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Vol. 3, No. 9
Sept., 1994

Brasen Shields

by Glenn Conjurske

A Sermon Preached on July 17, 1994. Recorded, Transcribed, and Revised.

First Kings, chapter 14, and I'm going to read verses 25 to 28. “And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: And he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. And king Rehoboam made in their stead brasen shields, and committed them unto the hands of the chief of the guard, which kept the door of the king's house. And it was so, when the king went into the house of the Lord, that the guard bare them, and brought them back into the guard chamber.”

Heavenly Father, I pray that this morning you will speak. I pray that you will strengthen my heart and mind that I might be able to speak the message of the living God today. And oh, Father that I might be able to preach truth and faith, and that it might sink deep into the hearts of your people. Amen.

Now, we read here of an event that occurred in the fifth year of Rehoboam, king of Judah. Rehoboam was the son of Solomon. Solomon was the great king who reigned over all Israel, and who subjected all the nations round about, so that they paid tribute to him. He was the great king who had glory and honor and wealth such as no other king on earth possessed. He was the king who had the blessing of God. And five years after Solomon died, with his son reigning on the throne, with only two of the twelve tribes left under him, the king of Egypt came and took away all.

Now I'm going to speak to you about spiritual things this morning, that are represented to us here under these physical things that took place in the Old Testament days. All that great glory of Solomon's reign was gone in five years after he died. He had such glory as has rarely ever been possessed by any man in the history of all the world. He made silver like the pebbles in the streets in Jerusalem. It was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon. All his drinking vessels were of gold. The fame of his wisdom was heard to the ends of the earth. Kings and queens came to Jerusalem to hear Solomon's wisdom, and when they heard his wisdom, and when they saw his great glory, saw his great wealth, saw the happiness of his servants, there was no more spirit left in them. And that glory was lost, carried away----as soon as Solomon died. All the treasures that he had gathered up in heaps in Jerusalem were carried off into Egypt.

Now this is a thing that happens spiritually in the church of God over and over. God raises up a man like Solomon to be the leader of his people, fills his hands with the glory of God, with the power of God, and great glory rests upon the people of God while he lives. And when he dies, the people somehow turn away or turn aside, and all the glory is lost. I want you to turn back with me for a minute to the book of Joshua----the last chapter of the book of Joshua. In Joshua chapter 24, and verse 31, we read, “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel.” Now this implies something beyond what's stated. Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, but then they turned away from the Lord, and the glory was departed. And so over and over throughout the book of Judges. God raised up a man to lead the people, and the people served the Lord while that man led them, and then turned away.

Now back to I Kings, chapter 14. We read that Shishak king of Egypt took away all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house. “He even took away all.” There was none of the glory left. And he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. Now I want to talk to you about gold. Gold is the most precious of metals. It's rare. It's valuable----precious in itself, and beautiful. It doesn't tarnish like base metals. It doesn't rust away. Valuable, beautiful, and rare. And God takes up this most precious of all metals and uses it in the Bible to represent the glory of God.

Now if you turn with me to Revelation chapter 3, the Lord is dealing here with a lukewarm, powerless church, which has none of the glory of God. He says in verse 17, “Because thou sayest I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me GOLD tried in the fire.” Now the Lord doesn't say what that gold is. It's a figurative expression. What is it? It's the glory of God. It's the power of God. It's everything that this wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked church needs. Something from GOD! They don't have it. They've got an empty shell with no kernel in it. They've got a name to live, and are dead. He says, “I counsel you, buy of me gold tried in the fire,”----something from God.

Now this is what Rehoboam, Solomon's son, ought to have done. But he didn't do it. When the glory was all lost and carried away into Egypt---------(And I should say here, Egypt in the Bible is everywhere a type of the world. That's what takes the heart out of the people of God and destroys the glory and the power of God that rests upon them: just worldliness. Shishak king of Egypt comes in. The Methodists once had the glory of God upon them as few other peoples ever have had in the history of the church, but they lost it. They didn't lose it by false doctrine. They lost it by worldliness.) Anyway, Rehoboam was left in that position after Shishak king of Egypt came, and all the treasures of the house of the Lord were carried away, all the treasures of the king's house were carried away, all the gold was carried away. They didn't have anything left. They were destitute. They were left like that lukewarm church in the book of Revelation, that was wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. At that point, the Lord might have come to Rehoboam, and said, “I counsel thee, buy of me gold tried in the fire.” But Rehoboam didn't do that. He did something that was easier.

It says in the end of verse 26, “He [the king of Egypt] took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. And king Rehoboam made in their stead brasen shields”----that is, shields of brass----“and committed them unto the hands of the chief of the guard, which kept the door of the king's house.” Now I suppose that deep down in the bottom of Rehoboam's heart, he would undoubtedly rather have had shields of gold than shields of brass, but gold is hard to come by. It was an EASY thing to make shields of brass. It would have been an extremely difficult thing to replace the shields of gold. And I want to tell you, what I'm preaching about this morning is shields of brass, brasen shields, and the temptation everywhere throughout the church of God is to make shields of brass, and replace the shields of gold which have been lost. Now there are some folks that do not even know the shields of gold are lost. They build with wood, hay, and stubble, and think it's gold, silver, and precious stones----don't even know there's any difference. But some folks do know there's a difference. And undoubtedly in the depth of their souls they'd rather have shields of gold than shields of brass, but here a problem arises. They don't have any power to get the shields of gold. IT'S TOO HARD. IT TAKES TOO LONG. And meanwhile, they're in great reproach: “Why aren't you doing anything? Why aren't you accomplishing anything? Let's see some fruit of your ministry.” And the temptation just becomes too strong to make shields of brass, and they go ahead and do it.

You know what those people need? Oh, they need a prophet. I wish there had been a prophet of God in Rehoboam's days. Look what happened here in this next verse with these shields of brass that king Rehoboam made. He made shields of brass instead of the shields of gold and committed them unto the hands of the chief of the guard, which kept the door of the king's house. “And it was so, when the king went into the house of the Lord the guard BARE them, and brought them back into the guard chamber.” Keeping up the FORM, but with brass instead of gold. Once upon a time, there were some rescue missions, like the Mel Trotter Mission in Grand Rapids, that had the power of God. The lowest wretches of humanity congregated there and were converted night after night after night. They keep up the form today, but without the power. The same thing is true of whole denominations.

I said, I wish there had been a prophet of God there in Rehoboam's days. When the king went into the house of the Lord, just as his father had done, who was the man of God, into whose hands God had given all this gold----and when his father had gone into the house of the Lord, the guard came out with shields of gold in their hands, every man with a shield of gold, and stood in their rank, every man bearing a shield of gold to keep guard. Now when Solomon's son came out to go into the house of the Lord, exactly the same thing happened, but every man was bearing a shield of brass. Now I have a very strong suspicion that these shields of brass were very highly polished. You can make brass look like gold, or very close, and I'm sure they spent a lot of time keeping them polished. So, to the eye of a casual observer, when Rehoboam walked to the house of the Lord, between the rows of guards, every man bearing his shield of brass, it looked just like the same thing that had happened in the days of Solomon, when he walked between shields of gold. But it wasn't gold. It was brass. I wish there had been a prophet of God there to walk up to the house of the Lord alongside Rehoboam, and point to the guard, and say, “What's that in your hand?” And the guards say, “Well,... umm,... it's a shield.” And the prophet says, “No, it's a sham. You have a lie in your right hand.”

