by Glenn Conjurske
The character of Leah has been much glorified by certain teachers, whether
as an obedient daughter, a holy type of the church, or even as an innocent
sufferer, a martyr to Jacob's inordinate love for Rachel.
We think all this to be a great mistake. We suppose that the brief description
which we have in the Bible of the doings of this woman might be most aptly
entitled, The Ways and Fruits of Unbelief.
But the understanding of this scripture has been much obscured by a wretched
species of hyperspirituality, which fails to understand or refuses to
acknowledge the workings of nature in the whole affair, and the commentators
in general darken counsel by words without knowledge. Matthew Henry writes,
The learned bishop Patrick very well suggests here that the true
reason of this contest between Jacob's wives for his company, and their
giving him their maids to be his wives, was the earnest desire they had
to fulfil the promise made to Abraham (and now lately renewed to Jacob),
that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude, and that
in one seed of his, the Messiah, all the nations of the earth should be
blessed. And he thinks it would have been below the dignity of this sacred
history to take such particular notice of these things if there had not
been some such great consideration in them. John Gill repeats the
same. I can only say, Let him believe it who can. I have no doubt that
such hyperspiritual notions stand directly in the way of any proper understanding
of the passage.
It is perfectly plain on the face of the text that Leah strove for her
husband's love, and thought to gain it by bearing him children. Rachel
no doubt wanted children because she was a woman, and so possessed of
the same desire which resides in the heart of every other woman; but this
desire was no doubt heightened by the fact that she supposed her superior
position in the affections of her husband to be threatened by Leah's fruitfulness.
A man might have told her that she had nothing to fear from that quarter,
as Leah had nothing to gain by her childbearing, for a man's love can
neither be gained nor lost by such a means. Yet these women evidently
did not understand this, for women are apparently as prone to impute their
own desires and feelings to men, as men are to impute theirs to women.
These women, therefore, in wrestling with each other for their husband's
love, do so by a means which could only prove entirely ineffectual. Leah
bore one son, and said, Now therefore my husband will love me,
yet no such event followed. When she bore the second she must still say,
Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore
given me this son also. And when the third son was born, she says,
Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have
borne him three sons. Thus she kept up a vain hope, and though Leah
gained nothing of Jacob's love by the bearing of these sons, yet Rachel
evidently felt her own position threatened by it, and she must therefore
strive in return.
We suppose that if Leah had been the sole wife of Jacob, and unloved as
she was, she would soon have resigned the case as hopeless, and become
indifferent to his attentions, as a myriad of other women have done, but
the presence of a rival made this impossible. This kept her hope alive,
while it excited all her feminine jealousies, and compelled her to competition.
The one thing which was uppermost in her mind year after year after year
was the fact that she was unloved and unwanted by her husband. This plainly
appears in her naming of her sons, as it does also years afterwards in
her saucy reply to Rachel's request for her son's mandrakes: Is
it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take
my son's mandrakes also? We hardly need speak of the patent injustice
of the taunt. Leah may be pardoned for that. She was the thief herself,
but it was too late to help it now, and the fact is, she had a need, deep-seated
in her feminine nature, and no hope of its fulfilment, unless she could
wring a little something from the grasp of her sister. All's fair
in love and war, the proverb says, and this was both. All's
fair because Necessity knows no law, as another proverb
tells us. Leah had no right to complain of her sister stealing her husband,
but we cannot deal hardly with her for it, for her need was the same as
Rachel's, and she was driven to this by desperation. What exquisite pictures
we have here of feminine nature and of feminine need, and yet to the hyperspiritual
all this is beneath the dignity of the holy narrative, unless we can find
in it some hidden spiritual sense! We shall never understand Scripture
at this rate.
Speaking in the same hyperspiritual vein, of Leah's hiring of Jacob for
a night with her son's mandrakes, Matthew Poole writes, God hearkened
unto Leah, notwithstanding her many infirmities, which is true enough,
but he adds, Hence it appears that she was moved herein not by any
inordinate lust, but by a desire of children. Nothing of the sort
appears at all to me. I believe no such thing. The doctrine
of marital cohabitation for children only descends to us from
some of the earliest of the church fathers, but it is as directly
against the Bible as it is against human nature. It is no inordinate
lust for a woman to desire her husband's love and attention, for
its own sake, for God has planted that desire in her soul by creation,
and neither could she be a help meet for man without it. When God said,
It is not good that the man should be alone, this was not
because he wanted children
----nor a cook, nor a laundry maid either ----but
a lover, and it was a lover which God created for him. And being what
she was by God's creation, it was a lover which she wanted herself, and
not merely children. This was no inordinate lust, but a perfectly
legitimate and scarcely avoidable desire. The hyperspirituality which
treats human nature after Poole's fashion simply disqualifies itself from
the understanding of Scripture, and from the gleaning of many of its moral
lessons which are undoubtedly intended by the Spirit of God.
Now as the very foundation of those lessons, we must understand at the
outset that what Leah did, in supplanting her sister for the possession
of Jacob, was wrong. It was the sinful fruit of unbelief. And though Laban's
hand was undoubtedly with her in the wrong which she did, yet it was her
own act. She was either the author of it, or a willing accomplice
Jacob was in carrying out his mother's scheme to supplant his brother.
Leah allowed herself to be given to Jacob in her sister's stead. She concealed
her identity from him until the morning light, that is, until she supposed
it too late for him to reject her. This I regard as conclusive proof that
she did not act against her will in the matter. She might easily enough
have made known her identity. Indeed, it must have been with great difficulty
that she concealed it. If she had had any desire or determination at all
to reveal herself, she might have done so with the greatest of ease, and
as it were accidentally, so as to excite no suspicions of her intent.
If she was acting under orders from her father, she might have feared
some punishment for revealing herself, but we hardly think he would have
killed her or cast her out. And supposing he would have, still it were
better to suffer than to sin. What Leah did was certainly sinful, and
she certainly knew that it was, and though sin might be partially excused
by the fear of consequences, it can never be wholly so. A poor excuse,
an old proverb says, is better than none, and we do not believe
that God will deal with those who sin under duress or fear, as with those
who sin of their own free choice. Nevertheless, no sin is wholly excusable.
But supposing her father required this of her, was she not bound to obey
him? Certainly not. No one is ever bound to sin. We ought to obey
God rather than men. (Acts 5:29). We are all under authority of
some sort or other, but no authority ever has the right to require us
to do wrong, and if they do so, we are bound to disobey, though it be
at the cost of limb or life.
And surely none could be so destitute of moral sense as to suppose that
what Laban required of her (if he required it) was right. What Laban did
was wrong on two counts. First, it was against nature. Next, it was against
As to the first of these, an old proverb very truly says, Nature
is the true law. Now as nature had it, Jacob was in love with Rachel,
not Leah. No parental manipulating could alter that. Jacob himself could
not have transferred his affections from Rachel to Leah. Much less could
Laban or Leah. To put Leah in Rachel's place was a sin against nature,
and as such it was foolish. And it was as great a wrong to Leah as it
was to Jacob or to Rachel. It gave to her a husband who was in love with
her sister, and it is an absolute impossibility for any woman on earth
to be happy in such a marriage. This step, then, being directly against
nature, could only seal the unhappiness of Leah.
