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Vol. 6, No. 2
Feb., 1997

How God Set One Church on Fire in Answer to Prayer


[The following incidents took place in 1876, at the Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit, during the pastorate of A. T. Pierson (1837-1911). The account is taken from Arthur T. Pierson, by his son, Delavan Leonard Pierson (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1912, pp. 130-134). The extract begins with a quotation from A. T. Pierson himself. The rest needs no explanation. ----editor.]

“Just at this time the remarkable biography of Charles G. Finney was put into my hands and from it I saw how God's spirit could use a man wholly absorbed in the work of saving souls. From the hour that I nailed my ambition for literary honours and applause to the Cross of Christ, I began to feel a deep and solemn conviction that God, in answer to prayer, was about to commission me to a new work for Christ. Within one year this expectation was marvellously fulfilled.”

One Sabbath morning, March 19, 1876, he preached on “The New Birth” with a keen sense of the help of the Holy Spirit. The impression made on the hearers was deep and solemn. The pastor felt that many would have arisen for prayer but for the atmosphere and traditions of the congregation, which restrained him from making any such innovation. Inquirers were asked to come to the lecture room and two men responded and gave themselves to God. At the evening service the pastor began a series of sermons suggested by facts in Finney's life, and there was evidence of still deeper interest.

The next Friday evening, March 24th, was unusually stormy, but seventy-five gathered for prayer and the pastor took his people into his confidence. He spoke plainly and tenderly of the barriers that he felt stood between the church and larger ingatherings. He told them of his own surrender and asked the church to join him in a determination to remove any obstacles that might be due to tradition, prejudice, fashion, over-attention to the aesthetic or to lack of sympathy with the masses. The very character of the church building, with its imposing architecture, beautiful furnishings, and rented pews, was suggested as a possible hindrance to drawing the poorer classes. God's promises to answer prayer and to give power for service were quoted from His Word. Then pastor and people knelt down (this act itself was an innovation) and prayed that at all costs their church might be used to give the Bread of Life to the unsaved multitudes of the city.

While that prayer was being breathed out to God the church building was burning. As they rose from their knees smoke was noticeable in the room and some of the officers sought the cause but without success. They concluded that contrary winds were blowing the smoke down the chimney, and after a careful investigation they went home. The next morning the beautiful temple was in ashes. The fire had started in a defective flue and had crept along between the walls, so that in the early dawn the whole building burst into flame. When the fire engines arrived the interior was a roaring furnace.

In spite of the financial loss and the grief due to the devastation of a place so full of hallowed associations, Dr. Pierson saw in this seeming calamity the hand of God. The tower study, in which were a thousand books, and two thousand sermons----the work of twenty years,----was destroyed, but even then he felt that the spiritual lessons and experiences were beyond the reach of the flames. He wrote to D. L. Moody: “I felt as if God had laid His hand on my shoulder and said, `I am thy God; henceforth be a man of prayer and faith and give thyself to the work of saving souls.' I replied, `Lord, by Thy grace, I will.”'

Immediately the church officers were called together and at their pastor's earnest request decided to hire the large “Whitney's Opera House,” and to open it freely for evangelistic services, with gospel hymns and a volunteer choir.

This was a great step for the aristocratic, exclusive church to take. At the same time their pastor discarded forever the use of written sermons, for he saw in the loss of his manuscripts[ a call to abandon what he believed to be a hindrance to direct preaching of God's message to the people. His first sermon in the Opera House was sought on his knees and he was led to preach on the words: “The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.”

A newspaper writer of the day thus describes the first service in the Opera House:

“The audience began to assemble long before the doors were open and stood patiently reading the billboards, which announced the play `The Black Crook.' As the people began to fill the house from pit to top gallery, two theatre men who dropped in out of curiosity remarked that such an audience would bring a good sum at fifty cents a head. When the audience joined in singing `Praise God from whom all blessings flow,' it made the house ring as it never had rung before even for the grandest opera chorus. Some of the people, who were more accustomed to the opera than to church, were so impressed by the singing that they began to applaud. A hushed stillness pervaded the vast audience during the prayer and they listened sympathetically to the sermon on `The Ordeal of Fire.' Two actors who came in at the stage door to look for their baggage stood behind the flies, with hats in hand, listening with rapt attention to the man who stood where they had performed the evening before.”

The preacher seemed inspired as he gave what was reported to be “one of the most startling, plain spoken discourses a nineteenth century audience ever listened to.”

The power of God was immediately manifest in the Opera House not only at the preaching services but in the two Bible readings and two prayer-meetings held each week. God touched His servant's lips with a live coal from off the altar and his words burned their way into men's hearts. Hundreds rose for prayer and remained for personal conversation. Men and women, who had not been in church for years, began to attend; even standing room was taken, and often on pleasant evenings from 800 to 1,000 were turned away. In the next sixteen months Dr. Pierson saw more souls converted than in all the previous sixteen years of his ministry.


For Whom Is the Bible to be Translated?

by Glenn Conjurske

To answer the question “For whom is the Bible to be translated?” we need only ask another: To whom was the Bible given? The answer is, it was given to the people of God. We are to translate it, then, for the people of God. To translate it for anyone else is really to set aside the wisdom and the way of the Lord.

Understand, God had a people on the earth, and that people possessed a rich spiritual heritage, for centuries before ever a single word of Scripture was written. When it was written, it was written for those who possessed that spiritual heritage. “What advantage then hath the Jew? ... Much every way: chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Rom 3:1-2). Though Jonah preached to the Gentiles, yet the record of it was given to the Jews. Though Isaiah penned, “the burden of Moab”----“the burden of Egypt”----“the burden of Arabia”----“the burden of Tyre”----all of this was committed to the Jews. Though Obadiah prophesied “concerning Edom,” that prophecy was committed to the Jews.

If we turn to the New Testament, we find it just the same. The church was flourishing in the possession of the gospel----in full possession of its ordinances, its offices, its gifts and ministry, and the spiritual heritage derived from the Old Testament----ere ever a word of the New Testament was written. When it was written, it was committed to the church. Even those portions which are addressed to the ungodly are nestled in epistles to the church. Even the descriptions of the judgements which are to come upon the world, which occupy so large a place in the Apocalypse, are addressed “to the churches.”

The Bible was never given to the world. It was never given to the ungodly. It is not such a Book as the ungodly desire, nor such a Book as they can understand. It contains, to be sure, the message of God for the ungodly, but that message was committed to the church, to be preached to the ungodly. The Bible was never intended by God to take the place of the preacher. By the foolishness of preaching men are saved. God never sent a man to either write or translate the Scriptures for the heathen. He never said, “Go ye into all the world and translate the Scriptures for every creature.” He sent them to preach.

But I fear that one respect in which the printing press has proved a curse to the church is that it has made it easy to substitute the printed page for the voice of the preacher. That God has used it I have no doubt, but neither do I have any doubt that the power of the printed page can never equal the power of the living voice. The Ethiopian Eunuch had the written page in his hand, and was moreover an earnest seeker of the Lord, which most of the world is not and never will be. Yet the written page, of the very word of God, did not profit him. He needed the living voice of a man who understood the written page. This is God's way.

