The Tears of Esau
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.
This scripture has given a great deal of trouble to many souls. Yet it
is unfortunate that the most of those who ought to be troubled by it are
not troubled at all, while others are led to fear that there is no repentance
for them, though in fact they may have actually repented already. Still
others are kept from repenting by the supposition that it will avail them
nothing, for they have sold their birthright as Esau did, and there is
no retrieving it.
Such thoughts come from the adversary, and not from the Savior who said,
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest (Matt. 11:28), and Him that cometh to me I will in no wise
cast out (John 6:37). The devil speaks to discourage. God speaks to
encourage and draw. The solemn warnings of God are designed to move men
to repentance, and it is the adversary of souls who uses them to drive
men to despair. Even the Lord's solemn pronouncements of judgement are
spoken to move men to repentance, as is perfectly plain in the case of
the men of Nineveh. There was no offer of mercy to them, but only a solemn
pronouncement of impending judgement: Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall
be overthrown. (Jonah 3:4). Yet the very fact that God sent them a prophet
to announce the determined judgement was proof enough that he desired
their repentance and salvation. He could have destroyed them without warning.
The forty days which he gave them was further proof that he desired
to spare them. Forty in Scripture is the number of testing or probation,
and its use here indicates that though the judgement was determined, it
could yet be revoked. And though the Ninevites could not have understood
this, they could understand that those forty days were days of grace and
opportunity. They laid hold of their opportunity, and repented, and their
repentance availed before God, as it always does. The forty days which
God gave to them were nothing other than space to repent. (Rev. 2:21).
They were nothing other than the place of repentance which Esau found
not, nor would the Ninevites have found it had they waited until the forty-first
day. But it is an undoubted fact that those forty days were given them
that they might repent, and God himself lays down the principle that even
when he has decreed judgement, he will withhold the execution of that
judgement if men repent. At what instant I shall speak, he says, concerning
a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and
to destroy it, if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from
their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
The fact is, there is a gospel. I believe in that gospel, and the very
foundation of the proclamation of that gospel is a place of repentance.
If there were no place of repentance for profane Esaus, who have sold
their birthright for a mess of pottage, the gospel were no more than a
dead letter, and who could be saved? How many among the saved on earth
today were not once as profane as Esau? The unavailing tears of Esau are
not meant to discourage men from repenting, but to move them to repent
while they can.
What, then, shall we make of the solemn fact that Esau found no place
of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. Surely there
is a solemn message in this which is not to be explained away by the mere
fact that there is a gospel. Gospel or no gospel, there is a time coming
when there will be no place of repentance
----when it will be said,
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still, and he that is profane,
profane still ----when all those who have all their lives chosen the mess
of pottage before the birthright blessing will be held to their choice
by the God who is not mocked.
The question is, When is that time? In the first place, it will come most
assuredly at the death of the individual or the coming of Christ. The
unavailing tears of Esau, and his unavailing pleading for the blessing,
do not have their counterpart in the tears and cries of the sincere penitent
in this life, but exemplify rather that time when once the master of
the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand
without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and
he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are. Then shall
ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast
taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence
ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping
and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,
and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust
out. (Luke 13:25-28). When God has shut the door, as he did when Noah
had entered into the ark, the tears and cries of those outside will no
longer avail. Therefore he says, in the verse immediately preceding those
just quoted, Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say
unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. This is the
counterpart of Esau's unavailing pleading for the blessing, which, till
then, he had despised.
But does that time ever come, when the door is irrevocably shut, during
this life? I will neither affirm nor deny it. I am certain that real repentance
and faith will avail before God, though they come at a man's last gasp.
The thief on the cross was certainly saved, though he repented as his
life's blood flowed from his veins. God will surely accept a death-bed
repentance, if man can render it, but in the very nature of the case this
will be a difficult thing. The repentance which God requires of a man
is that he give up his sins and his own way, and how can a dying man sincerely
do this? I will not say it is impossible, but in the nature of the case
it must be very difficult. In the nature of the case it must be a very
hard thing for a man sincerely and voluntarily to repent of his sins while
those sins (which he has long held and hugged) are being wrenched from
his grasp, whether he will or no. This is like a man breaking up with
the flame of his heart, when she had broken up with him yesterday. He
may be sincere in this, but most likely if she were reconciled to him
tomorrow, he would be reconciled to her likewise. Can a dying man,
says Jeremy Taylor, to any real effect resolve to be chaste? Can the
bum, who is dying in the street, resolve to any real purpose to quit stealing
and get a job? Can he resolve not to have an expensive funeral?
A dying man will of course grasp at eternal life, as a drowning man will
grasp at a straw, but there is no repentance in this, any more than there
was in the tears and cries of Esau. He wanted the blessing, but so far
was he from repenting of having sold it, that he actually laid the blame
for that on Jacob, though it was unquestionably his own choice and act.
So also every dying man (who is not utterly destitute of any sense of
God) desires eternal life, and may seek it carefully with tears when death
stares him in the face. He may repent with all his powers. But what is
such repentance worth? The good behavior of the arrested criminal is no
indication whatever of what his behavior would be if he yet had his liberty.
Of what worth can it be for a rebel to surrender after he has been captured?
What confidence is to be placed in such a surrender? Usually, none. This
is proved by the fact that when dying men recover, their repentance usually
expires as quickly as it was born. The danger past, and God forgotten,
an old proverb says. It is easy enough for a man to part with his sins
when they are being wrenched from his hand unavoidably, but it is not
so easy for him sincerely to do so. If the only reason a man parts with
his sins is that he knows he cannot hold them any longer, what repentance
is there in this? It is only what we call sour grapes. The fox would
surely have eaten the grapes if he could have reached them, but because
he could not, they must be sour. Thus do dying men denounce their sins.
Yet the glorious gospel of Christ still stands, and so long as an hour
of the forty days remains, the place of repentance may yet be
found. We rightly question the sincerity of the man who waits till the
eleventh hour of the fortieth day to repent, yet a man can repent even
----if he can truly count the cost, actually sorrow after a godly
sort, and in reality relinquish sin as such. The dying thief condemned
himself, justified God, confessed Christ, and reproved his fellow-sinner
while his life ebbed away ----and found mercy. Sam Hadley really repented
with death staring him in the face. His whole subsequent life was proof
of the reality of it. He describes his repentance thus:
I had pawned everything or sold everything that would buy a drink. I
could not sleep a wink. I had not eaten for days, and for the four nights
preceding I had suffered with delirium tremens from midnight until morning.
I was sitting on a whiskey barrel for perhaps two hours, when all of
a sudden I seemed to feel some great and mighty presence. I did not know
then what it was. I learned afterwards that it was Jesus, the sinner's
Friend. Dear reader, never until my dying day will I forget the sight
presented to my horrified gaze. My sins appeared to creep along the wall
in letters of fire. I turned and looked in another direction, and there
I saw them again.
