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Vol. 7, No. 10
Oct., 1998


by Glenn Conjurske

I subscribe to no newspaper. I read no newspaper. Not that I never look at one. I do so occasionally. Once in a while----probably not twice a year on the average----I will go to the local library to read a newspaper or magazine report of some particular event. Thirty years ago I subscribed to a weekly newspaper, but gave it up, feeling then that I ought not to fill my mind with the worldly things which are the sole content of newspapers. I had of course heard it often asserted that we ought to keep up on “what's going on in the world,” but those who asserted this never could give me a good reason for it. It appeared to me that too much of keeping up on current events was no advantage to a servant of God, but a detriment to his spirituality of mind. I therefore deliberately determined to quit reading the newspaper. This I did not lightly or glibly, but with a good deal of exercise of soul before the Lord, and I have never had reason to regret it.

There are three reasons why I believe the saints of God ought to have little to do with the newspaper. The first is what I have stated above, that it fills the mind with worldly things, which are of no profit or advantage----or at any rate of so little profit that whatever advantage there may be in them cannot begin to compensate for the loss incurred in secularizing the mind, and pulling it down from higher and better things.

The second reason is that it is a waste of precious time.

The third reason I hold in reserve till later in this article.

To begin with the second reason, how can we justify the waste of time spent in learning “what's going on in the world”? The doings of this world in general are not worth knowing. They are petty, foolish, and wicked, of no account for the work of the Lord. To read the news of one day is to read the news of every day. The actors may be different, but the events are the same. How many rapes and murders and automobile accidents and airplane crashes and divorces must we read of to know “what's going on in the world”? How many unrighteous decisions of judges and juries? How much of political corruption? How many of fires and floods and storms? Such events in general are of no more account to the work of the Lord than the growing of the grass or the crawling of the worms. Have the saints of God nothing better to do with their precious time? Most of the events which they spend so much of their time to “keep up” with will be no more remembered a year hence, and will certainly no more matter a year hence, than the blowing of the wind. I very honestly believe that in general it would be every bit as profitable to read each day a newspaper a hundred years old, as to read the paper published today.

But now that I have said so much, I may as well say more. The actual fact is, I believe it would be a great deal more profitable to read a newspaper a hundred years old, than to read the current papers of the day. The old papers, so far as I have seen them, are occupied with more important matters, containing little or nothing about actors and actresses, or the latest theatrical productions or popular songs and singers, and little or nothing of sports. What they do contain is reported with much more detail. The papers themselves are not so shallow as modern newspapers. Neither are they so inveterately secular and irreligious. Whatever good we might glean from a newspaper, in the understanding of human nature, we might surely learn better from old papers than from new ones. True, the “news” is old, but what of that? The news in fact has changed but little. The events are the same in kind, the actors only being changed, and in general the things reported in today's papers are of no more consequence to a Christian than the things which happened a hundred years ago. Not that I recommend reading a newspaper a hundred years old. I only say I believe it would be of more profit than to read the current papers of the day, but I see no sufficient reason why we should read either the one or the other.

“The days are evil.” This we know from the Bible. Must we also know all the details of that evil? The Bible also says, “The time is short.” How short it is we know not, but we do know that it is too short for all that needs to be done. An ordinary newspaper will steal an hour of our time, unless we have an extraordinary amount of self-control, and even then we shall scarcely get away with the loss of less than half an hour or twenty minutes. Meanwhile there are a thousand good books waiting to be read----books which will instruct and edify----books which will feed us with manna from heaven, and make the heart burn with the good things of God. As I have grown older the realization has settled upon me that I never will read many of the books which I long to read. There is not time enough in one short life. But this much I can certainly say, that I have read a good many more of them in the past thirty years than I would have, if I had read the newspaper.

We will all one day stand before God and give account of how we have used our precious little span of time. I do not wish then to say, “I would have read the works of Wesley and Baxter, I would have read the sermons of Spurgeon, I would have read the books of Ryle, I would have read the history of the Methodists, but I was too busy “keeping up” with who was divorced in Hollywood, who lied in Washington, how many automobile accidents there were in the state, where the helicopters crashed, where the 'laborers' were striking, who filed an unrighteous lawsuit, who was appointed ambassador to France, how much the stock market gained, who retired after twenty-five years in the navy, who was arrested for selling drugs, and who won the lottery.”

But beyond the mere waste of time involved, I regard it as detrimental to the soul to fill the mind with the passing events of this world. Can it possibly be healthy to the soul to be occupied with the petty and inane, the foolish and the wicked? This is not only unprofitable, but positively damaging to the soul. It deadens all the spiritual sensibilities. This is a thing which we can hardly afford. We are required by stern necessity to have a great deal of commerce with mundane things, to earn our own bread and care for our own temporal affairs. This is quite enough to deaden and dull our souls, and must we fill our heads with the mundane matters of the whole world besides? The Bible says, “Set your mind [so the Greek] on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:2). This is a simple necessity if we are to maintain any vigor of spiritual life.

The fact is, it is not the province of the ungodly to determine what is profitable for me to know, and I cannot see that I have any right to give them that prerogative. God has given teachers to his church, but he has given none to the world, and it is no business of the saints to go to the world for their teachers. The teachers which God has given to the church are men who by their superior attainments and understanding have the capacity to determine what is needful and what is not, what ought to be emphasized and what may be generally ignored, what is profitable and what is unprofitable. Not that every one who sets up to teach in the church has such an ability. There are many who take upon themselves the office of teaching who would fill our minds with the trivial, to say nothing of the false. But we must suppose that those teachers who are called of God and given by Christ to his church have understanding enough to know, in general, what is profitable. It is certain, however, that the teachers of the world have no such capacity. Those who report the news commonly report the most frivolous, trivial, inane, and petty matters----all the doings of Hollywood, for example, and of the major league sports teams----while they leave more important matters untouched. This is especially true of radio news reporters, but it is true in a degree of all the world's reporters of news. The ungodly have no sense of what is worth while or important. A war in Palestine and a divorce in Hollywood are all one to them. They report what is interesting, not what is important. And they report what is interesting to the ungodly, not to the godly. I absolutely decline to allow such teachers to determine what I ought to know. For this reason I decline not only the newspaper, but also all secular magazines.

Well, it will be said that we need not read everything in the newspaper. This is true, and in this the newspaper has the decided advantage over the radio news. There we must take all that they give us, and all the advertising also. The same is obviously true of television news, though I have never watched the news on television. We may at any rate choose to read what we please in the newspaper. But in many cases we cannot tell the character of the thing until we read it. Besides that, most of us are not likely to have enough control over our curiosity to resist those things which are unprofitable. The curiosity of the human race is insatiable. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” (Eccl. 1:8). Godly principle may control curiosity, but cannot eliminate it. When we open a newspaper, we expose ourselves to a hundred temptations to indulge our curiosity in that which is of no manner of profit for either time or eternity. Every indulgence of that curiosity weakens our wills and our self-control. The knowledge which we acquire by that indulgence actually damages our souls. We fill our minds with the trivial and the petty----not to mention the impure and the wicked. The influx of the profane forces out the sacred. Our thoughts and meditations are dragged down from heaven to earth. This is a positive detriment to the soul. Our spirituality is weakened.