You know, we live in an unfortunate day. We live in a day when the church of God has never seen a shield of gold. And every man can stand in his place, bearing a shield of brass, and nobody knows the difference. You couldn't have gotten away with it in the days of the early Methodists. If some of our dry, intellectual, lukewarm preachers had gotten up in the midst of the early Methodists and tried to preach, they would have been laughed to scorn, or pitied. The people would have said, “YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING FROM GOD. SIT DOWN.” But every man can stand in his place with his shield of brass today, and nobody knows the difference. They've never seen a shield of gold. If one man had come forth into the ranks of the guard in Solomon's day with a shield of brass in his hand, everyone would have immediately pointed him out. They would have said, “There's something wrong with your shield. There's something different. It's brass, not gold.” But when every man has a shield of brass, and we live in a generation that's never seen a shield of gold, nobody knows the difference.

Well, as I said, it's easy to make shields of brass. It's hard to make shields of gold. Actually, you don't make a shield of gold: you get it from God. You get it in the backside of the desert. You get it in the school of affliction. You don't go to college for four years, and get a diploma with your name on it, to hang in your study, and become a man of God. You can get a shield of brass that way, but not a shield of gold.

But an unfortunate thing has happened in our day. Actually, I think it started out with a very fortunate thing. A generation ago John R. Rice began to preach, “We can have revival now.” He set out to prove that we can have revival now. He set out to preach that we can have revival now----to preach the promises of God, and to preach the power of God----to preach the power of the Spirit of God----and to convince a lazy, lukewarm, unbelieving church that WE CAN HAVE REVIVAL NOW, the same way they used to have it. And he convinced a lot of people, and a lot of people took up the cry and began to preach, We can have revival now, and began to labor for it. But revival never came. They thought to get it too easily, without paying the price for it, and they never saw revival. There is something wrong----too much wrong----with this modern, lukewarm, worldly church, that can't get revival when it's trying to. Now, at that point a lot of fundamentalists went astray. They did exactly the same thing that Rehoboam king of Judah did. Instead of listening to the Lord's advice, when he said, “I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire,” instead of getting down on their faces before God, and saying, “We are nothing, and we have nothing. We're powerless and wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked. [Preacher weeping, choked with emotion.] Give us shields of GOLD.” Instead of doing that, they made shields of brass----built grand cathedrals on the boulevard, put a fleet of buses into operation, had games and contests, gave out prizes, and got some crowds coming, so that they made it look like a revival. (I'm not accusing anyone of hypocrisy in this, but only of lowering the standard----perhaps ignorantly, perhaps honestly, failing to understand that all that glitters is not gold.) One of the signs of revival, you know, is that the crowds are drawn to the preaching of the word of God. But there's a difference between a shield of gold and a shield of brass. Brass may look like gold, but it isn't. They may have crowds coming, but in a real work of the Spirit of God, the crowds are drawn by the power of God, and by the word of God. They're not drawn by hamburgers and bubble gum and kites and balloons and games and contests and prizes.

I want you to turn with me to Luke, chapter five, for a minute. In verse 17 it says, “And it came to pass on a certain day, as he [the Lord Jesus] was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” Now here are folks being drawn, coming out of every town in Galilee and Judaea, and from Jerusalem. Why? Because the power of the Lord was present. That was the only drawing power----the power of the Lord. The Lord Jesus wasn't giving away hamburgers and balloons and kites and bubble gum. He wasn't giving prizes to the people who brought the most visitors. He wasn't running any fleet of buses. He had the power of God with him and in him and on him, and the people were drawn to the power of God.

Now, it says in verse 18, “Behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy, and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the house top, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.” The power of the Lord was present, great multitudes were drawn by it, and when the men came to bring a sick man to be healed, they couldn't get near the Lord because of the multitude that were there, drawn by the power of God. Now you know, I heard a sermon on this verse one time. I only ever heard one sermon on it in my life. I've preached several on it, but I've only ever heard one. It was from an Independent Baptist pastor, who was trying to run what they call a “super-aggressive church.” He preached on this word “means” in the eighteenth verse: “they sought means to bring him in,” and he used this verse to justify running a fleet of buses, carpeted aisles, grand pianos, air-conditioning, padded pews, kites and bubble gum and balloons and contests of every sort----to use these means to bring the people in. And I tell you, that sermon was a direct contradiction of the text that it was preached from. The word “means” isn't even in the Greek. You'll see it in italics in your Bibles. All it says is, “They sought to bring him in.” They didn't seek means----kites and balloons and bubble gum and stained glass windows and padded pews and air-conditioning and grand pianos----to draw the crowds. They already HAD the crowds. They were drawn to them by nothing other than the POWER OF GOD. Therefore they had to seek by what means they might bring the man in. They couldn't get near the Lord, because of the crowd that was there. I tell you, the sermon that I heard from that Baptist preacher was a direct contradiction of what this Scripture teaches.

Well, what are all those means that he preached to defend? They're shields of brass. That's all, shields of brass. They don't have the power of God----don't have the men flocking to them as they flocked to the Lord Jesus Christ, and John the Baptist before him, or as they flocked to John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield, and D. L. Moody, and Charles G. Finney, and R. A. Torrey, and Billy Sunday. Those men had the power of God upon them, and it drew the people to them. Men who don't have the power of God upon them are seeking means to draw the people, to get up the appearance of a revival when they don't have any revival----to get up the appearance of the power of God when they don't have the power of God. That's what Rehoboam, king of Judah, did. He didn't have any shields of gold, so he got up the appearance of shields of gold, with finely polished shields of brass.

Now let me tell you, there are some very deep spiritual problems at the root of this propensity to make shields of brass. I think the first one is pride. If people were more concerned to be what they ought to be, than to appear to be what they ought to be, they would never make a shield of brass. They would say, “I'll have a shield of gold, or no shield at all.”

There is another problem, which I believe is simply unbelief. You know, if people really had faith in the power of God, and really believed that God was both able and willing to put a shield of gold into their hands, they'd never be content with a shield of brass. But they don't have faith, so they make brasen shields.

Another problem is the lack of patience. The Bible says, “He that believeth shall not make haste.” Folks are not willing to wait for God to do his work, but run ahead, as Abraham did when he begot Ishmael. His faith was faltering, and he made haste. When folks have to go some months or years without a shield of gold, they lose their patience, and run ahead of God, and say, “Well, God, if you're not going to do anything, I am.” That's fine, if you want to do something----indeed you ought to be doing a good many things, and “always abounding” in them----so long as you do what God has told you to do, and he hasn't told you to make shields of brass. We by faith and PATIENCE inherit the promises of God. Lack of faith moves men to make these brasen shields, and so does lack of patience----not willing to wait for God to work.

But there's another problem, which I think may be beneath some of these others, and that is simply, lukewarmness. If God comes to a man, and says, “I counsel you to buy of me gold, tried in the fire,” the man is naturally going to inquire, “What is the price? Lord, you say, `BUY of me gold tried in the fire.' What is the price?” And the Lord says, “Years of hardship, self-denial, and reproach----taking up the cross----dying to self----walking in the lonely path of faithfulness----being despised and rejected of men----being rejected of the builders”----and men turn away, not willing to pay that price. People are always looking for a quick and easy way. It's easy to make shields of brass. Brass is easy to come by. Even silver is easy to come by, compared to gold. In the days of Solomon, it was nothing accounted of. Solomon could have paved the streets with silver. Gold isn't so easy to come by. Brass anybody can get. You don't need to be a man of God----don't need to be a Solomon or a Wesley or Whitefield to make a shield of brass, but what is it worth? You can make your shield of brass so big the whole army can't carry it, and it still isn't worth what a shield of gold is.

