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Vol. 6, No. 3
Mar., 1997

Faith and Evidence

by Glenn Conjurske

Among the many misconceptions concerning the nature of faith which are current among Christians today, we find the notion that faith is believing something without evidence, or even believing against the evidence. I am bold to say that such believing is not faith at all, but rather superstition, and the principle of believing on such a basis----or rather, without any basis----opens wide the door to every kind of error. This is precisely the faith of Mormonism and of Romanism. Alas, it is exactly the kind of faith which is demanded of us by many teachers of Fundamentalism today. Point out to a Mormon the plain facts of history which undermine the foundations of his religion, and he will say that he holds to the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon, and the divine mission of Joseph Smith, by faith. Point out to a Roman Catholic the actual corruptions with which the Roman church is riddled, and he says he holds by faith to the promise of God to preserve his church. Point out to a King James Only man the actual corruptions in the Textus Receptus or the King James Version----or the actual disagreements between the two of them----and he says he holds by faith to the promise of God to preserve his word. The error of the Romanist and the King James Only man are identical. Both hold faith to be something which may stand contrary to plain evidence. They both stand, that is, upon a false doctrine of faith, while both plant their faith upon a false interpretation of Scriptural promises, coupled with false assumptions which contradict plain evidence. The Romanist assumes that the promise of preservation mandates a preservation in infallibility, and further assumes that that promise applies exclusively to the Roman Catholic church. The King James Only man assumes that the promise of preservation mandates a preservation in infallibility, and further assumes that that promise applies exclusively to the King James Version, or to the Textus Receptus. Both have strong arguments by which they limit the promise to their own church or their own version, and both set aside the plain facts of history. Both are in fact founded upon the same false notions of the nature of faith. This is not the faith of the Bible, but only superstition.

The faith of the Bible stands upon evidence, and such evidence as may be apprehended by our senses, accumulated by our research, and understood by our reason. The notions which set faith against reason contain indeed a grain of truth, but it is truth misapplied, and misapplied in such a way as to undermine the foundations of true faith, and replace it with superstition. Faith may at times require us to go beyond our reason, but never contrary to it. The belief in the eternal self-existence of God is entirely beyond our reason, but not in the least contrary to reason. We cannot conceive how such a thing as self-existence can be, and yet reason itself leads us directly to the eternal self-existence of God. We have but little choice in the matter. We must either believe that nothing is eternally existent, and that all things which now exist somehow came into existence uncaused and out of nothing----or that the inanimate material universe is eternally self-existent, and exists in its present form by chance without design----or that an intelligent and living being is eternally self-existent. Of these choices, reason itself, for those who will seriously and impartially employ it, will lead us infallibly to the third. If men will put the matter strictly upon the basis of the known facts and laws of science, then the fact that something is is the strongest possible demonstration that something always has been. Again, strictly upon the ground of known science, the fact that life is is the strongest possible proof that life always has been. What men would like to believe is another matter. The actual facts and laws of science bring us precisely here. And further, the existence of the most intricate, exquisite, and obvious design, in everything about us and within us, argues irresistibly for the existence of a designer, and puts blind and causeless chance out of the question. I had a biology teacher in high school who was continually talking about the purpose of the various bodily organs----a term perfectly illegitimate in the mouth of a man who believed in evolution. He may speak of the function, but not the purpose. Yet purpose is so evident in the construction of the body that an infidel cannot fail to see it. If he will but seriously and honestly consider it, he must soon be led to exclaim, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”----and this applies as well to the soul of man as to his body, though it may require closer observation and deeper thought to learn it there.

We believe in God, then, on the basis of evidence. The belief in an eternal and self-existent living God is without question the most reasonable of all alternatives, in a realm which is entirely beyond our reason.

But I turn to the Bible to demonstrate that it firmly plants faith upon evidence. We may begin at the most elementary sort of faith, the belief in the being and divine nature of God. Paul says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:18-20). We grant that such matters will never be “understood” at all unless men will think, and the devil does all in his power to keep them from thinking, by radio and television, sports and entertainments, the deceitfulness of riches, the cares of this life, by false philosophies and prejudice, and above all, by the love of sin. Nevertheless, to those who will observe, and think, and honestly seek the truth, the truth will be “clearly seen.” Those who will not proceed thus are “willingly ignorant” (II Pet. 3:5), and are “without excuse.”

In its first rudiments, then, faith is very nearly allied to knowledge. We believe what we know, and in fact cannot believe otherwise. We cannot choose to believe what we please----though we certainly can choose to examine the evidence, or to refuse to do so. We believe what we are convinced of, and we are convinced by evidence. Though men may profess anything, the actual belief of the heart is another matter. We may profess that the sky is green and the grass blue, or that the sun is square, but we cannot choose to actually believe so, and I strongly suspect that many who profess to be atheists are not actually so in their hearts. They hope there is no God, but they do not know it, and therefore do not believe it. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” This is his wish, not his faith. “There are no atheists in fox-holes,” an old saying affirms----that is, no atheists facing death on the battle-field----for however strongly we may wish something so, we cannot believe it so unless we know it so. “Seeing is believing,” as the proverb has it, and this is as true in the Scriptures as it is in the life of the world, as I shall abundantly prove later in this article.

It is also true that “faith cometh by hearing.” It comes, that is, on the basis of credible testimony. “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24). We know that his testimony is true on the basis of his proved character and his certain knowledge.

Yet while I must strongly insist that the rudiments of faith are founded strictly upon knowledge, I must equally insist that there is more to faith than the mere belief of known facts. Faith is a moral thing, a virtuous thing, and there is no virtue in merely believing what we know. Every man on earth does so. The faith of the Bible is not mere belief of facts, but confidence in a person. It is confidence in God. It is confidence in his veracity, in his wisdom, and in his goodness. Yet all of this is founded ultimately upon knowledge which is easily attainable. The whole creation bears testimony to the wisdom and goodness of its Creator, and his goodness is sufficient proof of his veracity. All of this may be proved by a thousand lines of evidence. The God who created the fragrance of the lilac, and the nose of man, must be both wise and good. The God who created the beauty of a thousand varieties of flowers, and the eye of man, must be the very fountain of wisdom and goodness.

He who doubts that God has created these things has no excuse. This may be proved also, and by numerous lines of evidence. Take that one among them which is perhaps most compelling. If any man will but consider the relationship between the sexes, he must be led by the consideration directly to the existence, the wisdom, and the goodness of God. The very existence of the masculine and feminine natures, so opposite to each other, and yet so perfectly complementary in a thousand complex and exquisite ways, is proof sufficient of the existence and the wisdom of God. That two opposite natures so exquisitely suited to each other should have come into being by chance is altogether out of the question. The flawless complexity of their relationship, both emotional and physical, is full proof that its creator is supremely wise, while the supreme delightfulness, bliss, and satisfaction of that relationship (even when marred by sin), bear irresistible testimony that its creator is supremely good. I need not mention details, for they are not hidden in the depths, or beyond the stars, but are open and apparent in the experience of the whole human race. This belongs to that wisdom which “crieth without.” Men who will but observe and think may find those details as well as I, and find God in them as well as I.

