by Glenn Conjurske
Phalti was the man to whom Saul gave David's wife when David fled to the
wilderness. We know little enough about him, but what we do know is full
of weighty instruction. Scripture mentions him but twice:
On the occasion of David's taking Abigail and Ahinoam as wives, we are
told, But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti
the son of Laish, which was of Gallim. (I Sam. 25:44).
Years later, when David made a league with Abner to secure the throne
of all Israel, we read, And he (David) said, Well; I will make a
league with thee: but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt
not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul's daughter, when
thou comest to see my face. And David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth Saul's
son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an
hundred foreskins of the Philistines. And Ish-bosheth sent, and took her
from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish. And her husband
went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto
him, Go, return. And he returned. (II Sam. 3:13-16).
This is all we know of Phalti, and yet this is a great deal after all,
for in these two brief notices we see the pleasures of sin, and the day
The first thing which we observe concerning this man is that he was unrighteous.
He had no right whatsoever, on any plea whatsoever, to take another man's
wife. True that David had abandoned her, but he was forced to this by
the persecutions of Saul. True also that Saul gave Michal to him, and
Saul was both Michal's father and the king of Israel. But all this alters
nothing. No man has the right to receive what no man has the right to
----and neither father nor king has any right to give one man's
wife to another. But Phalti did not concern himself about that. He was
a typical ungodly sinner, who was glad to take what he could get, and
never concerned himself with whether he had any right to it.
Michal was no doubt a very pleasing prize. David had evidently thought
so, since he was willing to risk his life to obtain her, by taking a hundred
foreskins of the Philistines. Nay, like Jacob before him, he paid her
price twice over, for where Saul had required a hundred foreskins of the
Philistines, David gave two hundred. Neither was he tricked or forced
to this, as Jacob had been, but did so freely of his own mind and will.
Thus did he show to Saul his own worth, and to Michal and all the world
the value which he set upon her.
Michal was a pleasing prize, and Phalti thought of nothing but his singular
good fortune in obtaining her. Moreover, he was greatly honored to be
the son-in-law of the king, and the more so to receive her as a gift of
the king, for whom David had been required to pay a hundred foreskins
of the Philistines. Lust and pride therefore conspired together to move
Phalti to take possession of this pleasing prize, and he did not trouble
himself about the fact that she belonged to another. He was as profane
as Esau, and considered neither conscience nor consequences. He feared
neither God nor David. He thought only of the gratification of his present
desire, and so was led like a senseless ox to the slaughter, by a bit
of hay. He no doubt relished the hay
----no doubt enjoyed it to
the full while he had it, and congratulated himself immensely upon its
possession ----but he nothing regarded the cost, nor the end of
Phalti no doubt loved Michal supremely, and that with a love which was
as enduring as it was powerful, for when she was forcibly taken from him
after years of marriage, he followed her weeping. But none of that could
trouble him now. He had the possession of her, unrighteous as it was,
and this was all that concerned him. Thus he went on year after year,
all the while that David was in the wilderness, and all the seven years
in which he was king over Judah, loving Michal, and enjoying the sweet
possession of her, and nothing regarding the day of reckoning which was
certainly coming. It may be that he had taken possession of his prize
with some qualms of conscience, but these were easily suppressed in the
face of the beauty and charm of Michal. The chidings of conscience doubtless
followed him into this stolen marriage, but as year followed year, and
neither God nor man came to reckon with him for the stolen goods in his
hands, he doubtless became quite easy about the matter, and supposed his
possession of her secure enough. He likely even persuaded himself that
it was quite righteous. Had not David abandoned her, and quite forgotten
her also? She had not had so much as a letter from him in many years,
and he had wives and concubines enough without her. Thus do sinners go
on in sin till the very day of reckoning, secure and unconcerned, suppressing
all the claims of conscience and of righteousness, and justifying all
And if we look to the root of this course of sin, we shall find just what
we always find, namely, unbelief. Phalti had no faith
in the goodness of God, no faith in the judgement of God, no faith in
the purpose of God, and no faith in the man of God.
If he had had faith in the goodness of God, he would have declined to
have anything to do with Michal, as certainly as Leah would have declined
to have anything to do with Jacob, if she had had that faith. Faith in
God would have said, Cannot God give me as good a wife as Saul can? Cannot
God give me a woman as pleasing as Michal, who is not the wife of another
man? But he could take immediate possession of Michal, while he must wait
for the provision of God, and unbelief knows nothing of patience. It knows
nothing of waiting upon God, for in reality it expects nothing from him.
It therefore looks out for its own interests, and takes possession of
whatever comes to hand, though it must trample on the claims of right
and of conscience in order to do so.
Thus did Phalti with the wife of David, and if he had no faith in the
goodness of God, neither did he have any faith in his severity. He supposed
that he could do as he pleased, and never reckon with God for it.
Neither did he have any faith in the purpose of God. David was anointed
by God to be king of Israel, and all Israel apparently knew this. Saul
knew it, and therefore hated David. Jonathan knew it, and said therefore
to David, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find
thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee;
and that also Saul my father knoweth. Abner, the captain of Saul's
host, certainly knew it, for when Saul's son Ish-bosheth said to Abner,
Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father's concubine? Abner
replied with, So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the
Lord hath sworn to David, even so I do to him, to translate the kingdom
from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel
and over Judah, from Dan even to Beer-sheba. Abigail knew the purpose
of God concerning David, and believed in it too. This was common knowledge,
and Phalti must certainly have known it also, but he had no faith in it.
If he had but believed in the purpose of God, he would never have touched
the wife of David. He would rather have said, Though this man is
now a fugitive in the wilderness, God has purposed that he shall be king
of Israel, and what then will I do, with his wife in my bed? But
Phalti had no faith in the purpose of God.
That purpose did not appear while David was a fugitive in the wilderness,
though it was visible to faith, and there was a great plenty in David
to mark him as a man of God, for those who had eyes to see it, long before
he came to the throne of Israel. This was visible to Jonathan and to Abigail
not to Nabal or to Phalti. They had no faith in the purpose of God, and
they nothing regarded the man of God, but treated him with contempt. It
must be understood that Saul's act of giving David's wife to another man
was an expression of supreme contempt for David, and for Phalti to receive
her was a thorough acquiescence in that contempt. But he nothing regarded
the man of God, and never expected to reckon with him for this wrong.
When his time is not yet come, when he appears in weakness and reproach
and poverty and suffering, then men will slight and wrong the man of God
as they please, and never suspect that they will one day reckon with him
for it ----or with his God, for God is jealous for the honor of
his servants. He will not allow Miriam to slight Moses, nor the children
to mock Elisha.
No doubt neither Nabal nor Phalti would have dared to treat David on the
throne of Israel as they treated the same David in the wilderness, but
it is easy to slight the man of God before the purpose of God is manifest
in him. It was easy for the brethren of Joseph to despise and wrong him
when God had given him nothing but a dream, and they little supposed that
they would one day bow themselves before him. It was easy for the men
of Succoth to despise Gideon before he had won the victory, and to answer
him contemptuously when he asked for bread, but they must yet reckon with
his power, when he returns to tear their flesh with the thorns of the
wilderness. But Phalti had no more faith in David than the men of Succoth
had in Gideon. He takes his wife, therefore, and never expects to reckon
with David for it. This was foolish, altogether so, even if there had
been no purpose of God concerning David. David had slain Goliath, and
his ten thousands besides. He could have slain Saul also, and only fled
from him because he would not slay the Lord's anointed. And did Phalti
expect thus to wrong such a man with impunity? This was infatuation. It
was blindness, and little wonder, for unbelief and pride and self-will
can never see anything rightly. They no more reckon on the power of the
man of God than they do on the purpose of God concerning him.
