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Vol. 5, No. 6
June, 1996


by Glenn Conjurske

Next to carnality, I suppose the greatest enemy of true spirituality is hyperspirituality. In one sense I suppose it is a greater enemy, for it is certainly more subtle. I have observed for years what seems to be a general pattern, that wherever a man rises out of the bogs and swamps of lukewarmness and carnal principles, instead of planting his feet upon solid earth, he seems to soar off into the fogs and mists of hyperspirituality. It is not that men become too spiritual----as if that were possible----but rather that they proceed beyond the realm of true spirituality into that which is false. Hyperspirituality may appear to be too much of a good thing, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing. As a number of old proverbs speak, Every extremity is a fault, Extremity of right is wrong, Right overstrained turns to wrong, and Too far east is west. Too far east is west indeed, and too far right is wrong indeed----and it often so happens that hyperspiritual principles lead people directly into carnal practices.

But before proceeding any further, I must define what I mean by hyperspirituality. Hyperspirituality is being more spiritual than God is. It is adopting principles that are more spiritual than those laid down in the Scriptures. This generally consists of displacing the natural with the spiritual, as though God were not the author of both. It consists of equating the natural with the carnal and the evil. It often consists of ascribing to God a larger place than he ascribes to himself, and so of course a smaller place to the gifts of God, the creatures of God, and the means which God has ordained. It generally, in principle, replaces the gifts, creations, and ordinances of God with God himself----thus supposing to give the greater glory to God, and never perceiving that to slight the gifts and ordinances of God is in reality to slight the Creator and Giver of them.

This is pride and will-worship, which under color of glorifying God actually impugns his wisdom and his ways. It slights everything natural, as well as everything human, including human responsibility, human exertion, human emotion, and human need. “Natural” and “carnal” become virtual synonyms, and to refuse that which is merely natural, or merely human, becomes the badge of spirituality. The God-implanted emotions and needs of mankind are equated with “sin that dwells in me,” and all are denied together. “Touch not, taste not, handle not”----injunctions entirely legitimate and necessary where sin is concerned----are applied to the very gifts of God. This is will worship and voluntary humility, which under color of giving a larger place to God, actually gives him a smaller place, for it despises the gifts and ordinances of God, exalts itself above the wisdom which ordained and gave them, and calls that evil which God calls good----or, in a milder form, calls that needless which God has created for our good. Under color of affirming the all-sufficiency of God, it in reality proclaims the all-sufficiency of self, for, all oblivious to its own weakness and need, it thinks to do without the very things which God has made profitable or necessary to its own well-being.

It seems that hyperspirituality has plagued the church from its very inception. Paul wrote against hyperspiritual notions in several of his epistles. During the days of the church fathers, as they are called, hyperspirituality gained the ascendency, and laid the foundation for a millennium of asceticism and monasticism. It was primarily the hyperspirituality of the church fathers which led them eventually to reject the Bible doctrine of premillennialism. Though it had been firmly held by the early church, there was really no way that premillennialism could survive in such an atmosphere. Everything earthly was supposed to be unspiritual. All that belonged to human life on the earth was despised, so that many of the early Christians thirsted for martyrdom. Ignatius, martyred in A.D. 110, while enroute to Rome to die, repeatedly admonished the Christians not to intercede for him to save his life. But all of this was as unspiritual as it was unnatural. We see no such wanton throwing away of life in the Scriptures, but just the reverse. Paul may have been in a strait betwixt the two, desiring to depart and to be with Christ, as well as to remain upon the earth to serve him, but he did nothing to throw away his life. When they watched the city in order to take him, he escaped in a basket over the wall. When the Jews swore to kill him, he sent a messenger to the governor to secure his protection.

Neither did Paul despise the things of this life, while this life lasted. To forbid their use he calls “doctrines of devils,” specifically, “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which GOD HATH CREATED TO BE RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING of them which believe and know the truth. For EVERY CREATURE OF GOD IS GOOD, and NOTHING TO BE REFUSED if it be received with thanksgiving.” (I Tim. 4:3-4). Meats and marriage are natural things, and therefore regarded as carnal, unspiritual, or at best unnecessary, by the hyperspiritual. But in so regarding them, they set themselves against the wisdom of him who created them. They must, if they would but think so far as to be consistent with themselves, suppose that God was unspiritual when he created a natural, earthly paradise. They must suppose that Adam's condition was unspiritual, when he freely ate of every tree in the garden, lived in the delights of the charms of Eve, and walked with God in the cool of the day.

The hyperspiritual, of course, cannot abstain altogether from meats, but what tightropes they have walked in the use of them! Augustine (church father of the fourth and fifth centuries) writes thus of his struggles: “But now the necessity [of eating] is sweet unto me, against which sweetness I fight, that I be not taken captive; and carry on a daily war by fastings....

“This hast Thou taught me, that I should set myself to take food as medicine. But while I am passing from the discomfort of emptiness to the content of replenishing, in the very passage the snare of concupiscence besets me. For this very passage is pleasure, nor is there any other way to pass thither, to which necessity obliges us. And health being the cause of eating and drinking, there joineth itself as an attendant a dangerous pleasure.”1

All of this struggle, of course, assumes that physical pleasure is sinful----calls the enjoyment of food “concupiscence”----assumes that those natural appetites, and the means of satisfying them, which God created and pronounced “very good,” are in fact evil. Augustine imputes that evil to God, for according to his notions, what God has made necessary to our being is in fact a snare to our well-being. But one word of Paul scatters all of this chaff to the winds, for Paul says that God “giveth us richly all things TO ENJOY.” Richly. Not stintingly, or as a medicine. All things. All things which he has created, that is. “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused.” And all of this TO ENJOY. The appetites with which we are created, the capacities for enjoyment, and the means by which those capacities are to be satisfied, are all “very good.” (Gen. 1:31). To think anything otherwise of them is the quintessence of hyperspirituality. All of God's creatures may be abused, but use and abuse are two things, and the evil uses to which men put the gifts of God do not make those gifts evil.

And as hyperspiritual notions have done with meats, so they have done with marriage also, only to a far greater extent. Meats are necessary to our being, marriage only to our well-being. Marriage, therefore, may be dispensed with altogether, where meats are only slighted. It was very early in the history of the church that virginity----or abstinence at any rate----began to be equated with spirituality. Tertullian (who lived about the years 150-230) has a great deal to say on the subject, and all of it hyperspiritual. He says, “The will of God is our sanctification, for He wishes His `image'----us----to become likewise His `likeness;' that we may be `holy' just as Himself is `holy.' That good----sanctification, I mean----I distribute into several species....The first species is, virginity from one's birth: the second, virginity from one's second birth, that is, from the [baptismal] font; which [second virginity] either in the marriage state keeps [its subject] pure by mutual compact, or else perseveres in widowhood from choice: a third grade remains, monogamy, when, after the interception of a marriage once contracted, there is thereafter a renunciation of” physical connection.2 Sanctification, then, in Tertullian's view, is abstinence. Of the “mutual compact,” by which couples are kept “pure” in the bonds of marriage, Tertullian says elsewhere, “Accordingly, the apostle added [the recommendation of] a temporary abstinence for the sake of adding an efficacy to prayers, that we might know that what is profitable `for a time' should be always practised by us, that it may be always profitable. Daily, every moment, prayer is necessary to men; of course, continence [is so] too, since prayer is necessary. Prayer proceeds from conscience. If the conscience blush, prayer blushes.”3

Paul says we might separate “for a time,” and “come together again.” (I Cor. 7:5). Tertullian says, what is good for a time must be good always. We must abstain, or blush! This, and all he says on the subject, is born of his own false notion that the physical contact of man and wife is defiling. Yet God says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.”