Now, I will tell you, for my own self, I am absolutely committed to getting shields of gold from God. That means I would rather have no shield at all than a shield of brass. That means I would rather appear before the church of God and before the world as a failure, accomplishing nothing, than to go out and make shields of brass, and do the work of the flesh and call it the work of God. This is the healthy place to be in. If Rehoboam's guards had been compelled to stand in their places with no shields at all, they and their king would have very deeply felt their low condition, but when every man has a shield of brass in his hand, they cease to feel their need for gold, and sighing and crying to God gives place to smug and complacent lukewarmness.

Now there's one thing you need to walk in that path, and that is faith. Your faith may be tried. Abraham, you know, waited at least twenty-five years for the child of promise----waited beyond the point at which it even seemed possible that he should ever have that child. Sarah was already past the age of child-bearing, and he waited on, and waited on, and endured all the reproach of being childless----and if he had been imprudent enough to open his mouth to anybody else, and let anybody else know the promise that God had given him, he no doubt had to bear their reproach and their mockings: “Say, Abraham, where is that child that God promised you? Hasn't it been a few years now? Are you sure that promise isn't some idle dream of your own head? Look at me. I don't have any promise of God, and I've got ten kids.” Well, you know, there's a lot of reproach to bear for waiting, for waiting upon God, but it all resolves itself down to this: Do you really want shields of gold, or are you content with shields of brass? If you really want shields of gold----in other words, if you're not lukewarm----IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT THE PRICE IS! The Lord comes to you and says, “I counsel thee, buy of me gold tried in the fire,” and you say, “God, I will buy, no matter what the cost. No matter how many lonely years of hardship and suffering and reproach I have to go through, I will buy. No matter what the self-denial is, I will buy. [Preacher weeping.] I will never be content till I have gold from God.”

There's a strong temptation from many quarters, within and without, to make shields of brass. Faith will not yield an inch to that temptation.


+In the note on “strange and outlandish women” (August, pg. 190), I suggested that there may have been a printer's omission in Neh. 13:27 in the 1535 printing of Coverdale's Bible. I have since been able to check the 1537 printing, “newly ouersene & corrected.” It corrects the place to read, “Dyd not Salomon the kynge of Israell synne therin and yet amonge many Heythen was ther no kynge lyke hym? and he was deare vnto his God, and God made hym kynge ouer all Israell, and yet dyd the outlandish wemen cause hym for to synne. Haue not ye herde of this, that ye do such great euell, to trespasse agaynst our God with outlandysh wemen?”


by Glenn Conjurske

Salt is used a number of times in the Bible as an emblem----generally an emblem of holiness, but with various particular applications. Salt is not merely abstract holiness, but active or applied holiness. It is displayed holiness. Thus in general it represents the judgement of God, though in a particular application it may also represent a preservative against the judgement of God.

To begin with the latter, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” (Matt. 5:13). Salt it is which preserves the earth from the judgement of God which hangs heavy over it. I am aware of no better example of this than the dwelling of Lot in Sodom. God was purposed to destroy Sodom, and made known his purpose to Abraham. Abraham responds with “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? ... That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:23 & 25). The plain implication of this is that it would not be right for the Lord to destroy the righteous with the wicked, or to put no difference between them, and in this Abraham spoke the very truth. God therefore let him know that he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked----would in fact spare the whole city for the presence in it of ten righteous souls. This plainly illustrates the preservative action of the salt.

But if God lets us know that he would not destroy the city, for the sake of ten righteous souls, the angel who came to destroy Sodom gives us a stronger statement still, affirming that he could not destroy the city for the presence of one. To Lot he says, “Haste thee, escape thither, for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither”----till thou be come, that is, to Zoar, entirely beyond the reach of danger (Gen. 19:22). Thus was Lot “the salt of the earth”----not by his preaching or testimony----certainly not by “mingling with Society,” as modern Evangelicalism would have it----but by his presence there. We are the salt of the earth, not of the world. It is our presence upon the earth which preserves it from judgement, however wicked the world around us may be. It is not by changing the world, or by saving it or improving it, that the salt preserves it from judgement, but by its presence upon the earth. And mark, Zoar itself was marked out for the general destruction which overtook Sodom and Gomorrah and all the cities of the plain. “Stay not in all the plain,” Lot was told. Yet he pled for Zoar, that he might flee there, and the angel told him, “See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken.” (Gen. 19:21). Lot's presence there preserved it. The fact is, Zoar was nothing changed, nothing improved, at the moment that Lot stepped within its borders----not a whit better than it was when the judgement was purposed against it----yet at that moment it became safe from the judgement which fell upon all the other cities of the plain.

Lot's wife was turned to a pillar of salt----a monument of the judgement of God----for she was no doubt mingled indeed with that godless society, and could not bear to part with it. She no doubt loved the world, and “Where love is, there the eye is,” as the old proverb truly says. The eye follows the heart. Therefore she must look back, even in the very day of judgement, and even though she was solemnly warned against it, and therefore the judgement of God overtook her with the rest.

But the overthrow of the cities of the plain resulted in a more permanent monument of the judgement of God than this pillar of salt, namely the Salt Sea, which now lies where Sodom and Gomorrah once stood. And this sea is not only a monument of the judgement of God, but an emblem of it----indeed, one of the most remarkable emblems in the Bible. The Jordan River represents death, and it flows without ceasing into the Salt Sea. Thus the very topography of “the holy land” bears witness continually that “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement.” And what a true and awful picture of that judgement do we see in the Salt Sea----a sea from which there is no outlet, and in which there is no life. We call it the Dead Sea, but the Bible always calls it the Salt Sea. It is the Bible's emblem of the final and irrevocable display of the holiness of God, in the second death.

But the servants of God are called to a display of holiness here and now. “Let your speech be always with grace,” says Paul, “seasoned with salt.” (Col. 4:6). While grace is mild and sweet and gentle, salt is pungent. It stings and bites. And while salt is intolerable as the main ingredient, the dish is also intolerable which contains no salt as a seasoning. “Take away the salt,” says an old Hebrew proverb, “and you may cast the meat to the dogs.” Nay, God himself says a stronger thing: “If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matt. 5:13). It may not be necessary for every man to have exactly the same amount of salt in his speech, and it is a great matter to have the spiritual wisdom to mingle grace and salt in their proper proportions. Nevertheless, the testimony which contains little or nothing of the bite and sting and pungency of salt is good for nothing. “Reprove, rebuke, exhort,” says Paul (II Tim. 4:2). This is salt. Yet this is to be done “with all longsuffering.” This is grace. And again Paul says, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (I Tim. 5:20). This is salt. It is active holiness, holiness at work, holiness displayed.

