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Vol. 3, No. 7
July, 1994

The Education of Children

by Glenn Conjurske

A Sermon Preached Sept. 25, 1988. Recorded, Transcribed, & Revised.

Deuteronomy, the sixth chapter, and we will begin reading with verse four. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

I'm going to speak to you this evening on the education of children. You will find in these verses that we read, “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” Teach what diligently unto thy children? “These words which I command thee this day.” The word of God is the thing that we are to teach diligently unto our children. But before we ever think about teaching our children, we have to go back to the verses preceding that, and there we find that there is something necessary in us before we can think of teaching our children. There is a qualification necessary in us that will enable us to teach our children. And I think that one of the biggest difficulties in raising children, and endeavoring to turn them out right, lies not in the last half of this passage, the part about teaching the children, but in the part that comes before----the part which simply describes what the parent himself ought to be. So many parents, when they have done all they could do and failed, and their children turn out bad, then sit down and through their tears they say, “What did we do wrong? What could we have done more?” And the answer to that question may in fact be: You could not have done more than you did. The problem is in what you were. And as long as you were what you were, you probably could not have done any more than you did. Children learn more by example than they do by precept. In other words, you may do your best to teach your children diligently what you want them to be, and after all, they will become what you are rather than what you teach them.

Now, to some of you folks that might be a great comfort. To some of you, it may not be a comfort at all. But if you are the right thing, most likely, your children will follow that more than what you teach them. If you are not the right thing, they will probably follow what you are rather than what you teach them. If what you are and what you teach them are in fact the same thing, then you have a very good chance of turning your children out right.

Let's go back, then, to verse four. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Now, when a child grows up in a home in which the parents love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might, this naturally rubs off on him. This zealous and whole-souled devotedness to the things of God is the foundation of the proper bringing up of a child. He sees that the thing which engrosses all of the energies, and all of the soul, and heart, and strength, of his parents is GOD. He grows up in an atmosphere which is permeated with GOD, just like a fish grows up swimming in the sea. And this atmosphere, permeated with God and with all of the things of God, becomes the natural element of his own soul. The fact is, he doesn't know anything else. You know, children learn the things that they're exposed to, and if the only things that they're ever exposed to are the things of God, those are probably the only things they'll know. I know that it's a very difficult thing to expose them only to the things of God, I suppose in some sense impossible, unless you shut them up in the woods somewhere. Sometimes I think that might not be a bad idea. I'm not recommending it, but I'll tell you I am very reluctant to take my children to the grocery store with me. There aren't too many places that you can take your children any more without exposing them to corruption and temptation. But I have heard some people teach and contend that we ought to expose our children to everything, and let them make an intelligent choice. Expose them to the bowling alley, and the amusement park, and expose them to the world's music, and the deck of cards, and whatever else the world has to offer. And then expose them to the things of God, and let them make their own choice. You can't force God or religion upon them, so the story goes. So you just let them make their own choice.

Now that is against the direct command of God which you have in these verses. It says, “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” You don't expose your children to everything that the devil has to offer, as well as everything that God has to offer, and then say, “Child, make your choice.” I'll tell you which choice he'll probably make, because the heart of man, woman, and child is naturally inclined to evil. You may dispute with anybody's theology on that subject if you please, but it is hard to dispute with reality. You cannot dispute with the experience of it, the universal experience of it. “Facts are stubborn things.” You teach your children diligently the words of God day after day, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, or even here a lot, and there a lot, and you'll find it is with difficulty that they lay hold of those things and learn them. You take them out somewhere in the world where they are exposed one time to some folly or sin, and already they know it. Why is that? It's because their hearts are naturally inclined to what's wrong. And therefore, you have got a battle upon your hands to overcome that natural inclination, and the first principle of your course is not to feed that natural inclination to evil. You don't expose them to every evil thing. You just starve those lusts and affections of the flesh. Don't give them any food to grow on, and they may never grow so strong as they have grown in some of us, who fed them when we were young. I believe that is essential to educating your children properly. You want them to grow up in an atmosphere which is permeated with God and with the things of God.

We'll talk about that more a little farther on, what exactly that means, because there's room here for a lot of self-deception. You can say, “Well, yes, we do love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might,” and when it comes down to the practical reality, it does not appear that you love the Lord as you say. And if there's anybody on earth that can pick out an inconsistency in you, it's your children, for a couple of reasons. One, because they know you very well. And for another, because children are just naturals at finding inconsistencies. We were when we were kids. We pointed out every inconsistency in our parents, and in the elders and leaders in the church. Of course, we were looking for something. We were looking for an excuse for our own sin. But I've had my very young children point out inconsistencies in me, sometimes quite innocently, sometimes just asking for information. I say, “You can't ever do such and such a thing,” and my very little child will say back to me, “Why did you let me do that such and such a time?” They'll pick out inconsistencies. Therefore you want a real atmosphere which is permeated by the things of God, and the only way you're going to have it, is if your heart is really possessed by that love for God, and if you really do love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Now, that kind of devotedness to God, that kind of love for God, can't be hid. It's obvious. A child will know it. He will look at your life and see the things that you live for, the way that you spend your time, what activities you delight in, and what things you just endure because you have to, and so forth. He'll see all that. He knows you like a book. He can read you like a book.

Now then, you've got to have it in your own heart first. And you know this by experience. Have you ever been in school and taken some course, and found that that course was just as dry as a desert in drought? (That's an expression we used to use concerning some of our courses when we were in school.) Why was it? Why was it so dry? Because the teacher had no heart in the subject. He wasn't interested. He was just doing a job. But you get the same course taught by somebody who has a heart for those things that he's teaching, and all of those dry facts and figures and propositions will come to life. Well, it's the same thing when you're trying to teach your children the things of God. If your heart isn't there, you won't make any impact on them. You won't make any impression upon them. But if your heart is there, those things that you are endeavoring to teach them will live, and they will understand: this is not just some proposition that my parents think that I ought to understand. This is their life. And it will make an impression that won't be easily undone.

Now then, if this is not what you are, how are you going to get to be that? Verse six says, “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart.” Here is the key. The word of God filling your heart. I do not believe that this means merely to have the word of God in your mind, though that certainly is a step in the right direction. You can't get the word of God in your heart unless it goes through your mind. But I believe you might memorize this whole Bible and not have a shred of it in your heart. You might spend hours a day reading it and not have any of it in your heart. To have it in your heart implies a love for it. Now if these words are in your heart, and you do love the Lord your God with all your heart, then you are the person who can make an impact upon those children of yours.

