Olde Paths &
Ancient Lndmrks

Christian Issues

Book Room

Tape Corner

Contact us


Vol. 7, No. 6
June, 1998

The Weakening of the Modern Mind

by Glenn Conjurske

I have observed for many years that one of the great hindrances to teaching the truth in the modern church lies in the fact that modern man seems to have very little ability to think. For years I was simply unable to understand this. I observed the fact, but was really at a loss to account for it. Years of observation and meditation, however, have given me some concrete ideas as to how the fact is to be explained, but before proceeding to them I wish to touch upon a little of the evidence of the fact.

Many of the highly educated in our day cannot spell correctly, or write correct English grammar. As for the people in general, empty rhetoric is fed to them day and night by politicians, labor unions, lawyers, educators, psychologists, preachers, and news reporters, and people swallow it down without questioning it, and without perceiving the fallacy which is its main element. Men caught red-handed in the commission of a crime are called “suspects.” The crime is called “the alleged offense.” If the whole town saw the man commit the crime, it is claimed he cannot get a fair trial. A level of affluence far beyond anything our grandparents knew is called “poverty.” The people do not think, and therefore believe this rhetoric.

In the recent investigation of the scandals in the White House, it has been repeatedly suggested that it was improper to expect the Secret Service agents to testify in the matter, as this would destroy the President's confidence in them, which was “necessary” to enable them to protect him. This is empty rhetoric, and I am certain that if such a thing had been broached among men who knew how to think, it would have been rejected with indignation, or laughed to scorn. The Secret Service exists to protect the President from the lawless, not to “protect” him from the law. It is the job of its agents to protect the President from physical harm, not to protect him from the consequences of his crimes. Any confidence which depends upon their concealing his crimes is a public disgrace and a national shame. The upright do not fear to have their protectors near them. Those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. But the unfortunate fact is, the nation is ruled by such empty rhetoric, and the majority of the people seem utterly incapable of perceiving its fallacy.

I am not concerned, however, with the nation, but with the church, and I see the same weak-mindedness in the church. I know men with high academic degrees who seem never to know what the issue is. Everything must be explained to them as to a child, and still they cannot see it. They seem never to be able to put the proper construction upon the facts, or to perceive the proper bearings of anything. They rehearse the facts, and immediately draw conclusions from them which have no relationship to the evidence presented. Much of the theological writing of the present day is so shallow that it is difficult to believe it was written by adults. The King James Only movement, which has swept away many of the best men in the church, is full of fallacy, at variance everywhere with the facts, and is filled with self-contradictions. And the worst of it is, the more its advocates shore up their lines of defense, the more self-contradictory the whole system becomes. A reader recently sent my review of David Cloud's book to a pastor friend. The friend returned a critique of my review, which my reader sent to me, telling me, however, that he was reluctant to send it, as it was so poorly done he feared I would accuse him of altering it. He then asks me what I think to be the basic problem with such men.

I answer, the problem is that they have little ability to think. But it would be injustice on my part to imply that this inability to think is confined to the King James Only ranks. It is just as conspicuous on the other side. Some of the shallowest literature I have ever seen----indeed, painfully shallow----was written in defense of the New King James Version. But this raises the question, Why does modern man have so little ability to think? What is it which has so weakened the mind in modern times?

The answer to that question is, almost everything in modern Society. We must understand a couple of things here. The first is, the devil has every reason to keep men from thinking. Men who will think will cease to serve the devil. Men who will think will cease to sacrifice future good for the sake of present gratification. Men who will think will give up the myth of evolution, and acknowledge their Creator. It is every way to the devil's advantage to keep men from thinking, and to so weaken their minds that they are incapable of it. The second thing is, “the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” (I John 5:19). He it is who is in control of the world. He it is who has designed and engineered the world as it is, including all of its modern technology, commerce, education, communications, etc. Doubtless one of his purposes in all of this is to weaken the mind of man, for the weaker his mind, the stronger the hold the devil may have upon him. It is worth observing also that in general the very things which have weakened the mind of man have weakened his morals also. This is the devil's doing.

But I must turn to specific things. The first thing which has contributed to the weakening of the modern mind is modern invention. When I was a boy in school, one of my teachers read a story to the class. I remember nothing of the story, except one incident. The grandmother sent the little girl outside to ascertain the time from the sun dial. The girl, however, used to the clock, did not know how to read the sun dial. “I do declare,” said the grandmother, “every time one of these new inventions comes in the door, half our wits fly out the window.” This is the solemn truth. Every human faculty is strengthened by use, and conversely, weakened or lost by lack of use. And it is a plain fact that modern invention and modern technology have robbed most of the race of most of its wits. Our grandparents knew how to do a thousand things of which we know nothing, and they knew how to figure out how to do them. They had no machines and appliances to do everything for them. They had no factory-made tools for every job which needed to be done. Whatever they needed, they made themselves. If it was broken, they fixed it themselves. “Modern conveniences” have changed all that. Men no longer need to think. We know that the absence of one sense quickens and augments the others. The blind hear better, and the deaf see better, than other men do. On the other hand, the presence of so many artificial helps dulls all the senses, and more than all they dull the wits.

When I was a boy we were poor. We repaired and rebuilt and remade, and, one way or another, made do with what little we had. We did not have many of the modern conveniences. We had no inside plumbing, and no running water. We had a pump in the yard. On one occasion we had a visit from a girl who lived in a large city. She had never seen a pump, and asked my mother where the water came from. “Out of the ground,” said my mother. The girl was a little incredulous at this, and my mother asked her, “Where did you think it came from?” “Out of the faucet,” she replied. This, of course, was mere childish ignorance, in a girl of ten or twelve years, but I think there is something deeper here than mere ignorance. This is shallowness of mind. Surely a few moments of thought would have taught the girl that the water was not created by the faucet----that it must have come to the faucet from somewhere. But when all is done for us, we need not concern ourselves about the how or the why of anything. We need not think, and therefore we do not think. All is done for us by machines and appliances. And in our own day, the biggest share of the machines and appliances are made on purpose for people who do not think. They systematically exclude the use of our reason, so that if we were not idiots already, we are likely to become so through the use of these modern appliances. All is done for us at the touch of a button----or automatically, without the touch of a button. Yard lights are turned on and off automatically. If we leave the lights on in the car, a bell begins to ding. We have automatic chokes and automatic transmissions and cruise control. The car will not start unless we have our foot on the clutch. The key will not come out of the ignition switch unless the switch is turned off. Timers and thermostats control our cooking and our heating and the washing of our clothes and our dishes. Electronic calculators do our arithmetic. Electronic word processors correct our spelling. We do not need to think. Therefore we do not think, and therefore we lose the ability to think. We would not pretend that there is no good in any of this modern technology, but whatever good there is has been bought dear. Strength and vigor of mind have been sacrificed to ease and convenience.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” as the old proverb has it. The time was when men were required to exercise their wits in order to accomplish their ends. Now all is done for them, and in many cases automatically, without their spending one thought upon it from one year to the next. From the cradle to the grave, all is made for them and done for them. No exercise of the wits is required for anything. Children need no ingenuity to occupy or entertain themselves, or ever to make a game or a toy. All is made for them in the factories and sold in the stores, from electronic games to lifelike miniatures and working models of everything under the sun. Many of their toys give them nothing even to do, except to wind it up or turn it on and watch it perform. Adults fare no better. Modern recipes consist of “Open one can of this, mix with one box of that, pour into one prebaked pie shell,” etc. If a modern housewife were to read a recipe which said, “Kill and pluck one large chicken, peel three ripe tomatoes,” etc., she would think she was on the wrong planet. And who knows how to make anything today? Women today cannot even make a dress, where their grandmothers made the cloth and the thread and the clothes too, and without a sewing machine. How many men of the present generation have ever made a canoe paddle, a chair, a wheel barrow, an animal trap, a suit case, a musical instrument? The “instrument of ten strings” to which David set his psalms was likely his own creation, but the present generation creates nothing, precisely because it has no need to do so. Even the “arts and crafts” of the day are mostly machine made, needing only to be assembled, or embroidered or painted, following the printed lines. Modern man usually does not even repair anything, but throws it away and buys another.

