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Vol. 4, No. 3
Mar., 1995

The Two Witnesses

by Glenn Conjurske

“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. . . . And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, and have power over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” (Rev. 11:3-6).

I do not much waste my brains about the identity of these two witnesses, as many have done for many centuries. We know assuredly that “Elijah indeed is coming” (Matt. 17:11, Gk.), but whether he is one of these two witnesses I know nothing. Nor am I called to traffic in possibilities, nor probabilities either, but in certainties. Let the identity of these two witnesses remain, then, where God has left it, among the secret things which belong to the Lord our God. What is revealed concerning them is not their identity, but their character, and that is revealed with a plainness not to be mistaken. What is not revealed is no concern of ours. What is revealed is of great importance.

Now the character of these two witnesses is one mark (among many) of the character of the time to which they belong. And this mark is plain, clear, and indeed, decisive. Their character marks them as Jews, not Christians. By this I mean, their character plainly marks them as belonging to the Jewish economy, not merely as Jewish converts to Christianity. Indeed, so far as blood and birth are concerned, they might in fact be Gentiles, but if so, they are proselytes to the Jewish economy, not converts to the Christian economy. They are of course Christians, in the sense that they are disciples of Christ, but they do not belong to the present Christian economy, but to the restored Jewish economy. Nothing can be more obvious than that they belong to an economy in which God is asserting his righteous claims to the earth, and not an economy in which he proceeds upon the principles of grace and forbearance. They conduct themselves, therefore, precisely as Moses and Elijah did under the same sort of economy. “If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies, and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, and have power over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will.”

Such conduct was altogether proper for Moses and Elijah. It was exactly in keeping with the character of the dispensation under which they lived, as it will be altogether proper for these two apocalyptic witnesses in their time. But it is altogether improper for a Christian of the present dispensation. The Scriptures are clear enough on that point. “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:54-56). Elijah knew what spirit he was of. He was acting exactly according to the mind of God when he slew the false prophets with the sword, and called down fire from heaven to devour his enemies. This was altogether right for a Jew, but it is not for a Christian. It was altogether right for the Jews to put the Canaanites to the edge of the sword, but it is not so for a Christian. It was of the Lord that the Jews of Esther's day should take vengeance upon all their enemies in a day, but this is not the work of Christianity. There has been a change of dispensation. In the former economy God was bringing his righteousness to bear upon the earth, and judgement was therefore the character of the time. In the present economy God manifests his grace, and forbearance therefore characterizes the time. It is perfectly plain, then, that the two witnesses of the Apocalypse do not belong to the present dispensation. There must be, and will be, another change of dispensation ere they come on the scene.

That change of dispensation is plainly indicated in Revelation 11, but two verses before these two witnesses appear. There we are told, “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod, and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles, and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” Now observe, this measuring of the temple indicates that God again takes possession of it, and owns it as his. It is again “the temple of God.” And it is perfectly plain from the following verse that this is no heavenly or spiritual temple, but the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, the outer court of which is given to the Gentiles, while they still tread down the holy city. If that temple were standing today----if the Jews were to build it tomorrow----it would not be the temple of God. It would not be owned of God, any more than he owns the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. God cannot own that temple of the Jews until there is a change of dispensation. I insist upon this as a point of the first importance, for some post-tribulationists hold that the two witnesses belong to the church, or represent the church. And why? Only to thrust the church of the present dispensation into “the time of Jacob's trouble.” Yet the obvious character of these two witnesses is a plain indication that they do not belong to the present economy. If they were on the earth today, and members of the church of God, they would be acting altogether out of character, and altogether against the mind of the Lord.

And understand, it is no question of whether these witnesses are Jews or Gentiles. It is no question of whether the rest of the apocalyptic saints are Jews or Gentiles, but under what economy do they live? It is no question of whether the Jewish religion existed alongside of the Christian during this dispensation, nor whether “the Christian religion” will exist alongside the restored Jewish economy at a future date. No----the question is whether God owns both of those economies simultaneously. No one doubts that the Jews' religion, the Jews' culture, and the Jews' national identity, remained for many years after the inauguration of Christianity----any more than any one doubts that the Jews' religion exists alongside of Christianity today. Nor need we have any doubt that “the Christian religion”----as it is found in the ungodly false church----will co-exist with Judaism during Daniel's seventieth week, but it will not be owned of God. In the early days of this dispensation, the plain fact is that God did not own or acknowledge the Jewish economy, any more than he does today, though it still existed. And THIS is the only real issue. The shell of Judaism existed for forty years after the formation of the church, but it was not owned of God, and its temple was not the house of God. The shell of Christianity will exist after the rapture of the true church, but it will not be the household of God. God signified that he was done with the Jewish economy, when he rent the veil in the temple from top to bottom. The Jews no doubt did some scurrying to replace the veil which God had rent in twain. And they no doubt kept up all the service of the temple for another forty years, until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. But during all of that forty years that temple was no longer the house of God, and the Jewish economy, though outwardly continuing, was cast off of God.

But the seventieth week of Daniel remains yet to be fulfilled. It is the last of those weeks determined upon Daniel's people and Daniel's holy city----that is, upon the Jews and Jerusalem. That week belongs to the Jewish economy, not to the Christian. And one among many of the proofs of this is the character of the two witnesses. Supposing them to belong to the gospel dispensation, it is plain that they know not what spirit they are of. How should God exalt to such a place of eminence men who were such poor specimens of that testimony which they were called to bear? To the gospel dispensation it belongs to “resist not evil”----to call upon God to forgive our very murderers. But these men kill those who would do them hurt----and they do it by divine power, and so evidently with divine sanction. These are of the spirit of Elijah, who slew the false prophets with the sword, and called down fire from heaven to devour those who would do him hurt. They are of the spirit of Elisha, who cursed the mocking children to death by the she-bears. They are of the spirit of Ehud, who drove the dagger into the belly of the oppressor of Israel, and of the spirit of Jael, who drove the nail into the temple of Israel's enemy. And this she did (note well) according to the mind of the Lord, and with his sanction and blessing. For this deed she received the unqualified commendation of God. “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. ... She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer, and with the hammer she smote Sisera; she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.” (Judges 5:24,26). Such are these two witnesses. But they are not of the spirit of Stephen or of Paul. They are not of the spirit of him who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them----who rebuked his disciples for the thought of calling down fire upon their enemies.

But note well, this same Jesus, who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them, will come again----and come not to save men's lives, but to destroy them. “Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousands of his saints, to EXECUTE JUDGEMENT upon all.” (Jude 14-15). The Father says to the Son, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron: thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” (Psalm 2:8-9). The dispensation of judgement is as much of the Lord as is the dispensation of grace. Both of these dispensations belong to the same Christ, but they do not belong to the same time. The gospel dispensation, being an economy of grace and forbearance, produces that same character in its witnesses. The dispensation of judgement requires a different character in its witnesses.