The plain fact is, God never wrote a book which was suited to the state of the ungodly world, and never gave to the ungodly world the Book which he has written. The Book which he has written is suited to the people of God, and to them he gave it.

For whom, then, are we to translate the Book? For the people of God, without question. But within the past couple of generations we see a very strong movement to translate the Scriptures for the ungodly. Missionaries go to foreign shores, not to preach, but to translate the Bible. No harm in that, if there is a people of God there to receive it. But no, these missionaries go to translate the Bible for the heathen. And great stories they tell of their difficulties in endeavoring to produce a Bible which the heathen can understand----a thing which is generally to be accomplished only by weakening and altering the word of God.

But this movement is yet stronger in our own land. There is no end of translations “for the man on the street,” “for the common American,” etc., etc., etc. And how is this to be done? Ah, by weakening, by paraphrasing, by diluting, and especially by taking out of the Bible its theological language, by divesting it of the spiritual heritage which is assumed as the very foundation of the Book, by the Author of it. The Book was written for a people with a rich spiritual heritage, and it cannot be translated for any other kind of people without weakening and altering it. Here lies the fundamental fault of almost all of the modern versions of the Bible. These new Bibles are the work of men who possessed too little theological understanding, too little knowledge of the ways of God, to know what they were about. They thought to make the Bible the evangelist----a thing God never intended. They thought to give the Bible to those who had no use for it, no interest in it, and therefore no ability to understand it. To accomplish their dubious business, they must divest the Book of some part of both its substance and its spirit. They have made a book suited to the ungodly, and unsuited to the saints of God.

Now it seems to me that even the Reformers failed to understand, or to sufficiently understand, this principle. They labored to give the Bible not to the church, but to the nation. Indeed, few of the Reformers had any conception of any distinction between the church and the nation. They labored to make the Bible intelligible to the spiritually illiterate, to those who had no spiritual foundation or spiritual heritage which would enable them to understand the Book as God gave it. The Book must therefore be brought down to their level. I believe this is a partial explanation of the frequent paraphrasing which is to be found in the versions of Tyndale and Luther. It is thus, I suppose, that we are to explain Tyndale's frequent use of “Easter” for “passover,” his use of “church porch” in Acts 14:13, “robbers of churches” in Acts 19:37, and “Whitsuntide” for “Pentecost” in I Cor. 16:8. “Pentecost” would not likely have been understood by the spiritually illiterate. Tradition has it that when a learned divine said to Tyndale, “We were better to be without God's laws, than the Pope's,” Tyndale replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, to know more of the Scripture than you do.”[ But----with all due veneration for the greatness of William Tyndale----the translator had no mission to the boy behind the plow. His mission was to the church. The boy behind the plow was the business of the preacher. To endeavor to put the Bible in the place of the evangelist, the preacher, or the teacher, leads us naturally to alter and dilute the Book.

Yet Tyndale was very conservative in the application of such a principle, and his version is generally faithful. It is only in our day that this false principle has been made the foundation of numerous Bible versions, and alas, the Bible must now be translated not only for those who are spiritually illiterate, but also for those who are ignorant of refined and literary English. “Everyday English”----“the language of the common man”----“the language of the newspaper”----“contemporary English”----“the language of modern man”----all of this has been made the standard for the translation of the Book of God. It is a very great evil. It not only fails to give the common man a book which can bring him up to a proper spiritual or literary level, but, so far as these versions are used in the church, they contribute to bring the people of God down to the spiritual illiteracy and the debased English of modern times.

And let it be very clearly understood that if the Bible is not to replace the ministry of the evangelist to the world, no more is it to replace the ministry of the teacher to the church. Every gift of God has its own place, and every one is necessary. God never gave such a book as could be understood at a single reading. He never gave such a book as could be understood by the saints in general without the aid of a teacher. Some of the Book, no doubt, may be understood by babes----and by the ungodly----at their first reading of it. But this is not so of the Book in general. There are depths in it which are only to be fathomed by many years of the most earnest study and prayer and meditation, in conjunction with the deepest spiritual experience, on the part of the most spiritual of men. To think to put all of this within the reach of the whole church of God by means of an easy translation betrays only ignorance of everything involved. Paul wrote “things hard to be understood,” and such are to be found in “the other scriptures” also (II Pet. 3:16). Translate them faithfully, and they will remain “hard to be understood.” A translation which makes them easy to understand does so only by vitiating and altering them. It is the business of the teacher to expound the depths of the Book. It does not lie within the realm of possibility to make the Bible easy to understand, and those who labor the most earnestly to do so will the most thoroughly alter the nature of the Book. They will resort continually to explanation----to paraphrasing, that is----instead of translation. In plain English, while professing to occupy the chair of the translator, they will in reality assume the place of the teacher, whom they think to render unnecessary. They thus produce what is not the pure word of God at all, but rather a mixture of translation and explanation. This is the character of all the modern translations of the Bible, in varying degrees.

Take Romans 8:10 as an example. The common English Bible says, “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Except for the dropping of the particle V , (“the body indeed is dead”), this is as literal, simple, faithful, and accurate as it is possible for a translation to be. It cannot be improved upon. It is therefore, we contend, as intelligible as God intended it to be. Every word in it is perfectly intelligible. But for all that, the verse is “hard to be understood.” Though we understand its words, the substance of the verse, the meaning and content of it, may remain perfectly obscure. To understand that we must have some spiritual experience----along with some previous familiarity with the terminology of Scripture, and of Paul----or at the very least, some solid teaching from a man who does have that experience and that familiarity.

But those modern notions which would have everything easy would eliminate all of this, and endeavor to translate the verse so that every babe, or every “man on the street,” can understand it. The result we might easily foresee. We shall find the verse altered in the modern translations. We shall find attempts at explanation, instead of translation. And, knowing modern Evangelicalism as we do, we may fully expect to find shallow and unsound explanation, in the place of faithful translation.

Turning to the Berkeley Version, we find only one alteration in substance. Instead of “the Spirit is life” we read “the spirit is alive.” We will not object to the alteration from “Spirit” to “spirit,” for, as often, it is purely a matter of interpretation whether the human spirit or the Spirit of God is meant. The original King James Version has “spirit.” “Alive,” however, is an unfaithful rendering of the common word for “life.” The word is a noun, not an adjective. The alteration was no doubt made in order to make the two clauses parallel----for “alive” is opposite to “dead,” while “life” is not----but the reason for the alteration is immaterial. The rendering is unfaithful to the original. If the verse was “hard to be understood” when translated faithfully, it is impossible to understand it aright, when the divine language is tossed away, and replaced with language of our own. The New American Standard Version makes the same alteration----and alters the grammatical structure of the sentence besides, though apparently without damaging the sense.

The New International Version retains the false rendering “alive,” and besides turns “the body” and “the spirit” into “your body” and “your spirit.” This is also obviously unfaithful to the original, and effectually eliminates any possibility of interpreting “the spirit” of the Spirit of God.