Those who quote Tertullian to establish the position of the early church against remarriage after divorce will understand how worthless his testimony is in such a matter, when they understand that he called a second marriage after the death of a spouse “fornication,” and advocated celibacy in marriage. He held all physical contact to be evil. In writing against a second marriage, and putting it on the same footing with fornication, he continues, “`Then,' says [some one], `are you by this time destroying first----that is, single----marriage too?' And not without reason [if I am]; inasmuch as it, too, consists of that which is the essence of fornication.”4 And once more, “`Good,' he says, `[it is] for a man not to have contact with a woman.' It follows that it is evil to have contact with her; for nothing is contrary to good except evil.”5

But I trust the reader has had quite enough of this, especially since we live in a day when there is not very much danger of this kind of hyperspirituality. Yet marriage suffers still from the ravages of hyperspirituality, for while almost all Evangelicals accept the physical part of marriage as “honorable” and “undefiled”----and will even grant that it is necessary “to avoid fornication”----there are yet many of them who despise and contemn the emotional part of marriage, and regard that as frivolous and unnecessary. Love they will of course allow, but not romantic love. That they regard as something carnal, foolish, frivolous, or at best, unnecessary.

Such hyperspirituality is of long standing in the church. George Whitefield, in 1740, wrote a marriage proposal to a young lady, in which he said, “I think I can call the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to witness that I desire to take you, my sister, to wife, not for lust, but uprightly; . . . The passionate expressions which carnal courtiers use, I think, ought to be avoided by those that would marry in the Lord.”6 Whoever wrote the Song of Songs evidently did not know this----but then that book has been so often spiritualized that perhaps Whitefield would not have acknowledged that it pertained to marriage at all. On the same day that he thus addressed the young lady, he wrote to her parents also, saying, “You need not be afraid of sending me a refusal; for, I bless God, if I know anything of my own heart, I am free from that foolish passion which the world calls love.”7 But what is this, but to trample upon the deepest need of a woman's nature?----to tell her that it matters not to him whether she accepts or rejects his proposals, for he has no love for her? What a vast difference between this cold letter, and that which Adoniram Judson handed to Emily (his third wife):

“I hand you, dearest one, a charmed watch. It always comes back to me, and brings its wearer with it. I gave it to Ann when a hemisphere divided us, and it brought her safely and surely to my arms. I gave it to Sarah during her husband's life-time (not then aware of the secret), and the charm, though slow in its operation, was true at last.

“Were it not for the sweet sympathies you have kindly extended to me, and the blessed understanding that `love has taught us to guess at,' I should not venture to pray you to accept my present with such a note. Should you cease to `guess' and toss back the article, saying, `Your watch has lost its charm; it comes back to you, but brings not its wearer with it'----O first dash it to pieces, that it may be an emblem of what will remain of the heart of

“Your devoted, A. JUDSON.”8

Ah, but Judson wrote so at the age of 57, when he possessed both wisdom and spirituality. Whitefield wrote his cold missive at the age of 25. We are not to suppose, however, that Whitefield had no love at all for the girl, but that he had none of the romantic kind. But “that foolish passion which the world calls love” is love. The Bible calls it love, and to call it “lust,” as Whitefield does, is to cast a slur upon its Creator. Romantic love is as pure as Paradise, which was its first abode. It did not originate with the fall of man, but is, as Emily Judson most beautifully calls it, “the one flower, which seems to have been spared us from the wreck of Eden.”9 This love is an absolute necessity to make a marriage what God created it to be----and which every normal human being needs it to be. Those who treat “falling in love” with contempt----or who marry without it----have reduced marriage to the level of the animals. Love is not a union of bodies----nor of spirits either----but a bond of souls. It is neither physical nor spiritual----though it may include both----but emotional. That love may be----and ought to be----intense and powerful ere ever there is any physical contact, or any choice or commitment to marry. Such was Jacob's love for Rachel, before he contracted to marry her. “Jacob loved Rachel, and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.” (Gen. 29:18). For seven years his soul was ravished with that love, before he was united to her. That love is the indispensable foundation of a good marriage. The capacity for that love----and the need for it----belongs to man's nature.

But there are Christians enough who seem determined to rid marriage of marital love. They will not allow it to be an emotion, but reduce it (elevate it, as they think) to the level of commitment. They suppose true love to be nothing other than the kind which any man may feel for his brother or his mother. That peculiar love which exists only between lovers, which is founded upon the mutual attractions which belong by creation to masculine and feminine natures, they treat with contempt, and call it by the debased name of “lust.” I have read tracts and articles on “how to know if you are in love,” only to find that there was not a single word in the entire paper about romantic love. The whole was about spiritual love----about choice, and character, and commitment----so that the poor soul who takes such stuff seriously must conclude that he is in love with his father and mother, brothers and sisters, and all his friends! The obvious intent of such articles is to cast a slur upon romantic love----to set it aside----to relegate it to the realm of the carnal, the frivolous, or the unnecessary----to persuade us that it is not true love. These hyperspiritual teachers are willing enough that we should eat cake, so long as there is no sugar in it, and no frosting on it. But common sense tells us, if it has no sugar, it is NOT CAKE.

It is often among false religions that we find the greatest extremes of hyperspirituality. Hinduism is rife with it, and insensitive to every human need. Of marriage among the Hindus we are told, “Marriage is more generally contracted by the parents of the parties, ere they come to maturity. ... Very little opportunity is given the parties to become acquainted with each other previous to marriage; nor is this considered necessary.”10 Surely this is debasing marriage to the level of the beasts. Of these Hindu marriages another says, “Marriage is an important affair, and great care is taken to select a proper match as to family, rank, &c. Comfort and happiness are generally sacrificed for these, and the boy and girl are often married without having seen each other till the day when they are linked together. I need not say that the system is productive of incalculable wretchedness.”11 “Incalculable wretchedness” of course, for what else can be expected when a marriage is made without any reference to the one thing which is essential to make a satisfying marriage? What are all their pains to secure a “proper match,” when falling in love is no part of the process?

The Hindu marriages are an extreme case, but I know Evangelicals who are every bit as hyperspiritual in principle. Emotional attachment----love, that is----is allowed no place in the choice of a marriage partner. The young people are scarcely allowed to know each other until after they have made a virtual commitment to marry. They are taught that it is sinful to establish an emotional relationship----to fall in love, that is----until after they are committed to marry. Thus they are forced to try----and likely enough to try in vain----to lay the foundation on the roof, for make no doubt about it, there can be no other foundation for a good marriage than romantic love. Character may keep a good marriage, but cannot make one.

Such proceedings must assume that any two persons may fall in love (which all the world knows to be false), or else they must assume that such love is unnecessary. While true marital love is a romantic bond of souls, young people are forced to choose a mate in the dark, with very little knowledge of their partner's soul. They must choose on the basis of good looks, or of character (the body, or the spirit, that is), but the one grand essential, a knowledge of the soul----the heart and personality----is denied them. Emotional attachment is rigidly excluded in the choice of a mate. Those romantic charms and desires which belong to our natures, and which by God's design naturally incite us to marriage, are totally set aside, and replaced with some supposed spiritual sense----with some imagined awakenings, nudgings, or witnessing of the Holy Spirit to our spirits that we ought to marry, or that we ought to marry some particular person. This is one of the most extreme, and most detrimental, forms of hyperspirituality which I have seen, and though it is touted as the means of preventing bad marriages, it is precisely calculated to produce them. Alas, in the midst of such unhappy marriages, folks reproach themselves with carnality, because they can do no better job of loving each other. Such should rather consider that the fact that they love each other at all in such trying circumstances bespeaks a high degree of character.