That there are many who are too shallow and too brutish ever to engage in such a process of thought I freely grant, but that is not God's fault. Men whose hearts are at enmity with God, men who are determined to wrest these sweet waters from the course in which God has decreed that they should flow, may never find God in them at all, though they drink deeply of all their sweets, but that is not God's fault either.

And here we may be brought also to the higher regions of faith, for the man who honestly, seriously, and deeply considers these things cannot help but be overwhelmed with the sense of the wisdom and goodness of God----and all this though his own desires remain entirely unfulfilled. He must yet say, “Though I myself am deprived of those sweet waters, yet I am compelled to believe that the God who created them must be supremely good. He owes me nothing but damnation, and though he withholds those sweet waters from me, I yet own him good.” This is the higher region of faith, which Job entered when he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” And Charles Wesley, when he put into the mouth of a reprobate,

“Though I am damn'd, yet God is love!”

Yet faith does not stop there. The very goodness of God which a man must acknowledge while God deprives him of good, moves him to go forward and obtain the blessing for himself from that hand of goodness.

I have thus followed faith up from its rudimentary form, planted solidly upon concrete evidence which may be apprehended by our senses, to its highest exercises, which can never be anything but perfectly consistent with that evidence. I now descend again to the lower regions, to demonstrate further from the Bible that true faith is founded upon evidence.

The disciples' faith in the resurrection of Christ was based upon evidence----evidence which could be perceived by the senses, and understood by the reason. “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days.” (Acts 1:3). Seeing, then, was believing. Hyperspiritual notions of faith wish to set this aside. They may affirm----and even with some truth----that the apostles ought to have believed in the resurrection of Christ merely upon his word, without any evidence at all. Yet the facts are these: they did not believe without that evidence; God was careful to give to them that evidence; and on the basis of that evidence they believed. Nor is there the slightest hint that that faith, founded thus upon evidence, was not true faith.

We are not told specifically what most of those “many infallible proofs” were, but we are given enough of them that we may plainly see their nature. The first of those proofs consisted of what is commonly called “the empty tomb.” This is a precious expression of the faith and the heritage of the children of God. The very phrase----“the empty tomb”----must send a thrill of emotion through the soul of every devoted disciple of Christ. I have not one word to say against the use of this expression, but the plain fact is, the tomb was not empty. It was empty in the sense in which we mean it----empty of the body of the Lord----yet in fact the tomb was not empty. It contained the evidence which formed the foundation of the apostles' first faith in the resurrection of Christ. What was that evidence? “The linen clothes lying.” This was the infallible proof of the resurrection of Christ.

Consider the whole situation. The stone which covered the mouth of the tomb was sealed, and guarded by soldiers. It was easy enough for them to invent the idle story that his disciples came while the guard slept, and stole away his body, but “the linen clothes lying” disprove it. It was unlikely enough----a virtual impossibility----that the whole guard would be asleep at once, for if one soldier was so careless as to fall asleep, the second would not lie down and go to sleep beside him, but wake him. There was certainly more than one man guarding the tomb. The guard was instructed, “Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.” (Matt. 28:13). This is plural. The likelihood that they all slept is virtually nil. But supposing they all slept at once, and supposing they all happened to be sleeping when the disciples arrived to steal away his body, how did anyone roll away the stone without waking any of them? Here is another practical impossibility.

The disciples themselves, of course, knew very well that they had not stolen away his body. The Jews had no will to do so, and if they had done it, they would have had the evidence in their hands with which to refute the claims of the resurrection. But how can we know that someone had not stolen away his body. Again, “the linen clothes lying.” Suppose that anyone had had the will to take away the body of the Lord, and had arrived at the tomb and found all the guards asleep----had further managed to roll away the stone without waking any of them----would they have then taken the time necessary to unwrap those yards of linen cloth, praying meanwhile that none of the guards would wake, so that they might carry off the naked body, and leave “the linen clothes lying”? There is not the shadow of a chance of it.

Now see how all of this constituted the evidence upon which the apostles believed in the resurrection of Christ. Peter and John “ran both together, and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, SAW the linen clothes lying, yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and [with his characteristic boldness] went into the sepulchre, and SEETH the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepluchre, and he SAW and BELIEVED. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” (John 20:4-9).

Their faith, then, was founded upon sight. I know very well that Paul says we walk by faith, and not by sight. That is precious truth also, which I shall deal with in its place. For the present suffice it to understand, they SAW and BELIEVED. The “linen clothes lying” were the full proof of the resurrection. His body arose, and went out through the linen clothes, leaving them lie where they were, and out through the side of the hewn rock, precisely as he came in through the closed doors to meet his disciples after his resurrection. “The linen clothes lying” were the evidence of this, which the disciples saw, and believed.

But Thomas was not present at the empty tomb. Neither was he present when the Lord entered the disciples' room through closed doors, and “shewed them his hands and his feet,” and he did not believe. He had none of that evidence upon which the other disciples believed, and would not believe without it. “The other disciples said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Was this perversity of heart? Did the Lord condemn him for his demand for evidence?

The Lord did not require him to believe without evidence, but rather gave him the evidence which he demanded. “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:26-28). The Lord simply gave him the evidence which he demanded, and the faith of Thomas stood upon that evidence. This is proved by the next verse, which says, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, BECAUSE thou hast SEEN me, thou hast BELIEVED.”

Seeing, then, was believing----but not a whit more so for Thomas than it was for the rest of the disciples. Their faith rested upon exactly the same foundation as his did. That same evidence which the Lord gave to Thomas when Thomas demanded it, he had already given to the others. In verses 19 & 20 of John 20, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.”

Yet the Lord administers to Thomas what we may consider a mild reproof for requiring this evidence, saying, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” But mark, from this we are certainly not to understand that it is better, nor even that it is possible, to believe without evidence. It is not a question of evidence or no evidence, but of what kind of evidence, or whether he received that evidence at first or second hand. Recall, Thomas already had evidence which should have been sufficient, without his demanding more. He had the testimony of the other apostles, which he had no good reason to doubt. J. C. Ryle paraphrases the Lord's meaning thus: “Thomas, thou hast at last believed my resurrection, because thou hast seen Me with thine own eyes, and touched Me with thine own hands. It is well. But it would have been far better if thou hadst believed a week ago, on the testimony of thy ten brethren, and not waited to see Me. Remember from henceforth, that in my kingdom they are more blessed and honourable who believe on good testimony, without seeing, than those who insist first on seeing, before they believe.” In neither case is anyone expected to believe without evidence. Such a principle but opens the door, and that very effectually, to imposters like Joseph Smith.

Mormonism stands upon “faith” without evidence----even upon “faith” which is contrary to the evidence----and the Mormon church has often been engaged in concealing and suppressing that evidence, as Jerald and Sandra Tanner, of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry in Salt Lake City, have often had occasion to point out. The Lord and his apostles stand upon just the opposite ground. Peter says, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables”----a perfect description of Mormonism----“when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were EYEWITNESSES of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And THIS VOICE WHICH CAME FROM HEAVEN WE HEARD, when we were with him in the holy mount.” (II Pet. 1:16-18). And John, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life. ... That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.” (I John 1:1 & 3).

