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Vol. 6, No. 11
Nov., 1997

The Day of Salvation

by Glenn Conjurske

Truth is one, while error is manifold and multitudinous. While God therefore must speak one constant and unchanging message, the devil may preach whatever suits his purpose, and change the message with every change of the weather.

But observe that while error has many faces, moral error is essentially two. God admonishes us repeatedly not to turn aside either to the right hand or to the left. The reason that error is essentially two resides in the fact that “God is love” and “God is light,” which is holiness. Error slights, ignores, or denies one side or the other of God's essential nature. While the truth maintains both love and holiness, error usually exalts one side at the expense of the other. So long as the devil finds his subjects careless and impenitent, he exalts the love of God at the expense of his holiness, to confirm them in presumption, but as soon as he sees them concerned and penitent, he flies directly to the other extreme, and exalts the holiness of God at the expense of his love, to drive them to despair.

Now to apply these general observations to the subject in hand. While God preaches one constant message----“Now is the accepted time”----“Now is the day of salvation”----the devil vacillates between “some day” and “never.” According to the truth of God, the day of salvation is always present, while according to the lies of the devil it is either future or past. To the careless and impenitent he preaches, “Plenty of time,” but directly they become awakened and convicted, he changes the message to “Too late.” So long as men remain careless in their sins, he exalts the love and grace of God, as though it were inexhaustible, but directly they become concerned, he exalts the holiness of God, as though it were inexorable. To the careless it is “Plenty of time,” as though God were so loving and merciful that men may sin with impunity, that God will be mocked, and that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he not reap. But to the penitent it is “Too late,” as though the holiness of God were too relentless to forgive sins.

And all this while God preaches one constant message: “Now is the day of salvation”----a message which most beautifully maintains both the love and the holiness of God. On the one side, Now, for the Spirit will not always strive----Now, for the day of grace will end----Now, for death and judgement are coming----Now, for the door of mercy will be shut. And on the other side, Now, for the Lord may yet be found----Now, for “all things are now ready”----Now, for the Father's arms are yet open wide.

Now observe that this message is the truth, and faith believes the truth. The evil heart of unbelief, however, will believe anything but the truth. It will never believe God's “now,” but believes the devil when he preaches “some day,” and believes him again when he preaches “never”----believes him when he preaches “Plenty of time,” and believes him when he preaches “Too late.”

D. L. Moody relates a most solemn example of this. I give it with slight abridgement from one of his sermons:

I remember a few years ago in one of our meetings in Chicago the Spirit of God was at work. There were some inquiring the way of life, and there was a man in the assembly I had been anxious for for a great many months, and when I asked all those who would like to become Christians to rise, this man rose. My heart leaped in me for joy, and when the meeting was over I went to him, took him by the hand and said to him, “well, now you are coming out for Christ, ain't you?” “Well,” said he, “Mr. Moody, I want to be a Christian, but there is one thing that stands in my way.” “What is that?” “Well,” says he, “I have not the moral courage”---and I believe in my soul to-night that is the thing that is keeping men from coming to Christ more than any other one thing. They lack the moral courage to come out from their scoffing, sneering friends. “Well,” I said, “if heaven is what it is represented to be, it is surely worth your coming out and confessing Christ, and being laughed at for a little while down here.” He dropped his head and said, “I know it, I believe it, but”----naming a certain friend of his----“if he had been here to-night I should not have risen, I looked around to see if he was here, and when I found he was not I rose for prayers. I am afraid if I meet him, and he finds out I have risen, he will laugh at me, and I will not have the courage to stand up for what is right; and I know I can not be a Christian unless I deny myself, and take up my cross and come out.” I said, “you are quite right.” The poor man was trembling from head to foot. I thought surely he would come out on the Lord's side. Like Agrippa, he was almost persuaded. I thought surely that night he would settle the question, perhaps in his own home, and the next night I would find him rejoicing in the Savior. But he came back the next night, and I found he was in the same state of mind. The Spirit was still striving with him. He was almost persuaded, but not altogether. The next night he came again, and I found him in the same state of mind. And the only thing that man gave as an excuse for not becoming a Christian, was that he had not the moral courage.

John Bunyan describes one coming up to the gate of heaven----and there was a side way down to the gate of the pit, and many of them took that side way. It seems this man came to the gate of heaven and one step more would have taken him across the line. But this man-fearing spirit kept him from taking that step. Almost, yet not altogether. Well, weeks rolled away and the impression seemed to pass away. You know that is the thing they bring against these special meetings. They say it hardens some people. That is quite right. The gospel proves a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death. ... They not only refuse it but they despise the God of salvation. Well, the hardening process went on with this man. He used to come to church every Sunday morning, but now he dropped off and did not come at all. He would be at work Sunday, and if I met him coming down the street he would slip off down some other way, ashamed to meet me, afraid I would talk with him. At last he was taken sick and sent for me. I went to see him and he said to me, “Is there any hope for a man to be saved at the eleventh hour?” I told him there was hope for any man who really wanted to become a Christian. I preached Christ to him----explained to him the way of life----told him how he could be saved. I went down to see him day after day. Contrary to all expectations the man began to recover. When he got up from that sick bed, I went down one day and found him convalescent, sitting in front of his house. I took my seat beside him and said, “Well, now you will be well enough to come up to church in a few days, and when you are well enough you are coming out to confess Christ and take your stand for Christ.” “Well,” says he, “I have made up my mind to become a Christian, but I am not going to become one just now. Next spring I am going over Lake Michigan and I am going to buy me a farm and settle down, and then I am going to become a Christian; but there is no use of my talking of becoming a Christian here in Chicago. I can't do it. I have so many bad associates I can't live a Christian life in Chicago.” “Well,” I said, “my friend, if God hasn't got grace enough to keep you in Chicago, He hasn't got enough to keep you in Michigan. What you want is not a change of associates, but a new heart, and the grace of God to keep you. He is able to keep you.” I plead with him not to postpone this great question any longer. I tried to arouse him up. At last he got a little worried and a little cross at me, and says, “Mr. Moody, you can just attend to your own business, and I will attend to mine. I don't want you to trouble yourself any more about my soul. I will attend to that.” I said, “you can't afford to put this thing off.” “Well,” he says, “if I am lost it will not be your fault. You have done every thing you can. I don't want you to trouble yourself any more.” ...

This man said, “I will take the risk.” I was telling him he could not afford to take the risk, he said, “I will take it.” I would like to ask if there is a man in this house to-night that will take the risk of his soul's salvation for twenty-four hours. Dare you say, “I will take it?” It was a number of months he was going to take it. When he got over to Michigan on his farm and got settled down, he was going to become a Christian. I tried to arouse him; he got angry and I left him. If ever I left a man with a sad heart it was when I left that man. I remember the day of the week. It was Friday. It was about noon that I left him. Just a week from that day I got a message from his wife. She wanted to have me come in great haste. I went to the house and I met her at the door weeping. I said, “What is the trouble?” “My husband has been taken down with the same disease. We have just had a council of physicians and they have all given him up to die.”

