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Vol. 2, No. 10
Oct., 1993


by Glenn Conjurske

I have not read fiction for nearly thirty years. I gave it up when I was converted. This I did instinctively, not because I believed fiction was sinful, but because I had no more interest in it, any more than I had in major league baseball games. I had eternity before me, and perishing souls around me, and these engrossed my heart and my mind, and I instinctively gave myself to those things which were profitable to the ends for which I now lived. When the question of reading fiction has occasionally come up to me, I have stood against it. What profit is there in it? Christ prays, “Sanctify them through thy truth.” (John 17:17). We are not sanctified by fiction, but truth. This is argument enough for me. “Time for eternity” is my motto, and I cannot spend my precious time in anything which does not forward the ends for which I live.

In recent days, however, I have been led to a train of thought which has persuaded me that fiction is not only without profit to the life of godliness, but that it is positively harmful. I have a daughter who is now 21 years old. She never went to school a day in her life, but was taught (mostly informally) at home. She knew the alphabet when she turned one, could read a large vocabulary of words when she turned two, could read sentences when she turned three, could read the King James Bible well when she was five, and has been devouring the substantial biographies and missionary books which fill my bookshelves since she was seven. She has never read fiction. We have none in the house (not by design, at any rate), and, with the possible exception of a few small pieces which may have slipped by me, I have not allowed her to have it. But her long acquaintance with truth has given her a capacity to recognize fantasy when she sees it. I recently bought a book which I supposed was historical and factual. My daughter immediately delved into it, as she usually does my new acquisitions. After reading a while, she informed me that she thought it was fiction. I asked her why she thought so, and she told me that everything happened at the right time, and everything turned out right.

She did not learn this by reading fiction, but by reading truth. You might suppose that I taught her these things, but this is not so. The fact is, she taught them to me. I must confess that I was at first amazed that a young girl who has never read fiction could so easily spot it, and give such cogent reasons for it. But perhaps I should not have been. I was once told of a course which teaches people to recognize counterfeit money, in which the students are never shown a counterfeit bill. (And since writing this I have had opportunity to question a friend, who is a bank executive, about it, and he confirmed the truth of it.) A thorough knowledge of the true enables them to spot the false at once. And I really suppose that if I had given my daughter a mixed diet of fact and fiction, she would never have had such an ability to tell them apart. A small matter, you say? Not so, for a person who cannot tell truth from fiction in a book, cannot tell them apart in life, and this is a serious matter. But more on that anon.

As I pondered over the reasons which my daughter gave me for believing the book to be fiction, my mind went back to a book I had read years ago. I had bought it from a Christian publisher, assuming that it was a historical account, nor was there anything in title, preface, or introduction, to indicate otherwise. But when I read the book, I was left with the feeling that it was likely untrue, and for the same two reasons (now that I think about it) which my daughter assigned: everything happened at the right time, and turned out perfect. The lad's faithful dog, who had been confined at home miles away, arrived at the precise moment when the wolf (in the deep woods, in the dark night!) was about to spring upon the boy. The dog, of course, conquered the wolf. All of the boy's extremely wicked brothers were converted, and too easily, at that. As I pondered all of this, it dawned upon me that this is the general character of fiction. This is indeed the characteristic which removes fiction from the realm of the commonplace, and makes it attractive. The too dark picture, as if by the touch of a fairy's wand, is transformed into a picture which is too bright----and they all live happily ever after. This is not reality, but fantasy.

Well, what of it? What harm is there in it? A great deal of harm, for these fantasies give their readers a false view of life, and fill them with expectations which in all probability will never be realized. Life as it really is is replaced in their minds by a dream world which does not exist, and thus their souls are filled with discontent and disillusionment, such as unfit them for the sober realities of life. An old proverb affirms, “Too much hope deceives,” and this is strictly true. We are all prone enough to spend our lives dreaming and pining for the perfect circumstances, instead of buckling down to work where we are, and overcoming in the circumstances which we have. To feed and strengthen that propensity by reading fantasies is detrimental, and therefore wrong. “Too much hope” does indeed deceive, and one of the things which is true in fiction is that it does give “too much hope.”

This, as hinted above, is one of the main elements that raises fiction above the level of the commonplace, and makes it attractive, and this it is which makes it addictive to many. It feeds their natural (and understandable) longings for “paradise restored,” and leads them to expect it here and now, where it never shall be, in the midst of this groaning, travailing, sin-cursed earth. Fiction is thus as addictive as sugar. Offer a “sugar fiend” celery sticks or roast beef, and it fails to excite them. They want something sweet! Offer a fiction addict a solid biography, and it fails to interest him. There is little or nothing in it to feed his cravings for Wonderland. Such folks don't want commonplace reality. They have “too much hope,” and therefore too much disappointment, and they need fantasies to feed their false hopes. We would not pretend, of course, that all readers of fiction will come to this. We only point out that this is its natural tendency.

But some will question whether it is possible to have “too much hope”----what with all of the great and precious promises of God in the Bible. With a God who has promised to give us the desires of our hearts, to withhold no good thing from us, to freely give us all things----with a God who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think----is it possible to have “too much hope”? Yes, verily. We can have too much hope, and a good deal too much. We cannot have too much hope for heaven, but we can have a good deal too much of it for this life----and fiction does not deal with heaven----for no amount of faith can bring heaven to earth, nor transform earth into a fantasy-land, nor make the things of earth always to come out right, nor make any of them to come out right without cost and labor, nor obliterate the fact of death, nor the fact of life that “we who are in this tabernacle do groan,” nor remove the thorns from the roses, nor make the things of this earth rosy. But these fictions are rose colored glasses, which not only undermine faith by bringing it to disillusionment at the last, but undermine it in its very essence in the mean time, and that precisely by giving it “too much hope.” Faith is not a fairy's wand, to transplant us from this sin-cursed, groaning, travailing earth to Utopia. By faith we do not escape from adversities and hardships and privations and disappointments, but overcome while we dwell in the midst of them. By faith we are made more than conquerors “IN all these things”----IN “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword.” But the fantasies of fiction do not leave us “in all these things,” but clean escaped from them. Another old proverb says, “We are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed,” and while this is certainly too cynical, it has some truth in it, and a good deal more truth than most fiction.

But some there are who will decry indeed the polluting fiction of the world, but yet contend for Christian fiction. But in the particular point which I am addressing at present, the Christian fiction is so much the worse than the worldly. Secular fiction may paint us a Utopian picture, and likely made Utopian by the pleasures of sin, but there it stops. Christian fiction paints the same Utopian picture, only unstained by sin, and then deliberately and of purpose attributes this Utopia to God and to faith----a thing which secular fiction is innocent of----and thus in its very essence and purpose destroys the doctrine and the life of faith.

But it may be legitimately asked, Does not God sometimes make things to come out just right? Yea, does he not sometimes work wonders and miracles to secure it? To be sure he does----but not after the manner of fiction. For first, God's wonders are not spread like falling leaves, but come like comets and eclipses. If they came every time folks wished----yea, prayed----for them, they would cease to be wonders. This is not only the doctrine of universal human experience, but also the doctrine of Scripture. “Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land, but unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:25-27, Greek). God can raise the dead also, yea, he has done so----once or twice, perhaps, to every thousand years of human history. God can stop the sun in the heavens also, and has done that also, a time or two in six thousand years.

