How John the Baptist Learned to Preach
by Glenn Conjurske
Perhaps the greatest preacher who ever walked the earth
----him only excepted
who spake as never man spake ----was John the Baptist. He was personally
chosen by God to fill a place which no other man has ever been called
to fill, to be the forerunner of the Messiah. His faithfulness, courage,
and power have excited the admiration and stirred the spirits of the ages.
His success was unexampled. The whole nation closed shop and went out
into the desert to seek him, and great multitudes of them were converted
and baptized. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and
all the region round about the Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan,
confessing their sins. (Matt. 3:5-6). At the close of his ministry he
received such a commendation from the lips of the Son of God as no other
mortal has ever received. He is a prophet...and more than a prophet,
and Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater
than John the Baptist. (Matt. 11:9,11).
How did this man learn to preach? Surely not by the means and methods
so confidently relied upon in the modern church. He was in the deserts
till the day of his shewing unto Israel. (Luke 1:80). In the deserts
off the land, dressed in a coat of camel's hair, and eating locusts and
wild honey. In the deserts ----far off from the homes and haunts of
men ----far off from the crowded ways of life ----far off from the religion,
the politics, the literature, and the pastimes of the nation. In the
deserts until the day of his shewing unto Israel ----until the day that
he stepped onto the stage of history a man of God, a powerful preacher,
an eminent success. Till that very day, he was in the deserts. It
must be plain enough, then, that the man was deprived of all of those
advantages which are pushed and pursued in the church today as the
means of preparing men to preach.
He was deprived of all educational advantages. Men think now to prepare
preachers by educating them, but the greatest preacher who ever walked
the earth was uneducated
----as indeed most of the greatest of preachers
since his day have been, from the unlearned and ignorant apostles
of Christ, to John Bunyan, to Christmas Evans, to the Methodist itinerants,
to D. L. Moody, to William Booth, to Gipsy Smith. John the Baptist never
saw a Bible institute, Bible college, or seminary. Indeed, it was well
for the testimony of Christ that he had not. If he had sat at the feet
of the religious leaders of his day, he would no doubt have been ruined
as a prophet of God, as so many young men in our own day are, who attend
the educational institutions of the church. Some knowledge they may gain
(though much even of that is of the wrong sort), but meanwhile they are
deprived of the spirit, the power, the zeal, and the fervor of apostolic
Christianity. The traditions of men they know well, along with all of
the miserable shifts by which those traditions are maintained, and the
word of God made void ----but of the Scriptures and the power of God they
remain largely ignorant. But John the Baptist was deprived of all of these
advantages ----never had a course in homiletics, and of course knew
nothing of the art of preaching ----never had a course in psychology,
and so knew nothing of how to address the people ----never had a course
in hermeneutics, and therefore had not a clue as to how to interpret the
Bible ----never had a course in creation science, so could never tell how
God created the world ----never had a course in apologetics, so knew nothing
of how to defend the faith. Yet some way he learned to preach, and excelled
all of the men who have had all of these advantages.
John the Baptist had no social advantages. He was no doubt orphaned
early (for his parents were both well stricken in years before he
was born), and so had no fond mother, and no proud father, to see to his
social development. He never went to the public schools, nor to the
----never joined the Boy Scouts, nor the 4-H ----never
participated in the competitive sports, nor the Christian young people's
organizations. In short, he was deprived of all of the opportunities to
learn how to relate to other people ----deprived of all occasions of
social development. He was in the deserts. For friendship evangelism
he may have had but little aptitude. He made friends, to be sure, but
he made friends by making disciples. He may not have fared very well at
making disciples by making friends, for he was so devoid of tact as to
call the multitudes who forsook the comforts of home, and travelled out
into the desert to hear him preach, a generation of vipers.
Finally, he had no practical advantages. He had no hands on experience.
He did not learn to preach by preaching, as many now suppose men must
do. This is part of the regular course at the schools which exist to prepare
men to preach. And I have heard it said, by some who abhor a one-man
ministry, that we ought to encourage the young men to get up and speak
in the meetings of the congregation, so that they may learn to preach.
But where has God prescribed anything of this sort? My Bible says of the
meetings of the congregation, let all things be done unto edification.
The solemn meeting of the congregation of God is not the place for spiritual
boys to practice the art of preaching, but for men of God to deliver God's
message. God, of course, had raised up and equipped John the Baptist for
a one-man ministry, and I dare say no spiritual boys shared the platform
with him. If they would learn to preach, they must learn as he did, and
John the Baptist did not learn to preach by preaching.
Though I cannot now remember names or circumstances, I once heard an account
of a statesman who awed and moved his peers by an impromptu address. When
they expressed their admiration, he informed them that that message had
been burning in his soul for years. He only needed an occasion. Here,
here, is the secret of preaching. The principles of preaching which
boys learn at college, or the written and rehearsed sermons of a T. DeWitt
Talmage, are nothing, nothing, to the spontaneous gushing forth of the
message which has been welling up in the man's soul for years. And if
that message has been long pent up within him, so much the better. Such
was no doubt the case with John the Baptist, and I know for myself that
some of the best preaching I have ever done was when for ten years I had
been almost entirely deprived of the opportunity of preaching at all.
But oh, how the word of the Lord burned in my soul for those ten years!
Men who know nothing of this, but who learn to preach by preaching,
need hardly expect to rise above mediocrity
----if ever they rise to that.
John the Baptist rose to the pinnacle of power, usefulness, and success,
and that without ever possessing any of those advantages which so
many regard as essential to the preparation for the ministry. But John's
disadvantages gave him an advantage of another sort. They gave him the
advantage of solitude. He was in the deserts, as David had been with
his father's sheep, and as Moses had been with his father-in-law's sheep.
In that solitude he walked with God. In that solitude, free from all of
the corrupting influences of the traditions of men, free from the pressure
to conformity, free from the deadening influence of the lukewarm spirit
of evangelical orthodoxy, he learned to think God's thoughts. Year after
year in that solitude the thoughts, the words, the feelings, of the living
God were burned more and more deeply into his receptive soul, and he became
a burning and shining light. Set then upon the public platform by
the living God who had called and equipped him, he spoke from the fulness
of a full heart, with the blazing zeal of a burning heart
----and he moved
Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske
Histories of the English Bible
The history of the English Bible is both fascinating and profitable,
and I am unable to understand the apparent apathy concerning it which
has characterized the church for generations. While the presses of the
Christian publishers must groan under the very volume of the foam and
froth of modern Christianity, almost nothing on this subject appears.
None of the old classics on this theme are ever reprinted, but are left
to lie forgotten
------somewhere. You will be left wondering where if you
try to find any of them, for they are all scarce enough. For my part,
I make no apology for my intense interest in this subject, but diligently
gather up with pious care whatever I can turn up upon it, for the
sole reason that it concerns the work of God. I need no other reason.
It so happens, however, that our own shallow age has given to me (and
to you) another compelling reason to pursue this subject, in the emergence
of all of the modern doctrines on the perfection of the Textus Receptus
and the King James Version. These doctrines consist of a grain or two
of truth, mixed with so much arrogant ignorance and empty assertion, that
it behooves all who wish to stand for the truth to learn what the facts
of the matter are.
The first thing I ever obtained on this subject was The Story of Our English
Bible, by Walter Scott
----a small book published by Pickering & Inglis
(without date, of course) in the familiar gold-stamped, faded red binding
of their old Every Christian's Library series. This book contained
just enough to whet my appetite ----including the list of rules which King
James gave to his translators, requiring them, among other things, to
retain the old ecclesiastical terms, particularly the word church,
rather than congregation, which William Tyndale and other early versions
had used. This book may be worth getting if you can get nothing else on
the subject. I long ago parted with my copy.