I said, “Does he want to see me,” knowing how angry he was only the week before. She said, “No. I asked him if I should not send for you, and he said no, he did not want to see you.” “Well, why did you send?” “Well, I can't bear to see him die in this terrible state of mind.” “What is his state of mind?” “He says his damnation is sealed, and that he will be in hell in a little while.” I went into the room where he was, and the moment he heard the door open he looked and saw who it was, and he turned his face to the wall. I went to the bed and spoke to him, and he did not answer. I said, “Won't you speak to me?” I went around to the foot of the bed where I could look at him, and said again, “Won't you speak to me?” He turned and looked at me----and what a look it was! He said, “You need not talk to me any more, sir. My damnation is sealed. There is no hope for me.” I tried to tell him there was, but he ridiculed the idea that there was any hope for him. Memory had begun to do its work. His whole life came up before him, and he said, “I have done nothing but sin against God all my life; and a week ago when you were here and I thought I was going to get well, I turned away from God. He came knocking at the door of my heart. I told him, if He would spare my life, I would let Him in. And He took me at my word. But the moment I got up I turned my back upon Him. There is no hope for me. You need not talk to me. You need not pray for me. You cannot save me, sir. There is no hope for me. I have got to die in my sins. There is no chance for my soul.” I tried to tell him there was. He pointed his finger at the stove and said, “My heart is as hard as the iron in that stove. There is no hope for me.” I went to get down on my knees, and when he saw me kneel he said, “Mr. Moody, you need not pray for me. You can pray for my wife and children. They need your prayers and sympathies. You need not spend your time praying for me. There is no hope for me.” I tried to pray for him, but it seemed as if my prayers did not go higher than my head. I got up and took his hand, and it seemed as if I was bidding farewell to a friend that I never would see again in time or eternity. The cold, clammy sweat of night was gathering on that hand. I bade him a final farewell. I left his house about noon. He lingered until the sun went down behind those western prairies, and his wife told me that from the time I left him until he died, all she heard was, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved.” You could hear his cries all over the house. Just as the sun was going down, he was sinking away into the arms of death, and his wife noticed his lips quivering. He was trying to say something. She bent over and all she could hear was that awful lamentation of the prophet, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved,” and he passed away.

The reader will observe that in one week this man's belief was altered from “plenty of time” to “too late.” One Friday it was “next spring,” and the next Friday, “never.” One week he believed God so lenient as to allow him to deliberately continue in sin for months to come, and the next week he believed him so relentless as to refuse to forgive him at all. One week ago he believed the day of salvation to be some months in the future, and now it was “past.” This was unbelief, on both sides. It was unbelief in God's unchanging “now,” but it was faith in the devil's “plenty of time,” and faith again in the devil's “too late.” All unbelief is essentially faith in the devil. It takes his word over God's. It believes him when he preaches the love of God at the expense of his holiness, and believes him again when he preaches the holiness of God at the expense of his love.

And as it was with this man, so it has also been with a great many others. I have in my library, as noted in my card file box, numerous accounts similar to the one just related. One of them I have given at length in the October issue of this magazine. The frequency with which such situations have occurred has led many to make a doctrine of them----a doctrine which affirms that all of these lost souls were exactly right in their belief----that is, exactly right in their unbelief. Suffice it to say, I very much doubt the truth of this doctrine. Yet it seems that that doctrine is very widely held. It is expressed in the lines of a popular hymn, “There's a line that is crossed by rejecting the Lord, Where the call of his mercy is lost.” It is expressed in sermons on “Crossing the Deadline,” which appear in evangelistic papers. That doctrine is bolstered by the unwavering confidence with which these lost souls have spoken of the certainty of their doom. It is bolstered by the inability of men of God to pray or preach effectually on such occasions----by the statement, for example, of D. L. Moody, that it seemed that his prayers went no higher than his head. It is bolstered by the explicit statements of certain of these lost souls that they knew the exact time when the Spirit ceased to strive with them, and the statements of others that they had turned away from the Lord with the certain knowledge that they were turning from their last offer of mercy. It is further bolstered by the apparent indifference of those souls with whom the Spirit has supposedly ceased to strive. It is assumed that the impressions or convictions or beliefs of all of these lost souls are exactly correct, while the Bible's “Now is the day of salvation” is set aside. It is assumed that the “Too late” which comes from the lips of these unbelievers is no lie of the devil at all, but in fact the very truth of God. All of this I take the liberty to doubt.

I confess that many of these accounts make a deep and profound impression on the mind. It could hardly be otherwise. And yet for all that, I doubt the doctrine which has been made of them. I aim here to subject that doctrine to some close scrutiny, and to that end I will give a number of these accounts in full, that the reader may feel the full weight of the evidence on that side.

In the noon prayer meeting in New York City,

A young sailor arose. . . . “I remember,” said he, “when in Panama, one of my brother sailors was taken very sick. I had previously, on many occasions, urged him to take Jesus as his guide, counsellor, and friend. But his answer had ever been, 'Time enough yet.' That fearful putting off, that delivering himself up to the power of Satan, who was constantly whispering in his ear, 'Time enough yet,' reached its fearful crisis at last. As he lay sick upon his mattress, his writhings and contortions denoted the fever and pain that were within. But the fever of his soul was causing much more anguish than all his bodily ailments.

“I said to him, 'You need a Saviour now.”Oh,' said he, 'I have put off seeking Jesus too long.' I earnestly begged him to look at the cross of Christ, and there learn what Jesus had done and suffered, that a poor sinner like him might not perish, but have everlasting life. But he replied, with choking sobs, 'Too late, too late!“Oh!' he cried, 'no rest for me. I am going to some place, I know not where. Oh! I know not where!' His head fell back upon the pillow. I cried, 'Ned! are you dying?' But all I heard was, through the gurgling in his throat, 'No rest;' and my dying shipmate was gone.”

Observe that there was none of the calmness in this young man which some others have exhibited under the same circumstances, nor any claims that the Spirit had ceased to strive with him----and it would seem that his evident fears would have belied any such claim. Observe further that a simple change of circumstances----from health to sickness----took him immediately from “Plenty of time” to “Too late.” This, I contend, was unbelief in both cases----unbelief in God's unchanging “now,” and belief in the devil's lies.

Peter Cartwright relates the following:

I will name another incident connected with this revival. There was an interesting young man, well educated, and gentlemanly in all his conduct, from some of the Eastern states. He boarded at a house I frequently visited. He was serious: I talked to him, and he frankly admitted the real necessity of religion, and said, for his right hand he would not lay a straw in the way of any person to prevent him from getting religion; but he said he was not ready to start in this glorious cause, but that he fully intended at some future time to seek religion. I urged him to submit now; that in all probability he never would live to see so good a time to get religion as the present. He admitted all I said, and wept like a child; but I could not prevail on him to start now in this heavenly race.