What then? Can faith secure no wonders from the hand of God? To be sure it can, only observe, 1.those wonders are not to be secured lightly or easily or commonly; and 2.nor any nor all of those wonders will ever secure exemption from the groaning and travailing of the life in this tabernacle on this earth, nor secure for us a Utopian existence here below. Faith or no faith, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” (John 16:33). Strong faith or weak faith, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7). Tribulation, persecution, hardship, disappointment, toil, and distress----and God has no purpose to deliver us from these things here and now. By the evident working of the hand of God, Jacob received his long-lost and beloved Joseph back to his bosom, but only after languishing many years without him. And long ere this the same Jacob received the dream of his heart in his beloved Rachel----but what toils and sufferings and swindlings must he endure to receive her, and for all that she was soon taken from him again. And after his entire pilgrimage of faith, he must yet say, “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.” (Gen. 47:9). The Utopian rest and enjoyment which all of our hearts so crave is neither here nor now, but reserved for us in heaven. So far as earth is concerned, “No rose without a thorn.” “No sunshine but hath some shadow.” “Wherever a man dwell, he shall be sure to have a thorn-bush near his door.” These old proverbs are the very truth, though it is hard truth to learn, and all of us are too prone to hope and dream and labor to secure our Utopian rest here below. But faith cannot give it to us, for God will not give it to us. It is God who has planted the thorn-bushes on earth, and he it is who plants them near our doors. That which conducts us into a wonderland of rest and pleasure on the earth is not faith, but, in one word----fiction.

Some will of course object that all fiction is not of that character, or at least, that it need not be. Grant it, and you do not gain much. Suppose you can find some fiction which actually paints a true picture of life as it really is on this sin-cursed earth, and what will be the worth of it? Even leaving spiritual considerations out of the question, what is the value of that which is untrue? We learn wisdom from that which has been, but not from that which has been imagined. As the proverbs say, “History repeats itself,” and “What has been may be.” From facts which we know to be such, we draw encouragement, wisdom, and circumspection----but if the man exists who can draw these things from imaginations, which he knows to be such, I confess he has a constitution which I do not understand.

Many, of course, will justify Christian fiction on the basis of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, or even the parables of Christ, but this is grasping at straws. Bunyan's work, and the parables of Christ, are not fiction, but truth, though it be under the form of an allegory----and these really have nothing in common with the fiction which floods the Christian market today. Yea, Aesop's fables, though heathen, are of more value than Christian fiction, for they delineate truth and reality, and not fairy-land fantasies and impossible imaginations.

I conclude thus: those who understand truth and reality, and are immune to the influence of fictional imaginations, have no reason to indulge themselves in fiction, unless it be for mere recreation, and those who are committed to higher things will have no time to spare for that. Those who are likely to be influenced by fictional views had better by all means leave fiction alone.


Rays From The Lanterne of Lizt

The Lanterne of Li3t is a Lollard tract of about the date of 1400, existing in manuscript, and published in 1917 by the Early English Text Society. It contains two eloquent passages, the one on heaven, the other on hell. These I give below, the original text in the left column, and the same in modernized English in the right column, line for line, with critical notes at the end. On the contents I make but one remark: though a Lollard (Wycliffite), the author gives a very high place to Mary. This is understandable, considering the prevailing darkness of those times. Yet it is to be observed that though he makes her supreme among God's creatures, yet he still places her as one of them, rendering worship to God, rather than above them, receiving worship from them, after the manner of Romanism. ----editor.

O. a woundirful ioye is êis. where êe soule schal be fedde/ wiê êe si3t of êe godhed/ cladde in êe li3t of êe god-

hed/ And euere occupied in êe worschip of êe godhed/ And certis êis is ioye; wiêouten wrecchidnes/ êis is rest; wiêouten ony chargeouse bisines êis is mirêe. wiêouten heuynes êis is swerte endles; of al discorde loêles çis is counfort in gladnes; of ony maner

êou3t1 or purviaunce carles çis wit-

nesiê êe prophet Isaie. lxiiii. & seint Poul in his epistile. I. Cor. ii...Bodili i3e haê neuir sen. neiêir eere haê hard.

neiêir it sti3ed2 in mannes hert. êoo

êingis êat God haê ordeyned to hem

êat louen him Lord who schulde not remewen hise feble wittis. to êenk on êat amiable quere. êat preisiê in heuene

êe goodnes of êis inserchable god-

hed; Fadir & Sone & Holigost To bigynne at Mary Cristis modir quene of heuene. ladi of erêe. & emparise of helle. nyne ordris of aungelis in gloriouse wise; êere dwellen in her heuenli sellis/ to do êe plesing wille of God; in heuene & in erêe as her ordir ax-

eê/ And patriarchis oure elder fadris;

êat strei3tli kept êe biddingis of God êere êei resten of all her traueile; in

lond of lijf wiê double mede çere

O, a wonderful joy is this, where the soul shall be fed with the sight of the Godhead, clad in the light of the Godhead, and ever occupied in the worship of the Godhead. And certes this is joy without wretchedness; this is rest without any chargeous business; this is mirth without heaviness. This is surety endless, of all discord harmless. This is comfort in gladness, of any manner of worry or forethought careless. This witnesseth the prophet Isaiah, lxiii, & saint Paul in his epistle, I Cor. ii, Bodily eye hath never seen, neither ear hath heard, neither hath it risen in man's heart, those things that God hath ordained to them that love him. Lord, who should not remove his feeble wits, to think on that amiable choir, that praiseth in heaven the goodness of this unsearchable God-head, Father & Son & Holy Ghost. To begin at Mary, Christ's mother, queen of heaven, lady of earth, and empress of hell; nine orders of angels in glorious wise there dwell in their heavenly cells, to do the pleasing will of God, in heaven and in earth, as their order ask-eth. And patriarchs, our elder fathers, that straitly kept the biddings of God, there they rest of all their travail, in the land of life with double reward. There ben prophetis êat si3en in spirit; êe misterie of Cristis incarnacioun/ êei tolden êe comyng of êis Lord; in hope abiding mannes saluacioun Evangelistis ben êere hi3e in blisse; êat walkiden wiê Crist & writen hise wordis/ Apostlis

sent in to al êe world; & Cristis dis-

ciplis to preche êe gospel/ turnyng

Iewis & heêen men to Cristis lawe;

êere sitten in seetis vpon XII troones/ and schullen iugge wiê Crist in

doome; êe XII. tribis Israel. Mat.

xix. ...çere ben martris êat schedden her blood; & suffrid peynes to large her ioye/ & for êei passid bi

fire & watir; êei han founden refresch-ing to her soulis Also êere ben confessours; êat opened Cristis lawe in êis world/ & noêir for vileny ne

for schame; wolde neuere deneye êat blessid lore çere ben virgines in bodi

& in soule/ êat kepten her clennes

from lust of fleische/ & to êis blisse

ben taken boêe lerid & lewid3; êat

done her vttirest wille to holde

Goddis heestis4 No tung mai

telle êe soêe as it is; but êus we seyn to mende oure deuocioun êat we mi3t haue êis blis in mynde; & take a parte amonge êise seyntis.

are the prophets that saw in spirit the mystery of Christ's incarnation. They told the coming of this Lord, in hope awaiting man's salvation. Evangelists are there, high in bliss, that walked with Christ and wrote his words. Apostles, sent into all the world, and Christ's dis-ciples, to preach the gospel, turning Jews and heathen men to Christ's law, there sit in seats upon 12 thrones, and shall judge with Christ in the judgement the 12 tribes of Israel, Mat. xix. There are martyrs that shed their blood and suffered pains to enlarge their joy, and because they passed through fire & water they have found refreshing to their souls. Also there are confessors, that opened Christ's law in this world, and neither for villainy nor for shame would never deny that blessed lore. There are virgins in body and in soul, that kept their cleanness from the lust of the flesh, & to this bliss are taken both learned and common, that have done their utterest will to hold God's commandments. No tongue may tell the truth as it is; but this we say to mend our devotion, that we might have this bliss in mind, and take a part among these saints.