The history of the English Bible has been studied and written upon by
many learned and pious men (and some women), and numerous books on the
subject have been published. No two of them cover exactly the same ground,
and each has its own value. In speaking of them I must separate them into
two classes, first, general histories of the English Bible, and then books
which deal with some particular aspect of that history. First, the general
A fairly small (384 pages) popular work is England's Light-Bringer, by
T. H. Richards (without date). This covers from Anglo-Saxon times to the
Revised Version, and gives many specimens of early versions. The Revised
Version it esteems too highly, and devotes as much space to that as it
does to all the other versions put together, from Coverdale to the King
James Version. Another popular history is The Bibles of England, by Andrew
Edgar, A Plain Account for Plain People, a book of 403 pages published
in 1899, proceeding from the Lollards' Bible to the Revised Version. The
author is generally favorable to the Revised Version, and speaks a little
contemptuously of Burgon's Revision Revised, but the book contains good
Another popular work is The English Bible by Mrs. H. C. Conant. She wrote
before the Revised Version existed, but closes her book with an appeal
for a revision, saying, From the middle of the nineteenth century, we
look back on the accumulated results of more than two hundred years of
the most profound and brilliant scholarship the world has known; and not
one ray of this has yet been allowed to shine through our English Bible!
Three decades later that scholarship was allowed to shine in all its glory,
in the production of the Revised Version, but history has consigned the
result to the scrap pile. Mrs. Conant apparently confuses the Geneva New
Testament of 1557 with that of 1560 (probably from consulting nothing
other than Bagster's Hexapla, which contains only the former), and this
leads her into several mistakes. An English edition of her book was introduced
by a preface from the pen of C. H. Spurgeon.
My first really substantial find in this field was The English Bible by
John Eadie, in two large volumes published in 1876. I found these volumes
upstairs in the old Baker Book House, water-damaged and falling apart,
and paid $7.50 for them. The only other copy I have ever seen is in the
library of the University of Wisconsin. These volumes contain a wealth
of information, beginning with pre-Wycliffite translations, and containing
several chapters each on Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, and all of the
subsequent versions of importance. The last nine chapters (about 150 pages)
are on the revision of the New Testament. The Revised Version was then
in process, and Eadie was on the New Testament committee. These chapters
are mostly occupied with the defects, real and imagined, of the King James
A General View of the History of the English Bible, by Brooke Foss Westcott,
is on the same general plan, but much briefer. It was first published
in 1868, and revised by William Aldis Wright in 1905. Despite its brevity,
it is worth having, containing good information, especially on the internal
character of the various versions, and the sources whence they were derived.
English Versions of the Bible, by J. I. Mombert, is excellent in the same
particular, the title page informing us that it contains Copious Examples
Illustrating the Ancestry and Relationship of the Several Versions, and
Comparative Tables. The New and Enlarged Edition of this, published
by Samuel Bagster in 1907, contains 539 pages. Mombert, who also edited
an excellent edition of Tyndale's Pentateuch, was well qualified to write
such a work. The book devotes a chapter each to the versions from the
Anglo-Saxon period to the Revised Version, to which it attaches more importance
than it deserves. The History of the English Bible, by W. F. Moulton (undated)
covers much the same ground in 252 pages, and also contains excellent
An older and very scarce work is The Annals of the English Bible, by Christopher
Anderson, published in 1845 in two volumes of over 600 closely printed
pages each. Most of the first volume is devoted to William Tyndale. Eadie's
comments on this work are too valuable to omit. He says, The Publication
of Christopher Anderson's `Annals of the English Bible,' in 1845, formed
an epoch; for the work was the fruit of independent investigation, and
its author brought to light some new facts about Tyndale, and discovered
some unsuspected editions of his New Testament. Mr. Anderson's original
purpose had been to compile a biography of the martyred translator, and
had that purpose not been partially abandoned, or rather supplemented,
his volumes might have possessed more compactness and symmetry. His `Annals,'
however, are wholly external in character, for he never attempts to give
any critical estimate of Tyndale's version, either of its English style,
its fidelity to the original Greek, or its nearer or remoter relation
to Luther and the Vulgate. The work, indeed, grew under his hand to a
great size, for it is filled to overflowing with extraneous or collateral
matter, and every page might have been printed in three parallel columns,
headed in succession
----`History of the English Nation,' `History of the
English Church,' `History of the English Bible.' Now and then the good
man is swayed by prejudice, as when he avers that, from principle, Tyndale
would not, and did not, translate any portion of the Apocrypha, though
the evidence to the contrary was lying before his eyes, in the `Epistles'
for Church Service, taken from Esther, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus, attached
to his famous revised editon of 1534. So jealous was he for Tyndale's
fame and honour that he studiously, and on every occasion, depreciates
Coverdale, who, though he was not endowed with Tyndale's high nobility
of nature, yet possessed eminent qualities, and did a good secondary work
when no one else thought of attempting it.
The History of the English Bible: Extending from the Earliest Saxon Translations
to the Present Anglo-American Revision; with Special Reference to the
Protestant Religion and the English Language, by Blackford Condit, was
Published by A. S. Barnes in 1882, and contains 469 pages. This tends
to be more popular than scholarly, though containing much excellent information.
The author, however, has a pet theory to advance, that the Latin language
favors Romanism, and the English Protestantism. This is foolish. All languages
are essentially equivalent.
So much for the general histories, except to say that, for a wonder, all
of them are well indexed. There are also numerous very vaulable works
dealing with some narrower aspect of English Bible history.
Records of the English Bible, edited with an introduction by Alfred W.
Pollard, consists of The Documents Relating to the Translation and Publication
of the English Bible, 1525-1611. This book has 387 pages, and was published
in 1911 by Oxford University Press. The same was published, also in 1911,
as an introduction to Oxford's facsimile edition of the 1611 Bible.
The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611), Its Subsequent Reprints
and Modern Representatives, by F. H. A. Scrivener (312 pages, 1884), is
an excellent and thorough work dealing with numerous matters of more or
less importance, such as, the Greek text underlying the King James Version,
its use of italics, marginal notes, the variations between the two 1611
printings, wrong readings corrected in later printings, and revisions
introduced into later editions. This book (like all of Scrivener's works,
alas) is as scarce as it is valuable.
The Part of Rheims in the Making of the English Bible, by James G. Carleton
(1902, 259 pages), is a thorough study devoted to showing the influence
of the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament on the King James Version.
The largest portion of the book is made up of lists of readings adopted
by the King James Version from the Rheims New Testament.
The Literary Lineage of the King James Bible, by Charles C. Butterworth
(1941, 394 pages), demonstrates the place of all of the previous versions
in the make-up of the English Bible. About 150 pages of the book are occupied
with ten passages of Scripture which are printed in full from all of the
early versions, in such a way as to show at a glance which of the versions
first contributed the reading which was finalized in the King James Version.
Old Bibles by J. R. Dore (second edition, l888) professes to be An Account
of the Early Versions of the English Bible. Its primary purpose, however,
is to enable the possessors of old Bibles to ascertain what version and
edition they have, and the book is therefore more occupied with the externals
of the books, than with the substance of their contents, or the history
of their production. The author is a transparent Puseyite, who deplores
William Tyndale's opposition to the Church of England (that is, the
Church of Rome), speaks of the martyrdom of Archbishop Laud and King
Charles I, says Wycliffe's views are subversive of morality, calls the
Geneva Bible mischievous, and King Edward's prayer book debased,
speaks of the saintly Dr. Pusey and the unchristian William Tyndale,
takes a few jabs at John Foxe, and calls the mother of Jesus Our Lady.
Mr. Dore's fellow Protestants may wish to pray for patience before reading
this book. One of his favorite opinions is that there was little desire
among the people of England for the Bible in English, and he asserts this
over and over throughout the book, saying in one place, The great anxiety
on the part of the majority of the people of England to possess a vernacular
Bible existed only in the imaginations of Foxe and other party writers.
Yet he also tells us that from 1560 to 1616 not a single year passed without
the issue of one or more printings of the Geneva Bible. Someone must have
bought these Bibles. In spite of the author's animus, the book has some
value. All of these books must be read with discernment, and the opinions
of the authors are not to be mistaken for the facts of history. Occasional
errors will be found even in the stating of facts. (Eadie is careful to
correct the misstatements of his predecessors.)
