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Vol. 3, No. 11
Nov., 1994

We Know in Part

by Glenn Conjurske

More than forty years ago William R. Newell spoke of the present age as the shallowest which the world has yet seen. Yet matters are much worse today than they were when Newell lived, and at the present day shallow ignorance is one of the most prominent characteristics of the church of God----shallow ignorance, wedded together with laziness, apathy, and intellectual pride. It is a strange anomaly, that while shallow ignorance reigns as king, even among the most eminent teachers of the church, that intellectual pride should reign as queen. Yet such is the fact. Pride is one of the greatest hindrances to the work of God everywhere, with almost every babe and novice thinking he knows better than his elders. Every greenhorn has all the answers, when he doesn't yet know what the questions are. Every man holds to his own unfounded opinions----opinions which he would know very well to be unfounded if he but knew a little more, but he is too apathetic to study, and too proud to be taught. Some few humble seekers for truth I have met, but alas, they are rare.

Ah! if only the church of God in this shallow day could come to grips with the statement of the great apostle Paul, “WE KNOW IN PART”! But this statement of the great apostle, which ought indeed to administer a check to the pride of the modern church, has actually been turned about by subtle sophistry to the opposite end, and made to aid and abet that pride. For the teachers of Fundamentalism commonly inform us that this text has nothing to do with the present age. No, it had its application only before the completion of the written New Testament. Then the poor saints knew in part, but now “that which is perfect”----being the completed Bible----has come, and we-------------what? Know even as we are known? I would think that to state such an interpretation would be to refute it. Say, ye leaders of the Fundamental church, who put such a construction upon Paul's words, do ye know even as ye are known? Can you seriously believe in such an interpretation yourself, or is this only a club with which to browbeat the Pentecostals?

The true interpretation of the passage has nothing to do with the completion of the canon of Scripture. The contrast drawn is between time and eternity. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Cor. 13:9-12). Even while I held to the interpretation which I am here opposing (for I was taught it at Bible school), I was uneasy with it. It seemed forced and unnatural. When Paul says, “then face to face,” the reference to the glorified state, “face to face” with Christ, seems so obvious that to apply it to anything else seems an impertinence. Moreover, the contrast which he draws between “now” and “then” is evidently a great one----the contrast between seeing in a glass darkly, and beholding face to face. Did any such great change take place when the canon of Scripture was completed? Could Paul have anticipated any such great change when the canon of Scripture was completed? For recall, Paul not only says, “We know in part,” but also “I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Thus speaks Paul, who had received such abundance of revelations that a thorn in the flesh must be given him, lest he be exalted above measure. Paul knew in part.

But further, the glass----the mirror, that is, for so it means----in which we now see darkly, in fact is the word of God. To us, indeed, this mirror can be nothing else but the written Scriptures. Thus James speaks, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:22-25). Here, without question, the mirror is the figure of the word of God. And Paul also says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Cor. 3:18). This is not the change “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” which shall take place when we see him face to face, but a gradual change, “from glory to glory.” And as it is gradual, so it is necessarily partial. John says, “It doth not yet appear”----that is, we do not yet see it: it has not yet been manifested----“what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2). John adds in the next verse, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” This is the gradual change of which Paul speaks, the being changed into the same image from glory to glory. The complete and instantaneous change is reserved till that moment when we see him as he is, “face to face,” as Paul speaks. Now we behold his glory “as in a glass”----imperfectly----“darkly.”

The glass of which Paul speaks was obviously not the mirror of today, in which we may see an image as perfect as the face-to-face vision. The mirrors of that day were of polished metal, in which the image was dim. Moses “made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the looking-glasses of the women.” (Ex. 38:8). “Looking-glass” is an old word for “mirror.” In this case they were of brass. It is such a mirror that Paul speaks of. To see “through” it means to see “by means of” it. By this means we have no face-to-face vision. We do not see him as he is, but “darkly”----literally, “in an enigma,” or “in a riddle”----in such a way, that is, as to leave many of our questions unanswered----in such a way as leaves us saying, “WE KNOW IN PART.” This mirror is the revelation of God which we now possess. It is the word of God.

Now there are many reasons why it is not possible that we shall ever have anything other than a very partial knowledge, so long as we remain on this earth and in these bodies. The first and most obvious of those reasons is that God has not revealed very much to us. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29). There are many secret things, which the Lord has not chosen to reveal to us. The book which he has given to us is a very small one, which we may hold in our hands. It contains but little of those things which God might have revealed. For every fact which it contains, there are untold millions of them which we shall never know in this life. No searching can bring them within our reach. And this is undoubtedly Paul's meaning in this passage.

But alas, we know but little even of those things which may be known. The depths of Scripture have never been sounded----not by any individual, and not by the whole church of God. Those who know the most struggle with many unanswered questions. Those who are the wisest are the first to confess that there is much in the Bible which they do not understand. John Wesley truly says, “There are many scriptures, the true sense whereof neither you nor I shall know, till death is swallowed up in victory.” This is a very bitter pill for me to swallow----idealist that I am, and strongly committed as I am to the propositions that the truth may be known, and that the Scriptures are meant to be understood. Yet for all that, I believe Wesley speaks true. The truth may be known indeed, but it may not be known easily, and we all of us labor under such severe limitations that we shall certainly never know all of it. Even in the sphere of “those things which are revealed,” we know in part. There is not a one of us who has a perfect understanding of revealed truth. Nay, there is not a one among us who has anything but a very partial understanding of it. We fail, all of us, to appropriate many even of those things which God has placed within our reach. We all of us go down to our graves still learning, and with much still to learn. Neither has the whole church of God yet fathomed the depths of revealed truth. Many ages of the church have added each their mite or two----while others have done no more than let slip what the previous ages had attained----and the church certainly knows more today than it did in the days of Luther or Wycliffe, but yet when the church of God hears at last the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of the Lord calling “Come up hither,” we shall yet know in part.

This, to stick with Paul's figure, not only because the mirror itself is dim, but because our eyes are dim also. To speak first of the mirror, the image which it gives is a dim one. “We see in a glass darkly”----in an enigma. Not only does it leave very much unrevealed, but many of the things which it reveals are not revealed clearly or explicitly, but “darkly.” Many of its statements are partial, cryptic, dark, enigmatic. Its doctrines are not revealed after the manner of a treatise in systematic theology, but piecemeal----here a type, there an example, yonder a precept, and occasionally a plain didactic statement. And all of this is handed to us like some immense jigsaw puzzle in its box, and we are left to piece it together. Former ages of the church have done much, but they have not always done their work soundly, and a part of our own work must necessarily be to take apart what they have put together.

Such are the limitations which the Book itself places us under. But we find in ourselves further limitations. First, we are limited by the weakness of the flesh. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I may offer this very statement as an example of the difficult process to which we are subjected in order to understand the Scriptures. For years I wrestled to know the meaning of this simple statement, “The flesh is weak”----trying all the while to give to “the flesh” the theological sense in which Paul uses it. But taken in that sense, it seemed to me that the real difficulty was that the flesh was strong. At length (and only recently) I was forced to abandon such thoughts, and find in “the flesh” nothing other than its literal meaning, as a designation of the body. And this suits the context of the statement exactly. The disciples were spiritually weak, and therefore needed to watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation. This their spirit was fully disposed to do, but the body was weak, and they all fell asleep instead of praying. “Watch and pray” means literally to “wake and pray,” but the body was weak, and must needs sleep, and the determination of the spirit was not strong enough to overcome the weakness of the flesh.