I have always believed I got a view of eternity right there in that
gin-mill. I believe I saw what every poor lost sinner will see when he
stands unrepentant and unforgiven at the bar of God. It filled me with
an unspeakable terror. I supposed I was dying and this was a premonition.
I believe others in the saloon thought that I was dying, but I cared very
little then what people thought of me. I got down from the whiskey barrel
with but one desire, and that was to fly from the place.
A saloon is an awful place to die in if one has had a praying mother.
I walked up to the bar and pounded it with my fist until I made the glasses
rattle. Those near by who were drinking looked on with scornful curiosity.
`Boys, listen to me! I am dying, but I will die in the street before
I will ever take another drink'
----and I felt as though this would happen
A voice said to me: `If you want to keep that promise, go and have yourself
locked up.' There was no place on earth I dreaded more than a police station,
for I was living in daily dread of arrest; but I went to the police station
in East One Hundred and Twenty-sixth street, near Lexington avenue, and
asked the captain to lock me up.
`Why do you want to be locked up?' asked he as I gave an assumed name.
`Because,' said I, `I want to be placed somewhere so I can die before
I can get another drink of whiskey.' They locked me up in a narrow cell,
No. 10, in the back corridor.
Yet the reader may observe that though death was upon them, both Sam Hadley
and the thief on the cross were yet in a position where they could make
a valid choice against sin. The further the work of death has progressed
in the mortal frame
----the more a man is actually incapacitated from committing
sin ----the less likely that he will be able to make such a choice. And
beyond that, as sure as God lives, man will die. The last moment of opportunity
will slip forever beyond his reach. God will shut the door, and then the
unavailing tears of Esau will flow from every eye. The Lord of that
servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour
that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his
portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Esau's selling of his birthright is representative of the life choice
of those whose lives revolve around the mess of pottage, the piece of
ground, the five yoke of oxen, the wife, the eating and drinking, the
buying and selling, the building and planting. The unavailing tears of
Esau are the final result of such a life. God forbid that they should
move the impenitent to remain impenitent still
----the profane to yet pursue
their pleasures and mammon ----or the penitent to despair of the mercy
of God. Let the tears of Esau rather move men to seek the Lord while he
may be found, to repent while a place of repentance may yet be found,
and to shed their tears while those tears will yet avail.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
R. C. Trench on the Final Victory of the Will of Man
It is in the power of every man to close his ear to them; therefore the
hypothetical form which this gracious promise takes: if any man hear
my voice, and open the door. There is no gratia irresistibilis [irresistible
grace] here. It is the man himself who must open the door. Christ indeed
knocks, claims admittance as to his own; so lifts up his voice that it
may be heard, in one sense must be heard, by him; but He does not break
open the door, or force an entrance by violence. There is a sense in which
every man is lord of the house of his own heart; it is his fortress; he
must open the gates of it, and unless he does so, Christ cannot enter.
And, as a necessary complement of this power to open, there belongs also
to man the mournful prerogative and privilege of refusing to open: he
may keep the door shut, even to the end. He may thus continue to the last
blindly at strife with his own blessedness; a miserable conqueror, who
conquers to his own everlasting loss and defeat.
----Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, by Richard
Chenevix Trench; London: Parker, Son, and Bourne, Second Edition, Revised,
1861, pg. 212.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
Post-Tribulationists' Unsound Exegesis
by Glenn Conjurske
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 Thes. 4:17). The words to meet in this scripture
are rendered from the Greek words which stand above as the title. On this
Robert Cameron, prominent post-tribulationist of former days, writes as
A very definite truth is settled, however, by the word translated `to
meet,' which has a distinct and definite meaning. It is only used three
times in the New Testament, and in every case it means to meet and to
return with the person met. Therefore, those caught up, meet the Lord
and return with Him. The first instance of its use is in Matthew 25:1
and 6. The virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. They who were ready
returned and went in. These virgins, with flaming torches, met the bridegroom,
returned with him, and entered into the marriage feast. They did not meet
him and then go off to some unknown place for a time of revelry, but returned
with the bridegroom. Again, it occurs in the description of Paul's perilous
journey after landing in Italy. He came to Putuoli [sic] and the brethren
having heard of his arrival, started out to meet Paul `as far as the market
of Appius and the Three Taverns.' For this meeting of brethren, Paul thanked
God, took courage and entered into Rome with the brethren who met him.
The virgins met and returned with the bridegroom, the brethren met, and
returned with Paul to Rome, and the Church will meet and return with Christ
to the earth. This is the established meaning of the Greek word used here.
The Church will not meet her Lord and then go to some place unpromised,
unrevealed and unknown, to have what some of these pre-tribulation brethren
tell us will be a `honeymoon trip.' They also teach that, in the meantime,
bedlam is to be let loose amongst men, the devil is to have full sway
and the untold sorrows of the great Tribulation will overflow the race
for three and a half, or seven, or seventy, or an unlimited number of
years! All this time Christ is so absorbed with His Bride that the sorrows
of humanity move Him not, and the saints in glory pity not, neither do
they help their suffering human brothers. And all this heartless slander
on the name of Him who laid down His life for man, we are expected to
believe, without any hint in Scripture to support it. Let those believe
it who can, but for ourselves, it is impossible!
The latter part of this quotation is a mere caricature of pretribulationism,
and hardly needs to be answered. Those untold sorrows which overflow
the human race are the judgements of God
----righteous judgements ----deserved
judgements. And what pretribulationist ever taught that Christ is unmoved
by the sorrows of men, even though those sorrows come upon men as his
own judgements against their sin? It has been my own uniform teaching
for many years that when God pours out his judgements upon men, he will
do so with a broken heart.
But further, if there is something incongruous in Christ and his bride
enjoying each other during the seven years that men suffer on the earth,
what will Mr. Cameron say of the vast eternity which lies before us, in
which men will surely suffer more intensely than ever they did during
the Great Tribulation, and in which Christ and his bride will nevertheless
enjoy the pleasures for evermore at God's right hand. Those who worship
the beast shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence
of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of
their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day
nor night. (Rev. 14:10-11). Yet the Lamb and his angels
too ----will still enjoy the delights of heaven, though it may be difficult
for us to conceive how such a thing can be. Abraham in Paradise saw the
sufferings of the rich man in hell, and yet offered no help to his
suffering human brother ----nay, refused the help which was begged
of him. All of Mr. Cameron's argumentation in this vein is nothing better
than casuistry. It is unfair, and so is his statement about the place
unpromised, unrevealed and unknown to which Christ shall take his bride.
It is the place which Christ has gone to prepare for us, with the
promise that he shall come again and receive us to himself. That place
is plainly revealed, and is known as heaven.
But I must proceed to answer Cameron's assertions on the words to meet.
On this his remarks are unsound whichever way we look at them. In the
first place, three usages of a word is very much too narrow a base upon
which to found so technical a definition. But Cameron does not have even
three instances upon which to base his definition. He has only two, and
he uses those two to prove the third one. On such a basis anybody could
prove just about anything.