As our meeting was drawing to a close, I was uncommonly anxious to see this young man converted, but I was not permitted to see it. Some little time before we closed the meeting, a messenger arrived for me to go to another town where the work of religion had broken out, and they greatly needed ministerial aid. The day after I left this young man he was taken violently ill. His disease was rapid, all medical aid failed, and he was shortly given over by his physicians to die. He sent post-haste for me to come to him. I hastened to him, but never to the last moment of my recollection shall I ever forget the bitter lamentations of this young man. “O!” said he, “if I had taken your advice a few days ago, which you gave me in tears, and which, in spite of all my resistance, drew tears from my eyes, I should have now been ready to die. God's Spirit strove with me powerfully, but I was stubborn, and resisted it. If I had yielded then, I believe God would have saved me from my sins; but now, racked with pain almost insupportable, and scorched with burning fevers, and on the very verge of an eternal world, I have no hope in the future; all is dark, dark, and gloomy. Through light and mercy I have evaded and resisted God, his Spirit, and his ministers, and now I must make my bed in hell, and bid an eternal farewell to all the means of grace, and all hope of heaven; lost! lost! forever lost!”

In this condition he breathed his last.

Observe again that in a few days time this young man went from “some future time” to “no hope in the future.” In a few days' time he went from presuming upon the mercy of God to despairing of it. What was this, if not unbelief on both sides? But understand, as in the preceding case, the change from health to sickness had no doubt awakened the conscience, and he who but a few days before had viewed the holiness of God without concern, while the devil slighted that holiness and preached the love of God to him, now viewed that same holiness with great alarm. The devil no doubt took full advantage of the change, and now preached relentlessly that same holiness which he had slighted before. The unbelieving heart hearkened to the devil's lies in both instances. I believe this is the full and true explanation of such cases.

R. A. Torrey relates the following:

Oftentimes when I lived in Chicago, when I had a night off, I would run out to some neighbouring city to help the ministers in nearby towns in Illinois, or even over the line into Indiana or Wisconsin. One night I went over the line into the city of Hammond, Indiana. I was preaching that night in the Methodist church. When I gave out the invitation, among those who rose to come to the front was a young woman. She rose from her seat and started to come to the altar, but the young man who sat beside her, to whom she was engaged, touched her arm and said, “Don't go tonight, dear. If you will wait a few days, I may go with you.” For fear of offending this man whom she loved, she went back and sat down. The next week I was in Hammond again, speaking at the Opera House. At the close of the meeting two young women hurried up and said, “Oh, Mr. Torrey, come just as soon as you can get away. There was a young lady who started to come to the front the other night, but the young man to whom she is engaged asked her to wait. She went back and sat down and now she has erysipelas. It has gone to her brain, and they think she is dying. She will probably not live until morning. Come and speak to her, just as soon as you can get away.” As soon as the after-meeting was over I hurried away from the Opera House and went to the home and up the stairs and into the room where the poor girl lay a-dying. Her face was all painted black with iodine and she was hardly recognizable as the same person, but she was perfectly conscious. I said to her, “Didn't you start to accept Christ when I was down here last week?” “Yes.” “Will you accept Jesus Christ now?” “No,” she replied. “I started for the front when you were down here a week ago. I was apparently well and strong then. But I went back and sat down. I can not accept Christ now.” I said to her, “They tell me that you are dying, that you will probably not live through the night.” “Yes,” she said, “I know I am dying, but I can not take Christ now.” I plead with her, I besought her, I told her about the dying thief who was saved in the last hour as he hung upon the cross, I told her about those who went into the vineyard at the eleventh hour and were accepted. I told her what Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37); but it was all to no avail. She only replied, “No, it is too late. I can not accept Christ now.”

In this account we see all the same elements as in the preceding two. One week she supposed it safe to wait a while longer, and the next week it was too late. The bed of sickness changed all, no doubt by quickening an accusing conscience, so that she who a week ago would presume upon the mercy of God must now despair of it. Yet both last week and this week God's message was “Now is the day of salvation.” Her belief that it was too late did not make it so. Such belief is just unbelief.

The following account comes from the old Methodist itinerant, Maxwell Pierson Gaddis:

I was once called to the dying bed of a young lady about midnight. I found her dying in despair. I joined, with others, in prayer, but all hope of eternal life had left her dark, benighted soul! She stated to me that a few months before she had attended a Methodist camp meeting, and felt the Holy Spirit striving with her. She went forward for prayers, and found peace in believing. Soon after her return home she was invited to a dancing-party. At first she resolved to stay at home, but finally she concluded to go. On her way to the dance the Spirit strove powerfully with her heart again, and deeply impressed her mind that it was for “the last time,” if she engaged in the sinful pleasures of the evening. But, alas! the solemn warning was disregarded. In “the house of mirth” she forgot God, her Maker, and lightly esteemed the monitions of the Holy Ghost. On her return home she was sensibly impressed that she had by her conduct grieved the Holy Spirit from her youthful heart. It never strove with her again! Before the light of the next morning she died in utter despair of the mercy of her God, telling all of her friends with her last breath that she had lost her soul for one night of sinful pleasure!"


Here is a very plain case. Her mind was “impressed” by the Holy Ghost that this was her last call. She resisted the call, and was “sensibly impressed” that she had grieved away the Holy Spirit. But who will prove that those impressions were from God? Shall these impressions be set above the plain word of God? God's word yet remained, “Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation.” It was, most surely, an awful thing to run headlong into sin in the face of the impression that this was her last call----and equally so whether that impression came from God or the devil. The fact is, she supposed it her last call, and sinned in spite of that belief. This was truly an awful sin----yet no proof that her impression came from God. Did not the word of God yet say, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men”? The same may be said of her further “sensible” impression, that she had grieved away the Holy Ghost. Did that impression come from God? Such an impression is the reverse of the ways of God. Where does God ever convict men for the purpose of driving them to despair? This, I verily believe, is exactly in line with the devil's operations, but God convicts men to move them to repentance, not to despair. She had an impression that the Spirit had ceased to strive with her, and that impression was used to set aside the plain word of God.

The awful case which we quoted in last month's magazine is perhaps more convincing still. This man was certain of his damnation, and apparently unconcerned about it. If ever we could grant that the Spirit of God had ceased to strive with a man, surely this is the case. “I know,” said he, “the very time when the Spirit of God took its flight.” But here I take leave to doubt the fact. How did he “know” this? He doubtless “knew” the very time when he had sinned grievously against the broad light of heaven, and doubtless his outraged conscience berated him sharply for it, but was it right to conclude from this that there was no more hope? Did his grievous backsliding make null and void that word of Holy Scripture which says, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men”? We realize that that scripture makes one solemn exception, of speaking against the Holy Ghost, but this was not so much as pretended in his case. Suppose the Spirit of God had “taken its flight” from him. Suppose his convictions and his feelings did then cease. Suppose he knew this, and knew the very hour of it. Does that prove that it must be permanent and irrevocable? Does that render void the precious word of Scripture, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out”? Would God refuse him mercy if he came humbly pleading for it, on God's terms? True, he had no desire to come, but if that proves anything at all, it does not prove that the door of mercy was shut against him, but only that his own unbelieving and impenitent heart was so hardened that it was “impossible to renew him again unto repentance.” Others in the same state of mind, whose cases we have related above, certainly did desire to come to Christ and to salvation, but were certain that God would no longer receive them. It is plain enough to me that this certainty was neither more nor less than unbelief, and I am very loth to learn my doctrine of the ways of God from the unbelief of sinners. Indeed, I must not conceal my strong suspicions that there is a great deal of pride in the certainty which some folks have that God has given them up, and the Spirit of God ceased to strive with them. And not only pride, but also a certain satisfaction gained in laying the responsibility for their present impenitence upon God, rather than taking it home to themselves. It is not their misfortune, but their wickedness, and is in fact a reckless expression of the enmity of their hearts against God. I am very reluctant to make a doctrine of this.