Now all of us are subject to this weakness of the flesh. Besides the natural dullness of brain which belongs in some degree to all of us, the flesh is weak in many other ways. We are weary and languid. “Much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:12), and we cannot acquire knowledge as we would, howsoever determined our spirits may be. And as we grow older, and become better equipped spiritually to understand those things which we need to know, the flesh becomes weaker. Our eyes begin to dim, and we cannot read as we once did. Our memories become dull. Our weary frame calls for sleep. We cannot concentrate as we wish we could. For all of these reasons “we know in part,” and always shall till we put off this tabernacle.

But we are limited in our very spirits. Though the spirit may be willing----yea, determined, eager, avid, ardent----yet the spirit is not so willing as it could be, or ought to be. Who among us can say that we have all the zeal which we ought to have? Who does not fall short in commitment? Who is not lacking in motivation? For these reasons, “we know in part.” I speak of the best and most zealous among us. Alas, the most of Christians are too apathetic and lazy even to appropriate that learning which former ages have handed to them cut and dried.

But could we suppose ourselves to be perfect in spirit and strong in body, yet we are very severely limited by the shortness of time. Supposing we have the will to read the great theological controversies of the past, supposing we have the desire to read the histories of the great movements of God's Spirit in the history of the church, supposing we have the determination to read the great biographies of evangelists and missionaries and men of God, we really have not the time to do so. There is so much which we positively need to know, in order to do the will of God, in order to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, in order to walk circumspectly, in order to deal effectually with the souls of men, in order to steer a straight course between the manifold snares on the right hand and the left, in order to lead the church of God----and the little vanishing vapor of our lives is altogether too short in which to learn it. We scarcely begin to learn how to live, and we die! Oh! for a thousand years in which to live and learn! Oh! for the life of an Adam, a Noah, a Shem! What giants of understanding must these men have been, who had nine hundred years in which to experience, to observe, to inquire, to meditate, and to discuss! What manifold wisdom must they have possessed! What knowledge of all of the ins and outs of human nature! What dwarfs and pygmies must all of us necessarily remain in comparison with them! They knew in part, and how much more we!

Even supposing that we had nothing else to do with our fast-fleeting lives but to gain understanding, yet would our case be lamentable enough. But the case is far otherwise. Most of us must spend much of our precious little time laboring to keep the wolf from the door, and to keep body and soul together----to pay the rent, to put food on the table, to pay the doctor and the dentist, to put clothes on our backs, and to keep the old car on the road. Beyond this, some of us are called to spend ourselves in endeavoring to impart our little store of understanding to others. And we are all our brothers' keepers, and must do what we can, in spite of our scant ability, to turn the wicked from his wicked way. What little time is left us in which to learn! Yet the wisest of men admonishes us, “Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Prov. 4:7). Yet those who take this admonition most to heart, and labor the most diligently through all the little vapor of their lives to gain that understanding, will do no more than make a small beginning ere the hand of death cuts them down, and while they live will feel the most deeply that “we know in part.” Whatever little we may gain of wisdom we shall find to be “more precious than rubies” (Prov. 3:15), but it will be little enough after all. There is much to be gained from books, and much to be gained from experience and observation, but our time is too little in which to gain it. Therefore “we know in part”----and, alas, too often know amiss, so that if men will write books when they are young, they must write “retractions” when they are old.

But we are further limited in means. Even supposing that those books which would contribute the most to building us up in understanding were readily available on the market (and that we knew what those books were), most of us have not the money to buy them. But those books are not available. We cannot obtain them. Half of our lives we spend learning what books are worth reading, and the other half trying to find them. And then (alas!!) when after years of searching we find such a book, it often so happens that we cannot afford to buy it. For while we know the spiritual value of the book, the bookseller knows well enough its monetary value. But many of those books we shall never see for sale. Many of them we shall never find in a library. Copies of them exist----somewhere. They are in the Bodleian Library, the British Museum, the Methodist Archives, the New York Public Library----but we have no means to go there, even supposing we had the time. Therefore “we know in part.”

But further, all who make a serious pursuit of understanding will very soon find that they are limited by language. Those of us who speak English, to be sure, have the advantage over every other people on the globe, but still we are greatly limited. What treasures of understanding lie locked up in the French and German tongues----or, if a man is French or German, in the English tongue. What treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie locked up in the Latin tongue----thirty volumes, for example, of the writings of John Wycliffe, most of them never translated into English. Alas, when I was young, I had the Latin handed to me on a platter, but I was too lazy to learn it. I had no purpose, and no motivation. I mocked the Latin tongue, calling it a dead language which was as dry as a desert in a drought. Little did I know that there were springs of living water in that desert, and little did I care. But now I must pay the price for my former ignorance and folly. Now those wells of water remain all but sealed up, and only by tedious labor may I drink a little of them.

We are all of us, then, very severely limited in our pursuit of “the principal thing.” Like it or not, “we know in part,” and what we know is indeed a small part. We know little even of that which may be known. We know little even of that which ought to be known. On this point Paul says plainly, “If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he OUGHT to know.” (I Cor. 8:2). We know but little even of those things which most concern our own spiritual welfare, and the welfare of the work of the Lord which is committed into our hands, for again Paul says plainly, “We know not what we should pray for as we OUGHT.” (Rom. 8:26). So little do we know of human nature that we often find ourselves unable to deal effectually with those who are nearest and dearest to us. We cannot find the root of the difficulty, so as to deliver a beloved soul from the slough of despond. And if we know where the root is, we know not how to root it out, so as to deliver beloved souls from the snares of the world, or from the complacencies of a lukewarm evangelicalism. And if we know not this, what do we know? “We know in part”----all of us----the wisest among us.

And here it should be observed that Paul does not merely say, “We know in part,” but “I know in part.” He is not speaking merely of the ignorance of the carnal Corinthians to whom he writes, but of his own ignorance, though he was an apostle of Christ. And I myself, though I have no doubt whatsoever of my divine call to teach the people of God, must yet affirm with heart-felt conviction, “I know in part.” The most common answer I give when spiritual questions are put to me is, “I don't know.” Many subjects I dare not say much upon. Many texts of Scripture I dare not say much about. A decade ago I began to write a book on God and Mammon----feeling as I do that there is so much in the Scriptures that is so clear and so forceful on the subject, and so little heeded in the church of God today, and so important to the spiritual health of the people of God, that a book on such a subject is very greatly needed at this time. But I had not written far when I began deeply to feel my unfitness for the task. I simply do not know enough to be able to write such a book. I have too many unanswered questions----deep and important questions, which are really at the heart of the matter. So the book lies by me yet, unfinished, and scarcely begun. Some are offended at me because I speak so authoritatively. Little do they know how often I refrain from speaking at all, because I feel so deeply my own ignorance. I do indeed speak authoritatively, when I happen to know something, and so offend those who know the answers without knowing the questions. So did Peter, and John, and Paul, and Amos, and Ezekiel. Yet they knew in part, and “I know in part.”

