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Vol. 5, No. 11
Nov., 1996

The Marks of Pride

Abstract of Two Sermons, Preached on Sept. 1 & 8, 1996

by Glenn Conjurske

A year and a half or two years ago, one of you asked me to preach on the marks of pride. I haven't forgotten the request, but have been thinking about it for a long time, and at length will venture to speak on it. I was asked for a sermon on the marks of pride----the marks by which it can be recognized, and this is what I intend to speak on. This is a matter of very great importance, for somehow it seems that pride is one of the most difficult things to recognize in ourselves, though it is easy enough to see in others. I have often heard people acknowledge, “I was proud,” referring to some time long ago, but very rarely will you hear anyone say, “I am proud.” This may be because the proud are little inclined to admit it, but it may be also because they can't see it.

But here are some marks by which pride may be recognized. They are not all infallible marks, but they are good indications, especially when a number of them are found together.

First, and perhaps most obvious, is boasting. This kind of pride I would hope to find little of among the godly, but when people are continually talking of their own accomplishments, it is a pretty certain mark of pride. The humble are more likely to be ashamed of their accomplishments, for all of us are weak and poor enough. But I take leave to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable boasting. A man who has actually accomplished something has half an excuse if he talks about it, but a good share of the boasting in the world does not concern what men have done, but what they imagine they can do. Men like to boast of what they could sell this gun or this automobile for, but the old proverb speaks true which says, “The price of a thing is what it will bring.” When we hear such boasting, a gentle hint may be in order, that if he can sell the thing for so much money, let him by all means do so. But then he will suddenly wish to keep it. So men like to boast of how much they can make in an hour, how much they can raise on a tenth of an acre, how many pounds they can lose in a week, etc., etc., all concerning things which they have never accomplished, and probably never attempted. This is a certain mark of the worst kind of pride, and concerning this the Bible says, “Let not him that putteth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.” (I Kings 20:11). That is, let not him that goes out to the battle boast as he that has already won it. This is pride, and foolishness too.

I speak next of pride of accomplishment. A man may have plenty of this in his heart, and yet have sense enough not to display it by boasting. This was the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, who walked in his palace and said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). This may be called reasonable pride. Nebuchadnezzar was not boasting of his fancied abilities, but glorying in his actual accomplishments. He had done great things. But at bottom all pride is unreasonable, “for who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it.” (I Cor. 4:7). It may well be that you have made the most of what you have received, but still you received it to start with, and without it you would be nothing. You could have been born an idiot. But it is the way of pride to glory in its own accomplishments, without deducting all that it has received. Humility gives the glory to God, or to the others who have contributed what you have received.

Now we ought frankly to be afraid of such pride, for we may pay dearly for it. Nebuchadnezzar wrote to teach us that “those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Dan. 4:37), and God did not deal gently with Nebuchadnezzar's pride. When he surveyed his great works, and swelled with pride of accomplishment, God took it all away from him in a moment.

Next to pride of accomplishment comes pride of ability, and there is perhaps no form of pride which is so common in the church of God, nor any so detrimental. Paul says, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:4). He then goes on to speak of the different gifts and abilities in the church of God, and calls upon every man to exercise his own gift----for the proper exercise of our own gifts is exactly what is set aside by this pride of ability. When a man thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think, he is never content to do what he can do----or what he can do well----but must always be attempting what he can only bungle. The little boy must ride the big bike, or he will ride none at all. The man who ought to be disciplining his children must knock on doors to preach the gospel. The man who ought to be praying in his closet must write a tract. Those who ought to be content to play the piano must undertake to write hymns. The man who ought to be passing out tracts must preach. The man who ought to be knocking on doors to preach the gospel must write a book. The man who ought to be exhorting must teach. The man who ought to be teaching freshmen to conjugate v must translate the Bible.

Now the result of all of this pride of ability is that nothing is done well, and everything is done ill. While every man thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think, every man neglects what he can do, to attempt what he cannot. This is one of the surest marks of pride, but unfortunately, one of the most difficult to recognize in ourselves. Perhaps the only way you might see it at all is to ask your brethren what they think of your abilities. Not that you should necessarily believe what they tell you, for plain dealing is a rare jewel. I once knew a man of the Open Brethren persuasion, now deceased, who took it upon himself to travel and preach. The plain fact is, he couldn't preach, and even the Brethren knew it----who are generally accustomed to very poor preaching. They groaned when he came to preach to them. Yet they supported him with their money, and never told him he couldn't preach, though they told others. Perhaps you would do better to listen to rumors, than to ask your brethren about your abilities. But if you do ask them, and discount what they say in your favor, and augment what they say against you, you may arrive at the truth.

I have mentioned that I believe this kind of pride one of the most prevalent in the church today. There are two things which contribute to it, which are the shallowness and the affluence of modern society, including the modern church. The affluence of modern society makes it easy for everyone to attempt all the things they are not fit for. Anyone who can afford a computer (and who cannot?) can publish a magazine, whether he is fit for it or not. Anyone can write hymns, with the aid of computers and tape recorders and what not----and always find people shallow enough to think them good music. The shallowness of modern society always ensures that these amateur productions will be praised and circulated. I have seen pieces win national poetry contests which were not poetry at all. John Wesley refers to some would-be poetry of his day as “prose tagged with rhyme,” but this stuff wasn't even tagged with rhyme. It possessed neither rhyme nor rhythm, but was just second-rate prose, lined out to look like poetry on a printed page, and yet this shallow society could acclaim this stuff as the best of poetry. I have also heard people defend and praise some of the worst preaching I ever heard. The fact is, it was the best they knew. They had never heard good preaching in their lives. Any shallow, worthless book can find readers in our day, for our generation scarcely knows what a good book is. The King-James-Only doctrines----some of the most shallow and foolish doctrines which have ever existed on the earth----have spread like wild-fire, and in twenty years taken possession of half of the leaders of Fundamentalism. And some of the books which think to answer the King-James-Only doctrines are just as shallow, and just as unsound. I believe a revival of spirituality and learning would silence most of the preachers and authors in the land. Meanwhile we are required to endure a flood of this pride of ability.

I speak next of pride of name. When the wicked set out to build the tower of Babel, one of their avowed motives was, “let us make us a name.” The godly will not likely avow such a motive, but it may lurk in their hearts nevertheless. Men may preach sermons and write books to make a name for themselves. You must look within to find this kind of pride, for it may never manifest itself outwardly----yet it may. Pride of name may manifest itself in pride of initials. What mean these strings of initials appended to the names of all the prominent men of the church? What mean all of these titles of distinction prefixed to them. If this is not pride of name, what is? What would people think of me if I paraded myself as

Rev. Dr. G. Russell Conjurske, A.B., M.A., D.D., LL.D., X.Y.Z.?

No need to worry, for I have no such titles to parade, and neither do I want any, but some men need a whole line of type to print their names. They ought to be ashamed of it. They ought to be ashamed of the worldliness in it, but they ought to be ashamed of the pride also.