Ah, but the rest of us have no such privilege. We cannot see and hear the Lord. We cannot see his miracles. We cannot hear the voice of God from heaven. Yet we are expected to give credence to credible testimony. It is precisely for this reason that “faith cometh by hearing,” or “by a report,” as we may translate the term. It is a matter of credible testimony to reasonable or demonstrable facts, and we are expected to search out the foundations of that testimony, as well as of those facts. The lukewarm and careless, the wicked and profane, the prejudiced and obstinate, neglect or refuse to do so, and so remain in unbelief, or are ensnared in delusions. Those who will not hear Moses and the prophets will not believe, though one rise from the dead. An evil generation ignores or refuses the credible testimony which is in its hands, and asks for signs. Meanwhile, “Cunningly devised fables” abound. Joseph Smith makes the same sort of claims as the apostles of Christ. How can we know which to believe? On the sole basis of evidence. On the basis of concrete facts----of credible testimony, and the character of the witnesses----all of which may be searched out and known for what they are. Mormonism fails on all counts. The deeper a man searches into the character of the witnesses of Mormonism, or into its assertions and allegations, the more he will find to shake his faith----and the more his elders must preach to him to “stand by faith,” that is, to believe against the evidence----proceeding precisely upon the same false and unsound notions of faith which are held by many Evangelicals. It is just the reverse with Christianity. The deeper a man searches into its foundations, the more his faith is confirmed. There is nothing ethereal here, nothing mystical, nothing magical, but only standing solid on solid facts. This is the faith of the Bible. Many a man has set out to disprove Christianity, who has instead been converted by the irresistible force of the facts. Generation after generation of the enemies of the cross of Christ have ransacked history and geology to overturn the truth of the Bible, and the more the facts have been sifted, the more the foundations of Christianity have been confirmed.

The time was when I despised such evidence. I had hyperspiritual notions of faith, which disallowed any need for natural evidence, coupled with Calvinistic notions, which made faith a gift of God, communicated directly and without reference to any kind of evidence. Those branches of study called “Christian evidences” and “apologetics” I despised. Indeed, I supposed them to stand directly in the way of true faith, which I supposed had no need of such natural props. But I was mistaken. Though I yet believe that such studies may be misused, and that the faith which stands upon them may stop short of a living faith in God, yet the fact remains that the Bible itself founds faith upon just such “evidences.”

Some may suppose that in all that I have said I have ignored the fact that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I have not ignored it at all. The word of God itself appeals to our reason and our senses. It presents to us reasonable and demonstrable facts. And how do we know that the Bible is the word of God, and not the Koran, or the Book of Mormon? The book which claims to be the word of God must be subjected to the same test of evidence as every other book. The Bible will stand before that test. Other books will fall. To proceed upon the principle that we ought to believe because the book claims to be the word of God is dangerous and foolish. It opens the door to every delusion. If the Bible stands upon no more solid ground than the Koran or the Book of Mormon, it ought to be no more believed than they are. If it is worthy of our faith, it can prove itself. The man who says, “Just trust me,” without proving himself trustworthy, is almost certainly a fraud----and so is the book.

Abraham believed on the sole basis of the word of God, but he must first be sure it was God who spoke. When once the voice of God is authenticated, we may then believe with confidence all that he speaks. When the book of God is authenticated, we may believe its contents without question. C. H. Mackintosh somewhere relates that an educated infidel asked a humble believer if she believed the story of the whale swallowing Jonah. She affirmed that she did, and that if the Bible told her that Jonah had swallowed the whale, she would believe that too. This is safe ground, IF we know that the voice which speaks is the voice of God. Otherwise it is dangerous folly, not to say inexcusable presumption. How Abraham knew the voice of God it were fruitless to inquire. If God can speak, he can authenticate his own voice. Suffice it to say, this is not something to be assumed, but proved. It is foolhardy in the extreme to assume, without concrete proof, something upon which hangs our eternal bliss or misery.

Some suppose it is unspiritual, or “not of faith,” to require evidence upon which to believe. They wish to found their faith on intuition, but what saith the Scripture? “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 14:12). The hyperspiritual will found faith upon the direct witness of the Spirit to their inner man Yes, and so do the Mormons. Such evidence may be counterfeited with ease by the wiles of the devil. “Believe not every spirit,” the Bible says, “but try the spirits whether they are of God.” (I John 4:1). In the nature of the case the true must be tried as well as the false----for we know nothing of which is which until we have tried them. I spoke years ago with a Pentecostal girl, who claimed that the Lord spoke to her with an audible voice. She then confided that at one time she had heard a second voice, unlike the first. The first voice told her not to listen to the other, for it was a false spirit. I looked her in the eye, pointed my finger at her, and said, “What if they're both false?” She said very earnestly, “I never thought of that.” I told her she had better do some serious thinking about it.

God does not expect us to believe without concrete and demonstrable evidence. This would be unreasonable and cruel, which God is not.

But do not mistake me. I do not believe the evidences of Christianity lie entirely in the realm of the physical and natural. There are higher evidences also----evidences which belong to the realm of the heart and the conscience. These evidences are true and powerful. It is of such evidence that Paul speaks when he says, “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” (I Cor. 14:24-25). Those evidences which appeal directly to the heart and conscience are perfectly legitimate, as well as very powerful, but they may be very precarious in the absence of what we may call forensic evidence. Those subjective evidences are real and true, but they were never intended to stand independent of the objective evidence of facts. Much less are they to be credited if they stand against the facts. False religions, such as Mormonism, must make their whole appeal to the subjective spiritual and emotional evidences----and may sometimes make out a good case there, for there is truth in false religions. Witness the following account of the Mormon method, from a man who was for twenty-five years a Mormon elder:

“The first elders were peculiarly adapted for the singular work which they had to perform. They were earnest, fiercely enthusiastic, and believers in everything that had ever been written about 'visions,' 'dreams,' `the ministering of angels,' 'gifts of the spirit, tongues, and interpretation of tongues,' 'healings,' and 'miracles.' They wandered 'without purse or scrip' from village to village and from city to city, preaching in the public highways, at the firesides or in the pulpits----wherever they had opportunity----testifying and singing:

'The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The Latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
The angels are coming to visit the earth.
We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven
Hosannah, hosannah to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and for ever: Amen and Amen!'

“Half a dozen such verses as these inspired with sentiments that ranged from Adam to the time when 'Jesus descends with his chariots of fire,' sung with stentorian lungs, threw over their audiences an influence such as they had never before experienced. 'The work was of God.' The barren, speculative, carefully prepared sermons of fifty weeks in the year chilled in the presence of the energy and demonstration of the Mormon elders; the latter had no dead issues to deal with; their Prophet was a live subject. In this manner Mormonism was first announced. It was the feeling of the soul, and not the reasoning of the mind. It was robust believing, not calm, intellectual understanding; and thus by natural sequence 'the number of the disciples grew and multiplied.' It was an emotional faith in both speaker and hearer. They felt that God was with them, and 'feeling' at such moments sets all argument at rest.”

