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Vol. 7, No. 4
Apr., 1998

Should the King James Version Be Revised?

by Glenn Conjurske

We must understand at the outset that there are actually two questions involved in this matter:

1. Does the King James Version stand in need of revision?

2. Ought it to be revised at the present time?

The liberal will of course answer “yes” to both questions. The traditionalist will as certainly answer “no” to both, while I, as a conservative, must answer “yes” to the first question, and “no” to the second.

As to the first question, there can really be no doubt that the King James Version stands in need of revision. The conservative and orthodox of every description have always acknowledged this, and I do not believe it was ever denied by any of the orthodox anywhere before the advent of Fuller and Ruckman. There are errors in the King James Version, errors in text, and errors in translation. The insertion of I John 5:7 is certainly an error in the text. So is “book of life” in Revelation 22:19. “Easter” in Acts 12:4 is certainly an error in translation, as is “one fold” in John 10:16, and “Jesus” for “Joshua” in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8, to name no more. Besides positive errors, there are renderings which are ambiguous, unclear, or misleading. And such folks as Elias, Esaias, and Osee ought by all means to be turned into Elijah, Isaiah, and Hosea.

But since I grant all of this, why would I stand against the revision of the old version? For several very weighty reasons.

To begin with, who is to revise it? We have seen numerous revisions already, and every one of them inferior to the old version in style and language, in spiritual atmosphere, and quite generally inferior even in accuracy. Where are we to find revisers who are capable of doing better than our numerous revisers have done already? On this point I stand just where R. C. Trench stood 140 years ago. Convinced that a revision ought to come, and would come, he yet said, “Not, however, I would trust, as yet; for we are not as yet in any respect prepared for it; the Greek and the English which should enable us to bring this to a successful end might, it is to be feared, be wanting alike.” If there is any difference between that time and this, it is certainly in the fact that we are now much less prepared to undertake the revision, than that generation was. The Greek text is no more settled now than it was then. Greek scholarship is at a much lower point now than it was then, as is patristic scholarship, knowledge of the ancient versions, understanding of the English language, spirituality----indeed, everything which bears on the matter.

But however that may be, or however it may then have been, only a dozen years after Trench spoke, men set their hands to produce that revision, which they were not in any respect prepared for. Much of the best scholarship in the nation spent more than ten years working on this, and the result was so inferior to the old version that the Revised Version never gained a foothold. The actual gain over the old version was so little, and the loss so exceeding great, that the final result was an insult to the church of God. The people did not want such a revision, and would not accept it.

I am aware that there have been a few----including some good men, such as R. A. Torrey----who generally preferred the Revised Version to the King James Version, but these men were exceptions, and I believe their adherence to the Revised Version was a manifestation of their weakness, not their strength. They were too intellectual, and too enamored with what is called “scholarship.” The people of God in general have never accepted the Revised Version. Even many of those who received it most warmly upon its first publication, and were profuse in their praises of its supposed improvements, were yet obliged to affirm that it could never be generally received unless it were revised again. It had departed too far from the spirit and atmosphere of the old version. It had in fact turned the grand old book into a repository of fastidious pedantry and technical niceties, to say nothing of egregious blunders.

Moreover, it had introduced a myriad of needless alterations, at every turn destroying that which was not only dear and familiar, but also perfectly adequate. And this the revisers did in the teeth of the apparently conservative rules under which they labored, which required them to make only “necessary changes,” and “to introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text.” Being too enamored with their own abilities, and too shallow to adequately appreciate the excellence of the old version, they were simply too liberal to put anything but a very liberal construction upon those apparently conservative rules. They made 36,000 changes in the New Testament, and claimed that every one of them was necessary. This amounted to a wholesale condemnation of the old version. A myriad of the changes which were necessary in their eyes were both unnecessary and detrimental in the eyes of even their most friendly critics.

And where are we to find a conservative body of revisers today? The thing is impossible. One of the main differences between that day and this is that the church is much more liberal today than it was then. When the Revised Version was published it met with an immediate storm of protest, from many of the most able men in the church. It met, moreover, with the most intense and painstaking scrutiny, even from its most friendly critics. The result was that it was quickly concluded by almost everybody that the new version could never replace the old one.

But see how times have changed. New versions are produced in the present generation----versions which are more liberal and less competent than the old Revised Version----and they are immediately received by the Christian public, without any careful scrutiny at all, and by people who apparently have no capacity to scrutinize. With many they displace the old version as soon as they are published, apparently on the strength of the assumption that they must be superior, since they are the product of modern scholarship. Indeed, we suppose the sole test of excellence with many is simply that the new versions differ from the old one, for dissatisfaction with the old ways and the old standards is characteristic of this liberal age. A more spiritual and more understanding age would reject the new versions as quickly as the present age receives them.

Let us understand, the revision of the old version is no longer an untried experiment. Numerous revisions have been made, and not one of them has been able to displace the old one. Not one of them has been actually superior to the old one, though they all claim to be. We do not deny that there has been some gain in them, but the loss so far outweighs the gain as to make it simply unthinkable to give up the old version for any of the new ones. The new revisers have proved to be mere schoolboys in scholarship, men who evidently played golf and watched television when they ought to have been at their books, apparently ignorant of all the controversies which followed the publication of the old Revised Version, making all the same blunders over again, and adding more of their own----rendering both the aorist and the present tenses wrongly, and the imperfect tense pedantically, while everywhere amending what was not amiss, to conform it to fictitious and mechanical notions of accuracy. What hope have we that another revision would be any better? We have seen what the present generation can do, and it is hard to tell whether we ought the most to condemn or pity. It is certain we want no more of the same----though it is next to certain we shall have more, so long as the church of God remains as liberal as it now is.

The present generation of revisers might have done well to heed the adroit remarks of Bishop Wordsworth, the well known textual critic and commentator, on the old Revised Version. “In a word,” he says, “they would have succeeded better and have performed more if they had attempted less” ----for the more they revised, the more they marred. Wordsworth adds, “The Revised Version cannot, I think, take the place of the Authorised Version, and, by showing how little can be changed in it [the A. V.] for the better, will increase our confidence in it, and make us more thankful for it.”

But supposing the present generation was capable of producing a man or body of men who could so revise the old version as to actually improve it, who would receive the revision? For nearly four centuries we have been blessed with the most happy circumstance that the whole English speaking world used one Bible. That Bible was authoritative throughout the English church----subject, of course, to occasional correction or clarification from the originals. Sects of every description, the most diverse from each other, all used the same Bible. Calvinists and Arminians, Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Plymouth Brethren all loved and read and quoted the same Bible. The literature of the church for nearly four centuries is permeated with it.