We may consider ourselves to be making good progress if we but understand what the issues are, without being able to resolve them. I was once speaking with a very good and zealous man, who questioned me concerning a matter of deep practical importance. I told him that I certainly did not have all the answers, but proceeded very briefly, in about five minutes' time, to run through the various scriptures on the subject. When I had finished, he immediately responded with, “I used to think I knew something. Now I don't know anything.” But I replied, “Before you had all the answers. Now you know what the questions are.”

When God would make Job to feel his littleness, he did not reprove him concerning sin, but only began to ask him questions----none of which Job could answer. And there are a thousand deep (and important) doctrinal and practical questions which none of us can answer. What is the real extent of human depravity, and of what exactly does it consist? What exactly is “the body of sin” of which Paul speaks? What exactly is “the flesh”? In what does “sin that dwells in me” consist? How is it related to the body? To the soul? To the spirit? To the mind? To the emotions? To the will? How does the Spirit of God dwell in me? How does he strengthen me with might in the inner man? What is the relationship between means and the power of God, and what the place of each? Of what exactly does a spiritual gift consist? When and how is it communicated? What is the difference between faith and hope? What took place in King Saul when “God gave him another heart”? It may be that you can answer some of my questions, and I some of yours, but it yet remains that every sincere seeker of truth has a thousand questions which no one can answer. “We know in part,” and those who have the most ready answers are commonly those who know the least of what they are talking about.

And yet in spite of all of this ignorance, what pride of intellect goes about preening itself in the church of God----men strutting about with unsound doctrines, false assumptions, foolish reasonings, shallow cliches, and unconscionable rationalizations fairly dripping from them, and yet priding themselves that they hold the true doctrines of the Scriptures, and despising all who do not see eye to eye with them! Babes and novices, despising those who are twice their age, and who know ten times more than themselves! Yea, and many who are neither babes nor novices, who seem to know everything except the real extent of their own ignorance. They have no sounder basis for their certainty than their own pride, and yet they are generally just as sure as Job's friends were, and generally just as wrong. Yet they will hold to their own opinion, though it has no more basis in truth or fact than Humpty Dumpty. Yet they must despise those who really do know a few things. Yet they must dispute and set their neighbors right, or stand up to preach and teach, or write and print and publish, when they had by all means better go to the back side of the desert to learn a few things. Really, the church of God is in a very sorry state, and it is really no wonder that the work of the Lord so little prospers.

Now to know that “we know in part” is a very great gain. It is in fact one of the most valuable nuggets of knowledge which we shall ever possess----especially if we have any proper understanding of the real extent of our ignorance. And to feel that “we know in part” is a greater gain still----and the more deeply we feel it, the better. Not that our feeling this will cure it. No, but it may cure some other things. “We know in part,” and there is really no cure for that, but our feeling it as we ought may contribute a good deal to curing our pride, and that may contribute a good deal towards our acquisition of a little of true knowledge and genuine wisdom.


Bring Me a Minstrel

by Glenn Conjurske

“And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the Lord hath called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab! But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah. And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the Lord is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the Lord hath called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab. And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.” (II Kings 3:10-15).

This is one of the most interesting episodes in the life of the great Elisha, and it is full of instruction for us, both doctrinal and practical. Elisha was a man of God. He was a great man of God----a man of renown. The fame of his doings had spread his name abroad, and he was well known, not only in his own kingdom of Israel, but also in the southern kingdom of Judah. Jehoshaphat knew who he was, and at the mention of his name immediately affirms, “The word of the Lord is with him.”

But this day the word of the Lord was not with him. His spirit was grieved and shackled, and he could not prophesy----no, not when called upon to do so by three kings. Elsewhere we see the great prophet going in and out among the people, and acting always freely and spontaneously. When Elijah was about to be taken up from him, and asked him, “What shall I do for thee?” there was no hesitation on Elisha's part. He knew exactly what to speak, and immediately responded with, “Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” When he saw his great master carried away to heaven by a whirlwind, he knew exactly what to do, and acted without a moment's hesitation. He took up the mantle of Elijah, smote the waters, and passed over dry shod.

Likewise throughout all of his life. When he is told of the waters and the situation of Jericho, he does not hesitate, but says, “Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein,” and he walked forth to the spring of waters, cast in the salt, and said, “Thus saith the Lord: I have healed these waters.” When he was told there was death in the pot, he said, “Then bring meal,” and he cast it into the pot and healed the pottage. So when the axe was lost in the water. So when the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to him, when the creditor was about to take away her two sons. So when the Shunammite's son was dead. So always and everywhere. He acted spontaneously for God, and spoke for God without hesitation or restraint. He even went out of his way to do so. When Naaman went to the king to be healed of his leprosy, Elisha sent for him, saying, “Let him now come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” But on this day his spirit is under a cloud of gloom, and he cannot say, “Thus saith the Lord.” On this day he is as it were no prophet. The word of the Lord is not with him. He cannot act. He cannot speak.

But understand, Elisha was no backslider on this occasion. Far from that. He was the same faithful prophet of the Lord that he always was. Where does his faithfulness ever shine brighter than on this day, when he stands before the king of Israel and rebukes him to his face, in the presence of two kings? “What have I to do with thee?” he says. “Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother.” Get thee, that is, to the false prophets whom thou hast honored hitherto. But the king of Israel is in sore straits today, and false prophets will not do. They may content him on a smooth sea, but in the storm he feels instinctively that he must have a prophet of God. “Nay,” he says, “for the Lord hath called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab”----as if to say, What good could the prophets of my father and my mother do me in such a case? Now that dishonor, defeat, and death stare him in the face, he must have a prophet of God.

But this probably serves only the more deeply to provoke the spirit of the prophet of God. Shall this ungodly king despise the God of heaven all his days, and then expect that God to come to his deliverance when he is in distress? Here Elisha can speak for God, and that without the slightest hesitation. “Were it not,” he says, “that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.” What word is this to speak to a king, in the presence of other kings? Surely Elisha's faithful spirit never shone brighter than this.

Still, he cannot prophesy. Why not? Is he not a man of God? Is not the word of the Lord with him? True indeed, but today his spirit is shackled. Mark now, what was wanted was a direct revelation from God. When he did speak to this occasion, it was with a direct revelation from God. Why could not God give to him that revelation? Was the omnipotent God dependent upon the moods of Elisha? Was the Spirit of God shackled because the spirit of Elisha was? Was the Spirit of God dependent upon the music of a minstrel? Yes. So he is. The Spirit of God is not overbearing. He does not push his prophets, nor overrule their spirits. The Lord is not in the great and strong wind which rends the mountains, and breaks the rocks in pieces. The Lord is not in the earthquake, nor in the fire. He is in the still, small voice. The spirit of his prophet must therefore be warmed----soothed----stirred----refreshed----that the still, small voice may be heard.

Now there are places, occasions, situations, which bind and shackle the spirits of God's prophets, so that they cannot act. I have preached in a church in which I could not weep----and felt that, had I done so, the tears would have frozen on my cheeks. I have preached where I had to struggle to speak at all. Those who know nothing of this are no prophets of God. False prophets can prophesy alike on all occasions. So can presumptuous spirits, whom the Lord has not sent. Their own opinions, their own theology, their studied sermons, are as good as a message from God. What need have they of the still, small voice, or of a spirit free to move between God and man?