All of this may be perfectly legitimate, and indeed the absence of any such “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” may be considered sufficient evidence against a movement, even where the objective truth is preached. But when such subjective evidences are put in the place of concrete and objective facts----as they are and must be in false religions like Mormonism----they serve only to mislead and deceive. Everything which is built upon such evidence breaks down when we enter the realm of simple facts, such as every man may know by searching. The deeper the Mormon searches into the natural and historical evidences of his religion, the more his faith will be shaken. The deeper the Christian searches into those evidences, the more his faith will be confirmed.

But we do not believe that a man must search out the historical foundations of the Bible and Christianity before he can believe. The proper place for him to begin is with those subjective spiritual and emotional evidences which are nearer at hand. The Bible is suited to the nature of man as the key is to the lock. It meets the needs of his heart, while it commends itself to his reason. And before that, and most powerfully, it reinforces all the demands of his conscience. When a man's conscience is at war with him, and plain duty stares him in the face, it is mere quibbling----it is perversity----to claim that he must first search out the historical foundations of the Bible, before he can believe. It may be altogether too true that he cannot believe, but it is nothing to the purpose. The first thing which God demands of him is that he repent, and he can do that. He must indeed do that to be true to himself, for his own conscience demands it of him. When he has repented, and made thorough work of it, he will likely find it easy enough to believe in the Bible. R. A. Torrey, a seasoned winner of souls, answers the objection “I cannot believe” with, “In most cases where one says this the real difficulty which lies back of their inability to believe is unwillingness to forsake sin.” The sinner complains that he cannot reach the second step of the ladder, while he refuses to put his foot on the first.

We grant, then, that there are various kinds of evidence----some subjective, and some objective. But granting that, we yet insist----and believe we have proved from Scripture----that that objective evidence, which may be apprehended by the senses and the reason, is ultimately the only solid foundation for faith. In the nature of the case it must be so. Faith is not some faculty by which we believe that which is not true. We very rightly suspect the man who continually calls upon us to “just trust me,” and we also rightly suspect those doctrines which profess to stand on faith, without regard to solid and demonstrable facts. Faith believes the truth, and the truth may be demonstrated and proved. God himself provides that demonstration, and appeals to it as the proper foundation for our faith. The Lord Jesus, in the days of his flesh, granted that demonstration a thousand times over, in all the miracles which he did, and the record of those miracles is given to us by inspiration of the Holy Ghost as the foundation for our faith, as we have shown in a former article. The faith of the apostles in the resurrection of Christ stood upon “many infallible proofs.” It stood, that is, upon forensic evidence, which the Lord himself was careful to give them----natural evidence which may be perceived by the physical senses. They “saw, and believed.” When they doubted and feared, he did not say, “Just trust me,” but gave them evidence.

On the evening of his resurrection day, “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: HANDLE ME, AND SEE; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:36-40). This is concrete evidence. He never expected them to believe without it. The man who requires us to accept his doctrines----whether it be the mission of Joseph Smith or the infallibility of the Textus Receptus----“by faith,” without providing concrete and incontrovertible evidence for our reason, is either deceived or a deceiver. The truth courts the facts, and stands on those facts precisely by faith. Error fears the facts, while it claims to stand “by faith.” This is not faith at all, but superstition and delusion.

If men seek to base this delusion upon Paul's statement that “we walk by faith, and not by sight,” then they have mistaken his meaning, and perverted his words to a sense which he certainly never intended. Whatever Paul may mean by that, he certainly does not mean to overturn the Bible foundation of faith. That we walk by faith, not by sight, is most blessed truth also, but I must reserve the exposition of that for another time.


Î Old Time Revival Scenes Î


The Ejected Ministers & the London Plague of 1665

The plague now encreaseth exceedingly, and fears there are amongst us, that within a while there will not be enough alive to bury the dead, and that the city of London will now be quite depopulated by this plague.

Now some ministers (formerly put out of their places, who did abide in the city, when most of ministers in place were fled and gone from the people, as well as from the disease, into the countries) seeing the people croud so fast into the grave and eternity, who seemed to cry as they went, for spiritual physicians; and perceiving the churches to be open, and pulpits to be open, and finding pamphlets flung about the streets, of pulpits to be let; they judged that the law of God and nature did now dispense with, yea, command their preaching in public places, though the law of man...did forbid them to do it. ...

Now they are preaching, and every sermon was unto them, as if they were preaching their last. Old time seemed now to stand at the head of the pulpit, with its great scythe; saying with a hoarse voice, “Work while it is called to day, at night I will mow thee down.” Grim death seems to stand at the side of the pulpit, with its sharp arrows, saying, “Do thou shoot God's arrows, and I will shoot mine.”

Ministers now had awakening calls to seriousness and fervour in their ministerial work; to preach on the side and brink of the pit, into which thousands were tumbling; to pray under such near views of eternity, might be a means to stir up the spirits more than ordinary.

Now there is such a vast concourse of people in the churches where these ministers are to be found, that they cannot many times come near the pulpit-doors for the press, but are forced to climb over the pews to them: and such a face is now seen in the assemblies, as seldom was seen before in London; such eager looks, such open ears, such greedy attention, as if every word would be eaten which dropt from the mouths of the ministers.

If you ever saw a drowning man catch at a rope, you may guess how eagerly many people did catch at the word, when they were ready to be overwhelmed by this over-flowing scourge, which was passing thorough the city; when death was knocking at so many doors, and God was crying aloud by his judgments; and ministers were now sent to knock, cry aloud, and lift up their voice like a trumpet: then, then the people began to open the ear and the heart, which were fast shut and barred before: how did they then hearken, as for their lives, as if every sermon were their last, as if death stood at the door of the church, and would seize upon them so soon as they came forth, as if the arrows which flew so thick in the city would strike them, before they could get to their houses, as if they were immediately to appear before the bar of that God, who by his ministers was now speaking unto them? great were the impressions which the word then made upon many hearts, beyond the power of man to effect, and beyond what the people before ever felt, as some of them have declar'd. When sin is ript up and reprov'd, O the tears that slide down from the eyes! when the judgments of God are denounced, O the tremblings which are upon the conscience! when the Lord Jesus Christ is made known and proffer'd, O the longing desires and openings of heart unto him! when the riches of the gospel are displayed, and the promises of the covenant of grace are set forth and applied, O the inward burnings and sweet flames which were in the affections! now the net is cast, and many fishes are taken; the pool is moved by the angel, and many leprous spirits, and sin-sick souls are cured; many were brought to the birth, and I hope not a few were born again, and brought forth; a strange moving there was upon the hearts of multitudes in the city; and I am persuaded that many were brought over effectually unto a closure with Jesus Christ; whereof some died by the plague with willingness and peace; others remain stedfast in God's ways unto this day, but convictions (I believe) many hundreds had, if not thousands, which I wish that none have stifled, and with the dog returned to their vomit, and with the sow, have wallowed again in the mire of their former sins. The work was the more great, because the instruments made use of were more obscure and unlikely, whom the Lord did make choice of the rather, that the glory by ministers and people might be ascribed in full unto himself.