Francis Fry owned an extensive collection of old Bibles, and published
several books intended primarily to aid in identifying the various editions.
Fry was as painstaking in his work as Scrivener or Tregelles (that is,
as painstaking as a man could well be), and his works are well executed,
and rather too elegantly printed
----especially for a Quaker. The Bible
by Coverdale, MDXXXV, has only 39 pages, plus facsimile plates. A Description
of the Great Bible, [etc., etc.] (1865) contains a full comparison of
the texts of all the editions of the Great Bible, as well as information
on the six early folio editions of the King James Version, along with
51 facsimile plates. A Bibliographical Description of the Editions of
The New Testament, Tyndale's Version in English (1878), is large and substantial,
containing 188 large pages and 73 full-page facsimile plates. Among many
other valuable things it contains a full collation (occupying 30 pages)
of Matthew's Bible of 1537 and Tyndale's last three revisions, and also
a full listing of the marginal notes in Tyndale's revision of 1534. Unfortunately,
the English is modernized in both of these.
A few other works are primarily bibliographical. The Bibles in the Caxton
Exhibition, MDCCCLXXVII, by Henry Stevens, contains 151 pages of lists
and descriptions of old Bibles, with interesting tidbits of information
scattered throughout. Much fuller in information is Guide to the Manuscripts
and Printed Books Exhibited in Celebration of the Tercentenary of the
Authorized Version (British Museum, 1911, 64 pages, with 8 facsimile plates),
mainly the work of A. W. Pollard. In 1821 Henry Cotton put forth A List
of Editions of the Bible and Parts Thereof in English, from the Year MDV.
to MDCCCXX., containing 168 pages. This was revised and enlarged to 420
pages in 1852, and titled, Editions of the Bible and Parts Thereof In
English, from the Year MDV. to MDCCCL. Both contain specimens of the old
translations, and the latter contains a good index. Most of the contents
of these bibliographical works will be of little use to any but thorough
students of English Bible history. To such they will be of great use at
The Lollard Bible and Other Medieval Versions, by Margaret Deanesley,
is a scholarly treatment of everything concerning the Wycliffe Bible.
It was published in 1920 by Cambridge University Press, and has 483 pages
with a good index. The Wycliffe Bible by Sven L. Fristedt is a very technical
work on the authorship of the Wycliffe Bible, written by a Swede and published
in Stockholm (in English, however) in three volumes of unequal size (1953,
1969, and 1973). This work would be of little use to most readers.
Two books deal with the influence of Martin Luther's New Testament on
Tyndale's. The First English New Testament and Luther, by L. Franklin
Gruber (126 pages, 1928), demonstrates Tyndale's dependence upon Luther
for format, marginal notes, cross references, and more, but acknowledges
that the translation itself (Tyndale's, that is) is the most original
part of the work. Luther and the English Bible, by Albert H. Gerberich
(1933) is a small work of 58 pages (a doctoral dissertation) most of which
consists of lists and tables designed to prove Tyndale's dependence on
Luther. Much of his evidence, however, seems nothing to the purpose. He
cites things like which passeth knowledge for the Greek participle
in Eph. 3:19, yet how else was Tyndale to translate it? Likewise all
names in Phil. 2:9 (substituting the plural for the Greek singular),
but these and many other cases he cites are simply the necessities of
the English language. Two men translating the same book into languages
so similar as German and English could not help but often agree. He does
show some undeniable dependence upon Luther (as I have done myself in
the pages of this magazine, in the table on Easter in the English Bible).
I suspect, however, that it would be just as easy to amass evidence of
Tyndale's independence of Luther, and this author has himself given a
number of instances, where the King James Version is with Luther's, and
Tyndale is not.
The Origin of Pretribulationism
by Glenn Conjurske
A large part of post-tribulationists' defense of their system has always
proceeded upon historical rather than scriptural grounds. Much of the
time the inquiry has not been, What saith the Scripture? but, When was
this doctrine first taught, and by whom? Such inquiries have their place,
and we rightly suspect doctrines or practices which are but new, especially
if they have come to us from unspiritual or sinister sources. And this
is the whole argument of the post-tribulationists in this field. The contention
is that pretribulationism is of modern origin, and that it emanated from
a sinister source. We would not fault them for taking this ground, except
for the fact that so much of their argumentation in this field has been
----unfair to the persons of their opponents, and unfair to
the facts of history. I write to set the record straight.
All admit that the pretribulationism which is now held by a large segment
of orthodox Christians was first clearly taught in the church of God by
J. N. Darby. This is a simple fact of history, and there is no reason
to deny it. But post-tribulationists have capitalized upon this fact in
a very unfair way. Their contention is that a doctrine which is thus acknowledged
to be new, cannot be true. It is time that the unfairness of their position
be exposed. We of course, do not acknowledge the doctrine to be strictly
new. It is necessitated by the Bible. But it certainly has not been taught
through most of the history of the church. The statements of the church
fathers, so-called, are generally too vague to be determinate. Following
their days, the church quickly sank into a millennium of darkness, during
which but little truth was known on anything. Foolish and wise virgins
together all slumbered and slept, and the coming of Christ was far
from their thoughts. The Reformation restored a flood of light, but on
prophetic themes was blinded by the spiritual interpretation inherited
from the dark ages, and by the identification of the papacy with the antichrist.
It was impossible for anyone to believe in the coming of Christ before
the coming of antichrist, or before the great tribulation, so long as
both the antichrist and the tribulation were spiritualized. The antichrist
was already come, in the papacy. The great tribulation was already past,
in the destruction of Jerusalem, or already present, and coextensive with
the age of the church. Men did not believe in a literal, personal, future
antichrist, nor in a future literal tribulation. In the nature of the
case it was not possible to believe in a pretribulation rapture of the
----not until the questions of a literal antichrist and a literal
tribulation were first settled upon a proper basis. When the church did
not believe that the seventieth week of Daniel was yet future, no one
could believe that the rapture of the church would take place before it.
But the case is materially altered now. Most post-tribulationists do believe
the seventieth week of Daniel to be yet future, but they refuse the legitimate
conclusions of that fact. They do believe that the last of those weeks
which are determined upon Daniel's people and Daniel's holy city ----that
is, upon the Jews and Jerusalem ----is yet to be fulfilled, and yet they
thrust the church into it, systematizing the ignorance of former times,
and denying either the fact, or the significance of the fact, that the
Jewish economy obtains during that week. But my point here is, it is extremely
unfair for post-tribulationists to triumphantly call upon us to produce
a clear statement of pretribulationism before 1830. I suppose there is
no such statement, and in the nature of the case could not be. Post-tribulationists
should give up, then, once and for all, this unfair mode of attack.
But they should do more. They should open their eyes to the fact that
their own system of doctrine is as new as pretribulationism
fact a little newer. For they have imbibed their doctrines of a literal
antichrist, a literal tribulation, and a future seventieth week of Daniel,
not from those whom they call historic post-tribulationists (for they
believed no such things), but from the Darbyite school of pretribulationists.
They thus abandoned the spiritual interpretations of the Reformed
school of theology, under the sole influence of the Darbyite school. They
followed the Darbyite school in expecting a literal antichrist and a literal
tribulation, but they never came over to a consistently literal interpretation,
which would drive post-tribulationism from the field. They stopped short
at various points ----often at the distinction between Israel and the church ----and
so developed a prophetic system most of which exists only as a reaction
against Darbyism. A. J. Gordon made the papacy the antichrist, and spiritualized
most of the book of Revelation. Philip Mauro adopted a mongrel system
of interpretation of the book of Revelation, partly historical and partly
futurist ----that is, partly spiritual and partly literal. Some post-tribulationists
today still spiritualize the two witnesses, and so of course the 1260
days. Over the years, however, most post-tribulationists have adopted
more and more the literal mode of interpretation, which is the foundation
of pretribulationism, and so have adopted more and more of the Darbyite
system (such as the distinction between Israel and the church), but in
all of this have held fast to their main tenet, which is that the predicted
second coming of Christ is one indivisible event.