And observe, the real basis of this doctrine of “crossing the deadline” seems to be in the experience of sinners, rather than in the statements of Scripture. I am not one to despise experience, even in the formulation of doctrine. I believe, and most firmly, that the Scriptures cannot be understood at all apart from experience, and any interpretation of Scripture which disregards or contradicts human experience is certainly false. But then I believe that the truth is to be found where Scripture and experience coincide, and certainly not in experience against Scripture. What Scripture can be brought to prove that the Spirit ceases to strive with men while yet they live----what Scripture to prove that the door of mercy is shut against those who would enter, were it not “too late”?

I am of course aware that the Lord has said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” but this seems little to the purpose. This was said in anticipation of the flood. “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” (Gen. 6:3). This has nothing to do with the Spirit ceasing to strive with individual sinners, but with the whole race, and all at the same time. Neither does it speak of the Spirit ceasing to strive with men while they lived on, but rather when the judgement was poured out which "destroyed them all." This scripture would seem to be against this doctrine, then, rather than for it. The Scripture also affirms, “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Prov. 29:1). This is very solemn, yet it does not appear here that the Spirit of God ceases to strive with them while yet they live, but just the reverse. When they have worn out the patience of God, and their day of mercy has ended, they are destroyed, precisely as they were when the Spirit ceased to strive with men at the flood.

But I am also aware that the Bible says that God “gave up” men to their own lusts, and to a reprobate mind, and that of course before the day of judgement, while they lived on. This would seem to be more to the purpose. Yet I do not believe that this refers to particular individuals, singled out from the rest of men, but to all the Gentiles, concerning whom Paul yet says, “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:16-17). Even if it be said that the Lord's giving up of the people to a reprobate mind, and suffering them to walk in their own ways, implies his Spirit ceasing to strive with them, yet it is plain enough that he had not in any sense finally or irrevocably rejected them, for he left himself with a witness all the while, and to what end? Surely, “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him,” as Paul says elsewhere. (Acts 17:27).

Some may wish to cite the case of Pharaoh----a very solemn case, to be sure----but wherein does it appear that God had ceased to strive with him? Is not the whole account one long history of God's striving with Pharaoh? That striving even produced some occasional amendment of purpose in Pharaoh, though it was feeble and short-lived. Ah, but God had said beforehand that he would harden Pharaoh's heart. Yes, for God knew Pharaoh, and knew well enough that the effect of his striving would be to harden Pharaoh's heart, but that God exerted any direct and secret influence upon Pharaoh's heart in order to harden it is what I absolutely deny, and what no man can prove from Scripture, though their theology may assume it.

Though many arguments are brought from Scripture in support of the doctrine of “crossing the deadline,” it really seems that none of them are much to the purpose. It must be understood that unbelief is very pious. It will generally plead Scripture for its position, or plead some truth in support of error. So in the awful account published in our October number, the impenitent and unbelieving backslider says, “Do you think to force God? Do you think to force the gates of heaven that are barred by Justice against me?” Pious as this may sound, it is simply unbelief. The faith of the gospel is not a faith in the justice of God, but in his mercy------not a belief in his mercy to the exclusion of his justice, but a belief in his mercy in spite of his justice, and because his justice has been satisfied. The man in this account was guilty of no sin for which hundreds of others had not been forgiven. The Bible says, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven,” and “When I see the blood, I will pass over you,” but unbelieving hearts refuse this, and persist in their belief that justice must exclude them.

What proof had this man that the gates of heaven were barred against him, in contradiction of a hundred plain scriptures? While he was in health he could calmly plead his complete indifference as the proof that the Spirit of God had ceased to strive with him. In health he could say, “I know the very time when the Spirit of God took its flight, and what you may be more surprised at than all I have yet said, is, I am not troubled about it, no, no more than if there was no God to punish sin, nor a hell to punish sinners in.” But all of this evaporated upon his death bed. Then “his conscience roared like thunder against him.” Then “The distress of his mind seemed to swallow up that of his body.” Then there was “horror depicted in every feature of his face.” Then his eyes were “flashing terror all around him.” All of this is proof enough that his former indifference was no proof at all that the Spirit of God had ceased to strive with him.

And after all, what had this man done that thousands now saved had not done also? It does not appear that any of those who have been certain of their own damnation have been guilty of anything for which many others have not been forgiven. The man whose case Moody relates was guilty of delaying his repentance----intending indeed to repent “next spring,” but not now, and not in Chicago. How many thousands have lived many years of their lives with just such determinations to delay, and yet been converted? This man doubtless, at a certain crisis, deliberately put off the drawings of the Spirit of God, but so have many thousands, who were yet afterwards saved. R. A. Torrey, when a young man, chose not only to delay his repentance, but deliberately determined not to repent at all. He feared that if he became a Christian, God would require him to preach. He was determined not to preach, but to be a lawyer, and therefore deliberately chose not to be a Christian at all. Surely this was doing the works of Esau----surely a more heinous thing than determining to be a Christian next spring. Yet Torrey afterwards submitted to God on that point, and was converted.

Some will contend, however, that while such a man as Torrey, who had never made any profession of religion, might indeed be saved, backsliders may not be. This they prove by Hebrews 6:4-6, “It is impossible...to renew them again unto repentance.” This is a very solemn warning against apostasy, and I am certainly unwilling to speak one word to detract from its solemnity. Nevertheless, it appears that whatever impossibility there may be of renewing apostates to repentance lies in themselves, not in God. It is, “seeing they crucify the Son of God afresh,” not “seeing that the Spirit of God will no longer strive with them.” It is the determination of their hearts against God, not the determination of God against them. And whatever the application of this scripture may be, it remains a fact that thousands of backsliders have been reclaimed, including many who once believed that there was no hope for them.

Richard Weaver was a godless man, and a noted prize-fighter. He was converted, and served God most faithfully and happily for some time. At length three men began to abuse his bride-to-be. She appealed to Richard for protection. Says he, “I could no longer refrain. I off with my coat and hat, and let fly right and left. Thus I, who had been praying only a few minutes before, was betrayed into behaving like a madman. I had two of them on the ground, and had hold of the ringleader by the hair of the head, and was striking him in such rage that I believe I would have killed him had not some one stayed my hand.” This he regarded as a “fall from grace,” and his hope of salvation was lost. He returned to his old life of sin, drinking, fighting, and associating with the worst of characters. Visions of hell-fire and cries of “Too late” tormented him even in his dreams. Yet this man was converted, and became one of the great evangelists of the nineteenth century.