The advantage of such a state of things I should think to be self-evident. But that advantage will not remain if the King James Version is revised. On this point R. C. Trench says, “Neither can I count it an indifferent matter that a chief bond, indeed the chiefest, that binds the English Dissenters to us, and us to them, would thus be snapped asunder. Out of the fact that Nonconformity had not for the most part fixed itself into actual and formal separation from the Church till some time after our Authorized Version was made, it has followed that when the Nonconformists parted from us, they carried with them this Translation, and continued to use and to cherish it, regarding it as much their own as ours. The Roman Catholics and the Unitarians are, I believe, the only bodies who have counted it necessary to make versions of their own. With the exception of these, the Authorized Version is common ground for all in England who call themselves Christians, is alike the heritage of all. But even if English Dissenters acknowledged the necessity of a revision, which I conclude from many indications that they do, it is idle to expect that they would accept such at our hands. Two things then might happen. Either they would adhere to the old Authorized Version, which is not, indeed, very probable; or they would carry out a revision, it might be two or three, of their own. In either case the ground of a common Scripture, of an English Bible which they and we hold equally sacred, would be taken from us; the separation and division, which are now the sorrow, and perplexity, and shame of England, would become more marked, more deeply fixed than ever.”

Once more, “But it were a matter so deeply to be regretted, that these should revise, and we should revise, thus parting company in the one thing which now holds us strongly together, while it would be so hopeless, indeed so unreasonable, to expect that they should accept our revision, having themselves had no voice in it, that we ought not to stand on any punctilios here, but should be prepared rather to sacrifice everything non-essential for the averting of such a catastrophe.” These are precious words, coming from an English prelate, who was soon to be an archbishop. But more than that, they are words of solid wisdom. It really is a catastrophe----a matter deeply to be regretted----for the church of God to throw away that common bond which has held them together for nearly four centuries, in spite of all other differences. That catastrophe was averted in the last century, in spite of the prevailing determination to revise the old book. It was averted by the fact that none of the revisions----whether wrought by the Baptists, the Brethren, or the Church of England----was worthy or able to replace the old version. Even the most conservative of revisions were respectfully declined by the people. The bond of unity therefore remained.

That bond of unity yet remains, though much shaken----for the revisers of our day have none of the wisdom or foresight of Archbishop Trench, but do every man that which is right in his own eyes, oblivious and careless concerning any effect which his doings may have upon the rest of the church. But to revise the Bible in the present day is not only to erect some sort of barrier between the rising generations and the literature of the former ages, but also to place additional barriers between the various Christians of the present day----for it is a certainty at this point in time that no revision will be received by the whole church of God. The various modern versions have already proved this. Some have received one, and some another, so that the unanimity which existed for nearly four centuries has been largely destroyed already. Yet the fact is, a large proportion of the conservative segment of the church yet holds to the old version. They feel no need for another. The old is generally accurate, and certainly adequate. Conservatives do not want a revision. They are aware of some inaccuracies and ambiguities in the old version, but those who are spiritually informed generally know what and where they are, and would rather live with them, than to have the precious heritage spoiled by the hand of amateur reformers----and the modern revisers are, all of them, amateur reformers, who cannot hold a candle to the makers of either the old Revised Version, or the old Authorized Version.

To revise the Bible aright would require not only a great deal of learning, and a great deal of depth and spirituality, such as this generation does not possess, but also a great expenditure of time and labor. Is the small gain which could be expected from such an operation worth the great labor which would be required to effect it? I really think not, and I suppose this to be precisely the reason that for two centuries, from 1650 to 1850, men had no desire for a revision. They had plenty to do to use the sword. It was perfectly adequate for its intended use, in spite of its nicks and scratches. Those men were well aware of the nicks and scratches, but evidently judged the sword sufficient as it was, and judged its blemishes too insignificant to justify the work and the risk required to remove them.

We grant that the time may yet come when the old version will be so archaic as to be actually inadequate----perhaps in another century or two, should the Lord delay his coming, and should the English language continue to change at the rapid rate which has been brought about by the advent of radio and television----but that time has certainly not come yet, as is manifest in the fact that the old Bible is used all over this land every day, and used quite effectually, both to win the lost and to edify the saved. It is used with equal effect in doctrinal controversy and devotional literature.

If it be said that the church must be somewhat handicapped by those blemishes which remain in the old version, I reply that I doubt the fact. The church is certainly very much more handicapped by its lukewarmness and worldliness. A revival of old-fashioned religion would vouchsafe a hundred times more aid toward the understanding of the Bible, than a revision of the Bible could do. As things now stand, those who are not lukewarm, but actually determined to appropriate their spiritual heritage, have so many helps available to them, in the form of concordances and the like, that an earnest and spiritual man who knows nothing but the English Bible may at any rate far surpass the proud and lukewarm intellectuals who know Greek and Hebrew.

“An ill workman quarrels with his tools,” and the lazy, the lukewarm, and the carnal are sure to complain of the old version, which they nevertheless could understand if they cared to. But they would rather play games, do jigsaw puzzles, watch television, and read novels----and be spoon fed from a Bible which requires neither study nor diligence.

We really doubt that a perfected English version----could such a thing be attained----would contribute anything at all to either the spirituality or the doctrinal purity of the church. The early church was not dependent upon a translation at all, but had the original text of the New Testament in its hands, and yet doctrinal and practical error abounded everywhere, even before the apostles passed away. Those who suppose a more accurate translation is the need of the church, or that it would contribute anything to cure the ills of the church, are evidently ignorant of the issues. No doctrine of Scripture stands on one or two texts, nor falls if those texts are obscurely or mistakenly rendered. Neither has the church yet begun to appropriate what it certainly might, with nothing to guide it but the imperfect version which is in its hands. And how is it that multitudes who use nothing but the King James Version cannot agree with each other, even on important doctrines? How would a “more accurate” version change anything at all? Even the advocates of revision have generally admitted (if they have thought so far) that nothing is to be gained here. One of the old revisers, Edwin Palmer, in a paper on “The claims of the Revised Version of the New Testament to general acceptance,” says, “Let me say, however, at this point plainly, that, whatever inferiority may be attributed to the Greek text represented by the Authorised Version, whatever inaccuracy may be attributed to the Authorised Version as a translation, it is not suggested for a moment that it is an untrustworthy guide with regard to the great doctrines of our religion. On the contrary, I desire to state most explicitly that the New Testament teaches the same theology and the same morality in the Authorised Version and in the Revised.” The old revisers would scarcely have dared affirm anything else, though the more liberal revisers of the present generation may do so.

Yet we cannot but grant that if the centuries continue to pass, the King James Version will one day be as archaic and inadequate as the Wycliffe Bible is today. We hardly expect, however, that any such thing will happen. We share the belief of the whole evangelical church that the last days are upon us, and that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Supposing that another generation or two may pass before that happy consummation, we have no doubt that the old Bible will remain as adequate a generation hence as it is today, and it may then appear that the good providence of God provided this most excellent and spiritual version to his English church to carry it through to the coming of the Lord. I am no prophet, but still I suppose that such will prove to be the case. It is at any rate certain that the Lord has provided us with this excellent version, thus far to form the foundation, the warp, and the woof of the extensive and excellent literature of the English church, the grand old book itself being the great unifying factor between varied and diverse sects and centuries. I counsel those who make it their aim to foment dissatisfaction with the precious book, that they have the wrong spirit, and are about the wrong business. What good has such dissatisfaction produced? We know it has produced abundant evil, in puffing up every babe and tyro with his own imagined competence. I myself well understood how inferior the old version was-------thirty years ago.