While David was in the wilderness, Phalti could no doubt breathe easy.
When Saul died, we may suppose he felt some fear, for as the proverbs
say, He that lives ill, fear follows him, and The faulty
stands on his guard. Phalti was faulty
----guilty, that is ----and
he must therefore stand on his guard, keeping one eye always on the movements
and the welfare of David. Thus does an evil conscience sour the sweets
of sin even while we have them. But when he saw David settled on the throne
of Judah, and the son of Saul on the throne of Israel, and when this state
of things continued year after year, he doubtless felt safe enough. David
had apparently forgotten about Michal.
But God had forgotten nothing, and God has resources enough at his command
for every purpose under the sun. He knows how to reward the righteous,
and he knows how to reward sinners also. In this case he does both by
the same circumstance, and that apparently quite unrelated either to David
or to Phalti. Abner, the captain of the host of Israel, goes in to Saul's
concubine. Ish-bosheth, whom Abner had set on the throne of Israel, confronts
him with this. Abner responds with the same haughty indignation which
the guilty usually display when their sins are discovered. Then
was Abner very wroth for the words of Ish-bosheth, and said, Am I a dog's
head, which against Judah do shew kindness this day unto the house of
Saul thy father, to his brethren, and to his friends, and have not delivered
thee into the hand of David, that thou chargest me to day with a fault
concerning this woman? But he does not stop with indignant words.
He shall have his revenge also. So do God to Abner, and more also,
except, as the Lord hath sworn to David, even so I do to him, to translate
the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David
over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beer-sheba. Ish-bosheth
could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.
Thus was David's possession of the throne of Israel established, and Phalti's
possession of David's wife undermined, with one stroke.
Abner immediately sends his messengers to David, saying, Make thy
league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about
all Israel unto thee. But who could have anticipated the response
of David? Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing I
require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first
bring Michal Saul's daughter, when thou comest to see my face. Who
could have dreamed that after all these years of separation from Michal,
after all the wives and sons and daughters which David had acquired during
those years of separation, that his first thought would now be of Michal?
But David was wise, and by this demand he tried the sincerity of Abner.
Phalti, however, knows nothing of what has passed between Abner and Ish-bosheth,
nor of what has passed between Abner and David. He suspects nothing. This
day is as every other day. He never dreams that this is his day of reckoning,
till the messengers knock at his door to take away his wife. He has no
power to withstand them, and she is wrenched away from him at once. No
time now to settle affairs. No time for parting gifts. No time for last
words. No time for final embraces. No time for farewell kisses. The king's
messengers enter his door, and she must go. The parting is as unexpected
and as final as sudden death, and he can only follow her weeping.
All this is very hard, and the time was when we were inclined to blame
David for dealing such a blow to a devoted husband. But the fact is, the
way of transgressors is hard, and this is as God would have it. And it
were really quite unthinkable that David should ascend the throne of Israel,
and allow this scandal to continue. This was the badge of his weakness
and his reproach, and it was high time to remove it. So long as Phalti
possessed Michal under the hostile power of the house of Saul, David had
nothing to do with the matter, but he could not allow this public scandal
and personal reproach to continue under the shadow of his own throne.
A ruler must by all means maintain his authority. The king who tramples
on the rights of his subjects is a tyrant, but the king who allows his
subjects to tread on his own rights is a weakling, and really unfit to
be a king at all. And if David meant to reign in righteousness, he could
not allow such a scandal to continue unchecked, though it had been another
man's wife which was stolen, and not his own. He owed nothing to Phalti,
unless it were vengeance. In spite of his long possession of her, Phalti
had never had the shadow of a right to Michal, and David did him no wrong
in taking her back to himself. There had been a day, years beforehand,
when David was hiding in the wilderness, when he heard that Saul had taken
his wife and given her to Phalti. This was a bleak day to the heart of
David, not only for the loss of his wife, but also for the public disgrace
and contempt which were thus heaped upon him. It was no wrong on David's
part to extricate himself from that disgrace. He did no wrong to Phalti,
who had no right to Michal. A man who appropriates to himself what does
not belong to him has no right to complain if it is restored to its owner. If he has become deeply attached to it in the mean while, still he has
no right to complain. It was Phalti's crime, not his misfortune, that
he took possession of David's wife, and every endearing tie which he subsequently
established with her but added sin to sin. He might have saved himself
all the anguish of the parting, if he had but declined the sin.
We observe that in this place Phalti is called Phaltiel, which means God's
deliverance, and this we suppose was his actual name, but he or
his friends had chosen not to retain the name of God (El) in the name
of Phalti. This may indicate something of his character. But he who casts
off God casts away deliverance also. God bears long with Phalti, but the
day of reckoning comes at last, and then there is no deliverance. He may
weep many miles behind his captive wife, but all this avails him nothing.
We are at first surprised that Abner allowed such conduct on the part
of Phalti. When Abner chose, so soon as they reached the city of Bahurim,
he gave to the weeping man the peremptory command, Go, return,
and Phalti had no choice but to obey. But why did Abner wait so long to
command him? We doubt that this was for the sake of any mercy to Phalti.
Abner was determined to bring all the house of Israel over to David. When
Phalti had taken David's wife, and lived with her for years with impunity,
this had cast a great public reproach upon David. Abner meant to take
that reproach off as publicly as he could, and what could serve him better
than this illicit husband following Michal through all the land, weeping
before all the people. Thus does Phalti, most unwittingly, publicly restore
to David the honor which he had publicly taken away from him. He gains
nothing by all his weeping. All the gain goes to David.
Commanded by the powerful Abner to Go, return, the weeping
man must submit, And he returned. But this did not end his
sorrows. He returns, but to an empty house. Home is where the heart
is, men say, but home and heart are now torn asunder. To return
to his home, he must depart from his heart. His feet must move in one
direction, while his heart moves in the other. The nearer he comes to
home, the farther he goes from his heart. The house remains; the home
is gone. The smile of Michal greets him no more. His ear will never again
drink in the solace of her sweet voice, though he needs it now as never
before. The light in her eyes will never more shine for him. Her tender
looks are only a memory. When he closes his eyes he sees nothing but Michal,
but he opens them, and she is gone. He has only an empty house, an empty
bed, empty arms, an empty heart. As he had for many a day enjoyed the
illicit possession of her, he has now many a day in which to sorrow for
her loss. And sorrow he does, without doubt, for he is a man. His grief
is keen and bitter. Yet this is righteous. When sinners taste the sweets
of sin, they little dream what bitter potions they are mixing for themselves,
but so long as there is a God in heaven the bitter fruits of sin will
follow its sweet flowers, as surely as night follows day. The day of sin
is pleasant, but the day of reckoning is bitter. So Phalti found it.
A Three-Months' Lay-over
by Glenn Conjurske
Travelling in the old days was another thing than it is today. There were
no motor-driven machines which could move at high speeds, and travel was
slow. The shallow thinking
----or absence of thinking ----of
modern times assumes that all the gain is ours. This is progress, and
it is seldom questioned that it is an unmixed blessing. Modern pride comes
to bolster modern superficial thought, and modern man congratulates himself
upon his superior wisdom, while he casts a pitying glance at his dull
and backward forefathers, who evidently occupied a much lower plane in
the evolutionary scale than he does himself.
But All is not gold that glitters, and a little reflection
might teach modern man that modern progress is not so beneficial as he
thinks. But who has time for a little reflection? It is one
of the great ironies of modern times that all of the modern time-savers and conveniences have catapulted mankind into such a state of hustle and
bustle and hurry that he has no time left for quiet thought or meditation.