But in the next place, it was a plain sin against righteousness. Laban
had contracted with Jacob for Rachel, not Leah. Seven long years Jacob
had labored for Rachel, and to now put Leah in her place was the greatest
wrong which could have been done to him, short of physical violence.
We know that Laban excused himself for it, saying, It must not be
so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn,
but this is the lamest excuse that ever was. In the first place, we do
not believe that it was true. Jacob had labored seven long years for Rachel,
and surely this was known in all the region. Love and a cough cannot
be hid, and all men doubtless knew that it was Rachel whom Jacob
loved, and for whom he labored. If there was any such custom as Laban
pretends, surely Jacob would have known of it after seven years. Surely
he would have discovered it. Surely some man would have informed him of
it. Laban would not have dared to call together all the men of the place
to celebrate the marriage of Rachel, directly in the teeth of such a custom.
Neither would he have dared to call them all together to celebrate the
marriage of Leah, when they all knew very well it was Rachel to whom Jacob
was engaged. We do not believe there was any such custom.
But supposing there had been, it was now seven years too late for Laban
to speak of it. Customs do not arise in the space of seven years. If there
had been any such custom, in the nature of the case it must have been
of long standing, and Laban was certainly aware of it when he contracted
with Jacob for Rachel. Why did he not mention it then?
We do not believe that custom had anything to do with Laban's act. It
is more likely that Leah was his favorite, and that he was determined
to let her have her way, and so agreed with her to supplant her sister,
as Jacob, being his mother's favorite, had formerly agreed with her to
supplant his brother. If so, the whole affair was a most fitting scourge
for Jacob for his own sin. But be that as it may, one thing is apparent,
that Laban saw in this scheme a golden opportunity to secure the services
of Jacob for another seven years. This was entirely in keeping with his
character, and this may have been his whole motivation. But however the
matter is to be explained, it is certain that Laban was wrong, that he
sinned directly in the teeth of his own solemn covenant with Jacob.
And Leah was just as wrong. She certainly knew that Jacob had labored
for Rachel. The proof that she knew it, if any proof were needed, lies
in the fact that she concealed her identity till the morning light. There
had been absolutely no occasion for this, except that she knew very well
she was usurping the place of another. This was as sinful on her part
as it was of Laban to require it of her. She certainly knew that while
she lay in the arms of Jacob, her sister was
weeping rivers of tears. She committed a disgraceful and dastardly offence
against both Jacob and Rachel, and she certainly knew that she did. This
was wrong, no matter who required it of her.
But we are not so sure that anyone required it of her. This may have been
her own plot entirely, though Laban lent her his hand in the performance
of it. We really do not know who was the author of the scheme, and who
the accomplice. We do know that both were guilty.
But why would Leah have either devised this scheme, or lent herself to
its working? Doubtless, she wanted a husband. To see her younger sister
provided for, while she remained destitute, no doubt multiplied her desires
doubt filled her with a sense of her inferiority, and a driving passion
to prove herself. I have known just such cases as this. One of a set of
twin girls was married, while the other remained without a prospect. It
became the passion of the single girl to prove herself, and she took the
first man who paid any attention to her, though it was generally believed
that they were a mismatch.
Now if such is the case when one twin marries, how much more when it is
a sister who is both younger and more beautiful? When Jacob came to their
home, his heart was immediately taken by Rachel. Seven years he labored
for her, and in all that seven years, no man had appeared to desire the
hand of Leah. The need which she felt to prove herself
that she could also be loved and wanted ----no doubt grew stronger
and stronger, till she resolved on this desperate plan ----or willingly
acquiesced in it.
We know it is generally assumed that Laban was behind all this, but the
Scripture says nothing of that. We think it at any rate just as likely
that Leah was the author of the scheme. She likely went to Laban pleading
that she ought to have the husband, as she was the elder
besides, it would be no great loss for Rachel to be deprived of him, as
she was beautiful, and could easily enough get another.
These were no doubt the considerations which moved Leah, either to meditate
this plan, or to agree to carry it out. She was wrong in either case.
Matthew Henry tells us that some say she was nothing better than an adulteress.
We think so too, but whether she was or no, it is certain that she was
a deceiver, a supplanter, and a thief, and as such she was the fittest
thing on earth to scourge Jacob for his own deceiving. He had once concealed
his own identity, to deceive his father and supplant his brother, and
now, many years later, all this is returned to his own bosom. We have
remarked above that it could only have been with the greatest of difficulty
that Leah concealed herself, and it is really almost astonishing that
she could accomplish it at all. Darkness does not conceal everything.
Was there nothing in her ways, her form, her size, her hair, to give her
away? Surely her voice would have done it, and her very silence must have
wrought pain in Jacob, if not suspicion. And if he somehow extracted a
sigh or a sound from her, if he any way managed to draw but a whispered
word from her, how must his heart have started with consternation at the
unthinkable thought, The voice is Leah's!
the candle of the Lord within him cast its unflickering beams upon the
memory of the puzzled utterance of his old blind father, The voice
is Jacob's. In complicity with his mother he had practiced his deceptions
on his old father, to supplant his own brother, concealed by the dimness
of his father's eyes, and now for his recompense, in complicity with her
father, Leah practices her deceptions upon himself, to supplant her own
sister, concealed by the dimness of the night. It is easy to observe
here, says Matthew Henry, how Jacob was paid in his own coin.
He had cheated his own father when he pretended to be Esau, and now his
father-in-law cheated him. Herein, how unrighteous soever Laban was ----and
I add, how unrighteous soever Leah was ----the Lord was righteous.
And Bishop Hall in his beautiful Contemplations remarks on the same event,
God comes oftentimes home to us in our own kind; and even by the
sin of others pays us our own, when we look not for it. Though she
intended nothing less, Leah's sin was a righteous scourge to Jacob, as
it was indeed a righteous scourge to herself for many years to come.
But to proceed. That Leah's course was sinful is too plain to be denied,
and if we look to the root of this sin we shall find, as we always find,
that it was nothing other than unbelief, which can never wait upon God
for the blessing, but must take it for itself, and always with a hand
defiled by sin. Faith has no compulsion, no occasion to do wrong. Faith
can wait upon God, and look to him for the desired blessing. It can wait
patiently, though long denied. Unbelief is unable to do this, but always
contrives and schemes and makes haste to secure the blessing for itself,
and invariably does wrong in the process. Faith can safely take the low place. It can take the back seat. It can rest in the Lord, and wait patiently
for him, though it is denied and deprived and disappointed, and though
all its rivals prosper. By faith Leah could have remained in the back
seat, while her younger sister secured the husband which she so much craved
herself. By faith she could have fretted not to see her sister
her younger sister ----exalted, while she remained destitute. If
the whole scheme was her father's, yet faith would have refused anything
to do with it, as faith in Jacob would have refused his mother's scheme
to obtain the blessing. Faith in Leah would have found food in the very
prosperity of her rival, for the God who brought a husband from a far
country for her sister could provide for her own need also.
But Leah had nothing of this faith. She must therefore scheme and supplant
and sin. These are the ways of unbelief. But unbelief has consequences
also, and these are always bitter. Leah no doubt promised herself something
passing sweet when she schemed to steal her sister's husband, but all
she secured was that in all her life she should never taste the pure delights
of marriage. All her scheming was only to get out of the frying pan into
the fire. What enjoyment did she have, what happiness did she find, in
her stolen marriage? All her pains were taken to secure a man who was
in love with her sister, and it is outside the realm of possibility for
a woman to be happy in such a marriage.