The Lord of all the prophets, with omnipotent power at his command, found his spirit shackled in his own country, and of him we read, “He could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.” (Mark 6:5). He could do no mighty work there. His spirit was not free to act.

So it was with Elisha on the occasion before us. The situation oppressed his spirit. The ungodly king of ten tribes of the Lord's people, the ungodly king of a heathen nation, and the godly king of two of God's tribes----these three are united together in an ecumenical alliance, which leaves the spirit of Elisha shackled and bound. His spirit is free to rebuke, as we have seen, but to preach deliverance----his spirit cannot rise to that.

Yet he regards the presence of good Jehoshaphat, and for his sake he will make an attempt. But he needs help. His spirit is enveloped in a chilling cloud of gloom. He is like the desert lizard in the cold, willing to run, but scarcely able to move his stiffened limbs. He needs to feel the warming sun. He needs something to raise his spirit above this unhallowed atmosphere, and he calls for a minstrel. The minstrel plays, not classical music or folk songs, but hymns and spiritual songs. One and another he plays, and the spirit of the man of God is soothed and refreshed. He begins to rise above the things which had so stifled his spirit. The chilling atmosphere begins to lose its grip upon him, and, like the lizard in the sun, he begins to feel his old freedom return. The minstrel continues to play, and lights, perchance, upon an old hymn which Elijah had loved. Elisha listens, and his spirit is warmed. He begins to feel the spirit of his master. The old fire begins to burn. His tears begin to flow. His spirit is unshackled, and he feels that he can prophesy. He lifts his face from his hands, and opens his eyes. He stands to his feet, and cries, “Thus saith the Lord!”

But who was this minstrel? Of that we know nothing, not so much as his name. When the work of the Lord had been dependent upon Moses, and yet Moses was unable to do it through weakness of the flesh, two men stood by him to hold up his hands. We know their names----Aaron and Hur. But when the work depended upon Elisha, and he stood in need of a man to warm his spirit to the task, we know not so much as the name of the man who came to his aid. He was not a man of renown. He was no prophet. But if he could not prophesy, he could help the man of God to do so. And in this we see that “those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.” The foot cannot hear as the ear, but it can carry the ear within hearing range. The hand cannot see as the eye, but it can wipe the matter from the weary eye to help it see. This unknown man could not prophesy, but he could warm the spirit of the great Elisha, so that he could. The minstrel could not do what Elisha did, but then neither could Elisha have done it, but for the minstrel.

But alas, how many who could pour the sweet music into the ear of the burdened man of God, fail altogether to do so. For every minstrel, there are a hundred critics. “There sits the great Elisha,” they say, “unable to prophesy! Elisha thought he was a prophet of God, but now we see what he is worth! It may be he did have the power of God once, but now he has lost it!” So speak self-importance and ill-will. But not so speaks the dear minstrel of this passage. Though he was as much in need of water, and in as much danger of defeat, as the rest of the company, not a word of complaint or reproach flows from his lips, but sweet music from the strings of his instrument, warming, soothing, encouraging, dispelling gloom, and infusing life and power into the spirit of the man of God.

Now for all of this the day of recompense is yet coming. The roll of worthies will yet be called, and the rewards conferred for the exploits wrought for the Lord of hosts in that far distant past. A reward shall surely be given for the deliverance wrought on that day, and that reward shall go to Elisha and the unknown minstrel.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

C. H. Mackintosh

C. H. Mackintosh (1820-1896) belonged to the early Plymouth Brethren movement, and has probably been more widely read by those outside the Brethren movement than any other of the Brethren. D. L. Moody freely acknowledged his indebtedness to Mackintosh's writings. As a young man Mackintosh sat under the ministry of J. G. Bellett, but his own writings are much more practical than Bellett's. They were published on both sides of the Atlantic, by Morrish in England, and by Loizeaux in America. The Morrish editions are a thing of the past, but Loizeaux has kept them in print since they were first published a century ago. His Notes on the Pentateuch, in six volumes, were first published in 1880, and I have the twenty-seventh printing, dated 1965. His Miscellaneous Writings, also in six volumes, were first published in 1898, and I have the eleventh printing, dated 1966. The Morrish edition of the latter set has seven volumes, and is somewhat different in content and arrangement. Mackintosh's writings have often been published without the author's full name, under the initials C. H. M., according to the usual practice of the early Plymouth Brethren.

These writings were recommended by one of my teachers at Bible school, and when, immediately after graduation, I left Grand Rapids for Gateway, Colorado, to pastor a very small church, these volumes formed a part of my little library, which would then fit in the trunk of my 1960 Rambler Classic. At just the time that I arrived in Gateway, a woman arrived there also, who had been converted five years before in a Southern Baptist church. She was very ignorant of the Bible, and told me she thought God had brought her there to straighten her out. I began to lend her my books, and she read one or two a week. I was then very much enamored with Lewis Sperry Chafer, and did my best to put the poor woman through a course of Satan, Grace, and He That Is Spiritual. One time, however, I gave her a volume of C. H. M. When she brought it back I tried to recommend other books, but she said, “No----I think I'll take another one of Mackintosh.” She read right through all of the twelve volumes, and grew like a weed----though, alas, some years later she grievously backslid. I don't know that we can blame C. H. M. for that----I am sure I deserve more of the blame----though, like all the Brethren, he is much stronger on the grace of God than he is on the responsibility of man. At a little later date I gave a set of the Miscellaneous Writings to another friend, with whom I had graduated from Bible school, and tried to get him to read them. He tried a volume, but could not get interested, and told me that Mackintosh seemed to him to be “just like Ironside”----which was his way of telling me he was shallow and empty. But I supposed that the real difficulty lay in the fact that C. H. M. was simply beyond his spiritual capacity, and so I told him, “Put him on the shelf for five years, and then try him again.” When I saw him again a number of years later, I asked him if he had ever read any more of C. H. M. He then told me enthusiastically that he had picked up a volume and started to read it, and found it so good he could not stop, but had read through all of the volumes.

At about the time that I graduated from Bible school, I became very partial to the writings of the early Brethren, and imbibed the sectarian spirit of the movement, though the Brethrenism of the present day never had any charms for me, and I never had any ecclesiastical association with them, though some of the leaders of the exclusives tried hard enough to proselyte me. I began to search diligently for their books, buying them wherever I could find them, and sending lists of my “wants” to book stores in England and America. One item on my list was Things New and Old, a monthly periodical edited for twenty-one years (1858-1878) by Mackintosh, and afterwards by others. In August of 1971 I took my wife, pregnant with our first child, to the doctor----who of course must saddle us with unwanted and unnecessary procedures, and a large bill. We were poor as usual, and walked out to our old jalopy downcast and discouraged. We got into the car, and I made an attempt to brighten up our spirits by saying, “Let's go home and get our package from Lamp Press”----only teasing, of course, and having no reason to expect any such package. The mail had arrived before we got home, and we found waiting for us several packages from Lamp Press, containing among other things, 23 volumes of Things New and Old, for 50 pence, or about $1.20, per volume. I had not ordered these, but got them from my wants list. Of course I had to pay for these as well as the doctor, but I have never minded spending money for books----have denied myself many other things in order to do so----and our discouragement vanished when we opened these parcels.