The New King James Version renders as the old version.

Now frankly, I am somewhat surprised to find that the modern versions have been so sparing in their alterations in this verse. They have certainly dealt here with a lighter hand than they do elsewhere. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that the verse proved so “hard to be understood” that they did not dare to attempt much explanation of it. But my purpose in citing the verse was not to demonstrate the unfaithfulness of the modern versions----that may be done easily enough elsewhere----but rather to illustrate the fact that the simplest and most accurate and faithful rendering, of a verse containing none but simple words, may be anything but easy to understand.

Observe further, Paul says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Cor. 2:14). Yet when men talk of translating the Bible so as to make it understood by “the man on the street,” or “the average American,” they are talking precisely about the natural man, who cannot know the things of the Spirit of God. He cannot receive them, for the natural antagonism of his heart to God, and “neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” He lacks the capacity to know them. Yet let it be plainly understood, I most certainly believe that the ungodly can understand some of Scripture. 'Tis folly to deny it. Yet there is much of the theology of the Bible which can only be “foolishness unto him,” which he can neither understand nor receive. To attempt to make a translation which he can easily understand can only result in vitiating the Book----in so altering its character that it ceases to be the Book which God has given.

Nor is it much different if we endeavor to make a translation which can be easily understood by the saints of God. Much of Scripture is cryptic and obscure. It is so by God's evident purpose and design, and no faithful translation can make it any otherwise.

Proverbs 26:4 tells us, “Answer not a fool according to his folly,” and the next verse, “Answer a fool according to his folly.” This is cryptic, obviously never meant by its author to be understood without thought and experience. Its author is God. It is the business of faith therefore to trust the superior wisdom of the Lord, and let his word stand as he gave it, whether clear or cryptic, hard or easy. Most versions have done so. Not the New American Standard Version, however, whose makers must set their own wisdom above that of the Lord, and alter verse 5 to “Answer a fool as his folly deserves.” They thus endeavor to make the cryptic clear, by explaining instead of translating, but in so doing they destroy the symmetry of the original, and introduce a thought which the original does not necessarily contain----for “according to his folly” may suggest only likeness and congruity (as in the preceding verse), with no thought of desert. Those who translate the Bible have no right to make such alterations, and those who have faith in the Bible will have no inclination to do so.

Of course we ought to translate the Bible as clearly and as intelligibly as we can, consistently with faithfulness. Only a fool would deny it. Nevertheless, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Bible is to be translated for the people of God, who possess and cherish a rich spiritual heritage, and not for the ungodly, who care for none of these things, and who have no capacity to either receive or know them. Neither do we dare lose sight of the fact that the Bible in its own nature----as God gave it, and as God would have it----contains much that is “hard to be understood,” even by the saints of God. Those who labor to make it easy to be understood set their own wisdom above that of God, and naturally vitiate the content of the Book which he has given.

The Two Revelators

by Glenn Conjurske

Thirty years ago, as a student at a Fundamentalist Bible institute, I was taught that “there are two great revelators----Moses and Paul.” Moses was without doubt the first great revelator, who wrote the first five books of the Bible. And ere he departed this life he wrote, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deut. 18:15). This Prophet has generally been understood to be the Messiah. The Jews did not find the fulfillment of this prophecy in Joshua, nor Samuel, nor David, nor Isaiah, nor Ezekiel, nor any of the rest of their clan. Prophets they were, but not the Prophet of whom Moses spoke. Moses spoke of a Prophet “like unto me,” a great revelator, and the Jews never saw the fulfillment of that prophecy in any of their prophets. They looked for another, a greater, a great revelator, like unto Moses. Many centuries after Moses died, when John the Baptist appeared, the nation was yet in expectation of the fulfillment of this prophecy, and they asked John, “Art thou that prophet?” (John 1:21)----that prophet, namely, of whom Moses spoke. Their questionings indicate that they may not have certainly understood that “that prophet” was in fact the Messiah----for they say “Why baptizest thou, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?”----yet they remained in expectation that “that prophet” was yet to come.

“That Prophet” came, and the apostles and prophets of the New Testament era plainly preached that “that Prophet” was Jesus Christ. Peter said therefore, “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” (Acts 3:22-25). Not that Peter meant “these church days.” No, but “these gospel days,” “these days” of grace and salvation, “these days” of blessing, “in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Verse 26). But all this, I suppose, must be labeled as “Peter's Blunder” (as a prominent Fundamentalist once entitled the second chapter of Acts), for “the gospel of the grace of God” did not yet exist.

I do not stay long to dispute with such folks. Suffice it to say that I hold as a thing surely to be believed that the discourses of the apostles which are delivered to us in the book of Acts by inspiration of the Holy Ghost are not put there so that we may discover how far astray the apostles were, but that we might learn the truth from them. The prophet like unto Moses, then, the second great revelator, is Christ. John therefore writes, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (Jn. 1:17).

Not that anyone really doubts that Christ is “that prophet.” No, but some have labored with the most subtle sophistry to evade the implications of it. He is, and he isn't, “that prophet.” He is that prophet, but he is not the second great revelator. He is that prophet, but then it is not “him” which we are to “hear.” His message has in fact been displaced by Paul's.

Cornelius R. Stam published a book in 1956 entitled, Moses and Paul, and subtitled, “The Dispensers of Law and Grace.” This title alone shows us how far John's plain statement is believed or heeded by these folks who have gone to seed with dispensationalism. The apostle John says, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and it must be understood that it pertained to Christ, as the “prophet” whom we are to “hear,” not only to provide that grace, but also to give us the message of grace. “Grace and truth” is a message, not merely a provision.

But to continue, years ago I was reading this Moses and Paul by Mr. Stam, and found on page 45 this remarkable statement: “First, it should be clearly understood that `the law was given by Moses' (John 1:17) while to Paul was committed 'the gospel of the grace of God' (Acts 20:24). I immediately wrote in the margin, “What of Jesus Christ?” I then read on, and soon found that Mr. Stam had anticipated my question, for he continues, “We can almost hear some reader object that we have quoted only part of John 1:17; that it goes on to say: `but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,' not by Paul. A moment's reflection, however, will reveal the weakness of this objection.

“The `law was given by Moses,' to be sure, but not at the time of his birth, nor forty years later, when he fled from Pharaoh, nor even forty years after that, when he returned to deliver Israel. It was not until the Passover lamb had been slain and Israel had crossed the Red Sea that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the law from the hands of God. Just so `grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,' but not at the time of His birth, nor later, during His earthly ministry, nor even when He died and rose again. It was not until after His death, resurrection, and ascension that grace (consistent with truth) came by Jesus Christ----and He committed the dispensation of it to Paul.”