There were a few men before Darby's time who held (with the whole early
church) the belief in a personal, future antichrist, but I am not aware
of any who held it consistently. They held a mongrel system of literal
and allegorical interpretation, which made the antichrist the papacy now,
and an individual man in the future. One such was John Wesley. He says
in his Explanatory Notes, on II Thes. 2:3, But the man of sin, the son
----Eminently so called, is not yet come. However, in many
respects, the Pope has an indisputable claim to those titles. He is, in
an emphatical sense, the man of sin, as he increases all manner of sin
above measure. And he is, too, properly styled, the son of perdition,
as he has caused the death of numberless multitudes, both of his opposers
and followers, destroyed innumerable souls, and will himself perish everlastingly.
This was only a glimmer of light in the midst of the darkness which was
the inevitable result of the spiritual system of interpretation. But
with that ray of light Wesley may have been able to see a little farther
than most men did in those days, and he wrote in his journal (May 18,
1757), It rained in the adjoining valley, all or most of the time that
I was preaching; but it was fair with us on the top of the mountain. What
an emblem of God's taking up his people into a place of safety, while
the storm falls on all below. This is figurative, and so of course cryptic,
but it is certainly a statement of belief in a rapture of the saints before
the judgements are poured out on the rest of the world. Similar statements
might be found from others before Darby, but anything clearer than this
we hardly need expect to find. When men did not know that antichrist was
coming at all, it is scarcely wise to triumph because they did not know
whether his coming was before or after the rapture. Post-tribulationists
should put away such unfair shifts.
But to move on, ninety years ago William Kelly, the friend and coadjutor
of J. N. Darby, complained of a `little booklet' written with no small
warmth, which charged that the real origin of the rapture doctrine was
a demon-inspired utterance in Edward Irving's church. Such little booklets
are still circulated by post-tribulationists, and no doubt more of them
now than then. I have several of such. Most of them fail even to touch
the scriptural merits of the case, but spend all of their words in the
historical field, endeavoring to establish the evil origin of the doctrine.
Concerning this I observe:
In their zeal to attribute this doctrine to an evil source, they have
fastened upon whatever will answer their purpose, regardless of truth
and facts, with the result that these booklets contradict each other as
to what the evil source is. Some contend that Darby received the doctrine
from a demon-inspired oracle among the Irvingites, given out by Margaret
MacDonald in 1830. Others repudiate this, and hold that Darby received
the doctrine from a book published in 1812 by a Spanish Jesuit, posing
as a Jew, and published in English in 1826 through the efforts of Edward
Irving. What we have here is a set of men determined to attribute Darby's
doctrine to an evil source, but unable to agree on what that source is.
They are too eager. If Margaret MacDonald had a revelation on the
subject in 1830, it is assumed, without proof or inquiry, that this was
the source of Darby's doctrine. If a Jesuit's book contained the doctrine
in 1826, it is assumed, equally without proof, that this must be the source
of Darby's doctrine.
But hold. All who know Darby know well enough that he would have been
the last man on earth to be influenced by either a Jesuit book or an Irvingite
oracle. On the latter William Kelly says, no serious brother in fellowship
[with the Plymouth Brethren] regarded them [the Irvingite oracles] with
less than horror, as emanating not from human excitement merely but from
a demon accredited with the power of the Holy Spirit, and adds, Can
any fair mind in God's presence, if he knew no other facts, conceive a
greater improbability than J.N.D. adopting the utterance of what he believed
a demon as a truth of God?
But there is no need to conjecture where Darby got his first suggestion
of this doctrine. Kelly says in the same article, Now it so happens
that, during a visit to Plymouth in the summer of 1845, Mr. B. W. Newton
told me that, many years before, Mr. Darby wrote to him a letter in which
he said that a suggestion was made to him by Mr. T. Tweedy, (a spiritual
man and most devoted ex-clergyman among the Irish brethren), which to
his mind quite cleared up the difficulty previously felt on this very
question. No one was farther from lending an ear to the impious and profane
voices of the quasi-inspired Irvingites than Mr. T[weedy], unless it were
J.N.D. himself. B. W. Newton knew as well as any man the Irvingite oracles,
and yet it never entered his mind to attribute Darby's doctrine to that
source. Here is Kelly's testimony as to that: Mr. Newton knew, as well
or better than most at this time of day, such of the Newman St. [Irvingite]
oracles as reached ears and eyes outside. But he also knew that no serious
brother in fellowship regarded them with less than horror, as emanating
not from human excitement merely but from a demon accredited with the
power of the Holy Spirit. . . . I willingly bear my testimony to Mr. N[ewton]
that he never to me thought of attributing the source of the so-called
doctrine, the rapture of the saints, to that seducing spirit.
One of Newtons own statements is as follows: In the first place I would
observe that the secret return of the Lord Jesus is, I believe, a doctrine
altogether new. There has been nothing in which the Church of God has
through every age been more unanimously agreed, than in expecting the
next return of the Lord Jesus to be in manifested glory; and, although
I would by no means wish to rest unduly upon this, and am quite ready
to admit the possibility of all the Saints having been in error respecting
a cardinal point of faith such as this; yet I think it will be admitted
that a new doctrine upon such a subject, advanced for the first time within
the last few years, requires most plain and decisive evidence from Scripture
before it should receive any countenance.
This is sane and judicious, and I entirely agree with it, though of course
I disagree with Newton as to whether that scriptural evidence exists.
B. W. Newton, be it remembered, was Darby's arch adversary on prophetic
themes, and especially on the rapture of the church. As was to be expected,
he made the most of the argument that Darby's doctrine was new, but it
never entered his mind to attribute it to an Irvingite oracle. Had he
done so, his testimony would have been scouted
----he would have been laughed
out of court ----for he was dealing with men who knew Darby. The fact that
an Irvingite oracle, or a Jesuit book, may contain something resembling
Darby's doctrine is really nothing to the purpose. The early brethren
attached no importance to such matters. Kelly affirms that though it was
from Darby's arch opponent that he learned that Darby's first suggestion
of this doctrine came from Mr. Tweedy, it never entered his mind, in the
nearly forty years that followed till Darby's death, to question Darby
on the point. It made no difference. The question before these men was
not, Who first taught this? or when? ----but, Does the Bible teach it?
When we examine the actual contents of the Jesuit book, or the Irvingite
oracle (as quoted in the post-tribulationists' booklets), we find but
little resemblance to Darby's doctrine anyway. But suppose it were otherwise.
Suppose the same truth which Darby taught were clearly set forth in those
----what of it? The fact is, the devil knows the truth, and for
his own ends often teaches it, or parts of it, transforming himself into
an angel of light, as the Scripture says in II Cor. 11:14. I have often
observed that the most sinister cults have clearer views on some points
of truth than do the orthodox. I believe the devil is responsible for
this. One of his ends may be to bring the truth into disrepute among the
orthodox. This he accomplished with regard to premillennialism in the
days of the Reformation, by associating it with a most fanatical sect.
The fact that a cult or false religion teaches some point of truth is
not reason enough to reject it.