It may be thought that such dissatisfaction may lead to a revision, which will produce a better version, but I say there is no possibility of such a thing. No revision can be better than the one we have, if it proceeds upon the foundation of dissatisfaction with the present one. No revision can be superior to the one we have unless it proceeds upon the principle of general satisfaction----indeed, of heartfelt love----for the old version, and a religious preservation of all that is excellent in it. Those who desire a superior version will never contribute a whit towards the production of it by spreading dissatisfaction with the old one. That is the surest way to insure an inferior revision. Let them rather teach men to love the grand old book, to bask in its spiritual atmosphere, to admire its solid common sense, to appreciate its popular appeal, to revere its tried and time-honored diction, to prize its rich spiritual and theological vocabulary, and to value the strength and vigor of its language. When we have a generation which so views the old version, and which couples all of this with solid learning and deep spirituality, that generation might be capable of improving the English Bible. We hardly need say that the present generation is not that generation.

Meanwhile, we think it a wise and proper thing, could conservative, wise, spiritual, and learned men be found to do it, to print the old Bible with good marginal notes, to explain the archaic, and the misleading, and to correct the erroneous. The original marginal notes of the King James Version ought by all means to be printed, and distinguished from the others, perhaps by putting them in one margin, and the others in another. Doubtless there are many Bibles already with marginal notes, but the margins of most of them contain so much that is impertinent and unnecessary, and are so cluttered thereby, as actually to discourage their use. We do not want margins to puff up the shallow and the intellectual, but to help the humble and the spiritual. An overburdened margin will tend to inspire misgivings about the text.

It will doubtless be said that upon my principles the King James Version itself would never have come into being, but it must be understood that the circumstances now are much altered from what they were when the old version was made. I do not oppose any revision ever, but only contend that the present generation is not the time for it, the need for it not being very great, and the capabilities for it being smaller still. The times are not now what they were then. The King James Version was not made after nearly four centuries in which one English version had been almost universally used and revered. There were then two versions in common use, both of them less than fifty years old, and neither of them possessing enough of inherent superiority to be able to dispossess the other. Copies of the Great Bible were doubtless still in use also, less than half a century having elapsed since it was last printed. A need was felt all around for a better state of things, and the time was ripe for the production of it.

Those who set their hands to the work inform us, “Truly (good Christian Reader) wee neuer thought from the beginning, that we should neede to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, ...but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principall good one, not iustly to be excepted against; that hath bene our indeauour, that our marke.” When their work was done, and the new version fairly tried by criticism and use, “More than a generation then passed away, during which the Authorised Version was steadily growing in public favour, and vindicating year by year its distinct superiority, not only over the Bishops' Bible, but over the popular Genevan Bible.” The result was such a general satisfaction with the new version that “For two hundred years all desire for any further authoritative revision had entirely died out.” Those two centuries (1650-1850) were not years of mere spiritual stagnation or dull apathy. They encompassed the glory of the Puritan era, the Methodist revival, and the world-wide missions movement.

But the general satisfaction with the Authorized Version, which reigned for those two hundred years, gradually began to give way before a growing discontent with it, as spirituality and common sense gave way to intellectualism and “scholarship,” with their usual accompanying self-confidence and rashness. The very things which incited the clamor for a revision of the Bible insured that that revision would be a failure. If there is any difference between that day and this, it lies only in the fact that the present age has proceeded further down the same wrong path. This is no day in which to think of revising the Bible.

On the Marking of Books

by Glenn Conjurske

It is the practice of many who use their books to thoroughly mark them up----underlining, circling, drawing arrows, asterisks, and stars, and filling the margins with notes and comments. I am against this practice, and though I expect to be opposed, perhaps even contemned, by those who mark their books, I will at any rate speak my piece.

To begin with, I may say that I use my books as thoroughly as anyone else does, and think I make as profitable a use of them as could well be done, and all this I do without ever putting a mark in them, except in the blank pages inside the back cover.

But those who are accustomed to mark their books will doubtless ask, “Why shouldn't I? What harm does it do? They are my books, and why cannot I do as I please with them?”

Let us begin with what harm it does. We suppose that if a book is worth marking, it is worth studying. But if it is worth studying, it is worth printing. Modern technology has enabled men to reprint old books photographically. I prefer original editions. I do not buy reprints unless I have little or no hope of finding the original edition. If I have a reprint, I will usually replace it with the original, if ever I am so fortunate as to find the original. Still, there are many books of which I must have a reprint if I am to have the book at all. The originals are scarce, and too high-priced for such a one as I. I must buy a reprint or nothing. But in buying reprints I am always careful to secure, if I can, a photographic reprint. I do not trust reprints in which the type has been reset. Altogether aside from the likely introduction of unintentional mistakes in a fresh setting of the type, the plain fact is, many modern publishers purposely alter or abridge the text, and many of them do so without giving the reader the slightest intimation of the fact. I have seen, for example, an edition of George Whitefield's Journal, in which at the very outset the word “twelvemonth” is altered to “year.” It is safe to assume that the publisher who took this liberty has taken others also, and yet he gives no intimation that he has done so. I have an edition of Baxter's Call, published by Zondervan in 1953, which claims to be “reprinted complete and unabridged from the original,” which is nevertheless altered in orthography throughout, as well as seriously abridged in content.

And it is not only modern publishers who are guilty of this. I have two editions of Richard Cecil's life of John Newton, one of them probably 150 years old, and the other nearly 200. On comparing them, I find that they often differ, and in such a manner as to make it absolutely impossible to tell which (if either) is the original. In some cases “internal evidence” makes it sufficiently clear which of the rival forms is the true one, but in other cases we are left without a clue. If we had a hundred mutilated editions, we might confidently engage in intelligent textual criticism, but when we have only two, the case is hopeless. I want the original, or a photographic reprint of it.

But if publishers are to give us photographic reprints, they must have clean copies from which to print. They do not want copies which are underlined and circled and starred on every page. This is reasonable, and right. Those who contribute the most to scribbling up the old books will balk as much as anyone to buy a new book which comes complete with three generations of scribbling. They do not want someone else's scribbling in the book, but only their own. But where are the printers to find clean copies, if everyone is free to scribble in his own books?

And why should old books be marked up any more than new ones? Except for my earliest acquisitions, almost all the books in my library are old. Almost all of them have been bought used, and I suppose I have endured as much as any man alive of the scribblings of former readers.

Yet I observe that all marking is not of the same character. Some is inoffensive, and may even be valuable. If, for example, I read the name of Archibald Alexander in a book, it is no trouble to me to see “Presbyterian,” or “1772-1851,” neatly penciled in the margin----though I am really at a loss to understand why it must be put there. Whoever wrote it there obviously found it in some other book, and why he must transfer it to this one is a mystery.