What enjoyment did she find as the fruit of her unbelief and sin? Surely
none on her wedding night, when every moment she was smitten by an outraged
conscience, tormented every moment with fears that she would be discovered
and shamed and rejected after all, while she must kiss and embrace her
stolen husband with never a sound or a sigh, scarcely daring to breathe,
and certainly not daring to give him a hint as to the reason of her stubborn
and unnatural shyness
----knowing, too, that all his tokens of love
were intended for her sister. Surely there was no happiness here.
Neither could she have found any in the one week of her life in which
she was permitted to have Jacob to herself, when she knew that at the
close of that week her fair and loved rival was coming to dispute her
possession of her husband. And surely she found nothing of the bliss of
marriage then, when her whole life must be blighted with the constant
consciousness that Rachel was loved, and Leah was hated. What
marital bliss was this, when she must buy a little of her husband's attention
from her sister, with her son's mandrakes?
Rachel died young, but even then Leah was not left in possession of the
field, for her wrestlings with her sister had thrust two concubines into
her husband's bosom, and she must now share him with these, though her
first rival was out of the way.
'Tis a great pity, and indeed a great wonder, that Leah did not foresee all this misery, and refuse that fatal act which produced it, but the
fact is, unbelief has never yet been reasonable. It is moved by passion,
not reason. The present need is all its thought, and future consequences
are left to shift for themselves. Future happiness is bartered for present
gratification. A birthright is bartered for a mess of pottage. The pleasures
for evermore at God's right hand are bartered for the pleasures of sin
for a season. This is the way of unbelief, and it was certainly the way
of Leah on the night in which she stole her sister's husband.
The lessons of the life of Leah are plain. The record cries aloud that
sin does not pay. The fruits of unbelief are bitter. It is better to trust
in the Lord and do good, than to scheme for ourselves and do evil. The
scheming and grasping of unbelief will never secure the good which God
has to give. How much better off would Leah have been to remain destitute,
and patiently waiting upon the Lord for a husband who loved her, than
to make haste to be married to one who did not. The former she might have
had by faith. The latter was all that her unbelieving schemes could secure.
The graspings of unbelief may obtain many things, but they will all be
encumbered with sorrows.
Leah has been much condemned by some for giving her maid to her husband,
and the more because she said, God hath given me my hire, because
I have given my maiden to my husband. But this statement indicates
that this was neither a light matter nor a deliberate wrong on her part.
It was surely something she felt in the depth of her soul, and something
which was foremost therefore in her mind. It was another tactic in her
war of desperation, and no doubt resorted to after a long and severe struggle.
No woman glibly gives her maid to her husband. She was as it were fighting
fire with fire. Her case was desperate, and she must therefore sacrifice
the most tender and sacred feelings of her feminine nature, in order to
endeavor to buy a little satisfaction for those feelings. She no doubt
wept a river of tears in the process, and who could be so hard of heart
as not to weep with her? She obviously viewed her giving of her maid to
her husband as a noble self-sacrifice, and expected the blessing of God
for it. We are not prepared to say how much there may have been of faith
in this, and how much of unbelief. One thing is certain, that her act
is a display of the depth of her need, and the desperation of her plight,
and that plight was the bitter and long-lingering fruit of her sin.
Yet in the midst of all this scourging, and all this suffering of the
bitter consequences of her sin and unbelief, still God is merciful to
Leah. And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb.
Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction, she said,
and no doubt with perfect truth. And once more, The Lord hearkened
unto Leah, and she conceived. The Lord did not upbraid her for her
strivings with her sister. He did not admonish her (as some hyperspiritual
preachers would do) that her striving for her husband's love was too petty
a thing to occupy the energies of an immortal spirit, and that she ought
to set her affections on things above, and leave carnal things to the
carnal. No such thing. However petty her strife with her sister might
appear to the cold and unfeeling and hyperspiritual, it was not petty
to her, and neither was it petty to the God who loved her. It was the
natural outgrowth of a deprived feminine nature, and the God who created
that nature was touched with the achings and the burnings of her disappointed
heart. The Lord did not require her to feel and act as an angel, when
she was but a woman. What woman could feel any otherwise than Leah did,
if placed in the same circumstances? Though she had put herself in that
trying place, by her own unbelief and her own wrong, and must therefore
drink a long draft of suffering, yet God is merciful, and if he cannot
give her the husband's love which she craves, he will at any rate give
her some compensation for the lack of it, in the children which she sought.
God hearkened unto Leah, in the midst of all her weakness,
for he is not relentless, and he will not only give her to drink freely
of all of his goodness to all eternity, but allow her to taste of it even
in this life, though here she must be scourged for her unbelief also.
A Non-Threatening Message
by Glenn Conjurske
Not long ago an acquaintance informed me that the evangelical church which
he attends invites strangers in to hear a non-threatening message.
Not long after this I heard from his wife that they were trying to get
to know the people at the church, but that this was a little hard, as
they were just coming in off the street from everywhere. This
non-threatening message, then, is evidently one of the keys
to success. This should come as no surprise to those who know the truth,
for in spiritual matters compromise is always a key to success. Men
love darkness rather than light. Light, in its very nature, threatens darkness, and those who love darkness will scarcely tolerate this. Much
less will they come to the light, For every one that doeth evil
hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be
reproved. (John 3:20).
But to be short, anyone who preaches a non-threatening message
must assume that sin is of little consequence. Either man does not love
it, or God does not hate it. It is, in fact, no issue. The gospel does
not present a sin question, but a Son question.
Men may be saved without dealing with their sins. They may be saved from
hell without being saved from their sins. Salvation by faith evidently
has nothing to do with believing the Bible, for as a plain matter of fact,
the Bible is full of threatenings. The apostles of Christ evidently knew
nothing of any non-threatening message.
Paul says, If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be
Anathema Maranatha. (I Cor. 16:22). This would seem to threaten
those who love him not.
Paul writes again, And to you who are troubled rest with us, when
the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in
flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey
not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
(II Thes. 1:7-9). We suppose that those who obey not the gospel might
feel threatened by such language.
Peter informs us, But the heavens and the earth, which are now,
by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day
of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (II Pet. 3:7). We see
not how ungodly men could fail to be much threatened by such a message.
Woe unto them! says Jude, with little ceremony, for
they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of
Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots
in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves
without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees
whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars,
to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. (Jude 11-13).
We suppose this might be considered a threat.
There is no need to enlarge. Who that has ever read the Bible could dream
of finding a non-threatening message in it? Those who preach such things
must first throw the Bible overboard
----half of it, at any rate,
and if we may throw half of it overboard at pleasure, what reason is their
in retaining the other half? We think rather with the great George Whitefield,
If you would have Christ as good as his word of promise, remember
he will be as good as his word of threatening. This is no more than
How anyone who believes in death and hell as the wages of sin can preach
a non-threatening message must remain one of the grand mysteries of the
universe. And how a church which preaches such a message can call itself
evangelical is another. We may be thought uncharitable, but for all that
we frankly avow that though we put on all the charity and courtesy which
we possess, and though we adopt the most non-threatening attitude of which
we are capable, still we are obliged to affirm that evangelical
in these degenerate times is too often but a soft term for liberal.
We might suggest an alternative to this non-threatening message. Such
churches might dismiss such preachers, and look for a prophet of God.