Suppose I take the Greek word aijscrov", and contend that it only
denotes what is shameful for women. I proceed to prove it in the same
way Cameron proves his meaning. The word is used but three times in the
Greek New Testament, and in all three of them it refers to what is shameful
for women. Its first usage is in I Cor. 11:6, where we read, if it be
a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven. It next appears in I Cor.
14:35, where we are told it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Its third appearance is in Eph. 5:12, where we read, it is a shame even
to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. The meaning,
of course, is that it is a shame for women thus to speak, according to
the established meaning of the word
----and all know that such a thing
is no shame for men. What would be thought of such exegesis? All but the
thoughtless would immediately demur, refusing it because the basis on
which it rests is much too narrow to support anything.
Of course, such folly would be easy enough to refute. It would be easy
enough to prove that the word is generic, and refers to anything which
is shameful in anybody. But my point is, such reasoning does not need
to be refuted. There is nothing in it which would move thinking people
to accept it. Yet it is exactly analogous to Cameron's method.
Well, the same meaning in fact does obtain in all three places where the
words eij" ajpavnthsin occur
----but it is not the meaning which Mr.
Cameron would assign to it. The words mean to meet, for any purpose
or under any circumstances whatever. They are just as generic as the phrase
to meet in English, and the distinct and definite technical sense
which Mr. Cameron would force upon the words does not exist. The words
are used only three times in the Greek New Testament, but they are used
numerous times in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), and there
they are applied to any kind of meeting for any kind of purpose. Remember,
now, that Cameron contends the words have a distinct and definite meaning,
which is, to meet and return with the person met. A host of examples
from the Septuagint disprove this.
Judges 19:3. And she brought him into her father's house, and when the
father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. The father never
went anywhere to meet him, nor returned anywhere with him, but never moved
out of his own place. The same is true of the following instance.
I Sam. 16:4. And Samuel did that which the Lord spake, and came to Bethlehem.
And the elders of the town trembled at his coming [were amazed to meet
him, LXX], and said, Comest thou peaceably. The elders of the town never
went anywhere to meet Samuel, nor returned anywhere with him. They never
moved out of their place, but met Samuel when he came to them.
I Sam. 25:32. And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of
Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me. Abigail did not meet David
to return with him, but precisely to prevent him from coming to her place.
II Sam. 10:5. When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because
the men were greatly ashamed, and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until
your beards be grown, and then return. So far from going to meet and
to return with the men, he went precisely to counsel them not to return,
but to tarry where they were until their beards were grown. This also
thoroughly destroys Cameron's definition.
II Sam. 15:32-34. When David was come to the top of the mount, where
he worshipped God, behold Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his
coat rent, and earth upon his head: unto whom David said, If thou passest
on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me. But if thou return to
the city, etc. Hushai did not go to meet David and return with him,
but to pass on with him. David counseled him to return, not with David,
however, but without him.
I Kings 21:18. Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is
in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone
down to possess it. Elijah could not have had the slightest intention
here of returning whence he came with Ahab. He went to meet him to
deliver God's message to him, and that is all. The same thing exactly
is found in a number of other passages, as
II Chron. 15:2. And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear
ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you, while ye
be with him, etc.
II Chron. 19:2. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet
him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and
love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before
II Chron. 28:9. But a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was
Oded, and he went out before the host [went out to meet the host, LXX]
that came to Samaria, and said unto them, Behold, because the Lord God
of your fathers was wroth with Judah he hath delivered them into your
hand, etc. There is nothing more in any of these instances than that
a prophet went out to meet someone to deliver God's message to them.
There is no thought of returning with them. The same is true in the following,
where one goes to meet the man of God to inquire of him:
II Kings 8:8. And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine
hand, and go, meet [eij" ajpavnthsin in the LXX] the man of God,
and enquire of the Lord by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?
There is no thought of returning with him, but only of receiving a message
II Kings 16:10. And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser
king of Assyria
----obviously with no thought of returning with him.
Lastly, there are a number of places in the Septuagint where the words
are used of going to meet an enemy in battle:
Judges 20:25. And Benjamin went forth against them [to meet them, LXX]
out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the
children of Israel again eighteen thousand men.
I Kings 20:27. And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all
present, and went against them [to meet them, LXX]; and the children of
Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians
filled the country.
This ought to suffice to convince the unprejudiced that the distinct
and definite meaning which Mr. Cameron assigns to eij" ajpavnthsin
simply does not exist. The phrase is generic in meaning, exactly equivalent
to to meet in English, and may refer to any meeting under any circumstances
for any purpose. Indeed, no one would ever have dreamed of giving it any
other meaning, except as a prop to try to support a particular point of
doctrine. But the prop is as weak as the cause it is designed to support.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
ANY ONE FORM OF SIN PERSISTED IN
IS FATAL TO THE SOUL.
By Charles G. Finney (1792-1875)
Reprinted from The Oberlin Evangelist, Vol. 23, 1861.
Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in
one point, is guilty of all.
He that is unjust in the least, is also unjust in much.
In speaking from these words, I enquire,
I.What is it to persist in sin?
1.To persist in sin is, not to abandon it. If a person should only occasionally,
under the force of temptation, fall into a sin, any form of sin, and should
repent and abandon it for a time, and should only occasionally be overcome
by a temptation to commit that form of sin, it would not be proper to
say that he persisted in it. For, according to this supposition, he is
not willful, or obstinate, or habitual in the commission of this sin;
but it is rather accidental in the sense that the temptation sometimes
overtakes and overcomes him notwithstanding his habitual abandonment of
it and resistance to it. But if the commission be habitual, a thing allowed,
a thing indulged in habitually
----such a sin is persisted in.
2.A sin is persisted in, although it may not be outwardly repeated, if
it be not duly confessed. An individual may be guilty of a great sin,
which he may not repeat in the act; nevertheless, while he neglects or
refuses to confess it, it is still on his conscience unrepented of, and
in that sense, is still persisted in. If the sin has been committed to
the injury of some person or persons, and be not duly confessed to the
parties injured, it is still persisted in.
If any of you had slandered his neighbor to his great injury, it would
not do for you to merely abstain from repeating that offence. The sin
is not abandoned until it is confessed, and reparation made, so far as
confession can make it. If not confessed, the injury is allowed to work;
and therefore the sin is virtually repeated, and therefore persisted in.
Again, 3.A sin is persisted in when due reparation has not been made.
If you have wronged a person and it is in your power to make him restitution
and satisfaction, then, so long as you persist in neglecting or refusing
to do so, you do not forsake the sin, but persist in it. Suppose one who
had stolen your property, resolved never to repeat the act, and never
to commit the like again; and yet he refuses to make restitution and restore
the stolen property as far as is in his power;
----of course he still persists
in that sin, and the wrong is permitted to remain.
I once had a conversation with a young man to this effect: He had been
in the habit of stealing. He was connected with a business in which it
was possible for him to steal money in small sums; which he had repeatedly
done. He afterwards professed to become a Christian, but he made no restitution.