Mark, I do not say there is no profit in the current news. A bee can draw honey from the rankest weed, and a man of God may turn most everything to some profit. C. H. Spurgeon made an attempt to turn the current news to profit in his little book entitled The Bible and the Newspaper, but if the value of the book is not altogether as small as its size, this is only because Spurgeon is Spurgeon, and likely to say something of value whenever he speaks at all. But we think he could have said it as well without the aid of the newspaper, and probably better. He often appears as one laboring to make bricks without straw. We suppose he would have made better bricks if he had made no attempt to cast them in a mould borrowed from the newspaper. Some of his applications are forced enough, and he seems rather to be working a pump with bad leathers than drawing from an artesian well.

To take a couple of samples of the sort of news which Spurgeon comments upon, first, “The Paris correspondent of the 'Daily News,' of June 11, writes: 'The French have grown so clever at imitating pearls, that a jeweller in this Exhibition shows a necklace which purports to be a mixture of true pearls and false, and he challenges his customers to single out the real ones if they can. Nobody had yet succeeded when I myself made an ineffectual attempt.”' The facts are no doubt interesting enough to human curiosity, and such as any man with a little of spiritual sense might easily turn to good account, but we think he would suffer no loss if he never knew them. We do not suppose that a minister of Christ stands in need of any such news in order to preach the truth, nor that the people need to hear such news in order to learn the truth.

Once more, “The 'Daily News,' June 21st, in an article upon horse-racing, says:----'It is in regard to stamina that the French race-horses distinguish themselves the most. While the English thoroughbreds can nearly always hold their own against the French over short courses, they are year by year less able to maintain their former supremacy over long distances.”' Such “news” is really beneath the notice of the ambassadors of Christ, and we think the less there is of it in the pulpit and the common conversation of the saints, by all means the better.

Yet Christ, we know, on one occasion made reference to a couple of “current events,” and drew a solemn spiritual admonition from them, but these were uncommon events, and matters therefore of common knowledge. He did not go to the local news agency to learn of them, nor was it necessary for him to relate them to the people in order to make an application of them, for they knew them already. “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilæans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilæans were sinners above all the Galilæans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3). “There were...some that told him,” and I suppose most of us will hear enough, and likely more than enough, of such extraordinary events as this one, without going to the newspaper for it. On the same occasion the Lord referred to the death of eighteen by the falling of a tower in Siloam. This was another extraordinary event, and no doubt a matter of common knowledge, for the Lord speaks of it on the assumption that his hearers know about it. It was of a different nature from strings of pearls, and from most of what appears in the newspapers.

We grant that a servant of the Lord may sometimes make a good spiritual use of the news, and particularly of striking events which occupy the minds of the people, but it is certain that the contents of the newspaper will never be as profitable as spiritual things are, and it is certain also that too large a diet of the world's news will weaken or destroy our spirituality.

To introduce my third reason for avoiding the newspaper, I give the following extract from the correspondence of J. W. Alexander, son of Archibald Alexander. He writes, “I am seriously convinced, that more harm is done by newspaper-reading, than by novel-reading. I know men who spend 2----6 hours daily over newspapers. There is no other production so heterogeneous and incoherent; there is none in which we read so much that is not even interesting. Probably each of us spends a hundred hours of morning-time per annum, on 1, Repeated matter; 2, Accidents; 3, Crimes; 4, Idle narrative; 5, Unintelligible or useless statements; 6, Error and falsehood; 7, Advertisements and proper names. What better recipe for making a weak mind addle? We take the tone of our company. Suppose a man's bosom-friend to talk an hour a day, exactly like his newspaper. I am told Dr. Wilson used to read only a small weekly sheet; and I have heard that Mr. Wirt, during his most active forensic labours, spent three years without reading a newspaper.”

Mr. Alexander confirms the two reasons which I have given above. The newspaper wastes our time, and the hundred hours per year of which he speaks is only about fifteen minutes a day. The newspaper damages our souls. “We take the tone of our company.” But he introduces a third reason. It weakens our minds. Now frankly, such a thing had never occurred to me before I read Mr. Alexander's statement. When I wrote my article on the weakening of the modern mind, it had never entered my head to include the newspaper among the factors. But it must be understood that when Mr. Alexander wrote, in 1841, most of the things which now weaken the minds of men did not exist. Further, those things which now work to weaken men's minds, as the radio and television, and the abundance of modern conveniences and technology, exert so much stronger an influence in that direction than the newspaper could, that we must now regard the newspaper as a very minor factor.

Still, I suppose that Mr. Alexander is right about the newspaper weakening the mind----or making a weak mind addle. “Addle” means empty, confused, or muddled. The word is often applied to the mind, in such compounds as “addle-brained,” “addle-headed,” and “addle-pated.” When I was a boy, whenever my mother was confused or forgetful, she would say she was “getting addle-pated.”

But how does the newspaper addle our minds? No doubt by filling them with the frivolous and the trivial, and so forcing out higher and better things----so keeping us from any depth of thought or serious meditation. But this third reason I present as the result of Mr. Alexander's meditations, not of my own. With so many more powerful forces at work today to weaken our minds, I must suppose the newspaper a small one. It is a strong force, however, to waste our time and to destroy our spirituality.

But we are told by some of the leaders of the church today that we need to know “what's going on in the world.” And I ask, For what purpose? Spurgeon writes, in the preface to the book noticed above, “'I read the newspaper,' said John Newton, 'that I may see how my heavenly Father governs the world'; a very excellent reason.” I think quite otherwise. This world is the kingdom of the devil, and its course and events form one of the most common arguments of the atheists against the very existence of God. The general absence of the hand of God in the government of the world is so obvious that the atheist concludes there is no God. It has never occurred to him that God might purposely allow the world to go its own way. I learn how God governs the world, so far as he has anything to do with it, by reading the Bible. Passing events may occasionally supply some striking examples of this, but we shall be none the worse if we never hear of them, and most of what the world calls news is of no manner of use.

For what purpose must we know the world's news? Have we some need which the apostles never had? Few, I suppose, would contend that we need to keep abreast of current events in order to walk with God. Abraham walked with God in the plains of Mamre, where no newspapers existed. It is no doubt for the sake of our ministry that we are supposed to need to know the doings of the world. But if so, why did the current events play no part in the ministry of the apostles? Read all of their epistles, and see if you can find a single reference to the current news. Paul “determined”----not only to preach nothing, but----”not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2).

The plain fact is this: as a general rule those whose ministry is so much occupied with current events have a different kind of ministry than what the apostles had. Not only so, but their ministry has a different purpose than that of the apostles. They aim to “save America,” to purify Society, to make the world morally safe for their grandchildren, to protect their own rights and freedoms, to influence legislation, to stop abortion, to ban pornography, to elect conservatives----in short to “change the world.” The apostles had nothing to do with anything of the sort. Are those whose labor and ministry consist so largely of such things above the apostles----or far beneath them? The apostles wrote very powerfully, and very explicitly, of the character, course, and end of the present world, and all this without a single reference to the current news. Why may not the preachers of the present day do the same?