When after centuries of cessation, the charismatic gifts (tongues and
prophecies) were restored among the Irvingites about 1830, most of
the orthodox, including Darby and the Brethren generally, strongly believed
those gifts of be of Satanic or demonic origin. Robert Baxter, who was
designated by those supernatural utterances as an apostle of the movement,
eventually came himself to see those gifts as Satanic, his eyes being
opened by the frequent failure of plain English prophecies. He left the
movement, and wrote his Narrative of Facts, Characterizing the Supernatural
Manifestations, in Members of Mr. Irving's Congregation,...and Formerly
in the Writer Himself. In that book he makes frequent reference to the
content of those oracular utterances, the sum of which is that there was
a great deal of truth in them, mixed with a great deal of error. Those
spirits preached Christ with such clarity and power as to deceive the
very elect. Of this Baxter says, Christ was preached in such power,
and with such clearness, and the exhortations to repentance so energetic
and arousing, that it is hard to believe the person delivering it could
be under the delusion of Satan. Yet so it was, and the fact stands before
us, as a proof the most fearful errors may be propounded under the guise
of greater light and zeal for God's truth. `As an angel of light' is an
array of truth, as well as holiness and love, which nevertheless Satan
is permitted to put on, to accomplish and sustain his delusions. Again,
There was so much of light and truth, such a setting forth of Jesus,
so great an opening of the truth of Scripture, that our faith rested on
these evidences, and the dark and stumbling occurrences we could not unravel,
we left with the Lord to clear up in his own time. Those seducing spirits,
in other words, bore witness with great power to much precious truth which
every post-tribulationist holds today. Yet those same spirits testified
to the purity of the Church of England, and the impurity of the humanity
of Christ. They testified also to the rapture of the church, but in a
way that no Darbyite has ever had any sympathy with. Fearful denunciations
of judgment were given both morning and evening, and the reiterated declaration
that, within three years and a half, the believers in the Lord would be
caught up to him, and the world delivered over to the judgments of God.
Such a prophecy is false upon the face of it, setting the date of the
rapture for about 1833, and can anyone seriously suppose that Darby would
be any way influenced by such stuff?
The legitimate conclusions are these:
----and much less did J. N. Darby ----holds the doctrine
of the rapture because it was taught by the Irvingites, any more than
post-tribulationists hold the Deity of Christ because it is taught by
the Church of Rome.
2.We have no right to reject the rapture doctrine because the Irvingites
taught it, any more than we have to reject any other truth they taught.
In the final analysis the only question must be, What saith the Scripture?
As for the Jesuit book, some of these little booklets are at great
pains to establish that the belief in a personal, future antichrist is
a shift initiated by the Jesuits, in order to wipe off from the Church
of Rome the stigma of being the antichrist, and it is of course assumed
without a shadow of proof that this was the source of Darby's doctrine.
This is unfair to both the facts of history and the persons of the pretribulationists.
As to the former, it is a fact of history that the whole early church
believed in a personal antichrist yet to come, before the papacy or the
Jesuits were ever dreamed of. Most post-tribulationists today believe
also in a future personal antichrist, and they did not learn the doctrine
from the Jesuits, but from the pretribulationists. As to the source of
Darby's doctrine, we have his own statement before us, providentially
preserved in spite of the fact that the Brethren of his day attached no
importance to it. Post-tribulationists ought to have the candor and fairness
to accept Darby's own statement.
Who Shall Be Caught Up?
by James H. Brookes (1830-1897)
[This is the last testimony of James H. Brookes to the pretribulational
rapture of the church. Robert Cameron, a post-tribulationist, contends
that shortly before his death Brookes gave up the doctrine of the imminency
of Christ's return, in a personal conversation with himself. Cameron's
book was published long after Brookes had died. Our answer is that whatever
Brookes may have said on one occasion concerning one particular point,
it is certain that he never had any sympathy with post-tribulationism,
or ever wavered in his life-long belief in the pretribulational coming
of Christ. This article was published in the last issue of The Truth ever
prepared by Brookes, that of May, 1897. A publisher's note in the notice
of Brookes's death, which accompanies the May issue, says, Our dear
brother furnished the copy for this issue of THE TRUTH shortly before
he was stricken down. He died on April 18, 1897.]
This question is distinctly answered by the testimony of the Holy Ghost.
This we say unto you by the word of the Lord
----not the word of Peter
or James or John ----that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming
of the Lord, shall not prevent ----precede or go before ----them which
are asleep. For the Lord Himself ----not death, nor the Holy Spirit,
nor any providential event ----shall descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead
in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall
be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the
air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord, I Thess. iv. 15-17.
There are many beloved brethren who think that only premillennialists
shall be caught up, claiming that the promise is unto all them that
love His appearing, 2 Tim. iv.8; unto them that look for Him, Heb.
ix.28. But there are tens of thousands, now sleeping in the grave, who
were beyond all doubt earnest and faithful Christians in life, and yet
they never heard of our Lord's personal return, or at least never grasped
its meaning. They surely are in Christ; and the dead in Christ shall
rise first. If they come forth from the slumber of the tomb, whether
they were pre- or post-millennialists, it is certain that there can be
no partial rapture.
Every man in his own order, band or cohort; Christ the firstfruits;
afterward they that are Christ's, at His coming, I Cor. xv.23. If they
are Christ's by faith in Him as their Lord and Redeemer, they shall be
His at His coming, even though they have not looked forward to His advent
with hope and joy. Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep,
but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be
raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, I Cor. xv.51,52. Here
there is obviously no difference between those living and those sleeping,
when the Lord comes again. Whether changed or raised, they all share alike
in the glory of His second advent.
Our enrollment as citizens is in heaven; from whence also we look for
the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the body of our humiliation,
that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body according to the
working whereby He is able to even subdue all things unto Himself, Phil.
iii.20,21. It is evident that all believers are here included, without
reference to their attainments in knowledge, and all will have part in
the resurrection, and in the splendid transformation that shall then be
But the thought that only premillennialists are caught up to meet the
Lord in the air, plainly implies some superior merit on their part, either
of acquaintance with the truth, or faithfulness in conduct. Thus a self-complacent
and self-righteous spirit is unconsciously fostered, which is in every
way most injurious. There are many who believe in Christ's premillennial
coming as a doctrine, and yet are living far from Him practically, sometimes,
at least, being surpassed in their devotedness by post-millennialists,
who know nothing, or care nothing, for the truth concerning His second
So there are all degrees of faithfulness, from those who have scarcely
more than a name to live, to those who are consecrated, loving, obedient
children of God. What measure of faithfulness must be achieved in order
to entitle us to look for the reward of being caught up at the Lord's
return? Alas! any who have a proper estimate of themselves will be the
last to boast of meriting reward, and will gladly attribute all they are,
all that they have, all that they hope to be, and shall have forever,
to free, sovereign, unmerited grace. They are ready to listen to the rebuke
of the Holy Ghost: Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that
thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory,
as if thou didst not receive it? I Cor. iv.7.
There is another fact to be considered in pondering this question, and
that is the unity of the church. For as the body is one, and hath many
members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body;
so also is the Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one
body, I Cor. xii.11,12. The church, which is His body, the fulness
of Him that filleth all in all, Eph. i.23. It does not seem according
to Scripture that our Lord would have one part of His body asleep in the
grave, and another part raised in glory, one part amid the entanglements
of the great tribulation on the earth, and another part caught up to meet
Him in the air. Hence it is impossible to sympathize with many dear brethren
in their view of a partial rapture.
It is equally impossible to accept the teaching of many other excellent
brethren, that the church, the real church, the regenerated ones, those
washed in the blood of the Lamb, and the children of God by faith in Jesus
Christ, must pass through the great tribulation, or that there is no perceptible
difference between the coming of the Lord for His saints, and His appearing
with them. There will doubtless be a vast multitude, calling themselves
Christians, over whom the tribulation judgments will roll; but to the
true believer the promise of the coming Lord is addressed with sweet assurance,
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee
out of the hour of temptation, which will come upon all the world, to
try them that dwell upon the earth, Rev. iii.10.
These brethren are in the habit of quoting such passages as, This gospel
of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all
nations, and After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh,
and reckoneth with them, Matt. xxiv.14; xxv.19; but it is difficult
to see the bearing of the texts upon the tribulation. The Holy Spirit
certifies in many places that when the Lord Jesus Christ finally appears
in manifested majesty, all the saints will appear with Him, Zech. xiv.5;
I Thess. iii.13; Jude 14, etc. There must be, therefore, an interval longer
or shorter between His coming for His people, and His coming with them.