This is just as the devil would have it, and this fact alone ought to
give men a broad hint that this modern progress is not all gold, and that
it is not of God. That there is some good in it we would not pretend to
deny, but we do deny that it is all gain. Every blessing of modern technology
comes to us with a curse on its back, and long observation and meditation
have taught us that the curse is generally much greater than the blessing.
Rapid travel may be harmless in itself, but as with all the advancements
of modern progress, man in his present state lacks the character to control
it and put it to a proper use. The angels have powers of rapid travel,
far beyond the most advanced machines of puny man, and those powers do
them no harm. But God never gave to man those powers which he gave to
angels. Man has acquired what powers he has in that direction by his own
restless seeking, and man is not wiser than God. Lo, this only have
I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many
inventions (Eccl. 7:29), and most of those inventions have proved
greater curses than blessings. Men who have the character of angels may
use them aright. Men who have the faith and patience and love and wisdom
and devotedness of the angels may not be hurt by all these inventions,
but for the rest of the race they are a small blessing with a great curse
on its back.
Man now has great powers of rapid travel, but he cannot control them.
He lacks the character for it. He lacks the patience and the self-denial requisite to use those powers aright. Since the powers exist, they must
be used. The possession of an automobile is no blessing to most of those
who have one. Since man may run to and fro upon the earth,
he therefore must. He has no wisdom to use those powers to proper ends,
no care for the will of God in the matter, and no inclination to deny
himself. Those powers therefore control him, and have catapulted the whole
world into a hurried life (commonly called the rat-race) which
God never intended, from which man cannot escape, and which is highly
detrimental to his soul. A certain type of automobile used to be called
a runabout, and most of those who possess one become runabouts also, instead
of keepers at home. Most of the young people (including Christians) who
have access to an automobile are much the worse for it spiritually. They
cannot sit still, but must be running to and fro, simply because they
have the power to do so. I lately saw a young lady's personalized license
plate which read, MUST GO. No doubt, but quiet and meditation
are altogether lost in the hurry. The angel Gabriel has the same powers
of rapid travel which belong to all the angels, and yet he is not out
to see the sights every day, nor to buy a hamburger, nor to see his friends,
but says of himself, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of
God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
(Luke 1:19). His usual activity is to stand. He goes when he is sent.
But Christians go because they can.
Christians commonly justify (yea, glorify) all of this modern progress
by the increased capabilities which it gives to us for the work of the
Lord, but this is extremely shallow thinking. Where are now the servants
of the Lord who can equal the apostles in their work for Christ? Yet the
apostles accomplished all their exploits without one shred of modern technology.
They had neither airplane nor automobile, neither steamship nor railroad,
neither computer, nor printing press, nor fountain pen, nor factory-made
paper. Yet their triumphs put the whole modern church to shame. They had
something else, which the modern church does not have
----and we suggest that one of the primary reasons why the modern church does
not have it is the existence of modern technology.
I have often thought, when travelling through a storm in my enclosed,
self-propelled vehicle, equipped with windshield wipers, defroster, and
a good heater
----I have often thought of old John Wesley, making
his slow and painful way through the storm on the back of a horse.
For this his cheerful feet pursued their way,
Through winter's nights, and summer's sultry day;
Through woods and floods he pass'd, and o'er the boist'rous main,
Nor e'er was known to shrink, or of his toil complain.
While o'er the mountain-tops he often went,
He met the rapid storms with sweet content;
Then swiftly moved along the dark and doubtful track,
And chid his coward steed, who fain would turn his back.
Now it may be that such toils and fatigues wrought a hardy manliness and a moral greatness in the likes of John Wesley, of which modern man
is simply incapable. What do we know of enduring hardness as good soldiers
of Jesus Christ, when there is no hardness to endure? Yet hardship makes
character. Tribulation worketh patience. The poverty and toils
and fatigues of the old days made men. The conveniences and luxuries of
modern times have made us soft and lazy. And who, with all the time-savers
of modern days, who with all the near-miracles of modern technology, who
in this day can equal the labors and triumphs in the gospel of John Wesley
and George Whitefield and Francis Asbury? What modern missionary, with
his automobiles and airplanes and radios and computers, has ever equalled
the achievements of Robert Moffatt or John Williams? I repeat, those who
glorify modern technology for increasing our capabilities for the work
of the gospel are guilty of extremely shallow thinking. Those modern inventions
may increase our outward capabilities, but at the same time they enervate
and debilitate the inner man, and the net result is written everywhere
But my readers may begin to wonder what all of this has to do with the
title of the article. Just this, that I aim to contrast the present century
with the rest of the history of the world. The conveniences and time-savers
and means of rapid travel which have come into being in recent times have
created a hurried life to which the human race was a stranger during most
of its history. Men will now fret and fume if they must endure a three-hour
layover at an airport
----or a three-minute stop at a red light ----whereas
the apostle Paul must submit to a layover of three months in his journey
And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more
part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain
to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth
toward the south west and north west. (Acts 27:12).
And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which
had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. (Acts
Paul, it is true, was shipwrecked between these two texts, but this is
beside the point. It was their intention to winter at Phenice, and the
ship which they took from the island of Melita had intentionally wintered
in the island. What traveller today would intentionally lay over for three
months, for any cause whatsoever? These scriptures show us at any rate
the very great difference between the times of the apostles and the present
It remains a question, of course, which state of things is better. Let
us face that question squarely. No one can dispute the fact that God placed
men in the earth without any of those rapid means of travel and communication
which characterize the present day. Neither can they dispute the fact
that during almost all the history of the human race those modern means
did not exist. And few, I suppose, will dispute the fact that the present
century, which has seen the invention or the prevalence of most of those
inventions, has served to ripen the whole world for the impending judgement
of God. Yet by some blind infatuation they fail to see any connection
between these facts.
But we need not speak of the whole world, but only of our own individual
souls. The hurried life which now characterizes the world is apparently
the inevitable result of these modern inventions. Because we can contact
a distant friend in a few seconds, we must, and who would dream of walking
or riding a horse a hundred miles to see a friend? And yet has not the
very essence of friendship been largely destroyed by the ease of personal
intercourse? How I long for unhurried fellowship, and yet it is almost
extinct on this earth. All of us are in a hurry. Most of us live by the
clock. Many are in bondage to a sacred schedule, so that we cannot visit
them without feeling like an intruder. Deep and intimate friendship is
practically non-existent today. The hurried life of modern times will
not allow it.
It is a fact that we value and appreciate things according to the difficulty with which we obtain them. Easy come, easy go, says an old
proverb, and this is true precisely because we set little value upon anything
which comes to us easily. We are therefore little concerned to hold it
fast. This is true whether the thing itself is gold or tinsel. Who today
can value a loaf of bread as the man who plowed and planted his own ground
with a horse or ox, raised his own wheat, cut and bound it in sheaves
by hand, threshed and winnowed it also by hand, ground it by hand, kneaded
it into bread by his own hand, and baked it in his own oven, heated by
wood cut without a power saw? What I have just described is nothing unusual,
but was the normal process by which the whole human race ate bread during
almost the whole duration of its history. Moreover, it was God who said,
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread. God never intended
the hurried life of modern times, nor the easy life either. Behold,
the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long
patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. So
the human race lived for centuries, and this was evidently according to
God's intention, but in the present impatient age we can scarcely wait
until tomorrow for anything. We must hop in the car and run to the store,
as soon as the desire for anything enters our minds. We hold that the
capabilities which modern technology has put into men's hands have created this hurried and impatient and selfish society. Man has no inclination,
and therefore no ability, to control or curtail those capabilities, and
modern technology has therefore removed man very much farther from God
than he ever was or could have been before.