Well, this is at any rate plain speaking. “A moment's reflection,” however, has failed to convince me of the truth of it. So likewise has twenty years' reflection. Methinks, rather, that to quote such sophistry is to refute it. We may say at the outset that an interpretation so far-fetched simply cannot be the truth. That is really all the refutation that such a statement requires, or deserves. Can it be supposed that the apostle John----nay, the Spirit of God----could give us a statement which was sure to be taken by everyone otherwise than he meant it, and yet give us neither hint nor clue that it was not to be taken in its plain and obvious sense? The only way any normal mind, with no preconceived notions to support, would ever take this statement is that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ during his own life and ministry, precisely as the law came by Moses. Mr. Stam is determined we shall not find the doctrine or the message of grace in the earthly ministry of Christ, and therefore “grace and truth” must be reduced to “grace (consistent with truth)”----whatever that may mean. But no: John says “grace and truth,” and he is certainly referring to the ministry of Christ, and not merely to the provision of his death. But three verses prior to this he had said, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” This refers to his ministry among men, while he “dwelt among us.”

But these hyperdispensational notions set aside the obvious import not only of John 1:17, but also of almost everything which precedes it in John's first chapter. “In him was LIFE, and the life was the LIGHT OF MEN. And the light SHINETH IN DARKNESS, and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:4-5). All of this before Paul was ever heard of, while Jesus himself walked the earth.

But further: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of THE LIGHT, that all men through him might BELIEVE. He was not that light, but was sent to BEAR WITNESS OF THAT LIGHT. That was the TRUE LIGHT, which LIGHTETH EVERY MAN that cometh into the world.” (Verses 6-9). All of this is too plain to be mistaken----too plain to require any comment----and all of it before Paul was ever heard of.

At this point I will mention, though I will not insist upon it, that “coming into the world” may be construed with either “every man” or “the true light.” Which way it is taken is purely a matter of interpretation. The word order seems to favor applying it to “every man,” while other considerations favor its application to Christ. Commentators are divided. Suffice it to say, if the true interpretation is, “the true light, which coming into the world lighteneth every man,” the matter is settled, and not another word is needed. But I leave it undecided, for it is my way never to interpret the Scriptures merely to gain a theological advantage, but to insist only upon that which is clear and unmistakable, at least to my own mind. No doubt “my own mind” may have a doctrinal prejudice in favor of a particular interpretation, but if I am aware of it, that prejudice works rather against my adopting of that interpretation, for I am determined not to adopt any interpretation merely because it aids my cause. Such interpretation is dishonest, and I seek truth, not victory. The position for which I contend does not stand or fall with a particular interpretation of this verse, for the obvious import of the entire portion establishes my position beyond cavil.

But before proceeding to the remainder of the introduction to John's Gospel, I must point out what John records elsewhere concerning this “TRUE LIGHT.” In John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that FOLLOWETH ME shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the LIGHT OF LIFE.” “He that followeth me”----now, while I walk among you, and not only when I have left the world. Again, in 12:35 & 36, “Yet a little while is THE LIGHT with you. Walk WHILE YE HAVE THE LIGHT, lest darkness come upon you. ... While ye have the light, BELIEVE in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” They had the light while he walked among them. And again at the end of the same chapter, “I am come a LIGHT into the world, that whosoever BELIEVETH on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man HEAR MY WORDS, and believe not, I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world, but to SAVE the world. He that rejecteth me, and RECEIVETH NOT MY WORDS, hath one that judgeth him: the WORD THAT I HAVE SPOKEN, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me, he gave me a COMMANDMENT, WHAT I SHOULD SAY and WHAT I SHOULD SPEAK. And I know that his COMMANDMENT is LIFE EVERLASTING.” He that could dream of thrusting the ministry of Paul into these passages must be out of his senses, and yet it is certainly as legitimate to thrust Paul in here as in John 1:17. Nothing could be more obvious than that these are the words of the second great Revelator. His words are grace and gospel----not the commandment graven in stone, which was death, but the commandment of the Father which is life everlasting. What he says and what he speaks is life everlasting. “The WORDS THAT I SPEAK UNTO YOU”----so he said while he walked this earth----“they are SPIRIT, and they are LIFE.” (John 6:63). And in the face of all this----and much more of the same sort which could be rehearsed----men will tell us that he preached the law, or some half-breed gospel, and that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ only after his ascension to glory, and only by the pen of Paul! And let none object that all of my arguments are taken from the Gospel of John. The objection is foolish. Those who heard Christ speak thus of HIS WORDS could only apply it to ALL of his words. They knew nothing of which words would be recorded twenty or thirty years hence by John, and which by Matthew. Nor does it matter. Despite differences in scope and emphasis, the same Savior, grace, gospel, and Revelator are found in all the Gospels. Or have we been mistaken all these centuries to call them “Gospels”? Must it now be “the Law according to Matthew,” and “the Gospel according to John”?

But to return to the first chapter of John, he writes further, “He CAME unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as RECEIVED HIM, to them gave he power to become the SONS OF GOD, even to them that BELIEVE on his name.” (Verses 11-12). This is all grace and gospel, all before Paul was ever heard of, and all leading directly to the statements immediately following, that “the word was MADE FLESH, and DWELT AMONG US ... FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. ...And of his FULNESS have all we RECEIVED, and GRACE FOR GRACE. For the law was given by Moses, but GRACE AND TRUTH CAME BY JESUS CHRIST.” To thrust the ministry of Paul into this passage, in the place of the earthly ministry of Christ, is as unconscionable as it is unreasonable.

But to return to the prophecy of Deuteronomy, we may say with absolute certainty that all of those Jews who first heard the prophecy of Moses, as well as all of those who read it for centuries afterwards----all of those who paid heed to Moses' words, “unto him shall ye hearken”----most certainly expected to hearken to “that prophet” WHILE HE LIVED, not merely after he died. This goes without saying. Moreover, those disciples of Christ who actually received him as “that prophet” most certainly also made it their business to HEAR HIM, while he dwelt among them and taught them. This also goes without saying. Nor were they mistaken in this. God the Father gave them the most unmistakable confirmation of this, rending the heavens to speak in the ears of men, and saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: HEAR YE HIM.” “Hear ye him” indeed, and why? Because in a few short years his precious words are to be obsolete----superseded by the message of Paul? “Hear him” for a grand total of about three and a half years. “Hear him” who spake as never man spake!----“hear him” for this precious little span of years in which your ignorance is bliss!!----for beyond that ye must exercise your wits for 2000 years to endeavor to determine wherein ye may yet “hear him,” and wherein his words will lead you astray from the gospel of the grace of God!

Let him believe it who can. 'Tis really no wonder that it took the church nineteen centuries to discover a doctrine so impossible as this.

But more. That they made no mistake to “HEAR HIM”----to hear him as for life, and to treasure up his every word for all of life and all future time----the Lord himself bears the most unequivocal testimony, upon more than one occasion.

In the first place, after his death on the cross had terminated the reign of law, after the veil in the temple was rent in twain, he commanded his disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:19-20). And now, in the teeth of this strong language of the Lord, some there are who tell us that the message of Christ has been set aside----superseded----by that of the apostle Paul. What is this, if not unbelief?