It is salt which we see in the Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect pattern in all things, when he eight times pronounces woe upon the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, repeatedly calling them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, serpents, and vipers. And all of this he spoke not in secret, but “to the multitude.” How many of those who call themselves the servants of this Christ today speak so? They may believe themselves called of God to preach and print, yet the fact is, they do not have it in them to speak as their Lord spoke. “Have salt in yourselves,” their Lord has told them (Mark 9:50), but they have it not----not enough of it, at any rate, to make itself felt. They are soft and easy, fearing to give offense, and so failing to do the work of God. They would rather edify, as it is called. What they put forth is simply insipid. It contains nothing to convict and shame, nothing to offend, and so nothing to secure holiness. Can anyone imagine that the scribes and Pharisees were not offended at this biting discourse of the Lord? Salt does give offense, and there is no help for it, but it also convicts and shames, especially when it is mingled with grace, and so heals and saves. It was not with honey that Elisha healed the waters of Jericho, but with salt. (II Kings 2:19-22). Ere that “the water was naught, and the ground barren”----a true enough picture of the ministry of saltless preachers and writers and editors, whose soft and sweet and tame and insipid stuff, if it does not leave folks in a worse state than it found them in, at any rate leaves them no better. To all such the Lord and Master says, “Have salt in yourselves.”

But observe, salt is not harshness, not coldness, not scolding and nagging, not vindictiveness. These, alas, too much characterize the ministry of some, but these are not salt, but pepper. These are not holiness, but unholiness. Though there is certainly a time for the display of indignation, yet the most scathing denunciations may be uttered with tenderness and tears----and are more likely to be effectual if they are so.

I have often pictured the Lord Jesus preaching the woes of Matthew 23 with tears running down his cheeks, and a voice choked with emotion----though I can also picture him uttering them with his eyes flashing fire. He may indeed have done both in the same discourse. Salt does not consist of harshness and belligerence, but of a firm, consistent, vigorous, and uncompromising stand against evil and error. This is what we see in the Lord Jesus Christ, who said concerning the world, “Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” (John 7:7). This we see in John the Baptist, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and in Peter and Paul. Yet we know that Jeremiah and Paul, at any rate, preached with rivers of tears. Salt does not exclude love or tenderness, but that love and tenderness which exclude salt are only wood, hay, and stubble----“good for nothing,” in the words of the Lord Jesus.


Was John Wycliffe a Baptist?

by Glenn Conjurske

There are certain Baptists who are determined to believe that “the Baptist Church” is the Bride of Christ and the only true church. What they may mean by “the Baptist church” is hard to tell, for most of the same Baptists deny the existence of any church except the local church. If they mean the aggregate of true Baptist churches, then they have in fact acknowledged the universal church, which they deny in words. They have narrowed the definition, but that is all. To support their claims to be the only true church, they are very anxious to trace their pedigree back to the days of the apostles. They are very adamant in affirming that Baptists are not Protestants. Protestant denominations came out of the Church of Rome, but the Baptists never did. The Baptists never were in it. They continued as the true church through all of the ages, never having any connection with the Church of Rome. They must therefore affirm their identity with the Waldenses----and write a good deal of fiction in the process. But in the almost total absence of concrete information on what the pre-Reformation Waldenses actually held, their affirmation is pretty safe. They have nothing with which to prove it, and no one else has anything with which to disprove it. This contents them, if it does not others.

Some of the same sort of Baptists have taken it upon themselves to claim that John Wycliffe was a Baptist, though what they want with him it is hard to guess. But we will at any rate grant them that John Wycliffe certainly does possess one of the marks which they attribute to the true Baptists: he never came out of the Church of Rome. That is, he continued in its communion till the day of his death----though he was cast out of it and burned for a heretic, and his ashes immersed in the River Swift, long after his death. While he lived, he called the pope “antichrist” and “the vicar of the fiend,” and no doubt regarded him as a usurper in the church, but still the church was “holy church” to him, and he never made a move to leave it. He died as rector of Lutterworth.

But I had always supposed that a Baptist was someone who rejected infant baptism, and held and practiced the baptism, by immersion, of believers. I believe that everyone else so regards the matter also, including all the Baptists of every sort. Some of them may add on top of this a half a dozen additional conditions, but they all hold this one. And by this test, Wycliffe certainly was not a Baptist. He has said enough about baptism to leave no doubt about that.

In his Latin Trialogue he wrote, “On account of the words in the last chapter of Matthew, our church introduces believers, who answer for the infant which has not yet arrived at years of discretion. Those who have attained years of discretion, while yet under instruction, are called, before baptism, catechumens.

“How necessary this sacrament is to the believer may be seen by the words of Christ to Nicodemus, John iii., `Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' And such, accordingly, is the authority from Scripture, on which believers are customarily baptized.”

Some, who are accustomed to grasp at anything which may seem to support their position, will likely catch at the word “believers” here, and affirm that Wycliffe is actually talking of the baptism of believers. No doubt he is, in that sentence, but that cannot set aside the fact that he had just spoken approvingly of the baptism of infants. He speaks of baptizing those who have come to years of discretion, and also of baptizing infants who have not come to years of discretion. Need I point out that no baptizer of infants ever denied the propriety of baptizing adults also, if they had not been baptized as infants? This does not make a man a Baptist.

I should also notice, to prevent any quibbles on the point, that the word “infant” in the above quotation, and in those which are to follow, is infans in Wycliffe's Latin original. The word infans is the proper word in Latin for an infant. Its original meaning is “that cannot speak,” and so it came to be used for a very young child or an infant, and even of an unborn fetus.

Wycliffe says further, “I think it probable, that Christ might without any such washing, spiritually baptize, and by consequence save infants. Accordingly, it is commonly said that the church hath a threefold baptism,----the baptism of water, of blood, and of fire. The baptism of water, is the baptism with that material element, of which mention is most frequently made. The baptism of blood is the washing wherewith the souls of the martyrs are cleansed. Nor do I dare assert that the infants slain for Christ (Matt. ii.) who, not having reached the eighth day, had not been circumcised, are lost. And I believe the Bishop of Armagh spoke on supposition only, not positively. The baptism of fire is the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is absolutely necessary to every man if he is to be saved. Accordingly, the two former baptisms are antecedent signs, and supposed to be necessary to this third baptism. So then, without doubt, if this unseen baptism be performed, the man so baptized is cleansed from guilt: and if this be wanting, however the others may be present, the baptism availeth not to save the soul. And since this third baptism is not perceptible by the senses, and is so far unknown to us, it appears to me presumptuous and unwise to decide thus on the salvation or damnation of men simply from the circumstance of their baptism. Our conclusion, then, without a doubt is, that infants duly baptized with water, are baptized with the third kind of baptism, inasmuch as they are made partakers of baptismal grace. The above argument holds also concerning the martyrs who were slain for Christ.”

The Trialogue from which the above quotations are taken is assigned by Workman, an authority on Wycliffe and the medieval church, to the last years of Wycliffe's life. He says, “To these last years we must assign Wyclif's important Trialogus.” The English sermons of Wycliffe also belong to the very end of his life. These are referred to by their editor as “a series of sermons preached in his parish of Lutterworth during the last two years of his life, after he had been compelled to retire from Oxford by the Council of 1382.” (He died in 1384.) In these sermons he also speaks of the baptism of children, thus: “Bodili waishing of a child is not êe ende of baptisyng, but baptising is a tokene of waisching of êe soule fro synne, boêe original and actual, bi vertu taken of Cristis deê.”