Evangelicals are quick to point to that which was from the beginning
as the standard for marriage, thus excluding polygamy. We quite agree.
That which was from the beginning is what God ordained upon the earth,
and every departure from it is so far a departure from the ordinance of
God. But it is a little strange to see those who will appeal to this standard
in one sphere totally ignore it in others.
Not that we would make a rigid rule of that which was from the beginning.
Not so at all. We only appeal to it as an expression of the wisdom of
God. We believe there is no sin in our driving an automobile, and apparently
there was none in David's taking of twenty or thirty wives. We only contend
that the well-being of man is secured by the wisdom of God in that which
he ordained from the beginning. It may have been no sin for the patriarchs
to marry several wives, but their welfare would have been better secured
if they had married but one.
Now it seems plain enough to me that the well-being of man has not been
secured by the modern hurried life, and therefore not by those modern
means which have produced that life. The God who created raspberries,
blackberries, blueberries, and cherries, and created no machinery with
which to pick them
----the God who created pecans and almonds and
walnuts, and created no machines with which to crack them ----the
God who created small grains of wheat and rye and barley, and never a
machine with which to reap or thresh them ----that God can hardly
have intended that man should live a hurried life. Unless we are to believe
that God created all these things for birds and mice and squirrels, we
are surely required to believe that he intended that man should live by
labor, and acquire all these good things by a slow and painstaking and
time-consuming process. 'Tis true that with machines to do everything
for us, we may have more ----and evidently much more than God intended
we should have ----but what have we profited if in the gaining of
the goods we have lost the capacity to appreciate them?
To return to where we started, from the beginning travel was
slow. Everything was slow. God made it so. God made man weak and limited
and dependent, and surely intended that he should be so. It is good for
man to be so, and anything but good for him to be otherwise. When man
began to gain strength and capacity by his united endeavors at the tower
of Babel, so that nothing would be restrained from him which he desired
to do, God frowned upon the whole business. This was not according to
his mind. Much less are the almost unlimited powers and capabilities of
modern times. These are a great moral curse, and can be nothing else while
man is what he is. It is now easy to traverse the globe, easy to do everything,
easy to acquire everything, and no man
----no more the godly man
than the ungodly ----seems to have the moral restraint necessary
to control those powers. Because we may, we must, and the whole world,
and the whole church too, has been thrust into a veritable rat race
of going everywhere, doing everything, and acquiring everything. The world
has no time for the gospel. The church has no time for solitude and thought
and meditation and prayer.
What sermons were born, what prayers were uttered, what deep and solemn
questions of doctrine and practice were wrestled with on the back of the
horse of the old Methodist itinerant, as he pressed his slow and solitary
way through the wilderness. We may go farther today, and get there faster,
but we are not worth half so much when we get there.
W. B. Riley on Modern Life & Spiritual Death
[Riley (1861-1947) was a prominent leader of Baptist Fundamentalism.
I beg the reader to observe that the following was published in 1917.
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even
to the east, and they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord,
and shall not find it.
Strange how Scripture can express the relation between strenuous living
and spiritual dying; between rapid transit and fading truth.
Our locomotion has become the enemy of our meditation.
We shoot from place to place with such rapidity that even reason is upset,
and spiritual meditation is made impractical if not impossible. I think
I never realized this fact more than recently when in one day I read the
reports of the hardship endured fifty years ago by a boy who sought to
gain an education, and those being experienced now by the lad mentally
ambitious. The first related to A. J. Gordon's college life, when as a
lad it was decided he should go to school, and the place of his education
was selected. His son writes
----In a suit of clothes made
by his mother's hands from cloth spun in the old mill, he started from
home. A long walk truly, thirty-four miles, when one is baggage train
as well as infantry. Yet doubtless the bag in which he carried his clothes
was not heavily loaded ----a change of clothing, a Virgil, and an
algebra. The country through which he passed was especially
beautiful, Cardigan and Ragged mountains, round the base of Kearsarge
and by Sunapee Lake into the town where the school was situated, in New
London. What a beautiful and suggestive description! It must have
taken at least two days for the trip. What thoughts would surge through
the boy's soul as he climbed the mountain side, descended the valley,
and trudged on to the college! What meditations would fill the mind, when
at night, in some country home he lay in a deep feather bed, and with
all the world shut out, faced God and thought about the future. But those
days are over. The lad who goes to college now, if he cross the continent,
is whirled along on iron wheels; the hum of human voices is in his ears;
he simply spends three days in a moving hotel; and if he go a shorter
distance, he drives his father's car, and forgets the God above, and over-runs
the pedestrians below. A recent graduate was asked to tell of the hardships
of his early education and he replied, I lived seven blocks from
the Carnegie Library and we had no automobile. They shall
wander from sea to sea and from the north even to the east, they shall
run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.
This strenuous living militates against Bible study.
If only men would stop a while and sit down and open the Book it would
speak to them unless they were too tired to give attention to the tale
it was telling. Too often, we fear, that is the case.
----The Menace of Modernism, by William B. Riley. New York: Christian
Alliance Publishing Company, copyright 1917, pp. 140-142.
by Glenn Conjurske
The above title is the advice of an ancient heathen philosopher. Some
Christians have despised this, saying that this is only the counsel of
the ungodly, while godly counsel would admonish us to know God. But this
is shallow thinking. We need to know ourselves. To be sure, we may know
God without knowing ourselves, as a baby knows its mother, but a deep
understanding of the nature and the ways of God is another matter. We
may know many men whom we do not understand at all. To know God thus is
a great thing
----it is eternal life ----but those who know
him thus cannot be content with this, but must understand him also, and
perhaps nothing will contribute so much to this as the knowledge of ourselves.
The fact is, the knowledge of ourselves will open to us three vistas of
understanding, containing much of the most important knowledge in existence.
I will proceed to that in a moment, but first let me observe that I think
self-knowledge is a very rare thing in the present hurried and extremely
shallow age. The knowledge of self comes by means of experience, but people
may have a great deal of experience, and yet know very little of themselves,
for experience alone will never teach us anything. We gain the knowledge
of self by thought, and reflection, and meditation. These things we attain
in quiet and solitude. Those who watch television or listen to the radio
may learn a great deal of the world, but they will never have much knowledge
of themselves. To know ourselves we must meditate. We must dream our dreams,
and fear our fears, and desire our desires, and inquire into all the intricate
workings of our thoughts, emotions, and motives. We must determine which
thoughts and feelings we can help, and which we cannot, and how to help
those we can. No man can do this with a radio playing. Neither can he
do much of it while he is running hither and thither in his automobile,
nor while he is engaged in shallow talk, though he call it Christian
fellowship. We want solitude and reflection.
The three vistas of understanding which will be opened to us by the knowledge
of ourselves are these. First, to know ourselves is to know the whole
human race. It is to know human nature as such. Second, to know our own
nature will open to us an understanding of the nature of the opposite
sex. Third, by knowing ourselves we learn to understand God. But all this
will require proof and elucidation.
The Bible says, As in water face answereth to face, so the heart
of man to man. (Prov. 27:19). Water has been the mirror of the human
race since the creation of the world. The placid pool, without a ripple,
reflects the human countenance to perfection. In the water we see our
own exact image. Just so is the heart of man to man. He who knows his
own heart knows the hearts of all men. The needs, the feelings, the reasoning
processes, the workings of conscience, are just the same in all men. Now
for the preacher of the gospel there is scarcely any knowledge so valuable
as this. The evangelist is a physician, and to cure the disease he must
understand it. He must understand all the workings of sin and of conscience.
