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Vol. 2, No. 3
Mar., 1993

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. 12:16-17).

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.” (Jer. 18:7-8).

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 then----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. I said:

“`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 before morning.

“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.” (Matt. 24:50-51).

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.


Eij" &Apavnthsin

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 follows:

“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----his saints, 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 the Lord.”

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 from him.

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.




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.”----James 2:10.

“He that is unjust in the least, is also unjust in much.”----Luke 16:10.

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 men.

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 a Christian.

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 time.

But 4.Real obedience to God involves and implies supreme regard for his authority.

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.

They say----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 God.

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,----that they 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:----You 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 them further----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 real.

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

Two Fannys

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



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”----“Till with 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:

Crosby---- “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,

Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.”

Havergal---- “I gave my life for thee;

What hast thou given for me?”

Crosby---- “A wonderful Saviour is Jesus my Lord,

A wonderful Saviour to me.”

Havergal---- “Take my life, and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to thee.”

Crosby---- “Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,

No language my rapture can tell.”

Havergal---- “O use me, Lord, use even me,

Just as thou wilt, and when and where.”

Crosby---- “Safe in the arms of Jesus,

Sweetly my soul shall rest.”

Havergal---- “Who will leave the world's side?

Who will face the foe?

Who is on the Lord's side?

Who for him will go?”

Crosby---- “Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,

Here by faith in him to dwell.”

Havergal---- “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.

Editorial Policies

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.