And while I am speaking of pride of initials, let me refer to the practice of the old Plymouth Brethren. None of them put their names to anything they wrote, but only their initials. This I once supposed to be humility, and, as I was very devoted to the writings of the Brethren twenty-five years ago, I adopted the practice myself. But the more I considered the matter, the more plainly it appeared to me that this use of initials was likely not humility at all, but only a subtle form of pride. If it is pride to make a name for myself, how much more to make initials for myself. Only the most prominent of men are known by their initials. I must have a much greater name to be known as G.C., than to be known by my name. Let those who wish to manifest their humility by suppressing their names write anonymously. Not that I would generally recommend this. The first thing I want to know when I read something is, Who wrote it? Anonymous papers I seldom read at all. When a man writes, he ought to take the responsibility for what he writes, and to do this he must put his name to it. A thousand things have been written under the cloak of anonymity which were unfit to be written at all, and which never would have been written at all, if men had been obliged to put their names to them. There are no doubt occasions for writing anonymously, but these are few.

But to return to pride. One certain mark of pride is contentiousness. The Bible is plain enough about this. “Only by pride cometh contention.” (Prov. 13:10). Here is the real root of almost all church splits, though some doctrinal matter is usually dragged in by the tail, and made out to be the issue. On the individual level, there are certain souls who simply love to argue, and the only root of this is pride. They are determined always to show their superiority. If you tell them you can buy honey at the store in quart jars, they will tell you, “No, it comes in pint jars.” If you tell them you bought Horne's Introduction in two volumes, they will tell you, “No, it comes in four volumes.” The fact probably is, it comes both ways, but the proud are determined always to set everybody straight, and at all times to set forth their superior knowledge and experience, though they are as often wrong as right.

Now frankly, I do not consider it my business to set everybody straight on every point. If I hear an old lady contend that tomatoes picked green and ripened in the attic are just as good as those ripened on the vine, I keep my mouth shut about it. I am not very likely to convince an old lady of anything, and at any rate why should I contend with her? The biggest share of the time when I hear folks say things that I know to be false, I just keep my mouth shut. I don't feel any compelling need to display my superiority. But I must confess that when I hear something wrong from one of these contentious folks, or when one of them tries to set me straight, I have a strong temptation to expose his ignorance and humble his pride----and I don't always resist the temptation. When he tells me that honey comes only in pint jars, I am much inclined to show him my quart jar of honey. That may be of the flesh. The flesh provokes the flesh, as Darby used to say, and it may be pride in me that is inclined to contend with the contentious. It may be a waste of breath too, and very likely worse than a waste of breath, for when you prove him wrong and stop his mouth, you probably won't make him humble, but only resentful. You know I've had plenty of experience with folks like this. When they try to set you straight, and you demolish their arguments, they won't say a word in reply. They will drop the subject for six months or a year, and then come out defending the position they opposed, just as though they had always held it, and without ever admitting they were wrong. This is a certain mark of pride. Meanwhile they will be hunting high and low for any mistake or inconsistency in you, so they may get their revenge. Wounded pride you want to stay away from, for there is nothing so implacable. “Offended self-esteem will never forgive,” an old proverb says. When Joseph refused the advances of Potiphar's wife, he wounded her pride, and he paid dearly for it. I have been through one church split, and it is as clear as the daylight that wounded pride was the main element in the opposition party.

But to return to the text, “Only by pride cometh contention.” This disposition to dispute, this determination to set people straight, is a certain mark of pride.

Another obvious mark of pride is obstinacy. By obstinacy I mean a determination to maintain our own position, or an unwillingness to yield. This is not necessarily a mark of pride, for if a man has the truth he ought not to yield. He ought to be steadfast and unmovable. And I may as well mention at this point that it is not uncommon for faith to be mistaken for pride. “I know thy pride” was thrown in David's teeth when he thought to fight Goliath, yet it was not pride which moved David, but faith. There is a boldness and a firmness in faith which may often resemble pride, and those who have faith may often have to bear the reproach of being proud. There is little help for that. Nevertheless, the firmness of faith and the obstinacy of pride are two different things. Faith and pride may do some of the same things, but they hardly do them in the same manner. The firmness of faith stands upon confidence in God, while the obstinacy of pride stands on its own conceit. The firmness of faith is meek, while obstinacy is arrogant. And I will just insert here that another pretty certain mark of pride is heatedness in controversy. When the man who is unwilling to admit he is wrong begins to feel the weakness of his cause, he will commonly become heated, become sarcastic and disdainful, or even lose his temper. The real root of this excess of heat is pride. The humble man, who is willing to admit himself in the wrong, has no need whatsoever of such ferociousness. A man may be steadfast and unmovable and yet listen to reason, and stand ready to modify his position, if not to give it up. Obstinacy will resist all reason and deny all the facts in order to maintain its position. It often happens that the obstinate make consummate fools of themselves by their dogged defense of that which every reasonable man can see to be indefensible. They grasp at straws, and put the most ridiculous construction upon all the facts, rather than admit that they are wrong.

For this reason all those who have any tendency to pride ought to be very careful about publicly committing themselves to anything, and they ought to be careful about how they commit themselves. But when were the proud ever careful? Only let them “see the light” on anything, and they must go directly to the pulpit or the printing press to set the world straight. They commit themselves in the most public and dogmatic way to their new theory, and so much the more if it is the manufacture of their own brain, which has never been heard of before. But as soon as they are publicly committed to it, their pride is involved, and then they must maintain the position at all cost, and the more they say the bigger the fools they make of themselves. I therefore counsel every man who adopts any new doctrine----whether it be a notion wholly new, or an old doctrine new to you----to let that doctrine simmer on the back burner for five years before you put it in print. If you must put it in print, put the book on the back shelf for five years before you give it to the world. By this means you might keep your pride out of the way. The church has survived for two thousand years without your notion, and it may survive another five.

I believe without question that pride is the greatest hindrance to learning the truth. It is pride which maintains all kinds of false and foolish notions, against all facts and reason, and the rashness which must put every new notion immediately into print is the strongest ally of that pride.

This brings me naturally to speak of rashness as another certain mark of pride. “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety,” the Bible says, but the proud seldom seek counsel before they act. Why should they? It seldom enters their minds. They have too much confidence in themselves for that. But most fortunately for the proud, the very rashness to which their pride impels them often proves to be one of the most effectual remedies for it. When they have made mistakes enough, and often enough had their folly exposed to the world, they may begin to distrust themselves, and to lean less confidently on their own understanding.


The Bible Basis of Courtship and Marriage

by Glenn Conjurske

A little tract has lately been put into my hands entitled, “Marriage: How it should be contracted,” by Ronald E. Williams, of Winona Lake, Indiana. The author is undoubtedly a good man, seeking to do good, but I believe the doctrines of this tract are as likely to do harm as good. The doctrines are hyperspiritual, and, like all hyperspiritual doctrines, they lump together nature and sin, and condemn all in the lump. It is not my purpose to single out Brother Williams for censure. It is not the man I desire to censure, but the doctrines. Yet I fear that my frequent practice of dealing exclusively with principles, while I leave persons alone, may give the impression that I am beating down straw men. Those who appear before the public as teachers of truth may expect their performances to be judged. This is right. Paul says, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge.” (I Cor. 14:29). This judgement is to be immediate and public. Perhaps if this were done in the church, where Paul prescribes it, there would be less occasion for it in print. Yet all who put their doctrines in print must be held responsible for them, and it is no breach of charity to correct them in print.