The same writer speaks with equal eloquence of the judgement of hell, followed by an appeal to repentance:

çe fendis chirche in êise daies; preesen aboue clowdis/ Crist & hise hooli seyntis; wiê wordis & wiê signes/ But êei pursuen to êe deeê; êe louars

of his lawe/ and êus seiê Crist in his gospel. Luk. vi. ... ri3t as 3e don now; so dide 3oure fadris to her prophetis in her daies/ And êerfore woo to 3ow hell-houndis. for Crist seiê. In êis world 3e ben riche. faat fed. lau3yng & preisid iche of oêir; weepe 3e & make 3e

sorow for 3oure peyne is myche in helle O. êise schal haue a dredeful dai; whanne êei ben reynd at êe barre of iugement/ & Crist haê rerid vp his

croos; êe banere of his passioun Of êis dai spekiê êe prophete Sopho. i. ... çe greet dai of êe Lord; is ny3 & fast biside/ and hi3eê toward wondir

swiêe; it schal not long tarie/ In êat

The fiend's church in these days praise above the clouds Christ and his holy saints, with words and with signs. But they pursue5 to the death the lovers of his law, and thus saith Christ in his gospel, Luke vi, Right as ye do now, so did your fathers to their prophets in their days. And therefore wo to you hell-hounds, for Christ saith, In this world ye are rich, fat-fed, laughing and praised each of the other; weep ye & make ye sorrow, for your pain is much in hell. O, these shall have a dreadful day, when they are arraigned at the bar of judgement, and Christ hath reared up his cross, the banner of his passion. Of this day speaketh the prophet Zeph., i, The great day of the Lord is nigh and close beside, and hasteth toward wonder swiftly; it shall not long tarry. In that

dai schal be trublid; he êat is strong & mi3ti for êe voice of êe Lord; is bittir

to êe dampned/ êat dai is a dai of wraêêe; a day of tribulacioun/ êat is a dai of angir & tene; of schenschip

& of wrecchidnes/ êat is a dai of dercknes; & of êick smok/ êat is a

dai of cloude; & of êe wood6 whirlwynde/ êat is êe dai of tromp; & of hidouse noise/ for êanne êei schal see;

her iuge abouen hem. stirid to wraêêe çanne schal êei see; helle open bineê hem; and aungelis on her ri3t si3de; hasting hem to helle/ fendis on her lift si3de; drawyng hem to helle/ Seyntis approuyng Goddis doome; & al êe

world accusing/ and her owene conscience; as open as a book/ in êe whiche êei schal rede; her owene dampnacioun çise wrecchis biholding; êe greet

glorie of hem/ êat êei dispisid in êis world; êanne schal êei seie êise wordis. Sap. v. ... çise it ben êat we sumtyme hadde in scorne; & in to licknesse of vpbreyding we witlesse dampned helle-brondis; trowiden her lijf hadde be woodnes & madnesse/ & we gessiden êat her eende; had ben wiêouten worschip7/ how now for êei ben countid; among êe sones of God & êei taken her loot; among hise seintis/ êerfore we han errid; from êe weie of trouêe/ & êe li3t of ri3twisenesse; li3tned not to vs/ we ben wery of êe weye of wickidnesse & dampnacioun/ what profite haê oure pride don to vs? or greet avaunt. or

boost of richessis? what haê it 3yuen til us? alle êo êingis ben passid from vs;

as êe schadowe/ çanne schal êe iuge seie; to hem wiê stirne cheere8/ Mat. xxv. ... Go awey fro me 3e cursid lymes9; in to êe fire of helle euerlastyng/ êat is ordeyned to êe deuel and hise aungels/ çanne may êe soule seie to êe bodi êise wordis/ `Cum on êou cursid careyn; cum & goo wiê me/ for

I am compellid; to cum a3en to êee/

êat we mowe go togidir; eiêir to

oêir schame/ to take oure iewesse as

we han disserued; peyne for euermore/ êat êing êat we loued; now it is gon

from vs/ & al êat we haatid; is turned vpon vs. Now is oure ioye turned in to

day shall be troubled he that is strong & mighty, for the voice of the Lord is bitter to the damned. That day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation; that is a day of anger and indignation, of shame & of wretchedness; that is a day of darkness, and of thick smoke; that is a day of cloud, and of the mad whirlwind; that is the day of trumpet, and of hideous noise, for then they shall see their judge above them, stirred to wrath. Then shall they see hell open beneath them, and angels on their right side hasting them to hell----fiends on their left side, drawing them to hell----saints approving God's judgement, and all the world accusing----and their own conscience, as open as a book, in the which they shall read their own damnation. These wretches, beholding the great glory of them that they despised in this world, then shall they say these words, Sap. v, These it is that we sometime had in scorne, and into the likeness of upbraiding. We witless damned hell-hounds supposed their life had been insanity and madness, and we guessed that their end had been without honour; how now, for they are counted among the sons of God, & they take their lot among his saints. Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness lightened not to us. We are weary of the way of wickedness and damnation. What profit hath our
pride done to us? or great advantage, or boast of riches? what hath it given to us? All those things are passed from us as the shadows. Then shall the judge say to them with stern face, Mat. xxv, Go away from me ye cursed branches, into the fire of hell everlasting, that is ordained to the devil and his angels. Then may the soul say to the body these words, `Come on, thou cursed carrion, come & go with me, for I am compelled to come again to thee, that we may go together, either to the other10 shame, to take our judgement as we have deserved----pain for evermore. That thing that we loved, now it is gone from us, & all that we hated is turned upon us. Now is our joy turned into

sorow; and oure myrêe in to wepyng/ Now is oure law3tir. turned in to mornyng; & al oure game into weiling/ No êing abidiê to vs; but fire hoot brennyng/ watir coold chelling/ wormes as addris/ toodis & snakis euer gnawyng/ euer diyng & neuer deed/ dercknesse palpable. êat is so êick. êat it may be gropid/ wanting êe si3t of ony coun-

fort/ seyng al êat may discounforte/ Feer intollerable. drede vntellable/ quakyng of êe fendis felaschip/ al-

wey discorde wiêouten frenschip/ & ful dispeyre of ony eende'

Neêeles assay in êis lijf; if 3e

may leeue êe fendis chirche/ & brynge 3oure silf boêe bodi & soule; in to êe chirch of Iesu Crist/ while grace & mercy may be grauntid; axe of him êat offrid him silf/ vpon a cros wiê

wilful cheere; to saue vs alle whanne we were loost/

sorrow, and our mirth into weeping. Now is our laughter turned into mourning, and all our play11 into wailing. Nothing abideth to us, but fire hot burning, water cold chilling, worms as adders, toads and snakes ever gnawing, ever dying and never dead; darkness palpable, that is so thick that it may be groped12, wanting the sight of any comfort, seeing all that may discomfort. Fear intolerable, dread untellable, quaking of the fiend's fellowship, always discord without friendship, and full despair of any end.Nevertheless, assay in this life, if ye may leave the fiend's church, and bring yourself both body and soul into the church of Jesus Christ, while grace and mercy may be granted; ask of him that offered himself upon a cross with willing heart to save us all when we were lost.