And in this sphere modern wealth goes hand in hand with modern invention. “Poverty is the mother of all arts,” the old proverb says. Poverty and necessity require us to exercise our wits, and exercising our wits strengthens them. Wealth and technology put them to sleep. Another most excellent old proverb says, “Poverty is the sixth sense.” Poverty sharpens all our wits. Affluence puts them all to sleep. Poverty forces us to think. I can offer an example in illustration of this. Thirty years ago I pastored a very small church in a very small town in western Colorado. My salary was zero dollars per year. The church provided me with a house in which to live, but a number of mice were determined to share the place with me. I could scarcely afford a mouse trap. My poverty, therefore, required me to think. I put a light aluminum pie tin on the edge of a counter, half of it protruding over the edge, with just the balance of weight on the counter. A few crumbs in the outside edge of the pie tin, and a bucket of water on the floor under it, completed the operation. When the mouse stepped out into the overhanging half of the pie tin to get the crumbs, his own weight tipped the whole thing off the counter into the bucket of water. I had tried it first with an empty bucket, but found that the mouse could jump out of that. The lives of our forefathers were characterized by such thinking. Every man was his own carpenter and tinker and blacksmith. They made do with what they had. Alas, they thought too much, or too well. Their poverty and their necessity was the mother of a myriad of inventions, which left their children with no need to think at all, and therefore the art of thinking was lost.

The worldliness, or perhaps I should call it the Epicureanism, of modern man is also a major factor. The hurried life which that worldliness has produced leaves men simply too busy, too preoccupied, to think. They are too intent upon the pursuit of money and goods and pleasures to give much thought to the pursuit of wisdom. Even the educational system of the present day is a mere means to the acquisition of goods and pleasures. When I was in high school it was repeatedly drilled into my head by the teachers, “Get a good education”----not to attain wisdom or to cultivate the mind, but----”so you can get a good job and make good money.” Young people do not go to school to cultivate their minds, but to qualify themselves for the “job market,” and the pursuit of goods and pleasures. Alas, so infatuated with education is modern society that the qualification for many jobs has nothing to do with knowledge or competence, but consists of an academic degree. It is of course assumed that those who have the degree have the competence, but this is as great a myth as trolls and tooth fairies. The young people's aim in school is not to learn, much less to learn how to learn, but to pass the course, or to pass it with honors, and it is quite indifferent to many of them if the honors are well-deserved, ill-deserved, or stolen. “Good grades” are all, and wisdom is nothing.

The Bible says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Prov. 4:7), but who in our day lives by this standard? Most of the getting in the world is of money and goods and pleasures, while wisdom is little thought of----and there is little difference in this respect between the church and the world. The mind is but little used, and therefore it never gains any proficiency.

Another major contributing factor in the weakening of the modern mind is doubtless modern pride. Modern man is thoroughly puffed up with the illusion that he is enlightened and educated. This illusion pervades the church as well as the world, and with the same evil effect. Men are lukewarm and complacent. There is perhaps nothing which will so quickly and surely secure the deterioration of man's abilities in every sphere as the notion----whether well founded or unfounded----that we have at length arrived. When this notion takes root in the mind, labor and diligence are at an end, and deterioration and weakness necessarily follow. And observe, we live at a time when this self-complacent pride has prevailed for perhaps a century and a quarter, in both the church and the world. The diligence which made many of our forefathers great is therefore practically unknown today.

And modern pride contributes in yet another way to weaken the mind. The self-complacent pride of “modern scholarship” quite generally despises the work of the great men of the past. Modern “scholars” read modern books, and the books are as shallow as the “scholars.” I have read a great deal of late on the Bible version controversy, and I must say that I am often much impressed with the depth and wisdom of things which were written concerning the old Revised Version, in 1881 and 1882. On the other hand, I am equally impressed with the extreme shallowness of most of the modern writings on the subject----and that on both sides of the controversy. The advocates of the modern versions are just as shallow as the King James Only folks. Neither of them know what the issues are, and the arguments on both sides are unworthy of the human mind.

Closely associated with modern pride is modern lukewarmness. The same pride which says “I am rich and increased with goods,” says also “and have need of nothing,” and is of course apathetic about the acquisition of anything. No one seeks what they think they already have. Now it is held (and quite rightly) by almost all Evangelicals that the present day is the age of lukewarmness, and this is every bit as true in the world as it is in the church. Men who suppose themselves enlightened and wise do not seek wisdom. They do not use their minds, and they therefore lose the ability to use them.

Modern liberalism doubtless contributes also to the problem. It is the prevailing doctrine of liberalism that everyone has the right to everything, whether they deserve it or not. The lazy and the improvident have a right to financial well-being, medical insurance, proper housing, etc. The lazy and incompetent have a right to a good job. And those who fail the course have the right to pass the course. It has long been the policy of many of the public schools in the land to “flunk” no one----that might damage their self-esteem----and all are passed on from one grade to the next, though they learn nothing and know nothing. This policy of course destroys initiative, and cannot help but weaken the mind of the nation as a whole.

In this connection I must mention also modern laziness. Modern invention and technology, national sweepstakes, television game shows, state lotteries, Indian gambling casinos, government grants, food stamps, welfare checks, Social Security, employees”'benefits,” unemployment checks, workman's compensation, and shameful victories in shameless lawsuits, have all conspired together to create an atmosphere in which everyone expects to get something for nothing. Or to state it in its mildest form, everyone hopes to get as much as possible for as little as possible. Hard work is regarded as unnecessary, and this thinking prevails in the intellectual realm as well as everywhere else. Laziness prevails, and hard study is as rare as hard work. The mind is no more exercised than the muscles, and both become soft and inefficient.

But it must be understood that I would not suggest that all of the things which I have mentioned contribute in an equal measure to the problem. Certainly not, yet they all contribute their share, and as I survey modern life it appears that almost everything in the modern world has conspired together to weaken the mind of modern man, each contributing in its own way, some more and some less. The greatest contributors, however, we have yet to mention. One of those is certainly the motion pictures.

When motion pictures were a new thing on the earth, some men had wisdom to perceive whereto they would tend. The following I quote from Moody Monthly of 1926. It was written by Sanger Brown, Chairman of the State Commission of Mental Defectives for the state of Massachusetts. He says, “Moving pictures are undoubtedly the easiest conceivable manner of registering impressions upon the mind. To sit for hours watching a procession of visual images that are poured into the brain, certainly is the equivalent of bringing up a spoon-fed mind. The exercise that a mind gets in making its own associations----for instance, in summing up its own visual images to illustrate stories read in books----is lost, and with this loss of exercise comes probably a lessening in the power of the mind to make these associations. I should say that continual attendance at the movies might make just the difference in a normal individual between a good mind and a very mediocre one, or an average mind and a poor one.