He found in the Bible this text
----Let him that stole steal no more.
He resolved not to steal any more, and there let the matter rest. Of course
he had no evidence of acceptance with God, for he could not have been
accepted. However he flattered himself that he was a Christian for a long
time, until he heard a sermon on confession and restitution, which woke
him up. He then came to me for the conversation of which I have spoken.
He was told that, if it was in his power, he must make restitution and
give back the stolen money, or he could not be forgiven. But observe his
perversion of Scripture. To be sure it is the duty of those who have stolen
property to steal no more; but this is not all. He is bound to restore
that which he has stolen, as well as to steal no more. This is a plain
doctrine of Scripture, as well as of reason and conscience.
II.I now come to the main doctrine of our texts
----that any one form of
sin persisted in, is fatal to the soul.
That is, it is impossible for a person to be saved who continues to commit
any form of known sin.
1.It is fatal to the soul because any one form of sin, persisted in, is
a violation of the spirit of the whole law. The text in James settles
that: Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point,
is guilty of all. The law requires supreme love to God, and equal love
to our fellow men.
Now sin is selfishness; and always requires the preference of self-interest
and self-gratification to obedience to God, or to our duty to our fellow
Whosoever, therefore, habitually prefers himself to God, or is selfish
in regard to his fellow men, can surely not be a Christian. If in any
one thing he violates the law of love, he breaks the spirit of the whole
law, and is living in sin.
2.Persistence in any form of sin cannot consist with supreme love to God
or equal love to our fellow men. If we love God more than ourselves, we
cannot disoblige him for the sake of obliging ourselves. We cannot displease
him, knowingly and habitually, for the sake of pleasing ourselves.
For we supremely love whom we supremely desire to please. If we supremely
desire to please ourselves, we love ourselves supremely. If we love God
supremely, we desire supremely to please Him; and cannot, consistently
with the existence of this love in the soul, consent to displease him.
Under the force of a powerful temptation that diverts and partially distracts
the mind, one who loves God may be induced to commit an occasional sin,
and occasionally to displease God.
But if he love God supremely, he will consent to displease Him only under
the pressure of a present and powerful temptation that diverts attention
and partially distracts the mind. So that his sin cannot be habitual;
and no form of sin can habitually have dominion over him if he is truly
3.The text in James affirms the impossibility of real obedience in one
thing, and of persistent disobedience in another, at the same time. It
seems to be an error too common, into which many fall, that persons can
really obey God in the spirit of obedience in some things, while at the
same time there are certain other things in which they withhold obedience;
in other words, that they can obey one commandment and disobey another
at the same time
----that they can perform one duty acceptably, and at
the same time refuse to perform other duties.
Now the text in James is designed flatly to contradict this view of the
subject. It asserts as plainly as possible, that disobedience in any one
point is wholly inconsistent with true obedience for the time being in
any other respect; that the neglect of one duty renders it impossible
for the time being to perform any other duty with acceptance; in other
words, no one can obey in one thing and disobey in another at the same
But 4.Real obedience to God involves and implies supreme regard for his
Now if any one has a supreme regard for God's authority in any one thing,
he will yield to his authority in every thing.
But if he can consent to act against the authority of God in any one thing
for the time being, he cannot be accepted in anything; for it must be
that, while in one thing he rejects the authority of God, he does not
properly accept it in any other. Hence, if obedience to God be real in
anything, it extends for the time being, and must extend, to everything
known to be the will of God.
Again, 5.One sin, persisted in, is fatal to the soul, because it is a
real rejection of God's whole authority. If a man violates knowingly any
one of God's commandments as such, he rejects the authority of God; and
if in this he rejects the authority of God, he rejects his whole authority
for the time being, on every subject. So that if he appears to obey in
other things while in one thing he sets aside and contemns God's authority,
it is only the appearance of obedience, and not real obedience. He acts
from a wrong motive in the case in which he appears to obey. He certainly
does not act out of supreme respect to God's authority; and therefore
he does not truly obey him. But surely one who rejects the whole authority
of God cannot be saved.
I fear it is very common for persons to make a fatal mistake here; and
really to suppose that they are accepted in their obedience in general,
although in some things or thing they habitually neglect or refuse to
do their duty.
They live, and know that they live, in the omission of some duty habitually,
or in the violation of their own consciences on some point habitually;
and yet they keep up so much of the form of religion, and do so many things
that they call duties, that they seem to think that these will compensate
for the sin in which they persist. Or rather, so many duties are performed,
and so much of religion is kept up, as will show, they think, that upon
the whole they are Christians; will afford them ground for hope, and give
them reasons to think that they are accepted while they are indulging,
and know that they are, in some known sin.
----To be sure I know that I neglect that duty; I know that I
violate my conscience in that thing; ----but I do so many other things
that are my duty, that I have good reason to believe that I am a Christian.
Now this is a fatal delusion. Such persons are totally deceived in supposing
that they really obey God in anything. He that is unjust in the least,
is really unjust also in much; and whosoever will keep the whole law,
and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.
Again, 6.Any form of sin persisted in is fatal to the soul, because it
is inconsistent with true repentance. Sin, however great, will be forgiven
if repented of. But what is repentance? Repentance is not mere sorrow
for sin, but it is the heart-renunciation of sin; it is the giving up
of sin from the heart, and of all sin as sin; it is the rejection of it
because it is that abominable thing which God hates; it is the turning
of the heart from self-seeking to supreme love to God and equal love to
our fellow men; it is heart-reformation; it is heart-rejection of sin;
it is heart-turning to God. Now, while any one sin is persisted in and
not given up, there can be no true repentance; for, after all, this form
of sin is preferred to the will of God
----the indulgence of sense in this
particular is preferred to pleasing God. There can, therefore, be no true
repentance unless all known sin be for the time utterly abandoned.
7.Persistence in any form of sin is fatal to the soul, because it is utterly
inconsistent with saving faith. That faith is saving which actually does
save from sin; and no other faith is saving, or can be. That faith is
justifying which is sanctifying. True faith works by love; it purifies
the heart; it overcomes the world. These are expressly affirmed to be
the characteristics of saving faith. Let no one suppose that his faith
is justifying when in fact it does not save him from the commission of
sin; for he cannot be justified while he persists in the commission of
any known sin. If his faith does not purify his heart, if it does not
overcome the world and overcome his sins, it can never save him.
Again, 8.Persistence in any one form of sin is fatal to the soul, because
it withstands the power of the Gospel. The Gospel does not save whom it
does not sanctify. If sin in any form withstand the saving power of the
Gospel; if sin does not yield under the influence of the Gospel; if it
be persisted in in spite of all the power of the Gospel on the soul, of
course the Gospel does not, cannot save that soul. Such sin is fatal.
But again, 9.Persistence in any one form of sin is fatal to the soul,
because the grace of the Gospel cannot pardon what it cannot eradicate.
