The Way of Transgressors
Abstract of a Gospel Sermon, Preached on Nov. 5, 1997
by Glenn Conjurske
Proverbs 13:15 tells us that the way of transgressors is hard.
A transgressor is a law-breaker. It is one who disregards the commands
of God, and disobeys them. He does what he pleases instead of what God
requires of him. The Bible says his way is hard. D. L. Moody relates that
when he went to preach in the state penitentiary in New York, he saw inscribed
over the door this text, The way of transgressors is hard.
The men who entered that place certainly knew that by experience, but
it seems a little late to persuade men that the way of transgressors is
hard, when they are passing through the prison doors. For years in my
meditations on this text, I used to wish I was a sky-writer, so that I
could write this text on the sky: The way of transgressors is hard.
I wished I could engrave this on the sky, the world over.
But then I began to think, What need is there for this? The fact is, wisdom
is crying this message in the streets, daily, nightly, all the world over.
Wisdom crieth without. She uttereth her voice in the streets. She
crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates.
In the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones,
will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and
fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof. Behold, I will pour out
my spirit unto you, and I will make known my words unto you. (Prov.
How does wisdom cry all these things? No doubt in the experience of transgressors.
No doubt in the fact that transgressors find the way hard indeed. Wisdom
crieth this in the gates, in the gathering places of the people, in the
streets of the city. It is as though all the human race is standing in
the streets of the city, watching a parade
----a long parade of
transgressors, who have found the way hard. There goes a drunkard, a homeless,
penniless bum, who has drunk up all his money, lost all his goods and
position and health and family and self-respect, and now walks about the
city, red-nosed and blear-eyed, begging for quarters to buy a sandwich ----and
drinking up those quarters as fast as he gets them. There goes a shoplifter,
on his way to the jail. There goes a murderer, on his way to prison or
to death. There goes an embezzler. All the good things and the high life
which she got by fraud are taken away from her now, and she is whisked
away, hand-cuffed, to prison. There goes a smoker, dying now of lung cancer.
There goes the man who cheated on his wife, his marriage broken, his children
The parade is endless, and every character in it proclaims, The
way of transgressors is hard. The world is filled to overflowing
with broken hearts, broken health, broken homes, broken marriages, broken
everything, and every case proclaims, The way of transgressors is
hard. So, I thought, what need is there to write this on the sky?
It is cried daily and nightly in the streets and gathering places in every
city on earth.
Ah, but the world is not listening. For all of wisdom's crying, who knows
that the way of transgressors is hard? Who understands this? Who believes
it? After all her crying, Wisdom must yet cry again, and say, Because
I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man
regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of
my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your
fear cometh. (Prov. 1:24-26). So, I thought, the need is as great
as ever. I cannot write this message on the sky, but I will preach it.
But query, how is it that for all of wisdom's crying
this endless parade of plain examples before their very eyes ----men
yet do not know that the way of transgressors is hard? How is it that
men can watch this endless parade of examples, suffering the painful consequences
of their transgressions, and yet go on and commit the very same transgressions?
How is it that they never learn that the way of transgressors is hard?
The fact is, they do not want to know it. They all indulge themselves
with the hope of fools, that their own case will be different ----either
that, or abstain from thinking of the matter at all. Light is come into
the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds
But we must consider why the way of transgressors is hard. Who has made
it so? Surely not the transgressors. Every transgressor on earth would
make the way of transgressors smooth and easy, if he could. He would sit
down under the forbidden tree, and eat its fruit to his heart's content,
and insure that all of paradise would remain a paradise
could. But he has no control over the matter. The way of transgressors
remains hard, in spite of all of man's endeavors to secure the contrary.
Man has ransacked the earth and sea and sky for the means by which to
make the way of transgressors easy, but all to no avail. The scientific
and medical researches of man, his civic and social programs, his inventions
and institutions and insurance policies, are all bent to make the way
of transgressors smooth and pleasant and easy. But it remains hard, for
all of man's endeavors.
Who has made it hard? Not the devil, surely. He does not punish sin, but
rewards it. He would rock the sinner's cradle, and serenade him with pleasing
songs, and pamper him always with soft pillows
----if he could.
But the devil cannot control the matter either. He can entice men to sin
with fair promises, but he cannot prevent the evil effects of the sin.
That is, he cannot entirely prevent them. The devil and unregenerate men
have been very successful in our day in making the way of transgressors
easier ----and this I believe to be one of the main reasons for
the small success of the gospel in our day ----but though the devil
may make the way of transgressors easier, he can never make it quite easy.
Who, then, has made the way of transgressors hard? God has. It was God
who filled the earth with thorns and thistles and stinging insects and
venomous serpents, so soon as ever man became a transgressor. It was God
who planted the seeds of disease and death in the human body, so soon
as man transgressed his commandment. God has made the way of transgressors
hard. This is the very reason that transgressors hate God. Not that most
men will admit that they hate God. No, they think they love him. But the
God which they love is the God of their own imagination, or of some liberal
preacher's imagination. The God who actually exists, who judges sin, and
who makes the way of transgressors hard, they heartily resent.
But God is good, and there is mercy even in his judgements, for however
hard the way of transgressors may be, their end is much harder. God makes
the way of transgressors hard in order to keep them from the end of transgressors.
Have you ever considered what the result would be if the way of transgressors
were not hard? The human race would go on headlong to destruction, loving
and living in sin, till swallowed up in perdition. It is the hard way
of transgressors which moves them to consider their ways, and to turn
from their transgressions. Those who have not felt the hard effects of
sin will scarcely give a hearing to the gospel. Christ was sent to preach
the gospel to those who had felt the hard effects of sin. The Spirit
of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel
to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance
to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty
them that are bruised. (Luke 4:18). Not that every one of these
was necessarily feeling the effects of his own transgressions, but God
in mercy has so designed the matter that the whole race shall to some
degree feel the hard effects of the sins of the whole race. This is a
mercy to us. Yet it remains that we must also feel the effects of our
own transgressions, and this is a mercy also. This it is that opens our
ears and our hearts to the sound of the gospel. The young, and healthy,
and energetic, and successful, who have not felt much of the hard way
of transgressors, will scarcely consider the gospel at all.
Christ was not sent to preach to the rich and the prosperous and the healthy,
but to those whose way was hard. We are all sinners, and in our natural
state we all love sin. Most men cling to sin so long as they can, or so
long as they dare. While our way is smooth and easy, we seldom trouble
ourselves about how hard the end will be. Numerous old proverbs testify
to this. Felicity eats up circumspection. Prosperous
men seldom mend their faults. But when we begin to feel the effects
of our sin, then we turn from our transgressions, and come to God for
mercy. The prodigal son would have gone on in sin in the far country to
the end of his life, if his pockets and his stomach had been full. When
they were empty, he thought of returning to his father.
This is not honorable, I know. To turn our backs to God in our ease and
plenty, and turn our faces to him only in our poverty and need, this is
not honorable, but God will take you even then. He delights to take up
the devil's castaways, as George Whitefield used to say. Christ was sent
to preach to the devil's castaways. It may not be honorable to turn to
God only in our extremity, but it is surely a good deal less honorable
not to turn to him at all. It was more honorable for the prodigal to say,
in the broken and humble spirit in which he said it, I will arise
and go to my father, when his pockets and his stomach were empty,
than it would have been for him to remain in his sins in the far country.
When the prodigal son purposed to go to the far country, the Father let
him go. God wants none but willing servants, and the hard lot which falls
to transgressors in the far country will make them willing, if anything
will. The Father gave him his liberty, and loaded him with money besides.