Many of C. H. M.'s Miscellaneous Writings were first published anonymously in Things New and Old, and in reading over these volumes I found that they contained numerous articles by him, which were not included in the Miscellaneous Writings. Though these articles were mostly anonymous, C. H. M.'s spirit and style were easily recognized by one as familiar with his writings as I was. I have always had a strong desire to publish good books, though poverty has usually prevented me from doing much about it. But I went to work on Things New and Old, culling whatever was obviously from the pen of C. H. M. My wife and I typed these out, and proofread them aloud. The result was a manuscript of 600 single-spaced typed pages, which I divided into two volumes and entitled Short Papers. Believers Bookshelf of Sunbury, Pa. (a Plymouth Brethren publisher), agreed to publish them, which they did in 1975, after three years of delays. I received nothing for my labor----which was as I wished it----and never even received a copy of the book. Nor was it published to my satisfaction. The publishers were to send the proof pages to me for correction, but they never did so, and judging from the number and character of errors in the volumes, it is evident that they were never proofread by anyone. The spaces in my typescript between the individual pieces of correspondence in the second volume, to which I direct the reader in the preface, were entirely omitted by the typesetter, and I had no way to know this until the books were on the market. The publishers also copyrighted the books, against our explicit agreement, and added a notice which says, “All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted by any process whatsoever without written permission of the copyright owner.” And this upon writings which have been public property for a hundred years? Though this is a common practice with modern Christian publishers, I cannot regard it as anything more than intimidation. That copyright can legally apply to nothing but the new material in the book, that is, in this case, to the editor's preface, and a couple of his incidental notes----altogether little more than a page of print. I wrote to the publishers to expostulate about all of these things, but never received a reply. I do not own a copy of these volumes, but of course have their contents in Things New and Old. There were still copies of this set available in the last catalog I had from the publisher, and there is profit in them, though I find it difficult to recommend a work so poorly printed.

The passing years have taught me many things, and I do not now think so highly of the writings of C. H. M., nor of all of his doctrines, as I did when I edited these books, but if read with discretion his writings will be of profit. They exalt Christ and his work, strongly enforce the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures, appeal to the heart and conscience, and insist upon real practical righteousness. They are simple, practical, and forceful. He is dogmatic in tone, and his style tends to be a little affected and grandiloquent, but there is solid matter in what he says. Like the Brethren in general, Mackintosh was very Calvinistic, and tends at times to hyperspirituality, but his writings are practical, and, if balanced by a good dose of the spirit of early Methodism, are likely to do good. Though he was as thoroughly Plymouth Brethren as any man in the denomination, “Brethren principles” are rarely pushed in his writings. An exception to this is in his fifteen “Letters to a Friend on the Present Condition of Things,” which appeared in volumes XVII and XVIII of Things New and Old, and which have been reprinted by various Brethren publishers.

In recent years Loizeaux has discontinued both of C. H. M.'s six-volume sets, and recast them into two large double-columned volumes, of course with a copyright thrown in.



F. H. A. Scrivener on Textual Criticism

by Glenn Conjurske

Both sides in the debate over the true principles of textual criticism have been anxious to claim Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener. By “both sides” I refer to J. W. Burgon and his few disciples on the one side, and Westcott and Hort and their innumerable disciples on the other side. Edward Miller, a disciple of Burgon, and the editor of his posthumous works, unhesitatingly claims Scrivener, though with a little qualification. Miller says, “The leaders in the advocacy of this system have been Dr. Scrivener in a modified degree, and especially Dean Burgon.” The “modified degree” of Scrivener's views probably consisted in the sole fact that he gave more weight to the ancient uncials than Burgon did, though this may generally have made little practical difference. But in the rare instances where the more ancient evidence in general stands united against the more modern manuscripts in general, Scrivener would likely adopt the ancient reading, while Burgon's bias would probably lead him to favor the modern. The bias of Westcott and Hort, on the other hand, and most of the modern editors with them, led them to prefer almost any scrap of ancient evidence, against the majority of ancient and modern manuscripts alike, so long as it overturned the traditional text. Thus, for example, as I have pointed out in these pages before, in Rev. 5:9 the modern editors take A virtually alone, against everything else (including a). This is the kind of thing which Philip Schaff naively calls “the older uncial text” (see below).

The side of the modern editors has also done its best to claim Scrivener, and has in fact done a little better at it than the facts will allow. Philip Schaff, professor in Union Theological Seminary, and member of the New Testament company of (American) revisers, which produced the old American Standard Version, says of Scrivener, “He is the most learned representative of the conservative school of textual criticism, but is gradually and steadily approaching the position of the modern critics in exchanging the textus receptus for the older uncial text. He frankly confesses `that there was a time when he believed that the inconveniences and dangers attending a formal revision of the Bible of 16ll exceeded in weight any advantages which might accrue from it;' that `his judgment has been influenced, though slowly and with some reluctance, by the growing necessity for a change imposed by the rapid enlargement of the field of biblical knowledge within the last forty years;' and that `his new opinion has been not a little confirmed by the experience he has gained while actually engaged upon the execution of the work.' And as regards the text, he says, after enumerating the recent discoveries of MSS.: `When these and a flood of other documents, including the more ancient Syriac, Latin, and Coptic versions, are taken into account, many alterations in the Greek text cannot but be made, unless we please to close our eyes to the manifest truth.”'

Concerning this I observe first of all that the question of the revision of the English Bible has nothing to do with the subject, and for Schaff to introduce this with the words “he frankly confesses,” immediately after asserting that his views on textual criticism were changing, can only indicate that Schaff was either confused himself, or designed to confuse others. The two issues are not the same, and to use Scrivener's avowal of a change of views regarding the revision of the English Bible to support his own opinion concerning Scrivener's change of views on textual criticism is hardly fair.

Neither is it fair to make it an issue of “exchanging the textus receptus for the older uncial text.” Sometimes, indeed, the textus receptus stands with the old uncials, when they are both wrong.

Neither is it fair to make it an issue of “exchanging the textus receptus” for anything whatsoever. Neither Burgon nor Scrivener ever contended for retaining the textus receptus without revision. No change was needed in Scrivener's views, therefore, in order for him to part with the errors of the textus receptus. The only question is, What did he wish to “exchange” it for? Not the “old uncial text,” as Schaff would have it, but the text which is best supported, by all the evidence----uncial and cursive manuscripts, ancient versions, and quotations in the fathers. Scrivener's own statement on this shall be given further along.

It will be observed further that in spite of all that he says here, Schaff yet acknowledges Scrivener as a representative of the conservative school of textual criticism. But he follows the above with a footnote, in which he says, “His [Scrivener's] Six Lectures on the Text of the New Testament, published in 1875, mark a little progress beyond the second edition of his Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 1874, and the third edition published in 1883, occupies substantially the same position. He gives up the spurious interpolation of the three witnesses as hopelessly untenable, and on the disputed reading in 1 Tim. iii.16, where his friend, Dean Burgon, so strenuously insists on qeov", Scrivener, in his Lectures, p. 192 sq., makes the following admission: `On the whole, if Codd. A, C, be kept out of sight (and we know not how more light can be thrown on their testimony), this is one of the controversies which the discovery of Cod. a ought to have closed, since it adds a first-rate uncial witness to a case already very strong through the support of versions. Slowly and deliberately, yet in full confidence that God in other passages of his written word has sufficiently assured us of the Proper Divinity of his Incarnate Son, we have yielded up this clause as no longer tenable against the accumulated force of external evidence which has been brought against it.' In his Introd. ed. iii. p. 637-642, he speaks hesitatingly. In his last ed. of the Stephanic text (1887) he records the readings of Westcott and Hort, but calls their ed. a `splendidum peccatum, non kth'ma eij" ajeiv!”'