----Historical Collections Relating to Remarkable Periods of the Success of the Gospel, and Eminent Instruments Employed in Promoting It, Compiled by John Gillies. Glasgow: Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1754, Vol. I, pp. 219-220.


Pride the Destruction of Young Piety

by Glenn Conjurske

In speaking of the qualifications of a bishop, Paul says, “Not a novice, lest BEING LIFTED UP WITH PRIDE, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (I Tim. 3:6). A novice is naturally weak in the face of temptation. His lack of seasoned wisdom, his lack of ripened virtue and tried character, will naturally leave him more exposed to the assaults of those temptations which an old saint might more easily withstand. For this reason Paul excludes a novice from the office of an elder.

This is wisdom. Any place of authority, of leadership, or of public ministry, will very naturally incline men to pride. For his own sake no man should be allowed in such a place until he has the spiritual maturity to be able to abide the trial.

Now in the nature of the case all children are novices, and for that reason they do not belong in the public eye. Whatever their natural inclinations may be to pride, those inclinations are likely to be fanned into a flame by giving them a place in the public eye. Unless he is unusually stupid, a young person can hardly be ignorant of the fact that a place of public ministry distinguishes him from others of his age, or sets him above the place which normally belongs to those of his age. Thus his natural inclinations to pride, instead of being curbed and starved, are nourished and fed, and it will be a wonder if he does not fall into the condemnation of the devil.

These things have been recently brought very forcefully to my mind by the following accounts, related by Archibald Alexander:

“E.F. was another, who about the same age [13 or 14] gave pleasing evidence of having received a new heart. Old Christians would smile and weep when they heard him converse or pray. It was a revival season, and he was much noticed and caressed, and after a while evidently became vain. He fell in love also with a lady much older than himself, and appeared like one almost distracted. He turned from religion somewhat suddenly, and became one of the most profane men in the land.”1 Now the fact that the boy was “much noticed and caressed” was almost certain to corrupt him, and so it did. I fear that older saints, by unwise endeavors to encourage the piety or the ministry of the young, in the long run actually destroy it. It is true that some timid souls need to be encouraged, but no one needs to be “much noticed and caressed.” Fair winds are much harder to bear than foul, and when such attention is given to the young, it is almost certain to corrupt and destroy them. Parents, pastors, or somebody ought to give an effectual check to such attention----to put an effectual stop to it as soon as ever it begins. Perhaps the only effectual way to stop it is to keep the young away from the public limelight, to restrain and hold them back until they have gained ballast enough to bear it. This is the course which Paul prescribes for a novice.

Alexander relates another case:

“G.H. was an obscure apprentice to a tanner. He was seen attending prayer-meetings, and one wet evening, when the good simple old man who conducted the meeting found none to aid him in the prayers, he asked this boy if he would not pray. The youth consented, and the people who were present reported that no minister could make a better prayer. He was thenceforward called out, upon all occasions. Even in church, the minister after sermon would call on G.H. to pray, and all wondered how this boy, who had nothing but the most common education in the world, could excel the most learned and eloquent ministers in prayer; and some good people would rather hear G.H. pray, than listen to the best sermon. After some time, however, there was a manifest change. The style of his prayers became more artificial and elaborate, and there was an observable straining after striking expressions. But it was resolved that he should be a preacher.----God had determined otherwise; for though he was sent to school and afterwards to college, the Presbytery would not receive him when he offered himself as a candidate; his vanity and arrogance had become so manifest and insupportable. He was mortified and grievously offended, and immediately engaged in the study of the law. His course was downward, and his end hopeless. Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God judgeth the heart. Gifts are no sign of grace.”2

It is necessary to inform my readers that Alexander relates these cases for an entirely different purpose from mine. He is discussing the evanescence of much of child piety, but if the piety of that boy was evanescent, was there no reason for it? My heart bled ere I had finished reading half of the account, for it was as clear as the daylight what the end would be. Alexander was a Calvinist, and so must assume that the boy had no more actual piety than appeared in the man at the end of his course. He had gifts, but not grace. I cannot say so. Paul says, “lest he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” We do not fall into the same state we were in before. The course which the older Christians took with this young man was almost certain to secure his fall.

But observe, though all the young are necessarily novices, they are not all equally inclined to pride. Boys seem to be much more inclined to it than girls. The attentions, or the position, which will lift a boy up with pride, may not have the same effect on a girl----and what will destroy one boy may not hurt another. Some children may endure the limelight, and be uncorrupted by it. Some novices might not be lifted up with pride, though made an elder in the church. Paul does not present this as a certainty, but only as a likelihood. But that likelihood being what it is, he advises us not to make any novice an elder, because some will be destroyed by it. The same, it seems, is the only wise course in dealing with young people. They have no tried character. No parent can point to his son, and say he will not be lifted up with pride, if he is pushed forward into the places which naturally belong to those of more years.

The plain fact is, to deal with children as though they were adults always involves a risk. The wise refuse to take that risk. Those who take that risk are unwise, but it seems to me that there is more involved in the matter than a mere lack of wisdom. I have seen enough of children being pushed into places beyond their years, and I fear the root of the matter is something positively sinful.

It is the pride of the parents which wishes to see their children shine. Parental pride prods the children into places in which they are likely to be lifted up with pride----and so the pride of the parents is visited upon the children. This is an awfully solemn matter. Likewise, the pride of pastors wishes to see their own people shine. It is likely the same pride which moves leaders to publish their success stories----for when those successes prove to be failures, their readers never see a word of that. Meanwhile they may actually contribute to the failure of their novices, by blazoning their names abroad. Sectarian pride wishes to make its adherents shine. The young and the novices are therefore put forward, into places for which they have no spiritual fitness, whatever their natural abilities may be. This is a great evil, and one which the spirit of the age greatly encourages at the present time. The spirit of the age must be repudiated, and if that spirit appears in the church, it must be resisted there. God's ways are right, and the consequences of departing from them may be both woeful and eternal.


Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor


“Whether there be any Holy Ghost”

According to the Authorized Version, when Paul asked the disciples at Ephesus, in Acts 19:2, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” they responded, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” This is a palpable blot upon the face of the old version. The expression in the original is such that some degree of interpretation is necessary to produce an intelligible translation of it, but the interpretation found in the common English Bible can hardly be the right one.

We must observe in the first place that these “disciples” had been baptized “unto John's baptism.” That a disciple of John could be ignorant of the existence of the Holy Ghost is simply incredible. The baptism of the Holy Ghost was one of the most prominent features of John's preaching. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He shall baptize you with the HOLY GHOST and with fire.” (Matt. 3:11). And again, “And I knew him not, but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the SPIRIT descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the HOLY GHOST.” (John 1:33). Men who had been baptized with John's baptism could hardly be ignorant of the existence of the Holy Ghost.

But more. John baptized Jews, and not careless and profane Jews, but those who professed godliness. With or without the preaching of John, it is incredible that pious Jews (and these “disciples” were certainly pious), with the Old Testament Scriptures within their reach, could never have so much as heard whether there was any Holy Ghost. He is often spoken of in the Old Testament.

The interpretation, then, which is expressed in the King James Version, is certainly false.