But understand, when I speak of the character of the witnesses, I speak of the character of their conduct, not necessarily of the character of their feelings. The fact is, both the holiness which calls for judgement, and the love which calls for mercy, exist at all times in the bosom of God. And these same may exist at all times in his saints also, regardless of the character of the dispensation to which they belong. Yet in a day of judgement God denies himself the expression of that love which he nevertheless feels towards the objects of his judgement. And in a day of grace he restrains the expression of that indignation which he feels towards those to whom he extends his mercy and forbearance. The same may be the fact in his saints also. Who knows but that it may have broken the heart of Joshua to stone Achan? And what Christian----not to say what human being----can be without strong feelings of indignation towards those who slander and scatter and peel the little flock of God? Yet the character of the dispensation requires that those feelings of indignation be restrained, while we forbear and forgive. On the other hand, the character of the Jewish dispensation requires that those emotions of compassion, which a saint of God must naturally and unavoidably feel towards the wicked, should be restrained, and the judgements of God executed. That there is grace in every dispensation there is no doubt----and judgement, too. But grace is the character of some dispensations, and judgement the character of others, and those who live under those various administrations must know what spirit they are of, and walk according to the character of the economy then in force, if they would walk according to the mind of God.

What doubt, then, can there be that the two apocalyptic witnesses belong to the Jewish dispensation? Those who hold those witnesses to belong to the same dispensation which is now in force understand nothing of the issues involved. What can be thought of the interpretation of (amillennialist) Albertus Pieters, who says, “These [two witnesses] symbolize the whole preaching activity of the church of that period, both to the Jews and to Gentiles”? But supposing these witnesses to be purely symbolic (as Pieters and all amillennialists hold), how can they think them symbolic of the gospel ministry, or of anything belonging to the church? Can they preach Christ's doctrine of non-resistance, and represent the church by men who kill all who would hurt them? The figure is altogether unfitting, if figure it be. It is of the worst sort which could have been chosen, unless we were to represent the church by thieves and adulterers. If these witnesses are symbolic of the church, then surely, they know not what spirit they are of. Alas, amillennialists have a ready answer for this. The killing of their enemies, the shutting up of heaven that it rain not, the smiting the earth with every plague----these are all symbolic----and symbolic, forsooth, of the ministry of the gospel! Unsparing judgement, in other words, is symbolic of mercy. But this cannot be. If the ministry of these witnesses is symbolic, it is symbolic of judgement, not of mercy. And if the witnesses themselves are symbolic, they are not symbolic of anything or anybody which belongs to the present dispensation. A fitting symbol they might be of Israel, but not of the church. Their presence in the Apocalypse is one (among many) of the strong indications that that portion of the Apocalypse does not belong to the present dispensation.

Some post-tribulationists spiritualize these witnesses in the same manner as the amillennialists do, holding them to represent the testimony of the church, and failing to perceive the incongruity of it all. Others take them to be literal witnesses, but belonging to the present dispensation, they also failing to perceive the confusion which they thus introduce into the ways of God. Yet the more thoughtful among them have not failed to note how foreign the character of these witnesses is to the character of Christianity. Thus B. W. Newton says of them, “This however is the hour which God has selected for the mission of a new character of testimony”----a testimony, that is, of a different character from the testimony of the church. Where, then, is the church while this new testimony is in progress? To this question, which Newton obviously felt, he gives this remarkable answer: “But when the last period arrives, and the 1260 days commence by the planting of the idol of the desolator, we find Christianity, not indeed extinguished in the earth, but withdrawn from Judah and Jerusalem.” Thus one of the most prominent of the fathers of modern (anti-Darbyite) post-tribulationism gives his unequivocal testimony that Christianity is no longer present when these two witnesses testify. True, he limits the absence of the church to the land of Israel, rather than to the whole earth, but his system necessitates this. It is true enough that when these two witnesses testify, the land of Israel will again be the center of God's operations on the earth, but his operations there will not be of a different character from his operations throughout the rest of the earth. The church will be indeed “withdrawn from Judah and Jerusalem,” and from the whole earth besides. The testimony of God will again be committed to Israel. The character of that testimony is seen in the character of these two witnesses.

The Back Side of the Desert

by Glenn Conjurske

“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the backside of the desert.” (Ex. 3:1). Here we see Moses, at the age of eighty, still going to school, but about to graduate, and to enter upon his life's work. The back side of the desert is the well understood symbol of the school of God----well understood, at any rate, by those who have been there. That God has a school, in which he trains his prophets, is an undoubted fact, though the pride and restlessness of the flesh may heartily wish that he had not----for it is no easy school. Men----especially men who have too little confidence in God, and too much confidence in the flesh----seek always to pass by this school of God. Most of them, indeed, know nothing of its existence. There is, they think, an easier way to get into the service of Christ. Three or four years at a Bible school or seminary will amply prepare them to do the work of the Lord. They finish their collegiate course, and think themselves fit for the work of the Lord, while in fact they may be no more fit than they were before they went to school----and they may be a good deal less fit.

But God has his own school, in which he trains his own prophets, and the school of God is entirely independent of the schools of men. Not that God cannot use the various schools of men as a part of his own training of his servants. Assuredly he can, and no doubt often does----though it is an indisputable fact that he has dispensed with those schools altogether in the training of many of his greatest servants. No doubt the school of Gamaliel formed a segment of the training of the apostle Paul, but Peter, James, and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, never saw such a school. Your Bible institute or seminary training may be the kindergarten or the first grade of the school of God----but it surely is not the whole course.

Moses was in the school of God for forty years in the desert, tending the sheep of his father-in-law. Yet it is surely correct also to say that he was in the school of God for eighty years, for as Paul was “separated from his mother's womb” to the work of the Lord, so undoubtedly was Moses. Yet the early training of Paul did not so much fit him to do the work of God, as it did to enter the school of God. And so it was with Moses also. See him then at the age of forty:

“And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian. For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them, but they understood not.” (Acts 7:22-25). Moses, in other words, was just the kind of man that the churches and Christian organizations of the present day would delight to have at their head. He was in the strength of his manhood, at the age of forty. He was “every way qualified,” standing above all of his countrymen in educational, natural, and spiritual endowments. He had his doctor's degree from the University of Egypt, being learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was a man of great natural ability, being mighty in word and deed. Spiritually, he was a man who had deliberately turned his back upon all of the wealth, pleasure, and glory of the court of Egypt, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Moreover, he stood possessed of the full consciousness of the call of God upon him, as the chosen instrument of God to deliver his people Israel.

And yet for all that, it is clear enough that Moses was unfit for the work to which God had called him. There was something essential to the work which was yet lacking in him. Though man might not perceive the deficiency, though Moses himself may have been entirely oblivious to it, yet the lack was surely evident to the eye of God----and God therefore conducts him to the land of Midian to enroll him in the school of God, where for forty years he must feed upon the bitter herbs of disappointment and rejection, obscurity and loneliness, and unfulfilled dreams and longings.

