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Vol. 3, No. 3
Mar., 1994

The Garment Spotted by the Flesh

by Glenn Conjurske

“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 23).

The first thing which must be understood here is that this admonition is addressed to the evangelist, not to the sinner. It is not addressed to the one who needs to be saved, but to the one who labors to save him. The application of the passage to lost sinners is productive of great doctrinal confusion, as well as great practical difficulty. When sinners are told that they must hate their sins in order to repent and be saved, they are really set upon an impossible task, which must lead them to despair at last, if they are honest with their own hearts. Though men of course hate the consequences of sin, yet they love the sin, and are generally willing to risk the consequences in order to cling to the sin. This is the precise reason why there are few that are saved. But be that as it may, God does not require the sinner to hate his sins, but to forsake them----to forsake them in spite of the fact that he loves them. He must cut off his right hand, though he loves it. He must pluck out his right eye, though he loves it, and cannot help but love it. This is the Bible doctrine of self-denial. And here, indeed, we see the great divide between the soul and the spirit. In his soul, which is the seat of the emotions, a man may be ever so much attached to his sin, and have no power to hate it, yet in his spirit he has the power to choose to forsake it, and this it is that God requires of him.

It is the evangelist who is to hate the garment spotted by the flesh----to treat the sin as the loathsome and destructive thing that it is, to make no excuse for it, and no compromise with it. This is a most wholesome and necessary direction to evangelists in particular, who are wont to be so filled with tender love and compassion for erring souls, and to so yearn to pour out that love and compassion upon them, that they may be very naturally inclined to deal softly with the sinner's sins. And there is often a great plenty in the plight of the convicted sinner to rend the very heart of a loving child of God, and to so strengthen his yearning pity that he is powerfully tempted to pass lightly over the sin----to fail to probe the wound as it needs, but proceed at once to the application of the healing balm.

He sees the sinner heavy laden under the burden of his guilt before God. He sees him crushed under the shame which he must bear if he comes clean before man. He sees him involved in complex wrongs which implicate others besides himself, but from which he must wrench himself free if he is to return to God. He sees him quail before the consequences which he must face if he forsakes his wicked way----perhaps public exposure, perhaps prison, perhaps the loss of his position or livelihood, perhaps the loss of his dearest friend or lover, perhaps a crushing debt to make restitution for his past misdeeds. By all of this the loving heart of the laborer for souls cannot help but be deeply moved, and what a temptation he has to lower the standard a bit, to compromise with the sinner and deal lightly with his sins.

But to deal lightly in such a case is to deal falsely, as Jeremiah says: “From the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:13-14). There is no peace with God until sin is forsaken. That is the main point, and if we apply the healing balm before that is secured, we heal the wound slightly, and deceive the sinner. To “save them with fear, pulling them out of the fire,” is to save them from their sins. If we leave them yet clad in the garment spotted by the flesh, we leave them “yet in their sins,” and so yet in the fire.

We do not advocate any hardness or harshness in dealing with sinners. Love is incapable of that. What we advocate is firmness and strictness in upholding the claims of Christ and of righteousness. This may be done, and ought to be done, with nothing but the most tender-hearted sympathy----with nothing but gentleness and mildness and pity and tears. And yet it must be done. A most beautiful example of this is seen in the dealings of Gipsy Smith----one of the greatest evangelists of all time----with a poor, distraught sinner. The very title of the sermon in which this appears----“Slay Utterly”----is very suggestive. Gipsy says,

I was trying to preach on this truth a few years ago, and at the close of the inquiry meeting the wife of one of the ministers came to see me. She said, “There is a young lady there wants to speak to you; she refuses to go away. Nobody seems to be able to help her; she will speak to the preacher.” I said, “I will go with you,” and we went into the room. I went to the other end of the room and spoke to this poor thing. She said, “Sir, I want to confess an awful sin. I am a mother, and I fathered my child on an innocent man. He was a student in one of the theological colleges studying for the ministry, and I blighted his life as well as branded him. I took him through three courts and won my case, but I have a bit of hell inside. He was dismissed and disgraced, and he is as innocent as you are. What am I to do?”

“Do?” I said; “do right.”

She said, “I have no peace.”

“And you may never have peace,” I said, “in this world; but you may have pardon on condition. There is no such thing as peace for you, till you have done right, and undone the wrong.” I could not spare her. I had to be faithful in order to save. I said----

“You must take off that brand as publicly as you put it on----just as publicly.”

“Oh, sir!” she said, “he will send me to prison.”

I said, “If it means prison, and you go to prison, you will go with the consciousness that you made an honest attempt to undo the wrong, but for you the way to heaven is viâ that confession, and there is no such thing as joy or peace in God for you without taking up your cross.”

I shall never forget the effect my words made on that poor thing. She bent, she collapsed, and my heart ached for her. Yet I dare not heal the hurt of that poor thing slightly, nor cry “Peace” falsely. I had to be faithful, and as I knelt beside her I said----

“When you are willing as far as lies in your power to undo the wrong, God will help you, and He will not forsake you.”

Presently she bit her lip till it bled, and, clasping the chair in front of her, she said, “Oh God, I will do it if it means gaol.”

Another of the greatest of evangelists, John Wesley, displays the same wisdom in his “Word to an Unhappy Woman” (a harlot, that is). He says,

So you ask, What shall I do? First, sin no more. First of all, secure this point. Now, this instant, now, escape for your life; stay not; look not behind you. Whatever you do, sin no more; starve, die, rather than sin. Be more careful for your soul than your body. Take care of that too, but of your poor soul first.

“But you have no friend; none at least that is able to help you.” Indeed you have: one that is a present help in time of trouble. You have a friend that has all power in heaven and earth, even Jesus Christ the righteous. He loved sinners of old; and he does so still. He then suffered the publicans and harlots to come unto him. And one of them washed his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. I would to God you were in her place! Say, Amen! Lift up your heart, and it shall be done. How soon will he say, “Woman, be of good cheer; thy sins, which were many, are forgiven thee. Go in peace. Sin no more. Love much; for thou hast much forgiven.”

So you still ask, But what shall I do for bread; for food to eat, and raiment to put on? I answer, in the name of the Lord God, (and, mark well! His promise shall not fail,) “Seek thou first the kindgom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto thee.”

Settle it first in your heart, Whatever I have or have not, I will not have everlasting burnings. I will not sell my soul and body for bread; better even starve on earth than burn in hell. Then ask help of God. He is not slow to hear. He hath never failed them that seek him. He who feeds the young ravens that call upon him, will not let you perish for lack of sustenance. He will provide, in a way you thought not of, if you seek him with your whole heart. O let your heart be toward him; seek him from the heart! Fear sin, more than want, more than death.