“I believe children lose a great deal if they are permitted to form their early impressions from the screen, rather than from their own observations of the world and the people around them, or from their own powers of imagination.”

And understand, the motion pictures of those days were a minor influence compared to what they are today. No one then sat in the theater day and night every day. An occasional hour or two was all that most people would have spent at the shows. But today the theater is in the living room, and perhaps the kitchen and the bedroom also, and people in general, especially children, see more of motion pictures in a day than most of them would have seen in weeks or months in 1926.

Understand also, the motion pictures of those days were slow and tame in comparison to those of the present. The old movies of course depicted motion in the scenes displayed, but modern television constantly changes the scene itself. One scene after another is flashed before the mind, in rapid succession. I have no television in my house, and indeed, in a life of fifty years I have never lived in a home with a television set. I first learned of this rapid change of scenes when I was out knocking on doors, perhaps ten years ago. As I stood at the door, my partner meanwhile speaking to the resident, I observed a television set in the room, constantly flashing new scenes. I timed them, and was amazed to find that a new scene was presented at the rate of once every second. The rate of change will of course vary from one show to another, but it is undoubtedly rapid in most of them. With a view to the writing of this article I spent a little time recently at a local department store, timing the rate at which the scenes were exchanged on the programs which happened to be playing. I counted the changes of scene in about a dozen short segments, usually of twenty or thirty seconds. The lowest rate of exchange which I found was 17 changes of scene in 40 seconds, which means that each scene remained on the screen just over two seconds. The greatest rate of exchange which I found was 45 changes in 27 seconds, which means that the scene was changed every six tenths of a second. In some cases, of course, it was much more rapid than that, as once in six tenths of a second was the average over a period of 27 seconds. Other segments yielded a count of 30 changes in 30 seconds, 24 changes in 21 seconds, 17 changes in 20 seconds, 15 changes in 20 seconds, 13 changes in 25 seconds, 24 changes in 35 seconds, etc. In some segments the changes of scene were so rapid at times that I could not be sure that my count was accurate. With such constant changes of scene flashing, flashing, flashing, flashing before the mind, concentration or sustained thought is a simple impossibility. The mind necessarily becomes passive, inoperative, and inert. It produces nothing. It does nothing, and indeed most of the motion pictures give the mind nothing to do, all the appeal being to the passions. It is impossible for the mind to produce anything under such circumstances. Meditation is an utter impossibility. And when we consider the fact that many modern Americans spend a large portion of their leisure time watching television, it is no wonder at all that they have lost the ability to think. It would indeed be a great wonder if they retained it.

And bad as the movies and television are in this respect, the radio is worse. The motion pictures are necessarily restricted to leisure time. Men cannot work and watch television, but the radio goes with them everywhere at all times, constantly pouring into their minds a heap of shallow trish-trash, which appeals almost solely to the passions, and absolutely precludes any sustained or serious thought or meditation. And in this respect Christian radio is no different from secular. The mind is constantly stimulated from without (if stimulation it can be called), so that it is rendered passive and inert. It produces nothing itself, and loses the ability to do so.

I have a sign painting business, and a while ago I was working in a large garage, lettering a truck. After I had been on the job for perhaps an hour an electrician arrived, to do some wiring in the place. He was thirty-five or forty years old. For perhaps half an hour he was walking in and out, carrying equipment, singing the whole time in a high falsetto voice,

”Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee are where the deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeals are:
Smith Brothers' Ford.”

It soon became evident to me that here was an inert mind. He was obviously repeating over and over the last thing which he had heard on the radio on his way to work, and this was as far as his mind could go, until something else was poured into it. After a while he settled in to go to work in the garage, and immediately turned on the radio. I protested, and asked if that was necessary. He assured me that it was----he couldn't work without it----but did me the favor not to turn it to one of the “hard rock” stations. The radio began to play, and this gave to his mind the needed stimulation to proceed beyond “Smith Brothers' Ford.” He was now in his element, and seemed as happy as a lark. He knew every song on the radio, and sang along with it all morning. I would rather have listened to a lark, but I made the best of the situation, and studied the inert mind, a mind absolutely devoid of thought, the product of modern technology, and the modern entertainment industry.

What an absolute contrast between this and the days when men used to follow the horse-drawn plow hour after hour, or keep watch over the sheep on the hillside day after day. There the mind was free to work, free from all of this artificial stimulation which renders it weak and passive. There the mind was free to meditate, free to produce something.

But is there no cure, no hope? For society in general I am afraid there is no hope. It will never give up its lusts and pleasures to gain heaven, much less to regain its vigor of mind. For the godly I believe there is more hope. Though I hardly expect a complete cure, there are certainly some things which serious souls may do.

First, and most important, turn off the radio and the television. Next, turn them out, the same as you would turn out any other thief. You would not allow a thief of your goods to abide in your house. Why should you allow a thief of your time and your mind? If you can tame the radio, and keep it as a servant, to bring you the weather forecast, the cattle prices, or the bulletin board, well. Otherwise, turn it out.

Next, take seriously the command of God, “With all thy getting, get understanding.” Read books, and read old ones. Read books which make you think. Put away the shallow “experience” books of the modern church, and read some solid doctrinal treatises. Seek solitude and meditation. Pursue your unanswered questions. Study. Discuss. Exercise your mind.

It may be that all of this put together will never recover all that modern technology and wealth have robbed you of, nor all you have thrown away by countless hours of indulgence in radio and television, but surely you can recover something. It is certain also that, so far as in you lies, you have a solemn responsibility to God to do so.

“The Root of All Evil” Again

by Glenn Conjurske

I have lately read a most excellent article on “The Greek Article in the Revised Version,” by John Stuart Blackie, in The Contemporary Review for July of 1882. This article is full of true learning (enforced by telling examples) and solid common sense, and of course condemns the “minute micrology” of the Revised Version, which is so intent upon pedantic minutiae that it both misconstrues the Greek and murders the English. Of particular interest to me is the fact that this article exactly confirms what I had published before on “the root of all evil.” In reading Mr. Blackie's article, I found myself heartily wishing that I had known of it when I published my notes on this subject a year and a half ago.* But perhaps it is better that I did not, for at any rate it will now appear that I was in no way influenced by this author, but that we have arrived at exactly the same view in entire independence of each other.