John Newton, the author----as well he might be----of “Amazing Grace,” spent most of his youth and early manhood opposing and blaspheming God in the most deliberate and profane manner, in spite of the fact that “he was often disturbed with religious convictions,” and in spite of the fact that he had once been given to praying and reading the Scriptures, and regarded himself as quite religious. “...my whole life,” he says, “when awake, was a course of most horrid impiety and profaneness. I know not that I have ever since met so daring a blasphemer. Not content with common oaths and imprecations, I daily invented new ones.” Paul “was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,” and says, “but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (I Tim. 1:13). Paul says, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 26:9). Of this Newton writes, “...but if much forgiveness is the distinction, I might venture to dispute precedence with Paul himself. I am the man who did many things against Jesus of Nazareth; not because I thought I ought, but because I was resolved I would.” “The admonitions of conscience, which from successive repulses had grown weaker and weaker, at length entirely ceased; and, for the space of many months, if not for some years, he had not a single check of that sort. At times he was visited with sickness, and believed himself to be near death, but had not the least concern about the consequences. 'In a word,' says he, 'I seemed to have every mark of final impenitence and rejection: neither judgments nor mercies made the least impression on me.”' Yet we all know that this man was converted.

Jerry McAuley was converted from a life of crime while in prison. His prison cell, he affirms, became a very heaven, while he walked with his God. When released from prison he immediately sought a prayer meeting. He went up to the door, but was afraid to go in, having never been in a Protestant meeting in his life. He was afterwards betrayed into drinking beer, and fell eventually into all of his old life of sin and crime as a river-thief. Yet he was converted, and became one of the most loved men of God in America. Sam Hadley was also converted after fifteen years of backsliding. Thousands of backsliders have been reclaimed, and thousands of the most daring sinners converted. Thousands who have long and deliberately resisted the strivings of the Spirit of God have been at length softened and turned. Charles G. Finney even relates the case of a young man, bent upon a course of wickedness, who deliberately blasphemed the Holy Ghost, thinking thereby to stifle his own convictions, and move the Spirit of God to depart from him, and leave him to hardness of heart. He found, however, that the experiment did not work. His convictions remained, and he was subsequently converted. This case is very solemn, and I do not pretend to be able to explain it, but merely present the matter as Finney relates it.

All these were saved by faith, in spite of sins as grievous as any committed by those impenitent and unbelieving souls who were certain of their own damnation. If this certainty was in fact a belief of the truth, then these souls were lost by faith.

It will doubtless be said that to overturn this doctrine of “crossing the deadline” will encourage presumption and procrastination, but if so it cannot be helped. Any and all preaching of grace and mercy may be abused by sinners to excuse their procrastination, but there is no reason in it. Though the door of mercy may remain wide open to all that breathe, it is madness for any lost sinner to so presume upon the mercy of God as to suppose that he will yet breathe tomorrow. He may go to sleep tonight, and wake up in hell, and of what use will it be to him that the door of mercy is yet open? It will no longer be open to him when death has swept him away, and that may happen at any time. Those many accounts of sinners who have died in despair, believing it too late for them to find mercy, are no less solemn if we suppose them mistaken in their belief. Those awful accounts yet remain solemn proofs of the hardening effects of sin, of the power and cunning of the devil, of the deceitfulness of unbelief, and of the awful danger of trifling with the mercy of God, even though they do not prove that there is no hope. If the devil can but convince a man that there is no hope for him, he has gained his end as surely as if there were no hope in fact. Those who delay to repent not only tempt God, but tempt the devil also, and those who think to match wits with him may find themselves bettered.

To conclude: though I dare not say that there is never an instance of a man irrevocably given up by God to impenitence and damnation while he yet lives and breathes, yet I very much doubt that most of those who have professed or believed themselves so have actually been so. Their belief has been neither more nor less than unbelief. They have been deceived by the devil, and believed his lies, in direct contradiction to a hundred direct statements and promises of God. Where does God ever speak to drive men to despair? His most solemn pronouncements of judgement are designed to move men to repentance, not to despair, as plainly appears in Jonah's preaching to Nineveh, and many other places. If those sinners who believed themselves given up by God had but put aside their pride and unbelief, and cried to God for mercy, they would doubtless have found it as surely as did the men of Nineveh.

I write to arm the saints of God with those weapons which they may need to overcome the lies of the devil, and the unbelief of the impenitent---and so to deliver precious souls from the devil's last stronghold, the dark dungeon of despair.

Some Common-Sense Arguments for the Use of

Musical Instruments in the Worship of God

by Glenn Conjurske

There are numbers of Christians of various denominations who contend strongly against the use of musical instruments in the worship of God, or at any rate in the public worship of God. Numerous arguments are advanced in favor of this restriction, and long debates have been held upon it, especially among the various factions of the Church of Christ. The fact that such instruments were used in the Old Testament we are told is irrelevant. The Old Testament is not the New Testament. Those who insist upon this have apparently failed to notice that musical instruments are also used in heaven, in Revelation 5:8. I suppose they shall tell us that heaven is not earth, and things may be allowed there which are not allowed here. This may be true, and such an argument may sometimes be legitimate, but the presence of harps in heaven proves at any rate that they are not intrinsically wrong, and it may after all be a small error, if error it be, to use on earth that which is used in heaven.

Some contend that no musical instrument can ever equal the beauty of the human voice, but this, if true, is certainly irrelevant. There may be other reasons for using a musical instrument than the mere beauty of it. A piano will help to keep the people together, and to keep them on tune. More important, it will set the proper pitch. I have tried upon occasion to sing along with certain congregations, who apparently go on year after year straining to come up to the high notes, or down to the low notes, in hymns which are improperly pitched. The use of a piano would render their singing a little easier. Some congregations wisely avoid this difficulty by using a pitch pipe, which apparently is neither musical nor an instrument. A good song leader, however, may learn to pitch the tunes properly, so that my argument here will be rendered void----unless some folks would like to enjoy good singing where no good song leader is to be had.

But on. It seems there is another and deeper inconsistency in those who refuse to use musical instruments. Though they will not use a musical instrument in their singing, yet they continually sing that music which was composed and written with the use of a musical instrument. This is a practical necessity, if they are to sing the old hymns of the church, for it is a certain fact that most of the hymns which have ever been written have been either composed or committed to writing with the aid of a musical instrument. Though many may be capable of composing a tune without the use of an instrument, yet not one in ten thousand of them could either arrange that tune with its parts and chords, or commit the whole to paper, without using an instrument. And it should be understood here that it is not the mere melody----not the mere tune, that is----which makes music beautiful, but the combination of melody and harmony, and in some cases even the change of chords. All of this has in most cases been composed and committed to writing with the aid of a musical instrument. There may be here and there an accomplished musican who could do it without one, but certainly not most, and those who can do so doubtless owe that ability to their familiarity with musical instruments. I am certain that whatever ability I may have in that direction----which is not much----I owe entirely to my familiarity with the piano. It is altogether certain that most of the hymn music which is in use in the church today has been produced and written with the use of a piano or organ. With what consistency, then, can we sing such music, while we declaim against the use of those instruments, without the use of which that music would not exist?