He gives the same to every man
----gives you your liberty, and health,
and goods, and friends ----and you use it all just as the prodigal
did, in one long demonstration of how far your heart is from the God who
made you. But God loves you still, and he sends his messengers to the
far country to endeavor to draw your heart back home. The Father never
went after the prodigal, but he sent his messengers after him. Those messengers
came in the form of the hard lot of transgressors. The empty stomach,
and the empty pockets. The loneliness of the far country, and the heartlessness
of its inhabitants. When his money and his friends and his pleasures were
all gone, and no man gave unto him, he came to himself, and
learned by hard experience that the way of transgressors is hard. He didn't
believe that when he walked out of his Father's house with his pockets
full of money. He no doubt whistled all the way to the far country. He
didn't go there expecting to find the way hard.
But it is a simple fact that the way of transgressors is hard. It is an
obvious fact, and a fact which is daily and nightly cried in the streets
of the city, and a fact which will never change so long as there is a
God in heaven. But men are very slow to learn it. Most of them learn it
only in the school of hard knocks, and many will not learn it even there.
They cling to a vain hope that the hard way will improve, and when it
does not improve, they blame and resent God for it. Well, I tell you frankly,
it is God's fault that the way of transgressors is hard. It was God who
made it so, and it is God who keeps it so, in spite of all the endeavors
of men and devils to make it easy. But you ought not to blame or resent
God for this. No, you ought to thank him for it every day of your life.
He makes the way of transgressors hard in order to turn you from your
transgressions, to keep you from ever coming to the end of transgressors,
which will be a good deal harder than the way.
The Degeneracy of Modern Music
by Glenn Conjurske
I do not aim to speak much of the popular music of the world. I hear
but little of it, though I do hear some in stores or other work places,
where I am obliged to shop or carry on my business. I can say that there
is a great difference between much of the popular music today, and that
which existed forty years ago, when I was a boy. The popular music then
was degenerate also, but generally more innocent, and more musical, than
what exists today. Much (not all) of the popular music of the present
is not music at all, but mere noise. The words to much of it are smut
and garbage. But I do not speak merely of its obvious moral degeneracy.
Even where the music is musical and pleasing, there is no poetic worth
in most of the words, or we might better say, no poetry at all, but only
a few words strung together, without rhythm or meter, often without rhyme,
and often enough without sense. There are of course exceptions to all
of this, and I have heard some modern music which contained solid depth
of both thought and feeling, and good music also. But this is a small
proportion of the whole.
The same degeneracy appears in the music of the church. But observe, I
do not speak here of what is called Contemporary Christian Music.
That was degenerate from its inception
----never has been and never
can be anything but degenerate. Contemporary Christian Music
is not the music of the church at all, but the music of the world. It
doubtless contains some half-Christian words, as it is the product of
half-Christian artists. It is the product of modern Evangelicals
who are doing their best to be as much like the world as they can, or
as much as they dare. I repeat, this is not Christian music at all. It
is the music of the world, copied by those who profess to be Christians.
Modern recording and broadcasting techniques have filled the church with
this worldly music, and so vitiated the tastes and dulled the senses of
real Christians, that the situation now appears virtually hopeless for
the mass of Evangelicals. This Contemporary Christian Music
has now gained acceptance in the most conservative circles, by means of
the radio. The Christian stations have little by little introduced music
which is more and more corrupt, and the Christian people have little by
little become accustomed to it, and accepted it. I was recently in Kregel's
Bookstore in Grand Rapids (certainly a conservative place), and was absolutely
sickened by the music which was playing. Even the old and spiritual hymns
were sung in a manner so fleshly, and so absolutely devoid of anything
remotely resembling spirituality, that I can only describe the effect
as most sickening. I would hope my readers would be shocked to hear Rock
of Ages performed in a night club, but the plain fact
is, the so-called Christian radio has brought the music of the night club
into most of the Christian homes and Christian businesses in the land,
and the Christians have accepted it. This of course has been done little
by little, for if the music which is now played every day by the Christian
radio stations had been played twenty years ago, they would have lost
their whole listening audience. Some of those stations, I am well aware,
play only the more conservative of Contemporary Christian
Music, but the plain fact is, none of it is conservative. It is
all a departure from the old music of the church, which is precisely why
it is called contemporary. It may contain some good, but what
of that? Most every evil under the sun is in fact a mixture of good and
evil. The church is not so easily deceived by things wholly evil. At any
rate, conservative and contemporary are opposites.
All Contemporary Christian Music is evil in its source, its
spirit, and its tendency. If Christians wish to be Christians indeed,
they may begin by transporting their Christian radio to the
town dump. By this means they might also be freed from the influence of
the shallow half-Christianity of the popular evangelical radio preachers.
But I do not speak in this article of contemporary music,
which exists only to be performed by artists,
but of the traditional music of the church. This is very degenerate also.
I have been much condemned by some for saying so, but I think I know whereof
I speak. I have personally read through scores of hymn books, looking
for good hymns, and I have long observed that it is difficult to find
anything worthwhile written later than about 1900, and very difficult
indeed after about 1925. There is of course here and there an individual
exception, but I speak of what is certainly the case in general. I have
often read through an entire hymn book, examining scores of hymns which
were previously unknown to me, without finding a single good one. Other
hymn books may yield one or two which are acceptable and usable, but nothing
of a high caliber. We find occasionally some very good music, but the
words which accompany it are usually trite and empty, or very shallow
at the best.
One man of more recent times who did write some tolerably good poetry
was James M. Gray, who died in 1935. In company with Daniel B. Towner,
he produced some very acceptable hymns. He also lamented the degeneracy
of modern hymns. In an editorial in Moody Monthly, in March of 1933, after
speaking of the degeneracy of the music of the world, he says, Speaking
of gospel songs in particular, a comparison of the songbooks of the last
quarter of the nineteenth century, with some that have been published
in the first quarter of this century or later, will convince any fair-minded
critic that a degeneracy has set in. Bliss, Sankey, Stebbins, McGranahan,
Towner, Gabriel, and other composers of the earlier period, have had but
few real successors, and we think we can suggest a reason. It is not because
their successors are less competent in the sphere of music, but less careful,
if not less capable in the choice of words to set to music. The men above-named
were in a greater or lesser degree Bible taught men, zealous for the truth,
sensitive to heresy or error of any kind, and anxious that their songs
be used of God to save souls and to edify His redeemed people. Gospel
hymn composition to them was a gift of God carrying with it a grave responsibility.
We knew some of these men pretty well, and we knew the spirit of prayer
in which they did their work. Theirs was a high and holy calling, and
young men and women of our day who know music might well covet to follow
in their footsteps.1
And that degeneracy which Gray claims had set in nearly a
century ago has certainly not been checked or reversed, but has continued
and accelerated until the present day. The degeneracy of the hymns is
a reflection of the degeneracy of the church, and it could hardly be otherwise.
A shallow and worldly church cannot produce hymns of worth or depth. But
as with books, so with music and poetry, modern technology and modern
affluence have made it easy to write and easy to print, while Laodicean
pride has produced a whole generation of Christians who think more highly
of themselves and their abilities than they ought to think. They turn
out glibly and carelessly what former generations produced under a sense
of grave responsibility, steeped in prayer and watered with
tears. The church today is therefore flooded with shallow and unsound
hymns and books, and the generation which produced them approves and accepts
and applauds them.
Nor do we see any reason to expect any general reformation in the matter.