A number of things must be noted on this. First, Scrivener's giving up of the three heavenly witnesses indicates no change of principle whatever, but only the application of his own principles, and Burgon's. Schaff's using such an example to prove his case can only indicate that he little understood what he was talking about.

Next, his giving up of qeov" in I Tim. 3:16 does not necessarily bespeak a change of principles, but only a conclusion to which his principles led him----“gradually and deliberately”----on a confessedly difficult question. Nevertheless, it is possible that there was some change of principle here, probably due to the powerful pleading of Hort, with whom Scrivener was then working on the Revised Version. But if so, the change was evidently a temporary one. After quoting the unequivocal capitulation on this verse which Scrivener made in 1875, Schaff goes on to inform us that Scrivener “speaks hesitatingly” in 1883 (in the 3rd edition of his Introduction). There was no hesitation, but the very reverse, in his Six Lectures, in 1875. Why did he “speak hesitatingly” eight years later? And why did not Schaff tell us what he said in 1883? Scrivener's last word on I Tim. 3:16 was “I dare not pronounce qeov" a corruption.” Though I have only the second and fourth editions of Scrivener's Introduction, this must have been written in his third edition, the last which he prepared himself, for the editor of his fourth edition tells us that Scrivener wrote this statement before the appearance of Burgon's lengthy treatise on the passage (in The Revision Revised, 1883). Since Schaff had Scrivener's third edition in his hand, and could tell us he “spoke hesitatingly” in it, it was hardly fair not to tell us what he said, for what he said in 1883 is hardly consistent with Schaff's thesis that Scrivener was gradually moving away from his former principles----or gradually abandoning the common text for that of the old uncials. If we compare his statements on I Tim. 3:16, made in 1875 and 1883, it will appear that during that interval he was actually moving in the opposite direction from that which Schaff supposes. But all of this probably indicates nothing more than a temporary wavering on Scrivener's part, in 1875, but no permanent change of principles.

In his book published in 1875, Scrivener does make some rather remarkable statements, which might certainly have given the appearance that he was drifting towards the position occupied by Westcott and Hort. For example, “Where the five great codices are unanimous, as here, there can be no doubt that we are bound to follow them.” This certainly looks like pleading for “the older uncial text”----though in fact it is not saying anything much different from what he had previously said in his Introduction, and in reality it is not saying much at all, since those old uncials so seldom agree, excepting, of course, when they all agree with the bulk of the later manuscripts. On this Scrivener had said in his Introduction:

“The point on which we insist is briefly this:----that the evidence of ancient authorities is anything but unanimous; that they are perpetually at variance with each other, even if we limit the term ancient within the narrowest bounds. Shall it include, among the manuscripts of the Gospels, none but the five oldest copies Codd. aABCD? The reader has but to open the first recent critical work he shall meet with, to see them scarcely ever in unison; perpetually divided two against three, or perhaps four against one. ... If the question be fairly proposed, `What right have we to set virtually aside the agreement in the main of our oldest uncials...with the citations of the primitive fathers, and with the earliest versions?': the answer must be rendered without hesitation, no right whatever. Where the oldest of these authorities really agree, we accept their united testimony as practically conclusive. It is not at all our design to seek our readings from the later uncials, supported as they usually are by the mass of cursive manuscripts; but to employ their confessedly secondary evidence in those numberless instances wherein their elder brethren are hopelessly at variance. We do not claim for the recent documents the high consideration and deference fitly reserved for a few of the oldest; just as little do we think it right to pass them by in silence, and allow to them no more weight or importance than if they had never been written.” There really does not appear to be any material change between the principles of the Introduction and those of the Six Lectures.

But Scrivener says further “however jealous we may be of admitting any variation into the text on its [Codex B's] solitary evidence, we shall meet with not a few cases wherein, seconded by the Sinai copy [a] and by that copy almost alone, the intrinsic goodness of the reading it exhibits will hardly lead us to hesitate to receive it as true.”

Here we are almost ready to exclaim, This is not Scrivener speaking, but Hort!----even down to the very terminology. That it is Hort's influence we need not doubt. More on that in the next paragraph, but first let us point out that while Scrivener proposes such a thing in theory in 1875, in practice he continually rejects the testimony of a & B. Their reading in John 1:18 (“only-begotten God”) he very rightly calls “a term that reverential minds instinctively shrink from”----a term “which one hardly likes to utter with the voice”----and says further, “Every one must feel the new reading to be false, even though for the sake of consistency he may be forced to uphold it. We are bound by no such stern law, and note the present as a case wherein Cod. A and the mass of copies, well supported by versions, affords us a purer text than Codd. aBCL 33.” (D is defective at John 1:18, but W, unknown while Scrivener lived, supports the common reading.) a & B also omit Matt. 16:2 & 3, and of this Scrivener says, “It really seems impossible for any one possessed of the slightest tincture of critical instinct to read the verses thoughtfully, without feeling sure that they were actually spoken by the Lord; so that, internal evidence in their favour being clear and well-nigh irresistible, the opposing witnesses rather damage their own authority than impair our confidence in our conclusion.” This is certainly plain enough speaking, and it certainly does not indicate any acquiescence in the position of Hort and his disciples.

But that Scrivener did waver a little about the time of the deliverance of his Six Lectures, we will not deny. That temporary wavering is easily accounted for. He was then working on the revision of the New Testament, spending many days in the Jerusalem Chamber listening to the powerful pleading and adroit argumentation of Hort. Scrivener was very diffident----so in his very nature, and the more so because of the real learning which he possessed. Hort was just the reverse. One of his great admirers (George Salmon) says of him, “Dr. Hort was a man...who held his opinions with an intensity of conviction which he could not fail to communicate to those who came in contact with him, while his singular skill as an advocate enabled him with small difficulty to dissipate all objections to his own views.” Salmon speaks further of “knowing, as I do, how difficult it was for any one to come within the sphere of his influence (not to say to carry on work in conjunction with him) without being made to adopt all his conclusions.”

Salmon speaks elsewhere on this wise: “That which gained Hort so many adherents had some adverse influence with myself----I mean his extreme cleverness as an advocate; for I have felt as if there were no reading so improbable that he could not give good reasons for thinking it to be the only genuine.” It were not surprising, then, if so diffident a man as Scrivener felt to some degree the spell of Hort in 1875, when he was working with him day by day. But that any influence Hort had with him was neither deep nor permanent is evident enough from Scrivener's characterization (in 1887) of Westcott and Hort's text as “a splendid mistake, not an attainment to endure”----as his Latin and Greek (cited above) may be rendered. Such a statement hardly puts him in the vicinity of Schaff and the rest of Hort's disciples.