All of this is encompassed in hating the garment spotted by the flesh. But observe, next, this is to be done “with fear.” And this fear is not to be confined to the fear we may feel for the sinner himself. When a man is engaged in pulling another man out of a fire, he has plenty of occasion to fear for himself. “Lay hands suddenly on no man,” says Paul, “neither be partaker of other men's sins: Keep thyself pure.” (I Tim. 5:22). “Suddenly” is without due care, without due examination of the man's character. By this means we may be partakers of other men's sins, and this is surely reason enough to fear for ourselves. And where evangelism is in question, we have reason enough to fear for the church of God and the testimony of Christ. When standards are lowered, or loosely held, or carelessly applied, how quickly the church of God is corrupted. Excuses are made for the garment spotted by the flesh, “converts” are admitted into the church who compromise with sin, and every one so admitted takes the church farther from God. I believe this is one of the primary reasons for the weakness and worldliness of the church in our day. It is just the same today as it was in Israel of old. When the true Israel went up out of Egypt, “a mixed multitude went up also with them,” (Ex. 12:38), and presently their true colors were shown, “and the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting.” (Num. 11:4). But the softness which excuses and tolerates this mixed multitude, in admitting them into the church in the first place, must of course excuse and tolerate their ways once they are inside, and so their ways influence and corrupt the whole church. Here is occasion enough to “save them with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” We cannot expect sinners to take this ground of their own accord. Those who labor to save them must see to it. Most of the religion of the world (and of much of what calls itself the church) consists of compromise with sin----of finding a way to hold on to sin, while appeasing the conscience, and entertaining a hope of eternal life. It is the evangelist who must hate the garment spotted by the flesh.

“The garment,” of course, is a figure of speech, as is “the flesh.” “The flesh” refers not to the body, but to sin in the heart, and the garment spotted by it is the working out of that sin in the conduct. This figure immediately takes our minds back to the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus. That entire chapter deals with leprosy, the first three quarters of it with leprosy in a person, and the last quarter with leprosy in a garment. Leprosy is a loathsome and deadly disease, and as such it is the well known type of sin in the flesh. Here, then, where we see the garment spotted with it, we may surely suppose that we have the equivalent of Jude's “garment spotted by the flesh.” Now observe how such a garment is to be dealt with.

“The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment, whether it be in the warp, or woof, of linen, or of woollen, whether in a skin, or in any thing made of skin, and if the plague be greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin, it is a plague of leprosy, and shall be SHEWED unto the priest, and the priest shall LOOK upon the plague, and shut up it that hath the plague seven days. And he shall LOOK on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin, the plague is a fretting leprosy: it is unclean. He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is, for it is a fretting leprosy: it shall be burnt in the fire.” (Vss. 47-52).

The thing which we observe at once here is the careful examination and scrutiny of this garment, to ascertain with certainty whether it has the leprosy or not. If the plague is found to have spread, the garment is to be rejected without further scrutiny, and burned in the fire. Leprosy is a dangerous thing, not to be trifled with. The garment which is defiled with it is to be hated, and handled “with fear.”

But further, “And if the priest shall LOOK, and behold, the plague be not spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin, then the priest shall command that they wash the thing wherein the plague is, and he shall shut it up seven days more. And the priest shall LOOK on the plague, after that it is washed, and, behold, if the plague have not changed his colour, and the plague be not spread, it is unclean, thou shalt burn it in the fire: it is fret inward, whether it be bare within or without.” (Vss. 53-55). Observe again the careful looking upon this garment. The plague had not spread, but yet there must be further examination and scrutiny. The leprosy is a dread disease, and cannot be treated with anything other than fear. No garment is to be pronounced clean lightly. Though the plague has not spread, yet if it has not changed, the garment is still unclean----still to be hated and feared and burned.

And yet again, “And if the priest LOOK, and behold, the plague be somewhat dark after the washing of it, then he shall rend it out of the garment, or out of the skin, or out of the warp, or out of the woof. And if it APPEAR STILL in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in any thing of skin, it is a spreading plague: thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire.” (Vss. 56-57).

What care! what scrutiny, must be exercised over this garment! In the face of leprosy, we must proceed with the utmost caution----yea, “with fear.” Nothing is to be taken for granted, nothing hazarded, nothing spared. Though the plague has not spread, and though it has changed, yet if a spot remains, we must rend it out, and subject the garment to further scrutiny. This rending out of the spot may well figure some painful and peremptory discipline. If after this action the spot still appears, “it is a spreading plague”----to be feared and rejected.

But finally, “And the garment, either warp, or woof, or whatsoever thing of skin it be, which thou shalt wash, IF THE PLAGUE BE DEPARTED FROM THEM, then it shall be washed the second time, and shall be clean.” (Vs. 58). “If the plague be departed from them.” This is the only condition upon which the garment may be spared, and that only after the most careful and painstaking scrutiny, that there may be no mistake about it.

This is the original of Jude's figure. This is the care, the fear, with which we must deal with “the garment spotted by the flesh.” Sin is a more loathsome and dangerous thing than leprosy, and were they to exercise more care about that than we are about this? We dare not. The wicked must be saved “with fear”----fear for them, fear for ourselves, fear for the church of God, fear for the testimony of Christ. It is the nature of sin to spread. A root of bitterness springing up will defile many. We have no right to allow it in the church of God. We must “look diligently” lest it should spring up. (Heb. 12:15). We have no right to bring it into the church of God. We must insist upon thorough repentance, as the Bible everywhere does. We cannot take anything for granted, but must exercise the most careful scrutiny over the garments of those whom we admit into the church. This means making careful inquiry into the conduct of those who apply for membership in the congregation. While Joshua took too much for granted, the wedge of gold and the goodly Babylonish garment under the tent of Achan turned the face of God away from the camp of Israel. If we fail to exercise that care and scrutiny, we heal the wound slightly. We admit the mixed multitude into the church, and drive God out of it, while we deceive the poor souls we think to save. May God help us to hate the garment spotted by the flesh.


“If Any Man Draw Back”

by Glenn Conjurske

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” So reads Hebrews 10:38 in the common English Bible. The italics indicate that the words “any man” are not in the original, but have been supplied by the translators. My contention is that the words in italics have been improperly supplied----for the simple reason that there was no reason to supply anything at all. It is perfectly legitimate----often necessary----for a translator to add words in his translation, if there is an ellipsis in the original----if something is implied in the original, but not stated----and we have no objection whatever to that. For example:

In I Cor. 14:33 we read in the Greek j V j j v , J v , j ' j v , literally, “For God is not of confusion, but of peace.” But this sounds strange to English ears, and therefore we read in the English Bible, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” The italics show us that the words “the author” were added for clarity in the English, but are not in the Greek. We may rightly question whether “the author” was the best thing to add, and might prefer Luther's Denn Gott ist nicht ein Gott der vnordnung, sondern des Friedes----“For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace”----yet we have no objection to something being added, where it is required to make clear and natural English.

But there was no such requirement in Hebrews 10:38. The perfectly literal, natural, and obvious translation of the verse is, “The just shall live by faith, but if he draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him”----and this (or something equivalent to this) was the rendering of all the early English versions. Thus:

Tyndale, (1526): “But the iust shall live by faith. And yf he withdrawe hymsilfe/ my soule shall have no pleasure in hym.” So exactly (with variations in spelling) all of Tyndale's revisions, Matthew (1537), Taverner (1539), and the Great Bible (1539).

Coverdale (1535) has, “But the iust shal lyue by his faith: And yf he withdrawe himselfe awaye, my soule shal haue no pleasure in him.”

Coverdale's Latin-English New Testament (1538----Southwark edition) reads (after the Vulgate), “But my ryghteous shall lyue by faythe: Yf so be he shall wythdrawe hymselfe, he shall not please vnto my soule.” The Paris edition of the same (made under Coverdale's personal supervision) has, “But my ryghteous shall lyue by faith[:] yf he wythdrawe hymselfe, he shall not please my soule.”