But before addressing Mr. Williams' tract, I make one general observation on all hyperspiritual doctrines concerning marriage. It is commonly their way to insist very forcefully on basing our practices on the Bible alone, but there is fundamental weakness in this position. The fact is, the Bible is not a marriage manual. It was not given us to teach us what we may know by nature or experience. There was no need for this, and if the Bible were entirely silent on such matters, that would be no argument against them. I heard not long ago of a seminar at a femininst woman's convention on “Lesbian Flirting Techniques.” It is likely enough the poor things stand in need of such a course----for the whole business is as much “against nature” as it is against God----but it would be an impertinence to teach a woman how to flirt with a man. She knows that by nature. No doubt this power may be very much misused, but so may every other power which is resident in feminine charm or beauty. That does not make any of those powers evil. The mutual attractions of masculine and feminine natures are the creation of God, and are therefore “very good.” If the Bible said never a word, therefore, about love and courtship, that fact would speak nothing against it. But the Bible is not silent on these matters. It says enough to give its sanction to the normal propensities of the romantic natures with which God has created us, but much of this Scripture is ignored by the hyperspiritual. They commonly make Isaac and Rebekah the foundation of all, while they ignore most of the rest of Scripture. This is hardly right.

Mr. Williams objects throughout his tract to forming marriages on the basis of “romantic sentiment,” and says, “Many modern Samsons and Esaus are paying the price of their rebellious, fleshly choices in their problematic marriages.” No doubt. But to imply that making romance the basis of marriage is the equivalent of rebellion and fleshly choices is not true, and it is not fair. And on the other side, it is also true that many are paying the price of their hyperspiritual mistakes, in their unsatisfying marriages, and this tract is likely to increase their number. The author is rightly concerned about the failure of so many marriages, but attributes the failure to the wrong source. He says, “It is a rare, if not non-existent, young person who is wholly and completely prepared to consider this vital decision free from flesh, romance, desire and sentiment. Whereas Hollywood, movie magazines, and most of society would have us believe good marriages are based upon modern romance; decades of disastrous divorce statistics made up from the shattered homes and lives of its unwitting disciples are the awful evidence of its utter failure.”

But what can he mean by “modern romance”? Romance is not modern, but as old as the Garden of Eden. It was certainly romance which knit Jacob's soul to Rachel's, when he labored seven years for her, “and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” (Gen. 29:20). And this, of course, before he married her. It is strange indeed that the Spirit of God should inform us of this, and in such glowing terms, if it was all a dangerous mistake, or an evil. As for “desire and sentiment,” Paul says, “If they cannot contain, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.” (I Cor. 7:9). This is not only desire, but burning and overwhelming desire. “If they cannot contain.”

We would of course agree with Mr. Williams that a man ought not to enter into marriage solely upon the basis of desire and romance, without due consideration of character and spirituality, and if this were all he had to say, we would have nothing to object. But he wants to see young people wholly and completely free from the considerations of romance and desire. This is a surer way to make bad marriages than it is to marry solely for romance, free from any considerations of character----for the lack of character may be changed, where the lack of romance cannot. A good marriage is much more likely to happen by chance than by “working at it” after putting together a mismatch.

In fact there are two things necessary to secure a good marriage. Those two are romance and character----romance to make the marriage, and character to keep it. If men who lack character marry on the basis of romance, and their marriage fails, hyperspirituality points to this as the proof that it is wrong to marry for romance.

But there is a deeper and more complex problem here. Years of observation have settled me in the firm persuasion that very many who supposedly marry for love are not in love at all, and never have been. Every normal man----to speak from the man's side only, though the same things will apply on the woman's side----every normal man is “in love” with femininity. He feels therefore a natural and very strong attraction towards everything feminine. That attraction exists in many varying degrees, and it is a plain fact that a man cannot fall in love with every woman towards whom he may feel some attraction. Yet on the basis of this attraction, which for lack of experience and lack of sound instruction he ignorantly mistakes for love, he marries a woman----not that he is in love with her, but because she is a woman, and because she happens to be available. He has, of course, some “romantic sentiment” towards her, as he likely has towards a hundred other women, but he is certainly not in love with her. When a man is in love with one woman, she becomes, as Solomon says, “the lily among the thorns.” All other women lose their charms. He wants her only, and cannot desire another. This, and this alone is love, and I am persuaded that a great many who marry on the supposed basis of love have never possessed it. Their marriages quickly become stale, precisely because they are not in love. If they have character, they make the best of it, though it is not likely to be very good, or ever to satisfy the needs of their hearts. If they are lacking in character, they separate----and the advocates of these hyperspiritual doctrines point to them as another proof that love is no basis for marriage.

But it is nature which makes love the basis of marriage, and nature is the creation of God. Besides, nature and Scripture are entirely at one in the matter. Paul says, “She is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord.” (I Cor. 7:39). “Only in the Lord”----that is, a person of true godliness. But “to whom she will.” This assumes the existence of romance, desire, and sentiment----for what woman ever willed to marry a man without this? Perhaps the young and naive, who understand little of the needs of their own nature, or who have been indoctrinated in hyperspiritual views, may will to marry a man without romance, but they will have a long time to repent of it.

But these hyperspiritual views never fail to throw out the baby with the bath water. Because some marry for romance without character, and find themselves in a bad marriage, they will have us marry for character without romance. Mr. Williams writes, “Because marriage is boldly and clearly presented in the Bible as a life-long commitment, it obviously is a union that should not be entered into on the basis of romantic sentiment, careless thinking, or careless desire. To put it another way, `love' is a lousy basis for marriage!” We are not sure exactly what the author may mean by “careless thinking” and “careless desire,” but it matters little. The terms are obviously intended to denote something evil or harmful, and they are linked together with “romantic sentiment” in order to discredit that also. But leave careless thinking and careless desire----surely no necessary accompaniments of romance----out of the question, and wise and reasonable men will be left with just this: Because the Bible presents marriage as a life-long commitment, it ought to be entered into on no other basis than that of strong romantic love----not, of course, without reference to character or godliness. “Wedlock's padlock,” an old proverb rightly affirms, and because when we marry we are locked in, we had best be certain in advance that we are locked into love, and not drudgery. God's ideal of marriage is “be thou always ravished with her LOVE”----a very strong expression, which certainly means much more than “getting along,” or being best friends. This is not some spiritual or hyperspiritual sort of so-called “agape love,” but lovers' love, and none other, as the same verse (Prov. 5:19) proves when it says, “let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.” But no such thing is possible in the absence of love. They must be very naive who suppose that the physical gratifications of marriage can satisfy, without love. That “burning” which, according to Paul, ought to move us to marry will be allayed by nothing but love----and of course romantic love. This love is of God, and it is surely no sin to desire it, nor any mistake to use all of our faith and wisdom to secure it. Indeed, it is the mistake of a lifetime to marry without it. It is not possible to be always ravished with a love which does not exist.