Leaving the Roast

Abstract of a Sermon Preached on August 2, 1998

by Glenn Conjurske

I'm going to do something this morning that I've never done before. I'm going to preach on an old proverb. I've preached from a hymn, but never from an old proverb----at least, not so far as I remember. There's another old proverb, however, that says “Never say never.” The meaning of this is never to say “I never will,” for we change, especially when we're young, and we find ourselves doing the thing we said we would never do. But as we get older this proverb takes on another meaning, and we learn not to say, “I never did.” The memory shrinks, and the forgetory expands, and we don't know what we have done.*

At any rate, the proverb I want to speak on is this: “Many a one leaves the roast, who afterwards longs for the smoke of it.” I've thought a good deal on this during the past five years, since so many folks left us. The proverb is not Scripture, but many of these old proverbs embody much of the wisdom of Scripture, and this one certainly does. The primary example in the Bible of one who left the roast and afterward longed for the smoke of it is the prodigal son. Observe, the proverb does not say that many a one who leaves the roast afterwards longs for the roast again. No, he longs only for the smoke of it. The prodigal left the place of a son, and afterward longed for the place of a servant.

Now there is a reason why those who leave the roast are so often compelled to long for the smoke of it. They leave the roast, of course, expecting to find something better. I can't think of anything better than a roast, so I'll have to say they leave the roast expecting to find a better roast, but instead they find a worse one, or no roast at all. They leave a good place, and find themselves in a bad one. They find themselves in a place so much worse than the one they left that they are compelled to long, not for the roast, but only for a whiff of the smoke of it. Nothing is more common than for discontented souls to leave a better place for a worse one. That of course is not their intent, but they have no safeguard against it, for the fact is, discontented souls always see their present place as worse, and the other place as better. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Those who have been on the farm will understand this. The cows are always reaching their necks as far as they can through the fence, for the grass on the other side, though the grass over there is just the same as the grass under their feet.

Men are no different than cows. They always see the other place as better than this one, though in fact it may be a good deal worse. How is this? Very simply, they focus their vision on the disadvantages and inconveniences of their present place, and ignore all the good in it, while they look at the good in the other place, and ignore the evil. In plain English, there is nothing objective in their viewpoint. They look with the eyes of passion, not the eyes of reason. Their deficiency of character warps their vision. That deficiency consists primarily of ingratitude. If they were properly thankful for the good which they have in a good place, if they allowed that good to fill their hearts and their vision, they wouldn't be preoccupied with the evils or disadvantages, and so would not be pining for a change.

This deficiency of character plainly appears in the prodigal son. The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most precious things in the Bible, appealing to all the deepest and most tender emotions of our souls, yet for years I delighted in this parable, and preached on it, without seeing one of its most exquisite features. I always began with the prodigal in the far country, as a most fitting picture of man as he is by nature. The beginning of the parable I regarded as merely setting the stage. I then heard a sermon on the subject by Bob Jones----the first Bob Jones----in which he began at the beginning, with the prodigal still in his father's house. He pointed out that the proof that the prodigal didn't have any character is that he was discontented in a good place. He was in a good place, and he wanted out of it. This is as much proof of his bad character as his riotous living in the far country. He was ungrateful. He didn't value or appreciate the good which he had. He was longing for something else, and he was willing to sacrifice all the real good which he had in order to go after it. In this he differed nothing from Esau.

And you know, it does not take much to make discontented souls discontented. Put some of these souls in Paradise itself, with everything the heart could desire, with beautiful birds singing over their heads, and delicious, juicy peaches and pears hanging all around them at shoulder height, with raspberries as big as apples, and one fly buzzing about their heads, and they would think of nothing but that fly, until they would be saying, “Oh! I just need to get out of this place!”

This is how the devil worked with Eve, to make her discontented even in Paradise. He occupied her with the one disadvantage of her place. He directed all her vision to the one thing of which God had deprived her, putting out of her mind all the good with which she was surrounded. Her one disadvantage became her obsession. She must have that one thing which she could not have where she was. Thus gratitude was swallowed up by discontent.

The prodigal son in the Father's house was nothing different from Eve in the garden. They were both in a good place, and both dissatisfied there, and both for the same reason. They were under restraint. They were under authority, and they didn't like it there. There are only two things that move men to leave a good place. Those two things are lust and pride. Eve wanted something which was forbidden her in Paradise. The prodigal wanted something he couldn't have in the Father's house. I suppose they were both moved primarily by lust. Others are moved primarily by pride. They don't particularly want anything different from what they have in the good place, only they want it independently. I believe it is primarily pride which is at the bottom of the phenomenon called church hopping. People will leave a good church, and go hunting for another just like the one they have left, only without the restraint or the authority which they have left.

But those who leave a good place usually profess that they are going out to find a better one. It most often happens, however, that they find instead a worse one. One reason for this is that there is a God in heaven, and a God who will not be mocked. When men are ungrateful and unappreciative of the good place he has given them, and must leave it for a “better,” he makes it his business to put them in a worse. When men leave the roast, he makes it his business to make them long for the smoke of it.

But another reason why those who leave a good place often find a worse one lies in the discontented souls themselves. The passions of lust or pride are too strong to allow reason to be heard. Those passions warp their vision. The bad place on the other side of the fence looks better to them than the good place they are in. They trade in a Cadillac for a Volkswagon, so they can have a bigger car. This is common, especially in young people. A little driving in the Volkswagon, however, usually serves to teach them that the Cadillac was bigger after all.

Pride and lust work hand in hand in discontented souls, but one or the other of them will usually predominate. Where lust predominates, the hankering for the grass on the other side of the fence may predominate. Where pride predominates, it is only the desire to be outside the fence. Pride leaps the fence merely to be outside, though it may know well enough there is nothing better on the other side. Those who leave the roast for swine's husks purely on the basis of lust are more easily cured. Those who do so for pride's sake may be well nigh incurable. They will drive the Volkswagon all their days, and stoutly maintain that it is bigger than the Cadillac. In either case the cure will be found at the end of a long, hard road of bitter experience. This is where the prodigal son found it. This is where Naomi found it. She left the “house of bread” (Bethlehem) for the land of Moab, and came back saying, “The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” Those who leave the house of bread for the sake of lust will have a long and bitter road ahead, but those who leave it for pride's sake will probably have a much longer and more bitter one.