But Schaff speaks again concerning Scrivener in the same book, saying, “Dean Burgon and Canon Cook claim Dr. Scrivener on their side; but he is identified with the Revision as one of the members of the New Test. Company. In the second edition of his Introduction (1874), and still more in his later Six Lectures on the Text of the New Testament (1875), he already departs in some very important cases from the textus receptus.” But again, this almost looks like writing on purpose to confuse the public. Where did Burgon ever contend for retaining the textus receptus without revision? Nay, he often contended for a revision of it. And to what end are we told that Scrivener is identified with the revisers as one of their company? It would have been much more to the purpose to inform us (as Burgon does): “It cannot be too plainly or too often stated that learned Prebendary Scrivener is wholly guiltless of the many spurious `Readings' with which a majority of his co-Revisionists have corrupted the Word of GOD. He pleaded faithfully,----but he pleaded in vain.”

Burgon records further, “As for Prebendary Scrivener,----the only really competent Textual Critic of the whole party,----it is well known that he found himself perpetually outvoted by two-thirds of those present. We look forward to the forthcoming new edition of his Plain Introduction, in the confident belief that he will there make it abundantly plain that he is in no degree responsible for the monstrous Text which it became his painful duty to conduct through the Press on behalf of the entire body, of which he continued to the last to be a member. It is no secret that, throughout, Dr. Scrivener pleaded in vain for the general view we have ourselves advocated in this and the preceding Article.”

The third edition of Scrivener's Introduction appeared ere Burgon's book was through the press, and on the reverse of his title page Burgon quoted several of Scrivener's statements condemning Westcott and Hort's text, closing with one which says, “the System which entails such consequences is hopelessly self-condemned.” This is clear enough, and it certainly does not sustain Schaff's contention that Scrivener was gradually moving towards the position of Hort and his school. Yet Scrivener was to speak once more on the subject, shortly before his death. In a special postscript following the Introduction to his Adversaria Critica Sacra, he says,

“My lamented friend and fellow student, the late Very Reverend J. W. Burgon, Dean of Chichester, very earnestly requested me, that if I lived to complete the present work, I would publickly testify that my latest labours had in no wise modified my previous critical convictions, namely, that the true text of the New Testament can best and most safely be gathered from a comprehensive acquaintance with every source of information yet open to us, whether they be Manuscripts of the original text, Versions, or Fathers; rather than from a partial representation of three or four authorities which, though in date the more ancient and akin in character, cannot be made even tolerably to agree together.

“I saw on my own part no need of such avowal, yet (neget quis carmina Gallo? [who would refuse a song to Gallus?]) I could not deny Dean Burgon's request.”

Scrivener saw no need of such an avowal, evidently supposing that his published works made his position clear enough. Yet in the light of Schaff's statements, there was evidently more need of it than he was aware. Observe also, he here explicitly disavows the “old uncial text,” unless it has a comprehensive basis of support from other sources----for those “more ancient” authorities, which “cannot be made even tolerably to agree together,” are precisely those old uncials, before which Westcott and Hort and all their disciples are content to bow.

The real difference between the views of Scrivener and Burgon seems to lie in the weight which each attached to the ancient uncial manuscripts. Burgon held them, a, B, and D in particular, to be some of the most corrupt manuscripts in existence. Scrivener speaks more kindly of them, saying of Codex B, “Those who agree the most unreservedly respecting the age of the Codex Vaticanus, vary widely in their estimate of its critical value. By some it has been held in such undue esteem that its readings, if probable in themselves, and supported (or even though not supported) by two or three other copies and versions, have been accepted in preference to the united testimony of all authorities besides: while others have spoken of its text as one of the most vicious extant. Without anticipating what must be discussed hereafter...we may say at once, that neither of these views can commend itself to impartial judges: that while we accord to Cod. B at least as much weight as to any single document in existence, we ought never to forget that it is but one out of many.” He speaks elsewhere of “Codex Vaticanus, which in common with our opponents we regard as the most weighty single authority that we possess.” But though Burgon and Scrivener attached a different weight, or value, to certain of the oldest uncials, they were yet perfectly agreed in regarding those uncials as but one part of the evidence among many parts, and in insisting that the true text is to be arrived at by a consideration of all of the evidence. Those who ignored or set aside most of the evidence, in favor of the ancient uncials, Scrivener here refers to as “our opponents.” I have here quoted from his second edition, but both of these statements still stand in his last edition.

Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor


A strange notion concerning edification has taken root in the modern church----and a notion to which the real meaning of the word lends no support. When people say that a sermon or conversation was not edifying, they commonly mean that it was not pleasant, though in fact those things which are not pleasant are often the most edifying of all. To edify is literally to build, or to build up, and to understand this fact may contribute greatly to the overturning of the false notion, for buildings are not built with syrup and honey and cotton puffs, but with saws and rasps, and hammers and nails. To raise the cry of “unedifying” every time the rasp is felt is simply to take refuge in falsehood. According to this view of things, the spankings which your father gave you were no doubt very unedifying, yet they no doubt contributed as much to build your character as the treats he gave you.

The Greek verb which is rendered “edify” in the English Bible (oijkodomevw) is the same as that which is rendered “build” or “built.” Thus:

Matt. 7:26----“which built his house upon the sand.”

Matt. 16:18----“I will build my church.”

Acts 7:47----“but Solomon built him an house.”

I Cor. 8:1----“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”

I Cor. 10:23----“All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”

I Peter 2:5----“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house.”

Similarly, the cognate Greek noun which is rendered “edifiying” or “edification” in the English Bible is the same as that which is rendered “building.” It may refer either to what is built (a building, that is), or to the process of building. Thus:

Matt. 24:1----“the buildings of the temple.”

I Cor. 3:9----“Ye are God's building.”

I Cor. 14:3----“speaketh unto men to edification.”

I Cor. 14:5----“that the church may receive edifying.”

Eph. 2:21----“all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.”

Eph. 4:12----“for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Thus it may be seen that the Greek words are used of both material and figurative buildings. In English, however, it is not so. We now use the word “edify” only in a figurative sense, and would not apply it to a literal, material building. This is unfortunate, for the confining of a word to a figurative sense tends to divorce it from its literal meaning, which is then easily lost or changed. This process has largely taken place with the words “edify” and “edification,” though we still use the cognate word “edifice” in its literal sense, of material buildings.

But at this date even the figurative usage of “edify” and “edification” has been largely abandoned, and the words are generally confined to a spiritual application. This is also unfortunate, for a broader usage of the word would undoubtedly contribute a great deal to keep its proper meaning alive. The words were formerly not thus confined, but were applied originally to literal, material building, and afterwards used in a figurative sense much broader than that to which they are applied today.

First, in its purely literal sense, Matthew 23:29 is rendered as follows by John Wycliffe in his English sermons: “Woo be to 3ou, scribis and Fariseis, ypocritis, êat edifien sepulcris of prophetis.” The Wycliffe Bible has “bilden,” that is, “build,” in this text, but elsewhere it uses “edify” in its material sense.

In Gen. 20:25, of an altar of stone, the earlier Wycliffe Bible has, “êou shalt not edifie êat of hewun stoons.” The later version alters this to “bilde.”