Thus it will be seen that all of the early English versions read “if he,” the word “he” being part of the verb in the Greek, and obviously referring back to “the just.” There was no reason to add any words at all, nor was there anything ambiguous or unclear in the literal translation. There was no reason to depart from that literal and natural translation----EXCEPT an obvious doctrinal reason. And doctrine it undoubtedly was which brought about the introduction of “any man” into the verse, for the obvious purpose of disassociating the one who draws back from “the just.” That change came about as follows:

In 1556 Theodore Beza, a disciple of Calvin, and a Calvinist of the Calvinists, published at Geneva a new translation of the New Testament into Latin. In the second clause he departed from the Vulgate rendering, quod si subtraxerit se, “but if he withdraw himself,” in exchange for at si QUIS se subduxerit, “but if anyone withdraw himself.” The Latin quis, which he introduced in italics (it having no corresponding word in the Greek), is “anyone,” or, as it was usually expressed in English in that time “any man.”

In 1557, just a year following the publication of the Beza's Latin Testament at Geneva, the Geneva New Testament appeared. This of course was also produced at Geneva. It was the work of Calvinists, and it is possible that Beza himself had a hand in it. In this version the English New Testament for the first time departed from the natural and obvious meaning of the Greek, and followed Beza's interpolation, thus reading, “Now ye iust shal lyue by faith. but if any withdraw him selfe, my soule shal haue no pleasure in hym.” The word “any” was not so much as put in italics. The Geneva Bible of 1560 followed suit, only italicizing the added word, thus: “but if anie withdrawe himself.”

In 1568 the Bishops' Bible appeared, but saw no reason to follow the Genevan version in this innovation (though much influenced by it in general). It reads, “And the iuste shall lyue by fayth: And yf he withdrawe hym selfe, my soule shall haue no pleasure in hym.”

In 1611 the King James Version adopted the Genevan innovation, reading, “Now the iust shall liue by faith: but if any man drawe backe, my soule shall haue no pleasure in him.” “Any man” was not put in italics until the revision of 1638.

Beza, of course, must justify his insertion of quis, and to do so he referred to the Septuagint version of Habakkuk 2:4, from which the book of Hebrews quotes, but in which the first and second portions of the verse appear in the reverse order. Thus the implied pronoun in “if he draw back” has no antecedent in the Septuagint, which has led some to contend for inserting a supposedly implied V (“anyone”) in the Greek there. So “Beza----the great authority for the rendering----`but if any man draw back'----described the Apostle as inverting the clauses of the sentence, but retaining the Prophet's meaning. And this, so far as I can perceive, is his ostensible reason for introducing `any' or `any man.' That, by this rendering, another version was avoided, by no means agreeable to Beza's Theological opinions, there can be no doubt; and it is probable that he easily persuaded himself that his construction was the true one.”

But Beza's explanation can hardly be admitted. The writers of the New Testament often cite from the Old Testament loosely, and at times, to all appearances, purposely alter the passage which they quote. When we translate the New Testament, we must translate what the apostles wrote, and not the Old Testament passages as they stood before the apostles altered or adapted them. To revert in the New Testament to the Old Testament passages as they stood before the apostles quoted them would be in fact to undo what the apostles wrote, and to undo also the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in those places of the New Testament.

Even if we were to admit it to be legitimate, then, to insert V in the Septuagint at Hab. 2:4, it by no means follows that it is legitimate to insert it in Hebrews 10:38. When the apostle inverted the clauses, he did not “retain the meaning” of the Septuagint, but obviously altered it. With the clauses inverted as they stand in the book of Hebrews, “he” has an antecedent, and there can be no possible reason to look for another----except a doctrinal reason, and that is not admissible. We must get our doctrine from our Bible, and not our Bible from our doctrine.

Thus the learned Delitszch writes on Heb. 10:38, “Our author inverts the two clauses, thus diverging from the verse as it stands both in the original and the versions, leaving the subject of J v no longer doubtful, and making more impressive the warning against apostasy.” And further, “To insert an imaginary (with Grotius), or an [ (with Winer and De Wette), before J v (`but if any man draw back'), would thoroughly pervert the writer's meaning. The subject in both clauses is the same----the just man, the man who is justified by his faith; and the sense in which J v is here used is that of not keeping faith, wavering in faith, forsaking the path of faith and the community of the faithful. (The just man, the man accepted before God, lives by faith: but if he loses his faith, and faithlessly draws back from the right path, his acceptance is forfeited.) That such apostasy is possible even for those who have been truly justified, i.e. for Christians who have had more than a superficial experience of divine grace, is one of the main points of instruction in this epistle. To teach this lesson, the two clauses are inverted of the prophetic utterance.”

Let those who do not like Delitszch's interpretation find a better if they can, but let them interpret the actual words which the apostle wrote, and not first alter his words to conform them to what they think he should have written, or to what their doctrinal prejudices dictate that he must have meant. Beza's reason for introducing quis in his version is too transparent, and the notoriously Calvinistic Geneva Bible no doubt followed him for the same reason----learned and ingenious explanations notwithstanding. The simple, natural, and obvious translation of the Greek words is “the just shall live by faith, but if he draw back,” and it is safe to say that with nothing but the Greek words before them, no one would ever have dreamed of translating them any other way. It was only an unwillingness to accept the doctrine which is apparently implied in the words which dictated any other translation.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Books on Prophecy

Prior to the Plymouth Brethren movement there was but little intelligent study of prophecy. The wretched system of “spiritual” interpretation made void the prophetic Scriptures, and the deeper men studied “prophecy,” the deeper they delved into idle speculations, and thus the very study of prophecy was brought into disrepute. Premillennialists were few and far scattered, and even most of them spiritualized most of the prophetic Scriptures. The Brethren movement brought a flood of light upon this subject, and restored it to a proper basis in literal interpretation and sound exegesis. At the foundation of all of this was the teaching of

J. N. Darby, whose 34 volumes of Collected Writings contain four volumes on prophetic themes. I mention no individual titles, however. Darby's writings are spiritual, but not always clear, and his doctrine is generally to be found better stated in the works of his disciples.

The best and clearest book I know on prophecy is The Lord's Coming, Israel, and the Church, by T. B. Baines, a book of 451 pages (fourth edition, revised and enlarged, 1881). It contains much of the real marrow of dispensationalism, and is excellent on the relationship of the church to the world. The section on the church also contains several chapters of what are called “Brethren principles,” which could have been dispensed with. G. H. Pember's The Great Prophecies concerning the Gentiles, the Jews, and the Church of God covers much the same ground. T. B. Baines also wrote a commentary on Revelation, entitled The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Another excellent book is Plain Papers on Prophetic and Other Subjects, by William Trotter. This book is large in scope (568 pages) and excellent in content, and its value is increased by a good subject index. It deals largely with postmillennialism, which has long been largely extinct (since two world wars convinced folks that the world is not getting better), but is coming back into vogue in our day. A smaller and simpler book from Trotter is Eight Lectures on Prophecy, by W. Trotter and T. Smith (only one of the lectures is by Smith).

Other books of lectures by the Brethren are Our Lord's Coming Again, by Thomas Neatby, and Lectures on the Second Coming and Kingdom of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by William Kelly. Other titles by William Kelly are Elements of Prophecy, Christ's Coming Again, The Lord's Prophecy on Olivet, The Coming and Day of the Lord, and The Heavenly Hope. Kelly is also author of useful commentaries on many of the prophetic books of the Bible, including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and two on the book of Revelation, a book of 502 pages of Lectures on the Book of Revelation, largely involved with refuting the historical viewpoint (and in this book we see Kelly at his best), and a much smaller, later work entitled The Revelation Expounded, a concise exposition, leaving controversy and learned discussions alone. Twenty-One Prophetic Papers, by F. C. Bland is a small and simple book, complete with prophetic chart.