But it is worse than unbelief. We know very well the reason for this unbelief. It is antinomianism. For those who do not relish that term, it is false doctrine. It is a false doctrine of grace----a doctrine which destroys human responsibility and makes void the word of God, making holiness optional, and calling it a serious error to preach repentance----a serious error, that is to preach what Christ himself commanded the apostles to preach to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. It preaches faith! faith! faith! while it disbelieves the very doctrine of the gospel of Christ. It disbelieves the doctrines of Paul also, for it would find the same terms of salvation in Paul's epistles as it does in the preaching of Christ, if it would but look for them. The dispensational arguments are only dragged in by the tail, to support the antinomian doctrines already held, but the dispensational arguments are just as false as the antinomianism.

To return to the words of Christ. “Teaching them,” he says, “ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.” All things, that is, which I have commanded you during the whole time that I dwelt among you and taught you. This has nothing to do with anything committed to Paul after his ascension. “Teaching them TO OBSERVE” all of those things----and not for a little while at the beginning of the age, nor for a little while at the end of it, but “ALWAYS,” throughout all time, even “unto the end of the age.”

But why do I waste my words?----for certain dispensationalists have determined for us that this “great commission” does not apply to the church at all. It is “kingdom”----“earthly”----“Jewish.” When the Lord said to his apostles just a little before his death, “In my Father's house are many mansions. ... I go [to heaven] to prepare a place for you,” (John 14:2)----with what delight they must have exercised their prescience, while they thought----“These words will one day be written in the Gospel of John. We may therefore freely take them to ourselves.” But when he said just after his death, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations,” their same unerring prescience said----“`We' are not `ye'. These words will have the misfortune to be recorded by Matthew, and therefore they have nothing to do with us.” What? You think they had no such prescience? Then how will you acquit the Lord of purposely misleading them? He spoke with all authority, and never gave them a hint that some of his words were to apply now, and some later. Neither did Paul ever give a hint of any such thing, but just the contrary.

But let me tell my readers a little secret: there is a great host of faithful dispensationalists who freely take Christ's “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” to themselves, who have never yet once observed that in the same breath he commands them to teach them to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them. So wonderful is their ability to see what suits them in the Scriptures, while they remain blissfully oblivious to the rest, though it be in the same sentence. (Not that dispensationalists are the only ones who possess this power. Calvinists have a very large share of it also, and so do the adherents of most every false doctrine.)

But once more. On another occasion the Lord said to his apostles, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, WHATSOEVER I HAVE SAID UNTO YOU.” (John 14:26). Strange talk, this----very strange----if the Savior certainly knew that when the Holy Ghost was come, he would, by the mouth of Paul, set aside and supersede “whatsoever” the Lord had “said” unto them. For what purpose was it to be brought to their remembrance? Men have commonly supposed that this was so that it might be written down in the Scriptures, but for what end? It was all shortly to be superseded by Paul. To have it constantly recalled by the very Spirit of God, to have it written down in the very Scriptures of truth, and that after Paul's message was given to the church, and without a hint that the words of Christ were no longer in force----this could only deceive and mislead. Indeed, it has done so, centuries on end----if we may credit the assertions of a certain sort of dispensationalism.

But come away from all of this sophistry and unbelief and false doctrine, and return to “that prophet,” and “hear ye him.” Not that I would suggest for a moment that we must turn away, or turn back, from the doctrine of Paul, in order to adhere to the doctrine of Christ. Though Paul added some revelations concerning “the mystery,” there is not one breath of contradiction between the gospel which Christ preached, and that which was preached by Paul----and indeed, by all the apostles. These notions that Christ preached the law, while Paul preached grace, are false, and foolish to boot. “GRACE AND TRUTH CAME BY JESUS CHRIST.” Christ preached the gospel as surely as Paul did----and the same gospel that Paul preached----the gospel of salvation, of the forgiveness of sins, of eternal life, and HEAVEN. To find all of this in the epistles of Paul, and not in the words of Christ, we must willfully close our eyes. In the very Sermon on the Mount, which we are so confidently told is “the law of the (earthly) kingdom,” the Lord admonishes us to “lay up treasures in heaven.” But hear Paul on this theme: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great SALVATION, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3). Observe, this “salvation” which was preached by Christ was not set aside or superseded by those who heard him, but confirmed. What he “began,” they continued.

And least of all did Paul suppose his own words to set aside or supersede the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. “If any man teach otherwise,” he says, “and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing.” (I Tim. 6:3-4). “The words of our Lord Jesus Christ”----that is, we suppose, the epistles of Paul! Again, let him believe it who can. But these words of Paul are ignored by those who hold Paul as the second great revelator.

Yet understand, I have no desire to deal any otherwise than gently with those who hold these false doctrines, though I deal as peremptorily as I know how with the doctrines themselves. I once held them myself----not because my heart was perverse, but because I was taught them, when I was young and ignorant and impressionable. Moreover, I was taught them by good men, whom I loved and trusted. Thousands of others are in the same position today. They are good men, and beloved brethren, but for all that these hyperdispensational doctrines are evil. They undermine the very “gospel of Christ,” and “the doctrine which is according to godliness.”

For my own part, with what delight do I sit at the feet of him who spake as never man spake! With what unfeigned confidence do I “hear him”! How the heart burns in the presence of his words of wisdom and grace! Not that I would pretend that I never feel a doctrinal difficulty with the words of Christ. To be sure I do----and would if Paul did not exist. There are difficulties in all Scripture. Those difficulties have exercised the wit of the best men in the church for centuries. But now we have found an easier way. We eliminate the difficulties by eliminating the scriptures which present them. Thus does Lewis Sperry Chafer “eliminate” the scriptures which enjoin repentance upon the Jews----by denying their application to anyone else. “When entering,” he says, “upon this phase of this study, it is FIRST necessary to ELIMINATE all portions of the New Testament which introduce the word repentance in its relation to covenant people.”2 And when Paul preaches repentance to the Gentiles, Chafer makes it a mere change of mind, or a synonym for believing!!3 Such wresting of Scripture has its condemnation written on its face. This is theology made easy, to be sure, but it is also theology made false. We know that there are difficulties in the words of Christ, but, taking all of his doctrine together, they are not such as will lead us astray from “grace and truth.” For that we may sit at his feet with all confidence, and hear his word. This is that “good part” which Mary chose----and chose it during the earthly ministry of Christ. No doubt, did she live so long, she would have delighted also in after years to sit at the feet of Paul, and hear his word. Yet we may be sure she would not have done so, had Paul begun to set aside the words of Christ, as the habit of so many is today. Indeed, I have no doubt that many who are ensnared in the hyperdispensational doctrines of men like Cornelius R. Stam and Lewis Sperry Chafer would delight to hear Christ's words as Mary did, were it not for the scruples with which their doctrines beset their path. Their spiritual instincts are where Mary's were. Those spiritual instincts are true. Those doctrines are false.



On the DEATH of that celebrated Divine, and eminent

Servant of JESUS CHRIST, the Reverend and Learned


Chaplain to the RIGHT HONOURABLE the

Countess of HUNTINGTON, &c.