Quite the reverse, for in fact the present age has greatly augmented the
evils which have contributed to the degeneracy. Modern education has greatly
inflated people's pride, while contributing extremely little to their
actual ability. On top of that, the electronic age has put all the capabilities
of desktop publishing into the hands of multiplied thousands
who have no sufficient or legitimate reason to publish anything at all
message from God, no gift of God, no spirituality, no depth of thought
or feeling, no tears ----nothing at all beyond the common and the
mediocre. Yet they must see their productions in print, and send them
abroad into the church.
But is there no remedy? We suppose the actual remedy for such a state
of things is a very complex one, but I may allow an old prophet to suggest
one thing. Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths,
where is the good way. (Jer. 6:16). Let the Christians of the present
day stand in the ways, and compare the old and the new. Let them ask for
the old paths. Let them continually steep their hearts and minds in the
old hymns and the old books of the church. It may be that they will perceive
that the old paths are indeed the good way.
The Liberalism of the New King James Version Demonstrated
by Glenn Conjurske
Let it be understood at the outset that I do not here use the term liberalism
in its specific theological sense. That is, I do not mean modernism by
it. I do not accuse the producers of the New King James Version of modernism.
I use the term liberalism in its general sense, as the opposite
of conservatism. Liberalism is discontent with what is, and an excessive
desire for change. I say an excessive desire, for conservatism
is open to change also, but is cautious in introducing it.
Traditionalism is determined to keep the baby, and the bath water too.
It ascribes the same divine origin to both the one and the other.
Conservatism is willing to throw out the bath water, if this may be done
without losing the baby, or to throw out so much of the bath water as
may be done without endangering the baby.
Liberalism is simply determined to throw out the bath water, and does
not much trouble itself about the fate of the baby. Not that it cares
nothing for the baby. No, but liberalism is generally shallow, and fails
to perceive any danger to the baby. Moreover, in its zeal for reform it
sometimes mistakes the baby for the bath water.
Liberalism is not always an evil thing. If what exists is generally evil,
a certain degree of liberalism may be good. Prevailing evils incite and
create a liberal reaction. As the old French proverb has it, By
dint of going wrong, all will come right. The old English Bible,
however, is not generally evil, and the liberal treatment of it arises
from another source.
But all liberalism is not evil. Some small degree of liberalism is perhaps
always good, since there is no perfection under the sun. Conservatism
itself contains a small degree of liberalism. It is traditionalism alone
which rigidly excludes it, for traditionalism finds an imagined perfection
under the sun. The small degree of liberalism which may be found in conservatism
itself is the thing which distinguishes it from traditionalism. Yet, as
the translators of the King James Version well say, things are to
take their denomination of the greater part
----they are to
be named, that is, according to that which predominates in them ----and
by this standard conservatism may be as easily distinguished from liberalism
as a saint from a sinner, though there may be evil in the saint, and good
in the sinner.
Conservatism, however, contains nothing of the spirit of liberalism. The
spirit of liberalism is almost always evil. It is a spirit of self-importance,
self-confidence, and self-assertion. It is the spirit which was manifested
in the Boston Tea Party
----where no one would deny that what was
thrown overboard was good. It is an impatience of what is ----an
impatience begotten not by the evil or insufficiency of what is, but by
its own self-confidence and self-importance. And since liberalism is usually
as shallow as it is self-confident ----and self-confident precisely
because it is shallow ----it is unable to appreciate the good in
what is. It must have change. It magnifies all evils, while it fails to
perceive the good. It burns the ship to kill the rats. If it finds a freckle
on the face, it must cut off the head. This rashness, this recklessness,
this lack of due caution, though it comes in varying degrees, is characteristic
of liberalism. It must replace the tested and the time-honored with its
own untried commodities, and it is too self-confident to perceive any
risk in such change.
But risk there always is in change. It was solid wisdom in our forefathers
which popularized the old proverb, Let well enough alone.
That proverb is an expression of conservatism. Traditionalism is determined
to let ill enough alone, conservatism to let well enough alone, while
liberalism will let nothing alone, but is never content unless it is meddling
and altering. This restless discontent is the essence of liberalism, and
the foundation of this discontent is self-conceit.
That liberalism has been manifest in all the major revisions of the English
Bible, beginning with the Revised Version of 1881. This was the objection
of the great and good John W. Burgon to the old Revised Version. Though
he does not use the term liberalism, from beginning to end
of The Revision Revised he aptly describes the thing. Early in his preface
he complains, Painfully apparent were the tokens which met me on
every side that the Revisionists had been supremely eager not so much
to correct none but 'plain and clear errors,'
----as to introduce
as many changes as they conveniently could. A skittish impatience of the
admirable work before them, and a strange inability to appreciate its
manifold excellences: ----a singular imagination on the part of
the promiscuous Company which met in the Jerusalem Chamber that they were
competent to improve the Authorized Version in every part, and an unaccountable
forgetfulness that the fundamental condition under which the task had
been by themselves undertaken, was that they should abstain from all but
'necessary' changes: ----this proved to be only part of the offence
which the Revisionists had committed. It was found that they had erred
through defective Scholarship to an extent, and with a frequency, which
to me is simply inexplicable.
This is a very apt description of liberalism, from its impatience of the
old, and its inability to appreciate it, to its imagination of its own
competence to better it
----and this coupled with actual shallowness
and defective scholarship. And mark, if these remarks truly characterize
the makers of the old Revised Version, they apply with double force to
the makers of the new versions, who are much beneath the old revisers
in competence, while they seem to outstrip them in self-confidence and
its consequent rashness.
Burgon closes his appeal by commending the work to ALMIGHTY GOD,
praying, May He have compassion on my ignorance, and graciously
forgive me, if, (intending nothing less,) I shall prove to have anywhere
erred in my strenuous endeavour to maintain the integrity of Scripture
against the rashness of an impatient and unlearned generation
is, against liberalism.
In the body of this work Burgon writes, It is clear therefore that
Caprice, not Necessity,
----an itching impatience to introduce changes
into the A.V., not the discovery of 'plain and clear errors,' has determined
the great bulk of the alterations which molest us in every part of the
present unlearned and tasteless performance.
This is an apt description of the Revised Version, and an equally apt
description of the liberalism which produced it. The same shallow and
self-confident liberalism is visible everywhere in the new versions.
But understand, liberalism comes in varying degrees, and the modern versions
certainly do not all demonstrate the same degree of liberalism. Of the
three widely used modern versions, the New International Version is by
far the most liberal, while the New King James Version is undoubtedly
the least liberal, with the New American Standard Version somewhere between
them. I do not single out the New King James Version because it is more
liberal than the other popular modern versions. Just the reverse.
I single it out precisely because it is the least liberal, and whatever
we may say of liberalism in the New King James Version will apply with
double or triple force to the others. But the New King James Version basks
in a reputation of conservatism
----a reputation which it could
not sustain except for the prevailing liberalism of the present generation.
It is less liberal than the other modern versions, but hardly conservative.
It would hardly seem necessary to prove that some degree of liberalism
contributed to the production of all the new versions, for this is evident
in the nature of the case. The fact that the new translators have not
merely corrected the serious faults of the old version, but have engaged
in extensive alteration from beginning to end, even in the most insignificant
matters, is proof enough of the liberal spirit which animated them. Their
work proclaims not only their belief in the extensive inaccuracy or inadequacy
of the old version, but also their belief in their own competence to better
it, both of which I take the liberty to deny.
There is indication enough of their liberalism not only in the general
scope of their work, but (of course) in the details also, and I desire
to call attention here to one mark of that liberalism, which is likely
to be overlooked. I refer to the paragraph headings. These, of course,
are not inspired of God. They are purely human accessories to the divine
text. We do not plead any divine authority for any of them, whether old
or new. Nevertheless, those paragraph headings of necessity embody some
degree of theological substance, and we would therefore naturally expect
to find in them the common theological language of the church. It is often
otherwise, however, in the New King James Version. What reason, for example,
can there be to turn the familiar Solomon's porch into Solomon's
portico at Acts 3:11, when the text directly beneath the heading
reads the porch which is called Solomon's?