Mr. Blackie writes, “In the First Epistle to Timothy, vi.10, occurs the maxim, often quoted in this commercial country but seldom acted on, that 'the love of money is the root of all evil.' Now there is no definite article in the Greek predicate, and by Greek usage could not properly be, according to the example which we already gave from Plato, ðëÞñùìá ôyò ðüëåùò ìéóèùôïr 'hired labourers are the complement of the state.' (Pol. ii.2). But the translators of the authorized version, following the fine instinct of a cultivated English ear, have wisely put it [the article] in; the translators of the revision, more anxious always to preserve a literal transcript of the Greek in all cases than to present the English reader with an idiomatic English turn, have weakened the emphasis which the Apostle meant to convey, by making him say, it is 'a root'----a very small root perhaps----not 'the root' of all evil. But is not 'a root,' some one will say, the right thing after all? The Apostle cannot be understood to say that it is the only root, for there are many other roots, such as envy, hatred, anger, and even the contempt of money exhibited in the squanderer and the spend-thrift. Quite true; nevertheless, in the connection, rhetorically and not scientifically, the Apostle did mean to say that the love of money is 'the root,' that is, a very big root, and the dominant or great root, of all evil; and he would most certainly, in the present case, have emphasized ¼ßæá with the article, had the well-known idiom of the Greek language not rendered this quite unnecessary. Let any man call to mind what Goethe says in 'Wilhelm Meister' about reverence being the root of all high moral excellence, and he will see that to use the indefinite article in such case, whether the German has the article or not, is contrary to the English idiom. A man may say in good English, that the love of money is a root from which many evils spring; but he cannot say the love of money is a root of all evil. The emphasis implied in the 'all' requires to have a corresponding emphasis expressed distinctly by the article as the adjunct of the previous word.”

So much for Mr. Blackie. I confess it has been a strong temptation to italicize a number of his excellent expressions, but I have allowed him to speak without any added emphasis. I do desire, however, to call attention to a couple of points.

Observe that Mr. Blackie declares that (in statements of this character) the English predicate requires the article, though the German may do without it. That is to say, “good English” requires it, for we may say most anything in bad English. It is manly and vigorous English which takes the article here. To drop it makes the English anemic----and really unEnglish.

I desire further that my readers would take particular note of Mr. Blackie's expression “rhetorically and not scientifically.” Though he uses different terms than I would use, yet he here expresses a profound truth, of which modern scholarship has little understanding. That truth is this, that the language of the Bible is common, not technical. The attempt to make the language of the Bible technical, which all the modern translations are more or less guilty of, but from which the old version is remarkably free, results in taking all the popular appeal out of the book, and transmuting it into a repository of technical niceties and pedantic refinements----”this host of petty pedantries,” Blackie calls them----a book for the heads of shallow intellectuals, but not for the hearts of spiritual men, or sensible men, or common men. A large proportion of the cries of “inaccuracy” against the old version, and of the boasts of “more accurate” for the new versions, are based upon nothing else than an attempt on the part of an ignorant and incompetent scholarship to take the common language of the Bible and run it through a technical sieve. Shallow intellectuals, we are well aware, will revel in the over-strained refinements which result, but for all that they constitute a real alteration of the nature of Scripture.

Henry Venn on the Study of Hebrew

& the Adequacy of the King James Version

[Henry Venn (1725-1797) was an Anglican clergyman, one of a handful of Evangelicals in that capacity in his day. The following is extracted from his letter to a clergyman on the study of Hebrew. I have two reasons for publishing these extracts. The first is that they are filled with the most excellent and solid wisdom concerning the true and relative value of things, such as the present puffed-up age would do well to heed. The second is that they very clearly enunciate the doctrine for which this editor has always stood, that no text or version in our hands is immaculate or infallible, but that they are yet the word of God, and adequate for the purposes for which God gave them.

J. C. Ryle writes of Henry Venn, “The second excellency that I notice in Venn is his singular wisdom and good sense in offering advice to others about duties. This is a rare qualification. I sometimes think it is almost easier to find a man of grace than a man of sense. How few are the people to whom we can turn for counsel on practical questions in religion, and feel a confidence that they will advise us well! The vicar of Huddersfield appears to me to have possessed the spirit of counsel and of a sound mind in an eminent degree.” Of the following letter Ryle says, “His letter to a clergyman on the study of Hebrew and the value of translations of the Bible, is a model of sensible advice,...”----The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, by J. C. Ryle; London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1885, pg. 295.

Mr. Venn's remarks will of course apply with equal force to Greek and other critical studies, as to Hebrew. ----editor.]

Your zealous endeavours, my dear friend, to make me entertain the same idea of the great use of Hebrew learning which now so fully possesses your own mind, is owing to the real regard you bear for me. But, as this subject draws us into debate, and diverts us from better things, I now send you my reasons at large, which compel me totally to differ from you in this matter.

First, I must premise, that I readily allow great masters in the Oriental tongues are well employed in their study; because, in general, they are men evidently strangers to the life of God in the soul, whilst they possess fine abilities for verbal criticism. Their works, therefore, I read diligently; and when they bring satisfactory evidence for a reading different from the Authorised Translation, I adopt their corrections: just as classical men do those of Dacier, Francis, and Hurd, in Horace, without the drudgery of searching all the volumes they have done. ... Yet, before such eminent critics in the Hebrew tongue corrected our Translation, respecting several unintelligible sentences, the Sacred Books were, in their substance, no less profitable (saving in these few places) to every reader. And, upon the most exact inquiry, I cannot say that I have received from their labours one new spiritual idea, or any instruction in religious doctrines I possessed not before I adopted their emendations of the Text. These amount to no more, in my judgment, than taking away a few blemishes on the fingers or toes of the noblest statue the world ever saw; which, though it be a pleasing and desirable work, adds nothing to the grand idea the statue itself impresses.

Further: when you contemptuously reproach the English Bible, and call it “lies,” because there are in it many faults, you seem to forget the Hebrew Text itself is very far from being absolutely pure or intelligible. ... How often, in one single book of the Prophets, does Bishop Lowth interpret the Hebrew, and correct it, by the Septuagint! whilst Bishop Warburton goes so far as to say, the Hebrew without the Septuagint would be as unintelligible as a cipher without its key. Again: how many words are left out! how many are put in! How does Bishop Lowth lament the very imperfect state (N.B. in the superlative degree) of the Hebrew Text----”never (says he) to be recovered”! Notwithstanding all this, you call the Hebrew Scriptures the Word of God----and justly; because all these errata and interpolations, taken together, and made the most of which an enemy can, bear no proportion to what is pure; nor at all affect either the grand and marvellous facts, or the essential doctrines of the Christian Faith. What bigoted partiality then, and how cruel to English readers of their Bible, to call it “lies,” because it has many faults----more, perhaps, than the Hebrew! The only lawful conclusion from hence, as it appears to me, is, that the Providence of the All-wise God has permitted these things, in order to humble men who would exalt themselves on account of their Hebrew learning, as if they had those superior advantages over common Christians, which they are so ready to claim. These things,2 being permitted, prove that the great end, for which “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” is fully attainable in every Translation, no less than by the knowledge of the Original; and that both learned and unlearned equally need the Spirit of Truth, without which neither the Original nor a Version will do the soul good.

Further, the word of God, in Hebrew, Greek, and English, especially charges all pastors and teachers to be examples to the flock in the vigorous exercise of all zeal for the souls of men, and to see well to it that they fulfil the ministry they have received. Such pastors of the Church, all agree, are the glory of Christ. No blame need they ever fear from His lips, for giving themselves up so wholly to this work, as to have neither time nor inclination for a thing so immaterial as an accurate investigation of the Hebrew text; when it is allowed that all things necessary to be known are the same in every Version as in the Original. It is, to all intents and purposes, sufficient: by the English Bible their souls were converted;----by that, through the Divine Spirit's influence, they have been quickened, comforted, established, and made ready to every good word and work. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, at His coming, shall find in this state!