I recently read the testimonies of a young couple who were married on that plan. The poor girl was obliged to say that though God had given them a deep love for each other, there were no fireworks. That is, in plain English, though they had a deep love of the kind which friends may have, or brothers and sisters, it was not romantic love. It was not the kind of love which marriage is made of. Thus the God-given emotions of this pleasant young couple are sacrificed upon the altar of hyperspirituality. We do not speak to reproach them. They have, indeed, our most profound sympathy, but we deplore the doctrine which places them in such a plight. They are told to keep their emotions on the shelf until marriage, or until engagement. But such notions must assume that we are capable of putting those emotions on the shelf----or taking them down----at will. But this is certainly not the case, and those who teach such things must know very little of the workings of the human soul. I am well aware that we have ten thousand Evangelicals today preaching the hyperspiritual doctrine that “Love is a choice,” or “Love is a decision,” but this is certainly false. It makes out love to be nothing other than commitment, yet every man with common sense knows very well that he may have commitment where he has no love, and he may likewise have strong love where there is no commitment----where it would even be wrong to enter into any commitment, as when Samson loved Delilah. The hyperspiritual will deny that this is love, but the Bible calls it love. It is romantic love----the subject of the Song of Solomon, and the type of the love of Christ and the church.

But these hyperspiritual notions slight and despise those things which belong to the soul of man, and seek to replace them with those things which belong to the spirit. But the attempt is as vain as it is detrimental. Love is an emotion, which belongs to the soul. Choice and decision belong to the spirit. It is not possible to replace emotion with decision. We cannot turn our hearts into heads, nor our souls into spirits. As we cannot “live on love”----cannot feed our bodies with the emotions of our souls----no more can we satisfy our souls with the operations of our spirits. It is not possible to replace romance with character. We all know that there are persons in whose character and godliness we delight, yet towards whom we never could feel any romantic attraction. The one belongs to the soul, the other to the spirit. We cannot make romantic charm the basis of character, and no more can we make character the basis of romantic attraction. God has never designed that we should. Those who have tried it have failed, and yet they will blame themselves for the failure, and impose the same impossible task upon others. We have no business to require such impossibilities of ourselves. It is will-worship, and it can no more please God than it can satisfy man. He created our bodies and souls as well as our spirits, and he created the means with which to satisfy our bodies and our souls, and created those means “to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” It is ignorance and unbelief----usually coupled with pride----which refuses them. This is hyperspirituality. Faith, and true spirituality, give God his place as God, by receiving his gifts with thanksgiving, and enjoying them.

Hyperspirituality, then, has only shifted its ground. The early church equated the physical part of marriage with carnality, and while there are few who would endorse such views today, it is now the way of many to treat the emotional part of marriage with distrust, or contempt. Both views are hyperspiritual. Both attempt to raise us to a level of spirituality never designed by our Creator, for they endeavor to raise us above the nature with which we are created. “Nature is the true law,” as a true proverb truly says. Nature is the true law because it is what it is by God's creation, and those who have a more spiritual plan than God's are deep in error.

As observed at the beginning of this article, it is often the way of the hyperspiritual to despise the gifts and the creatures of God, and think to rise above any need for them, and find their all in God himself. Just here is the subtlety of hyperspirituality, and herein lies its great attraction for spiritual minds. It would seem a very spiritual thing to rise above all earthly delights, and find my all in all in God himself, but God never designed this, and he who takes such a course impugns both the wisdom and the goodness of God at almost every turn. God has created men with natural (physical and emotional) needs, and he has created the natural means with which to satisfy those needs. The man who despises or declines the gifts of God in reality impugns the wisdom of God. The spurning of romantic love for the love of God is, as the editor of Richard Rolle well says, “as much above the truth as mere sensuality is beneath it.”12 It is not spiritual, but hyperspiritual. God certainly did not go astray in creating Eve, nor did he thereby tempt Adam to go astray. It would have been no mark of spirituality for Adam to decline to take Eve to wife. Adam might have said, with a host of hyperspiritual souls, “What need have I of a woman? I walk with God. I drink at the fountain of living waters----the Great Creator----eternal Love itself----and what need have I of a mere creature for my happiness?” So speak the hyperspiritual, and God responds, “It is not good that man should be alone,” for God created man to need a creature for his happiness. Though Adam was alone with God, yet God said, “It is not good that he should be alone.” God is indeed the fountain of living waters----but he has created us to need the waters as well as the fountain. He is indeed the Giver of every good and perfect gift, and he has created us with a nature which needs the gifts as well as the Giver. We cannot eat God, nor breathe God, but must have food and air. No more can our romantic needs be satisfied by God. Adam did not acquire that need for a creature when he sinned. He was created with that need.

And by the way (pardon me: I cannot help it----nor help the flow of my tears while I contemplate it), here once again it is the beloved book of Genesis which scatters the dark and chilling shades of error, with the pure light of heaven. If the saints of God but knew Genesis, how would a host of errors take their flight from the church of God. The great John Fletcher, a spiritual man, with a few grains of hyperspirituality besides, for the most of his life regarded marriage as inconsistent with spirituality. He no doubt knew that “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled,” yet still supposed that there was some higher level of spirituality, where marriage could not come. Well, if there is, it lies beyond the grave, and ere he died the good man was so fortunate as to discover, in the fifth chapter of the dear and precious book of Genesis, that “Enoch walked with God, . . . and begat sons and daughters.” His hyperspiritual notions took their flight, and he saw the gift of God to be worthy of the Giver. He took a wife, and walked with God, no doubt as well as ever he had done before.

But while some refuse the natural gifts of God, as though they were carnal, they often descend to that which is carnal indeed. What a dark catalog of sin has followed in the train of hyperspiritual doctrines concerning marriage. The English Reformer George Joye well says, “Oh good God, how many souls have they drawn with their selves to hell by this one law with forbidding man and woman to marry. What burnings, what concupiscenses and unlawful lusts have this Synagogue of Satan caused and compelled to reign and to be carried about in these persons' hearts day and night, that would marry, and may, and dare not? Yea, what adultery, fornication, with other uncleannesses, followeth upon this devilish doctrine and law of forbidding matrimony? And yet they thought (if covetousness and ambitious dominion were not the cause) to have instituted and set up a more pure spiritual state and order than ever God made.”13

And all of these hyperspiritual notions which seek to replace the gifts with the Giver are only evil in their tendency. Those who refuse the gifts of God can hardly maintain a pure walk with him. Some, unable to divert the streams of nature from their natural course, live on and love on according to the nature which God has given them, but do so with a defiled conscience, supposing such a course to be evil or unspiritual. They fear that they love where they ought not, or love too much, and are sometimes taught that if they love wife, or friend, or child too much, God will justly take away the object of their love. Thus the God who “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not,” who “giveth us richly all things to enjoy,” is turned into a cold-hearted, stingy master. His natural gifts, “created to be received with thanksgiving,” by those who in fact need them, are regarded as something debasing or polluting.

But hyperspirituality does not stop there. Many there are who regard the Lord's spiritual gifts in the same light. “The Lord is my shepherd,” they say, and therefore “I shall not want,” but whoever looks to a man as shepherd shall have spiritual poverty for it. Oh? and why then did God give “shepherds and teachers” (so the Greek, Eph. 4) as gifts to his church? Are the gifts of God harmful? The plain fact is, we may look to both the Lord and a man (or several men) as our shepherds, and the Giver of those shepherds has certainly designed that we should. The gifts of God are profitable, and in most cases necessary for our good, and it is pride and self-sufficiency, not faith or spirituality, which refuses them. It is the quintessence of hyperspirituality to think to replace the gifts of God with God himself, and such a course is always harmful. Shepherds aside, “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” (I Cor. 12:21). The feet are no shepherds, but the least and lowest of God's gifts, yet Paul says, “those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary.” (Verse 22).