It says, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” Here is a command of God. “Teach them diligently unto thy children.” Take all of those words of God that are your life and that mean so much to you, and instill them into your children. And, by the way, this doesn't mean just to sit down and memorize a verse out of the Bible every day, or something of that nature. It means those principles of the word of God by which you live. You instill those into your children. I believe you're going to do it as much by example as by precept, and, in fact, probably more by example. Nevertheless, to teach them diligently certainly implies to teach them by word of mouth and by precept, as well as by example. But this does not necessarily mean formal instruction. There is actually a better way. He says in verse seven, “And thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” In other words, the subject of your ordinary conversation ought all to be centered around the words of God. That means your ordinary conversation throughout the day, whatever you may be doing. He says, “You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up.” All day long, the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, and every place in between. Now, this is not a mere matter of diligently teaching them to your children. This is something more than that. “You shall diligently teach them to your children,” but all the rest of the time, every place in between, “You shall talk of them.” Your ordinary conversation is to be taken up with the things of God, and if it is, this will take more effect with your children than any formal instruction.

Now, let me tell you there are some people with whom that is the case. I know some people that I rarely talk to about anything else but the things of God. And I know some other people with whom it is very difficult to strike up a conversation on spiritual things. I'm talking about Christians in both instances. I know some with whom it is very difficult to maintain a spiritual conversation. I know some with whom it is perfectly natural and easy----some with whom I rarely talk about anything else. Why is that? What makes the difference between the person with whom you can hardly maintain a spiritual conversation, and the person with whom you can hardly ever speak about anything else? The difference is in the heart. The one has the word of God filling his heart, and soul, and mind, and he loves the Lord God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. The words of God are in his heart, and naturally what's in the heart comes out. “Out of the mouth proceedeth the heart.” Now, some others are very easy to talk to about almost anything on earth or in the world, and you find that they very easily strike up a conversation on any such subjects----and very easily maintain such a conversation. But you have a difficult time holding them to a spiritual conversation. Why is that? Well, it's because the world is in the heart. The things of earth fill the heart rather than the things of God. And when his children see that when it's “lesson time” or “devotion time” or “prayer time” or “family worship time” or “family altar time” or whatever it's called in that particular household, when they see that at that time mother and father talk about things of God and diligently teach them to their children, and all the rest of the day they talk about everything else under the sun, what impression is that going to make? The things that are spoken of when the heart and the schedule are free are going to make the deepest impression, because that is obviously where the heart is. That is obviously where the life is, and that is the thing that will tell in the lives of the children. In other words, it won't do much good to diligently teach your children the word of God at certain set times if the rest of the time your example diligently teaches them something else. But if you talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up----in other words, if it's the natural ordinary subject of your conversation----then all of your diligent teaching will have your example to back it up, and it will take effect.

Now, he says in verse eight, “Thou shall bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.” Verse nine, “Thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house and on thy gates.” Now, you may choose to take this literally, and literally bind them for a sign upon your hand or frontlets between your eyes, and literally write them upon the posts of your house and on your gates, and I won't object to it. Just one thing I would suggest, if you want to write the word of God on your walls or on the posts of your doors or gates or whatever: write it, don't embroider it. Don't put it up there in such an ornate fashion that all it is is a showpiece. I've seen a lot of that in Christian homes. He says, “Write it.” Put it up there, in other words, for a message to your heart, and not for a showpiece for your friends and neighbors. But let's apply this figuratively rather than literally----and I'm not objecting if you take it literally, but we'll apply it figuratively. Everything ought to be governed, your hands, your eyes, your house, your walls, your gates, your doors, everything ought to be governed by the word of God. And the word of God ought to fill it all. All your daily activities. Not only the fact that you are talking about the things of God during your daily activities, but those activities themselves are determined by the word of God.

You try to teach your children diligently the words of God, and your children see that when your time is free, and you can do what you want to do, you don't sit down and read some godly, spiritual book. They see you sit down and read some novel, or sit down and read some worldly magazine, or worse yet, sit down and watch the television (and I thank God, none of us here have one of those). They don't see you go out to try to win a soul, but out to try to win a ball game or a round of golf. But if the children see that, they will be very quick to discern where your heart really is.

But maybe your heart doesn't go so far into the world as that. Maybe it just settles down in the earth, and if your children hear you trying to teach them the heavenly things, and then see your life from hour to hour and day to day, and see that you're all wrapped up with the things of this earth (feathering your nest down here), they'll be quick to discern that your heart really isn't where you profess to want their heart to be. But when we have the state of things which is described here, “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might,” the words of God filling your heart, the words of God coming out of your mouth, “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up,” the words of God bound upon your hands and bound before your eyes, the words of God written “on your walls and on your gates”----in other words, the words of God filling your whole heart, your whole life, your whole house, all your activities, everything filled with the word of God----that will make more of an impression upon the children than anything that you endeavor to teach them by formal instruction. That is the way to bring children up in the fear of the Lord, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

But there is another thing that I want you to notice in verse seven. He says, “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” This is not something that you can relegate to somebody else. “Thou.” I believe there are reasons for that. There's a bond between parents and children which normally does not exist any place else. No other person has the love for your children that you have for them. No other person understands your children as you understand them. This is true at any rate while they are young. When they grow older, and develop close personal friendships of their own, someone else may know them better and understand them better than you do. But while they are young, no one knows them or understands them as their parents do. And therefore no other person can teach your children what they need to know as you can teach them. This cannot be relegated to a Sunday school teacher, or a Christian school teacher, or to anyone else. God says, “Thou.”

Now as to what you ought to teach your children, this scripture is plain enough. “These words, which I command thee this day.” But in the modern Christian school movement, and the modern home school movement among Christians, there is vastly too much influence of the world in this matter. God tells you here what you ought to teach your children: “The words which I command you this day.” They shall be in your heart, and you shall teach them diligently unto thy children. Yet you know that most of the education in Christian families and Christian schools consists primarily of the things of the world rather than the things of God. Why is that? Well, because people are bowing down to the world's standards rather than taking their standard from the word of God. God says, “This is what you are to be diligently teaching your children: my words which I command you this day.” But instead of that, they're taught all the same curriculum that's taught in the world, only they're taught it at home, or taught it in a Christian school. I don't mean that they're taught exactly the same things in all the details, but I mean they're taught the same general curriculum, rather than the things which God tells you diligently to teach them.