Besides, it cannot be denied that He said again and again to His disciples,
Watch, therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come, Matt.
xxiv.42; What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch, Mark xiii.37;
Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find
watching, Lu. xii.37; If I go and prepare a place for you, I will
come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may
be also, John xiv.3; Surely I come quickly, Rev. xxii.20. There
is not an intimation that we are to expect any other event to precede
and signal His advent, but to keep our eye intently fixed upon Himself,
and our ear attentively listening for His approaching footsteps. If we
postpone His return until after the tribulation, it is useless to watch
now; and all the hopes, and joys, and glories, and the meeting with our
dead, and the cessation of sorrow, and the sweetness of satisfied desire,
must be put off to a future time.
The Bible and the Teacher
by Glenn Conjurske
Great confusion, and a great deal of spiritual poverty, have arisen in
the church of God from a failure to understand the distinct natures and
the proper places of the written word of God and the preachers of it.
Some put the teacher in the place of the written word. Others put the
written word in the place of the teacher. Those who have high esteem for
some particular teacher or teachers, past or present, are likely to put
those teachers in the place of the Bible, ascribing to them the authority
which rightly belongs to the Book alone. Those who have high views of
the written word are likely to put the Bible in the place of the teacher,
expecting from the Book itself the instruction which God has designed
they should receive from the expounders of it, and which in fact they
are not likely to receive at all in any other way. Many are in part guilty
of both of these mistakes. Both are mistakes, and both are injurious.
The written word will never take the place of the preached word, any more
than the preached word can take the place of the written word. In every
department of the application of the word of God to the souls of men,
from the awakening, conviction, and conversion of sinners, to the perfecting
of the saints, there is generally no substitute for the voice, or the
pen, of the preacher or teacher. Many have questioned this, or denied
it, in a mistaken attempt to do honor to the written word. But it no more
detracts from the written word to value the true teacher of it than it
disparages the larder to praise the cook. The fact is, God has given both
the written word and the preacher. He has given the written word to be
the rule and standard of all things, and he has given the human preacher
to expound it. Both are his gifts, and both are essential to the health
of his people. To endeavor to put the Bible in the place of the teacher
will generally be as unfruitful as it is pernicious to put the teacher
in the place of the Bible. Each has its own God-appointed place to fill,
and to thrust aside one of them in an attempt to exalt the other is to
impugn the wisdom of the God who gave them both.
When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts
unto men. ... And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,
evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the
saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
(Eph. 4:8,11-12). The Lord gave these gifts because the church needed
them. He did not give a pair of crutches to a man with two good legs,
nor a pair of spectacles to a man with two good eyes. The giving of the
gifts presumes the need for them.
But Scripture says also, But the anointing which ye have received of
him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the
same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie,
and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (I Jn. 2:27).
Multitudes have stumbled over this scripture, and fallen into the error
of denying their need of human teachers, thus despising the gifts which
Christ has given for their good. But observe:
1.This scripture says not one word about the Bible or its sufficiency.
The issue here is not between the Scriptures and human teachers, but between
the Holy Spirit and human teachers. The Holy Spirit was given to the church
before any of the New Testament was written, and if his presence in them
was actually sufficient to take the place of human teachers, that fact
must have been as true before the New Testament was written as it is now.
The question of the sufficiency of the written word is not even touched
2.Common sense, no less than faith, dictates that whatever may be meant
by the all-sufficient teaching of the Holy Spirit in this text, it cannot
mean that Christ's gifts are of no value, or that there is no need of
any kind for the teachers which he has given.
3.If John had believed that the anointing which they had received actually
eliminated the need of all human teaching, he would never have penned
the verse before us, nor the epistle which contains it, either, for he
was certainly teaching them in the whole of it.
4.The passage is written particularly concerning them that seduce you
----that is, those who would seduce them, for the present tense
expresses purpose or intent, as often in the Greek New Testament. He speaks
(vs. 22) of antichrists, who deny the Father and the Son, the same as
in Matt. 24:24, who if it were possible, shall deceive the very elect.
Deceive there is the same word as seduce here. It does not speak
of deceiving men about some point of doctrine, but of turning them away
from Christ. Thus the expected result of the Spirit's teaching in I Jn.
2:27 is not to be perfected in knowledge or anything else, but to abide
in him ----to be kept from turning aside after false Christs and false
prophets. That teaching which perfects the saints comes by the ministry
of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers.
The need for human teachers proceeds from two things: in the first place
from the dullness of human hearts, but also from the nature of the Bible
itself. First, For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have
need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles
of God. (Heb. 5:12). Their need for a human teacher is explicitly stated:
Ye have need that one teach you. The reason for the need is also stated:
their own dullness and lack of spiritual exercise. For the time they ought
to have been teachers themselves.
But let us be clear here that this does not imply that they would ever
outgrow the need of teachers
----only that they would get beyond the need
to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God. They ought
to get beyond milk, and require strong meat, as the verse goes
on to state. Yet when they have attained to that state, they will need
On the road to Emmaus the Lord finds two disciples groping for light to
understand the death of him whom they judged to be the Messiah. Then
he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and
to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets,
he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
(Luke 24:25-27). The dullness of their hearts is the first thing that
necessitates a teacher, and he gives them a reproof for that. And understand,
he acts here as a teacher, not as a revelator. He gave them no new revelation.
Whatever he taught them was contained in the scriptures, yet they
had never seen it there. The things they had no doubt seen, but they had
never seen their significance, never understood their connections, never
seen their bearing on the question at hand. And here is the proper business
of the teacher. The Lord did no more than open the scriptures to them
(vs. 32). He imposed nothing upon them by his authority as a revelator,
as he had done at other times. There was nothing here of Ye have heard
that it hath been said..., but I say unto you... He merely opened
the Scriptures to them
----merely pointed out to them what the Scriptures
contained. But he did not merely point out to them what the Scriptures
said. That were unnecessary, and an insult to their intelligence. He expounded
unto them the bearing and significance of those things. He did not authoritatively
impose those bearings upon them. Of this there was not the slightest need.
The things which he expounded to them were in themselves so obvious, so
unquestionably true, so gloriously true, when once pointed out to them,
that their hearts burned within them while he thus taught them.
But more: under the existing circumstances it would have been impossible
for him to have imposed any teaching upon them by authority, for at the
time during which he was making their hearts to burn with those things,
they did not know who he was. And this fact opens to us the true place
of a teacher of the word of God. He must of course be a man of greater
spiritual insight than those whom he teaches. He must see farther than
they see. He must understand the Scriptures in a way that they do not.
This is the main thing that qualifies him as a teacher. But this gives
no authority to his message. If he is a true teacher of the truth of God,
the things which he teaches will validate themselves to spiritual minds.
They will be obviously right, in the light of the Bible itself, which
remains the sole authority in settling every question of doctrine and
Philip found the Ethiopian Eunuch reading the Scriptures, and asked him,
Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except
some man guide me? (Acts 8:30-31). A guide is someone who knows the
ground, and can lead another man over it. The eunuch felt his need of
such a guide. He can read the words of Isaiah, but is left wondering,
of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
And this leads us to the second reason for the need of human teachers,
which is found in the nature of the Book itself. The Bible says, He
was led as a sheep to the slaughter, but it gives no indication that
these words speak of the Messiah. This must be learned from the nature
of what is said, and only can be learned by a man who already knows something
of the Messiah. This is the ordinary way of the Bible. The Book itself
is obscure and cryptic. It informs us of certain acts of many men, but
often declines to tell us if those acts were right or wrong. This we must
discover for ourselves, by study and experience. It tells what God does,
but often tells us not why. This we must learn however we can. The most
common words (and the most important), such as world, love, and
believe, occur in different places with different significance, content,
----yet there is nothing in the Book to tell us this. This
also must be learned. Such things are often learned by hard wrestling
with doctrinal and practical difficulties, until we are forced (by what
the Book says, and often against our prior thoughts or our will) to the
proper and divinely intended conclusions. The Book prescribes a thousand
duties without defining them, or telling us how to perform them. It tells
us to abide in him, to walk in the Spirit,, but declines to tell
us what these things consist of, or how to go about performing them. It
tells us to love not the world, without defining what the world is.