He must understand the workings of that rationalism by which sinners always
justify their sinful course. He must understand man's love of sin, and
the enmity of the heart of man to God. He must understand all the workings
of unbelief, and of faith. He must know all the needs and cravings of
the human heart. He must know the workings of all the emotions of man,
so as to be able to move and draw the heart, while he convicts the conscience,
and convinces the mind.
Now the very best way to know all this is to know himself. I have read
very widely in Christian biography, and have frequently seen cases in
which an ungodly sinner went to hear a preacher preach, but the more he
heard, the more angry he became, being convinced that someone had told
the preacher all about him, and that every word was aimed directly at
himself. As soon as the sermon was over, he would angrily inquire of the
preacher who had told him about him. The preacher could only respond that
no one had told him anything, and that he had no idea who the man was.
The fact is, the preacher was not describing that particular sinner, but
was describing himself. He knew himself, and therefore he knew the whole
human race. There is perhaps no knowledge so profitable as this, to make
us useful to the souls of men. This was the great power of many of the
old Methodist preachers. They knew human nature, and much of this doubtless
because they knew themselves.
All this, of course, must be applied with common sense. It has nothing
to do with taste, which is entirely individual. Neither will it enable
a man to explain feminine intuition. I was remarking the other day that
feminine intuition seems to me to be so utterly beyond explanation that
it appears to be really supernatural. A woman who was present remarked,
It's supernatural to men, but natural to women. Yet I suppose
she spoke facetiously, for I doubt any woman understands feminine intuition
any better than a man does. In the nature of the case it cannot be understood.
If it could be explained, we would cease to call it intuition.
There are other differences also between masculine and feminine natures,
but these little affect my thesis. Women, for example, are more likely
to view things from the standpoint of emotion, while men view them from
the standpoint of reason, but this is immaterial, for reason is not the
exclusive possession of men, nor emotion of women, and both the reason
and the emotion are just the same in both men and women.
But these things lead me naturally to my second point. In the second place,
the knowledge of ourselves will give us, as perhaps nothing else can do,
an understanding of the nature of the opposite sex. This may not be so
important as the knowledge of God, or the knowledge of the human race
as such, but neither is it unimportant. It may not be so important for
eternity, but is of very great importance for time.
A woman, upon reading some of the character sketches which I have written,
has expressed amazement that I understand feminine nature so well. But
I can say honestly that though I have gained some of that understanding
from observation and inquiry, a very large portion of it I have gained
solely from the knowledge of myself. The author of the Song of Solomon
was a man, but he portrays feminine nature as beautifully as he does masculine,
and I dare say the book would say essentially the same things if it had
been written by a woman. Solomon's mouth is full of such expressions as
Thou art all fair
----beautiful, that is ----and
O thou fairest among women, precisely because it is the deepest
desire of his heart to say such things to her. But what could she write
other than he did if she had written the book? ----for it is the
deepest desire of her heart to hear such things. Thus to know the peculiar
traits of masculinity teaches us also the peculiar traits of femininity.
And all this stands upon the solid ground of Scripture. The Bible says,
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him an help meet for him. (Gen. 2:18). Shallow thinking
has corrupted an help meet into a helpmeet, which
means nothing, or a helpmate, which may mean something else.
But help is the noun here, and meet is an adjective.
Meet tells us what kind of help God made for Adam. He made
a help meet for him, that is, suited to him.
In knowing what suits me, then, I know what a woman is. In knowing what
I am, I learn what she is. This, of course, by a process just the reverse
of the one mentioned under the first point. By knowing myself I know the
whole human race, precisely because all men are alike. The workings of
their hearts and minds and consciences are all the same, and this whether
they are male or female. But in all that distinguishes male and female,
it is just the reverse. If I know my own masculine nature, I thereby know
feminine nature, precisely because I know that it is the opposite of my
own. There are only two sexes, male and female, and whichever one you
may belong to, the other is rightly called the opposite sex.
We have a generation today which seems to be neither masculine nor feminine,
but this is the result of a pernicious conditioning of their minds, through
the public schools, the radio, the television, and the literature of the
world. But whatever the ways of this generation may be, as the result
of systematic indoctrination, they yet remain masculine or feminine by
nature, and if they would but spend a little time in solitude and reflection,
to dig through the trash of their education, and learn to know themselves,
they would find that they are masculine or feminine still, in spite of
all the efforts of the world and the devil to obliterate the distinction.
Meanwhile, it is certain that they do not know themselves, and therefore
cannot know the opposite sex. This renders them incapable of the happiness
and fulfillment which God designed in creating male and female.
But to return. In knowing my own nature I know also the nature of the
opposite sex, and this precisely because I know it to be opposite to and
meet for my own. To be specific, I know by my own experience that when
a man is in love with a woman, the deepest need of his heart is to express that love to her, to lavish it out upon her. This is masculine nature,
and knowing this, I know instinctively that the greatest need of a woman's
heart is to receive that love. If this were not so, she would hardly be
meet for a man. If a man who loves a woman has a deep and compelling need
to tell her of her beauty and her charms, then he knows instinctively
that she has an equally compelling need to hear of her beauty and charms.
No otherwise than this could she be meet for a man. I know that a man
has a deep need to be trusted by the woman he loves, and thereby I know
that the woman's need is to trust a man
----and of course to have
a man whom she can trust. If I know that a man who loves a woman has a
deep need to give her security, then by that knowledge I know also that
the woman's need is to receive that security from him.
The same process, of course, works in the other direction also, and a
woman may know the nature of a man by knowing herself. But women seem
much slower to believe here than men do, and I believe there is good reason
for this. A woman, by knowing her own nature, may project in her mind
her ideal of a man, but she can find no such man in the world
man whose nature is to love and to give, no man worthy of her implicit
confidence. She knows well enough what her feminine needs are, but she
finds no man to meet them. This is a real difficulty, but I believe there
is a satisfactory explanation for it. Man is fallen, and so of course,
is woman. But I dare to affirm that masculine nature has been much more
deeply marred by the fall than feminine nature has, and this for a very
To begin with, let it be understood that there is always a selfish element
in love, even in the love of God. Unconditional love is a
figment of bad theology, and while hyperspirituality may define love as
seeking another's good without motives of personal gain, common
sense, common experience, and holy Scripture conspire together to teach
us that there is always something of a selfish nature in love
so in the love between the sexes. This much being granted, let it be further
understood that the woman's place in love is more selfish than the man's.
He is the giver, she the receiver. His delight is to speak of her beauty
and charms, hers to hear of them. His place is to give love, hers to receive
it. His place is to give security, hers to receive it. His place is to
love, hers to trust. He loves her first, because of what she is. She loves
in return, because he first loved her. In all this they are a most fit
emblem of Christ and the church, and this by the evident design and creation
I affirm, therefore
----though in so doing I must risk the contempt
of preachers and psychologists, and perhaps the wrath of women also ----that
the woman's natural and God-ordained place in love is more selfish than
the man's. But the fall has made us all selfish, and it has therefore
more deeply marred the man's nature than it has the woman's. Not that
it has marred the man's nature more deeply in general. I refer only to
those elements of nature which are peculiar to masculinity or femininity.
It is a much easier thing today to find true femininity than it is to
find true masculinity. Indeed, the former seems common, the latter rare.
'Tis easy enough to find a woman who craves to receive, not so easy to
find a man who craves to give. Masculinity as God created it is hardly
to be found except in a man of the highest character. Yet it may be found
there, and a woman may know what it is by knowing herself. And such knowledge,
I should think, must be of the utmost value to a woman, for nothing but
this will enable her to find the sort of man which her nature requires.