As to the mode of baptism, Wycliffe says, “The Church requires for baptism, pure water----no other liquid: nor is it of moment whether the baptized be immersed once, or thrice, or whether the water be poured on the head; but the ceremony must be performed according to the usage of the place, and is as legitimate in one way as another.” Are these the words of a Baptist?

We grant that Wycliffe probably practiced immersion as a general rule, for so apparently did all England in his time, and he recommends acting “according to the usage of the place.” But this no more made Wycliffe a Baptist than it made the rest of papal England Baptists. Armitage points out that Wycliffe in his English translation “always retains the preposition `in' and never `with,' `in water,' `in Jordan.”' This is in fact true, though it really proves no more than that the Wycliffe Bible is a very literal translation from the Vulgate. What might not such folks make of Wycliffe's “Jhesus came from Galilee IN TO Jordan to Joon, for to be cristned of hym,” in Matthew 3:13?----though it means nothing more than “to Jordan,” and proves nothing more than that the preposition in the Vulgate was in, and therefore it must be “in to” in English. The same Wycliffe Bible has (at Matt. 14:13), “he went fro êennus IN TO a boot, IN TO desert place,” which means nothing other than “he went from thence IN a boat TO a desert place.” Furthermore, that the Wycliffe Bible uses “in” to mean “by,” or “by means of,” will plainly appear in Matthew 4:4, where it reads, “A man lyueê not IN breed aloon, bot IN euery word êat comeê forê fro êe mouêe of God.” That is, “A man liveth not IN bread alone, but IN every word that cometh forth from the mouth of God.” Neither am I certain that Wycliffe himself translated the Wycliffe Bible, though, if not, it was certainly done under his influence. But be that as it may, the Scripture renderings in Wycliffe's sermons differ widely from those in the Wycliffe Bible, and in one of those sermons he uses “baptize in water” interchangeably with “wash with water,” while he speaks of baptizing in the Holy Ghost. He causes John the Baptist to say, “êerefore Y baptise êus in water. ... But God, êat sente me to waishe wiê water, he tau3t me and seide êus, On whom êou seest êe spirit come down and dwellinge upon him, êat is he êat baptiseê men in êe Holy Goost.”

Probably more to the purpose is the following statement from his sermon on Romans 6: “Bodili waishing of a child is not êe ende of baptisyng, but baptising is a tokene of waisching of êe soule fro synne, boêe original and actual, bi vertu taken of Cristis deê. And êus we ben biried wiê him bi baptym in to a maner of deê. ... And so êis watir êat we ben putte inne is token of Cristis tribulacioun, fro his bygynnyng to his deê, and techiê how we shulden lyve here so. çe baptising of us in êis watir bitokeneê boêe biriynge of Crist, and how we ben biried wiê him fro synne êat rengneê in êis world. Oure takyng up of êis water bitokeneê êe rysyng of Crist fro deeê, and how we shulden rise goostli in clennesse of new lyf.”

That is, in modernized English: “Bodily washing of a child is not the end of baptizing, but baptizing is a token of [the] washing of the soul from sin, both original and actual, by virtue taken of Christ's death. And thus, We are buried with him by baptism into a manner of death. ... And so this water that we are put in is [a] token of Christ's tribulation, from his beginning to his death, and teacheth how we should live here so. The baptizing of us in this water betokeneth both [the] burying of Christ, and how we are buried with him from [the] sin that reigneth in this world. Our taking up of this water betokeneth the rising of Christ from death, and how we should rise spiritually in cleanness of new life.” Though the expression “our taking up of this water” might raise a question, I suppose that its meaning is “our being taken up from this water,” and otherwise the language in general seems plainly to imply immersion. But what then? Does the immersion of babies make a man a Baptist?

As for the supposed efficacy of baptism to wash away sins and save the soul, Wycliffe writes, “for it is certain that bodily baptism or washing is of little avail, unless there goes with it the washing of the mind by the Holy Spirit, from original or actual sin. For herein it is a fundamental article of belief, that whenever a man is duly baptized, baptism destroys whatever sin was found in the man.”

This is very strong language, to call the destruction of all sin by baptism a fundamental article of belief, yet on this Wycliffe's translator and editor (Robert Vaughan, another of the great authorities on Wycliffe) says in a footnote, “This language points to a kind of baptismal regeneration, but the reader will find that this doctrine is considerably modified and guarded by the language of the Reformer when taken largely”----that is, when we take into consideration all that he has said elsewhere. Not that he has anywhere said anything to retract or modify this, but he everywhere treats those who live ungodly lives as lost. Nor is there anything necessarily inconsistent between the two positions, for it is hardly to be supposed that Wycliffe thought that the baptism of an infant would remove all of its future sins. He elsewhere affirms, speaking of the one who is taken and the other who is left at the coming of Christ, “And sum of êes shulen be saved, as innocentis and trewe workmen, and sum men of êes shulen be dampned, as êes êat ben not baptisid bi baptym of êe Holi Goost, and ben unworêi to be saved.” That is, “And some of these shall be saved, as innocents and true workmen, and some men of these shall be damned, as these that are not baptized by [the] baptism of the Holy Ghost, and are unworthy to be saved.”

We have seen above that he affirms water baptism to be supposed to be necessary to the reception of the (saving) baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that infants who are duly baptised with water do undoubtedly receive the third baptism, by the Holy Spirit, that actually saves. Speaking further on the same subject, he writes, “Yet must it not be imagined by believers that the baptism of the Spirit altogether supercedes the baptism of water, but that it [water baptism] is necessary wherever circumstances permit, to become recipients thereof [that is, recipients of the Spirit's baptism]. When an infidel baptizes a child, not supposing that baptism to be of any avail for his salvation, such a baptism we are not to regard as serviceable to the baptized.

“Yet we believe that when any old woman or despised person duly baptizes with water, that God completes the baptism of the Spirit along with the words of the sacrament. For our signs are but of small avail unless God shall graciously accept them. Thus I reply to your objection, by admitting that God, if he will, may condemn such an infant, without wrong done to himself; and if he will, can save it. Nor dare I determine on the other side, or strive for the sake of mere opinion, or for the gaining of evidence in this matter, but I hold my peace as one dumb, and humbly confess my ignorance, making use of conditional expressions, because it doth not seem clear to me whether such an infant would be saved or lost.”

The above extracts put the matter beyond the reach of cavil. In any known sense of the word “Baptist,” Wycliffe was no Baptist. That he was a man of God we have no doubt, and a burning and shining light, but there are some such who are not Baptists. It plainly appears in all of this that no honest man could contend that Wycliffe was a Baptist----unless he were ignorant of all the facts, and in that case he has no business to speak on the matter at all. But bigoted pleaders for a cause will commonly lay hold of any word or circumstance which seems to tell for their cause, and infer from it just what they wish to believe, and so write fiction and call it history. A thousand others, equally determined to believe the point, will quote the opinion of the pleader as though it were an established fact of history, and so it comes to pass current with a certain set that John Wycliffe was a Baptist. Such folks do not concern themselves to learn the facts.