----The Lanterne of Lizt, edited by Lilian M Swinburn; London: The Early Engligh Text Socity, 191l, pp. 26-27 & 134-136. Latin Scripture quotations are omitted (marked by dots), and the English translation only given.


1“Thought” here means anxious thought or worry. This is a good illustration of the old usage of the word, as found in Matt. 6:25, 31, & 34.

2“Sti3e,” to arise or ascend, whence our “stile” and “stilts.”

3“Lewd,” then meaning common or unlearned, applied to “laymen.”

4Commonly used for “commandments.” Compare “behests.”

5“Pursue” is often used for “persecute” in old English works.

6“Wood” is “mad.” Compare “woodnes and madnesse” below.

7“Worship” is “honor,” and the two words are often used interchangeably.

8The “cheer” is the face or countenance, which is its sense in “Be of good cheer.” “Wilful cheere” below I take as a metonymy for a willing heart.

9That is, “limbs,” which I take as a reference to the branches which are burned in John 15:6 (where the Wycliffe Bible, however, has “braunche”).

10That is, each to the other. Soul and body will each be a shame to the other.

11This may mean “mirth” or “joy”----or “fun,” as it would now be called.

12“Felt,” we would now say. The Wycliffe Bible has “gropid” in Ex. 10:21.


Truth or Consequences

by Glenn Conjurske

A Sermon Preached on July 20, 1992. Recorded, Transcribed, and Revised.

Turn in your Bibles to the sixth chapter of the book of Matthew. I'm going to preach this morning on “Truth or Consequences.” To begin, I'm going to read Matthew, chapter 6, verses 19 and 20. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

God, strengthen my heart and mind this morning. Enable me to preach your word acceptably, and with profit to those that hear. Amen.

When I was converted quite a few years ago, I began to read the Bible, and particularly the New Testament. I had never been to Bible School. Nobody had taught me yet that I wasn't supposed to take the Bible at face value, and believe it, and act on it, and live by it. I didn't know all that yet. So I began reading the Bible, and I just ate it up----drank it in----believed it----fashioned my course according to it. And since I began reading the book of Matthew first, since it was at the beginning of the New Testament, I suppose I read this sixth chapter of Matthew just a few days after I was converted, and this principle of “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth,” along with “take no thought for the morrow,” got a hold of my heart, and I began to live by those things. I began to preach them. About a year later I went away to Bible School. I went with two men from my home town that had already been to Bible School, and were going back, and I going for the first time. We all rode together in the car, and we spent half the way there arguing over this sixth chapter of the book of Matthew. I was contending for “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth.” I was standing on what I held to be TRUTH. They were arguing on the other side, on the basis of CONSEQUENCES. If you don't have a bank account or an insurance policy, what's going to happen to you when you get sick, or when some calamity strikes? You won't have anything to take care of yourself with. Truth was set aside in favor of consequences. If you should happen to have a wife and family, and die, they will be left unprovided for, if you don't lay up treasures on earth. I couldn't answer their arguments, at least not to their satisfaction. I was young, and green, and I will not pretend that I was all right, and they all wrong, but the basis on which I was endeavoring to stand was truth, while they were arguing only on the basis of consequences. “If we do such and such things then this will be the consequence, and such dire consequences must be avoided at all cost.”

You know that I preach Romans 13:8, “Owe no man anything.” Can't go into debt. Ought not to go into debt. The Bible says so. But whenever I speak of this to Christians, I am met with, “Well, if we can't go into debt, then we can't buy a house.” You see, setting aside truth because of consequences. Whenever I hear that argument I always say, “God never commanded you to buy a house, but he did command you to owe no man anything.” I wouldn't mind owning a house, either. The reason I don't have one is because I'd have to go into debt to get it. But I as much own the house I live in as anybody does, who has gone into debt to buy one. The only difference is, my monthly payments are smaller. I have as free use of my house as they have of theirs. Now, there is a difference, and that is that my payments will never end, while they're looking forward to the day when theirs will end. But they're standing on the side of consequences, rather than on the side of truth.

Now I believe that it is also legitimate to look at consequences, and to allow consequences to determine your course. In fact, in the verses that I read to you, that's exactly what the Lord preaches. He preaches consequences. Listen. We'll read the verses again. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In other words, if you take this course, this will be the consequence, and if you take that course, that will be the consequence. If you lay up treasure on earth, the consequence will be that your heart will be in those treasures on the earth. So you see the Lord looks at consequences too, but he looks at a different kind of consequences. The Lord is looking at the spiritual consequences, while most folks are always looking at the earthly, temporal, worldly, consequences----and set aside truth to establish consequences for this life only.

Now I believe that our pathway is to be determined by truth, not consequences, unless we're talking about spiritual consequences. But even then you have no right to set aside the command, precept, principle, or example of Scripture, in order to secure spiritual consequences. In other words, you have no right to do evil that good might come, even if it's spiritual good. And you have no right to do evil that physical, temporal, earthly, or worldly good might come. You're to be governed by truth----by what the Bible says.

Now there's one thing that you must bring in here to enable you to determine your course on the basis of truth rather than consequences. Somebody tell me in one word what it is. What must you have to be able to determine your course on the basis of truth rather than consequences?

All right, I've got two answers----a single eye, and faith. Faith is the one I'm looking for. You must have faith. When I left home to go to Bible School many years ago, and argued half way there about this passage of Scripture, the one thing that became evident to me in those who were arguing on the side of consequences is this: they viewed nothing from the standpoint of faith. But in order to live by the truth, regardless of the consequences, you must have faith. You must have the ability to trust God to take care of the consequences.

Years ago we met a couple and began to fellowship with them, and one thing that came up early in our relationship with them was the question of sending children to school. They had just had their first baby. She was born just a few days after we first met them. They had just had their first baby, and the new father was naturally thinking about bringing up his child, and he said to me, “What do you do to get good books for children?” He said, “I know that most of what is available is just junk, but how do you find something good for them to read? You have to send them to school...” And when he said that, I said, “Well, no, you don't have to send them to school.” We then went into that subject, and in a subsequent visit with them, he told me, “As soon as you said that, I knew that it was right”----about not having to send your kids to school. He said, “ As soon as you said it, I knew it was right, but my wife cried all the way home.” She said, “Our baby won't have any friends if she can't go to school.” He was looking at the truth. She was looking only at consequences----and by the way, not at spiritual consequences either, but earthly, temporal, worldly consequences. And this is the way of unbelief, always. Faith looks at consequences, too, but it looks at the spiritual consequences.