As I have already said, a sin cannot be pardoned while it is persisted
in. Some persons seem to suppose that, although they persist in many forms
of sin, yet the grace of God will pardon sins that it has not power to
eradicate and subdue. But this is a great mistake. The Bible everywhere
expressly teaches this:
----that if the Gospel fails to eradicate sin,
it can never save the soul from the consequences of that sin.
But again, 10.If the Gospel should pardon sin which it did not eradicate,
this would not save the soul.
Suppose God should not punish sin;
----still, if the soul be left to the
self-condemnation of sin, its salvation is naturally impossible. It were
of no use to the sinner to be pardoned, if left under this self-condemnation.
This is plain. Let no one, therefore, think that if his sins are not subdued
by the grace of the Gospel he can be saved.
But again, 11, and lastly,
Sin is a unit in its spirit and root. It consists in preferring self to
Hence, if any form of preferring self to God be persisted in, no sin has
been truly abandoned; God is not supremely loved; and the soul cannot,
by any possibility, in such a case, be saved.
1.What a delusion the self-righteous are under.
There is no man that is not aware that he has sinned at some time, and
that he is a sinner. But there are many who think that, upon the whole,
they perform so many good deeds, that they are safe. They are aware that
they are habitually neglecting God, and neglecting duty,
neither love God supremely nor their neighbor as themselves; yet they
are constantly prone to give themselves credit for a great deal of goodness.
Now let them understand that there is no particle of righteousness in
them, nor of true goodness, while they live in neglect of any known duty
to man ----while they are constantly prone to give themselves credit for
a great deal of goodness. But they seem to think that they have a balance
of good deeds.
2.How many persons indulge in little sins, as they call them; but they
are too honest, they think, to indulge in great crimes. Now both these
texts really contradict this view. He that is unjust in that which is
least, is unjust also in much. If a man yields to a slight temptation
to commit what he calls a small sin, it cannot be a regard for God that
keeps him from committing great sins. He may abstain from committing great
sins through fear of disgrace or of punishment, but not because he loves
God. If he does not love God well enough to keep from yielding to slight
temptations to commit small sins, surely he does not love Him well enough
to keep from yielding to great temptations to commit great sins.
Again, 3.We see the delusions of those who are guilty of habitual dishonesties,
tricks of trade for example, and yet profess to be Christians.
How many there are who are continually allowing themselves to practice
little dishonesties, little deceptions, and to tell little lies in trade;
and yet think themselves Christians. Now this delusion is awful; it is
fatal. Let all such be on their guard, and understand it.
But again, 4.We see the delusion of those professors of religion who allow
themselves habitually to neglect some known duty, and yet think themselves
Christians. They shun some cross; there is something that they know they
ought to do which they do not; and this is habitual with them. Perhaps
all their Christian lives they have shunned some cross, or neglected the
performance of some duty; and yet they think themselves Christians. Now
let them know assuredly that they are self-deceived.
5. Many, I am sorry to say, preach a Gospel that is a dishonor to Christ.
They really maintain
----at least they make this impression, though they
may not teach it in words and form ----that Christ really justifies men
while they are living in the indulgence habitually of known sin.
Many preachers seem not to be aware of the impression which they really
leave upon their people. Probably, if they were asked whether they hold
and preach that any sin is forgiven which is not repented of, whether
men are really justified while they persist in known sin, they would say,
No. But, after all, in their preaching they leave a very different impression.
For example, how common it is to find ministers who are in this position:
ask them how many members they have in their church. Perhaps they will
tell you, five hundred. How many do you think are living up to the best
light which they have? How many of them are living from day to day with
a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man, and are not indulging
in any known sin either of omission or commission? who are living and
aiming to discharge punctually and fully every duty of heart to God and
to all their fellow men? Push the inquiry, and ask, How many of your church
can you honestly say, before God, you think are endeavoring to live without
sin? that do not indulge themselves in any form of transgression or omission?
They will tell you, perhaps, that they do not know a member of their church,
or at least they know but very few, of whom they can say this. Now ask
----How many of your church do you suppose to be in a state
of justification? and you will find that they have the impression that
the great mass of their church are in a state of justification with God;
in a state of acceptance with Him; in a state in which they are prepared
to die; and if they should die just in this state by any sudden stroke
of Providence, and they should be called upon to preach their funeral
sermon, they would assume that they had gone to heaven.
While they will tell you that they know of but very few of their church
of whom they can conscientiously say
----I do not believe he indulges himself
in any known sin; yet let one of that great majority, of whom he cannot
say this, suddenly die, and this pastor be called to attend his funeral,
would he not comfort the mourners by holding out the conviction that he
was a Christian, and had gone to heaven? Now this shows that the pastor
himself, whatever be his theoretical views of being justified while indulging
in any known sin, is yet after all, practically an Antinomian; and practically
holds, believes, and teaches, that Christ justifies people while they
are living in the neglect of known duty; while they are knowingly shunning
some cross; while they persist in known sin. Ministers, indeed, often
leave this impression upon their churches, (and I fear Calvinistic ministers
quite generally,) that if they are converted, or ever were, they are justified
although they may be living habitually and always in the indulgence of
more or less known sin; living in the habitual neglect of known duty;
indulging various forms of selfishness. And yet they are regarded as justified
Christians; and get the impression, even from the preaching of their ministers,
that all is well with them; that they really believe the Gospel and are
saved by Christ.
Now this is really Antinomianism. It is a faith without law; it is a Saviour
that saves in and not from sin. It is presenting Christ as really setting
aside the moral law, and introducing another rule of life; as forgiving
sin while it is persisted in, instead of saving from sin.
6.Many profess to be Christians, and are indulging the hope of eternal
life, who know that they never have forsaken all forms of sin; that in
some things they have always fallen short of complying with the demands
of their own consciences. They have indulged in what they call little
sins; they have allowed themselves in practices, and in forms of self-indulgence,
that they cannot justify; they have never reformed all their bad habits;
and have never lived up to what they have regarded as their whole duty.
They have never really intended to do this; have never resolutely set
themselves, in the strength of Christ, to give up every form of sin, both
of omission and commission; but, on the contrary, they know that they
have always indulged themselves in what they condemn. And yet they call
themselves Christians! But this is as contrary to the teaching of the
Bible as possible. The Bible teaches, not only that men are condemned
by God if they indulge themselves in what they condemn; but also that
God condemns them if they indulge in that the lawfulness of which they
so much as doubt. If they indulge in any one thing the lawfulness of which
is in their own estimation doubtful, God condemns them. This is the express
teaching of the Bible. But how different is this from the common ideas
that many professors of religion have!
7.Especially is this true of those who habitually indulge in the neglect
of known duty, and who habitually shun the cross of Christ. Many persons
there are who neglect family prayer, and yet admit that they ought to
perform it. How many females are there who will even stay away from the
female prayer-meeting to avoid performing the duty of taking a part in
those meetings. How many there are who indulge the hope that they are
saved, are real Christians; while they know that they are neglecting,
and always have neglected some things, and even many things, that they
admit to be their duty. They continue to live on in those omissions; but
they think that they are Christians because they do not engage in anything
that is openly disgraceful, or as they suppose, very bad.