Diligently. Day in and day out. When you rise up in the morning, and when you lie down at night. When you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way. Speak of these things. This is Christian education. This is the education of children which we ought to be engaged in. You say, “Well, don't you think we should teach our children to read and write?” Yes, I do. I do think we should teach them to read and write. But I don't think we need to teach them World History and Social Studies and Economics and all the other things that the world teaches. The fact of the matter is we shouldn't be occupied with such things ourselves. We don't need to know them. We can't glorify God any better by knowing them. Perhaps we can't glorify him as well, if our mind is cluttered with these things. But “These words, that I command you this day, these shall be in your heart. These you shall talk of when you rise up in the morning, when you lie down at night, when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way.” In other words, through all these normal activities of life, these words fill your heart and come out of your mouth----these things of God that will raise a child for God and for eternity. Let's pray:

Father, we thank you for this passage of Holy Scripture. We pray that we might have wisdom to understand it, and grace to fulfill it. And, oh, we pray, God, that you will shed forth your blessing upon our dear children, that they all might be saved----that they might be godly and holy----that they might be servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray, God, that you will help us to fulfill our responsibilities to make them so. Amen.


William Law on Education and Pride

[The following is extracted from chapter XVIII of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, by William Law (1686-1761). The Serious Call was first published in 1728. His remarks are as applicable to the education of the present day, including most of what is called “Christian education,” with grading and competition woven into its very fabric.----editor.]

And is it not as reasonable to suppose, that a Christian education should have no other end, but to teach youth how to think, and judge, and act, and live, according to the strictest laws of Christianity?

At least, one would suppose, that, in all Christian schools, the teaching youth to begin their lives in the spirit of Christianity, in such severity of behaviour, such abstinence, sobriety, humility, and devotion, as Christianity requires, should not only be more, but a hundred times more regarded, than any, or all things else.

For our education should imitate our guardian Angels; suggest nothing to our minds but what is wise and holy; help us to discover and subdue every vain passion of our hearts, and every false judgment of our minds.

And it is as sober and as reasonable to expect and require all this benefit of a Christian education, as to require that physic should strengthen all that is right in our nature, and remove that which is sickly and diseased.

But, alas, our modern education is not of this kind.

The first temper that we try to awaken in children, is pride; as dangerous a passion as that of lust. We stir them up to vain thoughts of themselves, and do every thing we can to puff up their minds with a sense of their own abilities.

Whatever way of life we intend them for, we apply to the fire and vanity of their minds, and exhort them to every thing from corrupt motives. We stir them up to action from principles of strife and ambition, from glory, envy, and a desire of distinction, that they may excel others, and shine in the eyes of the world.

We repeat and inculcate these motives upon them, till they think it a part of their duty to be proud, envious, and vain-glorious of their own accomplishments.

And when we have taught them to scorn to be outdone by any, to bear no rival, to thirst after every instance of applause, to be content with nothing but the highest distinctions, then we begin to take comfort in them, and promise the world some mighty things from youths of such a glorious spirit.

If children are intended for holy orders, we set before them some eminent orator, whose fine preaching has made him the admiration of the age, and carried him through all the dignities and preferments of the Church.

We encourage them to have these honours in their eye, and to expect the reward of their studies from them.

If the youth is intended for a trade, we bid him look at all the rich men of the same trade, and consider how many now are carried about in their stately coaches, who began in the same low degree as he now does. We awaken his ambition, and endeavour to give his mind a right turn, by often telling him how very rich such and such a tradesman died.

If he is to be a lawyer, then we set great counsellors, lords, judges, and chancellors, before his eyes. We tell him what great fees, and great applause, attend fine pleading. We exhort him to take fire at these things, to raise a spirit of emulation in himself, and to be content with nothing less than the highest honours of the long robe.

That this is the nature of our best education, is too plain to need any proof; and I believe there are few parents, but would be glad to see these instructions daily given to their children.

And after all this, we complain of the effects of pride; we wonder to see grown men actuated and governed by ambition, envy, scorn, and a desire of glory; not considering that they were all the time of their youth called upon to all their action and industry, upon the same principles.

You teach a child to scorn to be outdone, to thirst for distinction and applause; and is it any wonder that he continues to act all his life in the same manner?

Now if a youth is ever to be so far a Christian, as to govern his heart by the doctrines of humility, I would fain know at what time he is to begin it: or, if he is ever to begin it at all, why we train him up in tempers quite contrary to it?

How dry and poor must the doctrine of humility sound to a youth, that has been spurred up to all his industry by ambition, envy, emulation, and a desire of glory and distinction! And if he is not to act by these principles when he is a man, why do we call him to act by them in his youth?

Reflections Upon Past Providences

October, 1749

by John Wesley

[The following poem is probably the most affecting thing which ever proceeded from the pen of John Wesley, and certainly one of the most moving pieces produced in all the history of the church. I have rarely ever read it without weeping and sobbing. The occasion of it was the marriage of his bride-to-be to John Bennet, who was one of his preachers. The story in brief is this:

Wesley had been, as he says, forming Grace Murray to his own hand for ten years. He apparently received some sort of a promise of marriage from her----or at any rate thought he did. But while he delayed to marry her, she was courted by John Bennet, and apparently gave a similar promise to him. Wesley prevailed with her over that, and took more precaution to obtain a more sure promise from her, which she gave. But when he was about to marry her, Charles Wesley interfered, carried her off bodily, and saw her married to John Bennet, apparently under the belief that she belonged to John Bennet, and that John Wesley was about to take what was another man's by right. It is not too much to say that Wesley was overwhelmed by the stroke. He describes it in the following extract from what John Telford (editor of Wesley's letters) calls “perhaps the most pathetic [letter] Wesley ever wrote”:

“Since I was six years old, I never met with such a severe trial as for some days past. For ten years God has been preparing a fellow labourer for me by a wonderful train of providences. Last year I was convinced of it; therefore I delayed not, but, as I thought, made all sure beyond a danger of disappointment. But we were soon afterwards torn asunder by a whirlwind. In a few months the storm was over. I then used more precaution than before, and fondly told myself that the day of evil would return no more. But it too soon returned. The waves arose again since I came out of London. I fasted and prayed, and strove all I could; but the sons of Zeruiah were too hard for me. The whole world fought against me; but above all my own familiar friend [his brother Charles]. Then was the word fulfilled, `Son of man, behold! I take from thee the desire of thine eyes at a stroke; yet shalt thou not lament, neither shall thy tears run down.'