In speaking of books by the Brethren, I must mention one by Sir Robert Anderson, who spent his early Christian years among the Brethren, but later left them to attend Adolph Saphir's church (Presbyterian). The book I refer to is The Coming Prince, a very unusual book (as most of Anderson's are) on Daniel's seventieth week and the antichrist. By minute and learned calculations Sir Robert shows that the sixty-ninth week of Daniel 9 expired on the very day of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem (“this thy day,” Luke 19:42), “after” which Messiah was cut off. The book has gone through many printings, and I am not aware that anyone has done anything to discredit his calculations. I read the book twenty-five years ago, and the savor of it has not faded. Anderson also wrote a small book called Unfulfilled Prophecy and the Hope of the Church.

The Plymouth Brethren having led the way in prophetic inquiry in the nineteenth century, many others of various other denominations followed in their train, but not with anything of the clarity of the Brethren works. They are usually clear enough on the premillennial coming of Christ, the restoration of Israel, the first and second resurrections, and such matters, but many of them are vague, uncertain, or confused on Daniel's seventieth week and the rapture of the church. This, because they fail to distinguish between Israel and the church, and fail likewise to distinguish between the beast (masculine) and the woman, the whore (always feminine), who rides him, thus making the papacy the antichrist.

A good example of this vagueness and uncertainty will be found in Horatius Bonar, of the Free Church of Scotland. He is decidedly premillennial, but contends (yet rather uncertainly) for the historic interpretation of the book of Revelation. He contends strongly that the papacy is “the present antichrist,” but admits a coming antichrist, which he supposes is to spring from the papacy. He is author of Prophetical Landmarks, of which I have the fifth edition, published in 1876. The preface is signed in 1847. He also wrote The Coming Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, a reply to David Brown's postmillennial work. This was published in 1849.

Coming Events and Present Duties, by J. C. Ryle (Episcopalian), is of the same character. He pursues a middle course between the historical and the futurist interpretation of Revelation, and contends that the Roman Catholic Church is the antichrist, yet says, “I think it highly probable that a more complete development of antichrist will yet be exhibited to the world.” On many points, including the rapture, he refuses to express an opinion, saying it would be “little better than conjecture.” I have long sought a later utterance from him on the subject, but alas, his books are too scarce to be had.

The Lutheran Joseph A. Seiss wrote The Last Times, first published in 1856. In 1878 the seventh edition was published, of which I have a copy which was printed in 1901. In this edition he adds a lengthy note explicitly embracing the pretribulation rapture. The book follows the historical interpretation of Revelation, but the preface to the seventh edition refers the reader to his Lectures on the Apocalypse, where he follows the futurist view. These lectures have been printed often by various publishers. While lengthy, they are good in both content and spirit. Yet he retains enough darkness of mind to make the woman in chapter 12 to be the church. Pages 400-432 of The Last Times contain a lengthy bibliography of premillennial commentaries and prophetic books, as well as books which incidentally set forth millennarian doctrines. Strangely, these lists contain almost nothing of the Plymouth Brethren. My copy of this book also contains a good subject index.

The Baptist A. J. Gordon wrote Ecce Venit (which is Latin for “Behold, He Cometh”), published in 1889. Gordon, while contending for the “imminent coming” of Christ, yet holds to the historical interpretation of Revelation, and believes the papacy to be the antichrist. On the rapture of the church he writes as a man groping for light. He uses the false and beggarly argument of post-tribulationists that “to meet” in I Thes. 4:17 means “to meet and return with,” yet contends that there must be a “pause”----how long he dare not say----between the meeting and the returning, a “pause” while the judgements are poured out upon the world below, the church being then “wrapped away in a sheltering pavilion of cloud, and hidden in some angel-guarded retreat on high.” He denies that judgement will be executed upon all the ungodly at the return of Christ, but holds that many of the ungodly will be spared and afterwards converted, the advent judgements being specially reserved for apostate Christendom.

A number of Presbyterians of that era wrote on the subject. On the future restoration of Israel, Samuel H. Kellogg wrote The Jews, or Prediction and Fulfillment. Nathaniel West wrote The Thousand Years in Both Testaments, a large and learned work, forcefully written, but sharing in some of the general confusion. He contends that the “mystery of the New Testament `Church”' is not to be found in Old Testament prophecy, and that the disclosure of it in the New Testament cannot “abolish the standing contrast” between “Israel, the Nations, and the Church.” He contends that Daniel's seventieth week is yet future, and it is a very interesting fact that in writing of it he rarely mentions the true church, speaking mostly of Israel and apostate Christendom. This is as we would expect. Yet his system necessitates that the church should be present, though it seems seldom to enter his mind, and when he does speak of it he himself abolishes that very “standing contrast” for which he has contended. Yet for learned and thorough dealing with numerous points West has no peer except William Kelly. West also wrote a smaller volume entitled Daniel's Great Prophecy. James H. Brookes, another Presbyterian, was much more directly influenced by the Brethren, and therefore much clearer in his views. He is the author of two prophetic books, “Till He Come” (also published as “I Am Coming”), and a larger volume entitled Maranatha. In the central portion of this book are nine chapters entitled “No Millennium till Christ Comes,” and these are eloquent.

The independent pastor and evangelist Henry Varley is author of Christ's Coming Kingdom, or The Lord's Reign on Earth. He is a pretribulationist.

Here I end my notices of nineteenth-century writers, and turn to the reports of prophetic conferences. James H. Brookes and others issued a call to hold a prophetic conference in New York in 1878. The book containing the reports of the essays and addresses of this conference was edited by Nathaniel West, and published in 1879. Its title is Second Coming of Christ, though it is usually quoted by its subtitle, Premillennial Essays of the Prophetic Conference, no doubt because the words “Premillennial Essays” stand larger than anything else on the title page. It is a book of 528 pages, with papers by West, Brookes, A. J. Gordon, Henry M. Parsons, and others. A “History of the Premillennial Doctrine” by Nathaniel West occupies nearly a hundred pages, and is probably the most valuable thing in the book. All amillennialists would do well to read this. I sought this book for years, and literally jumped for joy when I finally found a copy, upstairs in the old Baker Book House on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids.

Another prophetic conference was held in 1886 in Chicago, and the reports of it were issued in a book entitled Prophetic Studies of the International Prophetic Conference, edited by George C. Needham (though his name does not appear on the title page). The name of Brookes is absent from the contributors to this book, but a number of new names appear, including A. T. Pierson, G. N. H. Peters, A. J. Frost, and W. E. Blackstone.

Needham also edited Primitive Paths in Prophecy (1891) a small book of 145 pages, containing reports of addresses given at the Brooklyn Conference (1890) of the Baptist Society for Bible Study. This contains nine addresses. Among the contributors are A. J. Gordon and Clarence Larkin.