But the advocates of these hyperspiritual views will not grudge us the possession of love----some sort of love, at any rate----provided we acquire it after we commit ourselves to marry. Mr. Williams continues, “As hoary-headed married couples with decades of marriage together would tell you, love is learned primarily after marriage. They would testify of how genuine Bible love was learned, and that it grew as their years together passed.” But what can he mean by “genuine Bible love”? We suppose this term is designed to stand in contrast to the “romance” which he everywhere slights. It is evident he cannot mean romantic love, for we hardly need learn that. Yet it is certain that romantic love is “genuine Bible love.” The love of which Solomon's Song speaks so eloquently----which is strong as death, a most vehement flame, which many waters cannot quench----is certainly romantic love, as was Jacob's love for Rachel. True, the Bible speaks of other sorts of love also, but romantic love is as much “true Bible love” as any of them.

But as always, the advocates of these views must stand upon Isaac and Rebekah, while they seem unaware of the existence of Jacob and Rachel. Mr. Williams continues, “Isaac and Rebekah had never met or even had opportunity to `fall in love' prior to their marriage, they simply trusted the providence of God in the wise counsel of their respective families.

“Notice the progression of thought: 1. `She became his wife'; 2. `and he loved her'. Please note that Isaac loved Rebekah after they were married. He then found out what Bible love for a spouse really meant. Any hoary-headed wife or husband who has spent several generations with his or her spouse could tell us the same fact; love came later.”

But this is full of fallacy. To be sure, Isaac loved Rebekah after he married her, for (as the writer says) he had no opportunity to do so before. But what then? Ought we all to marry those we have never met, and trust the providence of God for the love which our hearts stand in need of? If not, the example of Isaac is wide of the mark. It proves too much, and therefore proves nothing. Those who are the most forceful in recommending the example of Isaac and Rebekah would not themselves follow that example if they had opportunity to do so. Would they, on the “wise counsel” of their father, marry a woman whom neither he nor they had ever met? If not, let them leave Isaac alone. Jacob loved Rachel before he married her, and this is surely the ordinary and God-ordained way to enter into marriage. God did not endue our very natures with all of those emotional incitements to marriage that we might ignore them all, and marry without reference to any of them. These folks do not ignore their natural tastes for food, and trust the providence of God. They would not so much as go to a restaurant, and tell the waitress to bring whatever she pleased, and trust the providence of God for a tasty meal. How much less ought we to do so for a lifetime commitment. This would be better called folly than faith. In Isaac's case there was an apparent spiritual necessity for the course taken. He had no prospects for marriage in the land of Canaan, and the call of God (so Abraham understood it, at any rate) prevented him from going to the country from which his father had come out. Most of us are under no such necessity, and to insist upon using none but Isaac and Rebekah (or, as some hyperspiritual teachers do, Adam and Eve!) as the proper pattern for choosing a mate only betrays the weakness of the system.

But, we are told, Isaac found out after marriage what “Bible love” for a spouse was. But again, why “Bible love”? This is evidently meant to designate something different from the romantic love which the whole race knows by nature, and which is the only possible basis for a satisfying marriage. If by “Bible love” he means anything other than romance, it is a grand mistake to try to make a marriage of it. “Be thou always ravished with her love,” the scripture says, and this cannot refer to anything but romance, as I have shown above.

Well, but hoary-headed spouses can tell us that love came later----that is, it came after marriage. Pardon me, but the implication of this is really injurious. This assumes, and is apparently designed to convey the thought, that if we have love before marriage, it isn't real love. It is only some ephmeral thing called “romantic sentiment.” But more. To use hoary-headed couples, who have spent several generations together, to illustrate Isaac's love for Rebekah is not fair. It is setting aside the plain and obvious sense of the text. The Bible says (Gen. 24:67), “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.” There is nothing here about any love which is the growth of several generations of marriage. “She became his wife, and he loved her”----then and there, not after several generations of marriage.

But more. The real danger here is that, in all ordinary cases, if love does not come before marriage, it is almost certain that it will never come at all. Of course Isaac's love for Rebekah came after he married her----or we might better say, when he married her. He had never met her before. But if a man knows a woman, if he is close enough to her to enter into courtship and engagement, and yet is not in love with her, it is next to a certainty that he never will be, and never can be----for no man can manufacture romantic love at will. Yet the doctrine of this paper encourages a man to marry such a woman, with the assurance that love will come later. There is no basis for such assurance. It is against the experience of the whole human race.

Well, but hoary-headed saints can tell us that love did come later. Yes----“Bible love,” by which term Mr. Williams evidently does not mean romantic love. There is no reason to expect romance to come later, and every reason to expect the contrary. And the whole tenor of Mr. Williams' tract indicates that he does not so much as mean romantic love. He uses the term “Bible love” only to contrast it with romance. As for this “Bible love,” we surely hope that it will “come later,” but when it does it will never satisfy the romantic needs of romantic natures. Those who marry without romance consign themselves to unsatisfying marriages, which cannot answer the divine ideal or the purpose of marriage.

But more. The notion that love is to come after marriage completely spoils marriage as a type of Christ and the church. “Husbands love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25). The love came first, and moved the Lord to give himself for the church, before he possessed it. He loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might win it to himself. And again, “We love him because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19). Hyperspirituality in another sphere has denied this also, contending that if our love for Christ is not founded purely upon what he is----purely upon his own glories and perfections----it is then selfish love. But against all such notions stands this plain word of God, “We love him because he first loved us.” In all of this the love of Christ and the church exactly corresponds to the love which is designed to subsist between husbands and wives. The man's love for the woman comes first, based upon what she is. Her love for him comes as a response to his love to her, and is based primarily upon how he treats her. She loves him because he first loves her. It thus very plainly appears that while love is the only proper basis for marriage, it is also the only proper basis for courtship. No man has any business to court a woman unless he is in love with her.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “court” as “To pay amorous attention to, seek to gain the affections of, make love to (with a view to marriage), pay addresses to, woo.” The synonym, to “woo,” is defined as, “To sue or to solicit (a woman) in love, esp. with a view to marriage; to pay court to, court.” No man can honestly court a woman unless he is in love with her. Alas, these same hyperspiritual doctrines which do their best to empty marriage of marital love have also so redefined courtship as to leave it an empty name. Some reduce courtship to a cold and mechanical process by which the couple seeks to determine whether it is the will of God that they should marry, meanwhile doing their best not to fall in love. Others make it a period before marriage, in which the couple is to get to know each other, and fall in love if they can, after they have already committed themselves to marriage. None of this is courtship at all, but a travesty upon the very term. Courtship has no place until a man is in love with one woman. It consists of his taking that love, which burns in his heart for her alone of all women, and employing that love to win her heart for himself. This is what the Bible calls “the way of a man with a maid.” (Prov. 30:19). It is the fourth and crowning example of those things which are “too wonderful for me”----for it is a plain fact that a man who is in love with one woman possesses an almost irresistible power to win her heart.