“The fatal, irrecoverable stroke was struck on Thursday last. Yesterday I saw my friend (that was) and him to whom she is sacrificed. I believe you never saw such a scene. But `why should a living man complain? a man for the punishment of his sins'?”

It is difficult to try to piece together all the details of this strange and intriguing affair, and Wesley's biographers, who had the best information available in their hands, differ upon where lies the blame for it, and upon the character of Grace Murray. Tyerman treats her as a fickle flirt----vain and selfish----who was unworthy of Wesley. But Henry Moore affirms his belief that she was “in every respect worthy” of Wesley's affections, and “a fit subject for the tender regrets expressed” in the following poem. My own sentiments coincide with those of Moore, who had personally met Grace Bennet, being present with Wesley at the only subsequent interview he ever had with her, which took place in 1788, nearly forty years after the one mentioned above.

The poem follows, concerning which I only feel compelled to say, Here is reality. This piece is a powerful example of both real humanity and real religion. The poem is very scarce. Though I believe it has been published several times, the books which contain it are scarce, and I have never seen it in print anywhere except in Henry Moore's Life of Wesley, published in 1825, from which I am happy to present it to my readers.----editor.]

O Lord, I bow my sinful head!
Righteous are all thy ways with man;
Yet suffer me with thee to plead,
With lowly rev'rence to complain:
With deep unutter'd grief to groan,
“O what is this that thou hast done!”

Oft, as through giddy youth I roved,
And danced along the flow'ry way,
By chance or thoughtless passion moved,
An easy, unresisting prey
I fell, while love's envenom'd dart
Thrill'd through my nerves, and tore my heart.

At length, by sad experience taught,
Firm I shook off the abject yoke;
Abhorr'd his sweetly pois'nous draught,
Through all his wily fetters broke:
Fix'd my desires on things above,
And languish'd for celestial love!

Borne on the wings of sacred hope,
Long had I soar'd, and spurn'd the ground:
When, panting for the mountain-top,
My soul a kindred spirit found;
By Heaven intrusted to my care,
The daughter of my faith and prayer.

In early dawn of life, serene,
Mild, sweet, and tender, was her mood!
Her pleasing form spoke all within
Soft and compassionately good;
List'ning to every wretch's care,
Mingling with each her friendly tear.

In dawn of life, to feed the poor,
Glad she her little all bestow'd;
Wise to lay up a better store,
And hast'ning to be rich in God;
God whom she sought with early care,
With rev'rence, and with lowly fear.

Ere twice four years pass'd o'er her head,
Her infant mind with love he fill'd;
His gracious, glorious name reveal'd,
And sweetly forced her heart to yield;
She groan'd t' ascend Heaven's high abode,
To die into the arms of God!

Yet, warm with youth and beauty's pride,
Soon was her heedless soul betray'd;
From heaven her footsteps turn'd aside;
O'er pleasure's flow'ry plain she stray'd,
Fondly the toys of earth she sought,
And God was not in all her thought.

Not long:----a messenger she saw,
Sent forth glad tidings to proclaim:
She heard, with joy and wond'ring awe,
His cry, “Sinners, behold the LAMB!”
His eye her inmost nature shook,
His word her heart in pieces broke.

Her bosom heaved with lab'ring sighs,
And groan'd th' unutterable prayer;
As rivers, from her streaming eyes
Fast flow'd the never-ceasing tear,
Till Jesus spake----“Thy mourning's o'er,
Believe, rejoice, and weep no more!”

She heard;----pure love her soul o'erflowed,
Sorrow and sighing fled away;
With sacred zeal her spirit glow'd,
Panting his every word t' obey;
Her faith by plenteous fruit she show'd,
And all her works were wrought in God.

Nor works alone her faith approved;
Soon in affliction's furnace tried
By him, whom next to Heaven she loved,
As silver seven times purified,
Shone midst the flames her constant mind,
Emerged, and left the dross behind.

When death, in freshest strength of years,
Her much-loved friend tore from her breast,
Awhile she pour'd her plaints and tears,
But, quickly turning to her rest,
“Thy will be done!” she meekly cried,
“Suffice, for me the Saviour died!”

When first I view'd, with fix'd regard,
Her artless tears in silence flow,
“For thee are better things prepared,”
I said, “Go forth, with Jesus go!
My Master's peace be on thy soul
Till perfect love shall make thee whole!”

I saw her run, with winged speed,
In works of faith and lab'ring love;
I saw her glorious toil succeed,
And showers of blessings from above,
Crowning her warm effectual prayer,
And glorified my God in her.

Yet while to all her tender mind
In streams of pure affection flow'd,
To ONE by ties peculiar join'd,
One, only less beloved than God,
“Myself,” she said, “my soul I owe,----
My guardian angel here below!”

From heaven the grateful ardour came,
Pure from the dross of low desire;
Well-pleased I mark'd the guiltless flame,
Nor dared to damp the sacred fire,
Heaven's choicest gift on man bestow'd,
Strength'ning our hearts and hands in God.

'Twas now I bow'd my aching head,
While sickness shook the house of clay;
Duteous she ran with humble speed,
Love's tenderest offices to pay,
To ease my pain, to soothe my care,
T' uphold my feeble hands in prayer.

Amazed, I cried, “Surely for me
A help prepared of Heaven thou art!
Thankful, I take the gift from thee,
O Lord! and nought on earth shall part
The souls that thou hast join'd above,
In lasting bonds of sacred love.”

Abash'd she spoke, “O what is this?
Far above all my boldest hope!
Can God, beyond my utmost wish,
Thus lift his worthless handmaid up?
This only could my soul desire!
This only had I dared require!”

From that glad hour, with growing love,
Heaven's latest, dearest gift I view'd;
While, pleased each moment to improve,
We urged our way with strength renew'd,
Our one desire, our common aim,
T' extol our gracious Master's name.

Companions now in weal and wo,
No power on earth could us divide;
Nor summer's heat nor winter's snow
Could tear my partner from my side:
Nor toil, nor weariness, nor pain,
Nor horrors of the angry main.

Oft, (though as yet the nuptial tie
Was not,) clasping her hand in mine,
“What force,” she said, “beneath the sky
Can now our well-knit souls disjoin?
With thee I'd go to India's coast,
To worlds in distant oceans lost!”

Such was the friend than life more dear,
Whom in one luckless baleful hour,
(For ever mentioned with a tear!)
The tempter's unresisted power
(O the unutterable smart!)
Tore from my inly-bleeding heart!

Unsearchable thy judgments are,
O Lord! a bottomless abyss!
Yet sure thy love, thy guardian care,
O'er all thy works extended is!
O why didst thou the blessing send?
Or why thus snatch away my friend?