In one of the most interesting usages of this word, the earlier Wycliffe Bible speaks thus of the building of Eve, in Gen. 2:22: “And êe Lord God edifiede êe rib, êe which he toke of Adam, into a woman.” Again the later version alters this to “bildide êe rib...in to a womman.” And here I should point out that “built” is the perfectly literal and proper translation in this text, and it so appears also in the Douai version and J. N. Darby's translation. Various other English translations, as the Geneva, Bishops', King James, and Revised versions, and Isaac Leeser's Jewish translation, give “built” or “builded” in the margin. The word is also translated literally in Gen. 2:22 in Luther's German (bawet), in Diodati's Italian (fabbricò), in Valera's Spanish (edificó), in the Septuagint (wj/kodovmhse), and in the Vulgate (aedificavit), this last, of course, being the source of the Wycliffe Bible's “edifiede.” All of these mean literally “to build.” It would have been well if the literal translation had been adhered to in English as it

was in other tongues, for “The Lord God builded a woman” brings immediately to mind the Lord's “I will build my church”----where we have the same Greek word as the Septuagint uses in Gen. 2:22----and thus the typological significance of the Old Testament record is made more plain.

But to proceed: as the English “edify” was formerly used of literal and material building, it was also used figuratively in a broader way than it is used today. The following quotation appears in a book published in 1852: “Even those who have laboured with a cool and intelligent calculation, to afflict, to corrupt, to destroy the earth, have, most often, been cheated in the ultimate effect; which has resulted in the re-edification of society upon a better plan.” The “re-edification” of society of course means the rebuilding of society. We would probably say “reconstruction” today.

In all of the above it is evident that edification is building or building up, and to understand this will no doubt contribute to a proper understanding of the spiritual application of the word.

The Greek New Testament uses also another (closely related) word (ejpoikodomevw) for building or building up, and this, though always applied figuratively, is always translated literally. Thus:

Acts 20:32----“the word of his grace, which is able to build you up.”

I Cor. 3:12----“If any man build upon this foundation gold, silver,” etc.

Eph. 2:20----“built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”

Col. 2:7----“rooted and built up in him.”

Jude 20----“building up yourselves on your most holy faith.”

This word means technically “to build upon,” but these examples will indicate that it is also used to mean “to build up,” and in this sense it is identical in meaning to oijkodomevw. Edification is not merely exciting pleasant feelings, though that may be included in it, but building up. So long as this is understood, the renderings “edify” and “edification” are perfectly good and proper. It seems to me, however, that “builds up” might have been used to great advantage in at least one place where “edifies” occurs. In I Cor. 8:1 we read, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” Here it seems that the translators passed by a golden opportunity, which they might have redeemed with the forceful rendering, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity buildeth up.”

“Against Nature”

by Glenn Conjurske

“For this cause God gave them up unto VILE AFFECTIONS: for even their women did change the NATURAL use into that which is AGAINST NATURE. And likewise also the men, leaving the NATURAL use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is UNSEEMLY.” (Romans 1:26-27). The sin of which Paul speaks here is said to be against nature. It is, of course, also against conscience, and therefore those who commit it, or approve it, naturally feel a need to justify it. This they sometimes do by endeavoring to prove that it is not “against nature”----that it is rather the result of natural tendencies, that the tendency to it is inbred and genetic. “Scientific studies” are cited to prove this. Alas, I have known a Christian----and one who had a reputation for superior spiritual understanding, too----who was taken in by such so-called scientific evidence, and ready to offer proof that these vile affections flow from a person's genetic constitution.

But to all of this we need only reply that God says it is against nature. “Science” may be wrong----often has been, even where men have been sincerely seeking the truth. But in matters of this nature, we have no reason to believe they are sincerely seeking the truth. When God is rejected, when men say, “let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us,” they lose their capacity for objective searching after truth. They have an agenda to support. They must rid nature of nature's God. They must find evidence for evolution----and find it they will, and find it they do, though their evidence in reality proves nothing beyond the bias of their own hearts. They must find evidence to prove that what God has forbidden is in fact natural. And those who are looking for such evidence will no doubt find it. But all their findings will leave the truth just as it was, just as God has spoken it, and the sin which they defend will yet be “against nature.”

Now we must understand that that which is against nature is against God, for nature is God's handiwork. What nature is (sin excepted) is what he has made it. What nature is, therefore, is an expression of the purposes of God. What nature is carries with it the sanction of God. We need not inquire whether it is proper to breed the bull and the cow together. If we leave them to themselves, and take down the fences, they will manage that of their own accord. This is natural, and therefore it is right. But to breed the bull and the sow is against nature, and this is therefore not right. If it is against nature, it is against God. If it is of nature, it is of God. “Nature is the true law,” as an old proverb truly says. The very defenders of sins against nature evidently perceive this, and hence the need which they feel to justify their sin by an appeal to nature.

But that such sin is in fact against nature is altogether too obvious. The very existence of male and female, with all of their respective physical and emotional characteristics and capacities, is not only a profound expression of the wisdom and goodness of God, but is also an obvious expression of his purpose. The very constitution of male and female, both physical and emotional, is full proof to all who are not stone blind that they were made for each other. I say, “MADE for each other,” for it is simply unthinkable that so perfect a match----and replete as it is with so many soul-ravishing delights----could have come into being by mere chance, or in any other way than as the creation of the God of all wisdom and all goodness. Male and female were obviously made for each other. Their getting together, therefore, has the evident sanction of their Maker.

Fornication, then, and adultery, though sinful, are not sins against nature. Thus men excuse fornication on the ground that it is natural----“doing what comes naturally,” they call it in our day. But this is nothing new. Six hundred years ago John Wycliffe called attention to the same manner of excusing such sin. “Poul,” he says, “biddiê here to trewe men, êat no man bigile hem in bileve bi veyn wordis which êei speken, êat êes ben no synnes or li3t; as lecherie is kyndeli, as êei seien. ... Siche veyn wordis êat excusen synne done myche harme among men.” “Kyndeli” (that is, “kindly”) is Wycliffe's common word for “natural,” as he constantly used “kind” for “nature.” The whole rendered into modern English reads, “Paul here biddeth true men that no man beguile them in belief by vain words which they speak, that these are no sins, or [only] light [ones], as `Lechery is natural,' as they say. ... Such vain words that excuse sin do much harm among men.” Lechery is of course fornication and adultery. For such sins men may plead the sanction of nature, and so suppose the sanction of God. Of such sin Jude speaks when he says, “What they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” (Jude 10). Thus those who plead nature to excuse their fornication and adultery place themselves on a level with the brute beasts, who know by nature the passions which belong to the male and female natures, and indulge those passions without restraint. Not that this argument from nature any way excuses them. Eve might as well have pled that it was natural to eat fruit, that the savor of the fruit was obviously created for her tongue to taste----and it was, but this was no excuse for taking what God had forbidden.

But those who indulge their passions male with male, and female with female, have no plea even from nature. They do not know this by nature. The brute beasts have no such inclinations, nor has man by nature. It is perversion, against nature. It is against the natural, God-implanted desires and inclinations of male and female natures. It is against the well-being of human nature, and indeed, against the very being of human nature, for if the whole human race were to descend to this shame, the human race would soon cease to exist.

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