One of the most mischievous manifestations of hyperspiritual notions relates to the use of means. Some seek to replace natural means with spiritual. Instead of working for their bread, they will pray for it. Others seek to replace spiritual means with the direct working of God. They will not seek the Lord, but wait for the Lord to convert them. Others will not endeavor to convict men of their sins, but leave that to the Spirit of God. They will not labor for revival, but wait for God to bestow it of his sovereign pleasure. Much of the American church was bound hand and foot with such notions two centuries ago.

It is in the realm of faith that hyperspirituality often goes to seed. Men trust God, as they suppose, to do what God has given them the means to do themselves. They expect God to do without means what they themselves might do with the means which he has placed in their hands. But this is no faith, but presumption. It is tempting God. When the devil tempted Christ to abandon the natural means of support upon which he stood, and cast himself upon the direct intervention and power of God, the Lord responded with, “It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Though the disciples lacked nothing when they were sent forth without purse or scrip, yet the Lord deliberately sets aside any notion that it might always be so, saying, “But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (Luke 22:36). Though we may be unable to explain the change involved, yet it is plain enough that here we are cast upon our own resources, and it shall be at our cost if we fail to use them. Noah was not taught to trust God to save him without the use of means, but to prepare an ark to the saving of himself and his house. When we are destitute of any means of support, when we have no means of accomplishment, we may then legitimately cast ourselves upon the immediate working of God, but to refuse or abandon those means which he has put into our hands is only to tempt him, and this is the essence of hyperspirituality.

Such was the Moravian doctrine of “stillness,” which was so strongly opposed by the Wesleys. All of the means which God has ordained were set aside, in favor of the direct working of God himself. Men would not read the Bible, nor pray----were taught that it was wrong to do so, as though this would be robbing God of his glory. They must leave the whole work of their conversion and sanctification to the direct working of God himself. And these hyperspiritual notions in the realm of the spirit are both more plausible and more detrimental than those which relate to the body or the soul. A man who thinks to stop eating, and allow God to have all the glory of sustaining his natural life, will very soon be driven by hard necessity to abandon his folly, whereas those who think to give all the glory to God by refusing to use spiritual means may well go down to perdition still holding their lie in their right hand.

But it is seldom that men hold any false doctrine consistently, and those who reject the use of means generally do so very partially and selectively. They reject spiritual means, yet continue to use natural means. They think it wrong to go to a pastor to obtain food for their souls, yet they will go to the market for food for their bodies. They will labor for a harvest of grain, but not for a harvest of souls. Others reject the use of only certain specific means. A. B. Simpson and the Christian and Missionary Alliance rejected the use of medicine, thinking to replace it with faith, and expecting God to sustain their health supernaturally. Their missionaries would not use quinine to fight malaria, but would trust God. They might just as well have rejected food, and replaced it with faith. When enough of them had died, their ingenuity found a means by which to sustain their lives and their hyperspiritual doctrines both. They put the quinine on the table with the salt shaker, and used it as a seasoning! The seasoning evidently greatly increased their faith, for they ceased to die of malaria.

Again, it is while dwelling in the supposed realms of faith that many slight and condemn all of those emotions which belong to our present state of weakness, suffering, and disappointment. They expect men to feel as angels do, though men have neither the strength nor the portion of angels. By faith we ought to be always rejoicing, always singing, apparently never feeling those sorrows and disappointments which belong to the life of our vanity. Job and Elijah come in always for a large measure of the castigations of these hyperspiritual tongues. Job and Elijah were sinners, no doubt, yet it was the Lord who said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matt. 26:38). Why was he not singing in Gethsemane?

But to proceed, another of the most mischievous forms of hyperspirituality is that which makes all self-interest to be sinful. As true marital love is called by the debased name of “lust,” so the one motive which God himself holds out to man everywhere in the Bible is called by the debased name of “selfishness.” If I pray for something because I need it, this is held to be sinful praying----much more if I pray for it because I want it. If I repent to save my soul, such repentance is held to be sinful and unavailing. I must do all that I do purely for the glory of God, or it is all sin. Such views paralized American theology from Jonathan Edwards to Charles G. Finney and beyond. But all of this is directly against the Bible. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, the Bible holds out to us our own good as the proper motive for our repentance, holiness, and service to God. From “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” to “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life,” our own good is the motive for action which God himself holds out to us. “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee.” (Deut. 12:28). “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20). “So run, that ye may obtain.” (I Cor. 9:24). “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” (II Jn. 8). “Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 2:7). Those who attempt to rise above this must of necessity fail, for they are endeavoring to rise clean out of the nature with which God created them. Adam was no sinner when God held out to him his own good as the motive for not eating of the forbidden tree, and there is nothing sinful in acting for our own good.

But does not the Lord command us to do all that we do for the glory of God? Indeed he does----and he expects us to so do in order that we may secure our own good thereby. It is either that, or we must set this one text against a thousand others, and against the whole tenor of Scripture besides.

I am very well aware that we are called to a life of self-denial, not self-indulgence----but to deny ourselves that which is good, for Christ's sake, is a different thing than to regard that good as evil. Paul says, “He that marries does well: he that marries not does better,” yet to say therefore that “He that marries does ill” is certainly false. We do well to deny ourselves for Christ's sake, but we do ill to deny ourselves beyond our strength, to the damage of our own souls. This is not spiritual, but hyperspiritual.


Codex Teplensis

Waldensian or Roman Catholic?

by Glenn Conjurske

Codex Teplensis is a manuscript of about the year 1400, containing the New Testament in German. More than a century ago there was some controversy in Germany as to whether the translation owed its origin to the Waldenses or the Roman Catholics. At the present day certain advocates of the Textus Receptus or the King James Version have taken it upon themselves to contend for its Waldensian origin, and to further contend that it was translated from the Old Latin, not from Jerome's Vulgate. By this means they bolster their theory that the true text of the New Testament was preserved by the Waldenses, through the Old Latin version, and by this means they gain, as they suppose, another witness for the genuineness of I John 5:7, which Codex Teplensis contains.

But the advocates of these theories commonly offer nothing in support of them but their own assertions. They do not trouble themselves to examine any evidence whatsoever. And why should they? These doctrines are just that: they are doctrines. They are not based upon any factual or historical evidence. The advocates of these doctrines have no need to examine the facts of history. Since they are sure that the doctrines are true, they may assume that the facts of history must be in complete accordance with the doctrines. They therefore recklessly assert that such and such things are historical facts, when in fact they know nothing about the matter. It is often their way to take refuge in the silence of history, and it would be their wisdom to do so always, for where history is silent, at any rate it cannot contradict their assertions. But so confident are they in the truth of their doctrines, that they do not hesitate to speak even when their assertions may be subjected to the light of historical fact. And when the actual evidence is examined, it is found to overturn the doctrines at every point.

Some will doubtless think the whole matter unedifying, and wonder why we should trouble ourselves at all about a manuscript 600 years old. But there are thousands of dear brethren in Christ who are swallowed up in this system of prejudice----a system which falsifies a good deal of very important doctrine, besides the facts of history. I care for them, and for the truth of God, and therefore I labor to expose this system for what it is, and to dismantle it also. In this article I shall examine a little of the actual evidence, as found in Codex Teplensis itself, concerning its supposed Waldensian origin.

