn't very
successful. God told him to preach, and he said, How long? And God said,
Until the cities are wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without
man, and the land be utterly desolate. He wasn't very successful, but
he was right.
Now God's way quite often takes longer. There may be greater success in
God's way in the end, but in the mean time the world's way will gain faster
more apparent success. George Whitefield says, When our Lord has anything
great to do, he is generally a great while bringing it about, and many
unaccountable dark providences generally intervene. That's true. And
the fellow who's doing it his own way may have success before God's chosen
instrument ever gets through the back side of the desert. But God's way
will be more successful in the end. Paul says, As a wise master builder,
I have laid the foundation. And, by the way, whatever you may think
of me being a wise master builder, that has been the thing that I have
concentrated on, and worked at, and aimed at, for the last six years here
lay a good foundation. It is the absolute, most important part of the
building. Now there are a lot of churches that may have more to show for
their labors than we have here, but they don't have a solid foundation.
They've got numbers without spirituality. Growth without depth. It takes
a while to lay a foundation. Takes time. But the end will prove that it
is God's way.
So we have to put to the test the thing that works. There are things that
work that are not necessarily of God
----not necessarily the best, just
because they work. On that basis, you know, you can bring into the church
every kind of worldliness under the sun, and there are churches right
now all around us that are doing exactly that. How are we going to keep
the young people? Parties, games, banquets ----worldliness. It may work,
apparently, but it's not of God.
We ought also to put to the test all of those things that have been established
in the church of God for years. I want you to turn with me to II Kings,
chapter 18. We'll see a man of God who evidently did put something to
----something that had been established among the people of God
for centuries, and he overturned it and got rid of it. II Kings, chapter
18, and verse 3: He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,
according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places,
and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and break in pieces the
brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of
Israel did burn incense to it, and he called it Nehushtan ----which means
a piece of brass. Oh, he had a brave spirit, to take this thing that the
people of God had been worshipping for centuries, and call it a piece
of brass. That's what it was. Not a god, a piece of brass. I'm sure he
incurred the wrath of a lot of people for that word. But how does it happen
that this thing had been worshipped, and folks had burnt incense to this
thing for centuries, and none of the godly prophets or kings had overturned
it? How could it escape them? You see, whenever a real prophet of God
comes on the scene and begins to point his finger at this or that ----this
is wrong ----that is wrong ----this ought not to be done ----the people always
raise up the cry, and say, What are you saying? Are you saying you know
better than all the godly preachers and doctors and fathers in the church
for the last thousand years? This thing has been done for a thousand years,
and nobody has said it was wrong before. Who do you think you are? How
does it happen that none of the godly kings..... ----how does it happen
that this thing escaped the notice of David? It says here that Hezekiah
did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that
his father David did. But here he went beyond David. Why didn't David
get rid of this thing? Why didn't all the former prophets get rid of this
thing? Don't know. But the fact that something has been established among
the people of God for centuries does not prove that it is right. It may
be very wrong. Sunday schools have been established among the people of
God for the last couple hundred of years anyway, but I do not believe
they're right. You can't find any trace of such a thing in the Bible.
Of course, it is a rather modern thing. It never existed till a couple
hundred years ago. You want to stir up a hornet's nest? Go into some modern
churches and tell them that Sunday schools are wrong. Tell them they are
not of God. You'll get the same thing that Hezekiah no doubt got from
calling the brasen serpent a piece of brass. But you see people just accept
what everybody does, and don't question it. Now the text of my sermon
this morning says, question it! Put it to the test, try it, examine it,
and if it's good, hold it fast. If it's not good, it's implied, of course,
reject it. Put to the test the things that the whole world does. Put to
the test the things that the whole church does. Put to the test the little
things, the right things, the wrong things, the things that have been
established in the church for the last two hundred years or the last thousand
years ----put them to the test.
Next I want to point out to you another thing you should put to the test,
and that is those things which have been established in the church by
the men of God. Great men may greatly err, and you'll see an example of
that in the book of II Kings, the 23rd chapter. II Kings, chapter 23,
verse 10. Here we see Josiah acting, and it says, And he defiled Topheth,
which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make
his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took
away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering
in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain,
which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which
the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in
the two courts of the house of the Lord, did the king beat down, and brake
them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right
hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had
builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh
the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the
children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images,
and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.
Now here's something that Solomon had established, and it was something
wrong. Solomon, the great king, the greatest king, of Israel, who had
wisdom that no man before or since had, who was blessed by his God, and
beloved of his God, as Nehemiah says. Here is something that Solomon
had established, and Josiah said, it doesn't matter if Solomon or an angel
from heaven established it, it's wrong. And he broke it to pieces and
beat it to dust. Josiah took the Word of God for his standard.
Now I'm going to suggest one thing that's a little more difficult than
all these. It's not so hard to put to the test everything that everybody
does, or the thing that the whole church does, the thing that great men
of God have done, the thing that works, the thing that's been established
for a millennium in the church of God, or the things that have been established
by men of God. It's not so hard to put all those things to the test, as
it is one more thing I'm going to mention, and that is, the things that
you love. You know I had an experience one time with a very godly girl
in this congregation. She had plans to do a certain thing which I didn't
think she ought to do. I didn't say much to her, but I took her aside
one day, and I said, Why are you going to do this thing? And she burst
into tears, and she said, Because I want to. Of course it was something
everybody else does. No reason to think there is anything wrong with it
you start putting it to the test. And she put it to the test, and she
didn't do it, either. She wanted to. I think that's one of the main reasons
that people fail to prove all things. Don't want to change. We're called
upon to prove all things, put them all to the test, and examine them,
whether they're a pleasant thing or unpleasant. Whether they're things
we want to do, or things we don't want to do. Some things are easy to
give up, you know. Didn't want to do it in the first place. But some things
you want to do. Those are harder to give up.
Now then, the result of this is to hold fast that which is good. Even
if you have to hold it fast all by yourself, which may well be the case.
And of course, on the opposite side, reject the things that aren't good,
even if we have to reject them all alone, while all the rest of the world
is doing it, and you've got to be different. This will be hard, but I'll
tell you this: it wasn't easy for Christ to go to the cross, either. I
don't know that it was easy for him to empty himself of all the glories
of heaven, and come down here, and live a life of suffering, and die a
death of suffering. It wasn't necessarily easy, but he did that for you.
And everything that Christ gave up for you was good, and pure, and holy,
and right, and proper. He never gave up anything that was wrong
have anything wrong in his hands to give up. It was all good, and he gave
it all up anyway. All he asks you to do is give up what is wrong. Hold
fast that which is good. Now we just need to get this text burned into
our souls. Prove all things. It's not necessarily something we should
consciously think. We ought to get beyond that. It ought to become your
second nature to test all things. Never receive anything just because
everybody does it. Never receive anything because a good man teaches it.
Never receive it because it's been done for a thousand years. Prove all
things, and hold fast that which is good.
Old articles are reprinted without alteration (except for corrections
of printing errors), unless stated otherwise. The editor inserts articles
by other writers if they are judged profitable for scriptural instruction
or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's
own views are to be taken from his own writings.