In some cases their new renderings of the text would seem to necessitate
the new terminology in the paragraph headings, but this fact ought to
have moved them to some second thoughts concerning their new translation.
It is too late to alter the theological language of the church. It is
too late to turn The Lord's Prayer into The Model Prayer,
as they do in their heading. The Lord's Prayer will remain
The Lord's Prayer till the end of time, no doubt even in the
language of those who use this new Bible, and even in the language of
those who made it. It is too late to root out such time-worn terminology.
We all know that there is somewhat in this prayer which the Lord would
not have prayed himself, but what of that? If it is the model prayer,
then it is the Lord's model, and how does this differ from the Lord's
On the same page we find the heading You Cannot Serve God and Riches.
Why riches? Why not mammon? In this case it was
not even the new translation which dictated the change, for the text reads
God and mammon. No better heading for the paragraph could
have been found than God and mammon. This expression is an
old landmark, which has stamped itself not only upon the language of the
church, but of all who speak English.
Yet again on the same page we find The Lamp of the Body, in
place of The Light of the Body. This change in the language
of the heading is dictated by a change of translation, but what dictated
the change of translation? Liberalism, and nothing else. For half a millennium,
since William Tyndale, the eye has been the light of the body.
Why must it now be the lamp? Ah, we shall be told (as always, till we
are weary of it), that lamp is more accurate.
We deny it. This is the accuracy of pedantry and fastidiousness, but surely
not of sense or scholarship. When the makers of the new Bible versions
walk into a darkened room, they turn on the light, not the lamp. Their
houses are equipped with ceiling lights, porch lights, yard lights, and
their cars with dome lights, and any man who insisted on thrusting lamp
into these expressions would be considered fastidious and odd. Light
is common English. The fact is, lamp and light
in this context mean exactly the same thing, only light is
the common word, and the general word, whereas lamp is much
more restricted in meaning and use.
Did the ambiguity of light trouble them? Must they distinguish
between light in the abstract, and the instrument which produces it? Such
technicalities exactly suit them, but are as unnecessary as they are uncalled
for in the Bible. The language of the Bible is not technical, but common.
If their predilection for technicalities compels them to make that distinction,
a marginal note would have accomplished it. But this version has no alternate
renderings or explanatory notes in the margin. This is a wide departure
from the King James Version, under the name of which it takes shelter.
The King James Version has many such notes, and regards them as necessary.
As for the eye as the light of the body, they would be hard pressed to
explain how it is either the abstract light or the instrument which produces
it. I cannot see that it is either the one or the other. It is that which
receives and relays the light, precisely as the moon is, and the moon
is called a light in Genesis 1:16, even in the New King James
Version. This is common language, and not intended to be understood in
any technical sense. What reason, then, was there to alter light
to lamp? There was no reason at all. This is simply liberalism
impatience of the old, and an itching for change, with no sufficient reason
Did they aim to distinguish between f and ? That were a work of supererogation.
They are often equivalent. is used as broadly in Greek as light
is in English. Where Peter warmed himself at the fire (Mark 14:54), and
where the jailer called for a light (Acts 16:29), this is f in the Greek.
Look at the matter whatever way we will, and still we must conclude there
was no valid reason for the change.
Liberalism must make changes, but lacks the competence to do so with sense
or propriety. The change from light to lamp may
be a small one, but there are hundreds of these small changes throughout
this version, as unnecessary as this one. This is liberalism. Though either
of them will bear distinct meanings, yet in this usage lamp
and light mean just the same thing, and in such cases it is
the way of conservatism to hold to the old and familiar terminology, while
the restlessness of liberalism is always inclined to exchange the old
for the new. Conservatism stands on solid ground, recognizing that there
is generally some risk, and almost always some loss, in exchanging the
old and familiar for the new and untried. Unless the gain clearly outweighs
the loss, and clearly justifies the risk, conservatism lets well enough
alone, while liberalism must meddle where the old is perfectly adequate,
and where there is little or nothing to be gained by the change.
Light has been exchanged for lamp elsewhere also
in the New King James Version, where the change is even more deplorable.
John the Baptist is called the burning and shining lamp in
John 5:35. Pardon my conservatism, but burning and shining light
is an old landmark
----it is the common language of the church ----which
has been applied to many besides John the Baptist, and will doubtless
be so applied till the end of time. Moreover, it is a vigorous and forceful
expression, exactly suited to the matter in hand, whereas burning
and shining lamp is weak and puny. Here we might borrow the language
of the solidly conservative Edmund Beckett, who says of many of the alterations
in the Revised Version, The A.V. means the same, and has expressed
it already for you in emphatic, solemn, harmonious and grand English,
such as you cannot imitate: why can't you leave it alone? Nobody wanted
the A.V. altering to say only the same things in worse language.
The new translators evidently felt the weakness of lamp in
this connection, for they balk, and quite rightly, at applying the term
to Christ. I observe that they do not venture to tell us in Revelation
21:23 that the Lamb is the lamp of the city, but retain the old rendering
light. Why this inconsistency, if lamp is the
proper rendering of ? If the word may be properly rendered light
in Revelation 21:23, why not in John 5:35? We deny that lamp
is the only proper rendering of , though it is an acceptable rendering
in some contexts. In other contexts it is clearly out of place. It is
none of the business of the translator to turn English into half Greek,
but to turn Greek into English, and the plain fact is, whatever Greek,
Latin, or Swahili may do, we do not call men lamps in English. If we were
to do so, I should think the term would rather be taken as detraction
than anything else, whereas to call a man a light is an expression of
strong admiration. Lamp in any of the above texts is weak,
stuffy, and fastidious.
The new translators apparently understood none of this
proceeded with too much haste and self-confidence to think of such matters
at all, being occupied with nothing deeper than their schoolboy ideas
of accuracy. But quite frankly, it was not necessary for them
to understand any of this. No: all they needed was a little conservatism,
which understands that there is risk in change, even where it can see
no risk. All they needed was to let well enough alone.
We are sometimes surprised at the apparent conservatism of this version,
but then anon equally surprised at the extent of its liberalism. In the
latter category, what can have moved them to alter the time of the
fruit in Matthew 21:34 to vintage-time? Not clarity
or intelligibility, for the old version was perfectly intelligible
much more so than the new one, for vintage is not a common
word. Not accuracy or faithfulness to the original, for the
time of the fruit is exactly literal, excepting only that fruit
is plural in the Greek. (Not that we need fault the old version on that
account, for in English fruit is a collective noun, which
may be plural in sense, though singular in form, while fruits
might suggest different kinds of fruit.) What moved them then? Is this
another example of the inscrutable fastidiousness of the makers of this
version, who perhaps supposed it improper to refer to grapes as fruit?
Or did they merely follow the example of the more liberal Berkeley Version,
which has vintage time? In either case, the alteration does
them no honor, and inspires no confidence in either their competence or
their conservatism. They have altered an easy expression, which was literal,
for a harder one, which is not literal, and certainly not more accurate.
A determination to let well enough alone would surely have kept them from
But to return to the paragraph headings, a number of the parables and
similes of Christ receive the same liberal treatment. The savourless salt
is now tasteless salt, though there is nothing in the text
which requires this. The parable of the unjust judge, as it has been universally
known for generations, must now be The Parable of the Persistent
Widow. Imagine trying to find the parable of the persistent
widow in Trench, or any standard work on the parables. Indeed, talk
of the parable of the persistent widow, and see how many Christians
will so much as know to what you refer. The liberalism which thus plows
up the old familiar ground, and casts away the old spiritual and theological
language of the church, whatever its intention may be, thereby does its
best to divorce itself from the heritage and the literature of the church.