Such a course might be likened to a man who goes to a saw mill and buys his lumber, and then sets to work to build his house, all the while declaiming against the use of power saws in building. His hand saw is quite sufficient, and he has no need of a power saw. Thus he raises his house, with lumber produced with a power saw. And so men will declaim against musical instruments, and sing acapella those songs which were produced by the use of a musical instrument. Consistency, thou art a gem!

But there is a further inconsistency in those who refuse to use musical instruments in the church. Except for certain musical geniuses, all of us must learn the music we sing with the help of a musical instrument. Not one in ten thousand of us can look at the printed music of a song we have never heard, and sing it from the printed page, without hearing it played on an instrument. The hymn book which I use myself, and which I compiled a number of years ago, contains more than threescore hymns, including some of the best hymns I know, which I had never heard until I found them in old books----hymns which are entirely unknown in the church today, and can be learned only from the printed copies which survive in old hymn books. Every one of these I learned by hearing it played on the piano. This is the only way most of us can learn such hymns. Not only so, but for every good hymn which I have thus learned, I have listened to perhaps forty or fifty, which I found I must reject because they were mediocre and inferior. I must hear the music of every one of these played on the piano, in order even to be able to discern whether the music were good or poor. This is a simple necessity. I could not do this work at all without a musical instrument.

Now if the hymns must be both written and learned by means of a musical instrument, what harm can there be in singing them with the help of such an instrument?

This appears to me to put the matter upon the solid ground of common sense. Allow me, however, to anticipate an answer to my argument. It may be said that when Solomon built the temple, the tools of man were allowed in the hewing of the stones and timbers, but not in the erection of the house. “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” (I Kings 6:7). From this we might conclude that it is acceptable to use such human inventions as pianos and organs to produce the music, before it is brought to the sanctuary, but not in its use in the temple itself. To this I answer simply, Those tunes and arrangements themselves, not to mention the very words of the hymns, are as much the invention of man as the musical instruments are. God has given us no inspired music, and the inspired words which he has given are in general unsuitable for singing, and were never intended to be sung. If we are to sing hymns at all, we must sing something which is the invention of man, and what sin can there be therefore in singing it to the accompaniment of a man-made instrument? I plead only for consistency and common sense.

But understand, I do not plead for guitars, much less cymbals and drums. Guitars, the way they are commonly played, are of no use for learning hymns, and drums are of none. I am a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, and all such modern innovations, brought into the church from the world----and generally by the Neo-evangelicals and Charismatics----I stand solidly against. The piano has long been the instrument of Fundamentalism, and it is well suited to congregational singing, in a way that a guitar never was or will be.

And understand one other thing. I believe we ought always to deal gently with other people's prejudices. I will no more force a piano upon a congregation which is prejudiced against it, than I will allow any Neo-evangelicals to force a guitar upon me. Our congregational singing ought by all means to be a pleasant experience, in which we may comfortably take part. It ceases to be that when we walk upon people's feelings in order to have our own way in it. I will endeavor to convince the straitest traditionalists that there is no sin in a musical instrument, but I will not walk upon their feelings. If they choose to come where I bear rule, they shall sing with a piano, but if I go where they bear rule, I will sing without one. I once visited a Church of Christ in Oberlin, Kansas. It was a Wednesday evening, and there were perhaps seventy-five people present. They had no prayer meeting, but a singing meeting. They sang acapella, and it was most beautiful and enjoyable. That music yet rings in my soul every time I think of that place. That congregation needed no piano----that is, they needed none with which to sing the hymns, though they doubtless needed one in order to learn them. Other congregations, especially smaller ones, do need one, and it is surely no sin to use one.


Gems of Wisdom from the

Meditations and Vows

of Bishop Hall

[Joseph Hall, a bishop in the Church of England, must have done little but think. His published works contain Meditations and Vows, The Art of Divine Meditation, Holy Observations, and Contemplations on the historical portions of the Bible. He was a spiritual man, who thought to good purpose, and his writings are a mine of condensed wisdom, well expressed. I have selected a number of the better (and briefer) items from his Meditations and Vows. It is on the side of the blessings of modern technology that the works of such men are available on microfilm, at any good university library, and those who want them may have them. One reason for my presenting them here is to whet the appetite of the reader for the writings of the author. I give them in a near resemblance to their old clothing, in which they appear in the volume from which I have taken them, namely, The Works of Joseph Hall, Printed in London in 1628. The reader should have no difficulty with this, if he bears in mind that the language of that time commonly employed an "i" for our "j," a "v" for our initial "u," and a "u" for our consonant "v," while the printing of those times employed the old-style "s," which is an "s," not an "f." ---- editor.]

I will vse my friend as Moses did his rod: While it was a rod, he held it familiarly in his hand: when once a Serpent, he ran away from it. §

I haue seldome seene much ostentation, and much learning met together. The Sunne, riing, and declining, makes long hadowes; at mid-day when hee is at highest, none at all. Beides that, skill when it is too much howne, loseth the grace: as freh-coloured wares, if they be often opened, lose their brightnesse, and are soiled with much handling. I had rather applaud my selfe for hauing much, that I hew not; than that others hould applaud me for hewing more than I haue. §

An ambitious man is the greatest enemie to himselfe, of any in the world beides: for he still torments himselfe with hopes, and deires, and cares: which he might auoid, if he would remit of the height of his thoughts, and liue quietly. My onely ambition hall be, to rest in Gods fauour on earth, and to be a Saint in heauen. §

There was neuer good thing eaily come by. The Heathen man could say, God sels knowledge for sweat; and so he doth honour for ieopardy. Neuer any man hath got either wealth or learning with ease. Therefore the greatest good must needs bee most difficult. How hall I hope to get Christ, if I take no paines for him? And if in all other things the difficultie of obtaining, whets the minde so much the more to seeke; why hould it in this alone daunt mee? I will not care what I doe, what I suffer, so I may winne Christ. If men can endure such cutting, such lancing, and searing of their bodies, to protrac a miserable life yet a while longer; what paine hould I refuse for eternitie? §

Then onely is the Church most happy, when Truth and Peace kisse each other; and then miserable, when either of them balke the way, or when they meet and kisse not. For truth, without peace, is turbulent: and peace, without truth, is secure iniustice. Though I loue peace well, yet I loue maine truths better. And though I loue all truths well, yet I had rather conceale a small truth, than disturbe a common peace. §

The World teacheth me, that it is madnesse to leaue behinde me those goods that I may carry with me: Christianitie teacheth me, that what I charitably giue aliue, I carrie with me dead: and experience teacheth me, that what I leaue behinde, I lose. I will carrie that treasure with me by giuing it, which the worldling loseth by keeping it: so, while his corps hall carrie nothing but a winding cloth to his graue, I hall be richer vnder the earth, than I was aboue it. §

The godly sowe in teares, and reape in ioy. The seed-time is commonly waterih, and lowring. I will be content with a wet Spring, so I may be sure of a cleere and ioyfull Haruest. §