And the Bible not only recognizes such courtship on the purely human level, but employs it also as a type of the Lord's drawing and winning of his people. “Therefore behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. ... And I will betroth thee unto me for ever.” (Hos. 2:14 & 19). Again, “Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness.” (Jer. 2:2).

It thus plainly appears that the Bible basis for courtship as well as marriage is certainly love----and of course, romantic love. And thus appears one of the primary evils of dating, as it is commonly practiced. A man pays amorous attention to a woman, and woos her heart, when he is not in love with her----when he is as it were only “shopping around,” to see if he may perchance fall in love with her. This is wrong. If a man courts a woman when he is not in love with her, he deceives her. When once he is in love with her----and not merely because she is female, but because she is herself----he possesses a power to win her heart which will not be easily defeated. This is courtship, as it is seen in both nature and Scripture----a man's employment of his love for her in order to win her love for him, and of course with the intent to marry her. This is the type of the love of Christ for the church. If they do these things in Hollywood, this does not make them evil. They eat in Hollywood also, and eating is not evil. Not that I suppose there is much of true romance in Hollywood. To be in love with love, or with marriage, or with masculine or feminine charms, is another thing altogether from being in love with a person. And at any rate, romance did not originate in Hollywood, but has been the true and God-ordained foundation of courtship and marriage since the beginning of human history.

But to return to Mr. Williams' tract. The main purpose of this tract is to insist upon “parental guidance” in the choice of a mate, but though the author speaks often of this parental guidance, he is very vague as to what he means by it. We get the impression that he is beating around the bush, afraid to say what he actually means. His use of Isaac and Rebekah as the example of the proper course, his speaking against choosing our own partner, and his slighting of “romantic sentiment,” compel us to suppose that he actually means something more than parental “guidance.” So far as guidance is concerned, we certainly have nothing against it. Indeed, parents ought to exercise authority and control as to whom they allow their children to marry----and before that, whom they allow their children to have as friends, and where and with whom they spend their time. If parents would exercise their authority in these matters, there would be little occasion for Mr. Williams' tract. Parents ought also to exercise authority in forbidding marriages with improper persons. They ought certainly to provide guidance with regard to the character and fitness of a marriage prospect----and more than guidance. In this matter they ought by all means to hold the veto power. But in initiating or arranging marital relationships they have no place. There is surely no need for parental guidance to initiate love. Nature will provide all the guidance needed on that point, and the interference of anyone is uncalled for----though in the case of shy and backward young people, parents may do very well to provide opportunity for them to get to know each other. But parents have no ability to beget romantic emotions in their children, and any attempted guidance in such a matter is impertinent and out of place. There is no call for it, and nothing to be accomplished by it. And if parental “guidance” consists of advising or arranging marriages without romance, then that guidance is a very great evil. That this is the sort of guidance which Mr. Williams recommends is evident from the fact that he prescribes that love should come after marriage.

At the end of his appeal the author says, “You may date around, have your own way, choose your spouse for yourself, if you wish, but this is not God's best for you.” Here again we see the same fallacy which characterizes the whole paper. The good and the evil are all lumped together, and all condemned in the lump. To date around, as it is usually done, is an evil, and is, as another has very aptly said, a better preparation for divorce than for marriage. To “have your own way” is no doubt meant to designate something evil, and it certainly is something evil if it means rebelliously to have our own way, regardless of the will of God. But in the matter of choosing a spouse it is not only possible, but very proper, to have our own way and God's way also. “She is at liberty to be married to whom she will.” It is GOD'S will that we marry whom WE will----“only in the Lord.” This is plain enough, and this it is which is always set aside by these hyperspiritual doctrines. To “choose your spouse for yourself” is no evil at all, unless it is done against the will of God, without regard to character or godliness. That it often is done so, no one doubts, but the existence of evil is no reason to condemn the good. We may throw out the bath water, and yet save the baby.

Observe, I have nothing against Mr. Williams. I do not know him. If I knew him, I would doubtless esteem him as a good man, which I believe him to be. But these hyperspiritual doctrines----though widespread among good people----are not good. The most important, and therefore the most solemn matter belonging to this life is marriage. As an old proverb says, “Marriage is destiny.” And another, “Marriage makes or mars a man.” And yet another, “An ill marriage is a spring of ill fortune.” These proverbs are true. But these doctrines are false, and tend directly to the making of the bad marriages which they seek to prevent. I have no desire to label Mr. Williams with the reproachful term “hyperspiritual.” I do not use the term reproachfully, but the doctrines themselves are hyperspiritual, wherever, however, or for whatever reason good men have embraced them.

The Editor's Favorite Hymn

(Not that this always has been the editor's favorite hymn, nor that it necessarily always will be, but it has been for some time. As it is unknown in our day, and as I have altered it, I offer it to my readers. It may be freely copied.)


Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor


The Root of All Evil

For more than six hundred years English peoples have read in I Tim. 6:10 that the love of money is “the root of all evil.” Though the early versions, prior to the Geneva Bible, read “covetousness” for “the love of money,” they all had “the root of all evil.” But it is superfluous to inform the present generation that the ancient translators were but pygmies and dwarfs, while the scholars of our own time have at last attained to true learning. At any rate, in 1881 a new era was introduced by the publication of the Revised Version, and we are now privileged to read “a root of all kinds of evil.” So the RV, the NIV, and the NKJV. The NASV has the equivalent phrase “a root of all sorts of evil,” and the Christian Bible “a root of all kinds of bad things.”

But here a difficulty arises. A few stubborn souls decline to bow to the dictates of “modern scholarship.” We are so perverse or dark-minded as to say, “The old is better.” We are so far out of step with the times as to honestly suppose that our new era is not an era of learning and wisdom, but of ignorance, incompetence, pride, and fastidious pedantry. Let the case before us stand as a test.

But understand, we are far from ascribing any particularly profound wisdom to the old translators for rendering “the root of all evil.” We do not believe there was any profound wisdom required to render in the old way. The fact is, it requires a profound lack of wisdom to render in any other way. The old rendering was but natural and ordinary. The new one is the fruit of pedantry, and is as anemic as it is fastidious.

But a recent advocate of the New King James Version, Dr. Estus Pirkle, goes to great lengths to defend the dropping of the definite article before “root,” since it is not in the Greek. He goes so far as to say that to translate as “the root” here is correcting the words of the Holy Spirit, whereas if we believe that the Holy Ghost knew what he was saying, we must translate it as “a root.” He does not inform us that the definite article does appear in the Greek before “evil,” yet the NKJV does not render this “all kinds of the evil.” To be consistent he ought to accuse the NKJV of correcting the words of the Holy Ghost because it says “the law” seven times in Romans Seven (and never puts “the” in italics) where the Greek says only “law.” Facts like these----and there are a thousand of them, scattered over every page of the New Testament----ought to be sufficient to teach our modern doctors that it is no safe principle to insert the article in English wherever it appears in the Greek, or drop it where it does not. We must first understand the reason of its presence or absence in the Greek----and the genius of its use in English also. And at any rate, there is really no occasion to accuse anyone of correcting the Holy Ghost, or not believing the Holy Ghost knew what he was saying, because they insert or drop an article. This kind of argumentation only fills the air with smoke. It casts an undeserved reproach upon the old version, and serves only to add unhallowed heat to the controversy, without adding one ray of light.