This is sad.
Again, the parable of the pounds must now be The Parable of the
Minas. This case may serve us well enough to illustrate the value
of that caution which belongs to conservatism, but of which these liberals
know but little. Wise men understand that it is well to let well enough
alone, for the simple and sufficient reason that there is always risk
in change. Pounds was certainly well enough. It
had held its place in the English Bible for centuries, and never confused
or misled anybody. No man of sense ever supposed that a pound in ancient
Bible times was the exact equivalent of a pound in modern times. Yet if
anyone should happen to make that supposition, what harm would it do?
The value of the pound
----or mina ----is entirely irrelevant.
The meaning of the parable is no way dependent upon the value of the money.
A dollar or a penny would serve equally well for that. There was no reason
to change pound to anything else. In this we have only the
fastidious pedantry of modern intellectualism.
But we shall likely be told that mina is more accurate
claim which, in this case, we pronounce absurd. But liberalism itches
for change, being always over-confident of its own abilities, and therefore
wholly unconscious of the risk involved in substituting its new and untried
terms for the old and tested ones. But risk there is, whether we can foresee
it or not.
What advantage, then, hath the pound over the mina? A very simple yet
very important one. Everyone knows how to pronounce pound,
whereas we uneducated folks know not what to do with mina.
A friend (a college graduate), and poor uneducated I, both tried our tongues
on this new word
----and were both wrong. This is surely reason
enough not to use the term. What cause can there be at this date, after
we have had an intelligible and adequate Bible in English for hundreds
of years, to thrust into our Bible a foreign word, which none but college
professors or antiquarians have ever heard of? Pound is simple
and common, part and parcel of common English, holding its place yet in
common proverbs and proverbial expressions, though the pound itself has
long ceased to be used as current money in America. We have heard of being
penny wise and pound foolish, and no man of sense ever stumbled
over pound, or failed to understand the expression because
he knew not the exact value of a pound. And I affirm again that the value
of the money is as entirely irrelevant to the meaning of the parable
of the pounds as it is to the meaning of the proverb. None but pedants
would occupy themselves about the precise value of the money, and surely
nothing but liberalism would dream of altering the old version here.
And this leads me to remark that one evil effect of the liberalism which
produced all of these alterations is naturally to increase that dissatisfaction
with the old version, which is the staple of that liberalism. Now that
the alterations are made, they must be defended, and how is that to be
done except by finding fault with the old version? Most of those faults
are trivial or imaginary, but it is the uniform way of liberalism to magnify
trivial faults, and to invent imaginary ones.
Though it is wide of my present theme, I take the occasion to remark that
some of these paragraph headings are really inane, such as Taking
the Place of Barabbas at Matthew 27:15, Greatness is Serving
at Mark 10:35, The Heavenly Scholar at John 7:10, and Agrippa
Parries Paul's Challenge at Acts 26:24. It had really been better
to have no headings at all than to have such as these. As to the last
mentioned, Paul and Agrippa would have been every way superior.
Besides being more tasteful and conservative in tone, it would have been
an actual description of the content of the paragraph, which their heading
is not. Many of their headings fail in this. Indeed, look where we will
in this version, at matters great or small, we are continually met with
the rashness and incompetence of its makers, and forcibly reminded of
Burgon's words concerning a singular imagination...that they were
competent to improve the Authorized Version in every part. That
imagination of competence, coupled with actual incompetence, is characteristic
But as I remarked at the beginning of this article, some small degree
of liberalism may be a good thing, and lest I be thought to be relentless,
I refer to one paragraph heading which contains some solid good. In Luke
15 we read of The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable
of the Lost Coin, and The Parable of the Lost Son, the
latter displacing the old and familiar prodigal son. There
is at any rate good reason behind this alteration. The term prodigal
does not occur in the text, of either the old version or the new, whereas
the son is (twice) called lost, the same as the sheep and
the coin are. To refer to them all as lost in the headings
calls the attention of the reader to the unity of the three parables
they are one in scope and meaning ----which prodigal
certainly fails to do. Yet on the other side it must be said that the
prodigal son has been the prodigal son in English for
hundreds of years, and no paragraph heading in a new Bible version will
ever alter that. The prodigal son will be the prodigal son till the end
of time, in the thought and language of the whole church of God. The very
men who call him the lost son in this heading will continue
to call him the prodigal son in their preaching and conversation.
Thus it appears that though there is weighty reason for the alteration
which appears in the New King James Bible, there is also weighty reason
for retaining the old familiar term, and this places a burden upon the
conservative which neither the liberal nor the traditionalist ever feels.
The traditionalist nothing regards the reasons for the change, and therefore
needs not think at all. The liberal little regards the reasons for retaining
the old, and therefore needs think but little. The conservative feels
the weight of reason on both sides, and therefore must wrestle with the
difficulty. It seems to me that the change introduced here is a good one,
and yet the fact remains that the prodigal son will yet remain
the prodigal son. They did well to introduce the word lost,
but not so well to drop the word prodigal. They might perhaps
have done better to entitle the parable The Lost Son, Commonly Called
the Prodigal Son.
In the body of this parable we are struck with the strange expression,
Make me like one of your hired servants. This, I suppose,
was dictated by some of their jejune ideas about what Modern Standard
English is supposed to be, but the sense which it gives is a wrong
one. He did not desire to be like one of the servants, but as one
is, to occupy the place and position of one. It is a much different thing
to work as a clown than it is to work like one. We suppose their grammatical
ideas would not suffer them to use as before a noun, but this
is neither inaccurate, nor archaic, nor unintelligible, nor ambiguous.
It is perfectly good English, whereas like is a mere blunder.
Howbeit, the natural and unavoidable effect of such changes as this is
to convict the old version of insufficiency or error, and the liberal
mind is therefore quick to make them. These men fail, however, to consider
the risk involved in such changes, and so trip over their own naive grammatical
notions. They had done much better if they had set out with a purpose
to let well enough alone, ----that is, if they had been
conservative. We think it presumptuous enough for any new version to call
itself after the name of the venerable old one, but since the new version
has had the temerity to do so, it ought at any rate to have been very
sparing in its alterations.
What's Wrong with It?
by Glenn Conjurske
What's wrong with it? is a question which is heard altogether
too often in the church of God. The question itself is low and petty,
and usually betrays a wrong state of heart in those who ask it. This question
is the common language of the carnal and the worldly, whose Christianity
consists of nothing more than a free ticket to a heaven to which they
have no desire to go
----for they have no delight in anything in
it, unless perhaps the gold. Whenever a faithful preacher of the word
of God labors to call men to devotedness to the cause of Christ, and to
a little of self-denial as a means to that devotedness, or an expression
of it, he is met with the question, What's wrong with it?
The answer to that question may well be, Nothing. Nothing
is wrong with it. All things are lawful. But lawfulness is
not the test of devotedness. Lawfulness dictates what is absolutely required
----it determines the bare minimum ----and those whose
standard consists of a determination not to yield anything more than is
absolutely required of them are so mean and niggardly that it is difficult
to suppose them Christians at all. We love him, the Bible
says, because he first loved us. His love for us moved him
to give up all the glories of heaven, and to forgo even the common comforts
of life on earth, in order to save our souls. Was there anything wrong
with the glories of heaven? When the Father sent the Son into the world,
and in so doing expected him to give up his heavenly glory, can anyone
imagine the Son of God saying, What's wrong with it? He loved
us, and devoted himself to our cause, and therefore freely relinquished
a host of things which were good. Christians profess to love him in return,
and yet will stint to give up anything for him, unless they perceive it
to be positively evil.