The Coming and Kingdom of Christ is a stenographic report of the Prophetic Conference held at the Moody Bible Institute in 1914. No editor's name is given, but James M. Gray signed the preface. Nearly thirty years had passed since the former Chicago conference, and here we find an entirely new list of contributors, including James M. Gray, C. I. Scofield, W. B. Riley, A. C. Gaebelein, Ford C. Ottman, Charles A. Blanchard, and R. A. Torrey. The reader will at once recognize in this list many of the pillars of Fundamentalism, which by this time had developed into a recognizable movement. He will also observe that the vague views of the premillennialism of the nineteenth century had given place to a decided pretribulationism. The book contains a good subject index, and an appendix, evidently compiled by Gray, listing some hundreds of premillennialists. The list, however, is not to be implicitly trusted, especially for men of the past. He lists both Richard Baxter and George Whitefield, neither of whom belong in such a list.

It remains only to mention Light on Prophecy, which is “The Proceedings and Addresses at the Philadelphia Prophetic Conference,” held in 1918. The editor is not named, and the preface is signed by three men, of whom William Pettingill is the first. W. B. Riley dominated the platform in this conference, speaking four times, and holding a question and answer session. Other speakers were William Pettingill, James M. Gray,

P. W. Philpott, J. Wilbur Chapman, and others. This book is not terribly scarce. I have seen a number of copies of it over the years.

I turn next to the Fundamentalists, who often preserve the doctrines of the Brethren movement, without its freshness and depth. C. I. Scofield wrote What Do The Prophets Say? and Addresses on Prophecy, small books of small consequence.

Of more consequence are the books of A. C. Gaebelein, whose books on this subject are some of the best that Fundamentalism produced. He published “Hath God Cast Away His People?” in 1905, a book of 279 pages (plus textual index) in which much information on the Jews is set forth along with the prophecies of their restoration. The Harmony of the Prophetic Word (1911) is a very useful book which sets forth the agreement of all of the prophetic Scriptures on such themes as the day of the Lord, the great tribulation, the end-time opposition of all nations to Jerusalem, the restoration of Israel, and the blessings of the millennial reign of Christ. In the years just preceding World War II he published a series of books dealing with world conditions and prophecy. The first of these, The Conflict of the Ages, is on the mystery of lawlessness, and is mostly history. World Prospects and Hopeless----Yet There Is Hope are a mixture of world conditions and prophecy. The best of the series, The Hope of the Ages, is divided into two sections, “The Hope in Revelation,” and “The Hope in History,” the second half being a good history of premillennialism. The Prophet St. Paul (1939) deals with the prophetic parts of Paul's epistles. Gabriel and Michael, published in 1945 (the year in which he died, at the age of 84), also deals with prophetic themes.He also wrote a good commentary on Daniel.

One of the most widely circulated of books on prophecy is Jesus Is Coming, by W. E. Blackstone. This was published in 1908, and went through several revisions and many printings. Blackstone “commissioned the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago to send copies gratuitously to ministers, missionaries and theological students, especially in his own dearly-loved Methodist Episcopal Church.” So wrote James M. Gray in a “Presentation Copy” published in 1916, the title page of which tells us that the book had then (in just eight years) been translated into 25 languages, and issued in 386,000 copies. Since then it has been printed numerous times, even down to recent years. Blackstone also wrote a smaller book (64 pages) entitled The Millennium, first published in 1904.

The Lord's Return Seen In History and In Scripture As Pre-Millennial and Imminent, by Jesse Forrest Silver, first published in 1914, contains a history of Chiliasm occupying 200 pages. In this, however, he relies too much on secondary sources.

I. M. Haldeman, a Baptist who is generally found to agree closely with C. I. Scofield (except on baptism), is author of Ten Sermons on the Second Coming. The book has 748 pages, but there is not a great deal on a page. He also wrote a smaller book called Why I Preach the Second Coming. Haldeman published a great number of pamphlets, including one entitled This Hour Not the Hour of the Prince of Peace, which has 56 pages.

I have two books on prophecy by A. B. Simpson. The Gospel of the Kingdom, a book of 347 pages, published in 1890, complete with an intricate prophetic chart, is “A Series of Discourses on The Lord's Coming.” A smaller book (103 pages) published in 1914, is entitled Back To Patmos, and subtitled “Prophetic Outlooks on Present Conditions.”

As it has always been quite the fashion among Fundamentalists to write books on prophecy, there are many more. A few of them are The Return of the Lord Jesus, by R. A. Torrey, The Second Coming of Christ, by Len G. Broughton, The Coming and the Kingdom, by W. B. Riley, Prophecy and the Lord's Return, by James M. Gray, The Kingdom in History and Prophecy, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, The Lamp of Prophecy and The Great Parenthesis, by Harry Ironside, and The Coming Kingdom of Christ, by John R. Rice.

A few more recent books are The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, by Charles C. Ryrie of Dallas Seminary----Re-Thinking the Rapture, by E. Schuyler English, who succeeded A. C. Gaebelein as editor of Our Hope----The Rapture Question and The Millennial Kingdom, by John Walvoord, who succeeded Lewis Sperry Chafer as president of Dallas Theological Seminary----and Things to Come, by J. Dwight Pentecost, also of Dallas Seminary. These modern books are systematic and intellectual, and lack the spirit of many of the earlier ones. They have also slipped away from the main emphasis of many of the earlier books, namely, the character, course, and end of the world. This theme is all but totally absent from Pentecost's large volume.

It only remains for me to mention a few post-tribulational books. Henry W. Frost is the author of Matthew Twenty-Four and The Revelation, a book of 321 pages, published in 1924, and The Second Coming of Christ, which has 251 pages, and was published in 1934. The former contains literal translations and expositions of the Scriptures named. The latter contains fourteen chapters on the second coming, one of which is devoted to post-tribulationism. Frost's books are tame and non-controversial. Not so The Approaching Advent of Christ, by Alexander Reese, the whole of which is devoted to examining the teaching of Darby and his followers. It is a well-indexed book of 328 large pages, published about 1940. I believe this is the best which the post-tribulational side has produced, but Reese often fails to understand the issues, and, even where he does, much of his argumentation is unsound. Scriptural Truth About The Lord's Return, by Robert Cameron, is a book of 176 pages, published in 1922. There is more heat than light in this book, and I admire neither its spirit nor its arguments. The same may be said of The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, by Philip Mauro, who little understands what he is trying to refute.

The Prewrath Rapture of the Church, by Marvin Rosenthal, is a new book (1990) which has made some impression on the evangelical church. The book is a modified form of post-tribulationism. Rosenthal was a “confirmed pretribulationist” for thirty years, but, like many of them, apparently knew the answers without knowing the questions. He still does not know what the questions are, and therefore he beats the air. The foundations of his book are false, and much of his reasoning shallow and unsound, though he does a good job of overturning some of the unsound (and unnecessary) arguments which some pretribulationists have used. With all the post-tribulationists, he contends that the second coming of Christ is one single and indivisible event, yet to maintain his own system he must protract that coming over a period of time, which begins before the end of the seventieth week, and ends after it. This fact alone is enough to indicate how far astray he is, and how little he gains by his reasonings.


The Mark Upon Cain

by Glenn Conjurske

“And Cain talked with Abel his brother, and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from thy face shall I be hid, and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth, and it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whoseover slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (Gen. 4:8-16).