The first thing which arrests our attention is that the manuscript contains the Epistle Czun Laodiern, “to the Laodiceans.” This is not separated or set off from the canonical books, as the Apocrypha is in the Protestant Bibles, but is inserted between Second Thessalonians and First Timothy, as though it were one of Paul's epistles. This, I will grant, does not absolutely prove the Teplensis to be a Roman Catholic version, but it does prove some other things. If this version was made by the Waldenses, then it is absolutely proved, beyond question or cavil, that the Waldenses were not the preservers of the true text of Scripture. They were the custodians of a corrupted New Testament, to which someone, somewhere, had added this imposture called the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Henceforth let all those who cite Codex Teplensis as proof of the Waldensian preservation of I John 5:7, contend also for the Waldensian preservation of the genuine Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans. They will have to give up, of course, their notions that the Textus Receptus and the King James Version contain the true text, for it is certain that they do not contain the epistle to the Laodiceans.

But more. Prefixed (not appended) to the New Testament, immediately following the title Di schrift des newen geczeugz (“The Writing of the New Testament”), the Codex Teplensis contains a small amount of additional matter, including quotations from Chrysostom and Augustine, and a list of Scripture portions, or pericopes, to be read on the various days of the church calendar, für das ganze Iahr, “for the whole year.” Herman Haupt contends that the fact that there are only twenty-eight saints' days in the register proves that the makers of the version were Waldensians----that is, as certain “historians” would have us believe, Baptists!! Among these saints' days are the usual festivals for Andrew, Thomas, Stephen, Saint Paul, Mary Magdalene, Matthew, Michael, and numerous others. If this is the work of Waldenses, then it is evident that the Waldenses were at least half Romanists themselves. I do not pretend to say where the truth lies, but will let the advocates for the Waldensian origin take which horn of the dilemma they please. One horn they must take. Codex Teplensis is either the work of Roman Catholics, or the Waldenses were half Romanists themselves, and in either case the testimony of Teplensis for the genuineness of I John 5:7 evaporates.

But more. In addition to these saints' days, the register contains also a number of holy days, including Ostern, that is, Easter, alle Heiligen (all Saints), Xc. abent, and Xc. tag, (Christmas eve and Christmas day), and to top all, Liechtmesse, that is, Candlemas! What Waldenses are these!

But more. Under “Christmas day” we find d. erst. messe, di 2 messe, and di 3 messe----the first mass, the second mass, and the third mass. The plain fact is, either this is a Romanist version, or the Waldenses were at least half Romanists themselves. Take which side you will, and Teplensis vanishes as a witness for the preservation of the true text by the true church.

Again, not tacked on at the end by some later hand, but prefixed to the New Testament at the beginning of the manuscript, occupying the first place in the manuscript following its title, there is a brief extract from Hugo de Victor's “II buch von den heilikeiten”----from his second book on the sacraments, that is----on confessing the sick. Hugo was a medieval monk, who lived c. 1097-1141. Now if, as the Baptist historians tell us, the Waldenses never formed part of the Church of Rome, but were separate from it from the beginning of its existence----if, that is, when Codex Teplensis was written, the Waldenses had been separate from the Church of Rome for about a thousand years, during all of which time they abhorred Rome's sacraments and refused her corrupt Bible----WHY are the Waldenses found quoting Hugo de Victor at all? And why on confessing the sick? The Baptists of more recent times, under the name of the American Bible Union, once produced their own version of the Bible, but it contained no quotation on confessing the sick, from any Roman Catholic book on the sacraments! If Baptists today were to produce a Bible version, would the first item in it be a quotation from a Catholic monk on confessing the sick? Again I insist, either the Codex Teplensis is the production of the Church of Rome, or the Waldenses were half Romanists themselves.

Once more: annexed to the end of the New Testament the manuscript contains a short treatise on, among other things, the seven sacraments. And once more I say, What Waldenses are these!

But a recent publication, in an article on “Codex Teplensis and the Waldenses,” attempts to evade the force of all of this by saying, “Again, the Codex contained the seven sacraments, but the Waldenses included religious material in their literature for the same purpose that the original 1611 KJV included the Apocryphal Books----for Scriptural analysis.” But again, this is assuming the facts, based solely upon the requirements of the doctrine. The actual facts are, we do not know WHY the producers of the King James Version included the Apocrypha, or WHY “the Waldenses” included the matter on the sacraments. Yet it is plain that the reason assigned by Dr. Strouse cannot be the true one. Neither confessing the sick, nor Christmas, nor Candlemas, nor All Saints Day, nor the Feast of Mary Magdalene have anything to do with Scriptural analysis.

The plain fact is, these statements, along with a thousand others which these folks commonly make about the facts of history, are based upon absolutely nothing of a historical nature. They are based solely upon doctrinal prejudice. Earlier in the same article Dr. Strouse says, “The aforementioned passage [I Tim. 3:15] strongly suggests that local NT church movement [sic] would be the depository and guardian, as well as the proclaimer, of the NT Scriptures.” This is the doctrine, and the historical method is given us in the next sentence: “Consequently, Baptists have believed that the NT Scriptures would be passed on through the believers of NT churches.” Yes, “WOULD BE”! Not “ARE,” or “HAVE BEEN,” but “WOULD BE”----for what these men give to us as facts of history are not derived from any historical sources whatsoever, but consist solely of such “facts” as their doctrine dictates.

This is the historical method commonly used by the advocates of these doctrines. One of the leaders of them recently told me, “There are no facts lying around out there. There is only our perception of the facts. Our perception may be either of faith, or it may be rationalistic.” This may be clever, but it is just as false as rationalism. Rationalism denies the existence of revelation, except where it is perceived to be consistent with fact. What these folks call faith denies the existence of facts, except where they are perceived to be consistent with revelation. But maugre all denials, both facts and revelation do exist, and there can be no contradiction between them. The design of such talk is of course to label as rationalistic all who do not believe these particular doctrines. When I asked this man whether he might not be mistaken concerning the doctrines, he claimed the infallible teaching of the Holy Ghost! Thus does this system divorce faith from everything concrete and objective, and place it at last in the whims, the bigotry, or the honest mistakes of every interpreter. But such faith is only conceit or superstition, and as far removed as possible from the Bible doctrine of faith. And if we remove the foundation from the individual mind, to place it in the “true churches,” we gain nothing. “True churches” have been mistaken times without number. Most of the “true churches” were post-millennial a century and a half ago, then disregarding the facts in order to maintain their notion that the world was growing better, as they now disregard them to maintain their notions concerning the text of Scripture, and founding both errors on what they call faith.

We all no doubt have our own doctrinal predilections, but to allow our doctrines to dictate what we are to regard as facts is as dangerous as it is fraudulent, for it deprives us of one of the most effectual checks against false doctrine. Yet so these men do, and do it avowedly and apparently unashamedly, and dignify the illicit process with the name of faith. Assuming the truth of the doctrine, then such and such facts “would be” true also, and they inquire no further, but affirm as facts things of which they know nothing. Indeed, this system obliges them to affirm as facts things which it would seem they must certainly know to be false. “The New Testament Scriptures would be passed on through the believers of New Testament churches.” Yes, but the King James Version was given to us by various ecclesiastics of the Church of England. To which New Testament churches did those sprinkled ecclesiastics belong? To what New Testament churches did the King's printers belong, who for generations “passed on” to us the King James Version, and revised it as they pleased in the bargain?

Such are the principles involved in this system. But I proceed to examine the translation contained in Codex Teplensis. It seldom happens that a translator of the Scriptures is so objective, so impartial, and so faithful, as to leave no trace of his own theology or prejudices upon the version which he produces. In this regard men who have no strong doctrinal prejudices are likely to produce a better version of the Scriptures than others could do. I believe this is one reason for the excellency of the King James Version. For the most part the translators had no doctrinal hobby horses to ride. Their whole study was to faithfully represent the original. Where the original was general, they had no compelling bias to make the translation specific----aside from the “old ecclesiastical terms,” which the king required them to use. Where the original was explicit, they could allow the translation to be so also.