These things we must learn however we can. The answers are in the Book,
but implicitly, not explicitly, as hidden wisdom ----not lying upon
the surface, not explicitly spelled out. If thou seekest her as silver,
and searchest for her as for hid treasures (Prov. 2:4), then thou shalt
find her. The nature of the Book is such that the proud, the self-sufficient,
the prejudiced, will stumble and go astray at every turn. None but the
humble, the God-fearing, the single-eyed, the faithful, and the diligent
will find their way in it. It has often been truly remarked that every
form of error has been taught from the Bible ----and very plausibly taught,
too. The Book readily lends itself to this because of its very nature.
Now the fact that this is the nature of the Book leads us devoutly to
believe that it is so by God's design. He could, with perfect ease, have
given to us a book which would have explicitly spelled out every doctrine
and duty with the utmost plainness, and given us the reason of everything.
This he could have done in a book very much smaller than the Bible. But
the evident fact is, he has not chosen to do so. Why he has not done so,
it may be idle for us to speculate, and I will say no more about it than
to quote these few reasons suggested in the original preface to the King
James Bible: partly to exercise and whet our wits, partly to wean the
curious from loathing of them for their every-where-plainness, partly
also to stir up our devotion to crave the assistance of God's Spirit by
prayer, and lastly, that we might be forward to seek aid of our brethren
This does not concern the dullness of our hearts, but the nature of the
Book. The Bible is not a creed or a book of systematic theology. It bears
no resemblance to a museum of natural history, where a man may go and
in one hour view a hundred completed skeletons of prehistoric animals.
The Bible is rather a field of fossils, forty acres in extent. Most of
the bones are not lying on the surface. We must dig for them, and dig
very deep in many cases. When we do dig, we shall not find complete skeletons,
but only scattered bones, one here, two there, and another yonder. Moreover,
the bones of a thousand distinct animals lie there, all mingled together,
and scattered in the most haphazard fashion. The bones which we unearth
will not be labelled mammoth or mastodon. We must learn the nature
and proper place of those bones by studying them, and so, little by little,
we may piece together the various skeletons.
Such a picture exactly represents the actual nature of the Bible, and
this is obviously so by God's design and choice. He has given to us to
wrestle with a thousand unanswered questions, and to puzzle over the real
significance of a thousand facts of Scripture. The more we search out
and meditate upon those things, the more answers we are likely to find.
But to sound the depths of Scripture is the work of a millennium, and
most of us pass through a large share of the little vapor of our lives
not even knowing what the questions are, to say nothing of the answers.
Most of the doctrines which most of us hold are partial skeletons at best.
In one sense, all of the doctrines which all of us hold are partial. We
know in part. The whole of things is not yet revealed. But I refer to
those things which are revealed
----those things which we can know ----those
things which are contained in the Scriptures. Even in those we generally
know only in part. The skeletons which we have constructed are incomplete.
We have not yet discovered every bone which belongs to them. We may not
feel this if we have all of the major bones in place, but it is yet a
fact that as we go deeper and deeper into the word and ways of God, by
study and by Christian experience, we will find pieces that we have never
found before ----even pieces which we had walked over and handled before,
without ever seeing their nature or their place. If we have constructed
our skeletons with care and accuracy (with a single eye, a spiritual mind,
and a faithful heart), the new pieces which we find will not undo what
we have built already, but will add to it.
I am not speaking of any new revelation, but only of what has been present
in the Bible from the beginning, but which we had never seen before. The
teacher's business is merely to point out to us what is there
out to us things which we may see just as plainly as he does, when once
they are pointed out to us. This assumes, of course, that we have the
mental and spiritual capacity to understand those things. If our minds
and hearts are dull, we may be unable to see plain truths even when they
are pointed out to us. When I was first introduced to Old Testament types,
I was but a babe in Christ, and I had no ability to appreciate them. I
supposed them to rest upon nothing more substantial than the imagination
of the teachers, whom I thought to be trifling with the word of God. Now
those same types appear to me as among the most profound and beautiful
things in the Bible, and as one of the strongest proofs of its inspiration.
Then I had no capacity to see them at all. And so it is with all of the
truth of the Bible. In just the measure of our own spiritual experience ----in
just the measure that our spiritual senses are exercised ----in just the
measure that we are engaged in the cause of Christ (to use a common
term of olden days) ----in just the measure that we love the truth as such,
without regard to party feeling or prejudice ----in just that measure we
shall be able to plainly see the truth when it is pointed out to us.
And it is just here that we see both the place and the value of God-given
teachers. They have no business to usurp the place of the Scriptures,
by assuming to themselves authority to prescribe what men must believe.
This is papal, and pernicious. The teacher's place is to explain and point
out the truth, so that men may see it for themselves, and embrace it on
that basis. Men who are in the proper spiritual state may easily see for
themselves, when it is pointed out to them, truth which they may never
see by themselves.
The novice who first enters the forty-acre field of fossils will make
but slow progress on his own, and he may have many a horse's tooth in
the mammoth's mouth, and make serpents enough of tigers' tails. What he
wants is a guide, and a man who has studied those bones for half a century
already will be of inestimable service to him. It is an indisputable fact
that most of God's saints discover but little of the truth on their own
account. This may be in part because of their lack of diligence, and the
dullness of their hearts, but even the diligent and the spiritual make
slow progress without a teacher. This is because of the cryptic nature
of the Book of God.
And beyond that, we may affirm with all confidence that it is not the
design of God to teach every man individually and independently. His design
is that they should be built up by that which every joint supplies.
(Eph. 4:16). His design is that the truth should be passed on from man
to man. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses,
the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others
also. (II Tim. 2:2). It is thus that God designs that men should learn
the truth. The Bible alone will not suffice them. They need the teacher,
who knows the Bible.
There are times, however, when the truth would be lost altogether, and
beyond recovery, if God did not teach certain men directly, individually,
and personally. Such times have constantly recurred throughout history,
through the lack of faithful men to carry on the testimony. At such
times God will yet work to maintain his own testimony. Here and there,
perhaps once in a generation, perhaps once in a century, he raises up
men whom he leads directly into the truth which his people have lost,
without the benefit of a human teacher. Such men are called prophets,
but the book of First Samuel tells us that he that is now called a prophet
was beforetime called a seer. (I Sam. 9:9). A seer is one who sees.
He sees what other men do not, and this he does by the direct teaching
of God. A prophet in the strictest sense sees by direct and immediate
revelation from God. We need no such prophets today, and I believe we
have none. We need no new revelation from God. Whatever the church of
God needs is contained in the Scriptures, and yet because of the dullness
of men's hearts and the nature of the Book itself, most men will never
find it there without the aid of a human teacher. Most of the truth is
not explicitly spelled out in the Scriptures, but must be pieced together
by deep and painstaking study
----here a precept, there an example ----here
a parable, there a prayer ----here a principle, there a type ----here a
historical fact, there a prophecy
----here a plain didactic statement, there an incidental allusion (and
usually more of the latter than the former). All of these lie scattered
throughout the divine volume like the scattered bones in the fossil-field,
and a thousand men may handle them every day without ever seeing their
connections. When once those connections are pointed out to them, they
may be as clear as the noon-day, so that they will go away saying, Why
didn't I ever see that?
A prophet, then, a seer, is one to whom God himself has opened the Scriptures,
so that he sees what is in them. His business is to pass on to faithful
men what he sees, explaining and expounding the Scriptures, so that they
may see it also. In this respect a seer, who has been taught directly
by God, is no different than a man who has learned the same truth through
the medium of other men. The basis of the truth, the authority for it,
lies in the Book, and not in their own persons, nor in the manner in which
they have learned what they know.