What thou hast done, I know not now;
Suffice, I shall hereafter know!
Beneath thy chast'ning hand I bow;
That still I live, to thee I owe.
O teach thy deeply-humbled son,
Father! to say, “Thy will be done!”

Teach me, from every pleasing snare
To keep the issues of my heart;
Be thou my love, my joy, my fear!
Thou my eternal portion art!
And love, O love me to the end!


Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor

An Help Meet for Him

Genesis 2:18 tells us, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him an help meet for him.” It will be observed that “help” and “meet” are two words, not one, but in more recent speech these words have been corrupted into “helpmeet,” and that in turn further corrupted into “helpmate,” meaning nothing more than “a wife,” and sometimes lowered in meaning to “a companion” or “a partner.” Thus the meaning of the original words is obscured or lost. By “the original words” I refer to the original English words, which are plain enough. “Help” is a noun, and “meet” an adjective, which means fitting or suitable. The original Hebrew expression is not so plain, and has been translated in many ways, but Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon says of it, “In the Rabinnic dgnk is often used in speaking of things which are like one another.”

The Septuagint renders it in verse 18 bohqoVn kat* aujton, “a helper according to him” or “answering to him”----an excellent expression in Greek, but hard to put into English----and in verse 20, bohqoV" o{moio" aujtw/', “a helper like to him.”

The Vulgate renders it in verse 18 adiutorium similem sui, and in verse 20, adiutor similis eius, “a helper like to him.”

Turning to the English, we find a great variety of renderings. A thousand years ago the Anglo-Saxon Heptateuch read in verse 18, “fultum to his gelicnysse,” “a help to his likeness,” and in verse 20, “nanne fultum his gelican,” “none help his like.”

Wycliffe's Bible (later version) has in verse 18, “an help lijk to hym silf,” and in verse 20, “an helper lijk hym.”

Tyndale's Pentateuch has “an helper to bear him company” in verse 18, and “no helpe founde vnto Adam to beare him companye” in verse 20.

Coverdale has “an helpe to beare him company,” in verse 18, with a note in the margin saying, “Some reade: To stonde nexte by him.” “Some” in this note does not of course refer to Hebrew manuscripts, but to “some” of the “Douche and Latyn” versions from which he translated. In verse 20 Coverdale has “no helpe, to beare him company.”

The Great Bible has “an helpe, which maye be present with him.”

In the Geneva Bible we first read “an helpe mete for him,” with a note on the word “mete” telling us that the Hebrew is “before him.”

The Bishops' Bible has “an helpe lyke vnto hym,” with a note on “lyke” saying, “Heb. As before hym.”

The King James Version follows the Geneva in the text, and the Bishops' in the margin.

The four Jewish versions which I have in English have (Leeser), “a help suitable for him”; (Jewish Pub. Soc.), “a help meet for him”; (Rubin), “a help suitable for him”; (Harkavy), “a help meet for him.”

George Ricker Berry's Interlinear Literal Translation has “a helper as his counterpart.”

Joseph Magil's Englishman's Hebrew-English Old Testament has the same, with “[suitable] for him” in the margin.

All of these give the true sense more or less, but “helpmeet” is a mere corruption, “absurdly formed,” as the Oxford English Dictionary aptly says, “by taking the two words help meet ... as one word.”


“Destroyed Them All”

by Glenn Conjurske

We have often pointed out in these pages the fact that if the ungodly are all destroyed at the coming of Christ, and the godly all raptured and glorified at the same time, there would be no man left in the natural body to inherit the earth under the reign of Christ and his glorified saints, and thus, upon the post-tribulational scheme, there could be no millennium at all such as the Bible plainly prophesies. I recently posed this difficulty to a good and respected post-tribulational brother in personal conversation. The only solution which he could give me lay in the fact that when Christ comes to judge the ungodly (and glorify the godly, upon his scheme), there will be many children on the earth who have not yet reached the age of accountability, and that these presumably will not be destroyed with their ungodly parents.

We cannot allow this, for two reasons:

I.In those sweeping judgements of God in Old Testament times, which Christ himself uses as types of his coming to judgement, there were no children spared. Of the flood Christ speaks, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27). There must have been a myriad of children upon the earth in that day, who had not yet reached the age of accountability. The earth was not inhabited only by gray-haired men and women, but by a general population of young and old, such as exists upon the earth at all other times. There were young people marrying and being given in marriage----and undoubtedly bearing children----until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And the fact is, when the flood came, it “destroyed them ALL”----men and women, lads and lasses, toddlers and sucking infants. Not one soul outside of the ark was spared. We do not affirm that the infants were damned with their parents. They were no doubt dealt with exactly as they would have been if they had died at any other time. Nevertheless, the fact remains that they did die in the judgement which fell upon their parents, and were not spared to inherit the earth with the righteous Noah and his seed.

The same was true at the destruction of Sodom. Of this the Lord says, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them ALL.” Not one infant was spared.

These are types of the judgement to come, at the the second coming of Christ, and are so used by Christ himself.

II.The sheep who inherit the kingdom in Matthew 25 are not sucking infants, or children beneath the age of accountability, but accountable persons, who inherit the kingdom on the basis of what they have done. “Then shall the king say unto them on this right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matt. 25:34-36). The Lord does not deal so with sucking infants, but with people who are of age, and accountable.

We will not affirm that no infant children will enter the kingdom at that time. We suppose that if Noah (or his sons) had had infant children when he entered into the ark, they would have been spared with him, and inherited the earth with him. We suppose that if Lot had had infant children when he left Sodom, they would have gone with him. We suppose that the infant children of the saints at the rapture of the church will be raptured with them----and not left orphans in the wide and wicked world. All this we may allow. What we deny is that the whole company of those who inherit the purged earth under the reign of Messiah shall consist of such infant children----a thing to which post-tribulationism forces thoughtful men, by putting the rapture of the godly at the same event as the destruction of the ungodly.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Methodist Histories

All who have a heart for revival and evangelism ought to be familiar with the early history of Methodism. It affords one of the clearest examples in history of the true spirit of Christianity, and of the triumphs of the gospel. Much of the best of that history will of course be found in the biographies of its prominent men (and women), but in the present chat I shall speak only of histories as such. The field is very wide, and the study such as might easily occupy the better part of one man's lifetime----with local histories from nearly every state and province and conference, besides general histories----and I shall not begin to cover the whole field. But the study is very rewarding, and a spiritual man who specially addicted himself to the study of Methodism might do great service to the church.