Now there are many that entirely overlook the real nature of sin. The
law of God is positive. It commands us to consecrate all our powers to
his service and glory; to love Him with all our heart and our neighbor
as ourself. Now to neglect to do this is sin; it is positive transgression;
it is an omission which always involves a refusal to do what God requires
us to do. In other words, sin is the refusal to do what God requires us
to do. In other words, sin is the neglect to fulfil our obligations. If
one neglects to pay you what he owes you, do you not call that sin, especially
if the neglect involved necessarily the refusal to pay when he has the
means of payment?
Sin really consists in withholding from God and man that love and service
which we owe them
----a withholding from God and man their due.
Now, where any one withholds from God or man that which is their due,
is this honest? is this Christian? And while this withholding is persisted
in, can an individual be in a justified state? No, indeed!
The Bible teaches that sin is forgiven when it is repented of, but never
while it is persisted in. The Bible teaches that the grace of God can
save us from sin
----from the commission of sin, or can pardon when we
repent, and put away sin; but it never teaches that sin can be forgiven
while it is persisted in.
Let me ask you who are here present, Do you think you are Christians?
Do you think, if you should die in your present state, that you are prepared
to go to heaven? that you are already justified in Christ?
Well now, let me further ask, Are you so much as seriously and solemnly
intending to perform to Christ, from day to day, your whole duty; and
to omit nothing that you regard as your duty either to God or man? Are
you not habitually shunning some cross? omitting something because it
is a trial to perform that duty? Are you not avoiding the performance
of disagreeable duties, and things that are trying to flesh and blood?
Are you not neglecting the souls of those around you? Are you not failing
to love your neighbor as yourself? Are you not neglecting something that
you yourself confess to be your duty? and is not this habitual with you?
And now, do you suppose that you are really to be saved while guilty of
these neglects habitually and persistently? I beg of you, be not deceived.
8.The impression of many seems to be, that grace will pardon what it cannot
prevent; in other words, that if the grace of the Gospel fails to save
people from the commission of sin in this life, it will nevertheless pardon
them and save them in sin, if it cannot save them from sin.
Now, really, I understand the Gospel as teaching that men are saved from
sin first, and, as a consequence, from hell; and not that they are saved
from hell while they are not saved from sin. Christ sanctifies when he
saves. And this is the very first element or idea of salvation, saving
from sin. Thou shalt call his name Jesus, said the angel, for he
shall save his people from their sins. Having raised up his Son Jesus,
says the apostle, he hath sent him to bless you in turning every one
of you from his iniquities.
Let no one expect to be saved from hell, unless the grace of the Gospel
saves him first from sin.
Again 9. There are many who think that they truly obey God in most things,
while they know that they habitually disobey Him in some things. They
seem to suppose that they render acceptable obedience to most of the commandments
of God, while they are aware that some of the commandments they habitually
disregard. Now the texts upon which I am speaking expressly deny this
position, and plainly teach that if in any one thing obedience is refused,
if any one commandment is disobeyed, no other commandment is acceptably
obeyed, or can be for the time being.
Do let me ask you who are here present, Is not this impression in your
minds that, upon the whole, you have evidence that you are Christians?
You perform so many duties and avoid so many outbreaking sins, you think
that there is so great a balance in your favor, that you obey so many
more commands than you disobey, that you call yourselves Christians, although
you are aware that some of the commandments you never seriously intended
to comply with, and that in some things you have always allowed yourself
to fall short of known duty. Now, if this impression is in your minds,
remember that it is not authorized at all by the texts upon which I am
speaking, nor by any part of the Bible. You are really disobeying the
spirit of the whole law. You do not truly embrace the Gospel; your faith
does not purify your hearts and overcome the world; it does not work by
love, and therefore it is a spurious faith, and you are yet in your sins.
Will you consider this? Will you take home this truth to your inmost soul?
10.There are many who are deceiving themselves by indulging the belief
that they are forgiven, while they have not made that confession and restitution
which is demanded by the Gospel. In other words, they have not truly repented;
they have not given up their sin. They do not outwardly repeat it; neither
do they in heart forsake it.
They have not made restitution; and therefore they hold on to their sin,
supposing it will do if they do not repeat it; that Christ will forgive
them while they make no satisfaction, even while satisfaction is in their
power. This is a great delusion, and is an idea that is greatly dishonoring
to Christ. As if Christ would disgrace himself by forgiving you while
you persist in doing your neighbor wrong.
This he cannot do; this he will not, must not do. He loves your neighbor
as really as he loves you. He is infinitely willing to forgive, provided
you repent and make the restitution in your power; but until then, he
cannot, will not.
I must remark again,
11.That from the teachings of these texts it is evident that no one truly
obeys in any one thing, while he allows himself to disobey in any other
thing. To truly obey God in any thing, we must settle the question of
universal obedience; else all our pretended obedience is vain. If we do
not yield the whole to God, if we do not go the whole length of seriously
giving up all, and renouncing in heart every form of sin, and make up
our minds to obey Him in everything, we do not truly obey Him in anything.
Again, 12.From this subject we can see why there are so many professors
of religion that get no peace, and have no evidence of their acceptance.
They are full of doubts and fears. They have no religious enjoyment, but
are groping on in darkness and doubt; are perhaps praying for evidence
and trying to get peace of mind, but fall utterly short of doing so.
Now, in such cases you will often find that some known sin is indulged;
some known duty continually neglected; some known cross shunned; some
thing avoided which they know to be their duty, because it is trying to
them to fulfil their obligation. It is amazing to see to what an extent
this is true.
Sometime since an aged gentleman visited me, who came from a distance
as an inquirer. He had been a preacher, and indeed was then a minister
of the Gospel; but he had given up preaching because of the many doubts
that he had of his acceptance with Christ. He was in great darkness and
trouble of mind; had been seeking religion, as he said, a great part of
his life; and had done everything, as he supposed, in his power, to obtain
evidence of his acceptance.
When I came to converse with him, I found that there were sins on his
conscience that had been there for many years; plain cases of known transgression,
of known neglect of duty indulged all this while. Here he was, striving
to get peace, striving to get evidence, and even abandoning preaching
because he could not get evidence; while all the time these sins lay upon
his conscience. Amazing! amazing!
Again, 13.I remark, That total abstinence from all known sin, is the only
practicable rule of life. To sin in one thing and obey in another at the
same time, is utterly impossible. We must give up, in heart and purpose,
all sin, or we in reality give up none. It is utterly impossible for a
man to be truly religious at all, unless in the purpose of his heart he
is wholly so, and universally so. He cannot be a Christian at home and
a sinner abroad; or a sinner at home and a Christian abroad.
He cannot be a Christian on the Sabbath, and a selfish man in his business
or during the week. A man must be one or the other; he must yield everything
to God, or in fact he yields nothing to God.
He cannot serve God and mammon. Many are trying to do so, but it is impossible.