But if that cannot be the meaning of the verse, what is? First, let it be understood that the portion of the verse which is in question reads literally, “We have not even heard if [the] Holy Ghost is.” The question is, what does that mean? The key to its meaning is to be found in John 7:39, where we read literally, “[The] Holy Ghost was not yet.” To this the translators of the King James Version, following the Geneva Bible, very properly added the word “given,” which appears in italics. They ought to have added it also in Acts 19:2. John 7:39 certainly does not teach that the Holy Ghost did not yet exist, but that he was not yet given. The disciples of John knew very well that he existed, and expected him to be given. They employ the same language in Acts 19:2 as John employed in his Gospel. Their language ought to be translated, “We have not even heard if the Holy Ghost is given.”

This is all simple enough, and obvious enough. What, then, led all the Protestant translators astray, from Tyndale to the King James Version? I believe that here, as often enough elsewhere, the fault lies with Martin Luther. His German New Testament (1522) reads at Acts 19:2, ob eyn heyliger geyst sey, “if an Holy Ghost be.” It was a mistake to add the indefinite article before “Holy Ghost.” 'Tis true, there is no definite article in the Greek, but that is no indication we may insert the indefinite. There is no definite article in John 7:39 either, nor in the first half of the text before us, where Paul asked the disciples, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost,” yet Paul was certainly not asking them if they had received a Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost. Luther himself has den heyligen geyst, “the Holy Ghost,” in Paul's question in the first half of the verse. Why then did he alter it to “a Holy Ghost” in their answer. His interpretation of the verse required this of him, but I believe we have established above that that interpretation was mistaken.

Yet Tyndale followed him, and under Tyndale's hand Luther's indefinite article grew to “any,” and so it appeared in all the Protestant Bibles up to the King James Version (Coverdale excepted, who follows Luther with “an holy goost”).

Now permit me to open a little of my mind to my readers. I have written so much, and so forcefully, in favor of the renderings of the old version, and against the renderings of the new ones, that some of my readers are probably ready to conclude that I am animated by nothing more than prejudice. I thought it time, therefore, to take up a text in which I certainly believe the King James Version to be wrong, and in which I could honestly commend the new versions for correcting it. I had no doubt that the new versions would correct an error so palpable, so well known, and so easily proved by means of a little thought and common sense. Alas, I was mistaken. In checking half a dozen of the modern translations, I find that none of them correct the error. RSV, Berkeley Version, NASV, NIV, NKJV, and Christian Bible, though of course varying the phraseology somewhat, yet all retain the same false interpretation which appears in the King James Version. This is something of a puzzle. How is it that these versions which so constantly and so freely correct the old version when it is not wrong, leave it unaltered where it is wrong? Of the versions which I checked, only Darby and the Revised Version correct the place, by adding the word “given.” The NASV gives it in the margin.


John W. Burgon & John Nelson Darby in Support of the Editor

On the Translation of the Aorist Tense

by the editor

I have recently received some strictures on my article on the aorist tense, which appeared in this magazine in August of 1996. These strictures, while failing to move me an iota from my position, have at any rate provoked me to check the authors named above on the subject. In so doing I have found that both of them support my view in essence, though Burgon does not appear to understand the reason of it, and Darby does not express it very well. Burgon proceeds upon the ground of common sense and the requirements of English idiom, while Darby explicitly endorses my position on both the Greek and the English. I make no apology for citing the opinions of either of these men. Though widely differing in practice and position, they were both spiritual men, of good sense and solid learning. Both were well conversant with the subject, and were not mere grammarians. I do not impute to them the near infallibility which some impute to the one, and some to the other, but neither can I despise them, as others do. It should be observed that while Burgon vigorously defended the Authorized Version (without dreaming of its infallibility), Darby expressed his dissatisfaction with it by producing another. Neither of them use the same terminology that I do regarding the Greek and English tenses. So far from it, that Burgon once uses “indefinite” to designate what I call the historical definite, while Darby once uses “definite” of a “definite” fact, which is nevertheless indefinite in time. But the terminology is immaterial. Burgon supports my position practically, and Darby explicitly.

As I have affirmed concerning the modern Bible versions, so Burgon declares of the Revised Version, “But since it is the genius of the English language to which we find they have offered violence; the fixed and universally-understood idiom of our native tongue which they have systematically set at defiance; the matter is absolutely without remedy. The difference between the A.V. and the R.V. seems to ourselves to be simply this,----that the renderings in the former are the idiomatic English representation of certain well-understood Greek tenses: while the proposed substitutes are nothing else but the pedantic efforts of mere grammarians to reproduce in another language idioms which it abhors.”

This is exactly my contention concerning the rendering of the verb tenses (present and imperfect as well as aorist) in the modern versions. And as a matter of fact, much of the difficulty between myself and my critics arises from the fact that they cannot acknowledge the truth of what I advance on the English tenses. Yet I am confident that every one of my critics, instinctively, uses the English tenses according to the principles which I have laid down. Indeed, I have observed that little children do. They may say “have went” instead of “have gone,” but they know when to use “have.” And however some may contend that “I observed” and ”I have observed” are identical in meaning, they would instinctively feel it to be wrong, had I said in the above sentence, “I observed that little children do,” instead of “have observed.” This would not denote a general or habitual observation, but a particular event or occasion, and would indeed very much weaken the statement. Burgon continues:

“When our Divine LORD at the close of His Ministry,----(He had in fact reached the very last night of His earthly life, and it wanted but a few hours of His Passion,)----when He, at such a moment, addressing the Eternal FATHER, says, j v j v j V ” : V [ j v . . . . j v v V [ ' j v , &c. [Jo. xvii.4,6], there can be no doubt whatever that, had He pronounced those words in English, He would have said (with our A. V.) `I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work:' `I have manifested Thy name.' The pedantry which (on the plea that the Evangelist employs the aorist, not the perfect tense,) would twist all this into the indefinite past,----`I glorified' ... `I finished' ... `I manifested,'----we pronounce altogether insufferable. We absolutely refuse it a hearing. Presently (in ver. 14) He says,----`I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them.' And in ver. 25,----`O righteous FATHER, the world hath not known Thee; but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me.' Who would consent to substitute for these expressions,----`the world hated them:' and `the world knew Thee not, but I knew Thee; and these knew that Thou didst send Me'?----Or turn to another Gospel. {Which is better,----`Some one hath touched Me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me,' (S. Lu. viii.46):----or,----`Some one did touch Me: for I perceived that power had gone forth from Me'? When the reference is to an act so extremely recent, who is not aware that the second of these renderings is abhorrent to the genius of the English language?}”1

Now observe, I have no desire whatever to either disguise or suppress the fact that Burgon does not give the same explanation of the matter that I do. It is obvious to me that he failed to understand the actual genius of the Greek aorist. Yet he understood English. His remarks are based upon the requirements of the English, though his explanation of that is mistaken also. He applies the auxiliary “have” to acts “extremely recent,” while he reserves the simple past for those in “the indefinite past,” by which he evidently means “the bygone past.” English usage may give some countenance to this explanation, as in “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away” in Job 1:21, yet this is certainly not the whole explanation, and will certainly break down if applied elsewhere. Yet Burgon knew instinctively that the simple past in these places could not be right----for it does violence to English patterns of thought.