Now it is plain that this was no easy school. The school of God is never an easy one, and men generally do not enroll themselves in it voluntarily. But those who walk by faith and wait upon the Lord, faithful to principle and refusing compromise, are conducted by God to the back side of the desert. God has no shortage of means by which to accomplish this. The hatred of his brethren enrolled Joseph in the school of God, and the wounded pride and consequent vindictiveness of his master's wife advanced him to a higher grade. The songs of the women of Israel and the jealousy of King Saul placed David there. Some by one means, and some by another, God leads his true-hearted servants to the back side of the desert. For this the providence of God is amply sufficient. “Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,” he holds in store a thousand means with which to work his will. Most often he raises an issue of conscience. When that issue is raised, those who will compromise, and sacrifice principle for the sake of influence, may escape indeed the back side of the desert----and lose also the place of eminent usefulness which lies beyond it. Those who become the head of the corner are those who are first rejected by the builders. So it was with the Lord Jesus, as with Joseph, with Moses, with Martin Luther, and with John Wesley.

But was Moses actually in the school of God for those forty years? Did he hold on by faith to the call of God which had moved him in Egypt, and walk in the light of that call, nurturing the vision and the burden for the people of Israel which God had implanted in his heart? Without doubt he did. My reasons for believing this are three:

1.No one who has been there can have any doubt of it. This reason alone will be conclusive to those who have been there.

2.When God met Moses at the burning bush, he did not come to send a backslider to deliver his people, but a man of God. True, Moses was unfit for the work in his own eyes, but there is no doubt that he was fit for it in the eyes of God. Else God had not sent him.

3.Moses' occupation when God met him at the bush is proof enough of where his heart was. “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the backside of the desert.” Why was Moses not keeping his own flock? Why not building his own house? Jacob had spent but twenty years tending the flocks of his father-in-law, but in those twenty years he took care enough to provide for himself, so that when he returned to the land of his fathers, after tending the flock of his father-in-law for twenty years, he returned with drove after drove of great and small cattle. Not so Moses. Though he was twice twenty years at the same employment as Jacob had been before him, yet he returned to Egypt with nothing but the ass upon which he rode. I say nothing against Jacob for building his own fortune, but what I do say is that Moses had a higher calling, and obviously lived those forty years with that high calling filling his eye and directing his path. See him at eighty years of age, with no flock of his own to tend, no prospect of advancement beyond what he had the day he set foot in Midian, engaged in the same difficult and menial employment for forty years, and seeking nothing more. His heart was elsewhere. His vision was not for his own welfare, his own security, or his own comfort, but for the suffering people of God. Such a man was Moses, and such a man would God send to deliver his people.

Not that Moses was perfect. He must dispute with God about his own fitness for the work, even to the point of provoking the Lord to anger (Ex. 4:14). He was living also in neglect of the ordinance of God (evidently to please his wife), and must be corrected for it by the severe discipline of God. (Ex. 4:24-26). He was a frail vessel of clay, as every man is, including every man of God. Yet for all that, God knew his man, and knew that Moses was fit for the work.

But what real difference was there between Moses at the age of forty, and Moses at the age of eighty? Clearly he had something at the age of eighty, which he had not at the age of forty. What was it? “And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took THE ROD OF GOD in his hand.” (Ex. 4:20). What could Moses have done without that? With the rod of God he smote the waters of Egypt, and turned them to blood. With the rod of God he brought forth frogs to fill the land of Egypt. With the rod of God he brought forth the water from the rock in the wilderness. With the rod of God, held up with feeble hands, he secured for Israel the victory over Amalek. Without the rod of God, the whole mission of Moses would have proved a complete failure. At the age of eighty he held that rod in his hand. At the age of forty he did not so much as know that it existed. What then were all the learning and wisdom of the Egyptians? What then his mighty words and deeds? What even the call of God itself, without the rod of God?----for all who are called of God are not prepared of God. David was anointed by God many years before God had prepared him for the throne. To Joseph God gave his dreams many years before he was fitted for the fulfillment of them. And there is no doubt that Moses was called of God forty years before he held the rod of God in his hands.

But what is that rod of God? The power of God, no doubt, as is plain enough in Moses' case. But Moses' rod was also power with God, when he held it up on the top of the hill, making intercession for Israel. The rod of God is whatever is essential for the place of service to which a man is called. It may be the power of God. It may be the wisdom of God. It may be the truth of God, the testimony of God, a living faith, an open door. Every place of service does not require the same qualification. The man whom God calls to establish a work must have much greater ability than the man who is called to maintain it. The man whom God calls to purify his work must have a great deal more of wisdom and depth than the man who is called only to extend it. But God knows both the work and the workman, and knows exactly what sort of school every man requires, and how much of it. The workmen may differ widely one from another, and so may their particular spheres of labor, but God knows exactly how to prepare every particular workman for his own particular work.

Man knows nothing of this, and yet the very thing which the schools of men profess to do is to prepare men for the ministry. What could the schools of Egypt do to give to Moses the rod of God----or, for that matter, the schools of Israel? Indeed what could Moses have done to procure it? When he set out at the first to deliver Israel, he did not so much as know that the rod of God existed, and he certainly felt no need for it. Thus Moses at the age of forty is the exact picture of a myriad of men----many of them good men, and called of God besides----who set to work without the rod of God, and so fail altogether to accomplish the work of God. We do not fault anyone for this. Their zeal, their purpose, their devotedness, their self-denial, their determination----these may all be worthy of the most unreserved commendation, but they are not enough. Moses had all of that forty years before he had the rod of God in his hand, but it was not enough. Something deeper was wanted, though none but God could know what it was, or how to bring it about. And God knows exactly what is required in every man whom he calls to his service----knows exactly what is yet wanting, and exactly what schooling they stand in need of to make up the deficiency. Now if such men are true----true to God and principle and conscience----if they walk by faith, enduring as seeing him who is invisible, cherishing the call of God above all things, and scorning to compromise----though for a little compromise they might occupy the chief posts of honor and influence in the church----then God will lead them on in his own way. And that way will no doubt take them through the back side of the desert.