One of these pleaders is Thieleman J. van Braght, the author of The Bloody Theater, or Martyrs' Mirror. His book is full of excellent information on the persecution of the saints, but is also full of mistakes and misstatements, due to his determination to make out all the true saints

to be Baptists, or almost Baptists. Among the articles laid against the Wycliffites he lists, “That a child, though it die unbaptized, will be saved,” and he immediately adds a note saying, “This is putting down infant baptism out and out as of no value.” To this we need only observe that what their enemies laid against them, and what they actually believed, may be two different things. They may have affirmed that an infant might be saved without baptism----and we have shown this to be Wycliffe's doctrine----and their enemies turn this into an affirmation that the infant will be saved without baptism. But supposing it could be shown that the Wycliffites asserted the latter, the only thing which this affirms is that an infant can be saved without being baptized. Wycliffe discussed this question, as quoted above, and professed himself unable to answer it. But the very fact that he would discuss such a question at all, and the further fact that he leaves the answer undecided, prove indisputably that he did believe in infant baptism. What would these Baptists think of me if I took one of their statements denying that baptism is necessary to salvation, and asserted that this was “putting down all baptism out and out”? There is really no excuse for such twisting of facts.

Wall's History of Infant-Baptism gives another example of the perversion of Wycliffe's words to make him out to be a Baptist. “Mr. [Henry] Danvers had brought this man [Wycliffe] for one of his witnesses against infant-baptism; taking a great deal of pains to shew how great a man Wickliffe was. And what is worse, he had cited some passages out of this book [the Trialogue, cited above], and these very chapters; taking here and there a scrap, which by itself might seem to make for his purpose.

“Mr. [Richard] Baxter, to answer him and vindicate Wickliffe, transcribed the whole passage of the length of several pages. A thing that is tedious, but yet necessary in answering such quoters. `And now reader judge,' says Mr. Baxter, `what a sad case poor, honest, ignorant Christians are in, that must have their souls seduced, troubled, and led into separations, &c. by such a man,--------when a man as pleading for Christ and baptism dare, not only print such things, but stand to them in a second edition, and defend them by a second book.'

“But all this did no good upon him. For that he might shew himself the most tenacious man that ever lived, of what he had once said, he does in another reply after that, go about with a great many words to maintain his point.”

Verily, nothing has changed in two centuries! Wall writes further of Wycliffe, “...if an author give his opinion in plain words, that all baptized infants are in a state of salvation; but make a question of those that die unbaptized, whether they can be saved or not; and do also speak of the baptizing of an infant as being according to Christ's rule, and do call the people's intention of doing it a pious intention; one needs no plainer account of his approving it.” The language of Wycliffe to which Wall refers is, in its context, as follows: “In the same manner the child of a believer is carried into the church to be baptized, according to the rule of Christ, and in failure of water, or some requisite, (the whole people retaining their pious intent,) the child is not baptized, and meanwhile dies by the visitation of God; it seems hard, in this case, to assert that this infant will be lost, especially since neither the child nor the people sinned, so as to be the cause of its condemnation. Where is the compassionate bounty of the Divine Christ, if such an offspring of believers is from this cause to be lost, when God, according to the common principles of theology, is more ready to reward than condemn men, both through the obedience and passion of Christ, and his own longsuffering?”

Wall continues, “If Wickliffe had ever spoke a word against the baptizing of infants, the council of Constance would not have failed in those forty-five articles drawn up against him, after his death, to have objected to that; for they commonly overdo that work; whereas they object nothing about baptism; and what others object is, that he gave hopes that some unbaptized infants might come to heaven.” Likewise, in An Apology for Lollard Doctrines, attributed to Wycliffe (Published by the Camden Society in 1842), the writer replies to thirty charges brought against him, and none of them have anything to do with baptism.

But there are many who profess to write histories, who in fact do nothing but plead for a cause. They have learned to interpret history exactly as many interpret the Bible, “taking here and there a scrap,” as Wall says, and constructing whatever they please of it. They rarely quote anything from first-hand knowledge or research, but, as remarked above, continually quote the opinions of other pleaders as though they were the facts of history. Worse yet, some of them do not even have the honesty to quote the opinions of the previous pleaders intact or entire, but take a scrap here and there of those opinions, just as it suits their cause, and pawn it off as history. Such a one is W. A. Jarrel, author of Baptist Church Perpetuity. Among many other things concerning Wycliffe, he rehearses upwards of a dozen (out of sixty-two which Fuller had enumerated) differences between Wycliffe's views and Romanism. One such he lists as follows: “That those are fools who affirm that infants cannot be saved without baptism; and also that he denied that all sins are abolished in baptism. That baptism doth not confer, but only signifies grace.” He goes on to comment on this proposition that it “condemns infant baptism and water salvation.”

On that I can only comment that those who thus write fiction and call it history ought to be met with firm indignation by all who love the truth. First, the proposition, even in the perverted form in which he gives it, certainly does NOT condemn infant baptism. It only affirms that the baptism of infants is not necessary to their salvation. Certainly this pleader knew very well that many baptize infants, who do not believe that that baptism saves them, or that baptism is necessary to their salvation.

But in the second place, this proposition as he gives it perverts altogether the real sense and utterances of Wycliffe. We have quoted above Wycliffe's statement that it is a “fundamental article of belief” that “baptism destroys whatever sin was found in the man.” What Wycliffe actually wrote concerning the salvation of an unbaptized infant is,

“...I hold my peace as one dumb, and humbly confess my ignorance, making use of conditional expressions, because it doth not seem clear to me whether such an infant would be saved or lost. But I know that whatever God doth in the matter will be just, and a work of compassion, to be praised by all the faithful. But those, who relying on their own authority, or their learning, come to ANY DECISION hereupon, cannot establish what they are so foolish and presumptuous as to assume.” The meaning of this is plain enough that there is certainly no excuse for mistaking it. What Wycliffe says is that they are foolish and presumptuous who decide the question at all, so that Jarrel (and the author he quotes) might just as well have construed it to mean “That those are fools who affirm that infants CAN be saved without baptism”----for Wycliffe explicitly refuses to decide the question on either one side or the other. And the fact that he professes himself unable to decide such a question is an irrefragable proof that he did believe in infant baptism.

But enough of such pleaders, and such fiction. I have given statements enough from Wycliffe himself, and those statements are full and explicit enough, as to leave no doubt as to what he held on the subject of baptism. I believe my readers are competent to judge whether this is the language of one who can in any sense be called a Baptist.

The Ashes of Wycliffe

by Glenn Conjurske

John Wycliffe, strong and true for Christ,
To please poor man he nothing cared:
The pope he styled the antichrist,
Nor prelate, priest, nor monk he spared.

What pope could such reproaches bear,
Or brook so foul a heresy!
Vile Wycliffe must to Rome repair,
To answer to the Holy See!

The papal summons come to view,
The papal purpose God would thwart:
For God would summon Wycliffe, too,
To answer to a higher court.

No foot he stirred to go to Rome,
But robbed the tyrant of his prey,
For, weak with age, he died at home,
And angels bore his soul away.

The higher court, why should he fear?
For he no falt'ring race had run:
With record clean, and title clear,
He heard his Saviour say, “Well done.”

Yon pope could not endure the trick,
Nor let him sleep complacently,
He yet must burn the heretic,
And yet condemn his heresy.

Drag forth his body from its rest:
His wicked life and doctrine spurn:
Let all the Christian world attest,
This man was only fit to burn.

His bones consume within the fire;
His foes in songs their voices lift,
Then on his ashes wreak their ire,
And cast them in the River Swift.