But all translators do not possess such impartiality. Allow me to illustrate. There is a manuscript version of the Gospels in English, of about the same date as the German Codex Teplensis. This is known as the Pepysian Gospel Harmony. In most places it is a good, literal translation, but in other places it displays the translator's propensity to paraphrase, to abridge, and to expand, and some of those places very plainly indicate the Roman Catholic origin of the version. One example may suffice: “And êo ansuered Jesus hym and seide: `J seie êe forsoêe êat êou art Petre on wham j schal founde my chirche. And êou schalt haue power in heuene and in erêe & in helle.”' This is all Roman Catholic, and too plain to be mistaken.

Now when I began to study Codex Teplensis, I did so with the hope that I might find some such proof of its origin. I soon despaired of it, however, for Teplensis is generally a very literal translation from the Latin Vulgate, with none of the tendencies to paraphrase and expand which are evident in the Pepysian manuscript. I was therefore as astonished as I was elated to discover a mark so irresistible and so pervasive that it left (so I thought!) no possible doubt about the real origin of the version.

I hardly need say that all Bible versions know how to distinguish between a man and a maid. A man is one thing, and a virgin quite another, and these two are kept as distinct in a translation of the Bible as they are in the original. This is true of Codex Teplensis, as it is of all other Bible versions. A man is the German man. A maid is the German maid. As spelling was rather capricious in the days of handwritten manuscripts, the word is variously spelled in Teplensis, and we find it as mait, maid, meid, meide, and even maigt, but in every place (but one) where the word “virgin” appears in the New Testament, we find maid in Codex Teplensis. There is but one exception to this. Philip's four daughters who were virgins are called iunffrawen----where Luther, 1522, has, as usual, jungfrawen----a different word, but meaning strictly, “virgin.”

So far, then, all is well, and these two things, so distinct in their natures, are distinct in the translation also. But all does not remain well for long, for as soon as we come to the familiar “Son of man,” by which the Lord so constantly designates himself, we read not sun des menschen, or (with Luther) des menschen son, but sun der maid----“son of the VIRGIN”! And so we find it almost everywhere in Codex Teplensis:

Matt. 8:20----sun der maid.

Matt. 13:37----Sun der meide.

Mark 2:28----Sun der meid.

Mark 14:41----Sun der maid.

Luke 9:26----Sun der meid.

Yet to prove that they knew how to translate “son of man,” we find:

Mark 13:26----Sun dez menschen.

Luke 6:5----Sun dez menschen.

Luke 11:30----Sun dez menschen.

To make a long story short, in 79 places which I have examined, where “son of man” occurs in the New Testament, the Tepl manuscript reads “son of man” only seven times, all the rest having “son of the virgin.” This, if I knew nothing else about the matter, I should think rather plainly marked the translation as the work of Romanists, for it is certainly the Romanists who are always thrusting in “the virgin” where she does not belong. If the Waldenses produced this version, it appears that the Waldenses must have been very much Romanized themselves----or more likely, as was the case with Lutherans and Episcopalians after them, never quite unRomanized after they came out from the Church of Rome. For if this Teplensis is in any sense Waldensian, it certainly adds a great deal to the existing evidence of the Roman Catholic origin of the Waldenses.

And it so happens that Herman Haupt, in contending for the Waldensian origin of Codex Teplensis, actually uses the presence of sun der maid in the translation as one of his main arguments in favor of its Waldensian character. This might seem incredible, if we knew nothing else about the matter. But Haupt points out that other medieval versions which are known to be Waldensian contain the very same corruption. This I was unaware of, but I have verified it. The old Romance, or Provençal, Waldensian version invariably reads Filh de la vergena (“Son of the virgin”) instead of “Son of man”----except only in Heb. 2:6, where (of course) it has filh de l'ome, “son of man.” I cannot pretend, with my present knowledge, to say for certain whether the Teplensis is Waldensian or Roman Catholic, but I can say without the least fear of contradiction that if the translation is indeed the work of the Waldenses, then the Waldenses were not the preservers of the true text of Scripture, but the corrupters of it. This sun der maid is no accident, but a deliberate corruption. The makers of Codex Teplensis either translated from corrupt manuscripts, or they deliberately corrupted the translation. I really suppose it must be the latter, for I am not aware of any manuscripts, Greek or Latin, which read “Son of the virgin.” In either case the makers of this version were certainly not the preservers of the true text of Scripture. They were either the “preservers” of a corrupt text, or they corrupted the text themselves. Again, you may take which horn of the dilemma you please. Either the Waldenses had nothing to do with Codex Teplensis, or the Waldenses were the corrupters of the text of Scripture. In either case the supposed witness of Codex Teplensis for the preservation of the true text by the true church absolutely vanishes, and its testimony in favor of I John 5:7 is absolutely nullified.

And with this I might have done, yet to prevent any possible misconception on the part of the ignorant, I must notice one further statement in the article by Thomas Strouse. He says, “In subsequent centuries, Codex Teplensis was gradually modified by Romanists for the purpose of harmonizing it with the Vulgate and Romish dogma.” This statement as it stands is certainly false. Codex Teplensis is a fourteenth-century manuscript, which has never been modified at all, but exists today just as it did in the fourteenth century, and just as it was written by the scribes who wrote it. The Codex has not been altered at all.

But the Codex must be distinguished from the version which it contains. When the German Bible was first printed, (the Mentel Bible, in 1466), the version printed was the same as that which is contained in Codex Teplensis. This version was reprinted numerous times in Germany before the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It is granted that the printers of at least most of those editions were Romanists, and it is also a certainty that in the printed editions the text was gradually revised, but this process of revision of course left Codex Teplensis itself absolutely untouched----as much as the subsequent revisions of the King James Version left the copies which were printed in 1611 untouched. The version was modified, but the previously existing copies of it were not. Now Codex Teplensis is a manuscript copy, and in spite of the subsequent revisions of the version in the printed copies, the text and accompanying matter of the Codex Teplensis itself remain just what they were when the manuscript was written, and all of the remarks which I have written above are based upon the contents of the manuscript, as it is, was, and always has been.

But apply Dr. Strouse's statement to the subsequent printings of the version contained in it, rather than to Codex Teplensis itself, and still it is wrong. “Harmonizing it with the Vulgate and Romish dogma,” he says, as though it were possible to do both. This is mere prejudice. Let it be understood that the Latin Vulgate----though imperfect, as is every human translation----is yet a Bible, and Romish dogma is not supported by conforming to the Vulgate, but by departing from it. It was the Latin Vulgate which Wycliffe translated into English, and it was Wycliffe's translation of the Vulgate which was banned by the Romanists. It was by means of the Latin Vulgate that Wycliffe exposed the corruptions of Rome.

Haupt addresses the character of the subsequent revision of the Teplensis version in the following language: “One is compelled by the radical manner of that revision to the supposition that, to the reviser, it had to do with something more than the preparation of a readable Bible text. The brutal ejection from the German Bible version of hundreds of true pearls of the medieval German word treasury, which in good part could be replaced only by inappropriate or Latin-borrowed expressions, seems to us to prove rather plainly that the Catholic revision thereby aimed at the same time to divest the Waldenses' German Bible work of its popular character, and so to eliminate the last trace of its non-catholic origin.” But even supposing that we grant all of this, this is yet a long way from conforming the version to Romish dogma. I call upon those who assert this to give us some plain examples by which to prove it. The fact is, there is almost nothing in the Vulgate which, fairly interpreted, can be construed to lend any support to Romish dogma. We suppose the Latin sacramentum (for the Greek v , “secret”) might do so indeed, but what are the facts concerning sacramentum? Observe:

1.In some of the places where the Vulgate has it, so has the Old Latin. Such is the case in Eph. 3:9, Rev. 1:20, and probably others. And since the theory is that the Waldenses used the pure Old Latin rather than the corrupt Vulgate, surely that theory has nothing to stand on here.