You know, this question of sending children to school, I didn't determine that on the basis of any consequences. Some twenty-four or twenty-five years ago I came clearly to understand what the world is, and clearly to understand that the public school system is part of the world. And as soon as I understood that, I said in my heart, If I ever have children, they will never go to school. I wasn't looking at any consequences whatsoever. I was looking solely at the truth of God, and determined my course by that. But a lot of people treat this whole school question with regard to consequences. Some who are spiritually-minded look at spiritual consequences (and this is just fine), and they say, If my children go to school, my children are going to be corrupted by the world: therefore I will not send my children to school. Other folks, those with a carnal mind, look at the question from the standpoint of worldly, earthly, temporal, consequences, and say, If my children go to school, they will be well educated (a fallacy, by the way), they'll learn how to relate to people, they will have advantages that they can't have at home, and therefore (the conclusion is) I will send my children to school. I know of one who for whatever reason had her children out of school, out of the public schools at any rate, but she started to look at some consequences, and said, “My daughter likes gymnastics, and she can only get gymnastics in the public school, so we will send her to the public school.” That's the carnal mind, looking at consequences that aren't even worth looking at, and setting aside the truth of God in order to secure those worldly consequences. It's an interesting thing too----I've observed it often----that people will give up things for themselves, and hold on to those same things for their children. Women will dress plain themselves, and deck their daughters out in lace and frills and ruffles. People very often look at the dire consequences that are going to come as a result of obedience to the truth, and therefore spare their children from things in which they themselves would gladly follow the truth. I think that's the case with this school issue, and a lot of other issues. Parents will indulge their children in things, refusing to deny them according to the truth of God, in order to secure some temporal consequences.

But I want to look at a man who was of another spirit. You will find the account of him in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis. His name was Abraham, and I think the account we have of Abraham will well illustrate everything that I'm trying to preach this morning. Genesis, chapter twenty-two, beginning at the beginning. “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham. And he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father. And he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him, for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.”

Now the first thing we have here, on the one side, is truth. “Thy word is truth,” and that is the thing that Abraham steered his course by. God came to Abraham with a plain command. Abraham didn't reason and dispute, but unquestioningly obeyed the word which God had spoken. God said, Take your son, and offer him up for a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed. Now you talk about consequences! There were going to be some dire consequences when Abraham offered up his son. People are afraid to pull their children out of the public schools, or out of the worldly and world-oriented Christian schools, because they're not going to get as good an education, or not going to be able to relate to people, or they're going to grow up dwarfed, or they're not going to have the advantages that other poeple have, and all kinds of things like this. You know what the consequence was going to be when Abraham obeyed the word of God? The consequence was going to be that his son was dead----not just denied, and deprived, and dwarfed, and “stunted for life,” and that sort of thing----but dead. And Abraham just obeyed. He looked at truth, not consequences.

Now as I said, the thing that enables a man to do that is faith. You may look at the logical results of the course that you take, and see some dire consequences. But faith says, God is able to do one of two things. If I obey God, he is able in the first place to step in and prevent those consequences from ever taking place. And if God doesn't choose to do so, God is able in the second place to overrule those dire consequences, and work all of those things together for the ultimate good of those who love him. Now Abraham had both of those kinds of faith. You see them both in this passage. Verse 7: “Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father. And he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” Abraham evidently had faith that God could prevent those dire consequences which he knew must come, naturally, as a result of his obedience to the command of God. He believed that God was able to provide himself a lamb. And God did so, by the way, but there is something beyond that here. I cannot promise anybody that the natural consequences of their obedience to the truth will not follow. When somebody takes a course in obedience to the truth of God, I can't promise that persecution won't come upon him. I can't promise that he won't be cast out. I can't promise that he won't be killed. I can't promise that he won't go hungry. I can't promise that he won't be booted out of the house he lives in, and set out in the street. I can't promise that he won't be “destitute, afflicted, tormented.” I can't promise that God will step in and prevent the natural consequences of your obedience to him. I'm talking about the earthly consequences. I can't promise that. I can promise that if he doesn't prevent them he will overrule them, and bring good out of them. I can promise that he will bring meat out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong.

There are some things that God himself does promise: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you”----what ye shall eat, and what ye shall drink, and wherewithal ye shall be clothed. God promises you that much. He promises that you will have the necessities of this life. Enough of them, at any rate, to keep you going. But there are a lot of things he doesn't promise. He hasn't promised that the natural consequences of the course of obedience that you take will not come upon you.

But Abraham had another kind of faith. Abraham had the faith to believe that even though the dire consequences of his act should actually take place, God would overrule it and reverse it and turn it around. And so we read in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews, verse 17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac, and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called, accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” It was necessary for Abraham, assuming he had faith, it was necessary for him to believe that if he offered up his son, God would raise him up. It was necessary for him to believe that, because God had said, In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, and In Isaac shall thy seed be called. It was a necessity, in order for God to keep his own word, to raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham could look at his act of obedience, and see the awful consequences which it would bring to his son----not only dead, but burned up, and consumed to ashes. Offered up as a burnt offering. And by faith he went forward in that course of obedience to the command of God, believing that if all those consequences should ensue, that God would come down and raise his son from the dead.

You'll find that back in Genesis 22. It says in verse 4, “Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” “I and the lad----we'll come again to you.” Abraham had faith. If you don't have faith, you will always be looking at the consequences, and because of the dire consequences that you see coming upon you and yours, you will shrink back from obeying the truth. Faith knows that those consequences exist, but it knows also that there is a living God in heaven, and that he rewards them that obey the truth. It therefore calmly leaves those consequences in the hand of God, believing that God will keep his promises, and that in the final reckoning I'll receive better consequences for obedience to the truth, than for disobedience, even though I may have some painful things to go through in the mean time. You'll find that set forth also in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews. He speaks in verse 33 of those who “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.” These are the exploits of faith, and of course when such things are the expected results, and the consequences of your obedience to the truth are all to your temporal advantage, that kind of faith is easy. But then he goes on and says, “others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and of imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, they were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” It's very interesting in this passage that we just read, in verse 34 we read of some who by faith escaped the edge of the sword, while in verse 37 we read of others who by faith were slain with the sword. You see, in one case God prevented the dire consequences, and in another case he just let them happen. All these dire consequences actually came upon these people for their obedience to the truth. They actually were slain with the sword. They actually did wander about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, and afflicted, and tormented. They spent their lives that way, and they did it by faith. Faith in what? In a God who is going to overrule all of those dire consequences, and bring greater good out of it at the last. They were tortured that they might receive a better resurrection. If you have faith, you won't worry about the consequences. You'll leave them in the hands of God, and obey the truth. This is precisely what the Lord is teaching when he says, “Take no thought for the morrow.” We are to obey the truth, and let the morrow worry about itself. Leave the consequences in God's hands, and, as Bob Jones used to say, “Do right, though the stars fall.” But unbelief abandons the truth in order to secure earthly, temporal, physical, worldly consequences.

Now the applications of this doctrine that I'm preaching to you this morning are numerous. The principles here taught will apply in every area of life, in what you do, and what you say, how you spend your time and your money, and with whom you associate. It's yours to understand and embrace the truth in everything that you do, and by faith leave the consequences to God.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske


A good dictionary is a must for every serious reader, and speakers and writers may find use enough for them also. Very early in my Christian life I began to feel the need for a dictionary. I was a student at Bible school, and was in the habit of visiting the Christian book stores often, but, not finding any dictionaries there, I walked downtown one evening to a secular book store in search of one. I bought Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary (1966 edition)----a good cloth-bound book of 1600 pages, for which I paid $6.00. I walked back to my room, I may say, quite elated with the price, for in buying Christian books I had been used to paying higher prices for much smaller books.

This dictionary served me well enough, but a few years later I became aware that all dictionaries are not alike, and therefore acquired also Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. And I have often found it wise to consult both of them, for each may contain what the other does not.