The histories of Methodism might be generally divided into two departments, British Methodism, and American Methodism. Though they are not quite the same, both are full of heroism and true spiritual Christianity. (And I should perhaps state at this point that I am not a Methodist, never have been, and certainly never shall be----but I value true Christianity under what name soever it be found.) American Methodism----aided by poverty and hardship----retained its vigor and spirituality much longer than British Methodism did, but affluence and worldliness were its eventual downfall. When it fell, it fell hard, being quickly engulfed in modernism. A book on The Rise and Fall of Methodism is a desideratum, such as I have often contemplated writing myself, but I have never yet felt qualified to do so, and alas, lack the time to become so. But on, to those books which have been written:

An early and valuable history is A True and Complete Portraiture of Methodism; or The History of the Wesleyan Methodists (with title and subtitles filling the better part of the page), by Jonathan Crowther, who was “above 26 years a Travelling Preacher among them.” The preface is dated 1811, when I suppose the book was printed in England. It was published in New York in 1813, in a book of 383 small pages.

Crowther's history is of course very scarce. Another which is easier to find is The History of the Religious Movement of the Eighteenth Century Called Methodism, by Abel Stevens, in three substantial volumes, published in 1858-1861. Through the years I have bought and sold or given away a number of these sets. Stevens is a good popular writer, and his works (more of which will be mentioned in a moment) are informative and edifying.

Turning to American Methodism, we first note A Short History of the Methodists in the United States of America, by Jesse Lee, published in 1810 (reprinted in 1974). The work is brief, but full of good matter, from one of the early leaders of American Methodism.

There are two larger histories of American Methodism. The first is A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, by Nathan Bangs, containing four volumes in its final form. Another set of four (larger) volumes is History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America, by Abel Stevens. Both of these contain much excellent matter. I believe Stevens' is the more edifying of the two, as it is also larger and fuller, and a quarter of a century later in date, Bangs' first volume appearing in 1838, and Stevens' in 1864. Stevens also wrote an earlier series in two volumes, entitled Memorials of the Introduction of Methodism into the Eastern States, and Memorials of the Progress of Methodism in the Eastern States, each containing nearly 500 pages. Stevens is also the author of The Centenary of American Methodism, published in 1866.

Several smaller volumes are worthy of mention. A Compendium of Methodism, by James Porter, contains a brief history, and numberless small details concerning Methodist polity and doctrine. The book is well indexed. Methodism Successful, and the Internal Causes of Its Success, by B. F. Tefft, is worthy of study, though I believe the author lacks the spirituality always to view the matter aright. The book was published in 1860, and has 588 pages----which is a good deal too many for its content. For those who wish to study the rise and fall of Methodism, Methodism Forty Years Ago and Now, by Newell Culver (1873), will be of value, though the spiritual reader will often view as decline what the author presents as progress. The same is true in Ministerial Education in the Methodist Episcopal Church, by Stephen M. Vail (1853).

This list which I have given may seem very small, but I have purposely excluded biographies, of which I intend to speak another time. The books that are mentioned here may serve to introduce the reader to many others, and hopefully to whet the appetite for them. This is especially true of Abel Stevens' histories. Much of detail, though little of spiritual substance, may also be gained from the Cyclopædia of Methodism, edited by Matthew Simpson (1878)----a book not particularly difficult to obtain. Alas, its many full-page cuts of grand cathedrals with towering spires reveals a falling if not a fallen Methodism.


Not Only Idle

by Glenn Conjurske

“And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” (I Tim. 5:13-14).

Idleness is both sinful and dangerous----sinful enough in itself, but also dangerous, because it draws other sins in its train. God never designed that men should be idle. God gave work to man to do, even in his pristine purity in paradise. When man fell from his purity, God gave him harder work to do. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” This came as a judgement upon man for his sin, certainly, but there was mercy mixed with the judgement. The fact is, it is good for man to work. It directly promotes the health of both body and soul. But the world, the flesh, and the devil have worked indeed to counteract the divine injunction. God joins bread with sweat. The devil has wrought to join bread with idleness----yea, “fulness of bread” with “abundance of idleness.” This (with pride) was the sin of Sodom. (Ezek. 16:49). Not that this was the only sin of Sodom, for idleness draws a host of other sins in its train. Of that more anon, but first we must observe that idleness itself is sinful. What! has God given to us a few fast-fleeting hours of time in which to prepare for a never-ending eternity----a small and frail and soon-to-vanish vapor of life, beset with strong enemies within and without----a few fleeting days in the midst of a world filled with perishing sinners----and shall we spend those days doing nothing? Who could dream that such a course is not sinful?

Nevertheless, it is not the sinfulness of idleness of which I wish to speak, but its danger. Idleness does not come alone. Those who are idle are “NOT ONLY IDLE.” The human soul cannot remain a blank. If it has nothing to do, it will find something. And the natural inclinations of the depraved heart of man being what they are, those who have no good to occupy their hearts and hands will soon sink into evil. This is a fact which is so widely recognized by the whole world that it is embodied in numerous ancient proverbs. Some of those are:

An idle man is the devil's workshop.

Idleness is the root of all evil.

If the devil can catch a man idle, he'll set him to work.

The devil tempts all, but the idle man tempts the devil.

When we do ill, the devil tempts us; when we do nothing, we tempt him.

Without business, debauchery.

Such proverbs are no authoritative statement of truth, but they are the embodiment of truth, which men in general have recognized as truth. And these proverbs are in complete agreement with the inspired Scriptures. Paul says that when women learn to be idle, they become “NOT ONLY IDLE,” for other sins soon follow in the train of their idleness. God established an economy for man in which work was necessary. The devil has built a system (the world) in which man may live, and live high, with but little work. And women are often more victimized by this system then men are----and those who out of principle and conviction are “keepers at home” may be in more danger than others. Machines and appliances do much of their work. Their children are few, and those (alas) gone to school much of the time, so that many women are idle indeed. Their grandmothers baked their own bread and churned their own butter, raised and preserved and prepared their own vegetables, spun their own thread, wove their own cloth, sewed their own clothes, and washed them without a washing machine, and with soap which their own hands had made. But we live in a society in which such work is no longer necessary, and the work which is necessary is little and light.