They cannot love both God and the world; they cannot serve two masters,
they cannot please God and the world. It is the greatest, and yet the
most common, I fear, of all mistakes, that men can be truly, but knowingly,
only partially religious; that in some things they can truly yield to
God, while in other things they refuse to obey Him. How common is this
mistake! If it is not, what shall we make of the state of the churches?
How are we to understand the great mass of professors? How are we to understand
the great body of religious teachers, if they do not leave the impression,
after all, on the churches, that they can be accepted of God while their
habitual obedience is only very partial; while, in fact, they pick and
choose among the commandments of God, professing to obey some, while they
allow themselves in known disobedience of others. Now, if in this respect
the church has not a false standard; if the mass of religious instruction
is not making a false impression on the churches and on the world in this
respect, I am mistaken. I am sorry to be obliged to entertain this opinion,
and to express it; but what else can I think? How else can the state of
the churches be accounted for? How else is it that ministers have no hope
that the great mass of their churches are in a safe state? How else is
it that the great mass of professors of religion can have any hope of
eternal life in them, if this is not the principle practically adopted
by them, that they are justified while only rendering habitually but a
very partial obedience to God; that they are really forgiven and justified
while they only pick and choose among the commandments, obeying those,
as they think, obedience to which costs them little, and is not disagreeable,
and is not unpopular; while they do not hesitate habitually to disobey
where obedience would subject them to any inconvenience, require any self-denial,
or expose them to any persecution.
14.From what has been said, it will be seen that partial reformation is
no evidence of real conversion. Many are deceiving themselves on this
point. Now we should never allow ourselves to believe that a person is
converted if we perceive that his reformation extends to certain things
only, while in certain other things he is not reformed; especially when
in the case of those things in which he is not reformed he admits that
he ought to perform those duties, or to relinquish those practices. If
we find him still persisting in what he himself admits to be wrong, we
are bound to assume and take it for granted that his conversion is not
Again, 15.Inquirers can see what they must do.
They must abandon all sin; they must give up all to Christ; they must
turn with their whole heart and soul to him; and must make up their minds
to yield a full and hearty obedience as long as they live. They must settle
this in their minds; and must cast themselves upon Christ for forgiveness
for all the past, and grace to help in every time of need for the future.
Only let it be settled in your mind fully that you will submit yourself
to the whole will of God; and then you may expect, and are bound to expect
Him to forgive all the past, however great your sins may have been.
You can see, Inquirer, why you have not already obtained peace. You have
prayed for pardon; you have prayed for peace; you have endeavored to get
peace, while in fact you have not given up all; you have kept something
back. It is a perfectly common thing to find that the inquirer has not
given up all. And if you do not find peace, it is because you have not
given up all.
Some idol is still retained; some sin persisted in
----perhaps some neglect ----perhaps
some confession is not made that ought to have been made, or some act
of restitution. You have not renounced the world, and do not in fact renounce
it and renounce everything, and flee to Christ.
Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske
Almost any standard collection of hymns will contain several by either
of two women, both with the name of Frances, or Fanny, as they were familiarly
called. These are Frances Ridley Havergal, and Frances Jane Crosby Van
Alstyne. The latter is better known as Fanny Crosby, for she was already
a popular poet when she married, and therefore continued to write under
her maiden name. She also wrote under numerous pen names. Miss Havergal
never married. The two were contemporary, for the whole of Havergal's
short life (1836-1879) was lived within the limits of Crosby's long one
(1820-1915). If Crosby had died as young as Havergal did, she would never
have written a hymn, for Havergal died at the age of 42, and Crosby never
wrote her first hymn till the age of 43. Both were afflicted, Havergal
with ill health, and Crosby with blindness. The two Fannys lived an ocean
apart, and never met. They were, however, well aware of each other's existence,
and Fanny Havergal addressed the following to Fanny Crosby:
A Seeing Heart
by Frances Ridley Havergal
to `FANNY CROSBY.'
Sweet blind singer over the sea,
Tuneful and jubilant! how can it be,
That the songs of gladness, which float so far,
As if they fell from the evening star,
Are the notes of one who never may see
`Visible music' of flower and tree,
Purple of mountain, or glitter of snow,
Ruby and gold of the sunset glow,
And never the light of a loving face?
Must not the world be a desolate place
For eyes that are sealed with the seal of years,
Eyes that are open only for tears?
How can she sing in the dark like this,
What is her fountain of light and bliss?
Oh, her heart can see, her heart can see!
And its sight is strong, and swift and free.
Never the ken of mortal eye
Could pierce so deep and far and high
As the eagle vision of hearts that dwell
In the lofty, sunlit citadel
Of Faith that overcomes the world,
With banners of Hope and Joy unfurled,
Garrisoned with God's perfect Peace,
Ringing with paeans that never cease,
Flooded with splendour bright and broad,
The glorious light of the Love of God.
Her heart can see, her heart can see!
Well may she sing so joyously!
For the King Himself, in His tender grace,
Hath shown her the brightness of His face:
And who shall pine for a glow-worm light,
When the Sun goes forth in His radiant might?
She can read His law, as a shining chart,
For His finger hath written it on her heart;
She can read His love, for on all her way
His hand is writing it every day.
`Bright cloud' indeed must that darkness be,
Where `Jesus only' the heart can see.
Her heart can see! her heart can see,
Beyond the glooms and the mystery,
Glimpses of glory not far away,
Nearing and brightening day by day;
Golden crystal and emerald bow,
Lustre of pearl and sapphire glow,
Sparkling river and healing tree,
Evergreen palms of victory,
Harp and crown and raiment white,
Holy and beautiful dwellers in light;
A throne, and One thereon, whose face
Is the glory of that glorious place.
Dear blind sister over the sea!
An English heart goes forth to thee.
We are linked by a cable of faith and song,
Flashing bright sympathy swift along;
One in the East and one in the West,
Singing for Him whom our souls love best,
`Singing for Jesus,' telling His love
All the way to our home above,
Where the severing sea, with its restless tide,
Never shall hinder, and never divide.
Sister! what will our meeting be,
When our hearts shall sing and our eyes shall see!
A most interesting sidelight on Fanny's blindness is the very frequent
allusion in her hymns to everything concerning sight. A few examples of
this are, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight
clearer, brighter vision, Face to face my Lord I see ----I know I shall
see in his beauty... ----where rivers of pleasure I see ----And
the bright and glorious morning I shall see ----Lo! a spring of joy
I see ----Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view his blessed face,
And the luster of his kindly-beaming eye. In addition to these references
to sight itself, she constantly wrote of things seen, as colors, scenes,
shadows, the golden strand, and when fades the golden sun beneath
the rosy-tinted west. These things are simply amazing, and we never
cease to wonder at how a blind woman could have any conception of such
things as the rosy-tinted west or the luster of a kindly-beaming
eye. But it sometimes happens that those who are deprived of a thing
understand it better than those who possess it.