But, as said, some of these scribblings are valuable. If I see an evident misprint in a book----such a misprint as might not be evident to someone who understands less of the subject matter----I may neatly pencil the right reading in the margin. This may help someone else. I have sometimes been helped by the notes of others, and some of them are really valuable. To take an extreme case, I have a photocopy of Editions of the Bible and Parts Thereof, in English, from the year MDV. to MDCCCL., by Henry Cotton. This is an interleaved edition, formerly the property of Francis Fry. Fry has left his notes not only on the interleaved pages, but also in the margin, and occasionally within the precincts of the text. Yet none who know the name of Francis Fry could regret this. For example, under the date of 1540, Cotton lists an edition of an “unknown translation,” under which words Mr. Fry has penned “Taverner.” Methinks in this case the note is more valuable than the text. On another page we find a footnote on a 1547 edition of Matthew's New Testament, which reads, “Quære, whether this is not the same edition as that which bears on its title-page the date 1548?” In the margin we find, “yes it is FF.” We could hardly object to such marking, from such a man. Neither would we object if we found a copy of the Greek New Testament with Burgon's alterations in the margin, or in the text. We would prize such notes more than a thousand unmarked New Testaments. But then these are exceptional cases. Most of our book-markers are neither Burgon nor Fry, and most of their markings do no more than disfigure the books.

Of the worst sort is circling and underlining. An occasional word circled or underlined may at any rate serve an intelligent purpose, but that purpose could be served as well or better another way. Instead of underlining “baptism” in the text, why not write “baptism” on the fly leaf at the back, with the page number on which it appears? If it appears on a dozen pages, you will have a list of them all, while you keep the text clean for another reader, or perhaps for thousands of other readers, if your copy should ever be wanted for reprinting.

But if some underlining serves an intelligent purpose, I am persuaded that most of it does not. Many readers seem merely to be pencil-happy, pen-happy, or marker-happy, the same as many hunters are trigger-happy. If they can find no deer to shoot, they will shoot at trees and mushrooms and rocks and tin cans, but one way or another they will shoot. So it seems to be with these pencil-happy readers. I have books in which whole paragraphs are underlined, or whole pages, and nearly whole books. We suppose that such readers must be troubled with a good deal more of writers' cramp than of eye-strain. And what purpose does this serve? A friend suggests that some people may mark their books instead of thinking, and I verily believe it in the case of these pencil-happy underliners. Surely nothing is gained by underlining whole paragraphs. But neither is it necessary to underline single words. I always read with a pencil in my hand, but I make no marks in the book. Anything which is worth noting, or quoting, or reading again another time, I make a note of on the fly leaf or the blank pages at the back of the book. If I run out of room there, I use the fly leaves at the front, or slip a blank sheet of paper into the book, as I do also if the fly leaves are black or dark brown (as they often are in older books). In reading the third edition of Scrivener's Introduction, I took ten pages of such notes, and never made a mark in the book itself. This I do with every book I read. I give a sample in the box below, of a small portion of the notes I took on Evangelism in Sermon and Song, by the song-writer E. O. Sellers, which I finished reading yesterday. I give these just as they appear in the back of the book. The stars indicate something of particular value----the more stars, the more value, (and I sometimes use five or six of them).

Moody & Sankey compared 15, 16
modern inventions----independence of God 16-17
Moody, poverty 20-1
asked for money 21
Torrey took over Moody's last mtng. 25
choir of 4000 27
Torrey's evangelism mechanical 28**
How to Bring Men to Christ, experience, not theory 29
Torrey's children 28
Chapman asked Torrey if he could use Alexander 31
B. Fay Mills 32, 5*
Chapman appealed to heart, Torrey mind 32

When I finish a book, I transfer these notes----such of them as may be easily classified----to my note cards in my file box. Thus I have in one small box an alphabetical index of all those subjects which I judge most interesting and profitable, extending to all the books which I have read in my whole library. Surely this system is of very much more worth than underlining key words here and there----when we are likely to forget what book we saw them in, or that we saw them at all----and it leaves the books neat and clean. This is important to me----important as a matter of principle, whether the book is my own or not. I would consider it positive sacrilege to mark in some of my old and rare books, but they will all be old and rare some day, should the Lord delay his coming.

Yet it is only fair to say that I have less to object to markings in the margin, than to those which deface the text. Marginal notes may at any rate be masked out by a printer, and some of them may be useful. Some habitually jot down the subject of the page or paragraph in the margin. This may be of use for future reference, but is it necessary? Is not the method which I have recommended above more practical and convenient? Is it not more useful to have an index in one place at the back, than scattered on every page throughout the book?

I understand well enough the compulsion which we may feel to express ourselves when reading something particularly good or bad. All men cannot vent their feelings in book reviews, and they must therefore vent them in the margins of their books. I have an old copy of William Wall's History of Infant-Baptism, formerly the property of a Campbellite minister, who filled the margins of the first volume, in a large, bold hand, with cries of “Fallacy----Specious reasoning----Doubtful----No proof----Far-fetched indeed----A foolish query----No argument----Dodging----Twaddle----No infants here”----besides more detailed refutations at times, and in one place the triumphant rejoinder, “This is the basis of infant baptism.” The poor man evidently got tired before he reached the end of the first volume, however, for his notes become sparse there, and almost non-existent in the second volume, while the third and fourth are clean as a whistle. He no doubt enjoyed himself refuting Wall for the benefit of the angels or posterity, but methinks such arm-chair polemics might learn to restrain themselves.

But I desire to back up a bit, and survey the field. Alas, the marking of books does not stop with marking our own. I have been very grieved to find many books in libraries marked up from beginning to end, and usually with indelible ink. There are scarce and very valuable books in the library of the University of Wisconsin, which twenty-five years ago were perfectly clean, which today are scribbled up from beginning to end, both text and margin, with a ball-point pen. I hope my readers will feel as indignant at this as I do, and I surely hope that none of them would be guilty of doing such a thing. I would hope that those who feel entirely free to mark their own books would consider it positive unrighteousness to mark a book which is not their own.

But query, is any book absolutely your own? The paper and ink may be yours, but the text is not. The text may be yours to use, but it is not yours to damage, nor is it yours in any such sense as that it is not your neighbor's also. So far, then, as the book is the embodiment of the text, it is certainly not yours in any absolute sense. If your possession of it gives you certain rights, it gives you certain responsibilities also. You may own your own books, and your own land also, yet the law very wisely prohibits you from burying your dead on that land, for one day you will be dead yourself, and someone else will own your land, and he may not wish to have a cemetery on it. It will then be his land as much as it is now yours, but some portion of it he will not be able to use as his own, for it contains the sacred relics of your dead. He therefore cannot build upon that portion of his land. He cannot plow or plant it. He, and all his successors till the end of time, must be permanently annoyed and inconvenienced, because you thought it your right to do as you pleased with your own land.