The former they might do in five minutes. Finding a prophet is another
matter, for prophets are scarce, but we supppose that if folks are earnest
about it, they might find or make one, given time enough. And having done
that, they might print up some such invitations as the following:
Come and Hear the Preaching
PURE WORD OF GOD,
Which will threaten & thrash & torment you,
Until you FORSAKE YOUR SINS,
& submit to THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST.
Ah, you say, but this would defeat the purpose. This would keep the people
from coming. We are not so sure of that. It would at any rate elicit the
respect of serious souls, while the namby-pamby twaddle which is commonly
preached by Evangelicals, coupled with the cheap subterfuges which they
use to trick people into hearing it, excites only contempt. We think the
world itself may be sick of an anemic and half serious religion which
requires nothing of them. Wise men are accustomed to value things in relation
to their cost, and these at any rate are likely to perceive that a religion
which costs nothing is worth nothing. It is a historic fact that liberalism
has emptied the churches, while the preaching of the prophets of God has
drawn the people. John the Baptist preached no non-threatening message
when he ushered in the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, (Mark 1:1) with such things as, O generation
of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Luke
----and yet all Judaea went out into the wilderness to hear
From this it may appear that there are other keys to success besides softness
and compromise. Faithfulness and plain speaking may succeed also. When
Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by the holy hand of God, the rest
of the liars in the region, and all the ungodly in general, felt so threatened
by this that of the rest durst no man join himself to them
yet for all that believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes
both of men and women. (Acts 5:13-14).
Billy Sunday preached no non-threatening message. At the very
outset of his career a reporter wrote of him, He makes no compromise
with the world, the flesh or the devil, and sends plenty of hot shot into
the ranks of sinners. And so he continued for many years. He
calls things by their right names, even if to do so he has to use words
that almost burn and blister. It is doubtful if any living preacher can
pour out such a stream of red-hot and sizzling adjectives to show the
scorn and withering contempt he feels for all that bears the name of sin
as Billy Sunday. Portraying most vividly, by word and action,
the character of the sin he denounces, he shoots into the audience volley
after volley of gospel hot shot, until many before him pale and tremble
This hardly looks non-threatening. And what was the result?
The building never existed which was large enough to hold the crowds which
came to hear him. Special trains ran from the outlying areas to the places
of his meetings, for the sole purpose of bringing loads of passengers
to hear him preach. Other activities were set aside while he was in town.
For more than seven weeks hundreds of business men had neglected
their private affairs; for an equal period social engagements were disregarded
or side-tracked, while the whole populace flocked to hear Billy
Sunday, who flayed with scalding invective every sort of wickedness.
And the people knew very well they would be flayed by his preaching. Many
sinners therefore vowed never to attend. Others bolstered their vows with
wagers, some betting a hundred dollars that they would never set foot
in Sunday's tabernacle. Yet for all that they went, losing their bet,
and their hide too, for the prophet of God flayed them with the sword
of the Spirit.
But perhaps I cloud the issue. Success is not the issue. We are bound
to be faithful, success or no success. We are bound to threaten with everlasting
perdition every sinner who will not repent of his sins. We are bound to
preach that if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. (Rom.
8:13). We are bound to proclaim that the wages of sin is death,
and bound also to define sin just as Almighty God defines
it. We are bound to proclaim with Paul that the works of the flesh
are manifest, which are THESE: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions,
heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and SUCH LIKE: of
the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that
they which DO SUCH THINGS shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Gal. 5:19-21). No doubt many will feel threatened by such a message.
This will threaten even many believers, and born-again
Catholics and Charismatics and Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, who confess
the Lord in word, but in works deny him. These will certainly go away
to greener pastures, where they may be rocked to sleep in the devil's
cradle, and taught that they may have their sins and heaven too. Ah, what
a pleasant, dreamy sleep is this!
----but the awakening will be
of another sort. We prefer to awaken men while yet they have space to
repent. This may perchance curtail our success, but whatever success it
brings us will at any rate be solid and enduring. Any other success is
not worth having.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Stray Notes on the English Bible
by the Editor
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
The word corn in our day has a narrower meaning than it had
in the past
----at least in America. Where it now means a certain
kind of grain or vegetable, formerly known as maize, corn
used to stand for grain in general, or for a grain of anything,
such as a corn of sand, or a peppercorn. This
being the case, the modern versions in general have altered corn
to grain. More than thirty years ago, when I was a student
at Bible school, I was assigned to teach Sunday School at an American
Baptist church. The pastor was an Evangelical of a sort ----a graduate
of Moody Bible Institute ----but so thoroughly enamored with the
American Baptist Convention that he could scarcely pass an hour without
praising it. He employed the modernistic Sunday School literature of the
Convention, and I was obliged to spend much of my class time ----teaching
high school students ----refuting the printed material. The pastor
also endeavored to thrust in the modernistic Revised Standard Version,
but some of the people objected to this. I recall hearing one of the men
vent his disapproval quite forcefully after one of the meetings, saying,
Corn is corn ----and forsooth not grain.
But he was as mistaken on this as he was ignorant in general. The fact
is, corn is grain. It does not necessarily follow, however, that we ought
to so render it in the Bible
----at least not in all cases. We suppose
that spiritual minds would be extremely reluctant to relinquish such familiar
expressions as the old corn of the land or the ox that
treadeth out the corn ----much less Except a corn of
wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. It may be
that in less familiar passages we might profitably alter the word to grain,
but meanwhile we think it proper to teach the people concerning the actual
meaning of the word corn. A few examples of its historical
usage may suffice for this.
The familiar grain of mustard seed in our Bibles is a
corne of syneuey in the Wycliffe Bible
of course ----and in the Anglo-Saxon an senepes corn.
The bare grain of I Cor. 15:37 is bare corn in
all the early English Bibles (nakid corne in Wycliffe), till
the Roman Catholic Rheims version altered it to bare graine.
And this text well illustrates the old sense of the term. The Bishops'
Bible, for example, reads here, And that which thou sowest, thou
sowest not that body that shalbe, but bare corne, as of wheate, or of
some other. Corn, then, is wheat, or some other grain.
The harvest of the earth in Revelation 14:15 is the
corne of the erth in Tyndale.
George Joye renders the latter part of Isaiah 28:25 thus: and aftyr
warde sowe it orderly now with whete and then with barley and so forth
withe other corne acordinge to the strength of ye soyle.
Bishop Hall, who was contemporary with the production of the King James
Version, writes in his Occasional Meditations, under the title Vpon
the fanning of Corne, See how in the fanning of this Wheat,
the fullest and greatest graines lye ever the lowest, etc. Corn,
then, is grain.
The same usage prevailed till a much later date. In the Guardian for 1870,
under the regular heading of CORN EXCHANGE, we read, Last
week's foreign arrivals were heavy in oats, good in wheat and barley,
and moderate in other grains. The same usage appeared until the
turn of the century, and I would guess much later, though I have no papers
at hand to check it. I do, however, have a dictionary, the Webster's Seventh
New Collegiate Dictionary, dated 1967 (the latest which I possess), which
defines corn (in part) as a small hard particle: GRAIN;
a small hard seed; the seeds of a cereal grass and esp. of the important
cereal crop of a particular region (as in Britain wheat, in Scotland and
Ireland oats, and in the New World and Australia Indian corn).