But observe, the process which I have thus described could hardly exist
at all apart from faith in the wisdom and goodness of God, and of course
faith in his existence as our Creator. I know feminine nature by knowing
my own masculine nature only because I believe that God has made the woman
meet for the man. The evolutionist and the infidel may know their own
masculine nature to perfection, and this will give them no clue whatever
as to the nature of a woman. Unless they are stone blind, they will certainly
discover some of the exquisite ways in which masculine and feminine natures
so perfectly correspond to each other, but they must regard all this as
nothing more than a happy coincidence. But so happy, so many, and so pervasive
are these coincidences, that we think it one of the great mysteries of
the universe that any man who has ever loved a woman could remain either
an infidel or an evolutionist. We can find only one method by which to
explain such an anomaly, and that is that these men do not think at all.
He who but knows his own anatomy must shortly be forced to acknowledge,
Surely I am fearfully and wonderfully made, but he who knows
anything of the relationship between the sexes, and of their most perfect
correspondence to each other (whether physically or emotionally), must
be lost in wonder at the wisdom and goodness of God, and exclaim, Surely
we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
But to proceed. In the third place, the knowledge of ourselves will open
to us the knowledge of God. Our nature is a reflection of the nature of
God. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created
he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27). We all,
male and female, are created in the image of God. But if man is made in
the image of God, then God exists in the image of man. If you have a photograph
of your mother, you say of that picture, This is my mother,
for it is an exact image of her. But a man who knows only the picture,
and has never met the person, will know her as soon as he sees her, for
as the picture is the exact image of her, so she is the exact image of
the picture. The matter necessarily works both ways. If man is the image
of God, he may know the nature of God by knowing his own.
I am of course quite well aware that man is fallen and sinful, but this
does not alter the fact that he is created in the image of God. James
tells us, Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith
curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (James
3:9). The image of God was marred in the fall of man, but it was not obliterated.
We can learn nothing of God by the workings of sin in us, but sin aside,
in all the workings of our souls and spirits we see the image of God.
In all the workings of our emotions and our reason, we see the image of
I regard this as a point of very great importance, and a matter which
will keep us from several grave errors concerning God. In what is perhaps
most important, though most elementary, the God in whom we find our own
image is approachable and knowable. The Supreme Being of liberalism,
or the First Cause of Deism, has nothing in him to draw our
hearts. We may know and understand a God who thinks and feels as we do.
And the Bible is full of hints in this direction. Like as a father
pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. (Psalm
103:13). God is a father, and in that capacity he is just as we are. So
is he also in all that concerns his personhood.
And it is not liberals and Deists alone who fail to perceive this. Most
atrocious things have been imputed to God by solid Evangelicals, for failure
to find any human emotions in him. Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon on
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a good example of
this. God is all will, all mere sovereign pleasure, as cold
as arbitrary, and bereft of all those tender emotions which belong to
his human offspring. To speak plainly, Edwards represents God as inhuman
cold and heartless as to be rather an object of our abhorrence than of
our affection ----to be feared, to be sure, but hardly to be loved.
Such theology, by a needless and ill-advised endeavor to exalt God above man, in reality debases him below man. I know of no better antidote to
such heartless theology than to know ourselves, and by faith to perceive
that in so doing we know the image of God. And I know of no better answer
to Edwards' representation of God than to say that if God is such, man
is certainly not made in his image.
We know well enough, both by revelation and experience, that we are corrupt
and sinful, but this affects nothing of the matter which we have in hand.
It is precisely in view of the innate evil of man that Christ establishes
the image of God in him. If ye, he says, being evil,
know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your
Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
(Matt. 7:11). God, he affirms, will be better than we are, for he is good,
while we are evil, but there is no difference between God and man in the
essence of the matter. God is better than we in degree, but the same in
kind. A human father, though evil, knows how to give good gifts to his
children. He is possessed of all those exalted emotions and purposes which
will move him to do so, in spite of all the innate evil of his nature.
The image of God in him yet remains, both strong and true, and therefore
by viewing the nature of himself, he learns the nature of his God. We
speak, of course, only in general, for God possesses all his attributes
in perfection, while we possess them only weakened and marred.
And here appears the great value of knowing ourselves truly and deeply.
If we cannot distinguish between nature and sin, the knowledge of ourselves
will be of no manner of use to understand God. We must know ourselves
so far as to understand what belongs to our nature as God created it
belongs, that is, to the image of God ----and what belongs to the
corrupting influences of sin. This will require common sense, and spiritual
sense too, and as intimate a knowledge of the word of God as we have of
our own hearts, but such knowledge is within the reach of all of us.
We need only say in conclusion that Know thyself is pre-eminently
sound advice. The knowledge of self is a well of wisdom. But the well
is deep, and not to be fathomed easily. And the well is practically sealed
to those who will not draw from it in quiet and solitude and reflection.
The Use and Value of Fingerprints
by Glenn Conjurske
We all know that fingerprints are of value to detectives and policemen,
and this because the fingerprints of every human being are different from
those of every other. It is none of my purpose to speak of such matters,
however. I speak rather of those points in which the fingerprints of all
men are the same, for it is here that our fingerprints are of use and
value to all of us. We are all born with ten fingers, and ten fingerprints.
These consist of an intricate system of tiny ridges, covering the fore
side of our hands and fingers. The back side has none. These ridges are
most pronounced at the ends of our fingers. The configuration of these
ridges is different in every human being, but their existence is the same
Now the value of these fingerprints is entirely independent of their individual
configuration. Their value rises from their existence. But the old proverb
says, We never know the value of water till the well runs dry,
and the same is true of the value of fingerprints. Most of us may live
with these all our lives, and never understand their value, nor ever have
an inkling of their use or purpose. We would soon learn their value, however,
if we were obliged to live without them.
In this I happen to have an advantage over most of my readers. Some years
ago I lost the print of my right thumb. I was using my table saw, and
reached for a block of wood near the blade, to remove it from the table.
This I did without due caution, and put my thumb directly into the blade,
which was spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute. Fortunately,
I was using a blade with only twenty-four teeth, which were large, and
spaced about an inch apart. When my thumb came in contact with one of
these teeth, it threw my whole hand and arm back with such force that
my hand hit my shoulder, thus removing my hand from the path of the blade
so quickly that a second tooth only grazed my thumb. The result of this
brief contact with the spinning blade, however, was to obliterate a good
part of the print of my right thumb. That single large (and fortunately
rather dull) tooth of the saw tore a single piece of flesh from my thumb,
a little larger in size than a large pea, though ragged in shape. I turned
off the saw and went to the house to tell my wife that I had a bad cut.
I then went back to the saw to hunt for the piece of flesh which I had
lost. I soon found it, and took it with me to the doctor. The nurse told
me it was of no use, and that they could do nothing with it. The doctor,
however, looked at it and said, We can make some use of that.
I was told, against my hope, that they could not sew the piece back in,
as it would die for lack of any circulation of blood. But the doctor pulled
together all the flesh from the surrounding area to fill up the hole,
then took the skin from the piece which I carried in my hand, and grafted
it over the wound, informing me, however, that there would be no feeling
This operation did not leave me entirely destitute of a fingerprint, but
it left my fingerprint so far damaged that I quickly learned what its
use and value had been.
To keep my readers in suspense no longer, the small ridges on our fingerprints
serve the same purpose as the ridges inside the jaws of a vice or a pair
of pliers. They enable us to grip things without slipping. This I did
all my life without any idea of how or why I was able to do it. When my
thumb print was damaged, however, I soon found that I had lost much of
that ability. Very often now, when I endeavor to pick up some small thing
between my thumb and fingers, it slips out of my grasp, so that by losing
my fingerprint, I was quickly taught its purpose and value.