The book of Genesis is filled with solid spiritual food and instruction. The things related here are not mere curious facts concerning the early history of the human race. There is a divine purose in all of them. Many of them are types----exquisitely beautiful to those who have eyes to see them. Once I had no such eyes. I was offended at those who saw types where I could see none. Now those types are among the most beautiful things in the Bible, and one of the strongest proofs of its inspiration. No part of the Bible has been the object of more determined attacks from infidels than the early chapters of Genesis, and yet no part of the Bible is so clearly stamped with the marks of divinity. Thus God cares for his own ark, and provides for the faith of his own. The types of the book of Genesis are one of the surest marks of its divinity. What man could have sketched such shadows, thousands of years before the substance appeared? Cain is one of those shadows, or types, and as such I wish to speak of him. But first, the more direct instruction of the passage:

There is a very obvious difference of dispensation between this time which precedes the flood, and the time which follows it. There the murderer is to be put to death. “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Gen 9:6). Here the murderer is spared----yea, shielded. This is not an arbitrary or purposeless difference, but a clear reflection of the ways of God under those dispensations. The time between the fall and the flood was a day of divine forbearance----a day of grace. At the time of the flood that day of grace gave place to a day of justice, in which God asserted his claims to the earth by a sweeping judgement, and by the establishment of a righteous government, under which the righteous might dwell in peace in the earth which had been thus purged. These two periods are thus types of the present reign of grace, and the reign of righteousness which is to follow it, in the which the rod of righteousness----the rod of iron----will be the scepter of Christ's kingdom.

Cain himself is a type of the Jews, who hated and slew their righteous brother. The judgement of God falls heavily upon them, as it did upon Cain, and yet, as Cain, they are spared and protected and preserved.

This is all simple and beautiful enough----but how little understood in the church of God. Bishop Hall, in his (usually spiritual and profitable) Contemplations, calls the mark upon Cain “the brand of God's vengeance in his forehead”!----the very opposite of what it was. The commentary of Matthew Poole: a “visible token of the Divine displeasure.” Matthew Henry, “such a visible and indelible mark of infamy and disgrace as would make all wise people shun him.” Suffice it to say, none of this has anything to do with Cain's mark. It was a mark to protect him, not to disgrace him----though it were disgrace enough to stand in need of such a mark. It was a mark of divine forbearance, not of divine vengeance. Yet we see much more here than the mere forbearance of God. We see in fact a very deliberate and determined protection of the offender. The mark was accompanied with such a promise of divine intervention for his protection as has perhaps never been given to another man----and this in the face of his known and awful guilt. In all of this Cain stands as a type of the Jew. “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes, but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.” (Rom. 11:28). They are rejected of God, yet protected by him----preserved by him through all of the judgements which his own hand has poured out upon them, and through all the malice of men and devils.

“A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” “Wandringe and a vagabunde,” as Tyndale has it in verse 16. “Vnstable of dwellyng and fleynge about in erêe,” the later Wycliffe Bible has it. Here is “the wandering Jew,” who after all of God's promises of a LAND, and SURE DWELLINGS in it, must now wander and be driven from pillar to post, century after century, without a country and without a home. “And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; ... and among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest.” (Deut. 28:64-65). And yet for all that, ever watched over by God and protected (for their blessing is yet to come), in spite of a whole history of diabolical attempts to exterminate them. Such is the significance of the mark upon Cain.


Elijah Truly Shall First Come

by Glenn Conjurske

The last two verses of the Old Testament prophesy the coming again of Elijah. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5-6).

This is clear enough, but ammillennialists think otherwise, and would have us believe that this prophecy does not concern Elijah at all. The following from the commentary of Matthew Poole is typical of their comments:

“I will send; though the spirit of prophecy cease for four hundred years, yet at the expiring of those years you shall have one sent, as great as Elijah, and therefore he is now called Elijah, that shall prepare Messiah's way. Elijah; not the same in person who reproved idolatrous Israel, who destroyed Baal, though both Jews and many Christians would gladly have it so, in favour of some errors they have adopted and would maintain. But this person here called Elijah was John Baptist, as is clear from Matt. xvii.12.13, Elias is come, and they have done to him whatsoever they listed. Then the disciples understood that he spake of John the Baptist. And he was that Elias, if they would receive him, Matt. xi.14. Elias, was to come when Malachi lived; Elias was come, and the Jews had ill treated him, and Herod had beheaded him, when Christ here lived; this Elijah then was John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elias, Luke i.17, and therefore bears his name in this prophecy.”

But there are several considerations against this view, some of which are weighty, and other of which are conclusive. To begin with, the Jews of all ages have believed the prophecy to refer to Elijah himself, and this view was held also by the early church, until philosophy and unbelief taught them to “spiritualize” prophecy.

Justin Martyr writes in his Dialogue with Trypho,

“Then I inquired of him, `Does not Scripture, in the book of Zechariah [sic], say that Elijah shall come before the great and terrible day of the Lord?'

“And he answered, `Certainly.'

“`If therefore Scripture compels you to admit that two advents of Christ were predicted to take place,----one in which He would appear suffering, and dishonoured, and without comeliness; but the other in which He would come glorious, and Judge of all, as has been made manifest in many of the fore-cited passages,----shall we not suppose that the word of God has proclaimed that Elijah shall be the precursor of the great and terrible day, that is, of His second advent?'

“`Certainly,' he answered.

“`And, accordingly, our Lord in His teaching,' I continued, `proclaimed that this very thing would take place, saying that Elijah would also come. And we know that this shall take place when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come in glory from heaven; whose first manifestation the Spirit of God who was in Elijah preceded as herald in John, a prophet among your nation; after whom no other prophet appeared among you.”'

Tertullian says, “But Elias is to come again, not after quitting life, but after his translation; not for the purpose of being restored to the body, from which he had not departed, but for the purpose of revisiting the world from which he was translated; not by way of resuming a life which he had laid aside, but of fulfilling prophecy----really and truly the same man, both in respect of his name and designation, as well as of his unchanged humanity.”

And Commodianus, “He [the antichrist] himself shall divide the globe into three ruling powers, when, moreover, Nero shall be raised up from hell, Elias shall first come to seal the beloved ones; at which things the region of Africa and the northern nation, the whole earth on all sides, for seven years shall tremble. But Elias shall occupy the half of the time, Nero shall occupy half.”

But there is a weightier judgement than that of the Jews or the early church. Christ himself has spoken on this subject, clearly and unmistakably. “And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, ELIAS TRULY SHALL FIRST COME, AND RESTORE ALL THINGS. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disicples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” (Matt. 17:10-13).

The scribes said that Elijah must come “first”----that is, before the coming of Christ, and this they used as an excuse to reject Christ, in the teeth of the most convincing evidence. If their hearts had been right, they would have received that evidence, and received the true Christ, though it may have left them with an unresolved difficulty concerning the coming of Elijah. When the disciples asked the Lord concerning this, John the Baptist had already come and gone. His ministry was finished, and it was then that the Lord said to them, “Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things.” He speaks of this in the future tense, though John the Baptist was dead and buried. On this Henry Alford well says, “Our Lord speaks here plainly in the future, and uses the very word of the prophecy Mal. iv.6. The double allusion is only the assertion that the Elias (in spirit and power) who foreran our Lord's first coming, was a partial fulfilment of the great prophecy which announces the real Elias (the words of Malachi will hardly bear any other than a personal meaning), who is to forerun His greater and second coming.”