Another thing which is very evident in these phrases is that Fanny's constant
theme is enjoyment. Fanny Havergal's theme is devotedness. Thus:
---- Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.
---- I gave my life for thee;
What hast thou given for me?
---- A wonderful Saviour is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Saviour to me.
---- Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to thee.
---- Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell.
---- O use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as thou wilt, and when and where.
---- Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
---- Who will leave the world's side?
Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord's side?
Who for him will go?
---- Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in him to dwell.
---- My life I bring to thee,
I would not be my own.
We would not pretend that Fanny Crosby never wrote anything along Havergal's
line, nor vice versa. Since Fanny wrote about 9000 hymns, and Frances's
poetical works fill 842 pages, this was inevitable. Crosby's hymns tend
more to a feminine sentimentality, Havergal's more to a masculine strength.
And though it appears to me that much of Crosby's language is trite, upon
occasion she writes something which goes to the depth of the heart. It
is more to Mrs. Van Alstyne's credit as a writer, as another says, that
she has occasionally found a pearl, than that she has brought to the surface
so many oyster shells. One of those pearls is the third verse of Rescue
the Perishing, which has often moved me to tears:
Down in the human heart,
Crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart,
Wakened by kindness,
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.
Though Fanny Crosby's hymns seem to be better known and more popular,
I believe Miss Havergal's to be decidedly superior. The popularity of
Crosby's hymns is easily accounted for. The hymns which live on are not
those with the best words, but those with the most pleasing music. Like
it or not, this is an indisputable fact. And it so happens that Fanny
Crosby had a good number of the best composers of pleasing melodies and
harmonies engaged in writing music for her poetry. Among these were William
B. Bradbury, Philip Phillips, Ira D. Sankey, William J. Kirkpatrick, John
R. Sweney, Robert Lowry, George C. Stebbins, Hubert P. Main, and especially
W. H. Doane. With a list of names like this supplying music for her poetry,
it would be a miracle if her hymns did not live. And in many cases these
composers wrote the music first, and gave it to her for the words. Some
of them were also publishers, who immediately put her poetry to the press.
Others of them were engaged in evangelistic work in connection with D.
L. Moody, and they introduced Fanny's hymns in the great gospel meetings,
thus gaining for them immediate and extensive popularity. One great defect
of most of her hymns is that she writes just as though God the Father
does not exist. Even the Lord Jesus Christ has little place as such
in her hymns, and ordinarily the only Deity she knows is Jesus. Crosby
is by no means alone in this fault, and to my mind it serves to disqualify
many otherwise good hymns, by herself and others.
Havergal was an Episcopalian, and Crosby a Methodist. From this we might
expect to find a deeper spirituality in Crosby, but the reverse is certainly
true. Indeed, the more I have learned about Fanny Crosby, the less I have
esteemed her, while the reverse has been true of Miss Havergal.
Fanny Crosby's autobiography, entitled Memories of Eighty Years, appeared
in 1906. It is a book of 253 pages, and contains a final chapter of forty-four
pages of Autobiographical Poems. A biography of her appeared in 1915,
entitled, Fanny Crosby's Story of Ninety-Four Years, by S. Trevena Jackson.
A recent biography (1976) is Fanny Crosby, by Bernard Ruffin, containing
255 pages, poorly bound, after the usual manner of our times. The book
has the merit of being well researched, and containing a great deal of
detailed information not found in the earlier works.
Havergal's biography was written by her sister, Maria V. G. Havergal,
and is titled Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal. My copy has 250 pages.
As used books of that vintage go, this is one of the least scarce, and
it is no wonder, as the title page of my copy announces it as the Two
Hundred and Fiftieth Thousand. A second volume edited by the same sister
is Letters by the Late Frances Ridley Havergal, a book of 348 pages. Frances
Ridley Havergal by T. H. Darlow (269 pages, 1927), is A New Memoir,
with Selections from Her Prose and Verse. The memoir is brief, but good.
Students of Miss Havergal's life will naturally be interested in the autobiography
of the sister who wrote her life and edited her letters. It is entitled
The Autobiography of Maria Vernon Graham Havergal, with Journals and Letters,
and was edited by another sister, J. Miriam Crane.
Frances Ridley Havergal's own books are many. Most important is The Poetical
Works of Frances Ridley Havergal, containing 855 pages. There are upwards
of twenty small books from her pen, some in prose and some in verse. The
best known is Kept for the Master's Use, being meditations on the couplets
of her poem Take My Life, and Let It Be. My King, Royal Bounty, and
Royal Commandments are daily meditations for a month. Ivy Leaves is the
same, from her poems. Treasure Trove contains extracts from unpublished
letters and Bible notes, edited by Ellen P. Shaw. Many of her small books
are poetry, and contained in her poetical works. A good list of her books
may be found at the close of Darlow's memoir.
The Faithful Preaching of James Axley
When Methodism began to depart from its old paths and ancient landmarks,
and to drift into softness and worldliness, many of its old-timers made
a noble and vigorous stand against such ways. Among these old-timers were
such spirits as Peter Cartwright and James Axley. Alas, their noble stand
was not sufficient to stem the rising tide of worldliness, or to stay
it from engulfing their beloved Methodist church. The Methodists were
generally in more ardent pursuit of expansion than they were of depth
and solidity. They were, in other words, more fervent in the pursuit of
quantity than of quality
----and such a course must be ultimately fatal
to any movement. But the following will give one example of the heroic
faithfulness with which men like James Axley stood. ----editor.
In one of his discourses Mr. Axley was descanting upon conformity to
the world among Christians, particularly in fashionable dress and manners.
To meet the pleas and excuses usually set up in behalf of these departures
from the good old way, he held a sort of colloquy with an imaginary apologist,
seated at the further end of the congregation, whose supposed pleas and
excuses he would state on behalf of his man of straw, in an altered tone;
then resuming his natural voice, he would reply and demolish the arguments
of his opponent. After thus discussing the subject for some time, the
opponent was made to say,
But, sir, some of your Methodist preachers themselves dress in fashionable
style, and in air and manner enact the dandy.
O no, my friend, that can not be. Methodist preachers know their calling
better. They are men of more sense than that, and would not stoop so low
as to disgrace themselves and the sacred office they hold by such gross
inconsistency of character.
Well, sir, if you won't take my word for it, just look at those young
preachers in the pulpit, behind you.
Mr. Axley, turning immediately around, with seeming surprise, and facing
two or three rather fashionably-dressed junior preachers seated in the
rear of the pulpit, he surveyed each of them from head to foot for two
or three minutes, while they quailed under the withering glance of his
keen and penetrating eye; then turning again to the congregation, and
leaning a little forward over the front of the desk, with his arm extended,
and his eyes as if fixed on the apologist at the further end of the church,
he said, in a subdued tone, yet distinctly enough to be heard by all present,
If you please, sir, we'll drop the subject!
----Sketches of Western Methodism, by James B. Finley; Cincinnati: Printed
at the Methodist Book Concern for the Author, 1857, pp. 241-2.
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.