Now “root” in I Tim. 6:10 is a predicate nominative. Predicate nominatives may take the article in Greek, but seldom do. The article is called for if the purpose of the predicate nominative is to identify the subject. If its purpose is to characterize the subject (as it usually is), the article is out of place. In the sentence “The love of money is the root of all evil,” the purpose is certainly to characterize the love of money, and therefore the Greek wants no article. Whether the English wants one is another question. We cannot generally speak without articles in English, as the Greek can, but the notion that we may insert an indefinite article wherever the Greek omits the definite is absolutely false. We cannot say “The word was a god,” nor “God is a light.” “God” and “light” need no article at all in English, but of many English nouns this is not so. We cannot say merely “root,” but must say either “a root” or “the root.” When Paul uses “body” as a predicate nominative, without the definite article, in I Cor. 12:27, he speaks not to identify, but to characterize. Yet the English translators give us, properly enough, “Ye are the body of Christ.” Indeed, what choice did they have? I once heard an Independent Baptist contend for rendering this, “Ye are a body of Christ,” but this is wrong, and the fruit of false doctrine. There is only one body of Christ. “Ye are body of Christ” is out of the question. It may be good Greek, but it is not English. The NKJV gives us “Ye are the body of Christ,” without italicizing “the.” Darby and the NASV seek to avoid the difficulty by saying, “Ye are Christ's body,” but they must know that “Christ's body” is just as definite as “the body of Christ.” The two are exactly equivalent.

But are we to accuse the New King James Version of correcting the words of the Holy Spirit, because they insert the definite article in I Cor. 12:27, and say “Ye are the body of Christ”? Hardly. Neither will we accuse them of inaccuracy. We grant that “Ye are the body of Christ” may mean the whole body, or the only body, but it need not. We grant likewise that “the root of all evil” may mean “the only root of all evil,” but we deny that it must mean that, or that there is any danger of its being so understood, unless by the very shallow or the very simple.

To say that the love of money is the root of all evil does not necessarily imply that it is the only root. It may mean that it is pre-eminently so----certainly that it is characteristically so----but not necessarily that it is exclusively so. This is common English. Speaking of the corruption of the clergy by their possession of temporal goods, John Wycliffe wrote in about 1380, “And goodis put in preestis possessioun is rote of al êis synne.” That is, “Goods put in priests' possession is root of all this sin.” But we cannot speak so. We must say “a root” or “the root.” Indeed, I am pretty sure that Wycliffe would not have spoken so, if he had not been so accustomed to the Latin tongue, which has no article at all, definite or indefinite. Wycliffe wrote ten times more in Latin than he did in English, and it is characteristic of his English writings to omit the definite article, where the English really wants it. I am pretty sure that if Richard Rolle had written the above sentence, he would have said “êe rote of al êis synne.” Yet the meaning is certainly not “the only root,” but the primary or pre-eminent root. The Wycliffe Bible (probably not the personal work of Wycliffe), has “êe roote of alle yuels.” So Tyndale and Coverdale, and all English versions, and yet there is no doubt that these men knew as well as our modern doctors that Adam did not eat the forbidden fruit, nor David take Bathsheba, for the love of money. Though they put “the root of all evil” in their Bibles, they certainly did not mean by it, “the only root.”

We find in a common English saying, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country,” and no one dreams that this means the only time, nor the only opportune time, nor the only permissible time. The statement means nothing more than that this is pre-eminently the time----the time above all others. To reduce it to “Now is a time” is to emasculate it----to take all the force and vigor out of it----to take the meaning out of it, and reduce it to a piece of twaddle not worth repeating. And so exactly do these men with “the root of all evil” when they reduce it to “a root of all kinds of evil.” No man of sense or wisdom ever supposed that “the root of all evil” must mean the only root, though it certainly means more than “a root.” If we are to read “a root of all kinds of evil,” the statement is hardly worth making. We might substitute a thousand other things in place of “the love of money,” and the statement be equally true. But no: the love of money is the pre-eminent root of all evil, though not the only root. Indeed, how constantly, in beholding all the evils done under the sun, does this scripture force itself upon our attention: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” It is characteristically so, though not exclusively so. It is only fastidious pedantry which stumbles over this, and it is none of our business to take all the force and vigor out of the Bible, so that shallow pedantry will not stumble. None but inveterate non-thinkers could be capable of supposing the love of money to be the only root of every instance of evil, and it is none of anybody's business to translate the Bible for those who do not think. We must emasculate the book to do so, and continually insult the intelligence of those who do think.

And it is a strange fact that the same New King James Version which rejects “the root of all evil,” lest we suppose it to be the only root, must have “the lie” in Romans 1:25 and II Thes. 2:11. And the same men who defend the one rendering defend also the other. What then? If “the root of all evil” must mean the only root, do they wish us to believe “the lie” to be the only lie? Not that we suppose the two cases are exactly parallel. We may say “the root” because it is followed by the genitive phrase “of all evil,” which naturally makes it definite in English. There is no such genitive phrase following “the lie.” “The lie of the ages” would be perfectly natural in English----not that that would mean the only lie of the ages. “A lie of the ages” would be mere twaddle.

And I wish to call particular attention to the significance of the genitive phrase which follows “the root.” The use of the genitive, or possessive, calls naturally for the definite article in English, though it is not indispensable. If I say, “The ignorance of the modern church is the fruit of its lukewarmness,” no one dreams that I mean the only fruit, though pedants and nit-pickers are very likely to make an issue of it, and demonstrate their superiority by insisting that I ought to say “a fruit.” Such folks would do well to leave the old Bible alone.

Again, an old proverb says, “The face is the index of the heart.” And another, “The good is the enemy of the best.” No one dreams that these proverbs refer to the only index of the heart, or the only enemy of the good. And another old proverb: “The reward of love is jealousy.” Who would dream that this meant the only reward? And who would wish to take the force and vigor out of it by saying “a reward.” As it stands it is common English, which common sense lets alone.

But further. “The love of money is the root of all evil” is a general statement. It is proverbial in form, exactly resembling those old proverbs just quoted. Ordinary speech is filled with such general statements. Those statements are generally true, but not universally so. All such general statements are commonly understood to have exceptions. Such are a whole host of common proverbs, and nobody with ordinary intelligence misunderstands them. The Bible itself is filled with such generalizations----and often couched in the most absolute and universal terms----and nobody misunderstands them. “All seek their own things, and not the things of Christ Jesus.” The word “all” here certainly cannot mean every last individual on the earth, nor every last soul in the church. Paul gives several exceptions to the general fact in the immediate context. Must we then reduce this to “All kinds of people seek their own things,” to please the pedantry which produced the modern Bible versions? Absolutely not, for that not only takes all the force and vigor out of the language, but also gives a false sense. Paul does not mean “all kinds,” but “all in general”----yet granting that there are exceptions.