On the contrary, if the time and thoughts of those who are ministers of Christ are principally employed to become masters in Oriental learning (and such they certainly should be, who take upon them to vilify the Translation), their application to this business will leave but a fragment of time for secret prayer, devout meditation, or preparation to carry on family worship with any life or benefit or pleasure; and still less will it leave of that frame of mind which is essential to true worship. For, after investigating a Hebrew Root, or endeavouring to elucidate a dark passage by the aid of Buxtorf, Pagninus, Gussetius, Cocceius, &c. &c. (a critic always consults these famous Lexicographers)----after this business, which has no relation to the devout exercises of the heart, the mind will still be running upon the reasons each different author offered for his sense of the passage, or derivation of the root, or aiming at some happier conjecture. Smitten with the lust of correcting an established version, and, imperceptibly to themselves, filled with the flattering idea of their own great ingenuity, such scholars will be indefatigable in searching for evidence to support their own interpretation----be exceedingly partial, through self-love, to their own important discoveries----very violent and obstinate in defence of them----and, narrow as is the human mind, and not made to pass, by a quick transition from things so foreign from all communion with God, to a profitable use of the means of grace, such pastors will grow cool to all exercises of the mind which are truly spiritual, and cease to do good to the flock of Christ----the Church He has purchased with His own blood. Now, for my own part, I do not see how any pastor in the Church of Christ can justify himself, if this be the effect of studying Hebrew learning intensely; and that no other effect is generally experienced, there are too many melancholy proofs.

Our Saviour tells us, doctrines are to be tried by their fruits. We may safely apply this to our studies, and to scholars of greatest note. Consequently, if we saw strenuous pleaders for the necessity and vast benefit of Hebrew learning go far beyond all others in compassion for perishing sinners----in zeal for enlarging the Kingdom of Messiah----and imitating his example, so that not a relation, friend, or acquaintance, could be with them without receiving good to their souls----we should then, without hesitation, allow they did well, and could never too highly exalt the usefulness of that knowledge which brought forth such good fruits. But, where are these excellent effects found to proceed from an indefatigable application to Hebrew learning? On the contrary, I know several Hebrew scholars, who no sooner came to the knowledge of themselves and of Christ, and were fired with an Apostolic desire to save sinners, than they relinquished their pursuit of Hebrew learning. Mr. Clarke, of Chesham Boyce; Mr. Stillingfleet, of Worcester; Mr. Berridge, and others, I have authority to say, did so. The same was my own case: and all for the same reason;----we found that, in reading the Hebrew, our attention was called off to consult the Lexicographers, and very much of our time taken up in inquiring whether the Text was rendered best by such and such a derivation of the Root. Without therefore consulting at all together, we all gave up ourselves to our ministerial work;----and I believe not one of us has ever repented.

The case of the illiterate deserves our consideration. They immediately (I have known many instances) conclude, that if the Translation is materially wrong in some places, it may be so in many more, and especially in what strikes directly at their favourite lusts. A gentleman of my acquaintance had a servant who had heard the English Bible not over-respectfully treated; and upon being admonished by his master, that servants were commanded not to answer again, when reproved----”O, Sir!” says he, “that, I am told, is a wrong translation.” How often do I hear this, even among the common people! And the consequences of such a notion are bad enough. Yet there is still something worse and more cruel, in this matter, than what concerns infidels, or the unlettered multitude.

I am grieved beyond measure to see the Children of God startled, and confounded, and distressed to the last degree, from numberless and most peremptory accusations against the English Bible, as false;----yet is it all they have! And when their soul's health depends on giving the fullest credence to it----when, of themselves, they too slowly, alas! receive the things recorded in the oracles of God----to have it asserted, with the most solemn airs of assurance, that the Translators are not to be trusted----what is this, but to fill them with endless doubts, and lead them to despise their English Bible, and think the Christian Religion itself an uncertainty?----How often have you observed to me, what strange interpretations the Rector of a church in London would give of the Hebrew, and how unsupported! yet, to make way for even such interpretations as these, forty-seven men, who could “render a reason,” are publicly branded as fools, compared with himself. Oh! it will neither please God, nor be of any use to men!

----The Life and Letters of Henry Venn. London: John Hatchard and Son, Fourth Edition, 1836, (Reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), pp. 563ff.

Hope and the Bible

Abstract of a Sermon Preached on April 19, 1998

by Glenn Conjurske

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4).

“Whatsoever things were written aforetime.” This refers to the whole Old Testament----and to this we may now add the whole New Testament. It was all written for us, and all with this particular purpose, that we might have hope.

What is hope? It is the ability to look forward with the expectation of a better future----the expectation that things will get better, that our needs will be met, that we will be delivered from our troubles. And I tell you there is no book on earth so calculated to give hope as the Bible. God knows the needs and the propensities of the human heart, and he wrote a book to meet them. Unbelief is natural to the human heart----at least to the fallen human heart. We have hard thoughts of God. We are quick to blame him for our troubles, and slow to trust him to relieve them. We don't expect him to act in our behalf.

Therefore he wrote a book, and filled it with examples of his own dealings, all of them calculated to give us hope. The book is full of great and precious promises, of course, but it goes much beyond promises. It is full of examples. It is full of marvellous deliverances and miraculous provisions. “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.” (Heb. 11:33-35). “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised.” (Luke 7:22). The book is full of such examples, and all of them designed to give us hope. “Whatsoever things were written aforetime.” God put these things in the book to give us hope.

Now the fact is, there is a much higher concentration of such examples in the book than there is in the world. Taking all the history of the world together, miracles are rare. Marvellous provisions and spectacular deliverances are rare. But they aren't rare in the Bible. The book is full of them. And remember, God is the author of this book. God surveyed the whole history of his people from the beginning of the world, and selected a few things to put in his book, and he purposely selected those things which would give us hope. “Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land, but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.” (Luke 4:25-26). God saw the struggles and hardships of all of these widows, but we know nothing about them. He chose to tell us of the one widow who received a marvellous and miraculous deliverance. The one example which he chose to put in the book is the example which would give us hope.

Again, “And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27). God tells us nothing at all about those “many lepers.” They all had hardships and tears and discouragements and depression, but the book tells us not one word of it. God singles out the one example which will give us hope, and relates that at length in detail.

The fact then is this: in the Bible we have a high concentration of such examples. Here we have everything which is encouraging and hopeful, distilled and concentrated. You may think, then, that the Bible does not give us a true picture. You know it is one of the evils of fiction that it paints too rosy a picture, and gives us too much hope----false and illusionary hope, fantasy and not reality----and how then is the Bible any different in this respect from fiction?

Observe in the first place that we must take the Bible as a whole, and not single out what pleases us. The Bible itself teaches us that God does not work miracles for everybody. The verses which we just quoted from Luke prove this, if there were no other proof. There are many factors involved in this. Our own faith and our own failures are certainly factors. God does reward faith, and faithfulness also, and God does chasten and scourge his own. It remains also an abiding fact that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” By our own folly or sin we get ourselves into a trap, and expect God to get us out by a miracle. This is not likely to happen. It is another fact that the whole creation abides under the curse, our own bodies included, and we ourselves, who have the earnest of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves. No amount of faith can remove the curse from the earth, nor the groaning from this life. Therefore much of the hope which the Bible inspires has to do with the resurrection and the life to come, not with this present life on the earth. Certainly not all, however. The Bible contains a great plenty to inspire hope even for this life, and presents it in a distilled and concentrated form. How it is any different, in this respect, from fiction?