But there is a better way than any of this. Instead of acting on the wrong passions, we ought to cultivate the right ones. The right ones are gratitude for a good place, and, if the place is not so good as we would like, faith and patience. This was David's way when he dwelt in the wilderness, and in dens and caves of the earth. This was Joseph's way when he languished in the prison. But pride and lust and unbelief make men impatient. They will not wait for the Lord to improve their place, or give them a better one, but must off to find one themselves. Pride and lust would have slain Saul and taken the kingdom----and David might well have pleaded that it was no pride in him which supposed he was more fit for the throne than Saul was----but faith and patience waited. Another old proverb would serve impatient and rash folks well, if they would but heed it. It says, “A stone that is fit for the wall, is not left in the way.” And observe, this is not true merely because the world has found out the truth of it. It is true because men generally recognize true worth, and if men do not, God does. It is true therefore because there is a God in heaven. By faith we may securely take the lower place, for if there is a God in heaven, and we are fit for a higher place, God will surely say to us, “Go up higher.” This he will do in his own time, however, and pride and lust will never wait for him. Pride and lust will never lie in the field, but must climb up to find a place in the wall, whether they are fit for the wall or not. But if we thus act on the wrong passions, and gad about to find a better place for ourselves, God will often insure that we find a worse one. If we cultivate the right passions, and make it our business to be fit for the better place which we want, God will give us that better place, when patience has had its perfect work.

Patience had its perfect work in David and in Joseph. Impatience had its perfect work in the prodigal son, and in many another who has left a good place for a bad one. Two different men have told me, when they left this church----one of them in a flood of tears----that they had no hope of finding another church like it, and yet they must be gone. They were leaving a good place, in other words, believing in their own hearts that they could only find a worse one----deliberately leaving a better place for a worse one. I am not sure what moved one of them----unless it were his wife. The other, I believe, simply wanted to be somebody. He wanted a place for which he wasn't fit, and off he went to look for one. He would have done better to labor to deserve the place which he wanted----for he could certainly have had it where he was if he had been fit for it. But pride always thinks itself fit, and so thinks itself deprived of what it deserves.

But I want you to understand that it is not always wrong to leave a good place, or to seek a better. It is not wrong for a preacher to leave a small place of ministry for a larger one. God may call him to “go up higher,” but I can tell you this, that the man who will do well in such a move is probably the man who was content where he was. He has the ability to judge objectively of the place he is in, and of the place to which he goes.

But there is not necessarily any wrong in leaving a good place for a better. No place on earth is perfect. There was a famine even in the “house of bread” when Naomi left it. Not that she necessarily ought to have left it on that account. God can sustain the godly, even in a famine, without their going to Moab. But no place on earth is perfect, and sometimes we may find a better place, and be quite right in taking it. Paul says in First Corinthians 7:20, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called,” and in verse 24, “Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.” Thus he teaches us to be content where we are, and to stay there, though he knows very well that no situation on earth is perfect. Yet still he allows for change. Indeed, in some cases he positively requires change. “Therein abide with God,” he says, but we cannot abide “with God” in every situation. Conscience and principle positively require us to leave some situations, though in many cases what is called principle would be more accurately called pride.

Paul says in verse 21, “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.” “Care not for it.” The place is surely not the best, but it is good enough. You can do the work of the Lord there. There are even advantages to servitude which freedom cannot give us. Freedom from servitude does not give us freedom from care, but rather adds to our cares. The servant does not have to pay the rent or the electric bill, but he will have to pay them when he is free. Still, freedom is better than servitude, and Paul does not forbid us to leave a lower place for a higher, or a good place for a better.

You will observe that Paul gives two pieces of advice here. First “Care not for it,” and then “use it rather.” I think I see in these the key to leaving a good place and finding a better. It most often happens that those who leave a good place find a worse one. Those who leave the roast find swine's husks. The key to preventing this is “Care not for it.” The man who is contented in his place can view the other place with the eyes of reason. The discontented can see only with the eyes of passion, and can never see anything rightly.

Thus it was with the prodigal son. The far country looked better to him than the Father's house. A full experience of the far country, however, taught him otherwise, and he came at length to that most precious resolve, “I will arise and go to my Father.” But observe what immediately precedes this. It was “when he came to himself” that he said, “I will arise and go to my Father.” “When he came to himself,” that is, when he came to his senses, when he learned to view both the Father's house and the far country through the eyes of reason, then he said, “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.” This is the voice of reason. This is viewing both the good place which he had left and the bad place which he had found with the eyes of reason. “When he came to himself,” he longed for the smoke of the roast he had left. A contented heart, coupled with the gratitude which his good place called for, would have enabled him to see with the eyes of reason before he left the roast, and he would never have left it at all.

Still we must allow that it is sometimes quite right to leave a good place for a better. “It is better to marry than to burn,” though the single have advantages which the married will never have, and the married have cares of which the single know nothing. And “if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.” Freedom is better than servitude, though it will bring cares and responsibilities which servants never know. We may quite legitimately leave a good place for a better, and it is precisely a contented and grateful heart which will enable us to do so. Our first business ought to be to cultivate contentment and gratitude where we are, while we look to God to better our state, rather than to gad about for a better place. Those who do the latter are always in imminent danger of falling into a worse place.

And let us understand, contentment and gratitude must be carefully cultivated. They are not natural to the fallen heart of man. Sin entered Paradise through the door of discontent, and so it entered heaven itself, in the heart of the devil. He was discontented in heaven itself, and precisely because he was not in charge there. And the image of the devil is so deeply stamped on the fallen heart of man that the same discontent reigns everywhere, and for the same reason. It is especially rife in America, where the self-pleasing notions of liberty and independence have been feeding and fattening everybody's pride and self-will for two centuries. That pride and self-will make every man discontented in every situation, no matter how good, so long as he is not in charge. He would rather drive the Volkswagon than ride in the Cadillac. If he cannot get a Volkswagon to drive, he will push a wheelbarrow----and swear too that the wheelbarrow is better than the Cadillac.

Now if this discontent brought sin into Paradise, and into heaven itself, how much more is it likely to move us to sin on this poor groaning and travailing earth. There is no Paradise here, though there is something in the heart of every one of us which cannot but long for it. It is the inveterate bent of our hearts to scour the globe in search of Utopia. That disposition will be well used if it moves us to find our rest and our delight in heaven, but most of us are looking for Utopia on earth, where we are sure to be disappointed. Our proverb gives us a subtle hint of this. The fact is, every roast has its smoke----for this proverb was no doubt current before man graduated to “cooking with gas.” But even “cooking with gas”----even all the conveniences of modern technology----can give us no Paradise on earth. There is no Paradise here. God drove man out of Paradise so soon as man sinned, and God has no intention of giving us a Paradise here and now, in the presence of sin. Another old proverb says, “Wherever a man dwell, he shall be sure to have a thorn-bush near his door.” If you find a place without a thorn-bush, God will plant one there as soon as you move in. You cannot find a Paradise on the earth, and God will not give you one.