Let it be plainly understood that it is common speech to use absolute and universal terms, when everyone knows instinctively that those terms cannot be pressed in a literal or technical manner. Such language gives force and vigor to our speech, without incurring the least danger of being misunderstood. “Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people.” (John 11:49-50) “The world has gone after him.” (John 12:19). Gipsy Smith once said in a sermon, “You know I pity folks who are born surrounded by bricks and mortar. You know nothing. I positively pity you. ...you don't know you were born.” No one went home saying, “Gipsy literally accused the city folks of not knowing they have hair on their heads, or that two and two make four. He said they know nothing.” I suppose the makers of the new Bibles would have us alter the gypsy's language to, “You do not know all kinds of things”----or something equally enervated.

And I must note here that “all kinds of evil” is not translation at all, but interpretation, or paraphrase. It may be legitimate interpretation, for “all” may at times very naturally mean “all kinds of.” But this is as true in English as it is in Greek, and interpretation belongs to the reader, not the translator.

In the same chapter with “the root of all evil” we read that God “giveth us all things richly to enjoy.” Why has not the NKJV altered this to “all kinds of things”? Such general or absolute statements belong to the common speech of the whole race, and the Bible uses them along with the rest of us. “Every----all----only----always----nothing----never.” We use such language everywhere----as I just did, without consciousness or design----and no one dreams of pressing it in a technical sense. But now, under the plea of giving us a Bible in the common language of the people, what these new translators have done is actually to obliterate the common language, and replace it with a tasteless fastidiousness, which common people have never used, and never will. And to accomplish this, they have taken all the force and vigor out of our text, and left it tame, insipid, and anemic.

But what will they? If Paul's statement, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” is a falsehood which cannot be allowed to stand, so is “giveth us all things richly to enjoy.” So is Solomon's “Money answereth all things.” This is another general statement, of exactly the same character as Paul's. Solomon, I suppose, was wise. He knew very well that “Money answereth all things” was not universally or technically true. He wrote himself that “if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” (Song of Sol. 8:7). And yet he scrupled not to write----nor did the Holy Ghost scruple to move him to write----“Money answereth ALL THINGS.” But surely to please modern pedantry we shall be obliged to alter this to “Money answereth all kinds of things”----surely the New King James Version has altered this to “Money answers all kinds of things”----lest some poor simpleton should try to buy love for money. But no, for upon turning to Ecclesiastes 10:19 in the New King James Version, I find, “Money answers every thing.”

Ah, but it will be said that people have misunderstood our text, as it is translated in the King James Version. Perhaps so. People have misunderstood most every other text in the Bible also, but that argues no fault in the translation. A myriad of people have misunderstood “repentance toward God,” and taken it to mean “repentance concerning God”----but the fault was not in the translation. Before we blame the translation, we should perhaps ask, What kind of folks have misunderstood it? If this text has been misunderstood, it must certainly have been by those who seldom think. Five minutes of thought on the theme would teach any reasonable man that, whatever the text may mean, it cannot mean that the love of money is the only root of every instance of evil. But if people will not think, we cannot help them. The Bible everywhere requires that we think. It was not written for those who don't, and I tell you frankly, it is none of our business to translate it for them. It is none of our business to insult the intelligence of ordinary people on every page, so that those who can't think, don't think, or won't think can comprehend us. Besides, it is my very strong suspicion that those who have actually misunderstood this text are extremely few. No doubt there are people enough who love to find fault with the old version, who stumble over this verse because they are looking for something to stumble over, but that is another matter.

But let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. For all its smug confidence in itself, modern scholarship remains incompetent to tell us what accuracy is, or what common English is. It knows nothing of the issues involved----nothing of the breathings of the heart, nothing of the exuberance of eloquence, nothing of genius or inspiration, nothing of masculine strength and vigor, nothing but its own little brand of accuracy, which would put the preciseness of a trigonometry table into the words of a love song. This is not accuracy at all, but only pedantry, and its only possible effect is to spoil the love song. The Bible was not written with such precise fastidiousness, and it is none of our business to translate it so.

“The love of money is the root of all evil.” This is vigorous and forceful. It preserves the properties of common English, and retains the form common to general or proverbial expressions. Its sense is plain enough to common people with common intelligence. As for “a root of all kinds of evil,” we can only remark, as Scrivener did on another occasion, “the remedy [is] worse than the disease, if indeed there be any disease to remedy.”


W. B. Riley on Political Involvement

With Remarks by the Editor

Fundamentalism has always been more or less engaged in politics, though that involvement stands in contradiction to certain principles of truth which most Fundamentalists have always held, such as dispensationalism, premillennialism, and separation from the world. Many have failed to understand the implications of their own principles, and even those who have understood them, and therefore opposed political involvement in principle, have generally been inconsistent in their practice.

W. B. Riley (1861-1947) was one of the leaders of a past generation of Fundamentalism, though he little understood the Bible doctrine of separation, never leaving the Northern Baptist Convention till the year of his death. He was of course involved in political battles for the improvement of the world. At the Philadelphia Prophetic Conference in 1918 he conducted a period of questions and answers, in which he voiced a very interesting confession of his own uncertainty regarding the principles involved. The question put to him, and his answer, follow:

“Ques. 12. `In the light of hope of the near return of the Lord, and considering the fact that our citizenship is involved, should ministers have anything to do with politics? Should they vote?'

“Ans. I vote with a vengeance, and I fight for sobriety with all the ability that is in me. I have had three debates in my life. One was a liquor fight in my city. We won the fight, defeated the opposition, and knocked out a portion of the saloon section of the town; and I would do it again if I were back there. When I read articles from brethren saying we have another and a higher mission, I confess to you I hardly know who is the right man. We are citizens of this earth, and yet at the same time we have a citizenship in heaven. Paul had a citizenship in heaven. Yet when time to use it, he referred to his Roman citizenship and employed it to the utmost. We have to regard the dual citizenship. Men who live correctly will produce more results than all the voters that go to the polls. I do not think Christ ever voted. It is difficult to prove that He had anything to do with politics of His day. Yet the life of Christ has changed the politics of the centuries.”[

Concerning this I remark, Riley certainly misuses Paul's reference to his Roman citizenship. Paul hardly “employed it to the utmost.” He used it only as a plea by which to receive justice from his persecutors. He never used it in any way having the remotest connection with political involvement. It is modern Evangelicals and Fundamentals who employ Paul's Roman citizenship “to the utmost.” Finding nothing else in the New Testament which will lend any support to their political involvement, they fasten upon this, as men grasping for straws, and employ it for a purpose altogether diverse from that for which Paul used it. Paul had no more to do with politics than Christ had, as anyone reading his life and epistles may see.