About the same time that I acquired my second dictionary I also obtained a volume of the Parker Society edition of the works of William Tyndale. In reading this I soon discovered the inadequacy of both of my “collegiate” dictionaries, for many of Tyndale's words (he died in 1536) were not in them at all. I thus felt very keenly the need for an unabridged dictionary, and I soon found one. My wife and I were out for an evening walk near our home, pulling our firstborn baby daughter in the wagon. We stepped into an antique shop, where I found a good copy of Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (1933 edition), priced at $20. I offered the man $15, which he took, and I took the book (which weighed seventeen pounds), put it in the wagon with my daughter, and pulled it home. This, I must say, is an excellent dictionary, and I am perfectly satisfied with it, though it is sixty years old----or, I had better say, because it is sixty years old. A page in the back of my 1967 Webster's collegiate dictionary advertises the then-current unabridged dictionary as presenting the English language “in a new modern way.” But this is precisely what I do not want. A friend who had only a new modern dictionary once said to me, “I don't know how I could get along without a good dictionary,” to which I replied, “I don't know how you do get along without a good dictionary.” He took the hint, and now bids fair to possess a good dictionary of every color of the rainbow. But let us begin at the beginning here. Language, and languages, are of God. God spoke----saying, “Let there be light,” and “Let us make man in our image”----before man existed. And man was created with the ability to understand God's speech, and to speak himself. All of the talk which we hear nowadays (even from Christians) about “human language” is a fiction, and worse than a fiction. Language as such is not human, but divine, and so are the various languages of men----for it was God, not man, who confounded their tongues at Babel. Languages are the creation and gifts of God, and not something which evolved from the supposed grunts of imaginary cave men.

Languages, then, and our own beloved English language in particular, being the gifts of God, they bring with them and lay upon us a solemn responsibility to preserve them from corruption----precisely as do all of God's gifts, whether natural or spiritual. Certain changes in usage and pronunciation are inevitable, but by all means the less we have of them the better----or we arrive at the event of two people speaking or writing the same language, and yet unable to understand each other. We have, of course, arrived at that event already. John Wycliffe, for example, wrote English----“Englisch” it was then called----and yet no modern Englishman can understand him without learning a little of new (or old) vocabulary and grammar. Yes, and some of our modern folks claim that they cannot even understand the King James Bible. This is too bad, and we ought to do our best at any rate to hold the line against those changes which produce such a state of things. This we may do by holding to the old standards, and conforming our usage to them so far as is practicable (for I do not recommend reverting to old usages which would make us unintelligible to our contemporaries).

The modern dictionaries, however, have taken just the opposite course----precipitating rather than impeding such change----by lowering the standards to the careless usage of a careless and shallow generation. Thus they have come to their truly deplorable practice of obliterating the distinction in pronunciation between most of the vowels in unaccented syllables, describing them all with an upside down “e”----not an “i,” nor an “a,” nor an “e,” but a mere grunt. They seem determined to take the language back to the imaginary grunts of the imaginary cave men, whence they think it came. And the result of all of this is a generation of college graduates who cannot spell their own mother tongue, precisely because they cannot pronounce the words. (There are no doubt other reasons also, the foremost probably being that they don't care, and the advent of radio and television to replace books being another.)

Now against all of this I rebel. Because a careless generation must “jrive the chruck” instead of driving the truck, should we therefore rewrite the dictionaries to accommodate them? Many say, Yes. I say, No! I am well aware that languages do change, and there is no help for it, but that change ought to be resisted, not encouraged. When I say my daughter's name, I say “Mel-o-dy,” with a long “o” in the middle, and not “Mel-uh-dy,” as I have heard it from a host of others. When I say “testimony,” I of purpose pronounce a short “i” in the second syllable, and not a mere grunt; and when I write the word, I write “testimony,” and not “testamony,” as I have seen it from some who by all means ought to know better. From this “new modern way” may the Lord deliver us. I will have and hold my old dictionary till death do us part.

The Oxford English Dictionary is another “unabridged” dictionary, which is currently available in editions of from thirteen to twenty volumes, at prices ranging from a thousand dollars to two and a half thousand. Needless to say, I went through most of my life with but little hope of ever owning this, but some years ago I was fortunate enough to find the “officially authorized” abridgement of it at an estate sale, and paid $5 for it. This is entitled The Oxford Universal Dictionary, a book of over 2500 pages in a fine buckram binding. (Later editions are called The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.) Of obsolete and archaic words this edition professes to give only “a considerable proportion,” so that it is not unabridged, but it is very full. The whole of the original work has also been published in a “Compact Edition” of two large volumes, with four pages of the original, in microscopic type, on each page. These volumes come in a sturdy slip case, with a small drawer at the top, which contains a magnifying glass. I bought a set from a bookstore in downtown Boston, minus the magnifying glass, and therefore priced at only $65. I have seen a number of sets, magnifying glass and all, for $100----but since magnifying glasses may be had for under $10, I considered my set a good bargain. With this I was content, and really never expected to own the large edition, but about a year after I bought this I was in a used book store in Manchester, Connecticut, where I found the original set in 13 volumes, the original 1933 printing of the final revision, well used but in good condition, and priced at $200. I bought it, and considered it a bargain.

This work gives the dates when particular meanings were current, and contains a million and a half illustrative quotations. Though no dictionary is strictly “unabridged,” this one must be nearly so, and it has sometimes aided me in identifying one of John Wycliffe's words, when my Middle-English dictionary and all my Wycliffite glossaries had failed me. Finding words of that era in a dictionary is not so simple a matter as might be supposed, for spelling was not then standardized as it has been since the invention of printing, and the same word might be spelled a dozen different ways. Even in Tyndale's time we might find our common word “work” spelled as “worke, werke, worcke, wyrk, werk,” etc., while “darkness” may be “darkenes, derkenes, darcknes, darknesse, darcknesse,” etc., and so with numerous other words. In early printed works the catch word at the bottom of the previous page is as often as not spelled differently than the same word in its place at the beginning of the next page, and the same word may be spelled three ways in the same sentence. The invention of printing actually augmented for a time this caprice in spelling, for early typesetters spelled words according to how much room they had in the line. Thus in the Bishops' Bible of 1568 “passover” is spelled “passouer” every time but twice, those two times being when the word was divided at the end of a line, and the second “s” dropped for lack of room. But I may be getting too chatty, and should return to the subject of dictionaries. One of the advantages of the Oxford English Dictionary is that immediately under each word it lists the various archaic forms of it. Thus under the common word “light” we find, “leoht, lioht, leht, leocht, liht, lyht, lict, lit, litt, lijt, li3t, li3te, ly3t, li3ht, ly3hte, ly3ght, lith, lyth, lythe, lyght, lyghte, lyghth, lyghtt, lycht, lyicht, lyte, ?leyt, lytt, leght, licht, light.”

My Middle-English dictionary, by the way, is A Middle-English Dictionary, Containing Words Used By English Writers from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth Century, by Francis Henry Stratmann, revised by Henry Bradley, first published in 1891.