And though few men are likely to choose such a course, it is their greatest wisdom----and the surest mark of faith----to submit to it, when they are compelled to it by conscience or by providence. What glorious issues follow upon the school of God in the back side of the desert! What men of God are made there! Behold the man Moses, upon his graduation from the school of God. To the eye of man he might appear as the least likely candidate for the work before him. Most of the Christian organizations of today would refuse his services. He holds no parchment in his hand, but the rod of God. See him in his grand simplicity, enroute to deliver half a million slaves, traversing the desert, mounted upon an ass, with the rod of God in his hand. He has no official position, as Abraham Lincoln had. He has no army of a hundred thousand volunteers to fight the battles for him. He has none of the wealth of the greatest nation on earth to back him up----but the rod of God in his hand. That rod was the one grand essential for the work of God, and that rod was acquired in the back side of the desert.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Plymouth Brethren History, Biography, and Literature

The Plymouth Brethren movement produced few biographies----and most of those of an inferior sort. The earlier movement was primarily a doctrinal one, and its later history is largely a history of ecclesiasticism, and the movement as a whole contained but little of the spiritual vigor and thrilling incident which make many of the Methodist and missionary biographies so excellent. The Brethren, however, were very conscious of their own ecclesiastical position, and a number of histories of the movement have appeared. Most of these have a particular agenda to push. If ever an impartial history of the Brethren has been written, it is A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement, by H. A. Ironside, published by Zondervan in 1942. Though Ironside himself was not very exclusive in his associations with the Brethren, and was known as “the archbishop of Fundamentalism,” he did belong to the Exclusive Brethren (that is, to one of the many divisions of them). He was for many of his last years the pastor of Moody Memorial Church, but years ago an older man (who seemed to know) informed me that during his pastorate Ironside met together with a few others early on Sunday mornings for the breaking of bread, Brethren style, before attending the meetings of Moody Church. Ironside's book contains, in an appendix, the two caustic articles which James H. Brookes wrote against Brethrenism in 1895.

I believe the earliest Brethren history is Andrew Miller's “The Brethren:” A Brief Sketch of Their Origin, Progress and Testimony----written from the Exclusive viewpoint, before the Exclusives were divided into their various warring factions. This is what might be called a puff of the Brethren.

A much larger and later work is William Blair Neatby's History of the Plymouth Brethren, published in 1901. Neatby grew up among the Brethren, but whether he still belonged to any branch of them when this book was written, I do not know. I wrote on the fly-leaf after reading the book, “The transparent purpose of this book is to discredit Darby and all his adherents.” But the book is very valuable for information, and contains a good bibliography. Neatby's opinions are often very valuable also, but these, of course, must be weighed.

The History of the Brethren by Napoleon Noel appeared in 1936 (four years after the author's death) in two volumes. Noel was an Exclusive. This book details the numerous splits into which the movement has been broken, and contains a chart exhibiting four parties of Open Brethren, and twenty-one of Exclusives, including “the primitive company”----which most of them claim to be. The books contain a great deal of information, (including brief sketches of many of the Brethren), poorly organized, but with an index of proper names.

A more recent work (1968) is A History of the Brethren Movement, by F. Roy Coad, whose bias is obvious on the Open Brethren side. The book contains good information, and a good bibliography. There are a couple of other histories which I do not possess.

Chief Men Among the Brethren, compiled by Henry Pickering, contains brief biographical sketches of a hundred of the leaders of the Brethren, with good photographs of most of them. It ignores all of the divisions, and gives no indication as to which of them the men belonged to.

John Nelson Darby, by W. G. Turner, appeared many years after Darby's death, and is a small book which is more of a tribute than a biography. There is also a little saddle-stitched pamphlet of 32 pages, entitled The Last Days of J.N.D. I have the second edition, published in 1925. I assume the first edition would have been printed at the time of his death (1882), but of that I know nothing. This booklet was published, in true Exclusive style, “for Private Circulation among Brethren only,” but somehow a copy slipped out of their hands and into mine. Darby's letters have also been published in three volumes. Only very recently (1988 in German, and 1992 in English) has a full biography of Darby appeared. This is John Nelson Darby, by Max Weremchuck. The book is sympathetic to Darby----very much so----and the research for it was well done, as far as it goes, but the book is hardly adequate as a biography, for it leaves alone Darby's controversies with B. W. Newton and George Müller, which were some of the most important events of his life. The cover and binding are poor, and the cover disfigured----not to say disgraced----by a mug shot of some artist's conception of some grim-looking desperado. Whoever it is, it is not John Nelson Darby. They could have used a photograph, and saved a good deal of time, and probably money.

There are two meager sketches of William Kelly, a pamphlet entitled William Kelly as I Knew Him, by W. G. Turner, and Memories of the Life and Last Days of William Kelly, by Heyman Wreford, a book of 86 pages.

Recollections of the Late J. G. Bellett, by his daughter is a book of 200 pages, but meager as a biography.

The Life and Ministry of Thomas Neatby, edited by his wife, contains a memoir of fifteen pages, evidently by his son, the author of the history mentioned above. Neatby spent most of his life among the Exclusives, but eventually left them for the Open Brethren.

There is little more to say of Exclusive Brethren. I suppose there was little in the lives of most of them which was colorful enough, or distinctive enough, to make a biography worth while. The same is generally true of the Open Brethren, though they have produced more biographies.

George Müller was the leading man among the Open Brethren. I have spoken of him elsewhere. One of his closest associates was R. C. Chapman, whose life has been written twice, in Robert Cleaver Chapman of Barnstaple (1902), by W. H. Bennet, and Brother Indeed (1956), by Frank Holmes. A small but interesting volume of Letters of the Late Robert Cleaver Chapman has also been published.

Anthony Norris Groves is made the founder of the Brethren order by some, while others will not allow that he was one of them at all. G. H. Lang's Anthony Norris Groves obviously stands for the former opinion. It is subtitled “A Combined Study of a Man of God and of the Original Principles and Practices of THE BRETHREN.” This is a large book, published in 1939, and is largely a defense of Open Brethren principles, against Darbyism.

The associations of Henry Moorhouse with Moody and Sankey caused him to be better known than most of the Brethren. His life was written by John MacPherson, and is titled Henry Moorhouse. The information which this book contains on Moorhouse is of an excellent character, but alas, too little of the book is about Moorhouse. It follows the pattern which is very common with inferior biographers, who must intersperse what little information they have on their subject with lengthy dissertations on their own viewpoints, and so make up a book of moderate size. They would do much better to publish a small pamphlet, and stick to their subject.

“Always Abounding,” by W. J. H. Brealey, is the life of George Brealey, “The Evangelist of Blackdown Hills.”

Though most of the Brethren of all factions will disclaim B. W. Newton and S. P. Tregelles (the textual critic), yet they belonged to the Plymouth meeting in its early days, and Newton at least played largely in Brethren history. A work on these two by George H. Fromow is entitled B. W. Newton and Dr. S. P. Tregelles, Teachers of the Faith and the Future.

I have the second edition, published in 1969. I suspect the first edition was much earlier, but do not know. The book is by a strong partisan, and contains but little of a biographical nature.