Who made his Exit from this transitory State, to dwell in the celestial Realms of Bliss, on LORD's Day, 30th Sept. 1770, when he was seized with a Fit of the Asthma, at Newbury-Port, near Boston, New-England.

In which is a Condolatory Address to his truly noble Benefactress the worthy and pious Lady HUNTINGTON; and the Orphan Children in Georgia, who, with many Thousands are left, by the Death of this great Man, to lament the Loss of a Father, Friend, and Benefactor.

By P H I L L I S,

A Servant Girl of Seventeen Years of Age, belonging to

Mr. J. WHEATLEY of Boston:

She has been but Nine Years in this Country from Africa.[*]

HAIL happy Saint on thy immortal Throne!
To thee Complaints of Grievance are unknown;
We hear no more the Music of thy Tongue;
Thy wonted Auditories cease to throng.
Thy Lessons in unequall'd Accents flow'd;
While emulation in each Bosom glow'd.
Thou didst, in Strains of Eloquence refin'd,
Inflame the Soul and captivate the Mind.
Unhappy we, the setting Sun deplore,
Which once was splendid, but it shines no more.
He leaves this Earth for Heaven's unmeasur'd Height;
And Worlds unknown receive Him from our Sight:
There WHITEFIELD wings with rapid Course his Way,
And sails to Zion thro' vast Seas of Day.

When his Americans were burden'd sore,
When Streets were crimson'd with their guiltless Gore,
Unrivall'd Friendship in his Breast now strove;
The Fruit thereof was Charity and Love
Towards America----Couldst thou do more
Than leave thy native Home, the British Shore,
To cross the great Atlantic's wat'ry Road,
To see America's distress'd Abode?
Thy Prayers, great Saint, and thy incessant Cries,
Have pierc'd the Bosom of thy native Skies!
Thou, Moon, hast seen, and ye, bright Stars of Light,
Have witness been of his Requests by Night.
He pray'd that Grace in every Heart might dwell:
He long'd to see America excel;
He charg'd its Youth to let the Grace Divine
Arise, and in their future Actions shine;
He offer'd THAT he did himself receive,
A greater Gift not GOD himself can give:
He urg'd the Need of HIM to every one;
It was no less than GOD's co-equal SON.
Take HIM, ye wretched, for your only Good;
Take HIM ye starving Souls, to be your Food.
Ye thirsty, come to this Life-giving Stream:
Ye Preachers, take him for your joyful Theme:
Take HIM, ye Africans, he longs for you;
Impartial SAVIOUR, is his Title due;
If you will choose to walk in Grace's Road,
You shall be Sons, and Kings, and Priests to God.

Great COUNTESS*! we Americans revere
Thy Name, and thus condole thy Grief sincere:
We mourn with thee, that TOMB obscurely plac'd,
In which thy Chaplain undisturb'd doth rest.
New-England, sure, doth feel; the ORPHAN's Smart,
Reveals the true Sensations of his Heart:
Since this fair Sun withdraws his golden Rays,
No more to brighten these distressful Days,
His lonely Tabernacle sees no more
A WHITEFIELD landing on the British Shore:
Then let us view Him in yon azure skies:
Let every Mind with this lov'd object rise.
No more can he exert his lab'ring Breath,
Seiz'd by the cruel Messenger of Death.
What can his dear America return,
But drop a Tear upon his happy Urn?
Thou, Tomb, shalt safe retain thy sacred Trust,
Till Life Divine re-animates his Dust.


Faith and Miracles

by Glenn Conjurske

We read in John 2:23-25, “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.” On this scripture Harry Ironside writes, “A faith that rests upon miracles is not a saving faith. A faith that rests upon signs and wonders does not bring salvation to anyone.”1 We long ago learned to expect this kind of assertion from Ironside, but it is a little surprising to read the same from J. N. Darby, who says, “A faith founded on miracles, though God vouchsafed this confirmation, is no saving faith at all: Jesus did not commit himself to it.”2 It is a little surprising, I say, to see the author of the Synopsis of the Books of the Bible so ignorant of the actual content of the Bible. He grants that God “vouchsafed this confirmation,” but why God would do so is hard to tell, if the faith founded upon it were of no avail.

From such statements I turn to the Scriptures themselves, where we find, in the first place, numerous statements of the fact that various people believed in Christ as a result of the miracles which he did, without a hint that their faith was defective or unavailing.

John 1:48-50. “Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, BECAUSE I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, BELIEVEST thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these.”

John 2:11. “This beginning of MIRACLES did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory, and his disciples BELIEVED on him.”

John 4:53. “So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself BELIEVED, and his whole house.”

John 7:31. “And many of the people BELIEVED on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more MIRACLES than these which this man hath done?”

John 11:45. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did [the raising of Lazarus], BELIEVED on him.”

Acts 9:34-35. “And Peter said unto him, Æneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him, and TURNED TO THE LORD.”

Acts 9:41-42. “And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many BELIEVED in the Lord.”

Acts 13:9-12. “Then Saul (who also is called Paul), filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness, and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, BELIEVED, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.”

It would be strange indeed that the Bible should relate all these cases of FAITH arising as the result of MIRACLES----and all without the least hint that anything was amiss----if that faith were invalid or unavailing. On the basis of these accounts alone we may certainly conclude that whatever was amiss or missing in John 2:23, the difficulty did not lie in the fact that their faith was based upon miracles.

But there is more. The Lord himself appealed to his miracles to persuade men to believe in him. In John 5:36 he says, “The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me,” and in John 10:25-26, “The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me, but ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” Again, in John 10:37-38, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not, but if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works, that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.” And to his own disciples, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” (John 14:29).

On the other side, men are censured for failing to believe on the basis of the miracles: “But though he had done so many MIRACLES before them, yet they BELIEVED NOT on him.” (John 12:37). And once more, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” (John 15:24).

Beyond all this, we have the explicit statement of John that he recorded the miracles of Christ for the purpose of begetting saving faith. He says in John 20:30-31, “And many other SIGNS truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written, THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing YE MIGHT HAVE LIFE through his name.” This settles the matter.

However we explain John 2:23, then, it is plain that the explanation is not that their faith was unavailing because it was founded upon miracles. I say but little about that here. No doubt their faith was “dead,” being “without works,” but why it was so may be another question. The nature of saving faith is a deep matter, concerning which I fear there is but little inquiry in our day, and what inquiry there is avails little, being hindered by shallow ideas of faith and simplistic solutions of difficulties. One of those simplistic solutions is the notion that faith founded upon miracles is unavailing. This is closely allied to another false notion, namely, that faith consists of believing without evidence, whereas true faith is always founded ultimately upon evidence. I enter no further into the subject at this time, but endeavor only to clear away one notion which is evidently false.


More on Modern Curses

by Glenn Conjurske

A reader questions the validity of my position on “the curses of modern society,” asking whether the curse does not lie in the use of those things, rather than in the things themselves, affirming that the real wickedness is in the heart of man, not in the modern inventions. As others may have the same sort of questions, I respond here.