But you can make your own Paradise. Not by altering your circumstances, or by leaving one place for another, but by gratitude and contentment. The thankful, contented soul is in Paradise everywhere, while the discontented soul would be unhappy in Paradise itself. I am reluctant to use myself as an example in a matter like this, but it just occurs to me that I was out in the country the other day, in the county forest, praying and meditating and picking berries. The flies were plentiful, buzzing about my head and sitting on my arms. The mosquitoes were biting my arms and my back. The sun was too hot. There wasn't much breeze, and I was hot and tired. The thorns were scratching my arms and pricking my fingers. And do you know what I did? Again and again my heart would well up with praise, and I would say, “God, I thank you for this place. I thank you for the peace and quiet here. I thank you for the berries. I thank you that I can be here, alone with my God.” When a little breeze would blow to cool me, I would thank God for the breeze. When a cloud came over the sun to give me some shade, I would thank God for the cloud. I never complained to him about the thorns or flies or mosquitoes. I was too occupied with the pleasant things to think much about the unpleasant. I have afflictions enough, reproach enough, poverty enough, and above all, disappointments enough, and yet I can tell you honestly that the word which is constantly on my lips, more than anything and everything else, is “Thank you, Father.” You can't find a Paradise without, but you can make one within. And those who have that Paradise of contentment and gratitude within are in no danger of leaving the roast for the swine's husks. Those who indulge their pride and lust are always in danger. They are so peeved by the smoke that they can't enjoy the roast while they have it, and to avoid the smoke they leave the roast. But it is the way of God to give such souls more smoke and less roast in their new place, and they ought indeed to thank him if he gives them all smoke and no roast, for this works to cure the real problem, which was not in their place, but in their heart.

The Position of F. H. A. Scrivener Again

by Glenn Conjurske

The liberal school of textual critics has been very determined to co-opt the conservative critic, F. H. A. Scrivener, into its own camp. The pertinacity of these critics certainly does honor to the abilities of Scrivener, but we are not so sure it does any honor to the liberal critics who thus endeavor to claim him, for it seems to us they must set aside the facts in order to do so. In November of 1994 we endeavored to answer the claims of Philip Schaff in that direction, by simply allowing Scrivener to speak for himself. Since that time I have acquired Canon and Text of the New Testament, by Caspar René Gregory, published by T. & T. Clark of Edinburgh in 1907, on page 462 of which I find the following:

“Scrivener came to see before he passed away that the Received Text could not be supported so unconditionally as he had once thought. But he expressed himself less distinctly in public, moved, I think, largely by a kind consideration for his friend and staunch adherent John William Burgon, whose devotion to that text scarcely knew any bounds.”

This is a sample of the shallow sort of scholarship which characterizes the liberal school of critics. I do not believe I will be overstating the case if I say there is nothing in this statement which is true. In method it exactly resembles the tactics of certain post-tribulationists, who love to tell us that Brookes or Torrey or some other prominent pretribulationist gave up the doctrine before they passed away, without offering one shred of proof of it. If Gregory knew something of a private nature concerning Scrivener's position, which stood against his public utterances, he ought at any rate to have told us what it was. As it stands, he practically accuses Scrivener of hypocrisy----of thinking one way and speaking another, or of speaking one way in private, and another way in public. I shall come back to that, but first a glance at some other assertions in Gregory's statement.

“Burgon, whose devotion to that text scarcely knew any bounds.” Grammatically, “that text” can only refer to “the Received Text,” of which he had spoken in the previous sentence. This is mere caricature. None who have read Burgon with their eyes open----the Dean Burgon Society notwithstanding----can believe that Burgon's devotion to the Received Text scarcely knew any bounds.

“Scrivener came to see before he passed away that the Received Text could not be supported so unconditionally as he had once thought.” This is more caricature. When did Scrivener ever suppose the Received Text could be supported unconditionally? When he was twelve years old? Certainly not in 1861, when he published the first edition of his Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, in which he “unconditionally” abandons I John 5:7, conditionally gives up “God manifest in the flesh,” adds the second clause of I John 2:23, “though still absent from the textus receptus,” and otherwise departs from the Received Text in many places. Now 1861 was thirty years “before he passed away.” This talk, then, of what he “came to see before he passed away” is mere fiction. He saw it at least thirty years earlier. If there was any change at all in his sentiments, it was in the direction of a closer adherence to the Received Text, for in his third edition, twenty-two years later than his first, he practically returns to “God manifest in the flesh,” and retracts also his rejection of Herod's “did many things,” which he had abandoned in his second edition (not his first). I do not suppose these examples indicate any actual change in his principles, but they at any rate indicate that he was not moving in the direction which Gregory imputes to him.

But to return to the most serious thing in Gregory's statement, how does it appear that Scrivener “expressed himself less distinctly in public,” moved “by a kind consideration for his friend,” J. W. Burgon? Unless those who assert this can tell us explicitly what he said in private that was more distinct than what he said in public, we must regard this assertion as the same sort of fiction which constitutes the rest of Gregory's paragraph.

But we are compelled to pursue this a bit further. If Scrivener refrained from speaking his mind while Burgon lived, for fear of offending Burgon, why did he not speak “more distinctly” after Burgon died? Was he afraid of Burgon's ghost also?

But more. If Scrivener had spoken “more distinctly” than he did, this would not have helped Gregory's cause at all, but would have had quite the opposite effect. What Gregory's cause requires is not more distinct statements from Scrivener, but statements directly the reverse of those which he actually made. The “more distinctly” Scrivener speaks his mind, the “more distinctly” does it bear against Gregory's position, unless we are to suppose that in what he did say he was merely prevaricating, through fear of Burgon's ghost. I repeat here Scrivener's last statement on the subject, which I published in my former article, in November of 1994.

“My lamented friend and fellow student, the late Very Reverend J. W. Burgon, Dean of Chichester, very earnestly requested me, that if I lived to complete the present work, I would publickly testify that my latest labours had in no wise modified my previous critical convictions, namely, that the true text of the New Testament can best and most safely be gathered from a comprehensive acquaintance with every source of information yet open to us, whether they be Manuscripts of the original text, Versions, or Fathers; rather than from a partial representation of three or four authorities which, though in date the more ancient and akin in character, cannot be made even tolerably to agree together.

“I saw on my own part no need of such avowal, yet (neget quis carmina Gallo? [who would refuse a song to Gallus?]) I could not deny Dean Burgon's request.”*

Observe, Scrivener wrote this after Burgon was dead, so that it could have been no fear of offending him which “moved” him. Observe also that the statement lacks nothing in distinctness. It is a very “distinct” statement of principles which are the direct contrary of Gregory's. It is a direct repudiation of the principles of the liberal school of critics, and a distinct avowal that his “previous critical convictions” were “in no wise modified”----a direct denial, therefore, that he had “come to see” anything at all other than he had seen before. True, Scrivener wrote this at Burgon's request, but the question is not at whose request he wrote it, but, Is what he wrote the truth? Scrivener made this statement at Burgon's request----Burgon no doubt saw the endeavors of the liberal school to claim Scrivener as one of themselves, and evidently feared that he had not spoken his mind distinctly enough----but are we to believe that Scrivener thus wrote what he did not believe, merely to honor a friend? He cannot have written it to please Burgon, who was dead, and would never see it. Nay, the honesty and sincerity of Scrivener's statement are transparent, as is the sincerity of all that he wrote. Gregory's statement is as unworthy as it is untrue.


n Stray Notes on the English Bible n

by the Editor


Carest Thou Not that we Perish?