A dictionary of synonyms is another useful tool for writers, especially if they write poetry, and years ago I picked up A Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms, by Joseph Devlin, a secondhand-store item, for which I think I paid a dime----but soon found I had paid a dime too much. It is a mere list of synonyms and antonyms, without definitions, occupying only 219 pages. And what is worse, though it contains good lists of synonyms, they will be of no possible use to you unless you can divine which one of them the author chose to list them under. He lists seventeen synonyms under “xanthic,” but not one of them is listed as an entry word, though the list contains such common words as “golden,” “creamy,” and “tawny.” This is an inexcusable insult to common sense, and it effectually destroys the usefulness of the book. Superior every way is Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms, a book of 900 pages (first edition, 1942, of which I have a good copy in buckram), which lists synonyms, antonyms, and analogous words, all as entry words in alphabetical order, cross-referenced, and also gives lengthy dissertations and illustrations by which the connotation of each is defined. Similar in scope, though much smaller in size, and much briefer in defining and illustrating, is Funk & Wagnalls Standard Handbook of Synonyms, Antonyms, and Prepositions (1914, revised 1947). Another is Allen's Synonyms and Antonyms, published by Harper & Brothers (1921, revised in 1938), small in size, but excellent in content. This has cross references at the bottom of every page, while the Funk and Wagnalls book has a complete index of words at the back. I always reach for Allen's first. If that fails me, I look to the other two. I have also seen other dictionaries of synonyms, and these are fairly easy to find at secondhand book stores.

I John 5:7 in Luther's Bible

by Glenn Conjurske

I have previously laid before the readers of this magazine the facts concerning how I John 5:7 came to be inserted in the Textus Receptus and in the English Bible, and the grounds upon which that insertion rests. Here I take up the matter again, to point out some facts concerning the same verse in the German translation of Martin Luther. Luther's was the first Protestant New Testament to be given to the world, and the advocates of the modern doctrines of the perfect preservation of the text of Scripture in the Textus Receptus in Greek, and in the King James Version in English, have claimed Luther's translation as “God's Bible in German.” But if it is, 'tis a pity that the God who so wrought as to perfectly preserve the Greek text for Luther to translate from, and so wrought as to produce an inerrant German version through the mind and pen of the same Luther (after numerous revisions from the same Luther's hand, of course)----I say, 'tis a pity that the same God could not have wrought so as to preserve the translation once Luther had made it. But alas, such was not the case, for though Luther purposely omitted I John 5:7 from every edition of his Bible published while he lived, and solemnly adjured none to alter his version after he died, subsequent editors and printers took it upon themselves to corrupt his version, by adding I John 5:7 to it after his death.

Horne says of the verse that “it is wanting in the German translation of the illustrious reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, and in all the editions of it published during his lifetime. The last edition printed under Luther's superintendence (and which was not quite finished till after his death) was that of 1546, in the preface to which he requests that no person will make any alterations in it. But this great and good man had not been dead thirty years, when the passage was interpolated in his German translation. The first edition, in which this act of injustice took place, and in which Luther's text at least was corrupted, is that which was printed at Frankfort in 1574. But in the edition of 1583, printed in the same place, and also in several still later Frankfort editions, the passage was again omitted. The oldest Wittenberg edition, which received it, was that of 1596; and in the Wittenberg edition of 1599 it is likewise contained, but is printed in Roman characters [the rest of the text, of course, being in German type]. In 1596 it was inserted also in the Low German Bible, printed in that year at Hamburg. In the seventeenth century, if we except the Wittenberg edition of 1607, which remained true to Luther's text, the insertion was general; and since that time it is found in every edition of his German translation of the Scriptures.”

Alas, prejudice has so far reigned that even critical editions, which profess to give Luther's original readings, have inserted I John 5:7 into the text, howbeit set off from the text with different type or other marks of its lack of genuineness, as it was in the early English versions, and accompanied with notes disclaiming its genuineness. A facsimile from one of these follows:

The notes beneath this verse inform us “Dieser vers fehlt nicht blosz in allen Original-Ausgaben dieser Uebers., ...und in der an diese sich unmittelbar anschlieszenden Wittenb. Ausg. des N. T. von 1546. 4ì., sondern auch noch in den Wittenb. Ausgg. der ganzen Bible v. 1562. u. 1568.” That is, “This verse is wanting not only in all original editions of this translation, and in the Wittenberg edition of the N. T. of 1546, 4ì, directly subsequent to this, but still also in the Wittenberg editions of the whole Bible of 1562 and 1568.” After giving information on the critical editions of the Greek New Testament, the editors continue, “Luther liesz ihn also absichtlich weg, weil er ihn für unächt erkannte.” That is to say, “Luther, therefore, left it out intentionally, because he recognized it as spurious”----that is, not genuine.

To conclude: if I John 5:7 belongs in the Bible, then Martin Luther corrupted the German Bible, by intentionally leaving it out. It of course follows that God permitted Luther to so corrupt the German Bible, or, in other words, it is plain that God did not preserve Luther's Bible from error. Luther, of course, acted in the integrity of his heart, leaving it out because he believed it to be spurious, and not inspired Scripture. Nevertheless, God certainly knew if I John 5:7 was spurious or genuine. He certainly knew if it was or was not inspired of the Holy Ghost, and if it was, and if God was purposed to give the Germans an inerrant Bible in Luther's translation, he certainly could and would have wrought in such a way as to teach Luther better, and secure its insertion.

If, on the other hand, I John 5:7 is not inspired of the Holy Ghost, and does not belong in the Bible, then the printers and editors of Luther's Bible corrupted it after Luther's death, and God obviously did nothing to prevent this corruption. Luther, of course, knew very well that he was not preserved from error in translating the Bible, and therefore revised his translation repeatedly. But those who contend that Martin Luther's Bible is the inerrant word of God in German should at any rate decide which edition is the true one.


The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

By Glenn Conjurske

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard, though in reality simple and beautiful, has been a source of difficulty and confusion to most of those who have labored over it. Of its difficulty Archbishop Trench says, “It is a parable which stands only second to that of the Unjust Steward in the number of explanations, and those diverging most widely, that have been proposed for it; and only second to that, if indeed second, in the difficulties which it presents.”

Those difficulties arise primarily from two sources. The first is endeavoring to make the parable “walk on all fours”----a thing generally impossible in interpreting parables. There are many items in parables which are there only to set the stage, or to make the story self-consistent and intelligible, and it is vain to inquire into the spiritual meaning of every small point. If they are intended to convey any spiritual meaning, that will be obvious enough without any minute inquiry. If such a meaning is not obvious, let them alone. Concerning this J. C. Ryle says, “In expounding this parable, we need not inquire closely into the meaning of the `penny,' the `market-place,' the `steward,' or the `hours.' Such inquiries often darken counsel by words without knowledge.” Thus in the parable of the prodigal son, it is fruitless to inquire after the meaning of the best robe, the ring, the shoes, the fatted calf, or the music and dancing. They all together portray the kind of reception which the returning prodigal receives from his father, and we need not search any further. Some, of course, will confidently proclaim that the best robe is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Well, then, let them tell us what the ring and the music and the dancing are.

But further difficulties with the parable before us arise from the theological predispositions of the interpreters. Especially is this so in our day, when the prevailing undue emphasis on the grace of God, and the consequent slighting of human responsibility, render men incapable of apprehending the most elementary points of the parable. But the keys lie at the door, if men are but observant enough to find them. Before proceeding any further, therefore, I give the parable entire, with its introduction and conclusion:

“But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that is thine, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matt. 19:30-20:16).

The main point of this parable is the contrast between law and grace, and so between faith and works. As said, the keys lie at the door. At both the beginning and the end of the parable we are told that the last shall be first, and the first last. This is an expression used several times in Scripture, and it does not signify the mere disadvantage of those who shall be last, but their rejection. This is clear enough in Luke 13:28-30: “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. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And behold, there are last which shall be first, and first which shall be last.” This is addressed to those who ate and drank in Christ's presence, and in whose streets he taught. They were first in their privileges in this life, but will be rejected in the life to come, as is perfectly evident in verses 25, 27, and 28.