Awake! thou Swift, nor longer dream
Of languid days of ease and rest.
How canst thou so complacent seem,
With such a burden on thy breast?

Arise, embrace the precious dust,
And bear it nobly on its way:
Thou carriest a sacred trust,
For God has honored thee today.

The Avon bides, the Severn waits,
To take the precious charge from thee,
And bear thy treasure to the gates
Of yonder waiting, open sea.

Flow steady! silent! strong and sure!
The dear deposit safely keep,
Until thou lay it down secure,
Upon the bosom of the deep.

And now, ye seas, behold your hour:
Firm grasp, strong hold, the sacred prize.
Now bear it on, with all your pow'r,
To ev'ry land beneath the skies!

Ye restless waves, ye billows strong,
What honor could ye covet more?
Then bear these ashes swift along,
And scatter them on every shore.

This man is not for England grand----
This man is not for Oxford hoar----
For truth belongs to ev'ry land,
And righteousness to ev'ry shore.

Eternal currents of the deep!
By popes and kingdoms all unawed,
Sweep on! to ev'ry shoreline sweep,
The ashes of the man of God!

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Presbyterian Histories

While the history of Methodism is largely a history of revival, the history of Presbyterianism----so far as there is anything in it above the commonplace----is largely a history of strife. The most notable examples of evangelistic fervor appear where the Presbyterians were directly influenced by the Methodists, as in the days of George Whitefield, and of the Cumberland Presbyterians----but evangelism and revival invariably led to further strife. Yet a history of strife may be both profitable and edifying, as must be evident from the fact that many of the historical portions of the Bible are records of strife.

The Presbyterian church is the church of John Calvin, and so far as the English branch of it is concerned (which alone I treat here), the church of John Knox, which is the church of Scotland. American Presbyterians have often referred to “the mother church of Scotland” for their precedents. Those who wish to study the origins of it may wade through John Knox's History of the Reformation in Scotland. My edition of this, published in 1950 by the Philosophical Library, is in two volumes, comprising nearly 900 pages. Those who read this might suppose they have stumbled upon the long lost “Book of the Wars of the Lord.” Upon reading it, John Wesley wrote in his journal (June 23, 1766) “...could any man wonder if the members of it [the Church of Scotland] were more fierce, sour, and bitter of spirit than some of them are? For what a pattern have they before them! I know it is commonly said, `The work to be done needed such a spirit.' Not so; the work of God does not, cannot need the work of the devil to forward it. And a calm even spirit goes through rough work far better than a furious one. Although, therefore, God did use, at the time of the Reformation, some sour, overbearing, passionate men, yet He did not use them because they were such, but notwithstanding they were so.” The Life of John Knox, by Thomas M'Crie, also of necessity contains much on the formation of the Reformed Church of Scotland. This is a large and detailed work, 579 pages in the edition which I have, which was published in 1898 by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia. This book was originally published in 1811, but has gone through numerous editions, and is not particularly scarce.

The history of Scottish Presbyterianism may be found in W. M. Hetherington's History of the Church of Scotland, a book of over 800 pages, with a good index, which takes the history down to 1841, when the book was published. Two years later “the disruption” occurred, in which much of the evangelical element of the church separated to form the Free Church of Scotland. This is told in detail in Thomas Brown's Annals of the Disruption, another book of above 800 pages, with index (New Edition, published in Edinburgh in 1890).

It was the principle of Calvin and Knox to establish a theocracy, after the pattern of Old Testament Judaism, and under this plan Presbyterianism triumphed in England in the days of Oliver Cromwell. Aside from that brief triumph, the Presbyterians have not much flourished in England. “Their Rise, Decline, and Revival” are rehearsed in History of the Presbyterians in England, by A. H. Drysdale, a throrough history of 644 pages, with a good index, published by the Presbyterian Church of England in 1889. The Westminster Assembly, which produced the confession which has been the standard of Presbyterianism ever since, belonged to the brief period of Presbyterian ascendency, and its history was written by the same Hetherington mentioned above, in a book entitled History of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, my copy of which was published by Robert Carter in 1859, and has 311 pages.

American Presbyterianism has been the scene of great conflicts between the Old School and the New School, and those conflicts are of very great interest. Much of the best of American Presbyterianism will be found in Biographical Sketches of the Founder and Principal Alumni of the Log College, by Archibald Alexander, a book of moderate size first published in 1845 (my copy, 1851, Presbyterian Board of Publication). It describes the work of William Tennent and his sons and associates, who were the friends and coadjutors of George Whitefield. Their measures were much opposed by what was then called the Old Side, resulting in a division of the Presbyterian Church in 1741. It was reunited in 1758, Gilbert Tennent having been conspicuous in both the division and the reunion. The history of those times is recorded in The Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, by Charles Hodge, published in 1839 and 1840, immediately after another division, of which we shall speak shortly. Hodge's work is very well done, and contains good information on the Great Awakening in America, and on the opposition to it on the part of the Old Side. The history of that period is largely told also in Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, which is a reprint of all of the minutes of the synods from 1706 to 1788, published in 1841 by the Presbyterian Board of Publication----somewhat tedious, of course, but containing much that is of great interest. Another work which covers much of the history of those times, and contains excellent information, is A History of the Presbyterian Church in America, from its Origin Until the Year 1760, by Richard Webster, published in 1857 as the first volume put forth by the Presbyterian Historical Society. The book contains nearly 700 pages, the first 294 of which are devoted to the history and preliminary matters, and the rest to biographical sketches. The first two chapters of the book could have been dispensed with, or greatly curtailed. The author is evidently of the Old School, and governed by its prejudices. He goes so far as to affirm, “In New England, the case was widely different. There Arminianism was secretly working and widely diffused. Its effect was seen in the lethargic preaching, and the dead formalism, strangely joined with bitter denunciation, and tireless manoeuvers to put down every one who acknowledged another king besides Cæsar.” According to this dictum, we must believe the whole Wesleyan movement to be characterized by lethargic preaching and dead formalism! As for bitter denunciations, he might find plenty of them at the farthest remove from Arminianism. The author is obviously biased against Gilbert Tennent, but is strangely defensive of James Davenport. Nevertheless, he usually writes from a moderate position, without bigotry. Thus in speaking of the great growth of the New Side, and the stagnation of the Old Side, during the years of division, he says, “The difference must be resolved mainly into the influence of the great Revival; the Spirit was poured out from on high on the young men, and they forsook their trades and gave themselves to the ministry.” The Old School generally refused to acknowledge the revival as the work of God, which indeed was the primary reason for the division.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church grew out of the great Kentucky revival about the turn of the century. Though there were specific issues raised in the conflict and division, such as the preaching of “uneducated” men, it was again in reality a struggle between the Old School and the New School, between a rigid adherence to the Westminster Confession, and evangelical Christianity. The literature of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was never circulated in great profusion, and so is scarce today. I have seen but little of it, but was fortunate enough to find, in a secular used book store in Arkansas, History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, by B. W. McDonnold, a book of 679 pages, published in 1888. We wish the book had more of the early history, and less of the later.