Take another case. Suppose you happen to own an old work of art, by one of the great medieval masters. You bought it with your own money, and it is yours, as much as anything can be yours in this fleeting life. Do you therefore have the right to deface it, to alter it, to improve it? I frankly have no interest in old paintings, and would not dream of putting them upon the same plane with old books, but I speak of the principle involved. If you happen to be the owner of an old work of art, the common consent of mankind will dictate that this is not and cannot be yours in any absolute sense. It belongs to the whole race. Your responsibilities in holding it must therefore exceed your rights. You are its caretaker, while the little vapor of your life shall last, but in no sense its absolute owner. It is your responsibility to preserve it, and you have no right to mutilate it. The same must certainly be true in some degree of any ancient artifact, freak of nature, geological curiosity, or historical relic. Nothing which is of interest and value to all can rightly be regarded as the exclusive and absolute property of one. Not that we would deny his right to own it, but we deny his right to destroy or deface it, and in some cases we must certainly go so far as to deny his right to withhold it from the use of others. When for years the Vatican withheld Codex B from the inspection of all men, this was universally, and quite rightly, condemned as an outrage upon humanity. On the other hand, we would hardly expect any man to put his treasures at the disposal of the careless, the curious, the irresponsible, or the incompetent. To grant such privileges to all were as ill-advised as it were wrong to grant them to none. Burgon, happy in the privilege granted to him to examine the “Golden Evangelisteria” at Mount Sinai, yet quite properly laments, “Very sorry am I to have to add that everybody is shown and allowed freely to handle the beautiful object referred to: in consequence of which, it is suffering constant deterioration, and will in the end be ruined entirely.”* There is surely a mean between guarding our treasures too closely, and sharing them too freely. The point which I wish to make here, however, is that nothing which is both rare, and of value to all, can rightly be regarded as absolutely our own.

And how is it any otherwise with your books? True, an old painting is unique, while your book is but one copy among many----or among few, as the case may be. But it matters not that a thousand copies of the book were printed, or ten thousand. Try to find one now, and you will soon learn that many old books are scarce enough, and clean copies scarcer still. Those clean copies which exist may be in the hands of selfish persons, or officious librarians, who would rather keep their own paper and binding in immaculate condition than allow anyone else to employ the text, and who therefore will not allow their books to be used for copying or reprinting. Indeed, many libraries will scarcely allow their old books to be used at all. Thus while many valuable books are scarce, many which exist are practically inaccessible. I therefore dispute the right of any man to disfigure and deface his books, merely because he happens to own them. If any man will yet claim that he has such a right, I will yet contend that the practice, if lawful, is at any rate selfish and thoughtless.

But I can scarcely conclude this article without saying something about the marking of Bibles. Would I apply the above principles to the marking of Bibles? In all ordinary cases, probably not. The Bible differs from other books in one very important respect. Whereas many of the most valuable of books were printed only in small quantities, and have been out of print and scarce for centuries, there are millions of copies of the Bible in print, and they continue to be printed every day. And God knows that if we need clean copies, there are enough unused Bibles in the world. Beside this, there is more reason to mark a Bible than there is to mark other books. The Bible is in constant use, whether for preaching, dealing with souls, or feeding our own soul. We may wish to have certain verses marked for easy reference, cross references jotted in the margin, words marked to catch our eye, or various other markings, each to suit his own needs and tastes. Those who know Greek may wish to note Greek tenses or prepositions in the margin. In these days when every man has his own Bible, his Bible is peculiarly his own, and it is to be hoped that he will wear it out, rather than passing it on in good condition to someone else. His notes, therefore, may help him, and are not likely to hurt anyone else. I mark almost nothing in my own Bibles, except for cross references in the margin, but I will not fault those who do----though I may admonish them to do it conservatively, intelligently, and neatly. Much of the silly scribbling with which many mark up their Bibles might well be spared. It is silly enough for folks who know no Greek to clutter their margins with every Greek word which they hear from some preacher----in English characters, of course, likely misspelled too, and meaningless at any rate. It is silly to underline the whole book of Ephesians, or half of it, though this may give us the appearance of great spirituality. It may not be exactly silly to underline individual words which particularly strike us, but neither do I suppose it very wise. The word has struck you once, and you must underline it to ensure that it will strike you again next time----or perhaps, unwittingly, to ensure that the word next to it will not strike you next time. Let the word be written in your heart, and you will have little occasion to underline it.

The Common and the Singular

by Glenn Conjurske

Some time ago, while reading the sermons of John Wycliffe, I ran across the following incidental observation, that “comun þing is ofte soþe, whanne þe singuler is fals.”1 In modern English, “[the] common thing is often true, when the singular is false.” I quite agree with this observation. Common knowledge and common wisdom are usually the result of a lengthy and difficult process of acquisition, which involves the thought and experience, the failures and successes, of a myriad of people, and such a process is not likely to lead us far astray. The singular, on the other hand, is only the imagination of one man's brain, and unless that man be an extraordinary one----a Galileo, or an Isaac Newton----the independent workings of his mind are not very likely to be worth much.

Yet I have known folks who seem never to discover the common, nor are they able to embrace it when it is presented to them. They dwell in the realm of the singular. If no one has thought of it before, they are very likely to do so. If no one else has ever believed it, they will be hankering to adopt it into their creed. I must confess that for some time this greatly puzzled me. Is it possible that some folks were simply born without the faculty of common sense? But as I more minutely observed these folks who have a penchant for the singular, the real explanation became evident. These folks are proud. It is not that they lack the sense to understand the common, but that they lack the will to choose it. They must be their own original. They scorn to walk in the beaten path. They must ever and anon be striking out into some bypath where never human foot has trodden. The plain fact is, other men have never set foot there because they had more sense than to do so, but these folks suppose that the rest of the race was too dull to discover their new paths. It seems to be a foregone conclusion with many that if any Greek or Hebrew expression can be translated contrary to the common English version, then it ought to be, or that if any scripture can be interpreted otherwise than is commonly done, then it ought to be. This is not sense or wisdom, but pride.

Concerning this the good Bishop Hall writes, “For, the most [of schisms] are bred through pride, (whiles men, vpon an high conceit of themselues, scorne to goe in the common road, and affect singularity in opinion) . . . Herein therefore I haue beene alwaies wont to commend and admire the humility of those great and profound wits, whom depth of knowledge hath not lead to by-paths in iudgement; but (walking in the beaten path of the Church) haue bent all their forces to the establishment of receiued truths: accounting it greater glory to confirme an ancient verity, than to deuise a new opinion (though neuer so profitable) vnknowne to their predecessours. I will not reiect a truth, for meere noueltie: (Old truths may come newly to light; neither is God tied to times, for the gift of his illumination) but I will suspect a nouell opinion, of vntruth; and not entertaine it, vnlesse it may be deduced from ancient grounds.”2

Upon this I only remark that the last clause is too strong, and seems to stand in contradiction to the preceding, that God is not tied to times for the gift of his illumination. The ancients did not know everything, and it is as wrong to reject new light as it is to despise the old. But what is the likelihood that we, at this stage of the world's history, shall discover truth which none of our forefathers ever knew? That this is possible we surely believe, but the likelihood is not extremely great after all, and moreover, those who are most given to devising new opinions are by all means the least likely to discover anything which is sound or true. They lack the first qualification for it. They are always restless and discontented in the very place where truth and wisdom dwell, namely in the beaten path, amidst the Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks, on the common ground of the common wisdom of the ages. No man is likely to add to the common stock of wisdom until he has learned to stand solidly upon it, but this is precisely what the innovators will never learn.