Returning to our English Bible, the corn of wheat which must
fall into the ground and die has been long familiar to the saints, and
the expression must be much endeared to those who have any depth of spiritual
experience. On that account, then, it ought by all means to be retained.
Neither is there any sufficient reason to alter it, as all the modern
versions have done, for whatever the ignorant may think when they read
of corn in Egypt
----however forcibly they may proclaim
that corn is corn ----there is not the slightest danger
here of anyone taking corn to mean maize. A corn of wheat must of necessity
be a grain of wheat. This verse, then, actually provides a key to the
understanding of the word ----provides it at any rate for any who
will pay attention and think. And frankly, we do not suppose that the
Bible, no matter how simplified, can possibly be of much use to anyone
else. The book in its nature requires us to be attentive, observant, and
thoughtful, and to attempt to so simplify it as to suit those who are
not so is really labor lost. We may rewrite Milton in the language of
first-graders, but they will not understand him for all that. Much less
will the careless and thoughtless understand the word of God, simplify
it as we may. Why should we labor to procure so much loss for the spiritual,
for the sake of the unspiritual, when the latter are not even likely to
profit from our pains?
The Making of Many Hymn Books
by Glenn Conjurske
The longer I live the more deeply I feel the great evil of the making
of many books. It seems to me a great crime to flood the world with
books (and booklets and pamphlets and magazines and newsletters)
which are shallow, mediocre, and unsound, thus obliging every seeker of
wisdom and edification to sort through ten bushels of chaff in order to
find one corn of wheat. Even if we had a thousand years to live, or a
thousand lives, it would be a pity to have to spend them thus.
But as it is with the making of every other kind of book, so also with
the making of hymn books. A few days ago I started to look through a hymn
book called The Silver Trumpet, edited by H. L. Gilmour and R. Kelso Carter,
and published in 1889 by John J. Hood of Philadelphia. I began to read
the Introduction, and met with these words:
If Solomon could say in his day, 'of making many books there is
no end,' what would he say if he could come back and stay with us long
enough to look over the list of the publications of the present age?
That we are making many books is especially true in the department
of christian song. But the Songsters of Zion are noted for their bigness of heart, and they are ever ready to welcome one more into the number
that with melodious songs invite sinners to Jesus, and press believers
to penetrate the Beulah land of religious experience.
Well, yes. We deeply feel the real poverty of the church in this department,
and are indeed always more than ready to welcome new hymns, if they are
----but really, we have little heart to welcome another
bushel of chaff. The fact is, there is a great moral fault in publishing
what is mediocre or worthless. This is doubtless usually the fruit of
pride, and it is certainly a failure to comply with the commandment of
God. The Bible says, For I say, through the grace that is given
unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more
highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God
hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3). Not
to think more highly of himself than he ought to think ----that
is, not to suppose that he has abilities which he has not, not to suppose
his performances to be worth publishing, when in fact they are common
and mediocre. This scripture not only makes us responsible to thus think
soberly concerning our own gifts and abilities, but assumes also that
we may be capable of doing so.
Not that I suppose every man actually has this capability. Far from it.
If every man both could and would judge objectively concerning his own
abilities and performances, the making of many books would abruptly cease,
and there would be no occasion for the writing of this article. The church
would not then be flooded with unprofitable literature and mediocre hymns.
But how do men acquire this ability, to think no more highly of themselves
than they ought to think? That question is easier asked than answered.
Doubtless by humility. Doubtless by maturity, by depth, by wisdom, and
----all of which take time to acquire. Meanwhile
there is no end to the making of many books, and of many hymns.
From my own very small collection of hymn books, amounting to less than
300 titles, I could compile a hymnal containing 20,000 hymns
at least 19,000 of them would be shallow and mediocre at best, in words,
or music, or both, and another five or six hundred, though containing
poetic worth or musical merit, would also contain doctrinal confusion.
And many which are sound are nevertheless cold and dry and empty.
But one of the great evils here is that men and women who were actually
gifted of God, and who actually wrote some of the most excellent poetry
or music which we now possess, did not have sense enough to repress the
mediocre, while they published the excellent. Evidently they had not the
grace to think no more highly of themselves than they ought to have thought.
They supposed that whatever flowed from their pens or their pianos was
worthy of publication. They must publish all, and so flood the church
with thousands of hymns which ought never to have seen the light of day.
I refer to the writers of some of our best hymns, such as Charles H. Gabriel,
Mrs. C. H. Morris, William J. Kirkpatrick, J. Lincoln Hall, and others
of their caliber. Persons looking through an ordinary selection of hymns
can have no idea how many hymns these writers put to the press. In any
ordinary hymn book they will find only a few of the best. But to make
that selection of the best, someone had to wade through thousands of another
sort. Fanny Crosby alone wrote over eight thousand hymns (words only),
a large number of which went to the press. A discerning critic says of
her, It is more to Mrs. Van Alstyne's credit as a writer that she
has occasionally found a pearl than that she has brought to the surface
so many oyster shells.
Observe, occasionally. It is scarcely possible for any writer
of sacred poetry to do much better than this. Even the great Charles Wesley,
who is hardly to be equalled for spiritual fervor and poetic genius, produced
a great deal of chaff. Why cannot poets, composers, and authors have sense
enough to publish what is worthy, and suppress the rest? Have they no
waste baskets? Do not the plain commands of Scripture require this of
us? Is it doing all things to edification, to publish the dull and mediocre?
Is this not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think?
Had I inclination, and time for it, I could doubtless write as many hymns
as Fanny Crosby and Charles Wesley wrote
----and music too, which
they never attempted ----but it would be a positive sin for me to
do so. I have written a few hymns which I have put in print, and given
to the church, but I have written others (both words and music) which
I have consigned to oblivion without ever committing them to paper. It
would have been wrong to do otherwise. They had no merit. Those pieces
which I have written which I judge to possess any worth are generally
those which I have written with floods of tears. I have one piece in my
hands which I wrote twenty years ago, but I have not even included it
in my own hymn book. My children sing it, and some others have asked for
copies of it. The poetry is good, and the substance solid. The music is
suitable, and not unpleasing, though hardly first-rate. Yet I feel that
there is something missing in it. It lacks the warmth, the spirit, the
unction which a hymn ought to have. Perhaps others might not feel this,
but I feel it, and can only explain it by the fact that I wrote it without
tears. Whatever the reason, I question whether it is worthy of a place
in the hymns of the church, and therefore I have kept it out. In this
I believe I am doing no more than God positively requires of me. I have
no right (and no desire, by the way) to contribute to the mountain of
chaff under which the church groans already.
Now I believe that if Gabriel and Hoffman and Kirkpatrick and Sweney and
Fanny Crosby and Mrs. Morris had held the same standards for themselves
that I feel bound to hold for myself, most of their productions would
never have seen the light of day, and we had at any rate been spared the
making of so many hymn books. As the matter stands, for all their writing
and printing and publishing and selling, the stock of good hymns in the
church has only been increased by a few.
J. C. Ryle wrote, in 1868, But really good hymns are exceedingly
rare. There are only a few men in any age who can write them. You may
name hundreds of first-rate preachers for one first-rate writer of hymns.
Hundreds of so-called hymns fill up our collections of congregational
psalmody, which are really not hymns at all. They are very sound, very
scriptural, very proper, very correct, very tolerably rhymed; but they
are not real, live, genuine hymns. There is no life about them. At best
they are tame, pointless, weak, milk-and-watery. In many cases, if written
out straight, without respect of lines, they would make excellent prose.