The other key is the other word which follows the parable, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” This word is also used several times in Scripture, and always implies the rejection of those who are called, but not chosen.

The starting point, then, to the correct understanding of the parable is the fact that these “first,” who labored in the vineyard all day, are not merely disadvantaged in the end, but finally rejected. And yet some interpreters make the fact that they all received a penny----and were thus all placed on the same level----to be the main point of the parable. On this R. C. Trench says, “Many expositors have been sorely troubled how to bring these words [`the last shall be first, and the first last'] into agreement with the parable; for in it `first' and `last' are set upon the same footing: while in these words, it is rather a reversing of places which is asserted; those who seemed highest, it is declared shall be placed at the lowest, and the lowest highest: when too we compare Luke xiii.30, where the words recur, there can be no doubt that a total rejection of the `first,' the unbelieving Jews, accompanied with the receiving of the `last,' the Gentiles, into covenant, is declared.” For lack of apprehending this first point----the final rejection of the “first” labourers----many of the best expositors completely miss the meaning of the parable. They as it were strike all around the head of the nail, without hitting it, and meanwhile give excellent expositions of some particular parts of the parable, but still hold all of the labourers, first and last, to be saints destined for eternal life.

But there are further hints also that these “first” laborers are intended to represent those finally rejected by the Lord. One of those hints lies in the fact that the Lord addresses one of them as “Friend.” Three times only does the Lord use this form of address in the New Testament----all in the book of Matthew. The first is to the man who came in without a wedding garment: “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Matt. 22:12). The second is to Judas in the garden, come to betray him: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matt. 26:50) The third is the case before us: “Friend, I do thee no wrong.” Trench notes these three instances, and well remarks that this address “in Scripture is a word of an evil omen.” Another hint is found in the rest of the Lord's address to the murmurer, “Take that is thine, and go thy way.” This, though but a hint, is appropriate as an expression of their rejection.

A stronger indication of the same thing lies in the fact that these “first” laborers were murmurers against God. The current antinomian theology may hold such to be saints, but the Bible speaks otherwise. “The Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgement upon all, and to convince all that are UNGODLY among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. THESE are MURMURERS,” &c. (Jude 15-16). The fact is, these murmuring laborers represent exactly the same class as the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son----both of them murmuring against God for his grace to the undeserving. These are no saints.

But if these murmurers against God are finally rejected by him, how is it that they receive “every man a penny,” the same as those who are received? Very simply, the parable requires it. These are they who stand on the ground of legal righteousness, which could hardly be represented by the Lord denying them the penny for which they had labored. To the elder son in the parable of the prodigal son the Father also says, “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine”----and yet there can be no question that this elder son represents the ungodly, legal Pharisees, who murmured against the Lord for receiving sinners (Luke 15:2), and for whose benefit the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son were spoken. I regard all of the above as fully establishing the fact that these first laborers, who are made last, are finally rejected of God, and I proceed to other features of the parable.

The ground upon which the laborers entered upon their work is the first thing we remark. The first laborers entered under an agreement or covenant----so much work for so much pay. That covenant represents the law. (The day, by the way, obviously represents the time of our life.) All the others entered without any such covenant, trusting in the rectitude of him who hired them. The first stood on the ground of works, the rest on the ground of faith. They went to work with no “contract,” but with faith that their master would do right. Darby calls this “the great point” of the parable, saying, “The first adhered to justice; they received that which was agreed upon; the last enjoyed the grace of his master. And it is to be remarked that they accept the principle of grace, [namely,] of confidence in it [confidence in grace, that is]. `Whatsoever is right I will give!' The great point in the parable is that----confidence in the grace of the master of the vineyard, and grace as the ground of their action.” (I should rather say, faith as the ground of their action.)

There is an obvious difference in these arrangements also from the side of the householder. The first laborers were evidently hired for his benefit----to work his vineyard. Of this I make nothing, except that it sets the stage for the contrast: all the rest were hired for their own benefit, for the master's intent in hiring them was to give them more than their labors were worth. This obviously represents grace. The things which he speaks at the time of reckoning clearly mark the same difference. The first laborers stand on the ground of law, or strict righteousness, and to them he says, “I do thee no wrong.” But with respect to the others, who stand in grace, he says, “I am good.” It is to be further remarked that these last do actually receive grace----actually receive more than they are worth. The first laborers receive no grace at all, not a mite of it, but receive exactly what they had bargained for and labored for. (That, of course, only in the setting of the parable----for as a matter of fact, none ever did or will or can actually earn their penny by the works of the law.)

That these first laborers do in fact represent those who are of the works of the law, and so under the curse, is further proved by the obvious fact that they had no faith. Faith, in its essence, is confidence in the goodness of God, (and this is the ground upon which the later laborers entered the vineyard), but these first had no such confidence in the goodness of him who hired them. They felt themselves wronged by him, though he gave them exactly what they deserved. They expected to receive more than they deserved, and faulted the Lord for not giving it----a true delineation of the spirit of those who stand on legal ground. Their hearts were far from their master, and they murmured against him. They had an “evil eye” towards him. This is legal and unbelieving altogether. It is to be further remarked that the first laborers bearing the burden and heat of the day aptly represents those who are under the law----“a yoke which neither we nor our fathers could bear”----a driver which whips the horse but does not feed him----and in fact the strength of sin.

The penny, of course, represents eternal life. This it is which they fail of who are called but not chosen. There really can be no doubt of this, whatever the current antinomian theology may think. Interpreters who belonged to better days of the church saw no reason to question this. Here it may suffice to cite John Gill, one of C. H. Spurgeon's predecessors as pastor of his London congregation, and a Calvinist of the Calvinists. He writes on “Call the labourers, and give them their hire,” “So Jews and Gentiles were called to partake of the same Gospel privileges; and so will all the faithful labourers in the Lord's vineyard be called together, and have the reward of eternal life bestowed upon them, and be bid to enter into the joy of their Lord, and inherit the kingdom prepared for them, as they before were ordered to go into the vineyard, and work. And though eternal life may be called hire or reward, because as hire is given to labourers, so is eternal life; and as that is given at the even and close of the day, and when the labourer has done his work, so everlasting glory will be given to the saints at the end of life, and when they have done the will and work of God: yet it will not be bestowed by way of merit, or, as if there was a just proportion between the work, labour, and service of the saints, and the glory that shall be revealed in them.”

Likewise speaks Matthew Henry (another Calvinist) on the passage: “First, The general pay (v. 9,10); They received every man a penny. Note, All that by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, shall undoubtedly obtain eternal life (Rom. ii.7), not as wages for the value of their work, but as the gift of God.” Henry's connection of this passage with Romans 2:7 is a very happy one.

The parable was in fact spoken in response to Peter's question, “We have forsaken all and followed thee: what shall we have therefore?” (Matt. 19:27). In answer to this the Lord assures us that “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, AND SHALL INHERIT EVERLASTING LIFE”----and then follows immediately with this parable. Surely its subject is eternal life.

Of course in drawing the contrast between law and grace, the parable has a dispensational application, as does much of the book of Matthew. These first laborers are the Jews, who were under Moses' law, as many expositors hold. The book of Matthew was written particularly for the Jews, and it contains many things which, like this parable, are designed to humble their pride, and to provoke them to jealousy, beginning with the Gentile women in the genealogy at the very outset of the book.

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