The Two Resurrections

by Glenn Conjurske

We read in John 5:28-29, “Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” I believe assuredly that there shall be two distinct resurrections of the dead. How could any man doubt it, with this text before him? The “general resurrection” of Reformed theology, which is supposed to take place “at the end of the world,” I hold to be a theological fiction. This text specifically names “the resurrection of life,” and “the resurrection of damnation.” Yet some will contend that though there are surely these two kinds of resurrection, these two kinds take place at the same time, and the same event. The text says, we grant, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,” etc., but an “hour” in Scripture certainly need not mean sixty minutes, any more than a day must mean twenty-four hours. Both terms are used, and very obviously, to denote a lengthy and indefinite period of time. To take one example among a hundred, “IN THAT DAY shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction. IN THAT DAY shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt, for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord IN THAT DAY.” (Is. 18:19-21). It would be ridiculous folly to suppose that all of this refers to the events of one day. Yet we know that men will stoop to folly more ridiculous than this, when they have a particular point to prove. I give therefore one example more: “And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king.” (Is. 23:15). It is unnecessary to speak further. This I suppose to be the ordinary use of the word “day” in Scripture, except where the reference is obviously to a calendar day.

That the word “hour” is used in the same way is evident from the same chapter which contains our text. In John 5:25 we read, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” Here “the dead” are the spiritually dead, who hear the voice of the Son of God and are raised to spiritual life. There is no reference in verse 25 to the resurrection of dead bodies, for he says the hour “now is,” as well as “is coming.” That “hour” is a lengthened and indefinite period of time.

So is the hour in which those that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and come forth. Revelation 20 tells us plainly of a “first resurrection,” saying, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection,” and informing us also that “the rest of the dead”----who are not blessed and holy----“lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” The “hour,” then, in which the dead are raised, is at least a thousand years long. The Lord's assertion that the “hour” is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, is nothing different than if we were to say, “The time is coming,” etc.

Not only so, but the Lord speaks in Luke 14:14 of “the resurrection of the just.” This is the resurrection of the blessed and holy, the first resurrection, and obviously a different thing from the resurrection of the unjust.

We believe, then, that there are two resurrections, as distinct in time as they are in character.

But there is something of much greater importance than this in our text. The Lord's teaching is always primarily moral, and his primary purpose in speaking these words was certainly to enforce their moral content. But this is just what has been seemingly ignored by many. Fundamentalists as a class have been well taught on prophetic and dispensational themes, and can all tell us on the basis of this text that there shall be two resurrections----that the “general resurrection” of all men at one time, at the coming of Christ, is a theological fiction----but many of them have paid no attention to what the text says of the far weightier matter of who shall be in those two resurrections. Many there are who can prate about grace and dispensational distinctions, who spiritually and practically answer to the wrong description. When they are judged according to their works, they shall be found among those “that have done evil.”

I heard some time ago of a man who imbibed ultradispensational doctrines from a teacher who, at the very time, was living in adultery with another man's wife. That teacher could no doubt have told us all about the two resurrections, and put all the amillennialists and Reformed people to shame with his doctrinal knowledge, but it remains a certainty that, without repentance, he shall see nothing of the resurrection of life. He could no doubt prate about grace! grace! grace! grace!----but the grace which he knew was of a different sort from that of the apostle Paul. The grace of God which Paul preached is that which teaches us that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” (Tit. 2:11-12). And the same Paul admonishes us also, and in a “prison epistle” too, “that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words.” (Eph. 5:5-6). But the plain fact is, there are multitudes of dispensationalists (and not only hyperdispensationalists), whose constant theme is Paul! Paul! Paul! who have never yet believed Paul's doctrine. They preach grace, but not the grace which Paul preached.

It is evident that they have never believed the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ either, for he said it is they that have done good that shall come forth unto the resurrection of life. It will of course be understood that I base my remarks upon the plain, natural, and perfectly obvious sense of Christ's words. When the Lord speaks of “they that have done good” and “they that have done evil,” the obvious sense of this is, “they that have lived righteous lives,” and “they that have lived lives of sin.” It is they that have sowed to the Spirit on the one side, and they that have sowed to the flesh on the other. This sense is obvious, and needs no proof. It is safe to say that no one would ever have taken the words in any other sense, were they not compelled to do so by a false system of theology.

Observe, we have two exactly parallel statements here:

“They that have done good unto the resurrection of life,” and

“They that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Now to do evil means (obviously) to live an evil life, to live a life of sin. To do good, then, means the opposite. It means to live a life of righteousness. And “the resurrection of life” is referred to elsewhere as “the resurrection of the just.” “Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:14). Now “the just” are the righteous----for the word is the same in the original. And who are the righteous? “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that DOETH righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that doeth sin is of the devil.” (I John 2:7-8).

So far then, all is agreement. Those that have DONE GOOD shall attain to the resurrection of life, while those who DO RIGHTEOUSNESS shall attain to the resurrection of the righteous, and these two, of course, are one and the same resurrection.

But the adherents of the antinomian gospel are determined that “done good” shall mean anything except “done good.” To do good, they tell us, means to believe in Christ, while to do evil means to reject him. But frankly, this is so obviously wresting the scripture that such statements scarcely deserve to be refuted. Who would dream of resorting to such an interpretation, were they not determined that the words should not mean what they obviously say? Yet I confess, I was once guilty of such interpretation myself, for I too was taught the common antinomian views of the gospel. But I was never comfortable with such interpretation. Whether it was conscience speaking, or spiritual instinct, such a mode of interpreting the Bible always left me uneasy.

And if the meaning is perfectly plain in the English, it is plainer still in the Greek. The words “good” and “evil” are both definite and plural in the Greek. Being abtract, or generic, the words require no article in the English, but we suppose that if the English translation made it clear that the words are plural, this would at any rate discourage the false interpretation which is forced upon them. Their real sense, and their only possible sense, is “they that have done the things which are good,” and “they that have done the things which are evil.” There is no way this can be wrested to apply solely to the acceptance or rejection of Christ. It refers to the life which we live.

That all of this is to be understood in the light of the gospel is of course to be taken for granted. This text divides the race into two classes, upon the basis of the lives which they live, but the gospel leaves the door always open for men to change sides. The twenty-fourth verse of the same chapter says, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death into life.” The man who has been all his life among those that do evil, may “repent and be converted,” as the penitent thief did even in his dying hour. This is the truth of the gospel, which John 5:29 certainly does not undermine. Nevertheless, if a man “turns to the Lord,” and yet continues practically among those that do evil, his hope of salvation is vain. “They that do evil” shall come forth “unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Some attempt to soften the statements of the text, by affirming that “they that have done good” is no more than a general description of those that are saved. I grant it----meanwhile contending that it is a true description, as certainly as “they that have done evil” is a true description of those that are lost. And if doing evil is a true and accurate description of a man, that man has no reason to hope ever to see the resurrection of life. He has no place in the resurrection of the righteous, for righteous he is not.

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