2.In a number of places where sacramentum appears in the Vulgate, there is no change between the Codex Teplensis and the subsequent printed editions of the version. Teplensis itself reads heilikeit, that is, “sacrament.” This is the case in Eph. 1:9, 3:3, 3:9,5:32, and I Tim. 3:16.

3.Finally, in Rev. 17:7 Codex Teplensis reads taugen (“secret,” that is), which is altered in the printed editions to sacrament. How is this to be explained? This is no doubt the result of using differing texts of the Vulgate, the Teplensis being based upon the Latin mysterium, and the printed editions upon sacramentum. This variation actually exists in the Vulgate mss. at Rev. 17:7. And it is a certain fact that the very same alteration occurs in Rev. 1:20 in the Wycliffe Bible, the early version reading “mysterie,” and the revision, “sacrament.” Will anyone accuse the Wycliffites of revising their Bible to conform it to Romish dogma?

I give one more example: the false rendering “Son of the virgin,” which is so pervasive in the manuscript, was gradually corrected in the printed editions, being conformed to the reading of the Vulgate----“Son of man.” Whether this served to conform the version to Romish dogma, and eliminate the traces of Waldensianism, I leave my readers to judge.

Now in the light of the plain facts presented in this article, we would expect those who have contended for the Waldensian origin of the Teplensis to quickly bolt from their position, and contend rather for its Roman Catholic origin. But such a flight will scarcely help them, while the old Provençal Waldensian version corrupts Filh de l'ome into Filh de la vergena no less than eighty-two times. What will they do with this fact?

To conclude, those who hold the doctrines of the preservation of the true text of Scripture (or the succession of the true churches of God) among the Waldenses would do better to abandon Codex Teplensis. It does not help their cause in the least, but damages it immeasurably. They would do much better to prove Teplensis to be a Roman Catholic work----though that would not be easy. In either case, whether Catholic or Waldensian, Teplensis vanishes as a witness for the true text----vanishes as a witness for the preservation of the true church----and vanishes in particular as a witness for I John 5:7. It contains I John 5:7, no doubt, but this proves only that the verse was in the Latin Vulgate, which we knew already. As for those who wish to cite Codex Teplensis as a witness for the true text in I John 5:7, let them also contend for “son of the virgin” and the Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Beyond all of this, it is an indubitable fact that the version contained in Codex Teplensis closely follows the Latin Vulgate, and differs in a myriad of places from the Textus Receptus and the King James Version, but the proof of that I must reserve for another article.


Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor


A Bushel

My readers may suppose a bushel to be neither very interesting nor very important, but let them read on, and I shall do my best to give them a basket full of wisdom, concerning matters which are neither uninteresting nor unimportant----for I do not intend to speak merely of baskets, but of principles. The old English Bibles, all of them, informed us in Matthew 5:15, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel.” Most of the modern translations have abandoned this. They are far from agreed among themselves as to what the thing should be, but they are all determined it shall not be a bushel. The reason that it should not be a bushel is of course self-evident. That reason is----------that “bushel” is the rendering of the King James Version. It is not love of accuracy which dictates most of these alterations, but love of change. The “scholars” must maintain their reputations by snubbing the renderings of the King James Version.

But we suppose that if “bushel” were clearly wrong, then the modern scholars ought at least to be able to determine what we ought to put in its place. But this they cannot do. In the three widely-used modern translations we read as follows:

New American Standard Version----“under the peck-measure.”

New King James Version----“under a basket.”

New International Version----“under a bowl”!!

The only one of these renderings which has any sense or sanity in it is “under a basket,” of which I shall have more to say further along. In “a bowl” we see the usual caprice and temerity of the NIV, and in “the peck-measure” the usual pedantry of the NASV, and that is about all that can be said for them. I suppose few will contend for the rendering “bowl.” “The peck-measure” will no doubt find more supporters, and those who wish to do so may plead the sanction of Arndt and Gingrich's lexicon for it.

But it is time to back up and survey the field. Those who know anything of the matters involved may always recognize a Jehovah's Witness by his strange and pedantic terminology. He does not speak, with the rest of the world, of “the world,” but of “the present system of things.” He does not speak with the rest of us of “the faithful and wise servant,” but of “the faithful and discreet slave.” This, of course, is a reflection of his New World Translation, with which he has dyed his mind.

Now we should be very sorry to see this kind of pedantry prevail in the true church of God. We should be very sorry to see the old time-honored terms, which for centuries have possessed the warm heart-associations of the people of God, replaced with the cold, intellectual terminology of the modern Bible versions----because, forsooth, the new and strange terminology is more accurate. We should be sorry indeed to hear Christians talking of hiding their light under the peck-measure! And what could we think if we should hear such talk from the same Christians who will not use the King James Version because its language is strange and unfamiliar?!

Let us understand the issue here. It is true enough that some small portion of the terminology of the old version is unfamiliar to the ungodly, who have no knowledge of the Scriptures or of Christianity. But “peck-measure” is language which is unfamiliar to everybody, godly and ungodly alike. This is no doubt its chief excellency in the eyes of those who spurn the old version. If it is new and different----if it discards and displaces the old English version----it just suits them. The fact that the new terminology is actually less familiar than the old does not concern them, for who among them has ever engaged in thinking enough to be aware of the fact?

But fact it is. “Bushel” is familiar to all. “Peck-measure” has never been heard of----never been used by an Englishman----never been seen in an English dictionary. The new language not only disregards the sacred associations of Christianity, but discards the English language also. In English troubles may come by the bushel, but no one ever heard of them coming by the peck-measure. We might indeed be thankful if they did, but no man with an English head, heart, or tongue will ever express himself so. Unless----------

Unless he should happen to be one who has been carried away by these new Bible versions. For the makers of these new versions seem as determined to remove themselves from their mother tongue as they are to depart from the old landmarks of Christianity. A bushel----this is common terminology, which every man is at home with, but who ever heard of a peck-measure? We have heard of picking a peck of pickled peppers, but who ever heard of picking a peck-measure of them? This is strange language, and the effect of the strangeness of the language is to divert the mind from the contents of the passage.

Ah, but it will be said that “peck-measure” is more accurate! Well, suppose it is. No pretended gain in accuracy can begin to offset the loss entailed in the introduction of a term, the strangeness of which must divert the mind from the contents of the passage. But how is “peck-measure” more accurate? From a purely pedantic point of view, which regards nothing but small technicalities, “peck-measure” may be more nearly accurate than “bushel,” but there is something more involved in accuracy than the size of the container. Indeed, a little thought on the subject might persuade these new translators that the size of the container is entirely immaterial. It is no issue at all. Who can suppose that when the Lord spoke these words, it was the size of the container that conerned him? Who can suppose that he chose the particular word he used because the size of the container had anything to do with the matter? The only thing at issue was the opaqueness of the container, and as for the term employed, the Lord (or the evangelists, who rendered his words into Greek) chose simply to speak of an opaque container, of sufficiently large size, the name of which was a common and familiar term. It is only pendantry----which is able to think only in terms of small technicalities----which would dream of making the size of the container the point at issue, or judge the accuracy of the translation on that basis.