But the plain fact is, God expects us to give up things which are lawful
and good. Scripture grants that all things are lawful. There is nothing
wrong with them. This, of course, must be understood to refer to all things
which God has created and sanctioned, and not to all the sinful pleasures
of the world. But for my present purpose, I need only say, Make the application
of this verse as wide as any carnal heart may please. All things
are lawful. So says Paul. But this is not all he says. All
things are lawful for me, says Paul, BUT all things are not
expedient: all things are lawful for me, BUT all things edify not.
(I Cor. 10:23). The fact, then, that there is nothing wrong with it is
really immaterial. The plain implication of Paul's words is this: we must
have better reason to indulge in anything, than the mere fact that it
is lawful. Those who ask only What's wrong with it? are asking
the wrong question. They ought rather to ask, Is it expedient?
Does it edify?
Now observe, the word expedient has acquired a rather unwholesome
connotation, and may therefore fail to communicate to us the meaning of
the original. The word is elsewhere translated to be profitable, or to
----it is profitable for thee that one of thy members
should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
I Cor. 7:35
----and this I speak for your own profit.
I Cor. 10:33
----not seeking mine own profit.
The meaning of I Cor. 10:23, then, is this: All things are lawful
for me, but all things are not profitable; all things are lawful for me,
but all things edify not. Let those who claim to be Christians,
then, cease to ask, What's wrong with it? Let them rather
say, Does it profit? Does it edify? But profit for what? It
is hardly necessary to say that the profit and the edification of which
Paul speaks are spiritual. Such and such a thing is lawful, but is it
of any profit to my soul, or to the souls of anyone else? Does it edify
myself or the church of God? If not, I have no business with it. I am
here to devote myself to the cause of Christ as he devoted himself to
my cause, and not merely to render to God the bare minimum which righteousness
requires of me.
But in the light of this it plainly appears to me that the standards of
the evangelical church in our day are defective in the extreme. Evangelicals
will refuse all such activities as they suppose to be unlawful, while
they defend and freely indulge in those which are in fact unprofitable.
With all of this I suppose most Christians will agree. Yet I have long
observed that many will cordially agree when we preach abstract principles,
and forcefully disagree as soon as we apply those principles to anything
specific. The preacher's work, therefore, is not done when he has preached
principles, nor when he has secured assent to those principles. Even the
ungodly will very often assent to the principles of truth. Many of them
will agree to every word, so long as we preach repentance to them in the
abstract, but as soon as we begin to apply the doctrine to their own particular
sins, they will defend every one of them. I aim, therefore to apply these
principles to those specific unprofitable and unedifying things which
are usually freely indulged under the carnal and worldly standards of
At the head of the list I may speak of making money, as this may serve
to bring clearly into view what is meant by profit. To the worldling,
profit is money, and their thoughts can scarcely rise above this, but
the Lord says, What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul? And what shall it profit a Christian
to make money, if his soul is dwarfed in the process, or if the souls
of his neighbors or his children are lost? To make money takes time and
thought and energy. Is this profitable? Does this edify? It is necessary
to make a certain amount of money, and this is certainly lawful, but there
must be some reasonable bounds to this, in the face of the Lord's solemn
command that we Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for
that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. (John 6:27). Some
years ago I was reproached by a fellow Christian (behind my back, of course)
for not making all the money I could. Such reproaches have not the weight
of a feather to me. If I were to make all the money I could I certainly
would not be publishing this magazine, for I make no money at it, and
if I had chosen for all these years to make all the money I could, I would
certainly have no ability to edit such a magazine as this. The making
of money, beyond what need requires, or beyond what we have occasion to
lay out in the cause of Christ, I have judged to be unprofitable
those who have engaged in such pursuits may best judge whether it is edifying.
I speak next of classical music. I observe that it is the universal practice
of Christians who have no proper ideas concerning what the world is to
distinguish between the clean and the unclean things in the world. They
thus make a distinction where God makes none, for God says, All
that is in the world...is not of the Father. All that is in the
world has taken its rise from man in alienation from God, led by Satan,
and the tendency of all of it is to draw the heart away from God, and
to provide pleasure and satisfaction without God and without reference
to him. But Christians are determined to hold to the distinction between
the good and the evil in the world. While they therefore condemn the popular
music of the day, they defend classical music, or some other sorts of
music which may appear to be free from the moral corruption of the popular
music, always asking, What's wrong with it?
Well, suppose nothing is wrong with it. We have yet two questions to ask.
Is it profitable? and Does it edify? Does classical music profit your
soul? Does it build up your soul in the faith, in the love of God, in
the love of saints or sinners? Is it not rather a distraction, a hindrance,
a detriment? Does it not waste your time, and draw your mind away from
solemn and heavenly meditation? Do you pray without ceasing
while you listen to classical music? Perhaps twenty years ago I had the
pastor of a flourishing Reformed Baptist church over for supper. He and
his church were very favorable to what is called culture,
which is the cleaner side of worldliness. He had evidently heard a few
things about me, and began to interrogate me. He asked me what I thought
of classical music. I responded, with deep feeling, that I have one little
drop of time between two eternities
----one little drop of time
in which to determine the issues of eternity, for myself and for others ----and
I am not going to spend it listening to classical music. He evidently
felt the force of this, and answered not a word.
I speak next of classical literature. Under this head we may include secular
literature of all sorts. I will not contend that all of this is unlawful,
nor even that all of it is totally unprofitable. A man whose heart is
thoroughly devoted to the cause of Christ may find profit in almost everything.
He may draw honey from the rankest weed, and turn all that he touches
to gold. Nevertheless, all things are not equally profitable. There is
doubtless some small profit in secular history and biography, though there
is precious little in fiction of any kind. But granting that secular or
classical literature may yield some profit to a man of God, what business
do we have to pursue things of small profit, when we might find greater
profit elsewhere? Our life is a vapor, which appears for a little time,
and then vanishes away. This lays upon us a solemn obligation to redeem
the time, and so of course to spend that time in those things which yield
the most profit, though some profit might be gleaned in almost everything.
Suppose we find a company executive spending hours every day playing marbles
with the boys in the alley. We question him, and he tells us that this
is profitable, that he has won sixty-three marbles already, all of which
shall be faithfully applied to the profits of the company. We quickly
conclude that he is not devoted to the profit of the company at all, but
only to his own pleasure. Yet this is an apt illustration of the ways
of many Christians, and of how they justify those ways. To spend our time
in things of little profit, when we might spend it to better advantage,
is trifling with our responsibility, and with the little vapor of life
which God has given us.
So exactly was classical literature regarded by the good John Newton.
Upon his conversion, while still a sailor, he began to study the
classics. In short, he says, in the space of two
or three voyages I became tolerably acquainted with the best classics;
... I read Terrence, Virgil, and several pieces of Cicero; and the modern
classics, Buchanan, Erasmus, and Cassimir. At length I conceived a design
of becoming Ciceronian myself, and thought it would be a fine thing indeed
to write pure and elegant Latin. I made some essays towards it, but by
this time the Lord was pleased to draw me nearer to himself, and to give
me a fuller view of the 'pearl of great price,' the inestimable treasure
hid in the field of the Holy Scriptures; and for the sake of this, I was
made willing to part with all my new acquired riches. I began to think
that life was too short (especially my life) to admit of leisure for such
elaborate trifling. Neither poet nor historian could tell me a word of
Jesus, and I therefore applied myself to those who could. The classics
were at first constrained to one morning in the week, and at length quite
Give attendance to reading, says Paul. Meditate upon
these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear
to all. (I Tim. 4:13-15). But can any man be so far from the mind
of the Lord as to suppose that this reading is to apply to
heathen classics, whether ancient or modern, or that thy profiting
refers to thy proficiency in Greek and Latin roots?
poor soul withers and dries? This is not wholly unprofitable, but is of
so little profit in comparison to spiritual reading that we quite agree
with Newton in calling it elaborate trifling.