But poetry they are not. It may be a startling assertion to some ears
to say that there are not more than two hundred first-rate hymns in the
English language; but startling as it may sound, I believe it is true.
And if there are only a few men in any age who can write first-rate hymns,
it is a plain fact that they cannot write one every day, or every week.
Those intangible, undefinable qualities which make good poetry
life, and power, and freshness, and unction ----these can no more
be produced by any mechanical means than they can be judged by a mechanical
standard. Such hymns are produced in the crucible, or it may be on the
mountaintop. They are wrung from the soul by deep anguish, or flow spontaneously
from the soul in times of deep spiritual experience. David's psalms are
mostly of this character, and after all, he wrote but few of them in comparison
with many modern writers of hymns. Cleland Boyd McAfee is remembered for
only one of the many things which he penned, the hymn Near to the
Heart of God. His brother's two little daughters had died of diptheria
in one day. Grief was too deep to say anything, yet how could he not?
He wrote the words and music of that hymn, taught it to his choir, and
took them to sing it by night under the window of his brother's darkened
and quarantined house. It would be impossible to conceive anything more
perfectly adapted to the situation. And the music, subdued in tone, is
so perfectly adapted to the words that we stand in awe. But observe, McAfee
wrote that hymn when a young man, and never wrote another like it ----though
he wrote many which were inferior. Such hymns are born in the crucible,
and cannot be produced any otherwise.
H. G. Spafford, so far as I know, wrote but one hymn, that excellent piece
which is known by everybody
----as indeed it ought to be ----entitled
It is Well with My Soul. He wrote that hymn upon receiving
a telegram informing him that all his children had been lost at sea, his
wife alone being saved. This is a real hymn, but this is not the same
thing as turning out songs and poems glibly and daily or weekly. Accomplished
poets and composers may easily do the latter, but there is more of detriment
than of blessing in it for the church of God.
And observe, Ryle's excellent remarks refer only to the words of the hymns.
The hymnals which he published contained no music at all, but words only.
It was common in old times to sing the words to whatever tunes would fit,
using one tune for numerous hymns, and often the same words to a number
of different tunes. The church has (wisely and fortunately, I believe)
altered her practice in that, and we must have one tune permanently wedded
to each piece of poetry. We must therefore have both good words and good
(and suitable) music, wedded together in one piece. This is hard to find,
and hard to produce. It is true (fortunately or unfortunately) that good
music may lend its own dignity and beauty to the most common of words,
but still we must insist that there be more in our hymns than mere fluff,
nor can we tolerate doctrinal confusion, no matter how pleasing the sound.
On the other hand, it may be that words which are deep and moving may
lend a little of their own excellence to mediocre music, but this will
not go very far, and as a general rule no hymn can live without good music.
But where are we to get good music? In going through old hymn books, I
find it much easier to find acceptable words than acceptable music. This
is no doubt just reversed in modern hymn books, but many of the older
books are literally filled with dull and mediocre music (to use no stronger
----and most of it written by our well-known composers of
sacred song. We do not fault them for not writing better. To write pleasing
music is a much more difficult thing than it is to write good poetry.
To produce the body of a song is mechanical and easy. To produce a song
with a soul is another matter. Anyone can string notes together, but writing
music is another thing, and this is an ability which cannot be acquired by any process known to man, nor exercised at will if we have it. Neither
study, nor practice, nor experience will help us much here ----though
prayer might. The ability is inscrutable, undefinable, and inexplicable ----to
me at least.
But what of that? We can all recognize good music when we hear it, and
though there is something of individual taste in this, it yet remains
a fact that some songs are pleasing to almost everybody, while others
are pleasing to almost nobody. Anyone with a little experience and sense
can tell the difference. I have gone through the music in scores of hymn
books, my wife playing the piano while I listened, and I can positively
affirm that a piece of truly good music stands out like a mountain peak
among the rest. As unaccountable as this may be
----and it is unaccountable
to me ----I have often been able to recognize a truly excellent
piece of music after hearing only the first three or four notes. I have
held my breath as my wife played on, more than half expecting the initial
effect to be spoiled by the rest of the piece, but have been most pleasantly
disappointed in that, finding the excellence to be sustained throughout.
It is not difficult to recognize good music.
Why then have our best composers published so much music which is dull
and mediocre? We do not fault them for not writing better, but we do fault
them for publishing the worse. Methinks this is a positive wrong to the
church of God. They must make hymn books, and if they cannot write good
music for such poetry as they have in hand, they will publish bad. We
might readily excuse this
----IF the words were so excellent as
really to call for publication. We might then excuse them for printing
such music as they could, for the sake of excellent and powerful poetry,
but why should they publish dull and mediocre music as the vehicle for
dull and trite and shallow words? There is really no excuse for this.
I have certain poetry in hand for which I have sat down at the piano and
composed music perhaps a hundred times, much of it doubtless as good as
plenty which I have seen in hymn books, and yet I never once committed
it to paper, for I knew well that it was not good enough. Surely our great
composers ----who have written some of our most excellent music ----might
have known the same concerning much of the music which they put to paper.
But they evidently exercised no carefulness about the matter. Charles
H. Gabriel made his scanty living writing hymns, and wrote one song a
day! Thus we are left with bushels of chaff, which we must sort through
in search of the wheat.
But if it is bad to have our best composers writing too much music, it
is worse still to have those who are no composers at all filling sheets
of paper with musical notes. We suppose that modern pride, modern affluence,
modern technology, and modern education have largely augmented this evil.
I may remark here that in music as in most every other sphere, what are
called self-made men are usually vastly superior to the educated
variety. Ira D. Sankey was universally acknowledged as the greatest of
the gospel singers. Moody's son-in-law says of him, Of all the gospel
singers I have heard Ira D. Sankey was the greatest, and I have heard
them all except P. P. Bliss, who was killed in a railroad accident in
1876. Others have had more polished voices, more musical technique, but
even at the age of about 50 Mr. Sankey could capture an audience more
quickly with his resonant voice and hold them spell-bound or Spirit-bound
more fully than any singer I ever heard. Yet of the same man we
also read, Mr. Sankey has never studied music under the guidance
of any instructor. His hymns have always been sung as naturally as a bird
Charles H. Gabriel, whom his fellow-composer E. O. Sellers calls Composer
Pre-eminent, had never taken a music lesson in his life.
There is good reason why such things are so. I pass over the fact that
these self-made men might generally better be styled God-made
men, while those of the educated sort are rather man-made
men, for there is a very proper sense in which self-made men
are actually self-made. They are men whose soul is engaged
in the matter, and who therefore press forward with energy and determination
through every difficulty to learn what they must in order to do as they
would. Such men commonly tower above the educated sort as a grand mountain
peak towers above so many hillocks. The educated men are given the mechanics with which to perform the work, while they more often than not have nothing
of the soul of the matter throbbing in their veins.
Yet the possession of the bare mechanics of the thing causes them to think
of themselves more highly than they ought to think. They aspire to be
mountains, when they are but hills. It is a plain fact of life and of
history that God makes but few shepherds, and many sheep. But give a mechanical
education to those many sheep, and they will all set up to be shepherds.