Having now said about all that is worth saying on Plymouth Brethren biography, it will plainly appear to the reader that the field is a very contracted one. The most that we may hope for is to gain some scanty information on the leaders of the movement. It is altogether otherwise, however, with their doctrinal and prophetic writings. Here the field is as wide as it is rich and deep. The modern church by all means ought to read at least a good selection from the books of the early Brethren. They are not hard to find secondhand. Many of them are in print at this day, or have been recently. J. N. Darby, William Kelly, T. B. Baines, William Trotter, F. W. Grant, C. H. Mackintosh, J. G. Bellett, John R. Caldwell and others surely have something to offer, though we must separate the wheat from the chaff, as with all human productions. It is well to observe also, that it is the Exclusive Brethren of the early generations which will be found to be of the most value. Open Brethren, while warmly repudiating any connection with the Exclusives, have nevertheless been formed almost completely by the theology and practice of the early Exclusives, and continue to read and value their writings to this day. Even William Blair Neatby (no friend to Darby or the Exclusives), in speaking of “certain points of decided inferiority” of the Open Brethren, says, “For the most part the writers of the Open Brethren are hardly more than an echo of Darby, Kelly, Bellett, Denny and Deck.”* The same may generally be said of the later writers among the Exclusives. Their books are only a reiteration of the principles of the early Brethren, but without the freshness and spirituality of the earlier books. Those who wish to pursue Brethren writings may do well to hunt down a copy of Brethren Writers, by Arnold D. Ehlert, published by Baker Book House in 1969. This contains lists of Brethren writers, periodicals, publishers, and initials by which many of them identified themselves, and a good deal of other information.


The Influence of the Plymouth Brethren

by Glenn Conjurske

On the tombstone of John Nelson Darby, beneath his name, is engraved, “As Unknown and Well Known.” The same is true in a sense of the movement of which he stood at the head. For though many Christians of the present day have never heard of the Plymouth Brethren, yet almost all of them have been largely influenced by them. That influence is more apparent in what may properly be called Fundamentalism, but extends more or less to most of Evangelicalism. Certainly all who are dispensational or pretribulational, and most who are premillennial, owe that truth to the ministry of the Plymouth Brethren. And in addition to those more obvious things, there is a wealth of spiritual understanding in such things as typology, which may be traced primarily to the Brethren. Some small portions of Evangelicalism, which have little intercourse with the rest of the church, may have been little affected by Brethren doctrine, but they are the losers for it. The reason for the great influence of the Brethren is that most of the leaders of Fundamentalism in past generations were deeply influenced by Plymouth Brethren teachers and writers. In this article I aim to lay before the reader a few statements concerning that influence, written by the early leaders of Fundamentalism.

I first quote from A. J. Gordon, prominent Baptist pastor, author, and editor of the last century. Speaking of Plymouth Brethren literature he says, “The Christian world has been fairly inundated with these issues, and it may be doubted if any body of Christians ever sent forth such a mass and such a variety of biblical literature in the same length of time.

“If we were to describe in a word the theological complexion of these writings, we should say that here we have high Calvinism, preaching free grace with a fullness and plainness never surpassed; practising believers' baptism, and writing treatises on its symbolism rarely equaled for deep spiritual insight; laying down a rule of life almost ascetic in its requirement of separation from the world and surrender of earthly possessions for Christ's sake; and holding with primitive apostolic fervor to the personal, literal, and ever-imminent coming of Christ as the hope of the church. It is our opinion that the best writings of this body have furnished the text-books of modern evangelism, and largely determined its type of doctrine and preaching. ...

“These books...have constituted the chief theological treasury of many of our evangelists. We can say for ourselves that, from the first time our eyes fell upon these treasures, we have nowhere else seen the gospel so luminously presented----the gospel of the grace of God, disencumbered of legalism and mysticism and tradition. ...

“Besides books, there were men. This little sect of which we are speaking has certainly shown us some apostolic characters. When George Müller set himself to live a life `out and out for God,' and to prove in his own experience what can be accomplished by the single means of prayer and faith, many criticized, but few commended. When men like Darby and Wigram forsook their aristocratic associations, and laid down their great inherited wealth at the feet of Christ, going forth in apostolic fashion, without scrip or purse, to preach the gospel in every city, and in almost every European tongue, none went before them to sound the trumpet of fame. But such examples are always and inevitably contagious; and they have doubtless affected the consecration of modern evangelism quite as strongly as the books have influenced its doctrine.

“Such, we believe, after much thought and careful investigation and frequent conversations with those best qualified to judge, is the real spring of the present evangelistic movement. It demands a fearless candour to concede it, but we believe that truth requires us to confess that we owe a great debt, both in literature and in life, to the leaders of this ultra-Protestant movement. And we are glad to believe that the light which it has thrown out by its immense biblical study and research has been appropriated by many of the best preachers and evangelists in our Protestant churches.” A number of Gordon's statements are not very accurate, such as that the Brethren were “high Calvinists,” but I quote merely to record their influence, upon Gordon and the church at large.

A. C. Gaebelein was a man of great influence among Fundamentalists, preaching in Bible conferences and teaching in Bible schools from coast to coast, editing a monthly magazine (Our Hope), and writing numerous books. He speaks thus of the Plymouth Brethren: “...I had become acquainted with the works of those able and godly men who were used in the great spiritual movement of the Brethren in the early part of the nineteenth century, John Nelson Darby and others. I found in his writings, in the works of William Kelly, McIntosh, F. W. Grant, Bellett and others the soul food I needed. I esteem these men next to the Apostles in their sound and spiritual teaching. But as for an actual affiliation with any of the numerous parties of Brethrenism I could not consent to this, for I found that the party-spirit among these different divisions was even more sectarian than the sectarianism of the larger denominations.” From this it appears that it was the writings of the early Brethren which Gaebelein so valued. The Brethren of his own day were a different matter.

The influence of Henry Moorhouse upon D. L. Moody I have related elsewhere. Of the influence of the Brethren in general upon him his son writes, “For a time Moody came under the influence of the Plymouth Brethren. Their familiarity with the Scriptures, their assiduous study of the Bible, and their spiritual insight into its truths made a strong appeal to him. C. H. MacIntosh and J. N. Darby were prominent leaders among the body, and Moody became a diligent student of their works.” What he can mean by “for a time” is hard to guess, but it is the way of Will Moody to slight and downplay everything spiritual, and play up everything unspiritual. At any rate, it is certain that the influence of the Brethren upon Moody was permanent. Napoleon Noel relates that “During D. L. Moody's meetings at the Opera House in London, scarcely a day passed that Mr. Moody did not spend an hour with Mr. F. C. Bland over the Bible.” Bland was a leading teacher among the Brethren.

James H. Brookes was among the most influential among the Fundamentalists before the turn of the century. He was much influenced by the Brethren, and was among the earliest of non-Brethren to come out strongly for the pretribulation rapture of the church. Just before his death he characterized the Brethren as “a people, who are on the whole the soundest in faith, and most intelligent in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Brookes is also a good example of the many who, to the chagrin of the Brethren, were more than willing to be taught by the Brethren, but a good deal less than willing to follow them in all the claims of Brethrenism. Brookes writes, “The Brethren have been largely engaged in kicking each other, in trying to get earnest Christians out of `systems,' in forbidding their people to listen to preachers who preach the truth in different denominations, in rejecting fellowship with other believers, in lofty and ridiculous claims to be the church without the ability to tell an inquirer which one of the twenty or more fighting factions among themselves occupies the true church ground. Mr. Darby, to whom thousands are so greatly indebted, once said, `I[t] would not be surprising if they exclude me after awhile'; and then the noble old man added, `The comfort I have is that no man can call me a Darbyite.”'