But if the classics are elaborate trifling, what can we say of much of
the reading of the modern church? Fiction is the steady diet of many.
This is trifling indeed, though not elaborate. Yet those who love this
pleasure will defend it, saying What's wrong with it? Let
them rather ask, Does it profit? Does it edify? And let them answer these
questions honestly, in the presence of God and eternity.
Others spend their precious time reading the newspaper. I will not contend
that this is unlawful
----though I dare say Abraham had little interest
in The Sodom Daily News. Yet I look at a newspaper occasionally myself.
I cannot contend that this is unlawful. There is some little good to be
gleaned there, as there is in secular history, and indeed in all that
takes place under the sun. But the return is so small for the time expended,
that we must certainly contend that this is generally unprofitable.
Another of those unprofitable things in which Christians delight to spend
their time is sports, and many of them have stretched their ingenuity
to the limit to justify this. Most of their arguments, however, are weak
and foolish. I have heard men defend playing baseball on the basis that
our bodies need exercise. It is very difficult to believe such reasoning
is anything other than hypocrisy. Your body needs exercise. Therefore
you will spend several hours playing a baseball game. Half of that time
you spend sitting on the bench, while others bat. Most of the rest of
the time you spend standing idle in the field, waiting for the ball to
come in your direction. Unless you are the pitcher, you probably get more
exercise trotting from the field to the dugout and back, than you do playing
the game. You could get more exercise taking a walk in the woods, and
meditate and pray besides, which you can surely do little of on the ball
field. The plain fact is, you play ball for pleasure, and excuse the waste
of time by claiming you need the exercise.
But some other sports provide more exercise than baseball. There may therefore
be some small profit in them, to the body if not to the soul. What then?
Can you honestly call them profitable and edifying, in the obvious sense
in which Paul uses these terms? If it is bodily exercise you need, there
are few sports which will provide it any better than riding a bicycle,
and this you may do on a quiet country road, alone with God, with your
thoughts engaged in the cause of Christ, and your prayers rising to your
heavenly Father. This I often do myself. Is your mind thus engaged while
you play tennis or football? Will you stand before God when you are called
to give account of yourself, and seriously and honestly contend that these
sports were profitable or edifying? I trow not.
I have one uniform answer to all those who plead that there is nothing
wrong with such sports. If these are lawful and right, if they are good
and pure and holy, then by all means let us play at them when we get to
heaven. There we will have no battles to fight, no sin to conquer, no
souls to save, no need to wrestle in prayer, no time slipping away from
----nothing to do but enjoy ourselves for ever and ever. Then
(if it be lawful), let us play tennis, and baseball, and ping pong, and
soccer. We have something more profitable to do here.
But the church today has sunk lower than playing at sports, and justifying
it by pleading the profit of bodily exercise. There are thousands of Christians
who spend countless hours watching others play on television, or listening
to the games on the radio. Not even bodily exercise can be argued in favor
of this. Supposing this to be lawful, by what stretch of imagination could
it be proved profitable? How is it edifying?
Yet so low are the standards of the modern church that watching these
sports is the common practice, and no man troubles himself concerning
whether it is profitable or edifying. There are now Christian radio programs
devoted entirely to the world's major league sports. I happened to hear
a little of one not long ago, conducted by an unspiritual man who was
so absolutely destitute of spiritual sense as to suggest that God is a
Packer fan! For thirty years I have believed that modern Christianity
is hopelessly sunk in worldliness, but I was not prepared for anything
so low as this. Such a profanation of divine things has not existed on
the earth since Belshazzar brought out the vessels of the house of the
Lord, and drank wine in them, and praised the gods of gold and silver.
But that profaneness was perpetrated by the ungodly, this by the godly,
or those who profess to be so. At any rate, this man and his guest, one
Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers, were talking about hunger. No,
not spiritual hunger, not the hunger which the Bible speaks of, nor anything
remotely resembling it, but hunger to win the championship. And all this
by some stretch of imagination drawn under the umbrella of Christianity.
But no: those major league sports are the world
----in the world,
of the world, wholly worldly in spirit and in aim, with no more of God
in them than there is in Hollywood ----and yet I have just learned
that an evangelical Baptist church in town has moved its Sunday evening
meeting to three in the afternoon, so the people can watch the championship
But my zeal carries me beyond the scope of this article. I surely believe
that these sports are unlawful for a saint of God. But suppose you think
them lawful. Do you think them profitable? Do you think them edifying?
Do they build you up in faith and love? How exactly do they edify you?
Do they increase your zeal for the cause of Christ? Do they so much as
contribute one whit of anything spiritual to your soul? I have never known
any defender of these sports who would dare to affirm it, though I have
heard some very lame excuses. I was knocking on doors a few years ago,
and came to the house of a Baptist preacher, a typical modern Evangelical.
Somehow we fell upon the subject of watching major league sports. He evidently
felt that this was unprofitable, but defended it by saying that he did
it in order to see how bad the world was! I was quite unable to believe
in the sincerity of such an excuse, for if he really wished to see the
evil of the world, he ought to have watched the soap operas, and not the
ball games. And not only so, but as I said, Do you have to watch
the games every day in order to understand the evil of the world? Would
not one game suffice?
Yet I will grant that it may be lawful to take the pulse of the world
once in a while, though we hardly need go out of our way to do so, nor
spend much time at it either. I spent a few minutes in a hospital waiting
room some time ago, where a television set was spewing forth its corruption.
In the few minutes that I was there I suppose a hundred shots were fired
on that screen, and every one of them with murderous intent. On another
recent occasion I was shopping in the local Wal-Mart store, and was obliged
to spend a few minutes adjacent to a television set. The young ladies
on the screen, playing volleyball, were dressed (or undressed) in provocative
garb, and their talk was smutty and suggestive, while the camera purposely
concentrated on every sensual motion. This is enough for me. I do not
need to watch the screen by the hour to know the evil of the world. And
as for finding any good on the television screen, supposing we could grant
that some exists, who would wish to go fishing in a cesspool? I can remember
the time, perhaps forty years ago, when most of the Christians I knew
would not own a television set. Evidently the moral character of the television
has very much improved in the past forty years.
But again, I am wide of my subject. I can scarcely grant that it is lawful
to watch television. If lawful to watch it, it is certainly unlawful to
enjoy it, and who watches it for any other purpose? And among those who
believe it lawful, how many sincerely believe it profitable? How many
believe it edifying? If it is not profitable and edifying, Christians
have no business with it. It was for this reason that I gave up listening
to major league sports when I was converted, over thirty years ago. I
did not then suppose this to be unlawful, but I quickly perceived it to
be unprofitable, and a waste of my precious time. When I was a student
at Bible school I had roommates who could not bear to miss a ball game.
I could not understand this, and I could not bear to listen to what they
could not bear to miss. So, in the good providence of God, these ball
games contributed something to my spiritual life, for all during one summer,
whenever my roommate would turn on the ball game, I would pack up my brief
case with a few of my precious books, and drive out to Lookout Point,
where I spent the afternoon with my God and my books. Thus these ball
games served to strengthen my love of solitude, which has doubtless been
a large factor in promoting my meditation and my walk with God. Can those
who watch or listen to these ball games claim as much profit to their
We might mention also another kind of sport, namely hunting and fishing.