One said, It is good to inure thy youth to speake well; for good speech is many times drawne into the affecion: But, I would feare, that speaking well without feeling, were the next way to procure an habituall hypocriie. Let my good words follow good affecions; not goe before them. I will therefore speake as I thinke; but withall, I will labour to thinke well; and then I know, I cannot but speake well. §

There is none like to Luthers three masters; Prayer, Tentation, Meditation. Tentation stirs vp holy Meditation: Meditation prepares to Prayer: and Prayer makes profit of Tentation; and fetcheth all diuine knowledge from Heauen. Of others, I may learne the Theorie of Diuinity; of these only, the Pracise. Other masters teach me by rote, to speake Parrot-like of heauenly things: these alone, with feeling and vnderstanding. §

I see a number, which, with Shimei, whiles they seeke their seruant, which is riches, lose their soules. No worldly thing hall draw me with-
out the gates, within which God hath confined me. §

I had rather confesse my ignorance, than fally professe knowledge. It is no hame, not to know all things; but it is a iust hame to ouer-reach in any thing. §

I finde, that all worldly things require a long time in getting; and affoord a hort pleasure in enioying them. I will not care much, for what I haue; nothing, for what I haue not. §

The common feares of the World are causelesse, and ill placed. No man feares to doe ill; euery man to suffer ill: wherein, if we conider it well, we hall finde that we feare our best friends. For my part, I haue learned more of God and of my selfe, in one weekes extremitie, than all my whole lifes prosperitie had taught me afore. And, in reason and common experience, prosperitie vsually makes vs forget our death: adueritie on the other ide, makes vs neglec our life. Now (if we measure both of these, by their effecs) forgetfulnesse of death makes vs secure: neglec of this life makes vs carefull of a better. So much therefore as neglec of life is better than forgetfulnesse of death; and watchfulnesse better than securitie: so much more beneficiall will I esteem adueritie, than prosperitie. §

Euery icknesse is a little death. I will be content to die oft, that I may die once well. §

Deire oft-times makes vs vnthankfull. For, who so hopes for that he hath not, vsually forgets that which he hath. I will not suffer my heart to roue after high or imposible hopes, lest I hould, in the meane time, contemne present benefits. §

Augutines friend, Nebridius, not vniustly hated a hort answer, to a weighty and difficult question; because the disquiition of great truths requires time, and the determining is perillous: I will as much hate a tedious and farre-fetched answer to a hort and eaie question. For, as that other wrongs the truth, so this the hearer. §

It is a vaine-glorious flattery for a man to praise himselfe: An enuious wrong to detrac from others. I will therefore speake no ill of others, no good of my selfe. §

True friendhip necessarily requires Patience. For there is no man, in whom I hall not milike somewhat, and who hall not, as iustly milike somewhat in me. My friends faults therefore, if little, I will swallow and digest; if great, I will smother them: howeuer, I will winke at them to others; but, louingly notifie them to himselfe. §

Iniuries hurt not more in the receiuing, than in the remembrance. A small iniury hall goe as it comes: a great iniury may dine or sup with me; but none at all hall lodge with me. Why hould I vex my selfe, because another hath vexed me? §

It is good dealing with that, ouer which we haue the most power. If my state will not be framed to my minde, I will labour to frame my minde to my estate. §

It is a great misery to be either alwaies, or neuer alone: society of men hath not so much gaine as distracion. In greatest company I will be alone to my selfe: in greatest priuacie, in company with God. §


Not Answering Again

Abstract of a Sermon Preached on Sept. 7, 1997

by Glenn Conjurske

“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things, not answering again.” (Titus 2:9).

I am aware that this scripture speaks of servants, but I intend to apply it to children. We have no servants, but we do have children. The same principles certainly apply to both. Both are under authority, and children certainly owe that obedience to their parents which servants do to their masters.

The text says, “not answering again.” “Again,” you should understand, is used here in its old sense of “back.” “Not answering back,” or, as the common phrase is today, not talking back. If servants are responsible not to talk back to their masters, certainly children have the same responsibility not to talk back to their parents. Both are under authority. That authority is ordained of God, and is the same in its essence, though its workings may be diverse in different spheres. I am not perfectly clear as to how to differentiate between the different sorts of authority, but it is plain to common sense that a man does not exercise authority in the same manner over his wife as he does over his children. Whether the difference is in kind, or in degree, or in some other thing, may be difficult to determine. Yet we all know there is some kind of difference, and every man of sense will grant that there ought to be. Still authority is authority, and these words “not answering again” have something to teach us about the nature of authority.

Authority is the right to rule, which implies the right to determine, and the right to enforce. “Answering again” is a challenge of that right. You may as well settle it in your mind that any child that talks back is not subject to your authority, and this is a very serious matter, for you have that authority from God, and stand in God's place in the exercise of it. You have no more right to allow your children to trample upon your authority, than they have to trample on it. In so doing you wrong your God and you wrong your children----for it is a certainty that a child who will not submit to your authority will not submit to God's.

It may seem strange to us that God addresses such an admonition as “not answering again” to servants, and no such admonition to children. It may be that there was less need for this in Paul's day. It is a characteristic of the last days that children are “disobedient to parents,” and but a couple of generations ago children would not have dared to speak to their parents as they commonly do today. There are no doubt reasons for the change. The devil is of course opposed to parental authority. Why? Because it is of God, and that is the only reason the devil needs to oppose anything.

Democracy, you understand, is the sacred cow of America, and of the West in general, but democracy is not of God. The foundation of democracy is the principle that authority is the creation of the people, whereas it is one of the most elementary principles of Scripture that authority is of God. According to democracy authority comes up from the people. According to the Bible it comes down from God. At any rate, the devil has made an all-out endeavor in these last days to introduce democracy into the family----first in what is called feminism, and then in that darling of all the liberals, “children's rights.” Not that the devil cares anything for the rights of children, any more than he does for the rights of women. He is only determined to overturn the rights of God. He only seeks to transfer the authority from the parents to the state, so that he may take it into his own hands.

Meanwhile children are under parental authority by the appointment of God. They have a responsibility to respect and submit to that authority. But I want you to observe another possible reason why Paul commands servants not to answer again, and gives no such command to children. The servants are assumed to be responsible adults. Children are another matter. They have the same responsibility, but young children do not have the same understanding. Therefore the greater responsibility falls upon the parents, and it is the parents to whom I am preaching this morning. Your children have a responsibility to honor and submit to your authority, but what two-year-old has the understanding and ability, unaided, to perform this? If your children have a responsibility to honor your authority, you have the responsibility to maintain it. Remember, this is no democracy. You were not elected to your place of authority, and if your children held an election today, you might find yourself out of office tomorrow. How long do you suppose your place of authority would be maintained if you left it entirely to your children to maintain it? That is your business, and it is a solemn trust from the Lord, who gave you that position of authority.