I will grant that in this respect the Bible does not everywhere give us a true picture of the world, nor of life in general on the earth. It distills and concentrates everything which is calculated to produce faith. It is not a picture of the life of the world which the Bible gives to us----we may know that without a Bible----but an image of the heart of God. It is God's aim to give us hope, and he therefore selected out of all the history of his people those few examples most calculated to give us that hope.

And to what end? Why does he give us hope? So that he might disappoint us? Most of us have unbelieving hearts, and we think of God as of the wicked wolf in the story of Little Red Riding Hood. We fear that when we say to God, “I have been reading thy book, and what large hopes it has given me!”----that God will say, “The better to disappoint you with!” But no, it is not God's end to disappoint us with false hopes, but precisely to inspire us with true hope----true because it is hope in God----and then to fulfill our hopes. If God is true, this must be true. In my wrestlings with God I often tell him, “Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.” (Psalm 119:49). His word has caused me to hope. It is the nature of the book to cause us to hope, and if God is responsible for the book, then it is God who has caused us to hope. And this only that he might disappoint us? It cannot be, or God is not God. The fact that God has given us a book which is calculated to inspire hope is the proof that it is the purpose of God to bless us.

Still, the question remains, if the book of God gives us everything hopeful in a concentrated form, how does it differ from fiction? Passing over the fact that it is the way of fiction to take the thorns and thistles out of life, and put us back in Paradise, it is also the way of fiction to make the fulfillment of our dreams easy and unconditional. The Bible does neither. It is also the way of fiction to give us soon what God gives us late.

Now observe in Romans 15:4 it is “through patience and comfort of the Scriptures” that we have hope. If the most important word in this text is “hope,” the second most important word is “patience.” Fiction inspires hope, but not patience. The Bible teaches hope and patience.

What is hope, anyway? What is hope good for? Hope is not the fulfillment of our desires. Hope is not the meeting of our needs, for “hope that is seen is not hope.” (Rom. 8:24). Hope has no place where our needs are met and our desires realized. Hope belongs precisely to the sphere in which our needs are not met, our desires not realized, our dreams not fulfilled. The young ladies used to keep what they called a “hope chest,” filling it up with the things they would need to keep house when they were married, but the married women kept no hope chest. “Hope that is seen is not hope.” Hope belongs to the time of suffering and need and privation, not to the time of fulfillment and possession and enjoyment.

Observe, then, if it is the purpose of God to give us hope, this proves that it is the purpose of God to bless us, but it also proves that it is the purpose of God to delay to give us the possession of the blessing. Hope has no place after the blessing is received. Hope belongs to the time of want and affliction and longing and suffering. It is hope which buoys up our spirits while we are deprived and denied. It is the expectation of a better time coming. The very existence of hope, then, implies a worse time for the present. The hope that is spoken of in the Bible often has reference to eternal things. It is “the hope of glory,” “the hope of eternal life,” the “heavenly hope,” for those who suffer and die in this present state. But godliness has promise of this life as well as that which is to come, and it is a plain fact that the Bible is well calculated to give us hope for this life. Joseph's dreams were fulfilled in this life. Hannah received her child in this life. David was delivered from all his troubles in this life. The man born blind was healed in this life. The poor widow was sustained in this life. The Bible, both Testaments, is filled with examples which are designed to give us hope for this life as well as the life to come. Not hope for an earthly paradise, nor for ease and plenty, not hope for deliverance from the curse which rests upon the whole creation, but hope for the desires and dreams and needs of our hearts. We have a promise of that. “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Not immediately, however, and not necessarily soon, but meanwhile he gives abundance of hope, to buoy us up “through patience.”

God turned the captivity of Job in this life, and the book of Job is eminently calculated to inspire hope, yet the New Testament tells us, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” Job received his deliverance, his desires, and his vindication, all in this life, but all after long endurance of the contrary.

The woman with the issue of blood was healed in this life, but not till she had suffered many things of many physicians, and spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse----and all this for twelve years. And you understand that those twelve years passed one day at a time, and one hour at a time, in all of which she felt her suffering and her need.

The blind man in the ninth chapter of John received his sight in this life, but he was of age, and had been blind from his birth.

The lame man in the third chapter of Acts was healed in this life, but he was more than forty years old, and had been lame from his mother's womb.

The woman who was bowed together, and could not lift herself up, was loosed from her infirmity in this life, but she had been bound eighteen years.

The impotent man in the fifth chapter of John was healed in this life, but he had had his infirmity thirty-eight years.

All of these examples are well calculated to give us hope, but all of them also to teach us patience. This is true wherever we look in the Bible. Joseph received the fulfillment of his God-given dreams in this life, but first he must go to Egypt and be sold as a slave, then be taken from the house of slavery and put in prison. This was of God, as much as his subsequent exaltation. And you need to understand that in the time of our patience the Lord often takes particular pains to make us feel our lot, and to make us feel our need. You know that Joseph interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker, and charged the butler to remember him to Pharaoh when he was restored to his position. By this means a little hope no doubt sprang up in Joseph's heart, but the days turned to weeks, and the weeks to months, and that little sprig of hope withered and died. Thus God made him to feel his hard lot. Yet Joseph could hope in the God who had given him his dreams, and that God brought him out.

Hannah received her child in this life----and indeed six of them----but first she must endure the unfulfilled longings and the undeserved reproach “year by year,” while her adversary “provoked her sore.” The lack of a child she would no doubt have felt deeply enough without an adversary to provoke her, but God often arranges our affairs so as to add as it were insult to injury----to add reproach to privation----so to make us feel the more deeply our need, and that “year by year,” and of course day by day and hour by hour. God intends to bless us, but he is never in a hurry. He will first let us feel our need through a long course of patience. Then, when patience has had its perfect work, he gives the blessing, and gives it abundantly. Meanwhile he gives hope, to sustain our sinking spirits through all the privations and hardships and reproach of the long course of “faith and patience.”

Hope and faith are both associated with patience in the Bible. This is their proper sphere----and really the only sphere of hope. I only know of one case in all the Bible where this order of things is not observed. That case is Eve. She received her existence and the need of her heart at the same time. Not so Adam. He must first feel his need, and walk by faith even in Paradise----and “faith and patience,” too. God created Adam with a need which was unfulfilled. He was in Paradise, where all that God saw was “very good,” yet Adam's own condition was “not good.” He was alone, and God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” God of course intended to remedy that situation, but first he went to work to make Adam feel it. He set Adam to work to name the creatures. The end result of that project was that Adam should deeply feel the fact that “for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” Among all the creatures that God had made there was none suited to Adam----none to be the companion of his heart----none with whom he could share his life and his heart. He saw every creature which God had made with its own companion. He saw “male and female” of every creature on earth, but he was alone. God intended that he should feel that.

And understand, this naming of the creatures was a lengthy process. There are millions of species on the earth, and none of them were extinct in Adam's day. He named them all. This was not the work of a day, but of months or years. Every day that passed in this work brought before Adam the fact that he was alone, and that he alone of all God's creatures was alone. Thus he was called to walk by “faith and patience” even in Paradise. He was called to trust in the God who had provided for every creature but himself----to trust in the God who had put him in a situation which, by God's own testimony, was “not good.” Adam no doubt did so, for those propensities to unbelief which are so strong in our hearts had not yet sprung up in his.