So men have read in their English Bibles for some hundreds of years, in Mark 4:38. We all know that the language is archaic, yet we all understand it. And in fact it is no more archaic today than it was a century ago, and yet the makers of the English Revised and American Standard Versions retained it intact, in spite of all their liberalism. It was archaic in form then, but it was perfectly understood, and so it is today.

But we live in a different generation----a “Neo” generation, in which everything must be “modern” and “contemporary” and “up-to-date,” and we therefore can no longer read “Carest thou not that we perish?” We must now have (in the NASV and the NKJV), “Do you not care that we are perishing?” The NIV has, “Don't you care if we drown?”----manifesting, as usual, a little more common sense than the others, but a good deal less of faithfulness to the original, for neither “if” nor “drown” are legitimate translations.

Of course all who loved the old English Bible must feel some loss at this, but we know very well that the new versions were not made for those who loved the old Bible. If they had been, they would have been made on a different plan altogether. The new versions were made both by and for those who did not love the old Bible.

But query: Is “Do you not care that we are perishing?”----is this “contemporary English?” It certainly is not. It is just such language as no man would speak today, at least not in America. Any man who had such a thing to say today would certainly say, “Don't you care that we're perishing?”----certainly not, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

“Carest thou not” has at any rate the charm of age. It has just the quaintness which every sensible man would expect in a book which everyone knows to be very old. That quaintness, that sense of age, elicits our veneration, while it does not detract from our understanding in the least. But all of this is thrown to the winds by a generation which neither understands nor values it, and in its place we are given something which is neither ancient nor modern, neither literary nor conversational, but only artificial and fastidious. It is really a wonder that the new versions are used at all. I understand well enough the animus of modern Evangelicalism to get rid of the old Bible, but are they determined to get rid of forceful English also?

Understand, “Do you not care that we are perishing” is no isolated instance. There are hundreds upon hundreds of examples of this artificial language everywhere in these new versions, creating everywhere an atmosphere which is artificial and vapid. The NIV is less guilty of this than the others, though its atmosphere is worse, not better.

And one of the most unfortunate things about this is that the same principles which eliminate the language of the old Bible must, to be consistent, eliminate the old hymns also. It must be mere hypocrisy to claim that we cannot read “Carest thou not that we perish?” while we are yet able to sing it. We may read a thousand things every day which we cannot approve----cannot agree with----cannot identify our hearts with----cannot even understand. We may read what we abhor. But none of this can we sing. What we sing we must make our own. It must be the expression of our own hearts and minds----our own doctrine, our own experience, our own thoughts, our own longings and aspirations. And will any man contend that it is proper for us to sing “Carest thou not that we perish?” but not to read it?----proper to teach our children to sing it, but improper to read it to them?

If he will not contend this, he must either give up one of the grandest hymns ever written*----or give up the new Bibles. Nor is this a lone instance. Examples of the same sort meet us at every turn of the path. We have never yet seen “The Old Hymns in Modern English,” and hope most earnestly we never do. It seems that so far, at any rate, the users of the new Bibles have felt no need to modernize the old hymns. They can apparently understand the old hymns, while they profess that they cannot understand the old Bible. We think simple consistency demands of them that they either give up the old hymns or the new Bibles. This we say though we realize that the removal of the archaic language is not the only matter in which the new versions differ from the old. They have also removed many of the ancient landmarks, and removed besides much of the vigorous English and the spiritual atmosphere of the old version. Yet the removal of the archaic language is usually presented as their chief advantage.

Are there Few that Be Elected?

by Glenn Conjurske

The Bible is clear enough that there are few that are saved. “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved?” (Luke 13:23). The Lord does not answer the question directly, but does so by implication, saying, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” This is as much as to say that there are few that are saved. He says so more explicitly in a similar passage. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14).

But those who believe that the sole cause of our salvation is an eternal and irrevocable decree, by which God elected us to salvation, have commonly been very uneasy with the fact that God has elected so few. This seems to give the lie to the plain Bible statement that “God is love”----to say nothing of the explicit statement of the Bible that he is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Pet. 3:9).

Most Calvinists who have a little of the love of God shed abroad in their hearts are very uneasy with many of the tenets of Calvinism. They present them in such soft terms as practically to deny them, while yet professing to believe them. With nothing are they more uneasy than with the fact that there are few that are saved. While the apostle Paul, constrained by the love of Christ, would spend himself to save as many as he could, the God who could save all as easily as he could save any, has deliberately chosen to save few. So ill a notion does this give to us of the God of love that it is no wonder at all that Calvinists have been uneasy with it. The real wonder is that they can be reconciled to the fact that any are lost. Some Calvinists, indeed, have as much stumbled over the fact that any should be lost, as others have that many should be lost. “The legs of the lame are not equal,” says Solomon (Prov. 26:7), and neither are the legs of lame theology. Those who have strongly asserted the responsibility of man, and as strongly denied his ability, have found themselves in possession of a one-legged man, the result of their own operation. This doctrine is such an outrage to man's innate sense of justice, and such an intolerable burden to all his sensibilities, that it proves simply unendurable to all who either think or feel. Many Calvinists apparently do little of either, but those who have done so have been so absolutely uneasy with the plight of their one-legged man that they have been driven to make his legs equal again. This some of them have done by cutting off the other leg also----by denying his responsibility as well as his ability----and thus returned to consistency by a doctrine doubly false. By means of this second operation those who had formerly held that the all for whom Christ died meant a select few, were now observed to hold that the few who are to be saved must certainly mean all. Among those who have taken this road from Calvinism to Universalism are Count Zinzendorf, Andrew Jukes, and many of the churches of New England.

Most Calvinists would never go so far, but they have yet gone farther than they ought. They have labored to make out that the few who are saved are in fact many after all. Of course they would not ordinarily do this while expounding the text “few there be that find it,” but they do it in other connections, and the fact that they do it at all indicates how really uneasy they are with that system which they hold to be the truth of God.

Augustus Toplady writes, “Why are 'Calvin's notions' represented as 'gloomy?' Is it gloomy, to believe, that the far greater part of the human race are made for endless happiness? There can, I think, be no reasonable doubt entertained, concerning the salvation of very young persons. If (as some who have versed themselves in this kind of speculations, affirm) about one half of mankind die in infancy; and if, as indubitable observation proves, a very considerable number of the remaining half, die in early childhood; and if, as there is the strongest reason to think, many millions of those, who live to maturer years, in every successive generation, have their names in the Book of Life: then, what a very small portion, comparatively, of the human species, falls under the decree of preterition and non-redemption! This view of things, I am persuaded, will, to an eye so philosophic as yours, at least open a very cheerful vista through the 'gloom;' if not entirely turn the imaginary darkness into sun-shine. For, with respect to the few reprobate, we may, and we ought to resign the disposal of them, implicitly, to the will of that only King who can do no wrong: instead of summoning the Almighty, to take his trial at the tribunal of our own speculations, and of setting up ourselves as the judges of Deity.”