To be sure, the primary evil lies in the use of those things, and not in the things themselves. If I thought those things were entirely evil in themselves, I would not use them. But I use electrical power, modern means of rapid travel, the printing press, and other modern inventions. I do not regard them as wholly evil, and I explicitly said so in my former article. I grant it is the evil use of them which makes them such a great curse to modern Society.

But it must be understood that the evil uses to which these modern inventions are applied are precisely the uses which are to be expected from sinful man, so that the existence of these modern inventions cannot help but be a curse to him. We may argue that guns are not evil, that they may be put to innocent uses. By many men they are put to innocent uses. Nevertheless the world itself has laws which forbid them to convicted felons. Why so? Because there can be very little doubt as to what sort of use the felons will make of them.

Neither can there be any doubt concerning what sort of use the world will make of the camera, the radio, the television, the printing press, etc. This is no longer a matter for experimentation. The result of the experiment is before our eyes. The existence of those inventions, in the hands of man as he is, can be nothing other than a curse. I do not mean that they cannot be used for good. I refer only to the net result. If ten thousand convicted felons were to be released from prison, and we knew certainly that fifteen of them had been converted while incarcerated, no one would give them all guns, because the fifteen would use them for innocent purposes----and the others might. He who would give guns to such a crew must be a very devil. And this is exactly my contention. It is the devil who has put all of these curses into the hands of man. The devil is the god of this world, and I surely suppose it was he who has engineered the production of those modern inventions which I have referred to as “the curses of modern society.” The devil knew very well to what sort of use these things would be put. He knew very well that the net result would be a very great increase of man's temptation to evil, and of his capacity for evil. His opportunity for sin is increased a thousand fold by modern inventions. Sin is now made easy.

No doubt the real evil is in the heart of man. But the heart of man has always been evil, yet Society has not always been so corrupt as it is today. The existence of modern inventions has not increased the native depravity of man, but it has greatly increased his temptation to sin, as well as his capacity to sin. Were there no modern inventions, my correspondent tells me, an artist could draw pornographic pictures. This is true. Nevertheless, the modern inventions greatly increase man's capacity for this kind of evil, as well as the intensity of the temptation. By means of the camera, the printing press, electrical power, and modern rapid travel, millions of copies may be produced, and scattered broadcast over the land, while an artist produces only one----or perhaps a dozen. Nor do I suppose this to be the whole extent of the evil, for it would seem to me that the reality inherent in a photograph of an actual person must be a greater temptation and snare than any artist's drawing could be.

And thus it is that man's inclination to sin has also been increased by these modern curses. Modern inventions and capabilities have refined sin, so as to make it more delectable and tempting. The rustic home-town barbershop quartet of yesterday could hardly be so attractive as the professional recordings of the present, in which the best of native musical talent and the highest of musical attainment are blended together in a thousand pleasing forms, and made readily available to everyone at all times. No sane man could contend that the very limited supplies of small musical talent which were once available to every man in his own locale could be so attractive or ensnaring as a grand array of the best musical talent in the nation----and all of it readily available in unlimited quantity, at all hours of the day and night, and in every location, from the bottom of the sea to the top of the moon. And so it is also with theatrical entertainments, pornographic depictions, sports, and material goods of every imaginable kind. This profusion of the highest, best, and most refined of everything cannot help but increase man's inclination to sin.

And mark, it is not only the refinement of temptation which increases man's inclination to sin, but also the profusion of it. The lusts of the flesh are strengthened by indulgence, and the profusion of temptations which modern inventions have put in every man's way can have no other effect than to increase his inclinations to sin, as well as his opportunities and capacities for it. That some good comes of these modern means I have never pretended to deny, but their overall effect is a very great increase of evil, while the good which accrues is comparatively small. In their overall effect they are a great curse, and can hardly be otherwise.

It ought to be kept in mind in this connection that the Scriptures inform us, “In the last days perilous times shall come.” (II Tim. 3:1). Certainly the heart of man has not changed. Neither has the character nor the purpose of the devil. Why then are these perilous times reserved for the last days? Several factors may contribute to this, such as the amount of time which the devil has had to perfect his schemes, and the amount of divine restraint which is placed upon him. Of the latter we know nothing, except by inference or conjecture. The former in all likelihood contributes directly to the curses which I have described. So far as we can observe, the main difference between the “last days” and all other times consists of the profusion of inventions, technology, and goods, and the existence of the rapid travel and communication which characterize the present time. At “the time of the end,” Daniel tells us, “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” These are the things which distinguish “the time of the end” from all other times, and these are evidently the main factors in the production of the “perilous times.” If we consider the particular elements which make up those perilous times----“Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, ... heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”----we see nothing which has not more or less characterized man from the beginning. But it is all augmented in the last days. And by what, if not by those things which exist in such profusion now, but did not exist at all through most of man's history?

Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor


The Single Eye

We read in Matthew 6:22, in the common English Bible, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

And again, in Luke 11:34, “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light.”

With one exception, “single” is the rendering in both of these verses in all Protestant Bibles, from William Tyndale to the King James Version. The Geneva New Testament of 1557 has “cleare” in Matthew (though it retained “syngle” in Luke), but, after a precarious tenure of three years, the Geneva Bible of 1560 rejected this, and reads “single” in both places. “Single” is also the rendering of Henry Alford, J. N. Darby, the Revised Version, and the American Standard Version. The term “single eye” is an old landmark, a common theological expression, in common usage among English Christians for nearly five centuries, woven into all the literature of the church, and even into the English language itself. By all means, then, it ought to be retained in any revision of the English Bible, unless there are compelling reasons to abandon it.

We will grant at the outset that the expression is a difficult one. With some that alone will be considered a compelling reason to alter it. I am not of their mind, as my readers certainly know. We must first inquire whether there are any other reasons to reject it, and what those reasons are, and whether there be anything better with which to replace it.

Perhaps the last question should be settled first, for if we have nothing better with which to replace it, it matters little what we may object to the word. This question, we suppose, might be answered easily enough, for we have had several generations of earnest revisers, diligently seeking to improve or supersede the old version, and we suppose that if there were some other rendering clearly superior to “single,” there would be some agreement among them as to what it is. We consult them, therefore, and find (in Matt. 6:22) the following:

Young----“if, therefore, thine eye may be perfect.”

Weymouth----“If then your eyesight is good.”

Goodspeed----“If then your eye is sound.”

RSV----“So, if your eye is sound.”

Berkeley Version----“If then, your eye is sound.”

New English Bible----“If your eyes are sound.”

NASV----“if therefore your eye is clear.” (Margin at Luke 11:34, “or, healthy.”)

Today's English Version----“If your eyes are clear.”

NIV----“If your eyes are good.”

NKJV----“If therefore your eye is good.”

Christian Bible----“So then, if your eye is steady.”

We could cite more versions, and more renderings, but these are enough to indicate that there is little agreement among the revisers of the Bible. They are (of course) agreed that the old rendering is unacceptable, but they cannot agree as to what we ought to replace it with.