Further, “When Simon Peter (in reply to the command that he should thrust out into deep water and let down his net for a draught,) is heard to exclaim,----`Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net' (Lu. v.5),----who would tolerate the proposal to put in the place of it,----`Master, we toiled all night, and took nothing: but at Thy word,' &c. It is not too much to declare that the idiom of the English language refuses peremptorily to submit to such handling.” This is true----yet the NASV persists in the wrong rendering of the verse. Burgon continues, “Quite in vain is it to encounter us with reminder[s]2 that v and j v are aorists. The answer is,----We know it: but we deny that it follows that the words are to be rendered `we toiled all night, and took nothing.' There are laws of English Idiom as well as laws of Greek Grammar: and when these clash in what is meant to be a translation into English out of Greek, the latter must perforce give way to the former,----or we make ourselves ridiculous, and misrepresent what we propose to translate.”3

All of this is strictly true. This is the ground which solid common sense mandates, and yet it is plain enough to me that if we understand them both, there is no clash between Greek grammar and English in this matter. More on that anon. After giving a number of examples in which the Revisers themselves admit Burgon's principle, by themselves using the auxiliary “have” to translate the aorist, Burgon continues,

“But now, Who sees not that the admission, once and again deliberately made, that sometimes it is not only lawful, but even necessary, to accommodate the Greek aorist (when translated into English) with the sign of the perfect,----reduces the whole matter (of the signs of the tenses) to a mere question of Taste? In view of such instances as the foregoing, where severe logical necessity has compelled the Revisionists to abandon their position and fly, it is plain that their contention is at an end,----so far as right and wrong are concerned. They virtually admit that they have been all along unjustly forcing on an independent language an alien yoke. Henceforth, it simply becomes a question to be repeated, as every fresh emergency arises,----Which then is the more idiomatic of these two English renderings?”4

All of this is simple common sense, and serves to keep its possessor right even in the absence of a proper understanding of the theme. Yet I deny that it is a mere matter of taste----deny that there is any need to “accommodate” the aorist at all, or that there is any clash between Greek grammar and English. Though one language or the other may be deficient in certain points, in the nature of the case there cannot be any real clash between them. On this point I will introduce Darby:

“But when the question is one of translation, the power of a second language has also to be settled [that is, we must know English as well as Greek----ed.], and its forms may not exactly answer to those of Greek. Still there are certain conditions of human thought which are the same in all languages, because all languages are the expression, as such, of the human mind.”5 This is certainly the truth. That thought which the Greek expresses with the aorist tense, we express with the auxiliary “have.”

Darby, according to the prevailing infatuation concerning the aorist tense, was censured for using the auxiliary “has” or “have” to translate it into English. He defended his renderings in a couple of letters, and also wrote a brief article on the subject. These appear in volume 13 of his Collected Writings, pp. 144-151 of the Stow Hill edition. I select a few of his remarks, which are to the purpose and clearly expressed. The bracketed insertions and capitals are mine, the italics Darby's.

“I had purposely put 'has,' 'have,' etc., where aorists are, very often, and as yet I think I am right. ... THE AORIST IS OF NO TIME. ... In John 15:6 [he is cast forth...and is withered], the sense is future [I doubt this], but, as it is a CONSTANT FACT, present would serve in English, a CERTAIN FACT LOOKED AT AS A FACT.”

“I think in result the making the aorist a mere historical fact, as 'crucified,' A GREAT MISTAKE IN GRAMMAR AND INTELLIGENCE.” It should be observed that Darby here endorses my position that the simple past in English (“crucified”) refers to a historical fact----while he disallows that sense to the Greek aorist. But Darby again, “'I have written a letter.' The participle [`written'] views the thing as done, the letter is written. `I have' affirms present realization of the fact. Hence, in English, it has a moral force, NOT HISTORICAL, NOT PROPERLY REFERRING TO TIME, though to a thing done, not doing or to be done. The man 'has stolen.' THIS IS NOT HISTORICAL. For THAT I should say, 'That man “stole” my watch.' It ['has stolen'] is CHARACTERISTIC of the man. 'You have beaten your brother.' 'I have not; I never touched him.' 'I have not' is denial of THE FACT morally; 'I never touched' is HISTORICAL.

“Therefore we say, 'I wrote it yesterday,' not 'I have written.”' That is, we use the simple past tense when the time is expressed, and I am certain that not one of those who oppose the contents of my article would be guilty of such a solecism as “I have written it yesterday.” But Darby:

“'I have written to you in this article on the subject of the aorist'; in Greek [ [which is aorist]; in English 'HAVE WRITTEN'; because, though the writing be done once for all, an accomplished fact, it is treated morally as a present thing between my reader and me. 'I have'; here the Greek aorist MUST be translated by what people are pleased to call a perfect. If I say 'I wrote,' present realization is gone. It is the revelation of the past fact, but PRESENT REALIZATION is not necessarily a Greek perfect. It may [be], and VERY OFTEN IS, an AORIST IN GREEK. When I read the New Testament, I may throw it back into historical fact naturally enough. But often we LOSE THUS THE POWER OF IT.”

Darby very explicitly agrees with my contention that the simple past tense in English requires the specification of time, saying, “`He saw,' 'went,' 'came,' but when? THE REST OF THE SENTENCE REQUIRES to an ENGLISH MIND a TIME. We English are OBLIGED to give it.” Of this I have not the slightest doubt, though, as I granted in my former article, the definite time need not be explicitly stated if it is clearly implied or understood. I add on this that though the time may remain unexpressed in English, when the simple past tense is used a particular time is always meant, and something of the nature of “once upon a time” always understood. The use of the auxiliary “have” eliminates any such reference, and denotes habitual or characteristic action, or looks at the fact as such, without reference to any particular time or event. I can only say of those who deny this, that they have evidently but little observed the properties of the English tenses. That they use English in this way I have no doubt.


Believe that Ye Receive Them

by Glenn Conjurske

The Lord tells us in Mark 11:24, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Strange things have been made of this verse. It has been very much used, especially by the advocates of healing by faith, to bolster their doctrine that faith is believing without evidence, or even believing contrary to evidence. R. Kelso Carter, a former believer in those doctrines, describes them as follows, “Inquirers are instructed to believe that they do receive, when the Spirit witnesses within that their consecration and obedience are complete, and the prayer has been offered. `What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them,' is the warrant for acting out the belief; that is, acting as if you were well.”1

And I have heard testimonies from some in our own day affirming, “I was healed, but the symptoms remained.” They believed that they had received, when in fact they had not. They believed that their lameness was healed, when in fact they were still lame. They believed that God had healed their ears, when in fact they were just as deaf as ever they had been. By this means faith is perverted into a belief of that which is not true, whereas the faith of the Bible----always----is belief of the truth.