Americans speak of those who are engaged in the pursuit of the dollar. Though I know nothing about the matter, I suppose that in Britain they may speak of pursuing the pound. To translate the British expression into American poses no difficulty to any man who has sense in his head. He takes the common British expression, and renders it into the common American. But pedants have a problem. There are no exact equivalents between English and American measures, any more than there are between ancient Jewish and modern English. The poor pedant is quite beside himself, unable to produce an accurate translation. But he somehow determines that a British pound is more nearly equivalent to two American dollars than it is to one, and therefore translates “the pursuit of the pound” into “the pursuit of the two-dollar bill”----and this, we presume, must be dignified with the name of accuracy.

Yes, and this is just the sort of accuracy which we find in the New American Standard Version. It is the accuracy of pedantry, the accuracy of a shallow generation which judges everything by the bubbles which float on the surface, while it perceives nothing of the current which flows beneath them. They perceive nothing of the nature of things, being occupied only with insignificant externals and incidentals.

Accuracy, I contend, in the case before us, has nothing to do with the exact size of the vessel, any more than it has with the exact shape of it. There are other matters of greater importance, and the accuracy which ignores those other matters----or perceives nothing of their existence----and reduces all to a matter of size, is no accuracy at all.

But we are not so sure that the modern notions of accuracy are so accurate after all, even as to size. A bushel is not the same size in America as a bushel in England, and therefore neither is a peck, which is a quarter of a bushel. Nor am I so sure that our modern translators know as much as they think they do about the size of the Greek v . Nor am I sure that whatever term the Lord used----and he did not speak Greek----was equivalent in size to the Greek v , into which the Gospels translate his term. And even where measure is the point at issue----which it certainly is not in Matt. 5:15----the word “bushel” is often used loosely for any large unspecified quanitity. It has been so used for more than 600 years.

But waive all of that. We grant that the Greek word employed does not designate a container which is a bushel in size. “Bushel,” then, is not strictly accurate. And neither is any other English translation of any other Jewish weight or measure. It is not possible to translate any of them accurately as to size. It is our wisdom, then, to first regard their other features, and fairly represent those in the translation. This is exactly what the translators of the old English Bibles did. They must have an opaque and fairly large vessel, the name of which was a common household word. And not without reason, they all settled upon the word “bushel.” Thus:

Early Wycliffe Bible----“vnder a busshel.”

Later Wycliffe Bible----“vnder a busschel.”

Fourteenth-century version, ed. by C. A. Paues----“vndir a buschel.”

Wm. Tyndale, 1525----“vnder a busshell”----and so all of his revisions.

George Joye, 1534----“vnder a busshel.”

Myles Coverdale, 1535----“vnder a buszhell.”

Matthew, 1537----“vnder a busshell.”

Taverner, 1539----“vnder a busshell.”

Great Bible, 1539----“vnder a busshell.”

Geneva Bible, 1560----“vnder a bushel.”

Bishops' Bible, 1568----“vnder a busshell.”

Roman Catholic Rheims N. T., 1582----“vnder a bushel.”

King James Version, 1611----“vnder a bushell.” This version gives us a note in the margin, saying, “The word in the originall, signifieth a measure containing about a pint lesse then a pecke.” We have no objection to being so informed, though for any ordinary purpose the size matters little.

Revised Version, 1881----“under the bushel,” without note or comment.

J. N. Darby's New Translation----“under the bushel,” with a marginal note: “I have left `bushel' as well known; it was a measure under a half-a-bushel.” This was wisdom, to leave it alone because it was “well known.”

Revised Standard Version, 1952----“under a bushel.”

And shall we now, after 600 years, replace this with “peck-measure,” which nobody ever heard of----or with “bowl”?! The latter is absurd. The first thing, and likely the only thing, suggested to people's minds by the simple word “bowl” is a soup or cereal bowl, and there will be no hiding a lamp under that. The only bowls I know of which might be near large enough are punch bowls, and most of those are crystal clear----fine containers under which to hide a light. Ought not men to learn to think before they undertake to translate the Bible?

But what of “basket,” the rendering of the New King James Version? This, indeed, has solid sense in it. In itself it is as acceptable as “bushel.” It is just such an alteration as we could readily approve, if there were any reason to make any change at all. If Wycliffe and Tyndale had used “basket” (or “bucket”) in the place, this would now be as familiar to all of us as “bushel” is----and as unexceptionable. But really, it is 600 years too late to introduce it. There is nothing to gain by it----certainly no gain in accuracy----and certainly something to lose. To hide one's light under a bushel is not only language familiar to all Christians, but is also a proverbial expression, woven into the fabric of the English language itself. Why should we remove an expression from the Bible, which we cannot remove from the language, and when there is nothing to be gained by the removal?

Certain minds will no doubt find some gain in “basket” over “bushel.” It is new and different. It sets aside the old version, and that is a great gain in itself----to certain minds. But beyond that, I dare say they will be hard pressed to demonstrate any gain at all. If they think they have some petty gain in accuracy, it is certainly insufficient to offset the loss incurred by dislocating the common and familiar language. It is change for the sake of change. And the worst of it is, this change is introduced in a Bible which shelters itself under the venerated name of “King James Version.” This is hardly right. The “New” version has departed too far from the spirit of the old one, whose name it bears. It has everywhere introduced absolutely needless alterations, which are dictated only by fastidiousness, by pedantry, and by love of change. This is the pride of modern Evangelicalism, which supposes itself to be passing wise, while its first axiom is that all our forefathers were in the dark----or the dim twilight at the best. This is the pride of modern scholarship, which supposes itself competent to translate the Bible, when it had by all means better return to its grammar books----or better still, abandon its grammar books, and learn wisdom.

I have touched upon but one small facet of the subject. The reader may multiply this by a thousand, and understand a little of what I have against the modern Bible versions. I have no sympathy with the notions which ascribe perfection to the old version. Neither do I have any sympathy with the notions which ascribe the new versions to conspiracies, Jesuits, or adherents of new-age theology. But the new versions have had the misfortune to be the product of modern scholarship, which is shallow, unspiritual, and incompetent. Only let the church of God acquire a little of wisdom and spirituality, and I believe the new versions would fade away, as the old Revised Version did.


The Quaker's Dream and the Methodist's Sermon

[Here the reader may behold the hand of God, and also the necessary place of the earnest, determined, winner of souls. ----editor.]

Mr. [John] Collins, when a local preacher, often preached in Quaker neighbourhoods in his native state, New-Jersey, before he emigrated to the West. He was to preach in a certain place one evening. The night before, a Friend, who was opposed to him and his sentiments, had a peculiar dream. In his dream he beheld the scenes of the last judgment, and imagined himself weighed in the balance, and, to his horror, found wanting. While expecting, in terror, his sentence, the Judge said, “Weigh him again,” when suddenly he awoke.

The next day, one of his neighbours invited him to attend Mr. Collins's preaching, and judge for himself of the man he was opposing; but he declined most positively. His friend then urged him to accompany him in a short walk, for the purpose of some special conversation; he consented, and was led unsuspectingly toward the place of worship. When he found himself near, he attempted to return, but was urged to enter, and he complied with the request. He agreed to hear for once what the preacher had to say. He sat down, with his broad brim on, and not in the best frame of mind to hear; for he was full of prejudice as they were proceeding with the opening service before the sermon. When this was through the preacher arose, and, with the utmost solemnity, gave out for his text, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

The Quaker was astonished, and the recollection of his terrible dream made the discourse much more impressive. As the preacher proceeded with his sermon, describing the Scriptural standard of experimental religion, the Quaker was convinced that he was indeed “wanting” in everything that constituted genuine piety. He was convinced “of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;” of the necessity of securing a “wedding garment” that would qualify him to mingle with those John saw with their redemption-robes before the throne. He sought and found the Lord, and united himself with the church he had opposed.

----The Heroes of Methodism, by J. B. Wakeley, pp. 384-385.

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