The Bible and the teacher are both the gifts of God, and both are necessary
for the good of his people. But the good which God designs in both of
them is largely lost when their distinct natures are misapprehended, and
their places confused. There has been a danger throughout the history
of the church to put the teacher in the place of the Bible. This tendency
was very strongly developed in some of the early fathers of the church,
and is full-blown in the Church of Rome. A man may be a true prophet of
God, and therefore very rightly esteemed in the church, but that esteem
may take a wrong direction. The man may come to be regarded as practically
infallible, and his utterances taken as authoritative
----not because men
plainly see his doctrine to be the truth, but because their mentor teaches
it. Thus we have the seeing leading the blind, and if the prophet himself
is mistaken, the blind leading the blind, and there is no remedy. Such
a state of things is not ----cannot be ----the fruit of the proper love
and esteem which the disciple owes to his teacher, nor yet of the humility
which rightly becomes the disciple. Such an evil consequence cannot flow
from causes so good and proper. There is another root beneath such a state
of things. That root is lukewarmness. It is spiritual laziness. It is
the failure of men to think for themselves. Their love of the truth, which
ought to be supreme, falls below their love for the teacher of it, or
the sect or party to which he belongs, and the teacher practically replaces
But the lukewarmness of which I speak is so often associated with so much
of zeal that it is seldom recognized as lukewarmness. Men will cross and
recross and crisscross the country to attend the seminars or conferences
of their favorite teacher
----and follow him equally when he speaks the
truth or when he speaks error. The zeal is commendable, but it is no excuse
for the lukewarmness which fails to prove all things, and hold fast
that which is good. It is no excuse for the lukewarmness which allows
another man to do their thinking for them. The seer will not answer for
them in the day of judgement, and it is inexcusable spiritual apathy and
folly to allow him to see for them in this life.
The teacher also replaces the Bible whenever human creeds are imposed
by ecclesiastical authority. The creed is presumed to be both complete
----facts which are true of the Bible alone. The creed displaces
the Bible as authority. Further inquiry is discouraged, if not forbidden
and punished. The men who question the creed are tried for heresy, as
were both Lyman Beecher and Albert Barnes among the Presbyterians. The
Bible is to be studied, to be sure, but only to find support for the creed,
which is the real authority.
But there is an error on the other side
----more subtle, and not so dangerous ----but
still an error. That error is putting the Bible in the place of the teacher.
Certain segments of the modern missionary endeavor have been guilty of
this. Missionaries go to primitive tribes, not to preach, but to translate
the Bible. Various movements in the church have supposed that to circulate
the Bible will fulfill the great commission. But no: the terms of the
great commission are to go and preach. Thus did the apostles of Christ.
We are continually told that they preached Christ ----preached the word
of the Lord ----preached the gospel in many villages ----preached in all
the cities ----preached Christ in the synagogues ----preached the gospel
to that city ----preached the word in Perga ----preached the word of the
Lord ----preached unto them ----preached unto them. Not one reference do
we find to the apostles going anywhere to supply copies of the Scriptures.
Such a thing was altogether beyond their means, and it is certain that
most of the converts of the apostolic church did not possess a copy of
the Scriptures. Indeed, it is probable that the apostles themselves did
not. Yet the spirituality and the success of the apostolic church far
outshines that of the church of the present day, in which every Christian
has a Bible, and many of them more Bibles than they know what to do with.
William Taylor, who called himself a Methodist preacher of the old school,
and who was an apostle of Methodist missions the world over till his death
in 1902, was used of God in bringing raw heathen to a saving acceptance
of Christ under a single discourse.
----and that while preaching through
an interpreter. This was after the apostolic pattern. What would he have
done if he had stopped to translate the Bible first ----or if he had translated
the Bible instead of preaching? The Ethiopian eunuch had a Bible in his
hands, but it availed him nothing until he found a man who knew that Bible,
and could open it up to him. He was then converted on the spot.
I am aware that to convert the lost and to build up the saints are two
different things, but the preached word is the ordinary means of accomplishing
both. To the Ephesian elders Paul said, And now, brethren, I commend
you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up.
This is generally applied exclusively to the written word, as though what
Paul were here recommending were merely Bible study. To Bible study I
have not the slightest objection. Would to God there were more of it.
Yet I doubt that that is all that Paul means here. When he writes elsewhere
to those same Ephesians concerning the means of edification, he makes
no mention of the written word at all, but only of the ministry of it.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints for the
work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we
all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of
God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness
of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro,
and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men,
and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking
the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head,
even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted
by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working
in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying
of itself in love. (Eph. 4:11-16). Here it is the preaching of men,
the ministry of the gifts which Christ has given, the working of every
part of the body, that which every joint supplieth, which is the
means of edification. Those who think to dispense with all of this, and,
under the mistaken notion of exalting the written word, put the Bible
in the place of the teacher, are most likely to have spiritual poverty
as the result.
But here a real difficulty arises. During much of the history of the church
many of its teachers have been the bane of sound doctrine and spirituality.
This is unquestionably so at the present time. From the nationally known
figures who teach the multitudes in seminars or radio broadcasts, to the
editors of religious papers, to the teachers at Bible colleges, down to
the simple pastors of the small village and country churches, many of
the teachers of the modern church do little more than lead the people
astray, and the best of them seldom do more than perpetuate the shallow
doctrines and worldly ways of modern Christianity. However sincere they
may be, there are but few who are able to do more than this. Where is
a hungry soul to be fed in such days as these?
It is easy enough to affirm that we need only ask the Lord for spiritual
food, and he will feed us, but know this, that the Lord has not only promised
to satisfy the hungry and the thirsty
----he has also promised to send
a famine, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing
the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from
the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word
of the Lord, and shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12). The written word
exists as always, but there is a famine of the hearing of it, a famine
of the true teaching of it. This is a true description of our own times,
in which men may cross the country to go to the seminars of the popular
teachers, or spend their money to buy the Christian books which flood
the market, and yet not find the word of the Lord, but only shallow stuff
to starve their souls, or subtle sophistry to subvert the simple. This
state of things exists as a judgement of God upon the worldliness and
lukewarmness of the people. God, of course, is merciful, and willing to
bestow his gifts, but he looks for some real repentance and some real
hunger in his people. D. L. Moody, before the world had heard his name,
crossed the continent and the ocean to sit at the feet of Henry Varley
and George Müller and C. H. Spurgeon. But such hunger is just the
thing usually lacking in the church today. I once heard an old man say
of the church he was attending, This place should be just like a restaurant.
People should come here hungry, and go away full. But here they come in
hungry, and go away hungry. Yet that man continued to go there till
the day of his death. If the people continue to come in hungry, and go
out hungry, it is precisely because they are not hungry enough. They are
lukewarm. The truly hungry will find food, though they may have to storm
the gates of heaven for it, or cross a continent, or spend a fortune.
Where there's a will, there's a way.
The lukewarm and apathetic have no great desire for spiritual teachers
of the word of God, being content without them. The proud and self-sufficient
feel no great need for such teachers, supposing themselves capable of
treading out the corn for themselves. But the humble and hungry soul,
who is fervent and diligent in seeking spiritual food, will find food.
The Lord will feed him. The Lord may even make of him one of those seers,
who sees by the direct teaching of God, and can in turn lead others to
the light. The Lord may provide for him a heaven-sent teacher. But the
fact is, the Lord has already given abundance of such teachers to his
church. They lie now in their graves, 'tis true, but they being dead yet
speak. The truly hungry soul will find them out. He may not know where
to look, or how to look, but he knows how to cry to God, and God knows
how to answer him. Good books can be found by the diligent seeker. The
humble and hungry soul today can sit at the feet of Menno Simons and Richard
Baxter, of John Wesley and John Fletcher, of J. C. Ryle and J. N. Darby,
of C. H. Spurgeon and C. H. Mackintosh, of R. A. Torrey and Gipsy Smith.
But the same apathy which keeps men from the earnest and diligent study
of the Bible will keep them from the books of these men. When men really
love the Bible, they will of course love the men who open its treasures
----and value each in the place to which God has assigned it, neither
putting the Bible in the place of the teacher, nor the teacher in the
place of the Bible.
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.