C. I. Scofield was also very influential in establishing the doctrines of Fundamentalism. Of him Alexander Reese says, “Scofield was for a generation an assiduous and admiring student of Darby's writings.” I do not know upon what authority Reese makes this statement, but the thing itself is very likely, for Scofield looked up to James H. Brookes as his mentor, and Brookes would certainly have led him in that direction. Scofield's disciple, William Pettingill, published monthly expositions of the “International Sunday School Lessons.” Many of his expositions consisted largely of lengthy quotations from Plymouth Brethren writers.

William R. Newell gives to Darby a place second only to the apostle Paul as a teacher of the truth, and refers to his writings as “the greatest treasure of truth” available today.

Thus it appears that the influence of the Brethren over the evangelical church has been very extensive. I would not pretend that that influence has all been good----only that it has been very great. Certainly much of it has been good, and I have no doubt whatever that the church today would be better off if it knew and valued the writings of the Brethren as it did two or three generations ago. The Brethren, while surpassing others in their understanding of the substance of Christianity, did not equal some others in the spirit of it. They had the skeleton of Christianity in good form, but had not enough meat on the bones. And what the Brethren were in this matter has largely determined what the church today is----though alas, even the skeleton is being cast away by many Evangelicals today. I believe that if the church of our day would seriously study early Brethrenism and early Methodism, and take the best of both, this would occasion a great advance upon the Christianity of the present time.


Hunger for the Bible in Madagascar

[The following incident took place in Madagascar, about the middle of the nineteenth century, during the long persecution which followed the introduction of Christianity to the island. When the missionaries had been banished from the island, they had left about 200 Christians, seventy printed copies of the Scriptures, and six hand-written copies of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, newly translated, but not yet printed. During the thirty years of persecution which followed, the Christians were imprisoned, fined, fettered, condemned to slavery, burned at the stake, stoned, speared, and cast upon the rocks from high cliffs. Copies of the Scriptures were confiscated and destroyed. Those which remained were carefully guarded by the Christians----often buried in the earth when not in use. During that persecution, without missionaries, and almost without Bibles, the church grew from about 200 to many thousands. The following will speak for itself. ----editor.]

One evening while at Tamatave, two men called at Mr. Ellis's house. On being admitted, they told him that, having heard that he had brought the Bible to their land, they had travelled a long distance in order to get a copy. As they were strangers to him, he thought that possibly they might be spies, and that if he complied with their request, he might be banished from the island. He told them, therefore, that he could not give them what they wanted then, but that they might call upon him again on the following morning. In the meantime, he made inquiries about them from some of the Christians of the place, and learned that they were excellent men, and members of a family that feared the Lord greatly; that they lived at the capital, and having come down about a hundred and fifty miles towards the coast on business, and having there heard that Mr. Ellis was at Tamatave with the Word of God, thay resolved to travel more than a hundred miles further, in the hope that they might secure this treasure for themselves. Of course Mr. Ellis was delighted to hear such a report of these worthy men, and was ready, when they came again on the following morning, to give them what they wanted. Before doing this, however, he learned from them that their family was large and scattered, but that all of the members of it were Christians. When asked whether they had the Scriptures, they told Mr. Ellis that they had seen them and heard them, but that all they possessed were “some of the words of David,” which, however, did not belong to themselves alone, but to the whole family. He further ascertained that this sacred fragment was sent from one to another, and that each, after keeping it for a time, passed it on, until it had been read by all. Mr. Ellis then inquired whether they had these “words of David” with them. This was a question which they seemed unwilling to answer; but at length they confessed that they had. Mr. Ellis having requested to see the book, they looked at one another, and appeared as if they knew not what to do. At length one of them thrust his hand deep into his bosom, and from beneath the folds of his lamba drew forth a parcel. This he very slowly and carefully opened. One piece of cloth after another having been gently unrolled, at length there appeared a few leaves of the Book of Psalms, which the good man cautiously handed to Mr. Ellis. Though it was evident that the greatest care had been taken of them, their soiled appearance, worn edges, and other marks of frequent use, showed plainly enough how much they had been read. We can only fancy the feelings with which our friend looked upon these few dingy and well-worn leaves, revealing as they did the deep love their possessors felt for God's Word, and the diligence with which they kept and used it. Desiring to possess these precious fragments, Mr. Ellis asked the men whether they had not seen other words of David besides those which they now produced, and also the words of Jesus, and of Paul, of Peter, and of John? Yes, they replied, they had seen them and heard them read, but did not possess them. “Well, then,” said Mr. Ellis, holding out the tattered leaves, “if you will give me these few words of David, I will give you all his words, and I will give you besides, the words of Jesus, and of John, and of Paul, and of Peter.” Upon this he handed to them a copy of the New Testament and the Psalms bound together, and said, “You shall have all these if you will give me this.” The men were at first amazed. Then they compared the Psalms they had with those in the book, and having satisfied themselves that all their own words of David were in it, with many more, and that beside these there were other Scriptures which they greatly desired, light beamed in their faces, they took Mr. Ellis at his word, gave him those leaves of the Book of Psalms which had so long yielded them comfort, seized the volume he offered in exchange, bade him farewell, and hastily left the house. In the course of the day he inquired after them, wishing to speak to them again, when the Christians at Tamatave told him that as soon as they left his house, they set out upon their long journey to the capital, doubtless “rejoicing as one that findeth great spoil.”

----Madagascar: Its Mission and Its Martyrs; London: London Missionary Society, 1863, pp. 96-99.


by Glenn Conjurske

The doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures is fundamental to Christianity. Lose that, and all is lost. This doctrine is naturally, therefore, one of the objects of the devil's most persistent opposition. But the devil transforms himself into an angel of light. He preaches darkness, but preaches it as though it were light. Sometimes, to be sure, he deals in direct denials of the truth, but these will not always serve his purpose, for there are many who will give no credit to such denials. Even the most blatant modernists have seldom denied the inspiration of the Scriptures, for they, possessed of the same serpentine cunning which is employed by their mentor the devil, know very well that to deny inspiration would be to lose the ear of the people. They rather redefine the doctrine of inspiration, so as to deny it in fact, while maintaining it in appearance.

Those denials must of course be subtle and gradual. But howsoever gradual they may be, they must begin somewhere. Now it seems to me that the most likely place for such errors to begin is simply in the ignorance of the people of God concerning the true doctrine of inspiration. That ignorance opens the door to deception. Yet that ignorance is very prevalent in the church today. It generally consists of taking a part of the Bible doctrine in place of the whole, or in taking a subordinate part of the doctrine for the primary part. An unperceived shift in emphasis is the beginning of the departure from the truth, but that shift would be plainly perceived if people but understood the true Bible doctrine.