I have often been amazed at the ability of some to “devise new opinions.” The fruitfulness of certain men's minds is almost astonishing, when I see them able daily or weekly, or as often as they open the Bible, to strike upon the most singular views or interpretations, such as I am certain I would never have discovered in three lifetimes. Not that I admire their ability. Far from that----for their new discoveries are generally hair-brained enough. It has always seemed to me that if they had more sense, their minds would be a good deal less fruitful. Ingenuity is an impressive trait, and yet it is used a thousand times more in the devising of error than in the defense of the truth. No ingenuity is required to embrace and defend the truth. It is common. It is found in the beaten path.

Solomon says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” This no doubt has exceptions, as all general statements do. The Bible also tells us that in the last days, knowledge shall be increased. We all doubtless know many things of which Solomon never dreamed. Not that that makes us wiser. In the moral and spiritual realms there is precious little that is new, and of that, precious little that is true. “New truths” are generally but ancient errors.

But here a difficulty arises. The world is filled with dwarfs who imagine themselves giants. They scorn to walk in the beaten path, not because they know better, but because they think they do. They have not more wisdom than their neighbors, but more pride. Alas, generally more rashness also, so that their novelties must be no sooner thought than spoken----and if they have opportunity, written and printed also. There seems to be no gate between their fertile minds and their flippant tongues. Whatever arises in the one must immediately proceed forth from the other. They rarely take time to consider or ruminate, but must out with their new thoughts at once, astonished, it may be, that the world has so long survived without them. But it is not their superiority, but just the reverse, which moves them in those paths. It was no mental or spiritual superiority which made innovators of Swedenborg and Charles Taze Russell, but moral deficiency. The same kind of moral deficiency, though it may be in a lesser degree, is at the bottom of most of the innovations in the world, especially when the innovators are young.

We do not think to exalt the past, much less the present, to a place of infallibility, nor to decry every new departure as necessarily false. Far from it. We know that men are sheep, and that if one sheep jumps off the bridge into the river, the whole flock will follow. We know very well how one generation follows another in foolish customs, false philosophies, senseless maxims, and evil doctrines. The church no doubt stands always as much in need of reformers as it does of revival. Yet the reformers which it needs are not restless radicals, but calm and steady conservatives. New departures are but rarely called for, though we may often stand in need of a return to the Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks. John Wycliffe was a reformer, who had work enough to do to deal with the prevailing corruptions of his age, yet we may suppose that one of the chief qualifications which made him competent to be a sound and solid reformer was just this, that he recognized that “the common is often true, while the singular is false.”

A Few More Words on

Musical Instruments in the Worship of God

by the editor

Since publishing my “Common Sense Arguments on the Use of Musical Instruments,” I have had some correspondence on the theme with one of my readers. One of the issues which he raises I believe to be important enough to call for a public statement of my views. I wrote to my correspondent, “We do not know certainly that the apostles used no musical instruments in their singing. Certainly as Jews, with the Old Testament Psalms in their hands, many of which are explicitly stated to be used with instruments, they could not have had any prejudice against it.” My friend answers,

“You feel the apostles, good Jews that they were, could not have had any prejudice against musical instruments in Christian worship. Is that the question? They would have had no prejudices against blood sacrifices, but did they introduce them into Christian worship? If Christ taught them not to use instruments, they would not have. Or if the Holy Spirit, who Christ said would guide them into all truth, directed them to sing a capella, I am sure they would have, no matter what their background. Now we do not have any record that Christ or the Spirit so directed. But we have enough historical record (descriptions of early Christian worship including vocal singing but never mentioning instruments) to believe that they did not use instruments----the more amazing because their Jewish background would not have forbid it.”

To all of this I answer, Certainly Christ could have taught the apostles not to use musical instruments, but, as my correspondent grants, we have no record that he did so. I must believe that if he had done so, and if he had intended this to be the permanent rule of the church, it would have been recorded one way or another in the New Testament. We cannot base anything upon what we suppose the Lord might have done. The blood sacrifices are a good case in point. These were sanctioned by God in the Old Testament, but we are certain that they are no longer so, for they are explicitly set aside in the New Testament. We do not base this belief on a supposition of what Christ may have taught, nor upon the practice of the early church, but upon express New Testament revelation.

Now it is my position that “all Scripture is inspired of God, and PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE”----the Old Testament as well as the New. I am a dispensationalist, to be sure, but so was Paul, and it is Paul who teaches me to go to the Old Testament for doctrine. There are in fact many things taught in the Old Testament----things concerning the nature of Satan, the nature of sin, the ways of God, the nature of marital love, the nature of the soul of man (and of woman), the way of faith, etc.----which are not repeated in the New Testament, and in some cases scarcely mentioned in the New Testament. I hold that all those things remain as the doctrine of God today, excepting those only that are explicitly set aside in the New Testament, as the animal sacrifices are, as well as the whole law as such. The silence of the New Testament on any point is no valid argument against it, if that point is established in the Old Testament. The purpose of the New Testament Scriptures is neither to repeal nor to repeat the Old Testament revelation, but to complete it. I hold therefore that the divine sanction of musical instruments in the Old Testament is all the sanction we need in New Testament times.

As to the historical precedent of the early church, I hold this to be a very shaky foundation for any doctrine or practice. It is common for men to appeal to the practice of the early church, for everything from the observance of Easter to the baptizing of infants. But we have two uncertainties here. We are uncertain (even if it can be assumed to be uniform) as to what the practice of the early church was, and, if we know that, uncertain as to whether it was right. Those who are familiar with the fathers bear witness as to how rapidly they departed from primitive Christianity. But in this case it is not even professed that the fathers are against musical instruments----only silent concerning them. If we must use the testimony of the fathers (or in this case the silence of the fathers), coupled with the silence of the New Testament, to set aside the explicit doctrine of the Old Testament, I should think we are not only on shaky ground, but wrong ground.

II Timothy 2:15

by Glenn Conjurske

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

This is one of the most quoted, and least understood, verses in the New Testament. It is taken for granted by almost everybody that “study” means to study the Bible, an error which receives help from the reference to “the word of truth” in the last clause of the verse. But the real fact is, to study in this verse does not necessarily have anything to do with studying the Bible at all, though it may include it.

The error is the result of failing to understand the archaic language. “Study,” in its old sense, has nothing to do with delving into books, but means rather to be careful or diligent. The rendering “study” in the common English Bible survives from William Tyndale, who uses it elsewhere also, as in Heb. 4:11, where he has, “Let vs study to entre into that rest,” where the common version has “Let us labour,” &c. Richard Rolle uses the word thus in his Meditations on the Passion: “graunte me grace to touche þee wiþ criynge merci for my synnes, wiþ desiris to gostly contemplacioun, wiþ amendinge of my lijf & contynuaunce in goodnes, in stodie to fulfille þin heestis,” &c., which we modernize thus: “Grant me grace to touch thee with crying mercy for my sins, with desires to spiritual contemplation, with amending of my life and continuance in goodness, in carefulness or diligence to fulfill thy commandments,” &c.

We may partially excuse modern readers for misunderstanding the archaic English, though there is not much excuse for it after all, for the same word “study” is used elsewhere in the common English version, where it can certainly have nothing to do with delving into books. “Study to be quiet” (I Thes. 4:11), whatever it may mean, can hardly refer to study in the modern sense. Methinks that if the modern age would but think a little more, and engage in a little more of that “study” of which it likes to speak, such misunderstandings might soon evaporate, and it would appear that the archaic English is not so difficult to understand as is commonly affirmed.