An indispensable ingredient in authority is the right to enforce, and that certainly includes the right to maintain its own position. When Paul says, “What will ye, shall I come to you in meekness, or with a rod?” he certainly indicates that he means to maintain his place of authority. It is useless to dream of authority enforcing its determinations, if it has no right to maintain its position. It is the parents' place to maintain their authority. But understand, every time your children talk back to you, they challenge your authority.

That challenge comes in various forms and degrees. Children who are bold and open in their rebellion will simply say, “No, I won't,” or when they are older, “If you want it done, do it yourself,” or “I'm not your slave.” No child will come to that unless his discipline has been long and seriously neglected, but still there are children enough in this land who answer their parents that way every day. No parent who understands his responsibility will ever allow it to come to that, but it is when the parents allow softer and subtler forms of back-talk that children become so bold in their evil.

Those softer and subtler forms usually begin early, for children are born depraved. One of the earliest forms of answering back usually comes in the form of the question “Why?” There are some little children who by the time they reach two years of age have already acquired the habit of answering every command with “Why?” And some parents are foolish enough to excuse and justify this. They refuse to believe that that “Why?” is a challenge to their authority. They contend that little children are not that intelligent. I have known some parents----moved by passion, not reason----who denied that a six-year-old boy had intelligence enough to manipulate his parents, and yet I had watched that same boy very subtly and very successfully manipulate his parents when he was three. I won't contend that a two-year-old who asks “Why?” has thought the matter out, but he acts instinctively against your authority. In the first place, he gains time by answering back. He delays the unpleasant task----and the unpleasant submission to you.

But it goes deeper than this. His “Why?” is a challenge to your authority. It is an attempt to remove the matter from the ground of authority, and put it on the ground of reason. His “Why?” says in essence, “Give me a reason to do this: otherwise I won't. I will submit to reason, but not to bare authority.” And the effect of this, if allowed, can only be to overturn your authority altogether. Instead of requiring anything of your child, you will be discussing everything with him, to persuade him that what you ask of him is reasonable. And you may have rough work of this----to persuade him that work is better than play, that self-denial is better than self-indulgence, that it is better to eat vegetables than candy, that it is better for him to do your will than his own.

And the fact is, you have no right to allow your child to take the matter off the ground of authority, and put it on the ground of reason. Yet some parents habitually anticipate their children in this, and put all their orders on the ground of reason instead of authority. Every command they issue is immediately followed by a reason. “Don't do that, or you may get hurt.” “You can't have that now, because it will spoil your appetite.” I don't mean to say this is never legitimate, but parents who do this habitually manifest the weakness of their authority, while they contribute to weaken it further. God gave Adam no reason when he commanded him not to eat of the forbidden tree----except only this: “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” That reason told Adam nothing beyond the fact that God had the right to command and the ability to enforce.

Reason is very good in its place, and an unreasonable use of authority is a great evil, but still your children are required to submit to your authority, not your reason. But there are two sides to every question. All rebellion is not entirely the fault of the rebels. The Bible admonishes fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, and with good reason. An unreasonable use of authority will provoke them not only to wrath, but to open rebellion, and this will not be all the children's fault. A proud and insubordinate spirit will of course regard almost every expression of authority as unreasonable, but even when the spirit is right it requires faith to properly submit to authority----faith in the wisdom and goodness of that authority. This is true even of the authority of God. An unreasonable use of authority, whether in the church, the state, or the family, invites rebellion. Bare authority, untempered by goodness and love, provokes rebellion. We must trust in order to properly submit, and it belongs to the one in authority to earn that trust, by a reasonable use of that authority.

But this much being understood, it remains that your children are required to submit to your authority, not your reason. To put reason in the place of authority is to destroy the very essence of authority. Why does authority exist in the first place? Precisely because men will not, of their own will and reason, do as they ought. They lack the understanding, or the will, or both, to do as they ought. Therefore God places them under authority, to require them to do as they ought. Parents, by their years and experience, of course know better than their children do, and better than their children can. We know that there are evil parents------parents who are very corrupt in heart and life------and yet it is a certain fact that children are much better off under the authority of corrupt parents than they could be with no authority at all. Fallible and erring authority is better than none.

So likewise in the church. God puts men in authority in the church. Those men are called elders, being men who by their age and experience have a better understanding of what ought to be done than the younger saints can have. Their authority is a benefit to the church, and the authority of parents is a benefit to their children. But the human race is rebellious in heart----does not like to submit to authority----and beyond that, the prevalence of democratic principles has made authority of every kind very unpopular in this land. A number of people have left this church during the past few years, and----aside from those who have left for no better reason than their personal resentment-----I believe a major issue with most of them has been authority. They leave here and scour the country to find another church as much like this one as they can, but without the authority. They want the kind of standards which we have, for those standards bespeak devotedness and commitment, but they want those standards to be optional. They want to submit to those standards which they understand, and none other. They want reason, but not authority.

Yet it is God's way to rule by authority, and this is good for the church, and for the child. If the prevalence of democratic principles has blinded the church in America to that fact, yet there are few who would question it in the family. The Bible says, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (Lam. 3:27). To bear the yoke is not to submit to reason, but authority. When a man puts a yoke on the neck of the ox, this is not to convince him that it is better to pull the plow than to eat the grass, but to compel him to pull the plow. And whatever we may think concerning the ox, that yoke is a benefit to the child. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”

On the other hand, it is evil, it is harmful, to allow a child to remove your commands from the ground of authority, in order to put them on the ground of reason. Yet that is exactly what he is asking when he answers back with “Why?” But with a good many even of very young children this is an inveterate habit. Every parental requirement is met with an immediate and reflexionary “Why?” Thus your child challenges your authority, delays submission, denies your position above him, and engages you as an equal in discussion. That habit ought to be nipped in the bud, and not by your child, but by yourself.

Another manner in which children commonly “answer again” is by making excuses. Every one of those excuses is a challenge to your authority, and perhaps worse, a stab at your character. You say, “Johnny, it's time to bring in the fire wood,” and he “answers again” with “It's too cold out,” or “I brought in enough yesterday,” or “I'm too busy right now.” This is another way of removing the matter from the ground of your authority, and putting it on the ground of reason. But there is something worse in this. It challenges not only your authority, but your reason also. Every one of those excuses in effect charges you with being unreasonable. Every one of them says in effect, “Your requirement is unreasonable, for this reason.” There is no excuse for these excuses. Most of them are not even true, and all of them are presented as a direct challenge to your authority. You have no more right to allow such excuses than your child has to make them. You are the representative of God in the exercise of your authority, and you have no right to allow your children to challenge it, or to set it aside. You have no right, therefore, to allow them to “answer again.”


A. C. Gaebelein's New Beatitude

So many who claim to be his [John Wesley's] followers reject the Bible and treat the Holy Scriptures as if they were but common literature. But as someone said to the writer years ago----“John Wesley is a back number; he believed many things which we can no longer believe.”We are glad to belong to the “back numbers.”It is an illustrious company. We formulate a new beatitude. It is this: “Blessed are ye back-numbers, for ye shall be among the first numbers in glory.”----Our Hope, Edited by Arno C. Gaebelein. New York: Publication Office “Our Hope,”Volume XLII, 1936, pg. 228.

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