The words of Christ in this place strongly confirm the view of the scribes that Elijah is indeed to come, and the future tense in which he speaks can have no other meaning. But (lest any think we are wresting the Lord's words) it is necessary to point out that “shall come” in our English Bibles is actually present tense in the Greek. The actual words of the text are * v V [ V j v v , literally, “Elijah indeed is coming, and shall restore all things.” But the present tense of “come” in no way alters the future sense of it, for first, being immediately followed as it is by a future tense in the other verb, the whole is necessarily future. If it be asked, Why then does the Lord use the present tense of “come”?----I answer, “come” (as some other verbs) is often used in the present tense, in English as well as Greek, to speak of the future. We say, “I am going to Canada next month.” The tense of “I am going” is purely present, but the sense is clearly future. This is common in the New Testament, as the following examples will prove:

“The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” (I Thes. 5:2).

“Ye have heard that antichrist shall come.” (I Jn. 2:18).

“Behold, I come as a thief.” (Rev. 16:15).

“Behold, I come quickly.” (Rev. 22:7 &12)

“Surely I come quickly.” (Rev. 22:20).

All of these examples speak of events far future. All of them employ the same word as is used in Matt. 17:11, and all of them in the present tense (in the Greek). Other examples might be given.

Observe further, the little word V , rendered “truly” in the King James Bible, and which might be rendered “indeed,” gives a strong confirmation of the common Jewish view of the matter, concerning which the disciples were asking the Lord. “Elijah cometh INDEED,” is Christ's reply, and this he did not say to “correct” that view of the matter, as so many commentators would have it, but precisely to confirm that view. This is transparent upon the face of the text, to every English reader.

Not only so, but when the people asked John explicitly, “Art thou Elijah,” he replied, “I am not.” John certainly believed in the literal coming of Elijah, as the rest of the Jews did, but affirmed that he was not Elijah.

But perhaps of greater weight than any of this is the prophecy of Malachi itself, which says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” The great and dreadful day of the Lord has nothing to do with the first coming of Christ, but concerns his second coming solely. Spiritualizers of prophecy of course have ingenuity enough to make “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” refer to the first coming of Christ----by the same alchemy by which they can make almost anything to mean almost anything else----but they should hardly expect to be taken seriously. Thus John Gill, “Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; that is, before the coming of Christ the son of David, as the Jews themselves own; and which is to be understood, not of the second coming of Christ to judgement, though that is sometimes called the great day, and will be dreadful to Christian sinners; but of the first coming of Christ, reaching to the destruction of Jerusalem.” But if this be so, what becomes of “lest I come and smite the earth [or land] with a curse”? It loses all significance, for he surely did smite the land with a curse at the destruction of Jerusalem. But the curse will be removed from all the earth after “the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” That is the second coming, and nothing else.

But did not the Lord himself say of John the Baptist, “If ye will receive it, this is Elijah”? He did, but this hangs upon “If ye will receive it,” and he immediately goes on to say, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (Matt. 11:16-19). The Lord's point is that this generation has no ears to hear. They will receive nothing which comes from God, for their hearts are against him. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, and they rejected him. If Elijah himself had come, they would have rejected him also. John's ministry was certainly not the fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy, but it was a sufficient test of the men of that generation, to prove what their hearts were.

But if all of this be true, why did not the Lord plainly say so to the Jews, and so remove their difficulty out of the way? First, because it would not have removed their difficulty. Their difficulty was not in their understanding, but in their heart, as the passage just quoted clearly shows. But in the second place, the solemn truth is, when men refuse the light which God gives them, he declines to give them more. For this reason he spoke to these same Jews in parables. For this reason he refused to give them a sign when they asked for one. They had light enough to acknowledge him as the Christ, whatever difficulty might have remained in their minds about Elijah, but they hated the light, and he was therefore at no pains to clear up the point about Elijah. Morally, in spirit and power, John could stand in the place of Elijah, so far as to leave that generation without excuse, so far as to prove that they would have rejected Elijah himself had he come to them----but not to fulfill the prophecy.

On this Alford says (on Matt. 11:14), “Our Lord cannot be understood in either of these passages as meaning that the prophecy of Mal. iv.5 received its full completion in John. For as in other prophecies, so in this, we have a partial fulfilment both of the coming of the Lord and of His forerunner, while the great and complete fulfilment is yet future----at the great day of the Lord.” This I believe to be the exact truth, though I am not satisfied with the terms in which he couches it. Many speak of a partial and a complete fulfillment of prophecy, and others speak of a near and a far fulfillment. I endorse their sentiment, but not their terms, for the near or partial fulfillment is not a real fulfillment at all. That is, it does not actually fulfill the terms of the prophecy, but is only a shadow or type of the real fulfillment. To the terms “near and far fulfillment,” I especially object, for they seem to imply an actual fulfillment in both cases, and thus give countenance to the spiritualizing view, which takes any kind of vague resemblance for fulfillment, though the actual terms of the prophecy are not fulfilled at all. The term “partial” is not quite so objectionable, but I prefer to call it a typical fulfillment. The flood was a type of the fulfillment of Enoch's great prophecy, “Behold the Lord cometh, with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgement upon all the ungodly.” The actual terms of the prophecy were no way fulfilled by the flood, and the prophecy is repeated in the New Testament, as yet to be fulfilled. So is the prophecy of the coming of Elijah, for it was after John was dead and buried that Jesus said, “ELIJAH TRULY SHALL COME FIRST, AND RESTORE ALL THINGS.”

Matthew Poole, with the ingenuity of a man grasping for arguments, contends that in these words the Lord is only quoting Malachi's prophecy, in order to expound it of John the Baptist: “Our Lord first repeateth the words of Malachi, and so he saith, Elias shall come, or is coming; and then he expounds the words of Malachi of John the Baptist.” But the fact is, the Lord did not quote Malachi, or repeat his words. What Malachi said and what the Lord said have only two words in common, “Elijah” and “shall restore.” The Lord was not quoting Malachi's prophecy to expound it, nor quoting it at all, but only reaffirming its contents, and putting his stamp of approval upon the common belief of the prophecy. His use of the word V makes this clear enough: “Elijah is coming INDEED.”

And speaking of the ingenuity of the spiritualizers of prophecy, another of them has this to say on Malachi 4:5: “The fact that he is called `the prophet,' and not `the Tishbite,' implies that it is his official, and not his personal relations, that are here contemplated.” To this rhetoric we need only answer, It implies no such thing to those who have no subtle system of unbelief to maintain, and the fact (overlooked by this commentator) that he is called Elijah “implies” that Elijah “is contemplated.” Interpreters and believers of prophecy can of course dispense with such rhetoric as “implies” and “is contemplated,” and say “Elijah is Elijah.” “Elijah the Tishbite” and “Elijah the prophet” are the same person.

And this brings me to speak of the main issue involved in this question. The prophecies of the Bible are to be literally fulfilled. The prophecies of Christ's first coming have been fulfilled literally. The prophecies of his second coming will be fulfilled in the same way. God spoke of Cyrus by name, before his birth, and said, “that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built, and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” (Is. 44:28). Because this prophecy has been literally fulfilled, all will acknowledge that “Cyrus” must mean “Cyrus,” but if the literal interpretation had not been already proved by the literal fulfillment, spiritualizers would be telling us quite the contrary----perhaps that “Cyrus” means “Christ” (and “Jerusalem” the church!)----or whatever else their ingenuity could devise. And alas, even some premillennialists have begun to give way a little on this point. Thus J. Dwight Pentecost nearly forty years ago wrote that “Elijah personally need not appear.” (Things to Come, 1958, pg. 312.) He holds that John the Baptist could have fulfilled Malachi's prophecy, and cites a similar opinion from E. Schuyler English. And though this is but a small step in the wrong direction, it bodes ill for sound doctrine. With the same kind of interpretation, others can tell us that Christ need not personally appear, and that Satan does not personally exist. With the same kind of interpretation, havoc may be made of the whole Bible and all its doctrines. Such interpretation was born in unbelief, and has been for centuries the buttress of doctrinal confusion and error, and there is no reason for premillennialists to yield anything whatever to it. John did not fulfill the Old Testament prophecy of Elijah, and cannot fulfill that of the New Testament.