But I must turn to the last clause of the verse, “rightly dividing the word of truth.” This text has become the watchword of modern dispensationalism, and in a manner which does no honor either to the dispensationalism, nor to the dispensationalists, nor to the text. To these dispensationalists, to “rightly divide” the word of truth means to compartmentalize it, “dividing” it up and apportioning it out, placing each portion within the walls of its own dispensation, and denying or severely limiting any application outside those walls. There are certain dispensationalists who can hardly refer to the Scriptures at all without appending the qualifying phrase, “rightly divided.” This they do lest anyone should get the mistaken notion that they mean “all Scripture.” That they never mean, for they are persuaded that “all Scripture,” though inspired of God, is “unprofitable for doctrine,” and will serve no better purpose than to confuse and mislead us. When they say, “according to the Scriptures,” they do not mean according to the Scriptures as such, but only according to a certain limited portion of them. Their usual terminology must therefore be, “according to the Scriptures, rightly divided”----for where others find harmony, they find only hopeless contradiction. If Christ preaches “repent,” and Paul preaches “believe,” this is the full proof that the Gospels and the Epistles must be “divided” asunder, and can no more be mixed than fire and water. But the rather inconvenient fact remains that Christ also preached “believe,” and Paul also preached “repent.”

But let my readers understand, I am a dispensationalist----a real one, and a thorough one. If it is any consolation to anybody, I may truthfully affirm that I have no objection to the dispensational scheme of C. I. Scofield, which divides the history of the people of God into seven dispensations, beginning with Innocence in the garden of Eden, and concluding with the literal, earthly Millennium. I hold, moreover, not only to the form of dispensationalism, but to the marrow of it also. I believe it to be a system essential to the understanding of the ways of God, and a system which has not been imposed upon the Bible, but derived from it.

I object most vigorously, however, to the use which many dispensationalists make of their dispensationalism. In the hands of men like Lewis Sperry Chafer the system has become little more than a tool with which to make void the Scriptures. It is no longer a system by which we understand the Scriptures, but by which we divide them up, and rule most of the divisions out of court. This practice is justified by a constant appeal to

II Tim. 2:15, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

But I have been long persuaded that this appeal is illegitimate. My first reason for this belief is an indirect one. I have long observed that whenever any interpreter of Scripture must have constant recourse to one text in order to explain (or explain away) many texts, this is a tell-tale sign that he is under the influence of a false system. This is so, no matter what his one text may be, but I offer as an example the use to which John 6:29 is put by many. The text says, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” This is of course interpreted in its most rigid and technical sense, as though it meant that the only work of God, for everyone at all times, is barely to believe in Christ, and this rigid interpretation of this one text is used to disallow or beat into shape every text in the New Testament which speaks of any other sort of work. Such interpretation ought to outrage the innate sense of justice of every honest man. But I do not speak of the evident crookedness involved in the details of such interpretation. Before those details appear, the fact that one text must be made the rule for the interpretation of a hundred others is the tell-tale sign of mischief.

But I have a more direct reason for believing the common use of “rightly dividing the word of truth” to be illegitimate. The common interpretation of this text is altogether foreign to the manner of Scripture. It forces a technical meaning into the word, which common sense and spiritual instinct must reject, as inconsistent with the character of the language of Scripture. The language of the Bible is not technical, but common. Can any of the Bible-dividers actually suppose that this is what Paul meant by “rightly dividing the word of truth”? Methinks that anyone who can honestly think this must be spiritually illiterate. For a long time, therefore, before I had formed any very distinct ideas concerning what the text does mean, I felt instinctively that it could not mean what it is too commonly held to mean.

Still, I would like to know what the expression does mean. Consulting the context, I am soon persuaded that its application is to the ministry of the word, not the interpretation of it. This rightly dividing is spoken of a workman, which would seem rather to apply to ministry than to study or interpretation. The verse preceding says, “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit.” This, at any rate, is ministry. And to “rightly divide” the word of truth in our ministry seems naturally to suggest the portioning out to every soul the particular facet of truth which his case requires. This, whatever this text may mean, is a plain necessity for every minister of the word of God, so that the interpretation is natural enough.

We of course turned to the Greek, to find, as usual, that the Greek says the same thing as the English. It must be granted, however, that the expression is a difficult one. Naturally enough, therefore, as Bloomfield says, “the nature of the metaphor has been not a little debated.” The early versions do not translate the place, but paraphrase it. The Latin has recte tractantem, “rightly handling,” as the Rheims version renders it, or “ri3tli tretinge,” with Wycliffe. This is indeterminate, and might refer to either interpretation or preaching. The Peshitto, however, has “who correctly announceth” according to Murdock's translation, or, with the starch taken out of it, as Bloomfield renders it, “preaching rightly.” This is explicit, and leaves no possible doubt as to how the text was understood.

Having come to this point, I naturally became curious to know how this verse was understood before the craze for dividing the Bible existed. I turned to the old men of God, with the following result:

Bishop Hall explicitly contrasts interpreting the Scriptures with “rightly dividing” them. He says, “First it is one thing for a man to interpret Scripture, another thing to take upon him the Function of Preaching the Gospel, which was perhaps in your intention; this is far more large than the other, every man that preacheth interpreteth the Scripture, but every one that interprets Scripture doth not preach. To interpret Scripture is only to give the sense of a Text; but to preach is to divide the Word aright; to apply it to the conscience of the hearer; and in an authoritative way to reprove sin, and denounce judgement against sinners; to lay forth the sweet promises of the Gospel to the faithfull and penitent,” &c.

Two centuries later the text was still applied in the same manner, when one Methodist preacher spoke thus of another: “Joseph Everett was emphatically a man of God, and a minister that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to saint and sinner their portion in due season.”

This view has been taken also by various eminent commentators, of whom I cite a couple:

Philip Doddridge----”rightly dividing the word of truth, distributing with prudence as well as fidelity, to each his proper share.” In a footnote he adds, “Some think here is an allusion to what the Jewish priest or Levite did in dissecting the victim, and separating the parts in a proper manner; as some were to be laid on God's altar, and others to be given to those who were to share in the sacrifice. Others think it refers to guiding a plough aright, in order to divide the clods in the most proper and effectual manner, and to make straight furrows. But, perhaps, the metaphor may be taken from the distribution made by a steward, in delivering out to each person under his care such things as his office and their necessities required.” It will be observed that though Doddridge mentions three interpretations which were commonly held, none of them resembles that which is so common among the Bible-dividers today----unless it be that of dissecting a victim.

Adam Clarke actually interprets the figure twice, making it refer to both interpretation and ministry. Still, all his emphasis is on the view taken above, and it is certain he has nothing of the modern notions of dividing the scriptures so as to disallow several portions of them. He says, “Therefore, by rightly dividing the word of truth, we are to understand his continuing in the true doctrine, and teaching that to every person: and, according to our Lord's simile, giving each his portion of meat in due season; milk to babes; strong meat to the full grown; comfort to the disconsolate; reproof to the irregular and careless: in a word, finding out the necessities of his hearers; and preaching so as to meet those necessities.”