Now this is just the situation which Paul addresses with the injunctions of this scripture. The widows who were cared for by the funds of the church would have had but little necessary work, and were therefore likely to become idle, and, as a consequence, not only idle, but runabouts, and tattlers, and busybodies. None were to be taken into the number, and provided for by the church, but such as had already proved themselves by a long course of activity to be diligent in every good work----such, therefore, as would be little likely to become idle merely because they could if they pleased. For the rest Paul prescribes, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” He advises them, in other words, to seek out a situation in which they would have work to do, for the moral preservation of their souls from idleness and its sinful fruits.

The substance of this injunction is more necessary than ever in our own day, and not for women only, but for men, for women, and for children. It is this: by all means, find work to do. Not necessarily only physical and temporal work, but some kind of work. Help those who are poor, or overburdened with work, or old and infirm. Labor for souls, study the Scriptures, read good books. Keep the heart and the mind and the hands and the feet busy with something profitable, or you will likely soon descend to something unprofitable, or worse than unprofitable. And parents ought to make it their business to see to it that children have work to do, lest they be formed in habits of idleness from their very youth.

Time in Eternity

by Glenn Conjurske

A strange notion has taken hold of the minds of many, namely, that there is no time in eternity. Many good and great men have embraced this opinion, and taught it as though it were self-evident truth. The notion may seem harmless at first sight, but when its ramifications are viewed, it is found to be pernicious enough. There may be little danger in the notion itself, but the principle by which it is maintained overturns the sound interpretation of the word of God, and in fact deliberately sets the mind of man above the word of God. More on that ere we conclude.

But first it should be pointed out that the advocates of this theory make little pretense of basing it upon Scripture. Its real foundation is philosophical reasoning----though not deep or sound reasoning, I am persuaded. Yet one text of Scripture is commonly cited for its support, namely,

Rev. 10:6-7, which says, “And [the angel] sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished.” A note in Tomson's edition of the Geneva New Testament (first published in 1576) informs us upon this verse, “Neither time it selfe, nor the things that are in time: but that the world to come is at hand, which is altogether of eternitie, and beyond all times,” and on the word “time” itself, “There shall neuer be anymore time.”

This has been quite generally supposed, but I remark in passing that no premillennialist has any excuse for believing so, for he must certainly know that there must be a thousand years of time beyond the event of this verse. The real and only meaning of the verse is that (as we would say), their time has run out. The day of grace has run its course, and come to its end, and the day of judgement follows. And yet there is no need to consult premillennialists to find this understanding of the verse maintained. Swete says (The Apocalypse of St. John, in loc.), “...not `Time shall be no more' ... as the ancient commentators for the most part interpret, but `there shall no more be any interval of time, any further delay.”' Bloomfield says (The Greek Testament, in loc.), “I cannot but agree with Prof Scholefield, that neither the common translation, nor another which has been proposed (`that the time should not be'), gives a satisfactory sense; and that the words ought to be rendered, `that there should be no more delay.”'

The fact is, this very verse itself certainly teaches us that time as such shall continue on through eternity, for the angel swears by “him that liveth for ever and ever.” Now “ever” is a time word, which means “at all times,” as the reader may learn from any dictionary. If you insist upon the Greek rather than the English, the case remains just the same, for the Greek says, quite literally, “him that liveth unto the ages of the ages.” Ages are time, and the fact is, eternity and things eternal are constantly described in Scripture in terms of time. But ere we proceed to demonstrate that, we must first pause to define what time is, for it is more than likely that those who deny its existence in eternity have no clear idea as to what time is, and have never thought deeply enough to know what it is they are denying. If they had, they would likely soon have detected the foolishness of their denial.

Simply stated, time is that state of things in which one moment succeeds another----in which one event, or one action, or one thought, follows another. Wherever one thing follows upon another, there is time. Wherever there is an end or a beginning, of anything whatsoever, even of a thought, there is time. Wherever anything is repeated, the second occurrence following after the first, there is time. Wherever there is motion, there is time. Wherever there is activity, there is time. Wherever there is change, there is time.

This last statement will of course be used against me by shallow philosophers. God, they will affirm, does not change. There is therefore no time with him. Let such philosophers consider what it is they are saying. “All things are always present to him,” they will affirm. Does this then mean that one thought never succeeds another with God, that one of his acts never succeeds another, that he had always created the world, or rather, is always creating it, that one word which he speaks never succeeds another? Take one example only. Exodus 4:14 says, “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother?” etc. “Was kindled.” He was not angry with Moses a moment before. Moses' words provoked his anger, kindled it. If this is not so, then words mean nothing.

God changes not in his character, in his person, in his attributes, and perhaps in some other things besides. But whatever the Lord's “I change not” may mean, it does not mean that one thought, one emotion, one act, one word, does not succeed another in God, the same as they do in those creatures which he has made in his image. “The anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.” But these fine-spun philosophical theories give the lie to the plain word of God. And if this word of God did not exist, these theories would give the lie to that common sense with which the Creator of man has endowed him.

Was God then feeling this anger against Moses equally through every moment (excuse the term) of all of the revolutions (excuse that also) of eternity? Had Moses always committed the act which provoked that anger of the Lord----nay rather, was he before God always committing it? Was God always speaking this word “Aaron” (both syllables at once), and at the same time (excuse this) speaking also the following word, “the Levite”----simultaneously also, and unchangingly throughout all of eternity, speaking also the following word, “thy brother”----along with some billions or trillions of other words? Or did God speak his words in succession, one following the other? If he did, there is time with God.

We certainly know that there is time in heaven. The four beasts of the Apocalypse “rest not day and night, saying Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8). This they do “day and night.” This is time. And if the second “holy” which they speak follows the first, and the third the second, and the second repetition of the whole formula follows the first, etc., etc., then that is time. If one word follows another, then one moment (in which those words are spoken) follows another, and that is time. The Apocalypse also tells us (8:1), “there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” No one will doubt that half an hour denotes time. This “in heaven.” It is also in heaven (Rev. 6:11) that the souls under the altar are told that they must “rest yet for a little season”----where the Greek is v , that is, “time.” But I must proceed to demonstrate time in eternity.

Whatever we know of eternity is told us in terms which denote time. This leads us properly to the conclusion that eternity in fact is time. It is time of endless duration.

Of eternal torments we read, they “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev. 20:9). All of this denotes time. And what can “ever and ever” mean (or “ages of ages” if you prefer the Greek), if not a succession of times?

Again, “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image.” (Rev. 14:11).

God is said in several places to have acted “before the foundation of the world.” This must then have been before time existed, according to the theory of some, yet the use of the word “before” proves unquestionably that time did then exist. One thing cannot come before another if there is no time. The only other alternative is to affirm that the world has always existed, and is eternal as God himself. To say that it was always present to the mind of God is begging the question. Did it actually exist? If it did, then there was no creation at all, and surely God did nothing before the foundation of the world.