That shift in emphasis consists of applying the doctrine of inspiration primarily to the writers of Scripture, rather than to the writings which they penned. It consists of shifting the emphasis to the process which produced the Bible, rather than to the result of that process. Nothing is more common than to hear the teachers of the church speak of “inspired writers,” “inspired penmen,” “inspired prophets,” “inspired apostles,” “the inspired Psalmist,” and so forth. But such language is unscriptural. It is no doubt well meant, and something might be said in its justification, but it is nevertheless unscriptural. And it is quite often extended far beyond mere unscriptural terminology, to embrace a concept which is altogether false. We often hear about “inspired apostles” guiding the early church. Thus inspiration, and with it implied infallibility, is extended to the whole of their conduct and ministry. But this is a theological fiction. The apostles erred, as other men do. They were no more inspired than any man of God is today. Wiser they may have been, and more godly, and more devoted, and more gifted, but they were not more inspired. Their writings which we possess are inspired, and that is the extent of it. Their daily conduct, their ordinary preaching and teaching----these were not “inspired.” The men may have been full of the Holy Ghost, but so may we be today. This does not secure infallibility.

The Bible uses the term “inspiration” only once, and there its application is to the writings, not to the writers. Let this be once understood, and a good deal of confusion is dispelled. The only place in which the Bible speaks of inspiration is II Tim. 3:16, where we read, in the English version, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Alas, the translation itself tends to obscure the doctrine, for “given by inspiration” naturally directs the mind to a process of inspiration by which the Scriptures were given. The Greek, however, speaks otherwise. The reader should understand that “given by inspiration of God” is all the rendering of one Greek word----a compound adjective which means “God-inspired,” or “God-breathed.” What the text actually says, then, is “All scripture is God-inspired.” Observe, it speaks of what the Scriptures are. This may imply something of the process by which they came to be so, but it says nothing of the writers being inspired.

Observe, it is “all Scripture” which is God-inspired. The word “scripture” means “writing”----not the process of writing, but that which is written. “All Scripture”----all that is written----is God-inspired. This, of course, does not refer to all that has been written in the history of the world. It hardly needs to be said that it has nothing to do with the writings of the Greek philosophers, nor the chronicles of the kings of Assyria, nor the works of Tertullian or Martin Luther. The term “scripture” in the New Testament has a recognized and indisputable theological sense. It is a reference to certain specific and peculiar writings----to the sacred writings, the writings of the Bible, and none else. When Christ spoke to the Sadducees, “Ye do err, not knowing the writings nor the power of God”----when he said, “Search the writings, for in them ye think ye have eternal life”----when he said, “the scripture cannot be broken”----it was well understood and without doubt that he spoke of the writings of the Bible alone, so much of it as then existed. It is the sacred writings, then, the canonical books of the Bible, which are God-inspired. Which those books are, or how it is to be determined which they are, is another question, but so far as the Old Testament is concerned, they are without question those books which the Jews held sacred in the time of Christ. The Son of God himself put his stamp of approval upon these, and affirmed that they cannot be broken.

But we have all kinds of “theories of inspiration,” precisely for failure to understand what inspiration is. Yet what are these theories, but barking up the wrong tree? The coon is elsewhere. These “theories of inspiration” in general deal with the process by which the Bible was written, not with the written result. Fundamentalists have often been led into fruitless debates with liberals over such theories of inspiration, but it is generally a waste of words, and it is a great mistake to debate with a modernist on his ground in this matter. In a good article on inspiration, James M. Gray says of the enemy attacks on the Bible, “They lead men away from the contents of the book to consider how they came, this brings us back to consider what they are. Happy the day when the inquiry returns here, and happy the generation which has not forgotten how to meet it.”

Modernists scoff at what they are pleased to call “the dictation theory,” or “the mechanical theory” of inspiration, but it is of little consequence whether such theories are true or false. The fact of inspiration secures that what is written IS inspired. How it got to be that way is another question, and about the most we can say for it is, “We don't know.” If I am asked if I believe in a mechanical theory of inspiration, I must say, “Certainly”----for certain prophets of the Old Testament wrote, under the direct control of the Holy Ghost, things which they themselves did not understand. But this cannot account for the epistles of John or Paul. As for dictation, certainly Christ dictated the letters in the second and third chapters of Revelation to John, but that was not inspiration. Inspiration is what secures the written record of those letters. Revelation and inspiration are two different things. God may reveal things to his servants in many manners, but that is not inspiration. Inspiration is what secures the written record of that revelation----along with the written record of many things which man may know without any revelation. Christ revealed and taught many things to his apostles while he walked the earth, but that was not inspiration. Inspiration secured the written record of those things. And it must be understood that in many cases there is no revelation at all in inspiration. When Daniel copied the declaration of Nebuchadnezzar, or when Ezra copied the decree of Cyrus, there was no revelation in this, yet what they wrote is the inspired word of God. When Solomon recorded his own experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes, there was no revelation in this, but what he wrote is the inspired word of God. When Paul wrote his epistles, he wrote some things which had been revealed to him, and some things which he had learned by study and experience. He wrote freely and spontaneously his own thoughts, from his own heart and soul, and yet the result is the inspired word of God. This is the Bible doctrine of inspiration.

James M. Gray well says again, “When we speak of the Holy Spirit coming upon men in order to the composition of the books, it should be further understood that the object is not the inspiration of the men but the books----not the writers but the writings. It terminates upon the record, in other words, and not upon the human instrument who made it.”

Yet the Bible does have something to say about the process which brought the Scriptures into being. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Pet. 1:20-21). Though this speaks of the prophets speaking, yet it is of the prophecy “of the Scripture” that it speaks----that is, of the written prophecies. We must understand, then, that Peter's reference to the prophets' speaking is intended to apply to their writing. The same sort of expression is used elsewhere in Scripture. Quoting Isaiah, John says, “These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory and spake of him.” (John 12:41). Again, “For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day...” (Heb. 4:4). Again, “...of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” (Heb. 7:14). All of these refer to the written Scriptures.

We learn, then, two things concerning the origin of the Scriptures from II Pet. 1:21. First, the men who wrote them were “holy men of God,” men who would naturally speak that which was true and holy and edifying----men who would from their own hearts speak the things of God. Yet that secures nothing of infallibility. But we learn further that these holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. But something must be said on “as they were moved,” as this may be ambiguous in the English. “As they were moved” translates a present participle, and the word “as” must be understood as “while,” not “when.” That is, the expression does not mean merely that the men were moved to speak, but that they were moved while they spake. The word rendered “moved” is used often in the New Testament, but is nowhere else so translated. It most commonly means “brought,” but sometimes “borne” or “carried.” It is obviously in the latter sense that it is used here.

The present passive participle rarely appears elsewhere in the New Testament, and when it does, it is usually in the sense of “bring,” and not “bear.” The present passive verb, however, appears in Acts 27:15, of a ship being borne by the wind, where the English version, however, has a paraphrase (“we let her drive”). The interlinear translation in The Englishman's Greek New Testament better renders it, “we were driven along,” and The Englishman's Greek Concordance, “we were borne along.” The present active participle appears in Heb. 1:3, where it is rendered, “upholding all things by the word of his power.” The word obviously, then, means something quite beyond merely moving the prophets to speak. It denotes the bearing them forward in their speaking.