Coming to a more recent time, the Presbyterian Church was again divided in 1838. The issues were essentially the same----rigid Calvinism and rigid adherence to the Westminister Confession in the Old School, and in the New School, an endeavor to “explain” the Confession so as to make it more compatible with the Scripture and reason, and a more active use of measures to promote evangelism. Several of the prominent men of the New School were brought to trial for their opinions, including Lyman Beecher and Albert Barnes. The Synod of Cincinnati requested Beecher to publish his views in a pamphlet. He responded with a book of 240 pages, entitled Views in Theology (Cincinnati: Truman and Smith, 1836). This is an exposition of New England theology, or New School Calvinism. Albert Barnes was tried about the same time, and acquitted by his Presbytery, which was made up largely of New School men. Barnes' sermon which gave offense (preached in 1829) is entitled The Way of Salvation, of which I have the seventh edition, published in 1836, “Together with Mr. Barnes Defence of the Sermon, Read before the Synod of Philadelphia..., and his `Defence' before the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia.” His accuser's side is told in The Vindication, Containing a History of the Trial of Rev. Albert Barnes, by the Second Presbytery, and by the Synod of Philadelphia, by George Junkin (Philadelphia: Wm. S. Martien, 1836, 159 pp.) Junkin appealed to the Synod, which condemned Barnes. The record of this trial is of very great interest. It was published as Trial of the Rev. Albert Barnes, Before the Synod of Philadelphia...on a Charge of Heresy...with All the Pleadings and Debate, As Reported for the New York Observer by Arthur J. Stanbury (New York: Van Nostrand & Dwight, 1836). Neither side appears to advantage in this trial, the Old School (who were in the majority and knew it) conducting themselves with high-handed harshness, the New School men resorting to the most unworthy shifts to thwart the proceedings, and both sides quibbling over technicalities like children. The case went to the General Assembly, in which the Old School men shored up their ranks and acted decisively and nobly to maintain discipline, and the constitution of the church. They exscinded the disorderly presbyteries and rescinded their acts. The New School acted ignobly and unconstitutionally, and failing to gain their way in the General Assembly, took the matter to court, where they were defeated (in the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania). If only it had been the Bible for which the Old School stood so nobly in defense, instead of the Westminster Confession! Nevertheless, the New School men were pledged to adhere to the Confession, and Barnes freely admits that he and many others did not strictly hold to all of it. Though Scripture and conscience forced them to depart from the Westminster Confession, it would have been more honorable for them to have left the church without a struggle. Not that this would have prevented all of the evils of the division, for if these men had left individually, individual congregations would have been divided, no doubt with the usual hard feelings, struggles over church property, etc. The history of the whole struggle is well told in A History of the New School, and the Questions Involved in the Disruption of the Presbyterian Church in 1838, by Samuel J. Baird, a book of 654 pages, with good index, published in 1868. This is by an Old School man, who nevertheless concedes that the Westminster Confession is not infallible, and may be in error on some points of interpretation, but yet contends that “the doctrines, all of them, of the connected system set forth in the Confession, are the very and infallible truth of God, and gospel of salvation.” By this he of course means Calvinism.

There are of course many local histories of churches and presbyteries, but these usually contain little of general interest, and I do not concern myself with them. There are a couple of notable exceptions to this, however. The first is The Presbytery of the Log College, by Thomas Murphy (497 pp., 1889). Large portions of this are of general interest. It contains much on Whitefield and the Tennents, and is well indexed. The second is Origin and Annals of “The Old South” First Presbyterian Church and Parish in Newburyport, Mass., edited by Horace G. Hovey (223 pp., 1896). This is the church in which George Whitefield is buried, and though most of the book is of local interest only, there is a something to be gleaned from it.

Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor

The Strait Gate and the Narrow Way

It is nothing uncommon to read, in hymn books and elsewhere, of the “straight and narrow way.” The narrow way we have read of in the Bible, but of the straight way it says nothing. This is nothing more than a popular misconception, a corruption of the Bible word “strait,” which is the same in sound, but diverse in spelling, and altogether different in meaning. The word “strait” means tight or cramped or narrow. “The strait gate” is practically equivalent in meaning to “the narrow gate,” and though the word “strait” is somewhat archaic, there are good reasons for retaining it in the English Bible.

In the first place, it would hardly do to say “narrow is the gate, and narrow the way,” and in fact two different words are used in the Greek.

Secondly, though “strait” has passed out of use as a general adjective, still it has not altogether passed out of our language. Children in school learn of the Strait of Magellan, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Straits of Mackinac, and know that a strait is a narrow place. The terms “strait-laced” and “strait jacket” are still in common use, and are well enough understood.

But the most compelling reason for retaining the word is that the strait gate is an old landmark. The term has been part of the English Bible, and so of the English Christian heritage, for over 600 years.

The Wycliffe Bible (c.1388) reads, at Matthew 7:14, “Hou streit is êe 3ate, and narw3 êe weye, êat lediê to lijf.”

A Lollard treatise of a few years later (The Lanterne of Lizt, edited by Lilian M. Swinburn, EETS, 1917, pg. 128) has “Enter 3e bi êe strayt 3ate. for large is êe 3ate & brood is êe weye êat lediê to dampnacioun; & manye êer ben êat entren bi it. O, How penyful is êe 3ate & how strei3t is êe weye êat lediê to lijf; & fewe êer ben êat fynden it.” “Painful” means “requiring pains,” or “laborious,” which the Vulgate's angusta, literally “narrow,” may justify if taken figuratively.

Tyndale's New Testament (1534) exhibits the place thus: “Enter in at the strayte gate: for wyde is ye gate/ and broade is the waye that leadeth to destruccion: and many ther be which goo yn therat. But strayte is the gate/ & narowe ys the waye which leadeth vnto lyfe: and feawe there be that fynde it.” And so all other early English Bibles:

Coverdale (1535)----“But strayte is the gate, and narowe ys the waye.”

Great Bible (1540)----“For strayte is the gate, and narowe is the waye.”

Geneva Bible (1560)----“Because the gate is streicte, and the way narowe.”

Bishops' Bible (1568)----“Because, strayte is the gate, and narowe is the way.”

In 1869 Henry Alford put forth The New Testament ... After the Authorized Version, Newly compared with the original Greek, and revised, in which he exhibited the place, “Because narrow is the gate, and straitened is the way, which leadeth unto life.” This was followed in essence by the Revised Version of 1881. Yet for all that, folks still speak of the strait gate and the narrow way, and I have never heard of a reference to “the straitened way.” And why “straitened”?----since it means nothing other than “narrow.” If folks wish to be very technical, it means “narrowed”----a perfect participle, but these are quite commonly used as equivalents of simple adjectives: that is, “narrow.” Both the NIV and the NASV retain “narrow” here (though of course not “strait,” which they replace with “small,” with a definite loss in sense), but the NKJV has the gate “narrow,” and the way “difficult.” Surely in their determination to change the old version, they forgot their theology. I do not doubt that the way is difficult, but I do doubt that they think so. But no matter. They have overlooked something else just as obvious. Whatever they may suppose the Greek v to mean somewhere else, there is really no doubt that here it is intended as the antithesis of j v , which no one doubts means “broad.” And beside all this, “difficult” is a mere chimera. Where does v mean “difficult”? In a figurative sense it may be “distressed” or “afflicted,” but where “difficult”? And all this, I suppose, merely to get rid of the word “strait.” Better to have retained it.

Editorial Policies

Old articles are reprinted without alteration (except for corrections of printing errors), unless stated otherwise. The editor inserts such articles if they are judged to be profitable for scriptural instruction or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's own views are to be taken from his own writings.