God himself is commonly spoken of in time words. He is “the Ancient of days.” (Dan. 7:13). He is “him that liveth for ever.” (Dan. 12:7). He is “him which is, and which was, and which is to come.” (Rev. 1:4).

But the common language of Scripture is all set aside by our philosophers, who affirm that in so speaking God is only condescending to the weakness of human thought, or the weakness of human language. But I deny that any such weakness exists, either in human thought, or in human language. These philosophers have no trouble expressing themselves concerning what they regard as a state of timelessness, and why cannot God? Is their mind above his? Have they a better command of human language than God does? God could as well call himself “the timeless God” as “the everlasting God.” He could as well call himself “him who knows no time” as “him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” He could call himself “the Eternal Now,” or “the Changeless Now,” instead of “the Ancient of Days.” But the fact is, God has not spoken such things, for they are not the truth. What he has spoken is the truth. But these philosophers must set their minds above it, and I have even known one who practically put more faith in Einstein's theory of relativity than in the words of the everlasting God. This is unbelief. And however it may be passed off as some kind of superior reason, it is really not superior at all, but very shallow thinking. It does not go deep enough to understand the thing it denies. It denies the obvious, and affirms the absurd. The state which it imagines is an impossible one, except only on one hypothesis, namely, that there is no life. But so long as there is activity, then one moment must follow and succeed another, and that is time. And so long as there is life, there is activity, and heaven and eternity are full of both.

We all speak popularly of “time” and “eternity,” and draw a sharp contrast between the two, and I suppose no harm is done by this, so long as we mean nothing more by it than to contrast the present with the future----the state of things which exists now, with the state of things which shall obtain then. Yet the terminology is not altogether proper, for in reality eternity is nothing more than never-ending time. Eternity is made up of time. Eternity is time.


J. W. Burgon on Prizing and Studying the Bible

[J. W. Burgon (1813-1888) was a clergyman in the Church of England, and of high church views. In all that he held he was a man of strong views, which he expressed clearly and forcefully. He is generally known only for his excellent work in the field of textual criticism, but his work on inspiration, from which the following extract is taken, is well worthy of perusal. Because he so surely believed, and so strongly felt, that the words of Scripture are the words of God, he devoted much of his life to establishing the true text of Scripture, and for the same reason he pressed men to study the Book. He was a fellow at Oxford when the following was preached, and the “place” to which he refers is of course Oxford.----editor.]

I do not think I am delivering a paradox when I say that the Bible is generally very little read. That the amount of study commonly bestowed upon it bears no proportion whatever to its transcendent importance and paramount value, shall not be any paradox at all; but a mere truism.

For I entreat you to consider (trite and obvious as it may sound), What have we, in the whole wide world, which may be put in competition with that Book which contains GOD'S revelation of Himself to man? In its early portions, how does it go back to the very birthday of Time, and discourse of things which were done in the grey of that early morning! How mysterious is the record,----so methodical, so particular, so unique; preserving the very words which were syllabled in Paradise, and describing transactions which no one but the HOLY GHOST is competent to declare! Come lower down, and where will you find more beautiful narratives,----still fresh at the end of three and four thousand years,----than those stories of Patriarchs, Judges, Kings, which wrap up divinest teaching in all their ordinary details: where every word is weighed in a heavenly balance, fraught with a divine purpose, and intended for some glorious issue: where the very characters are adumbrations of personages far greater than themselves; and where the course of events is made to preach to us, at this distant day, of the things which concern our peace! Is it a light thing again to know in what terms Isaiah, and the rest of “the goodly fellowship,” when they opened their lips to speak in that remote age, foretold of the coming of the Son of Man?....But all seems to grow pale before the Everlasting Gospel, and the other writings of the New Testament. Surely we have become too familiar with the providence which has preserved to us the very words of the four Evangelists, if we can bend our thoughts in the direction of the Gospel without a throb of joy and wonder not to be described, at having so great a treasure placed within our easy reach. Can it indeed be, that I may listen while the disciple whom JESUS loved is discoursing of the miracles, and recalling the sayings of his LORD? May I hear St. Peter himself address the early Church,----or know the precise words of the message which St. Jude sent to the first believers,----or be shown the Epistle which the LORD'S cousin addressed “to the Twelve Tribes scattered abroad”? How does it happen that the Book is not for ever in our hands which comes to us with such claims to our undivided homage?

But, on the contrary, it has become the fashion in certain quarters, on every imaginable pretext, to call in question the credibility of the Bible. It seems to be the taste of the age to invent hazy difficulties and dim objections to its statements. Inspiration, under a miserable attempt to explain it, is openly explained away. And the theory, however crude and preposterous, is tolerated: at least it escapes castigation. It cannot fail but that the unlearned and thoughtless ones of this generation will be growing up in a notion that these are open questions after all, and that “Truth” is but a name,----not a thing worth contending, aye dying for, if need be! The reason is but too obvious. It must be, partly, because we do not in reality prize the deposit nearly so much as we suppose. Partly, because of the indifferentism which is everywhere so prevalent. Partly too because, notwithstanding our intellectual acitvity, we are not a really learned body. And partly, it must be confessed, the reason is, because Theology has become so nearly a prostrate study with us, and because men really able to do battle for the Truth are somewhat hard to find. Nor is there any reasonable prospect of improvement either; for those who go forth from this place into the Ministry, go with such slender preparation, that it would be truer to say that they go with none at all.

Now, it would be a mere waste of time, to inveigh for half an hour against the indifferentism, or the spurious liberality, of the age: and it would be a most unbecoming proceeding (not to say a highly distasteful one), from this place to be suggesting remedies for an evil which already lies very near the heart of every serious man among us; and which, if discussed at all, must be discussed elsewhere. To say the truth, while the neglect of Theology, and the low ebb of Theological attainments in our Clergy, is generally recognized, the remedy for the evil is by no means so clear. From this subject, then, I pass at once; and I shall content myself with the far humbler task, of urging upon the younger men present,----those especially who are destined for the Ministry,----one act of preparation, one duty, about which, at all events, there cannot be any difference of opinion; I mean the duty of applying themselves, now, to the patient study of the Bible.

----“Inspiration and Interpretation,” Seven Sermons by John W. Burgon, Re-issued by C. H. Waller; London: Marshall Brothers, 1905, pp. 5-8.

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