God may make only one leader for thousands of followers
in the field of music the proportion of leaders is certainly much smaller
than in some other fields. A little mechanical knowledge, however, turns
many of the followers into would-be leaders, and the leading which they
do is of course poor enough. Hymns and hymn books are multiplied, which
are commonplace and mediocre at the best, and which in fact ought never
to have existed at all. The plain fact is, at all times, in all places,
and under all conditions, to think no more highly of ourselves than we
ought to think will for the most of God's saints mean to be content to
be followers, and let God's leaders lead.
We know how unpopular such doctrine will be in this land where all men
are so steeped in democratic principles, and democratic pride besides.
Yet Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
(I Cor. 9:8). That very passage of Scripture which is pressed into service
to make every man in the church a preacher
----I mean I Corinthians
14 ----stands directly against such a notion. It says, Let
the prophets speak, two or three. There is no open meeting
here, nor any open ministry, but those only speaking who are
gifted of God for it, and not many even of them. Yet as Ryle says, You
may name hundreds of first-rate preachers for one first-rate writer of
hymns. What then? Just this: the making of many hymns and many hymn
books is a great evil.
And yet the making of many hymn books goes on as glibly as ever, there
being no end in sight. Nay, modern wealth and modern technology
and modern pride have greatly augmented the evil. The facilities for making
and printing hymns are greatly increased, while the capacity to judge
of their worth is greatly decreased. Therefore no doubt the flood of worthless
and positively detrimental music and poetry will continue, till it all
goes up in smoke when it is tried by fire before the judgement seat of
Christ. Methinks, however, that a great many writers of psalms,
hymns, and spiritual songs would fare a good deal better in that
day if they would send their productions up in smoke long before that
day arrives. Well, I must answer for myself, and thou, reader, for thyself.
May God give us grace to think no more highly of ourselves, our gifts,
and our performances, than we ought to think.
The Wisdom of Lorenzo Dow
by Glenn Conjurske
Lorenzo Dow began his preaching career among the Methodists, but being
of an independent spirit, he was impatient of their authority, and early
left them, to travel the country at large as an evangelist. At his
death in the Thirties, according to his biographer, he was
probably the most widely travelled man in America, and certainly the most
widely known. His eccentricities no doubt contributed more than
anything else to his notoriety. In some of his eccentric acts, however,
we may see examples of the best sort of wisdom. He was reputed to have
supernatural powers, but the fact was, he simply knew human nature. He
knew the heart and the conscience of the human race, and knew what men
would do in certain circumstances. This was the strength of many of the
old Methodist preachers. Most of them had little enough of book learning,
but they had a better wisdom. I give a few examples from the life of Lorenzo:
When a young man, David Marks crossed paths with Lorenzo
of them itinerating to preach the gospel. Young Marks attended several
of Lorenzo's meetings, sat with him on the platform, had some conversation
with him, and preached to the crowds which gathered to hear the well known
Thereupon Marks relates, The next morning, hearing a wagon pass
at break of day, I arose and looking out at a window, saw Lorenzo, who
had lodged at another house, hastening on his way to Tully corner, seven
miles distant, where he had an appointment at eight o'clock, A. M. I made
ready, went to the place, and called at a public house. The landlord met
me at the door, and said; 'Are you the Levite?' As I queried concerning
his meaning, he said; 'Mr. Dow called for breakfast for himself, his wife,
and a little Levite, that he said would soon come.' He then led me to
the room where Lorenzo and his wife were seated at the table. Lorenzo
said, 'There comes the Levite.' A seat, plate, &c. had already been
prepared for me, though I had not intimated to any one the slightest intention
of coming to the place at this hour.
This is a very plain example of the wisdom of which I speak. The simple
fact is, Lorenzo knew his man. He knew what to expect from him, and he
was not mistaken. And this he knew though he had but slight acquaintance
with David Marks, for he knew human nature. Such knowledge is not gained
from books, but from observation, experience, and meditation.
Another example is given by the publisher of Lorenzo's Works, as follows:
The Cock and the Dinner Pot
One night after Mr. Dow had retired to bed, after a hard day's travel,
in the western part of Virginia, a number of persons collected in the
bar-room to enjoy their usual revelries, as was the custom in that part
of the country. At a late hour in the night, the alarm was given that
one of the company had lost his pocket book, and a search proposed. Whereupon
the landlord remarked, that Lorenzo Dow was in the house, and that if
the money was there, he knew that Lorenzo could find it. The suggestion
was instantly received with approbation, and accordingly Mr. Dow was aroused
from his slumber, and brought forth to find the money. As he entered the
room, his eyes ran through the company with searching enquiry, but nothing
appeared that could fix guilt upon any one. The loser appeared with a
countenance expressive of great concern, and besought Mr. Dow, for heaven's
sake, to find him his money. Have any left the company since you
lost your money, said Mr. Dow. None, said the loser,
none! Then, said Lorenzo, turning to the landlady,
go and bring me your large dinner pot. This created no little
surprise. But as supernatural powers were universally conceded, his directions
were unhesitatingly obeyed. Accordingly the pot was brought forward, and
set in the middle of the room. Now, said Lorenzo, go
and bring the old chicken-cock from the roost. This was also done,
and at Lorenzo's directions, the cock placed in the pot, and covered over
with a board, or lid. Let the doors now be fastened, and the lights
extinguished, said Mr. Dow, which was also done. Now,
said he, every person in the room must rub his hands hard against
the pot, and when the guilty hand touches, the cock will crow. Accordingly,
all came forward, and rubbed, or pretended to rub against the pot. But
no cock crew. Let the candles now be lighted, said Lorenzo,
there is no guilty person here. If the man ever had any money, he
must have lost it some place else. But stop, said Lorenzo, when
all things were prepared, let us now examine the hands. This
was the important part of his arrangement. For on examination, it was
found that one man had not rubbed against the pot. The others' hands being
black with the soot of the pot, was a proof of their innocence. There,
said Lorenzo, pointing to the man with clean hands, there is the
man who picked your pocket. The culprit, seeing his detection, at
once acknowledged his guilt, and gave up the money.
This looks very much like the wisdom of Solomon. Solomon did not know
the two women who were brought before him, but he knew human nature. He
knew a mother's heart, and knew that that heart is the same in every mother,
though she be a harlot. Lorenzo knew the workings of the human conscience,
and knew therefore that the guilty party would be afraid to touch the
dinner pot. He knew also that the rooster would not crow in the dark,
so that the innocent were safe from suspicion.
A similar example follows:
Finding the Stolen Axe
While Mr. Dow was traveling through Maryland, a poor man came and informed
him that some one had stolen his axe, and wished Mr. Dow to be good enough
to tell him where it was. Lorenzo informed him that he possessed no power
of knowing such things. But the man had heard that Lorenzo Dow knew everything,
and could not be persuaded to believe anything else. At length, when it
was evident that the man could not be otherwise disposed of, Mr. Dow said
he would find the axe if he could. But do you suspect any person
of stealing it, said Mr. Dow. Yes, said the man very
promptly, I think I know the very man, but cannot be certain.
Will he be at the meeting? Yes, sir; he is sure to be
there. Mr. Dow said no more, but picking up a stone about as large
as his two fists, carried it to church with him and laid it on the desk
beside him, so that all the congregation might see it. How many inquiries
ran through their minds about the stone during the sermon no one knows.