But this is not all. The print of my thumb is damaged in two ways. First,
some of the network of ridges is lost, and the piece of skin which was
grafted on is surrounded by smooth scar tissue. But this, I am persuaded,
is not the primary loss. The greater loss is beneath the surface. The
soft cushion of flesh beneath the fingerprint is very much reduced in
size, and it is also hard, being laced with scar tissue. Thus I have learned
that it is the combination of the tiny ridges which cover the surface,
and the firm but spongy flesh beneath them, which enables us to grasp
objects without losing them. And it is the wisdom of God that these ridges
are circular, to prevent slipping in all directions. The soft, spongy
flesh, covered by rough skin, is ideal for grasping and holding things,
whereas everything would easily slip from our fingers if they were smooth
and hard. And thus by the means of my accident I have seen one small facet
of the great wisdom of God in the fashioning of our bodies, extending
to a thousand small details, which most of us may never be aware of. I
am fearfully and wonderfully made, and all of these small details
belonged to the original plan. God does not go on improving his inventions
from year to year as man does. There is no need for this, for what God
has made was perfect in every detail from the moment he made it.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
by Glenn Conjurske
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Me? Obey Him? by Elizabeth Rice Handford
Murfreesboro, Tenn.: Sword of the Lord Publishers, copyright
1972, 116 pp.
Though written nearly thirty years ago, this book is yet well known today,
being authored by a daughter of John R. Rice, and published by Rice himself.
Till now I had never read the book, but a woman has lately asked me to
read and review it. Considering its source, I had assumed that the book
contained a wholesome plea for the submission of wives to their husbands.
Such a plea is doubtless much needed in the present day, when even Christian
wives have no idea of submitting to their husbands' authority. I knocked
on the door of an evangelical Baptist pastor some years ago. His wife
answered the door, and I said playfully, Is your master at home?
She was offended, and said, My partner is. Thus do good Baptist
wives refuse to be called the daughters of Sarah, who obeyed Abraham,
and called him lord. And so long as such a state of things exists, there
is certainly a call for a wholesome plea for submission.
But this book is very disappointing. The writer apparently has no notion
of the existence of literary English. The book is shallow and worldly,
and unscriptural in its doctrine. I should rather call it an unwholesome plea for the submission of wives to their husbands. Too much of a good
thing is a bad thing, and this book certainly contains too much of a good
thing. I had always regarded Bill Gothard's doctrine of authority as extreme,
but Mrs. Handford's is much worse. Gothard allows for disobedience to
authorities, though shackling it with a number of unscriptural conditions.
Mrs. Handford allows for no disobedience at all to the authority of a
husband, but affirms repeatedly that a wife must obey her husband as though
he were God.
She is to obey her husband as if he were God Himself. She can be
as certain of God's will, when her husband speaks, as if God has spoken
audibly from heaven! (pg. 34). This is clear enough, but this is
a cultish doctrine of authority. If this is true concerning the authority
of a husband, why not of the civil authorities, or of the elders in the
church? It is precisely this doctrine which the Romanists and the Mormons
apply to the authority of the priesthood, and with what disastrous results
we well know. Yet it is a plain fact that God commands obedience to the
elders in the church, and to the civil authorities, as much as ever he
does to husbands or parents, but it is a perversion of those commandments
of God to require unqualified obedience to any man, regardless of his
authority. Even good men may be mistaken, and many men are not good. God
therefore guards his doctrine of submission to authority with the principle
that We ought to obey God rather than men. Mrs. Handford quotes
this text, along with the similar one, Whether it be right in the
sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye, and
then proceeds to brush them both aside with the following amazing statement:
These two Scriptures have often been used as an excuse for civil
or wifely disobedience. But to do so misses the whole point. The result
of the testimony was: 'They let them go, finding nothing how they might
punish them.' Why? Because they had not broken any laws, civil or religious!
(pg. 32). This is sophistry. Whether they had broken any laws is irrelevant.
The fact is, they had disobeyed the authorities. The authorities had commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. They disobeyed
that commandment. A wife may disobey her husband's commandment without
breaking any laws. The Bible doctrine of authority does not require us
merely to obey laws, but persons
----the powers that be, those that
have the rule over us in the church, masters, parents, husbands. Submit
yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be
to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent
by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that
do well. (I Peter 2:13-14). These are not merely laws, but persons,
and the plain fact is, the apostles had disobeyed their rulers.
But the reason which Mrs. Handford assigns why they could not punish them
is directly against the text. In a manner which hardly appears upright,
she breaks off the quotation before the reason which is given in the text,
and replaces it with a reason which she has invented herself, to suit
her doctrine. The text says, So when they had further threatened
them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because
of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
Having thus early in the book disposed of the scriptural principle which
allows of disobedience to authority, she pursues her own extreme doctrine
without ever looking back. Strangely enough, she admits that such obedience
is very difficult for herself. I confess, she says (pg 13),
that obedience, even to a good husband, isn't easy, and sometimes
it's nearly intolerable! This, it seems to me, betrays something
seriously wrong, either in her doctrine of obedience, in her spirit, in
----or in her husband. The Bible says, For this
is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments
are not grievous. (I John 5:3). Now if a wife is to obey her husband as though he were God,
it seems that to so obey a good man, who is loved and trusted, should
not be grievous, much less nearly intolerable! We think that
a truer understanding of feminine nature, and perhaps less of worldly
thoughts and aspirations, would go much farther toward promoting a scriptural
submission than the extreme doctrine of this book.
As for feminine nature, we indeed hoped that we had come to something
substantial when we read the bold heading on page 17, Woman's Nature
Requires Her Obedience
----but we were quickly disappointed.
We had hoped to read of the fact that the woman was made for the man,
made to be a help meet for him, and that the true fulfillment of her feminine
nature is to be found in revolving around a man as the earth does around
the sun. But we found nothing of this, but only an assertion of the spiritual
incapacity of women, who are more often led into spiritual error
than men (pg. 18). When a woman, she says (pg. 19),
takes the spiritual leadership of the home, it always leads to tragedy.
Of this she gives a number of supposed examples, including Sarah, Rebekah,
and Zipporah. These examples may tell on her side, but she ignores everything
on the other side. Abigail certainly took the spiritual leadership
of the situation when she reproved David, and the result was no tragedy,
though it would have been if she had failed to do as she did. And if she
continued to act precisely so after she married David, as she did before,
this would have been no tragedy, but a very great blessing. It was no
tragedy when Deborah took the spiritual leadership of Israel, though we
might point to husbands whose spiritual leadership has produced tragedy
indeed. But our author asserts (pg. 19), A wife who rejects authority
leaves herself open to every false teacher. And what if her husband is a false teacher? Will it save her from deception, to obey him as though
he were God? Do false teachers have no wives? But this is typical of the
shallow thinking which pervades this book. And it is not fair to refer
to a woman who is obliged to disobey her husband upon occasion as a
wife who rejects authority, but the shallow thinking of Mrs. Handford
seems always to see only two extremes, with no ground between them.
We must observe also that authority and spiritual leadership are two things.
Authority is the right to command, or to veto. A man may retain that,
while he yet looks to his wife for spiritual counsel, and it is an unquestionable
fact that many wives are far above their husbands in spirituality. This
is unfortunate, we grant, but it is nonetheless true. I know men who would
be much better off if they would follow their wife's spiritual leadership,
for she has the mind of the Lord, while he has only a mind of his own.