Thus the “few saved” of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes “few reprobate” in the hands of the Calvinist. That infants who die are saved we have no doubt----though this has been denied by many Calvinists----but that half the race dies in infancy is only wishful thinking. As to the “many millions...in every successive generation” who have been converted, this is simply closing our eyes to the truth. There are few that find the way to eternal life. Eight souls on the earth were righteous at the time of the flood. Three only were saved out of the destruction of Sodom, and only one of those actually righteous. There were only seven thousand in Israel in Elijah's day, and perhaps none at all in the heathen world. Generation followed generation for thousands of years in Africa, China, India, Australia, North and South America, and all the islands of the sea, without one ray of gospel light, while only a dim and flickering light burned in some favored regions around the Mediterranean Sea. In the present day, even in America, it is doubtful that one in a hundred are actually converted, and “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). There are few that find the way to eternal life in any generation. Even the great awakenings which have occurred from time to time have touched only a very small portion of the surface of the globe, and converted only a small minority of the people there.

Andrew Bonar says, “Christ's favourite expression, when speaking of His saved ones, is 'many.' Our Shorter Catechism should have said, 'elected many to everlasting life.' I am not sure but we shall be in the majority yet when we are gathered into the kingdom.” Strange, that we who are always a pitiful and persecuted minority throughout the history of the world should grow into the majority when we are gathered into the kingdom. But no, for the Lord says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). Bonar's statement reveals the cravings of a good heart, burdened by an evil system. Yet we suppose that a majority elected to salvation could no more satisfy a good heart than a few, if God could as easily have saved all, if he had merely chosen to do so.

A “Brief Analysis of Calvinism,” in The Presbyterian Magazine for 1855, says, “God, who is infinite in knowledge and power, and 'who hath mercy in (sic) whom he will have mercy,' having promised that his eternal Son Jesus Christ our Saviour 'should see the travail of his soul and be satisfied,' hath, in accordance therewith, eternally purposed, that a large part of mankind should accept the terms of the Gospel.” A large number, no doubt will be saved, but still this is a small part of the human race. To say “a large part” only betrays the uneasiness which Calvinists feel with their own system.

C. H. Spurgeon says, “I believe there will be more in Heaven than in hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I answer, because Christ, in everything, is to 'have the pre-eminence,' and I cannot conceive how He could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise. Moreover, I have never read that there is to be in hell a great multitude, which no man could number. I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they die, speed their way to Paradise. Think what a multitude there is of them! Then there are already in Heaven unnumbered myriads of the spirits of just men made perfect,----the redeemed of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues up till now; and there are better times coming, when the religion of Christ shall be universal; when

'He shall reign from pole to pole,
With illimitable sway;'

when whole kingdoms shall bow down before Him, and nations shall be born in a day; and in the thousand years of the great millennial state there will be enough saved to make up all the deficiencies of the thousands of years that have gone before. Christ shall be Master everywhere, and His praise shall be sounded in every land. Christ shall have the pre-eminence at last; His train shall be far larger than that which shall attend the chariot of the grim monarch of hell.”

We really doubt that Christ's pre-eminence has anything to do with the matter, or that any comparison with the devil is remotely thought of in the passage. Neither is the devil any “monarch” in hell, but a prisoner like the rest. Neither will he have any loyal subjects there, but will no doubt be cordially hated by all, as the prime cause of their own misery. It is certain that Christ has no numerical pre-eminence over the devil today, and if he must gain it in the end by means of the death of infants, this appears to be an empty victory.

As for the millennium, it is certain that the millennial day will be ushered in by the destruction of all the billions of the ungodly who now inhabit the earth, and not by their conversion. There is nothing in the Bible about nations being born in a day. That applies to one nation only, the nation of Israel. As for the godly in the millennium making up “all the deficiencies of the thousands of years that have gone before,” we observe that this grants (against Toplady's arguments) the real deficiencies of the previous ages, but we see no reason to believe the millennium will make them up. We know that at the end of the millennium, when Satan is loosed for a little season, he will find a ready following, and a very large one also, “the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” (Rev. 20:8). The fact that these have outwardly submitted to Christ previously, while necessity compelled them----for he ruled them with a rod of iron----does not indicate that they were subject to him in heart, and they certainly will not be swept up to heaven when they are devoured by the fire of God.

Neither do we suppose that the growth of the population will be so great in the millennium as to make up the deficiencies of all that have lived for thousands of years before. We know that as a part of the curse which God put upon the woman, he greatly multiplied her conception (Gen. 3:16), and we suppose that when the curse is removed, that facet of it will be removed also. If men (or animals) continued to reproduce during the millennium, with no death to diminish their numbers, at the same rate at which they do today, the earth in a few years would be unable to support the number of rodents and insects, if not of men.

Spurgeon's arguments, then, are not convincing. They indicate no more than the uneasiness which he naturally felt with the system which he supposed to be the truth. We suppose that these men did right well to feel the uneasiness which they evidently felt with their Calvinism, but they went about the wrong way to remedy it. They ought to have given up their Calvinism, instead of modifying the plain truth of God. There are few that are elected. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” This election, however, stands upon what they are, and not upon the “mere sovereign pleasure” of God. It is “according to foreknowledge.” Their destiny is determined by their own acts, and it is therefore that few are saved. This is no reflection upon God, “who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4).

Modern Technology and the Sin of Sodom

by Glenn Conjurske

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

The iniquity of Sodom was a complex thing. They “committed abomination,” as we all know, but this was only the final step in their course of iniquity, nor can we suppose that the whole city was guilty of Sodomy, though it was evidently winked at and tolerated by all. But long before such abomination came “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness.” “Idle hands are the devil's tools,” and the idleness no doubt led to the abomination.

Now if we were to ransack history and literature for an apt description of the sin of America, we could scarcely find anything more apt than this description of the sin of Sodom. “Pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness” is the very essence of American society. No prouder nation has ever lived, no wealthier, and no more idle. And America has descended to the very dregs of the abomination of Sodom, and in her official position, as seen in her legislatures and courts, is passionate in defending that abomination. Many of the churches and much of the populace also favor it.

In one particular only does the description of Sodom's iniquity vary from a description of that of America. America (in her corporate capacity, at any rate) has not failed to “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy,” but has been the great benefactor of the poor of the whole world. She has fed her enemies, and fed her own so-called “poor” with more of determination than of wisdom. Perhaps this alone has saved America thus far from the judgement of Sodom, for in every other particular their sins are identical.

But what I wish to speak of in particular in this article is the prevailing atmosphere of Sodom. “Pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her.” It would be impossible to find a more perfect description than this of America.

First, pride. There is a great deal of national pride in America, pride in being the greatest nation on earth----the richest and most powerful, and the leader of the “free world,” or of the whole world. It is hardly necessary to say that modern technology has greatly increased the outward greatness, and so the pride, of America.