We look next at the nature of the new renderings. We find them in the first place more intelligible than the old one. This is worth something, if truth and accuracy are not sacrificed to attain it, but if intelligibility is gained at the expense of meaning, that intelligibility is worth less than nothing. “A good eye” may be a more intelligible expression than “a single eye,” but it does not mean the same thing. That intelligibility is therefore worse than worthless. It does not elucidate, but only misleads. The only one of these renderings which makes half an attempt to translate the word is “clear”----for the Greek word may stand in opposition to mixed as well as to double. Yet the marginal rendering “healthy” indicates that “clear” was evidently intended in the same wrong sense as the others. The rest of these new renderings depart altogether from the sense of the original. This is not translation at all, but interpretation. And the worst of it is, it is such interpretation as manifests an obvious failure to understand the matter----which manifests, in fact, the usual spiritual incompetence of the modern translators. The renderings “sound,” “good,” and “healthy” are the fruit of interpretation which is crass and unspiritual, as much so as if we were to turn the “living water” in John 4 into “running water.” These translators may plead the sanction of Thayer's Lexicon for “sound” and “good,” but no matter about that. The fact is, Greek lexicons are accustomed to give us various applications of the words, in addition to their definitions, and it is very apparent that most of the modern translators have never learned to distinguish between an application and a definition. They use the lexicons as a schoolboy would, and whatever appears in italic type in a Greek lexicon is almost sure to appear in the text of the modern Bible versions, though it may be far afield from a translation of the Greek word. Besides, unspiritual lexicographers may be mistaken concerning the spiritual application of a word, as I believe they are in the case before us.

Let it be understood that the phrase “If thine eye be single” has nothing to do with our physical eyes. This expression is not the figure, but the application of it. The figure is stated in the sentence, “The light of the body is the eye.” The rest consists of spiritual application. If I am asked to prove this, I must reply that I hardly suppose it requires any proof. It is a thing which I should suppose to be as obvious to a spiritual mind as that the “living water” in John 4 does not refer to physical water. It seems to me that spiritual minds have always taken “If thine eye be single” to refer to the spiritual eye.

Thus Christopher Wordsworth: “The J ' j V , or single eye, is that which has only one object, clearly and distinctly reflected on the spiritual retina; viz. the glory of God. `It does not see double,' it does not look to serve God and Mammon. Thy body will be full of light, if thou hast one object in view, i.e. the glory of God seen in the way of obedience to His Law.”1 Assuming his Law to mean his will, this is exactly the same understanding of the verse to which I came myself many years ago, without the aid of teacher, commentary, or anything else but the English Bible. Observe: “the spiritual retina.” And Bengel, “singly intent on heaven, on God.”2

Well, but a hundred such citations would not constitute proof. Therefore I must go further, and point out that the interpretation which would apply this phrase to the physical eyes is not only unspiritual, but ridiculous. If my physical eye is “good,” or “sound,” or “clear,” or “healthy,” will my whole body therefore be full of light? Will a “good” physical eye put light into my stomach, knees, elbows, and toes? This is ridiculous, and this alone ought to have convinced our modern interpreters that the expression has nothing to do with physical eyes, or with the physical body. It is altogether spiritual.

If I am asked, If the “body” does not refer to the physical body, to what does it refer?----I answer, What does it matter? Figures do not require----are not intended----to be expounded in every point. John Wesley refers it to the soul, but the understanding of the passage does not depend upon applying “thy body” to anything specific. It is simply you----yourself. Spiritual men who have been very clear in their expositions of the single eye have never thought to trouble themselves at all about the meaning of “thy body.” It is immaterial. No more is it necessary to define exactly what faculty of the soul or spirit is meant by the spiritual eye. We may understand the passage perfectly well without descending to such technicalities.

As to the single eye, the context itself expounds the matter. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters,” etc. Now observe, “single” is here opposed to “evil.” The three popular modern versions, the NASV, the NKJV, and the NIV, inanely reduce this to “bad” (and the Berkeley Version, “defective”!), obviously intended in a non-moral sense, but this is only more of the same unspiritual interpretation which gave us “sound” and “good” instead of “single.” The early English versions all had, “If thine eye be wicked.” We have nothing to say against the King James Version's alteration of this to “evil,” but it is certainly moral evil which is intended. We can extract no sense whatever, in the physical realm, from “If the light which is in thee be darkness.” This is purely moral and spiritual, and so is “if thine eye be evil.” So then also is “if thine eye be single.” The evil eye is the divided heart. It is the eye which has two opposing objects. The single eye is the undivided heart. In the Greek, the word “single” is opposed to double, or mixed. The single eye has but one object, and that a right one. The evil eye has two objects. It seeks to serve God and Mammon. It courts the world, and heaven too. Such an eye is not “defective,” but evil.

The man with an evil eye is the “double-minded man” of James, who is “unstable in all his ways.” He runs for two goals at once----supports both teams----courts two women at once, determined to lose neither----seeks to serve himself and his God----seeks to retain the world while he gains heaven. He must be “unstable in all his ways,” as Balaam and Pilate were. He can never be “full of light”----can never have any clear perceptions of his duty----for his duplicity blinds him. The very light which is in him is darkness. What he sees as right and pure is selfish and sordid. But “if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” This is the plain meaning of the text----all thrown to the winds by the modern Bible versions.

But we will probably be told that “single” is archaic. If that is the objection against it, then it ought to be replaced by something which means the same thing. But I do not believe “single” is archaic. The most recent dictionary which I happen to possess----and that not a particularly conservative dictionary----is Funk and Wagnalls' Standard College Dictionary, published in 1966. This dictionary lists among the definitions of “single,” “Unswerving in purpose, intention, etc.; sincere”----with no indication that this is archaic. The same dictionary lists the words “single-hearted” and “single-minded,” with no indication that they are archaic. Now a word which was standard English thirty years ago cannot be so archaic today as to warrant its exclusion from the Bible.


The Evangelism of the Unchurched

by the editor

The Baptist Challenge is a monthly paper edited by M. L. Moser, of Little Rock, Arkansas. This periodical avows itself “a voice of independent Baptists,” and on page 19 of the July (1996) number contains an advertisement for a book entitled The Myth of The Universal Invisible Church Theory Exploded. Most of the rest of that page is occupied with B. H. Carroll's account of his conversion at a Methodist camp meeting. We suppose the editor of the Challenge inadvertently put this advertisement on the wrong page, ...but well..., we suppose that God may have had something to do with that. Carroll (a prominent Southern Baptist of other days) was born and raised the son of a Baptist preacher, but was an infidel, till he went to the Methodist camp meeting. Spurgeon was also converted at a Methodist chu...-------------well, no, I guess it wasn't a church, but whatever it was, it was a Methodist one. Perhaps it was this fact which gave Spurgeon sense enough to believe----as he surely did----in the universal church. I hope that those Baptists who don't believe in it have at any rate grace enough to thank God for his wonderful works, in converting some of their greatest preachers through the evangelism of the unchurched. But a little more grace, and they might cease to unchurch them.

Editorial Policies

OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise, and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's own views are to be taken from his own writings.