So Christopher Wordsworth renders our text, “holy men of God spake, being borne along by the Holy Ghost,” and Bengel writes on the verse, “they did not bear, but were borne: they were passive, not active instruments. That which is borne, is borne by no force of its own; it does not move and advance anything forward by its own labour.” Though certainly these holy men of God were not compelled against their wills, but wrote freely from their own hearts----and in the epistles the apostles wrote freely their own thoughts----yet they were so borne through the whole of it by the Holy Ghost that the result of it all was the inspired word of God.

How the Holy Ghost so wrought is really none of our concern. We have to do with the finished product, not with the process by which it was produced. In reality, we do not know how the Spirit of God wrought to produce the book, nor is it at all probable that he wrought always in the same manner, in the production of its various parts. We do know that the whole book is “God-inspired,” but God has not revealed to us the details of how that came about. On these points Louis Gaussen well says,

“Were we asked, then, how this work of divine inspiration has been accomplished in the men of God, we should reply, that we do not know; that it does not behove us to know;...

“And were we, further, called to say at least what the men of God experienced in their bodily organs, in their will, or in their understandings, while engaged in tracing the pages of the sacred book we should reply, that the powers of inspiration were not felt by all to the same degree, and that their experiences were not at all uniform; but we might add, that the knowledge of such a fact bears very little on the interests of our faith, seeing that, as respects that faith, we have to do with the book, and not with the man. It is the book that is inspired, and altogether inspired: to be assured of this ought to satisfy us.”

Now it is this God-inspired book which the Son of God assures us “cannot be broken.” And observe where and how he assures us of this. “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken), Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God.” (John 10:34-36). He singles out one of the statements of the Old Testament which is the most likely to give offense----the most likely to stumble even the godly----and cites it without the slightest misgiving, and then drops a little parenthetical, incidental word, to assure us that however unlikely the thing may seem, as it is part of the Scriptures, it cannot be broken. It will stand, that is, however unlikely it may seem, however false it may appear to the best of human minds, however offensive it may be to good or evil men. All of the wisdom of the philosophers may be consigned to nothingness, kingdoms and dynasties may rise and fall, heaven and earth may pass away, but these God-inspired words cannot be broken. These are the words of the Holy Scriptures which we possess. This it is which the fact of inspiration secures to us----not God-inspired men who lived and died two or three thousand years agone, but a God-inspired book which we hold in our hands.

“Holy Bible, BOOK DIVINE,
Precious Treasure, thou are mine!”

Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï
by the Editor

Questions in Romans Eight

Romans 8:33-35 reads in the common English version:

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

The reader will observe that we have here four questions, and two statements. Observing more closely, he will see that there are here three pairs of sentences. The first pair consists of a question and a statement, and the second pair likewise, while the third pair consists of two questions. I have long felt that this is a mistake, and that what we ought to read here is rather six questions----three pairs of questions, in each pair the second question being the response to the first. The rendering of the second sentence in the first two pairs as statements instead of questions destroys the continuity and obscures the sense. Read them all as questions, and behold how much more clear and forceful the whole passage becomes:

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Shall God, that justifieth?

“Who is he that condemneth? Is it Christ, that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us?

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

The wording of this might be improved, to increase its clarity and forcefulness, but I have simply followed the common version, only turning the statements into questions.

Turning to the English versions, I find I am not altogether alone in thinking as I do, for though most English versions, both ancient and modern, render as the King James Version, I find the verses rendered as six questions in the independent translations of Henry Alford, and of Samuel Lloyd and Geo. Washington Moon. The Revised Version contains statements in the text, but suggests questions in the margin. I have not taken the pains to check the commentaries on this point, for the first one that I checked, that of Charles Hodge, says on “It is God that justifieth,”----“Editors and commentators are about equally divided on the question whether this and the following clauses should be taken interrogatively or affirmatively.” This is a little surprising, for it seems plain enough to me that there is a very great improvement, not only in the form of the passage, but also in the sense of it, by taking all six of the sentences as questions.


Addenda on “One Fold”

I mentioned in my note on “one fold” (OP&AL, Jan., 1995) that I am very diffident about rejecting any rendering of the King James Version, unless I first understand the reason for that rendering----and that I have often rejected such readings, only to find, after I had learned a few things, that they were perfectly legitimate. Now it so happens that in the two months since I wrote that note on “one fold” I have learned something which obliges me to moderate my position, though only a little. What I have learned is that “fold” (in the English of those times) may actually mean “flock.” That is, (by a figure of speech called metonomy), a fold of sheep may mean the sheep which a sheepfold contains----as we may also use the word “house” to refer to the people in the house, as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31).

I made this discovery concerning the word “fold” while I was reading an old work entitled The true hystorie of the Christen departynge of the reuerende man, D. Martyne Luther, collected by Iustus Ionas, Michael Celius, and Ioannes Aurifaber whych were present therat, & translated into Englysh by Iohan Bale. This little book was printed in 1546. Herein are recorded (leaf 4, verso) the following sentiments of Luther, uttered shortly before he died:

“And nothynge els wynne we by our longe contynuaunce here, but daylye affliccyons and sorowes, in beholdynge the wyckednesse, falsehede, and calamytees of thys worlde. What a cruell sprete our common aduersarye is, we nede to go no farther for recorde than our selues. And non other thynge els is mankynde, than a shepe fold appoynted to the slaughter.” The same, with the spelling modernized: “And nothing else win we by our long continuance here, but daily afflictions and sorrows, in beholding the wickedness, falsehood, and calamities of this world. What a cruel spirit our common adversary is, we need to go no farther for record than ourselves. And none other thing else is mankind, than a sheepfold appointed to the slaughter.” Here, obviously, “a shepe folde” means a flock of sheep.

Checking the Oxford English Dictionary----which I might have done before, but when we are ignorant, and know not that we are ignorant, we look no further----I found it to be even so. The words “fold” and “sheepfold” were formerly used to denote the sheep of the fold----in other words, a flock of sheep.

But how does this affect the judgement I formerly expressed concerning the rendering “one fold” in John 10:16, that it is false, and inexcusably so? That judgement I must moderate a little. Though I have no question that “fold” was at the first brought into the English Bible by Myles Coverdale from the Latin Vulgate, his successors might have found some excuse for retaining it, in the fact that “fold” could mean “flock.” Not that this was a good enough excuse to justify the retention of it. Though we may not be able to insist that it is a false rendering, it is at best a very ambiguous one. And in this verse it is certainly worse than ambiguous, for not one in a hundred would ever think to take it in the right sense. “Fold” has already been used earlier in the verse to denote the enclosure which contains the sheep, and there is not one chance in a hundred that anyone would take it to mean anything else in its second appearance. Thus, though “fold” might be supposed to be legitimate from a purely technical viewpoint, it is clearly a mistake from a practical viewpoint.


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