Next, fulness of bread. There cannot be the slightest doubt that modern technology and invention have greatly multiplied the fulness of bread in America. A man with a tractor and other modern machinery can plow, plant, and reap a hundred times what he could with a team of horses. Modern invention has thus multiplied the fulness of bread in modern America a hundred times over what it ever could have been in Sodom.

But there is another facet to this. Man can only eat so much bread. Give him cakes and sweets and tasty morsels of every possible description, and still he can only eat so much. “Fulness of bread,” then, beyond a certain point, becomes a matter of indifference. But modern society has gone much beyond fulness of bread. Modern technology has brought about a fulness of luxuries, of which the wildest dreams of Sodom must have been entirely innocent.

Next, abundance of idleness. Here again, nothing can be more obvious than that modern technology has very greatly increased this. This land is literally filled with machines and robots and computers which do the work which men were once obliged to do, and one machine may often do the work of a hundred or a thousand men. The only possible result of this is to greatly increase the idleness----or leisure----of the nation. If Sodom of old was characterized by “abundance of idleness,” without the possession of a single modern machine or convenience, how much greater is the “abundance of idleness” which all of this technology has brought about.

Modern invention, in other words, has very greatly increased and every way enhanced the very things which are characterized in the Bible as “the sin of Sodom.” Yet there are many who regard all of this technology as the work of God. Such are deceived. This is not the work of God at all, but the work of the devil. It is the very work which God foresaw at the tower of Babel, and which he confounded the tongues and scattered the race to prevent. “Now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Gen. 11:6). Now nothing has been restrained from them which they have imagined to do, and one of the results of this has been to very greatly augment their “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness.” This cannot be the work of God.

I do not write to recommend any radical course of action. My concern is with where our hearts and our minds are. It is a virtual necessity to use the world, if we are to be of any use in it. We are not called to be monks or hermits. To use the world is legitimate. To love it is not. Necessity may oblige a man to drive the car which killed his child, but he cannot love that car. Necessity may oblige a man to use the axe which killed his father, but he cannot love that axe. It is thus that Christians may use the world. They use it with hearts estranged and aloof, knowing that the world crucified their Lord, and that it is his inveterate enemy still, and the enemy of their own souls also. But the ignorance which prevails on this theme is so great that the church mistakes the devices of the enemy for the works of the Lord. Where such ignorance prevails, it is impossible to understand either the ways of God or the ways of the devil----and these two things are by all means the most important to be understood.

Let us understand, therefore, that those things which have inundated the earth with “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness” are certainly not the work of God. When sin entered the world God divorced fulness of bread from abundance of idleness, saying, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” But what God put asunder the devil has joined together. The devil has done his best to remove the curse from the earth, without Christ, where sin yet reigns and righteousness suffers. One of the greatest means in his hands to accomplish this is modern technology.

Gems of Wisdom from Vavasor Powell

Some gratious Experimental and very choyce Sayings,
and Sentences, collected out of his Papers

[Vavasor Powell was a Welsh Baptist, who was born in 1617, and died in prison in 1671. His theology was plain and practical, after the usual pattern of those times, before intellectualism had become the bane of the church. He is occupied primarily with sin and holiness, as the Bible also is. The following “choyce Sayings” are taken from Life and Death of Mr. Vavasor Powell, printed in 1671, from the chapter entitled as our subtitle above. ----editor.]

Saints hould fear every Sin, but no Sufferings.

It is the property of a true Christian to justifie God, and to judge himself under the greatest afflicions.

It is and hould be the care of a Christian, not to suffer for Sin, nor Sin in sufferings.

There is no real Bondage but what is either from, or for Sin.

Christians will sooner overcome their outward Enemies by praying for them, then by praying against them.

Bad times well improved, are far better then good times, not redeemed, or mispent.

Shut thy Eyes from beholding, thy Ears from hearing, and thy Heart from entertaining in.

He that is willing to part with his dearest Lust, will be willing to part with his dearest Life also.

The Saints are to bear a threefold Testimony, to and for Christ, and his Truths, Breath testimony, Life testimony, and Blood testimony.

Speaking Words, maintaining Opinions, and the outward performing of Duties, and partaking of ordinances are but the least things in Religion.

The strength of all Corruption sometimes appears in one, and do but overcome your master in, and you overcome all.

That Soul doth grow empty, that is alwayes letting out, but not careful to lay in.

Conider that when you are not assaulted with Temptations, Satan is damming, and pounding, and he will suddenly draw up his Sluce and let loose upon you.

Satan doth not (like God) warn before he strike.

A Christians security and safety is in doing his duty, and he hould study his duty more then his safety.

He that loves not Christ more then his Lust or his Life, is like to lose Christ, and his Life, but he that loves Christ more then his Life, hall be sure to save, and keep both.

Christ is unto the Soul as the Loadstone to the Iron drawing to it self, or the Cristial to the other Stones, putting Beauty, and Lustre on them.

A Christian beholds Christ in the deepest Afflicion, as well as in the most spiritual Ordinance.

Make haste to do thy work, Christian, and God will make haste to give thee thy Wages.

Thou must dye once whether thou suffer or no, and thou canst dye but once if thou suffer.

The ins of Saints are new sufferings to Jesus Christ, and the sufferings of Saints are the Wounds of Christ.

To see the want of Grace is much, the worth of Grace more.

Tis hard to get Grace, hard to get assurance of Grace, hard to use it, and not abuse it.

Tis very hard to behold our own Gift without Pride, and the Gifts of others (if they excel ours) without Envy.

Do not commend thy Friend, nor discommend thy Foe too much, least thou be judged to be partial.

He commands most and best, that commands in Love, Humility and Self-denyingly.

He hath not learned to rule, that hath not learned to obey.

The world is a great nothing, deluding the bad, disturbing, and distracing the good.

Thoughts of our own death will tend much to deaden in.

God hath set the Tongue between the Brains, and Heart, that it may advice with both, and within two Guards to keep it in, and yet it is unruly.

Christ and Sin are most magnified in the Eyes of Believers in their afflicions, but in a different manner and to a different end, and then Christ is most deired and Sin most dispised.

Christ puts most of his Oyle in broken Vessels, in broken Hearts, there is most Grace and best kept.

The less a man trives for himself, the more will Chrit trive for him.

Small ins yeilded too, make way for greater, and one in for another.

To take pains about unnecessary and unprofitable things, is laboriouly to mispend time.

Zeal without Knowledge to guide it, is like mettle in a blind Horse which stumbles and overthrows the Rider.

Young Christians commonly want a Curb, and old Christians a Spur.

Questions & Answers

When we are young we know all the answers. Hence the old French proverb, “Ask the young people: they know everything.”

As we grow older, if we think a good deal, and learn humility, we begin to learn what the questions are.

As we grow older still, and gain more of experience, if we continue to meditate and to wrestle with the questions which we have learned, we begin to learn what the answers are not.

As we grow still older, if we continue to think and to get wisdom with all our getting, we begin to learn what the answers are. Hence the Bible says, “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.” (Job 12:12). ----Editor

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.