Whether Elijah is one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11, as many hold, we cannot say, and therefore need not inquire. This much we surely believe: “ELIJAH IS INDEED COMING.”


Richard Rolle on Heavenly Contemplation

[Richard Rolle, “the hermit of Hampole,” flourished in the first half of the fourteenth century, dying in 1349. Though holding monastic views and wearing the habit of a monk, he apparently belonged to no monastic order. He was not a reformer, as Wycliffe was, and seems oblivious to the corruption in the church, which Wycliffe saw so clearly, Rolle being altogether occupied with the love of Christ and holy emotions. He saw nothing beyond many of the errors of popery (he believed in purgatory, yet where is purgatory in the following?), and was hyperspiritual in the things he did see (and so dangerous if followed too closely), but he was a powerful preacher, who turned many to righteousness. In spite of the darkness of his mind on many things which would be taken for granted with the light which we possess today, there is such a savor of the love of Christ in his words as to make the heart burn, and I believe that of few men in history could it be so truly said that “to him to live was Christ.” He loved the word of God, and translated the Psalms into English, with a commentary thereon. His writings were widely read, and he was the first man of God who largely abandoned the Latin and wrote in English. The well known Methodist preacher and commentator, Adam Clarke, who had a manuscript of Rolle's Psalter, and knew it to be (then) at least four hundred years old, but knew not the identity of its author, says of him (writing on Psalm 13), “That the writer was not merely a commentator, but a truly religious man, who was well acquainted with the travail of soul, and that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which brings peace to the troubled heart, is manifested from various portions of his comment.” The following extract is from Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle of Hamole, edited by C. Horstman; London: Swan Sonnedschein & Co., 1895, vol. I, pp 48-49. The left column gives the original, and the right column the same, line for line, in modernized English. ----editor.]



Contemplatife lyf hase twa partyes:

A lower & a heer. çe lower party es meditacion, of haly wrytyng, êat es goddes wordes, and in other gude thoghtes & swete êat men hase of êe grace of god, abowt êe lufe of Ihesu Christe; and also in louyng of god in psalmes & ympnes, or in prayers. çe hegher party of contemplacion es behaldyng, & 3ernyng, of êe thynges of heuen, & ioy in êe haly gaste; êat
men hase oft, and if it be swa êat êai
be noght prayand with êe mowth, bot anely thynkand of god, & of êe fairehede of aungels, and haly sawles. çan may I say êat contemplacion es a wonderful ioy of goddes luf, êe whilk ioy es louyng of god, êat may noght be talde, & êat wonderful louyng es in êe saule; and for abundance of ioy & swettenes it ascendes in til êe mouth: swa êat êe hert & êe tonge acordes in ane, and body & sawle ioyes in god lyuand. A man or woman êat es ordaynd til contemplatife lyfe, first god enspires êam to forsake êis worlde, and al êe vanite & êe couayties and êe vile luste êarof. Sythen he ledes êam by êar ane, & spekes til 3ar hert: and als êe prophete says, He gifes êam at sowke êe swetnes of êe begynnyng of lufe; and êan he settes êam in will to gyf êam haly to prayers & meditacions & teres. Sithen, when êai haue sufferd many temptacions, & êe foule noyes of thoghtes êat er ydel, & of vanitees êe whilk wil comber êam êat can noght destroy êam, er passand a-way: he gars êam geder til êam êair hert & fest anely in hym: and opens til êe egh of êair sawls êe 3ates of heuen: swa êat êe ilk egh lokes in til heuen; and êan êe fire of lufe verrali ligges in êair hert, & byrnes êarin, & makes it clene of al erthly filth: & sithen forward êai er contemplatife men, & rauyst in lufe. For contemplacion es a syght: & êai se in til heuen with êar gastly egh. Bot êou sal witt êat naman hase perfite syght of heuen whils êai er lifand bodili here. Bot als sone als êai dye: êai er broght before god and sese hym face til face, & egh til egh: and wones with hym with-outen ende. For hym êai soght, & hym êai couayted, and hym êai lufed, in al êar myght.

A contemplative life has two parts:

a lower and a higher. The lower part is meditation, of holy writing, that is, God's words, and in other good thoughts & sweet, that men have of the grace of God, about the love of Jesus Christ; and also in loving of God in psalmes & hymns, or in prayers. The higher part of contemplation is beholding & yearning of the things of heaven, & joy in the Holy Ghost, that men have oft, even if it be so that they be not praying with the mouth, but only thinking of God, and of the fairness of angels, and holy souls. Then may I say that contemplation is a wonderful joy of God's love, the which joy is loving of God, that may not be told, and that wonderful loving is in the soul, and for abundance of joy and sweetness it ascends into the mouth, so that the heart and the tongue accord in one, and body & soul joy in the living God. A man or woman that is ordained to a contemplative life, first God inspires them to forsake this world, and all the vanity & the covetousness and the vile lust thereof. Then he leads them by themselves, & speaks to their heart, and as the prophet says, He gives them to suck the sweetness of the beginning of love, and then he sets them in will to give themselves wholly to prayers & meditations & tears. Then, when they have suffered many temptations, & the foul annoyances of thoughts that are idle, & of vanities the which will cumber them that can not destroy them, are passing away, he makes them gather to them their heart, & feast only in him, and opens to the eye of their souls the gates of heaven, so that the same eye looks into heaven, and then the fire of love verily lies in their heart, & burns therein, and makes it clean of all earthly filth, & thence forward they are contemplative men, and ravished in love. For contemplation is a sight, & they see into heaven with their ghostly eye. But thou shalt understand that no man has perfect sight of heaven whilst they are living bodily here. But as soon as they die, they are brought before God and see him face to face, & eye to eye, and dwell with him without end. For him they sought, and him they coveted, and him they loved, with all their might.


For an Unconverted Child

by Charles Wesley

1 Thou God, that hear'st the whisper'd prayer,
Regard a mournful mother's care
For her poor thoughtless son:
Anxious, distress'd, Thou know'st I live,
And still in secret places grieve
For follies not my own.

2 Can I my own dear child forget,
Or see without the last regret
His wild disorder'd ways,
His enmity to things Divine,
His league with hell, his feasts with swine,
His total want of grace?

3 Son of my womb, to evil sold,
Him I with streaming eyes behold
Entirely dead to Thee,
Careless, secure on Tophet's brink,
Ready with all his sins to sink
Into eternity.

4 But will his desperate madness go
Self-doom'd to everlasting woe,
Content, insensible?
What heart can bear the dreadful thought!
And have I into being brought,
And borne a child for hell!

5 Forbid it, O most gracious God!
With pity see him in his blood,
For Jesu's sake alone,
Regard my endless griefs and fears,
Nor let the son of all these tears
Be finally undone.

6 Fulfil at last my heart's desire,
And pluck the brand out of the fire,
And save him by Thy grace;
So shall I manifest Thy name,
With all I have, and all I am,
Devoted to Thy praise.

----Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley, vol. V, pp. 395-6 (curtailed).

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