Meanwhile, God will have Adam to feel his need, and this he accomplishes by placing before Adam those creatures whose need he had met. This is the way of God. He sets the barren woman next to the fruitful one. He sets the single woman next to the married one----and perhaps even next to one who will reproach her for her need, as Hannah's adversary did. He sets Lazarus at the gate of the rich man. He sets childless Abraham in a tent in the midst of ungodly men who live in houses full of children. He sets before godly Joseph, with his long-standing unfulfilled dreams, the ungodly butler, whose dream was fulfilled in three days. This is God's way, and by this means he sharpens our appetite, and makes the blessing sweeter when at last he gives it.

Adam, then, must spend months or years naming all of God's creatures, beholding all of them “male and female,” while he felt himself to be alone. But may we not say that this long parade of creatures formed a large book in Adam's Bible? He had all of Paradise to teach him the goodness and the wisdom of God, but in these creatures, which God brought to him, and with which God required him to establish some familiarity, in these creatures he read the lessons of hope. Could God provide for the happiness of these birds and beasts----these crows and dogs and mice----and yet leave me forever alone? No, the fact that God has thus provided for the lowest of his creatures teaches me of his purpose to provide for me also. Patience, therefore, and meanwhile, hope!

And so we also, when we have a Bible full of examples of needs met, of dreams fulfilled, of reproaches removed, of righteousness vindicated, of faith rewarded, of hopes realized, it is our business to take courage from all of this, and trust in the same God to do the same for us. “Through patience and comfort of the Scriptures” we have hope----where “comfort” may be very properly translated “encouragement.” There is nothing that encourages like the Bible. Here is hope, and this book----”whatsoever things were written aforetime”----exists to give it to us.


n Book Review n

by Glenn Conjurske


Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, by Iain H. Murray

Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997, (1st. ed. 1995)

There are few enough modern books which are worthy of a review, much less of a commendation, but it is a pleasure to me to review and to commend this book. Let it be understood that I often disagree with Murray. His doctrinal prejudices often lead him to distort history, as well as Scripture. In most of Murray's statements he is found to be arguing against the truth, in arguing for Calvinism. This book is refreshingly different, however. Here he argues for the truth, in arguing against Hyper-Calvinism----or as I believe, against consistent Calvinism. Both the matter and the manner of this book are generally excellent, and much superior to the author's The Forgotten Spurgeon, written years ago.

The first thing we may say of this book is that it is very interesting, at least to me. I am very interested in the controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, how much more the controversy between Calvinists and Calvinists. The book also contains a good deal of most interesting historical information, from rare and obscure sources, some of it quite new even to me, with my large library. Mr. Murray has two great advantages over me in this department: he has more money, and he has access to British book sources. The book is also well written. Murray is an experienced author, and thankfully of a different sort from the bulk of evangelical writers of the day. He uses good English, and is always serious. This book also serves as a kind of handbook to the writings of Spurgeon on several important themes. This itself is of great value to one who has most of Spurgeon's publications, but lacks the time to read them all.

On the other hand, the book is of course characterized by the shallow thinking and self-contradictory double-talk which are characteristic of all but the most extreme forms of Calvinism. Murray says in his preface (pp. xi-xii), “But does the denial of Arminianism mean that God has no love for all? that Christ is not to be proclaimed as the Saviour in whom all are called to trust? Does the particularity of grace mean that there can be no universal entreaties, no gospel for 'every creature'? Hyper-Calvinism answers 'Yes' to these questions and in so doing it constitutes a serious hindrance to the progress of the evangel.”

But the fact is, it is reason which answers “Yes” to these questions. If “the particularity of grace” is a fact----that is, if salvation is provided for only a few, unchangeably determined before the foundation of the world----then reason says there is no gospel for the rest of the race. Any “universal entreaty” on the part of a God who has previously and irrevocably determined that only a select few shall be saved makes that God nothing better and nothing other than a hypocrite. Why should all be called to trust in a Christ who has no salvation to give them? This is not the voice of Hyper-Calvinism merely, but the voice of reason. If Hyper-Calvinism affirms these things, it is precisely because Hyper-Calvinism is reasonable. Hyper-Calvinism is consistent Calvinism.

Mark, I do not say that Hyper-Calvinism is Scriptural, for I believe no such thing. It is certainly the least Scriptural of all forms of Calvinism, but it is the most reasonable. However inconsistent it may be with Scripture, it is at any rate consistent with itself, where the lesser forms of Calvinism are a mass of self-contradictions. Hyper-Calvinism is utterly inconsistent with the Bible, and while a milder kind of Calvinism is more consistent with the Bible, it is utterly inconsistent with itself.

Anyone who reads Spurgeon is well aware that he often professes that he cannot reconcile the several doctrines which he holds, and Murray's book contains about a dozen such statements, from Spurgeon and others. But all that it really amounts to is that they cannot reconcile their Calvinistic doctrines with their Scriptural doctrines. To Spurgeon's mind, of course, the Calvinistic doctrines are as Scriptural as the others. The more consistent forms of Calvinism simply deny or explain away the Scriptural doctrines in order to maintain the Calvinistic. Such is called Hyper-Calvinism by Spurgeon and Murray. I call it consistent Calvinism. However, it is certainly honorable on the part of these men to hold these contradictory doctrines, and refuse to give up the Scriptural doctrines in order to consistently hold the Calvinistic. Instead of that, they take the ground of humility, and affirm that while they are unable to reconcile them, they believe that God is able to do so. This is commendable, and doubtless a manifestation of real humility. It fails altogether, however, to deal with the moral difficulties of Calvinism. Not even God can reconcile justice and injustice.

But I observe that Murray everywhere presents Calvinism in its softest form. His tenth chapter contains a lengthy statement from T. J. Crawford (pp. 143-146), disclaiming any necessity to reconcile foreknowledge and free agency. But this is not Calvinism at all, but Arminianism. Every word of this section could have been written by any Arminian. It simply ignores the main question. The issue is not between foreknowledge and free agency, but between decrees or predestination and free agency. God may know what a free agent will do, as I may know what a dog will do when I throw him a bone, but to have irresistibly decreed that he shall and must do it is another matter. The former is quite consistent with free agency, but how is the latter? To say “We cannot reconcile them, but God can” may be honest, and humble too, but it begs the question and shirks our own moral responsibility. God cannot reconcile light and darkness, and it is not pious, but impious, to hold that he can. By this same sort of humility we might admit any number of false and abominable doctrines, and piously affirm that while we cannot reconcile them with other doctrines of Scripture, God can. No: the reason we cannot reconcile them with other doctrines of Scripture is because they are false. This principle is necessary and foundational to any sound interpretation of Scripture, and to sacrifice it to Calvinism or any other doctrine is simply to shirk our own moral responsibility.

Some things are beyond our reason, but these are not to be confused with things which are against our reason, and much less with things which are against justice or morality. But Calvinism, for all its pride, is a very shallow system, which fails altogether to distinguish the things which differ. If a woman tells me that her husband is bound to be true to her, yet free to consort with other women, and that while she cannot reconcile these things, yet she trusts that he can, I will tell her she is a fool. Her humble trust in her husband may be sincere----admirable even under all ordinary circumstances----but it is misplaced. God, of course, we may trust implicitly, and his book also, but we have no call to trust him to reconcile the truth with every enormity which mistaken zeal has imputed to him.