But, after he had finished preaching, he took the stone in his hand, and,
addressing the audience, said, some one has stolen an axe, belonging
to Mr. A., a poor man
----the thief is here, he is before me now,
and I intend after turning round three times to hit him on the head with
this stone. Accordingly, he turned round twice rather slowly, but
the third time came around with great fury as if going to throw the stone
into the midst of the men before him, when to the no little amusement
of the company, and the satisfaction of the man who lost the axe, the
very man who was suspected of the theft, dodged his head behind the pew.
Now, said Dow, I will not expose you any further, but
if you do n't leave that axe tonight where you got it, I will publish
you to-morrow. The axe was accordingly returned. A merchant of veracity
in Cincinnati, vouches for the truth of this story.
Here again Lorenzo simply made use of his knowledge of the workings of
conscience. No doubt the success of these antics was dependent upon the
popular belief in the miraculous powers of Lorenzo Dow, but it must also
be understood that he must have gained that reputation by just such wisdom
He used that wisdom for the eternal as well as the temporal benefit of
souls. It is related that a wagoner, urging his long team up a hill,
was adding to the creak and grinding of his wheels, the stamping of hoofs
and crack of his whip, a most blasphemous outpouring of profanity, after
the manner of teamsters in all generations. In the midst of a cataract
of venomous and diabolical imprecations, there suddenly appeared from
behind his wagon the lank and bearded, black-cloaked figure, mounted on
a lean horse which, considering its condition, was travelling at an unnatural
speed. Without a trace of any emotion upon his face, the stranger as he
came alongside reached out and offered the wagoner a dollar if he would
continue to curse and swear in the same manner for the rest of his life.
This was easy money for the wagoner, and he took the silver at once. In
a few minutes the man on the lean horse had vanished over the hill. Then
upon the blasphemer came a terrible apprehension: Who was this black hairy
man? What mortal would come as from nowhere, pay money for such a purpose,
and vanish again like a shadow? Thus in one soul, otherwise forever foreign
to religion, was installed that heart-shivering dread which led into conversion.
The Mutual Faith of Both You and Me
by Glenn Conjurske
For I long to see you, writes Paul, that I may impart
unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is,
that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of
you and me. (Rom. 1:11-12). Writing on the twelfth verse, Bloomfield
says, The scope of this verse is, I apprehend, to explain what has
been said, and to soften what might seem to savour of harshness and arrogance.
... He therefore intimates that he does not mean to insinuate that the
advantage will be all on their side; but that he himself hopes to derive
spiritual benefit. The verse, then, is an expression of Paul's humility.
But I have seen this text employed where I am unable to regard it as anything
other than an expression of pride.
Years ago I met a young man who, though he had some zeal, was very ignorant,
knowing little but the common shallow Christianity of the day. He was
teachable, however, and I began to work with him, to instruct him, to
put good books into his hands, etc. This went on for perhaps five years,
from time to time, as opportunity afforded. But he, belonging to the Plymouth
Brethren, soon began to preach among them. He really had no business to
do so, nor they any business to allow it, much less encourage it, as he
had no character for it. He was lazy and irresponsible, failing to keep
his commitments, late for everything, generally looking to get something
for nothing, and too ready to sacrifice principle for the sake of influence,
besides other things I could mention. At any rate, I observed a great
change to come over him. He was no longer teachable, but became rather
belligerent, and more determined to instruct me than to learn from me.
In short, he was puffed up with pride.
From this time it seemed that Romans 1:12 became his favorite text, and
he never failed to refer to it in all his dealings with myself. Now I
felt that this was not right, though I could not exactly put my finger
on what was wrong with it. Most everything he knew he had learned from
----not that he had learned it very well ----yet he was
determined to teach me, and quite ready to accuse me of pride because
I did not embrace the enlightenment which he thought he had to offer,
though I would gladly have received light from him if he had had any to
give. I felt, therefore, that his use of Romans 1:12 was rather presumptuous.
Still it was Scripture, and I could not argue with Scripture. I therefore
Since then I have seen others use the same verse in the same way, and
further meditation on the subject has given me a clearer understanding
of exactly what is wrong with it. When Paul wrote these words, he was
addressing his inferiors. He was addressing those who had much to gain
from him, though he, humble as he was, hoped to gain something from them
also. But frankly, it was not at all likely that he would gain much from
them. When Paul went up to Jerusalem, to confer with the apostles and
pillars of the church, who were in Christ before him, he yet must say,
But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it
maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed
to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me. (Gal. 2:6). What
likelihood was there, then, that he would receive much from the Romans?
Yet observe, when Paul says that the apostles and elders at Jerusalem
added nothing to him, he is speaking of doctrine and of understanding.
When he speaks of receiving something from the ordinary saints at Rome,
he is not speaking of doctrine or understanding, but of comfort, or encouragement,
as we might translate the term. The idea that Paul expected to be taught by the Roman saints is against all reason, and really has nothing to do
with what the text actually says. The verse says, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
He says nothing of being taught by them. He went to them, as he tells
them, to the end that ye might be established, not that he might be.
To be short, those who love to quote this verse are generally wrong on
two counts. First, they invariably apply it to doctrine or to teaching,
with which it really has nothing to do. Next, they parade it before their
superiors, which is directly contrary to its proper spirit. For Paul to
speak thus to the Romans was a mark of a becoming humility. For them to
have spoken so to him could only have been the mark of a presumptuous
That pride is perhaps the chief characteristic of modern Christianity,
and those who are puffed up with it seem instinctively to fall upon Romans
1:12, and turn Paul's expression of his humility into a prop for their
own pride. If this is not wresting Scripture, what is?
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Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated
by the Editor
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Much coin, much care.
This, understand, is a secular proverb, a proverb which was at one time
in common circulation among the general population of the world. The world
itself, formerly if no more, has recognized that much coin brings much care. And yet did the world ever cease to bend its energies to
pursue much coin? That were too much to expect. The lust of the
flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life impel men to pursue much coin, even though they may know that they are also pursuing much
care. But passion can hardly be expected to be ruled by reason.
But how is it that much coin brings much care? Many ways, indeed. With
most men much coin is not an end in itself. Men pursue much coin that
they may acquire much goods. And the more goods they acquire the more
care they incur. Every appliance, every convenience, every machine, every
automobile, every piece of furniture adds a little more to our weight
of care. Everything is soiled, and must be cleaned. The rich woman who
has her dream mansion has ten times the care merely to keep it clean as
the poor woman in her cottage. Everything breaks, and must be replaced.
Everything wears, and must be repaired. What care we have to maintain
But many in our affluent times have more coin than they can begin to spend
for goods. They must therefore lay it up in the bank, lay it out in stocks
and bonds, or invest it in properties, and every coin adds to their care.
He who has much must fear the loss of it. He must fear the breaking of
the bank, the failure of the stock market, the devaluation of the dollar,
the depression of the economy. He who has little coin has little to fear.
No need for him to listen to the stock market reports. No need for him to watch the price of gold, or the foreign markets. He is as free as
a bird, who has nothing to do but flit and fly and eat and sing. And
sing he does, for he knows nothing of care. Men suppose their much coin
will relieve their cares, and give them security against the cares of
the future. Yet in loading themselves with coin they load themselves with
care, while the bird who has nothing is happy as a lark.
Paul says, Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. Enough with content is the greatest riches, and surely brings the least care.
More than enough adds nothing to our content, and much to our care.
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.