C. H. Spurgeon, however, who may quite commonly be quoted on both sides of the question, may be quoted on all six sides of this one. He says, “The expression is a very remarkable one, because it bears so many phases of meaning. I do not think that any one of the figures by which I shall illustrate it will be at all strained, for they have been drawn from the text by most eminent expositors, and may fairly be taken as honest comments, even when they might be challenged as correct interpretations of the text.” Among the half-dozen positions thus taken by Spurgeon, none of which are offered as “correct interpretations,” is one which very much resembles the position taken by C. I. Scofield in his famous Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. Spurgeon says, “There has to be DISCRIMINATION AND DISSECTION. It is a great part of a minister's duty to be able to dissect the gospel----to lay one piece there, and another there, and preach with clearness, distinction, and discrimination.

“Every gospel minister must divide between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. It is a very nice point that, and many fail to discern it well; but it must always be kept clear, or great mischief will be done. Confusion worse confounded follows upon confusing grace and law. There is the covenant of works----'This do, and thou shalt live,' but its voice is not that of the covenant of grace which says, 'Hear and your soul shall live.”You shall, for I will:' that is the covenant of grace. It is a covenant of pure promise unalloyed by terms and conditions. I have heard people put it thus----'Believers will be saved if from this time forth they are faithful to grace given.' That savours of the covenant of works. 'God will love you'----says another,----'if you----.' Ah, the moment you get an 'if' in it, it is the covenant of works, and the gospel has evaporated. Oil and water will sooner mix than merit and grace. When you find the covenant of works anywhere, what are you to do with it? Why, do what Abraham did, and what Sarah demanded, 'cast out the bond-woman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.' If you are a child of the free-grace promise, do not suffer the Hagar and Ishmael of legal bondage and carnal hope to live in your house. Out with them; you have nought to do with them. Let law and gospel keep their proper places.”

This contains much that is true, but hopelessly mixed with what is false. To begin with, “You shall, for I will” is neither Law, nor Gospel, nor Scripture, but just John Calvin. The Saviour says, “I would, and ye would not.” As for the Gospel being evaporated by the presence of an “if,” this directly contradicts Paul, who declares “the gospel which I preached unto you, ... by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (I Cor. 15:1-2, Greek). It also directly contradicts what Spurgeon himself has said in a thousand other places. On the very same page he says, “...you may believe in an orthodox creed, but you will be damned IF you live in sin.”

But we suppose that all of this inconsistency is the legitimate offspring of Spurgeon's determination to say everything which could be said on the text, rather than restricting himself to a “correct interpretation” or true exposition of it. And we suppose further that this statement of Spurgeon's may be the true parent of the use which Scofield and all his followers have made of the text.

A Few More Words on

Expensive Books

by Glenn Conjurske

I have before apprised my readers of the fact that I generally do not let the price stop me when I find a book which I want----unless, as is often enough the case----it is quite beyond me, or quite unconscionable. But some recent experiences have impressed upon me the fact that there is often a great advantage in buying expensive books----that is, a great advantage over buying cheaper ones. This, for two reasons. 1.If we buy expensive books, we are likely to get more for our money; and 2.If we buy expensive books we are certain to get less for our money. Both of these are distinct advantages. But this will require some explanation:

As to the first point, the reader may recall that in my former article on this theme I referred to the old proverb, “Cheat me in the price, but not in the goods,” and remarked that “Any price is too high for a book which is worthless, but a good book is priceless.” The fact is, as our modern day has expressed it, You get what you pay for. Low prices generally mean inferior goods. There are numerous old proverbs which rehearse this fact:

The best is best cheap
Good cheap is dear.
Beware of little expense.

At a good bargain make a pause.
On a good bargain think twice.
Good bargains are pick-pockets.

This is generally as true of books as of anything else. I refer, of course, to used books, for I seldom buy any other kind. New books may be priced according to the worth of the paper and ink and binding, but used books are more likely to be priced according to their actual worth. Experienced book sellers generally have a good idea of the worth of a book, and they price it accordingly. For example, after searching in vain for it for twenty-five years, a week ago I found The Whole Works of the Rev. John Berridge, with a sketch of his life by Richard Whittingham----a single volume, not very large, nor very old, nor in very good condition, but priced at $75. The price reflected the worth of the book. The book seller might have taken any number of books just as old and just as scarce, and priced them at $10 each, and they would have sat unsought and unbought on his shelves. Berridge was worth something, and his book is worth something. I bought it, by the way, and that without thinking twice about it.

At the same book shop I bought Herbert Marsh's translation of Michaelis's Introducion to the New Testament (in six volumes) for $130, and a couple other titles at $60 each. These prices are high (though no more than we might pay for some new books of the same size), and this it was that set me thinking as to the advantage of buying expensive books. If we know what we are about, we may surely get more for our money----and more for our souls----by buying expensive books. We must know what we are about, however, for some books are expensive merely because they are old, or because they are dressed in a “deluxe binding.”

But this brings me to the second advantage. If by buying expensive books we are likely to get more for our money in quality, we are certain to get less for our money in quantity. This is an advantage also, and a great one, for the less which we thus get will take less room to store, and less time to read----very great advantages to me, at any rate, whose little bungalo is bulging with books, and whose time is never sufficient for the reading which I feel compelled to do. Some of us may have space to spare for books, but none of us have time to spare for anything mediocre or unprofitable. I am of one mind on this point with good Bishop Hall, who says, “I care not so much in any thing for multitude, as for choice. Bookes and friends I will not haue many: I had rather seriously conuerse with a few, than wander amongst many.”[ It is a vast deal better to read a good book ten times, than to read ten mediocre books.

But those who have seen my library may suppose that I have a strange definition of “few.” I, however, have never aimed at multitude in acquiring my books, and for many years past have studiously avoided it. I aim at choice. There are thousands of libraries in the world which are very much larger than mine, but I have rarely seen one for which I would be willing to exchange mine. Large libraries are of course worth a good deal more in money than mine is, so that if I could sell the books and buy the ones I want, the exchange would be most profitable, but this is not my meaning. I mean that I would rather have my own library as it is, than most other libraries as they are. I have little doubt that, had I been so inclined, I could have acquired a library ten times as large as mine is, for the money I have spent for what I have, but such a course would have been very foolish. I suppose my more expensive books a better bargain all the way around.

Model T Minds in Modern Automobiles

An Old Editorial Note from Moody Monthly

[This “Editorial Note” appeared in Moody Monthly, edited by Will H. Houghton, January, 1942, pg. 263, under the heading “The Preacher and Books.” Houghton was president of Moody Bible Institute from 1934 to 1947.----editor.]

It is distressing to see a preacher with a Model T mind riding around in an up-to-date car. If you can buy a car you can afford books, and we doubt if you have any right to buy a car until you have spent half its price on books. The books should be carefully selected. Some of the new books are worth owning, and many of the old ones should be read and reread.

But the mere possession of books will mean little. They must be read. Too busy to read? Well, brother, you are just too busy. Spurgeon read Pilgrim's Progress one hundred times!

Editorial Policies

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