But from foreknowledge and free agency the author proceeds to particular election and the sincerity of God's universal offers of salvation. Here we proceed beyond those matters which are beyond reason, to those which stand directly against reason, and justice also. Suppose a man approaches a hundred prisoners, locked in their cells, and freely and sincerely calls and commands them all to come out. Meanwhile he secretly opens the locks for a chosen few of them----a thing which he has unalterably determined not to do for the others. The few come out, while he continues to plead with the others, command them, and weep over them----while he knows full well that they cannot come out. The only thing which would or could enable them to come out----the key----is in his own hands, and he has irrevocably determined not to use it in their behalf. How can such invitations be sincere? To say that he has made no such determination, his only determination being a positive one, to use the key for the chosen few, is only to beg the question, and in a fashion which does not speak well for the sincerity of those who argue so. Every Calvinist believes that God has determined to use the key for the chosen few, and for them only. If Murray could sincerely pray as Spurgeon once prayed, “Lord, hasten to bring in all thine elect----and then elect some more” ----if Murray could pray such a prayer sincerely expecting an answer----if Murray could sincerely write as Spurgeon wrote, “But here is the mercy----these lost souls can be won. They are not hopelessly lost; not yet has God determined that they shall for ever abide as they are,” ----then it might be time for him to believe God sincere in his universal offers of salvation. But Murray believes that God has determined, and that irrevocably, who shall be saved and who shall not. So, of course, did Spurgeon, but Spurgeon was the most inconsistent of Calvinists, precisely because of his great heart of love for lost sinners.

Murray treats of four matters in which Spurgeon differed from Hyper-Calvinists, those four being Hyper-Calvinism's “restriction of gospel invitations, its failure to treat the word and promises of God as sufficient warrant for faith, its minimising of the place of human responsibility, and its denial of any love in God except love to the elect.” (pg. 99).

On the fourth point Murray writes (pp. 97-98), “From what has been said above on the universal love of God, Hyper-Calvinists deduced that Spurgeon did not believe in a special electing love which secures the salvation of all those for whom Christ died. Sometimes Christians of Arminian persuasion, with a superficial knowledge of Spurgeon, have reached the same conclusion on Spurgeon's position. But this is the same mistake as can be made in reading the Bible itself. All references to divine love in Scripture are not to be interpreted as universal (Arminianism), neither are they all to be made particular (Hyper-Calvinism). There is a differentiation observable in Scripture. ... God's special love 'is not love for all men ... There is an electing, discriminating, distinguishing love, which is settled upon a chosen people ... and it is this love which is the true resting place for the saint.”'

The latter part of this is quoted from Spurgeon. Concerning Murray's remarks I first notice that he evidently does not understand Arminianism any better than he understands the Bible. It is not true that Arminians interpret all references to love in Scripture as universal love. The Lord says, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. ... If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:21 & 23). No Arminian, and no man of sense, would dream of making this love “universal,” yet observe, it is “particular” on the basis of the things which particular men themselves have done, and not on the basis of any sovereign choice of God.

As to the distinction which Murray and Spurgeon make between general and distinguishing love, it is precisely the distinction which God himself condemns. This general love of the Calvinists is a love which professes to sincerely desire the salvation of the lost, and which yet does nothing to secure it----though all Calvinists believe that God is capable of irresistibly securing the salvation of any and every man. This general love is just the love which God condemns as false and hypocritical. It is just the love which says, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body.” (James 2:16). Is God guilty of that love which he condemns in man? Does he love in word and tongue only, but not in deed and truth? (I Jn. 3:18). Does he love in “sincere” invitations, while he withholds the grace which can alone secure a response to those invitations? This is not love, but hypocrisy. The “universal love” of the Calvinists gives everything but the one thing needful. What would we think of a physician treating a sick man, professing the most sincere desires for his recovery, feeding him, giving him drink, tenderly bathing his brow, watching by his bedside, weeping over him----and all the while, by his own fixed determination, refusing to give him the sovereign medicine, which he carries in his pocket? Calvinists would do better to deny that God loves the lost (as is done by those whom Murray calls Hyper-Calvinists), than to impute to him any such love as this.

On the positive side, we are very happy to read Murray's opinion that “Spurgeon would appear to be over-generous to [John] Gill.” (pg. 127). We have long thought so ourselves, and are most glad to read such a thing from such a man as Murray, though we wish he had stated it with less timidity.

But enough, though there is much more in this book upon which I could comment. We regret that the book is a paperback with a glued binding. A book of this sort is worthy of a good binding, such as The Banner of Truth is quite capable of producing.


n Stray Notes on the English Bible n

by the Editor


Born Again

In the Lord's conversation with Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, though Tyndale and his immediate successors render this phrase “born a newe,” most English Bibles since the Geneva New Testament have rendered it “born again.” This is true even of most of the modern versions, the liberal Berkeley Version being virtually alone with “born from above.” “Born from above” is also the rendering of the pedantic and usually incompetent Young's Literal Translation, and of the Great Bible, the work of Myles Coverdale, who apparently did not know Greek. The Revised Version, followed by the Revised Standard Version, has “born anew,” foolishly casting away “born again,” which by 1881 was certainly an ancient landmark, without even altering the sense----for “born again” and “born anew” are the same in meaning. Yet in spite of the great unanimity of English versions as to the meaning of this term, it is common to hear preachers and teachers inform us that the Greek phrase ought to be translated “born from above.”

I have often observed that there is a certain class of teachers with whom it seems to be almost an axiom that if anything can be translated contrary to the common version, then it ought to be. This is liberalism, and the pride of ignorance. But it sometimes so happens, in the wisdom of God, that the refutation of these novelties appears in the passage itself. This is true in the case before us. But “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and nowhere is this more manifest than when unspiritual intellectuals attain a little knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. Every vagary and hair-brained notion which better men have long since rejected is an amazing discovery to their minds, and they are usually so preoccupied with technical niceties and small points of grammar that they fail to see the facts which are obvious on the face of the passage.

It is true that the Greek word Tíùèåí may be translated “from above,” and sometimes must be. In the 31st verse of this same chapter we read, “He that cometh from above is above all,” where “from above” is the true and obvious meaning. Yet in the Lord's conversation with Nicodemus one thing is perfectly obvious. Nicodemus understood the Lord to mean “born again,” not “born from above.” When the Lord said, “Ye must be born again,” Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter A SECOND TIME into his mother's womb, and be born?” It is perfectly plain, then, that Nicodemus had no notion whatsoever that the Lord meant being born from above. He took the term to mean “born again”----that is, “a second time.”

It may be said that Nicodemus misunderstood the Lord, but the context proves otherwise. The Lord immediately repeats the term in the very sense in which Nicodemus understood it, saying, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” Nicodemus did not marvel that he must be born from above, but that he must be born a second time. It must be understood also that the Lord did not ordinarily speak Greek. The quotations of his words which appear in various places in the Gospels, such as Talitha cumi, are proof enough of this. The fact that the Greek language employs a term which may mean either “again” or “from above” is really irrelevant. No such term will be found in other languages. If the Lord addressed Nicodemus in his own vernacular, and Nicodemus understood him to mean “born a second time,” this is conclusive. This is what the Lord meant, and nothing else.

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.