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Vol. 8, No. 8
Aug., 1999


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 of reckoning.

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 give----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 the matter.

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 their sins.

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----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----but 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 in history.

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 to Rome.

“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 28:11).

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 day.

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. ----editor.]

“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.

“Know Thyself”

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----no 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 obvious reason.

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----certainly 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 of God.

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 God.

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----so 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----what 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 in all.

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 in it.

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.


Book Review

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.” (Acts 4:21).

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 her marriage----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----if 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 wicked----(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 nature----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----in revolving 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 of this----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 theme.

Editorial Policies

OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise, and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's own position is to be learned from his own writings.