Mrs. Handford allows (pg. 73), Certainly you get to express an opinion
you are asked. But it may be precisely when she is not asked that
the wife's opinion may be the most needed. She continues, And if
you are a submissive, loving wife, your opinion will be asked. This
is empty assertion ----a thing in which this book abounds. She adds,
Opinions constantly expressed, when unsought, have a tendency to
sound like criticism, and most of us don't enjoy criticism. Perhaps
not, but some of us may need it. But waive that. She seems to write from
the context of a marriage full of friction, and seems to have little sense
of the loving, trusting thing which a marriage is designed to be. True
enough that many marriages are full of friction, and opinions constantly
expressed in such marriages will doubtless serve to increase the
friction, but is there no medium between constant nagging, and never expressing
an opinion unless asked?
Our author reprobates the disobedience of Vashti, and defends her position
by affirming (pp. 55-56) that we have no indication that her husband was
----(as though that had anything to do with the subject,
since wives must obey wicked husbands as well as righteous) ----that
she was not commanded to sin, that the king acted with great restraint
(!) when she disobeyed, and that her punishment was mild. (!!) We wonder
if Mrs Handford would consider it a mild punishment to be banished for
ever from her husband's presence, without an opportunity once to see his
face, or to speak a single word in her own defence, for a single act of
disobedience, to a command which was trifling if not wicked. But this
is an example of the manner in which she subjects everything to her extreme
doctrine of authority.
Among the many unscriptural assertions by which she endeavors to maintain
her position, she says (pg. 46), ...when a woman takes God at His
Word, submits to her husband without reservation, fears God and loves
Him, then God takes upon Himself the responsibility to see that a woman
does not have to sin! This she explains to mean that a submissive
woman's husband won't require anything wrong of her. Such an assertion
is of course without a scintilla of support in the Bible, and it is certainly
against the analogy of what the Bible plainly records concerning authority
in general. Daniel was an obedient subject, so much so that his foes could
find nothing against him save in the law of his God. The only reason they
could find anything against him there is that the powers under which he
lived required him to do wrong. Why did God not see to it that those powers
should not require this of him? They did require him to do wrong, and
he disobeyed them, according to the plain Bible principle which Mrs. Handford
rejects, that it is better to obey God than men.
As for a husband requiring his wife to do wrong, one clear Bible example
of this comes to mind. According to Mrs. Handford's repeated assertions,
this could only be in the case of a wife who was not submissive, for God
would see to it that no such command could be given to an obedient wife.
But how does the matter stand? The husband who required his wife to do
wrong was Abraham, who said to Sarah, This is thy kindness which
thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of
me, He is my brother. (Gen 20:13). He required her, in other words
to lie, to artfully imply an untruth, for the intended import of her words
was He is not my husband. And this he required of Sarah, the
Bible example of an obedient wife, who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
Now according to Mrs. Handford's doctrine, God ought to have prevented
Abraham from requiring any such thing. God is not going to give
anybody two conflicting commands so that it is impossible to obey them
both! (pg. 36). God just does not make people choose between
commands. He is not that kind of God! (pp. 47-48). But if such a
situation arises, in spite of God's obligation to prevent it, then, she
repeatedly asserts, God will work a miracle to make it possible for her
to obey her husband, and yet not sin. If God tells a woman to obey,
then He performs whatever miracle is necessary to make her able to obey!
(pg. 47). This is empty assertion. God performed no such miracle for Sarah.
She obeyed Abraham, no doubt, but she sinned in the process, and it is
certain that she did not speak those words with a clear conscience. God
performed a miracle indeed in Sarah's case, and closed up all the
wombs of the house of Abimelech, but this was not to enable her
to obey Abraham without sin, but to save her from the consequences of
her lie, after she had already told it. Our author further asserts that
God will change the mind of the wayward husband of a submissive wife,
or take his life. We grant he may do so, but there is no promise of it.
She cites the death of Nabal in proof, but this had nothing to do with
freeing Abigail from a sinful command, and she had already crossed his
wishes. The Bible is entirely destitute of any support for Mrs. Handford's
assertions, and so far as it speaks at all, it is directly against her.
This book contains a strong element of hyperspirituality, and of the spiritual
browbeating which usually accompanies it. There is no man on earth,
she tells us on page 65, who can make you happy. ... It is Jesus
only, Himself alone, who will meet your deepest yearnings and longings.
We deny this. He certainly will not meet the longings of your feminine
----no more the emotional than the physical. It is the essence
of hyperspirituality to think to replace the gifts of God with God himself.
Sarah's barrenness, she tells us (pg. 19), was basically a spiritual
problem. How does Mrs. Handford know this? Was Hannah's barrenness
a spiritual problem? Is every woman's? This is of the same character as
the old adage of the healing people, If you're sick, you're sinning.
This is hyperspiritual, and it browbeats the innocent and the spiritual.
Of the same nature is her statement on page 62, You may not want
to obey your husband because you are living in rebellion against God.
I would be especially dubious about my spiritual dedication if I found
myself using a 'spiritual' reason as an excuse not to obey my husband.
Rebellion in the one area is caused by rebellion in the other. Perhaps,
but perhaps not. To decline to do wrong is not rebellion,
but Mrs. Handford seems unable to accept the fact that a wife may be right
when her husband is wrong.
Yet she wants freedom and independence after all. Near the close of the
book we find the following amazing statements: Just because she
is obedient does not mean she is limited only to the interests that traditionally
have been feminine. It will include cooking, clothing, housekeeping and
child-tending, of course, because those are an essential part of her life.
But within the framework of her husband's authority, she may follow any
inclination in her leisure time: welding sculptures, or tuning up an automobile
motor, or following major league baseball, or trout casting. ...
She may find fulfillment in baking bread or concocting fancy desserts
or making hooked rugs. She may find it, as one of my friends does, in
running an offset printing press in her home and mailing missionary letters.
She may paint portraits or paint the house. She may raise beagles or begonias;
chase butterflies or follow the stock market. She is not confined to a
narrow, dull range of activity simply because she obeys her husband. There
is no one description of a woman who, honoring her husband, then finds
a whole wide world outside, created by God to be explored and enjoyed.
And she savors it to the full.
This is a great deal of worldliness, such as we are sorry to see in a
daughter of John R. Rice, and in a book published by Rice himself. But
Mrs. Handford is evidently so influenced by such worldliness that she
fails to understand feminine nature at all. She has no idea of finding
her fulfillment in being a help, meet for a man
around that man, and finding her whole world in him. She wants the wide
world outside. When Billy Sunday died, his wife laid her forehead
on his cold arm, and said, God, if you have anything else for me
to do in this world, you'll have to show me what it is, because Billy
was my whole job. Mrs. Handford has no notion of this, nor of the
fact that here is the truest fulfillment of a woman's nature, as God created
it. If the woman was made for the man, made to be his help, meet for him,
surely the deepest fulfillment of her feminine nature is to
be found in a man, and not in a whole wide world outside.
The woman who craves this has never found her place, or her happiness.
We are sorry for her, but we deny her ability to prescribe for the happiness
or fulfillment of the rest of women.
She continues, But it is not for the trifles, the amusements, the
'toys' a doting husband might permit, that the intelligent, spiritually
minded woman wants freedom. She wants to 'be somebody' in her own right!
Imagine Eve thinking such a thing! How little this woman knows of a woman's
place, a woman's nature, a woman's happiness! Having evidently failed
----as a myriad of other women have done also ----she
prescribes a poor substitute for it. Let her be somebody indeed
for God and souls and eternity, and in her own right too,
if she has no husband who can provide such a place for her, but it were
folly to think of finding any fulfillment of her feminine nature in this.
She is far astray from her own feminine instincts, or singularly unfortunate
in her marriage. Perhaps both. Perhaps the one as the result of the other.
But in any case she is hardly the woman to write a book on the present
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.