I would not so much as hint that this is unlawful, but is it profitable?
In some cases there may be at least some temporal profit in it, if men
hunt or fish for food, but I question whether they might not better spend
their time and money to buy a side of beef. I once spent a little time
with a young Independent Baptist preacher in South Dakota. He and his
wife both had good jobs, and yet he claimed that he was obliged to hunt
in order to put meat on the table. Very well, if true. If he was hunting
bison, and could take one in a few hours' time, this might be a very profitable
way to put meat on the table. But no, he was hunting mourning doves!
which he ate only the breasts. I frankly doubt there was enough meat in
one of these birds to pay for the shot required to kill it, to say nothing
of licenses, guns and other equipment, gasoline to drive to the country
to hunt them, and hours of time to stalk them. The plain fact is, most
men do not hunt and fish primarily for the meat, but for sport and pleasure.
I have known plenty of fishermen who usually give away the fish which
they catch. They do not want them for food, but catch them for sport.
Hunters may eat the meat which they take, but their primary reason for
taking it may be the sport, or the rack of antlers. We would hope that
Christians who do so would at any rate have the honesty to acknowledge
the real reason for their hunting, and not play the hypocrite by contending
they do it for the meat. We would further hope they would seriously reflect
upon whether the practice is actually profitable, even from a temporal
But I must speak of yet another common unprofitable practice among Evangelicals.
I refer to dining out. I have not the slightest question that this is
lawful, at least when necessity requires it. But the kind of dining out
which is commonly practiced has nothing to do with necessity. It is recreational
dining out. Lawful this may be, but is it profitable? Does it edify? A
valued correspondent complains of the music and the immodest dress of
the women, to which he is subjected in the restaurants. Perhaps we must
endure this when we are travelling, and far from our own home and kitchen,
but what moves Christians to choose such places, over their own home and
fireside? Is it edifying to dine in such an atmosphere?
Methinks this is nothing other than worldliness, directly against the
quiet life, against the home life, against home hospitality, and promoting
laziness and gadding about. It is expensive also. Eight or ten years ago
I was talking with a fellow Christian on a Saturday afternoon. He told
me that he and his wife had gone out to eat the night before, and that
he had spent his last twelve dollars for their meal. Said I, That
is very interesting. It so happens that I also spent my last twelve dollars
----but I spent it for blank tapes, to record my sermons.
I will not contend that what he did was unlawful, but I will contend that
what is lawful is not the measure of devotedness to Christ. All things
are lawful, but all things are not profitable. All things are lawful,
but all things edify not.
And I must insist on one more thing in this connection. It seems to me
that most who profess to be Christians begin at exactly the wrong end
in this business. They do not first inquire as to what is profitable and
edifying, for their own souls and the cause of the gospel, and determine
to spend their time and their energies in those things. They rather do
as the world does, choosing to indulge in those things in which they find
pleasure, and then cast about for some means by which to justify their
conduct, by affecting to find some scrap of profit in their activities.
This is hypocrisy, and will not stand for a moment before the judgement
seat of Christ. What's wrong with it? they say. Perhaps nothing,
but those who are determined to indulge in their pleasures are really
incapable, for lack of a single eye, of objective judgement as to what
is lawful, and those who make lawfulness the measure of their devotedness
thereby proclaim that they have little or none of the latter. Let a man
tell his wife that he loves her, and will therefore render to her all
that the law requires of him, and she will tell him that he does not love
her at all. The man who professes devotedness to Christ, and will yet
render to him no more than righteousness requires, has only deceived himself.
The enthralled lover may say, We cannot be always kissing,
but he will soon add, but I wish we could. The carnal, by
contrast, have been saying for centuries, We cannot be always praying
are evidently glad of it.
Many will doubtless think me far astray in supposing we ought to do nothing
but what is profitable or edifying, but any other supposition makes Paul's
exhortation meaningless and void. When Paul wrote, All things are
lawful, but all things are not profitable, did he write merely to
fill up paper?
----or to teach us to refuse that which is unprofitable,
though it may be lawful? Certainly the latter. Further down in the same
paragraph (I Cor. 10:31) he says, Whatsoever ye do, do all to the
glory of God. Does he mean we should do unprofitable and unedifying
things to the glory of God? Let him believe it who can.
Love and Humility
by Glenn Conjurske
Love and humility are Siamese twins, and it is scarcely possible to find
the one without finding the other. I have been much struck with the fact
that the description of love which Paul gives in I Corinthians 13 is in
large part also an excellent description of humility. Suffereth
long ... envieth not ... vaunteth not itself ... is not puffed up ...
seeketh not her own ... beareth all things. All this and more in
this chapter is as good a description of humility as it is of love. The
reason for this is not far to seek. Those who think too highly of themselves
can scarcely think highly enough of others. Those who value themselves
too much naturally value others too little. No man can esteem others better
than himself (Phil. 2:3) unless he loves them. Thus the connection between
love and humility is most intimate.
I have recently found an old account of a poor, vile, black Indian,
which graphically demonstrates this, as it does also the fact that knowledge
puffs up. This poor, vile, black white man finds it very precious:
About sixty years past, a very considerable revival of religion
took place, on the east end of Long-Island, and some of the Indians of
that place were made partakers of the grace of life. Several years afterwards
one of the natives gave the following account of himself, in his own way
'When me first converted, me was a poor, vile, black Indian; but
me love all the Christians, and all the ministers like my own soul. Afterwards
me grow, grow, grow, but me no love Christians. Then me grow, grow, grow
very big; then me no love ministers. But one day, as I was in the swamp
after broomsticks, I heard a voice saying, Indian, how comes it to pass,
that you no love Christians and ministers? Me answer, because I know more
than all of them. The voice say unto me again, Indian, you have lost your
humble. On this I began to look, and behold! my humble was gone. I then
go back, back, back a great way, but I no find my humble. Me then go back,
back, back a great way, and then me find my humble; and when me find my
humble, I was poor, vile, black Indian again. Then me love all the Christians
and all the ministers, just as I love my own soul.'
Writings of Elder John Leland. New York: Printed by G. W. Wood, 1845,
(reprinted by Church History Research & Archives, 1986), pg. 338.
Moody Monthly on Modern Curses
by the editor
I hope my readers have not forgotten the articles on the curses of modern
society, which were published in this magazine in December of 1996, and
in February and April of 1997. I have recently come across a strong endorsement
of the position there taken, and from what may be regarded as a rather
unexpected quarter, as our title indicates. We claim, however, no endorsement
from Moody Monthly of the present day, and would hardly expect any. The
following item was published in Moody Monthly in April of 1933, under
the editorship of James M. Gray, page 352, the bold type being added by
The Curse of Inventions
The ruination of mankind on a greater scale than ever before was possible,
has been accomplished by the automobile, the radio, the airplane, and
the motion picture. Man's greatest inventions are his greatest destroyers.
Such extraordinary facilities for speed and pleasure lusts, contrary to
divine intent for man, must necessarily, in a world out of moral balance,
be indulged excessively and hurtfully as we see the case today.
It is only idle and self-deceiving to say, If only these things
were used right, for we have to do with what their actual use is,
and ever must be, in this fallen world, deceived by sin, and led on of
the Devil. We must also answer to God individually for following the current,
or participating in the spirit of this God-forgetting impiety, vicious
recklessness, and appalling demoralization in general.
Truth Library, Harrisburg, Pa.
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.