But good men have made out a very strong case for this doctrine. A. B. Simpson, in reviewing a work by one Schauffler, writes, “Mr. Schauffler objects next to the language used in describing these cures, as fitted to throw a doubt on the substantial reality of the cure. Particularly, he objects to our teaching persons to believe that they receive healing before they have sensible evidence of it. Now, we teach people to believe that they have salvation before they have sensible evidence of it. The greatest battle we have with the enquirer is to get him to believe that Christ saves him according to His Word, before he has any feeling of it. Then why should it not be so all along the line of faith? It is so. This is the very essence of the faith of the Bible. It is defined to be `the evidence (or conviction) of things not seen.' Abraham believed God's Word that He did make him the father of many nations, and then that he had made him the father of many nations (`I have made thee,' etc.) long before Isaac was even conceived or reasonably likely to be ever born, and he not only believed it, but he called it so and took the very name of Abraham, meaning the father of a multitude, before a scorning world as the public profession of his faith. And God tells us, in Romans iv., `that this was the essence of his faith, that he believed in God who quickeneth the dead and CALLETH THE THINGS THAT ARE NOT AS THOUGH THEY WERE.' This is ever the nature of faith. It begins where sight ends.”2

There is so much precious truth mixed up with the error here that I almost fear to endeavor to overturn the latter, lest I seem to oppose the former. But to begin with, the drawing of a parallel between the salvation of the soul and the healing of the body, though doubtless done sincerely, in reality only serves to obscure the issue. The nature of the evidence in the two spheres is entirely diverse. In the physical realm the evidence is simple, and easily perceived by the senses. In the spiritual sphere, the evidence is complex and intangible. Moreover, it may not be visible immediately. And further still, I believe that evangelists are often very greatly mistaken in the manner in which they preach faith to inquirers after salvation, and Simpson appears here to lay down that mistake as the foundation of his doctrine of faith for healing.

The mistaken dealing to which I refer consists of something like the following: “The Bible says, `He that believeth on the Son HATH everlasting life.' This is the word of the God who cannot lie. The same God says, `He that believeth not God hath made him a liar.' Now God says those who believe have eternal life. If you do not believe you have eternal life, when God says you do, you are actually making God a liar.” But this is nothing more than a small grain of truth, mixed together with a great heap of error. The Bible says, “He that believeth ON THE SON hath everlasting life,” (John 3:36), not “he that believeth that he hath eternal life.” He that makes God a liar is not the man who does not believe that he has eternal life, but he that “believeth not the record that God gave OF HIS SON.” (I John 5:10). God has given no record of your faith or of the right state of your heart. A man may believe well enough in the Son of God, and in the record which God has given of his Son, and yet not believe that he himself is saved, for he may yet have doubts about the reality of his own faith or repentance----and those doubts may be perfectly legitimate.

But it is just here that the defect lies in these false notions of faith. They see only the purpose and work of God, and disallow the workings of human responsibility. This is often avowedly so in the King James Only doctrines, the doctrines of Baptist successionism, and the doctrines of Calvinism in general. It stands to reason that all three of these errors are often held by the same people, for they all incorporate the same false doctrine of faith. They all, in general, overlook (or deny) the possible failure of man, and hold that there can be no failure at all, since the promises of God must stand. This often leads them to maintain that there has been no failure, when in fact the failure is evident to the eyes of all. Their “faith,” in other words, ceases to be belief of the truth, and becomes belief in falsehood.

It is to just this that we are brought when we are told to believe that we have received healing, though “the symptoms remain.” In an excellent little treatise on healing, Mrs. May Wyburn Fitch relates the case of a friend of hers who was thus “healed” of diabetes. “She heard, she believed, she determined to act her faith! What more could she do?

“She immediately resumed a normal diet and frequently testified in public that she had been healed of diabetes from which she had suffered for many years. ...

“I think it was in September when she was supposed to have been healed, and I well remember how happy she was when Christmas came around and she partook of all the good things on the table instead of having to deny herself as she had done on so many occasions.

“Early in January she accidentally cut her toe. It seemed trivial and she attended to it herself. It refused to heal and a physician was called in. He treated the wound locally for over a week, and still it did not heal. Becoming dissatisfied with his treatment, her husband persuaded her to go to the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, where they immediately discovered the cause and condition----gangrene, the one thing every diabetic person has to guard against. It became necessary to amputate the leg above the knee, with the result that death followed very shortly. After having been `healed of diabetes' in September, 1922, this woman died `of diabetes' in January, 1923.”3

This is a very sad case, and one which is the direct result of a false doctrine of faith. There were likely other symptoms of her disease remaining, but she no doubt ignored them, according to the instructions of the healers, to “look to Christ, not at your symptoms.” This is excellent advice in order to build faith, but it is a great evil when it is used to overturn the truth. It was exactly right for Peter to look to Christ when he was sinking, instead of at “the wind and the waves boisterous,” but it were folly for him to believe he was not sinking, when in fact he was.

And this brings us back to A. B. Simpson's statement concerning Abraham. It is all most precious truth that we are to believe in a God who calls the things that are not as though they were, and it is fine spiritual insight to see the faith of Abraham in adopting the name “father of a multitude” when as yet he had no child. But it is simple folly to suppose that Abraham believed himself actually the father of a multitude, when in fact he was not a father at all. Abraham certainly did not believe that God actually “had made” him the father of a multitude. His belief was that God would make him so. Faith does not cast truth and facts and common sense to the winds.

So “believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” means simply this: Believe that God hears your prayer, and determines to grant your request----and what? You “shall have them,” in the future. Howsoever certain you may be that God has heard and granted your request, it is tomfoolery to believe that you are healed when you are not, or that you are not sinking, when in fact you are, or that your son is not lost, when in fact he is. Real faith will never be content with such a state of things, but will wrestle with God until it has not only the assurance of the thing, but the possession of it.

If God calls those things which are not as though they were, this expresses his purpose to make them so, but meanwhile they remain “the things which ARE NOT,” and faith does not imagine anything otherwise. Certainly faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” Some of those things are “not seen” because they are spiritual or heavenly, and so beyond the range of natural sight. Faith believes in them. Other of those things are “not seen as yet,” (Heb. 11:7), precisely because they do not yet exist. Faith believes in them also----not that they are, but that they are coming. It is not faith at all to believe what is not true, but presumption and delusion.


Martin Luther Again on I John 5:7

by the editor

We have informed our readers in these pages before that Luther omitted I John 5:7 from every edition of his German New Testament which he published during his lifetime. I have recently learned that he also omitted it from the revised edition of the Latin Vulgate which he published in 1529. This edition is printed in the large German edition of D. Martin Luthers Werke (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1914)----no indication in the book which volume this is of the whole set, but it is Fünfter Band of D. Martin Luthers Deutsche Bibel.

The text of I John 5:7-8 appears thus: Quoniam tres sunt qui testimonium dant, Spiritus, Aqua et Sanguis, et hi tres simul sunt.

The common Vulgate text (Clementine edition), on the other hand, reads thus (with the words omitted by Luther in bold type): Quoniam tres sunt qui testimonium dant in cælo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus; et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra: spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis; et hi tres unum sunt.

This omission was a bold step on Luther's part, for, as Scrivener informs us, the verse is found “in perhaps 49 out of every 50”[ manuscripts of the Vulgate, but the very boldness of the step proves beyond cavil, if any further proof were wanted, that Luther did not believe in the genuineness of the verse.

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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.