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Vol. 8, No. 1
Jan., 1999

Pride and the Ministry of the Word

by Glenn Conjurske

Knowledge is essential. We must have it in order to be saved, and in order to walk with God. Yet knowledge is a dangerous possession in the hands of sinners, as a knife is in the hands of a small boy. “Knowledge puffs up.” So says Paul. This, it would seem, is its natural tendency, in the present condition of the human heart. The knowledge is good, but our hearts are bad. Yet we may possess knowledge without being puffed up by it. If our knowledge increases at a faster rate than our moral character, we are sure to be puffed up. If our character and spirituality keep pace with our knowledge, we may maintain our humility, though learned and wise.

Peter therefore admonishes us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Pet. 3:18). Knowledge without grace is sure to inflate the pride.

The first and foremost purpose of the ministry of the word of God ought therefore to be to “minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29). Alas, the primary notion which most of the modern teachers seem to have of grace is only of doctrinal grace. John MacArthur, one of the typically intellectual preachers of the present day, names his ministry “Grace to You,” but the grace is doctrinal and intellectual. The program would be better called “Knowledge to You,” though even much of its knowledge is impertinent and unprofitable. But I do not single out John MacArthur for censure. He is not the author of modern intellectualism, but the heir and the product of it, and in this respect there is not a whit of difference between him and most of his doctrinal opponents. The ministry of the word in the present day exists, in general, almost solely for the purpose of imparting knowledge. “Expository preaching” and “Bible teaching” are taught in the schools and seminaries, and this is the only sort of preaching which is known to many. This is the fruit of the intellectualism which prevails in the modern church, and its effect is to turn the ministry of the word into a dangerous and damaging thing. The preachers preach primarily to impart knowledge, and the primary effect of their ministry is to puff the people up.

As I survey the church in America today, it seems that its most prominent characteristic is pride. Look where we will, and we see pride, pride, pride, pride. Everyone thinks he knows better than everyone else. Every babe and tyro thinks he knows better than his teachers. Every novice must be preaching or writing a book or editing a magazine. To teach the saints of God anything seems in many cases a simple impossibility. They already know better. They do not hear a man's preaching or read his writings to learn, but to judge, and every man is judged according to the extent of his conformity to their own opinions. It rarely enters any man's head that he might be ignorant, much less that he might be wrong. It is a foregone conclusion with most that whoever disagrees with their opinion is wrong, though their own opinion may have been adopted yesterday, and that on the most slender and shallow foundation. They have read one side of the question, or it may be they have read one book or one tract on the subject, or heard one sermon, and henceforth they know.

This is the pride which possesses and characterizes the modern church. But what concerns me is that the great bulk of the ministry of the word in the present day is actually calculated to produce and augment this pride. It exists merely to impart knowledge. It is all intellectual, with little or nothing in it to move the heart or exercise the conscience. It fills the head, while it leaves the heart empty, the passions unsubdued, and the character unchanged. It seems to me that the primary and inevitable effect of such ministry is to make men proud.

Alas, it is nothing uncommon for the young pridelings to forsake their teachers and their fathers. After a year or two under this intellectual sort of ministry, which fills their heads with knowledge, and so inflates their pride, they grow too big for their fathers, and must enter their protest against the defective doctrines of those who have taught them all they know, and declare their independence. Their fathers who have nurtured them must then feel the sore bereavement of the hen who has had the misfortune to hatch a brood of ducklings, when they forsake her to take to the water, and will not be recalled for all her clucking. This is the hen's misfortune, but I fear that when our spiritual children forsake us, due to their fancied superior understanding, this is generally our fault. We have labored to teach them, but failed to form their character. We have used the word to impart doctrine, but have failed to administer reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness. We have filled the heads of the people with knowledge, but left their hearts empty of love and humility and gratitude. It is our own defective ministry which has made them what they are. It may be we have taught them well, so far as doctrine is concerned, but if we have not taught them love and humility and gratitude, we have taught them ill. If we have filled them with knowledge, even of the truth, and made them conceited and contentious, we have taught them ill indeed.

Knowledge is necessary, but knowledge, we fear, has altogether too large a place in the modern ministry. The fact is, most men have knowledge enough already to be and do as they ought, but they neither feel nor act upon what they know. It seems to me that one of the primary ends of our ministry ought to be to move men to feel what they know, and to act upon it. This is one of the excellencies of the old English Bible. It does not merely teach us. It makes us feel. But the prevailing intellectualism of the present day has moved some to contend that the reason for the existence of an English translation is to impart understanding, and so they labor to refine and re-refine the old version according to their passion for what they call accuracy, bringing it into conformity in every scintilla to the last dictates of scholastic and grammatical exactitude, and the final product is as cold and dry as its refiners.

So also with preaching. We ought to preach to move men to feel and act. In order to do this we must impart some knowledge, of course, but it is immeasurably better to move a man to feel what he knows, than to teach him what he doesn't. John Wesley said of the doctrinally hardened nation of the Scotch in his day, that they knew everything and felt nothing. The same is true in America today, and yet the preachers come to them to give them more knowledge!

Ah, but it is easy to impart knowledge. It is hard to impart character and spirituality. Preachers therefore take the easy way, not necessarily deliberately or consciously, but only because they know nothing else and are capable of nothing more. How can they make others feel what they do not feel themselves? How can they make others weep, when they do not weep themselves? How can they impart sobriety and earnestness and devotedness when they are lukewarm themselves? How can they impart humility when they are puffed up themselves, or love when they are contentious themselves? All such preachers can impart knowledge, though they are really unfit to be preaching at all, and though the knowledge which they impart is more bane than benefit.

But all knowledge is not of the same character. Though it may all tend to puff up a race which is naturally inclined to pride, some kinds of knowledge are more dangerous than others. That knowledge which assumes an air of superiority----which says, All others are wrong, and I am right----that knowledge is of all kinds the most dangerous. Every work of God, therefore, which consists of a recovery of lost truth, or of an advance upon the truth held by our fathers, is in peculiar danger at this point, and this is so whether the recovery or advance is real, or purely imaginary. Pride, therefore, has been the prevailing sin of Plymouth Brethrenism almost from its inception, the movement itself being what some of its adherents have called “a great recovery.” The pride of the Brethren, however, has been surpassed by that of the Church of Christ, or Campbellites, who suppose themselves the sole possessors of the truth.

Now observe. A good part of the Brethren's claims to the truth are legitimate, while the claims of the Campbellites are mostly imaginary, and yet the effect is the same in both. “Knowledge puffs up.” If the pride of the Campbellites has exceeded that of the Brethren, this is precisely because there has been more of vital godliness among the Brethren. This is the only thing that can keep the possessors of knowledge from pride.

The pride which has characterized the Brethren for a century and a half might have been prevented. Knowledge they have had, and a good deal of true knowledge, but they lacked the wisdom to put knowledge in its place. The movement has always been primarily a doctrinal one. Its ministry has existed primarily to impart knowledge. This has had its natural effect, and the more so because that knowledge has almost always been presented as something superior to that held by Christians in general.

Take, by contrast, the Methodist movement. I am neither Methodist nor Brethren, but I know both of these movements well, can appreciate the good and deplore the bad in both of them, and suppose myself competent to make an objective comparison of them. There is such a thing as Methodist pride, for the whole race is prone to pride, but the Methodist movement has never been characterized by pride as the Brethren movement has. I believe there are two reasons for this. The first lies in the fact that Methodism was from its inception a spiritual movement, rather than a doctrinal one. Its ministry was not designed to proselyte men to any set of doctrinal peculiarities, but to save souls, and to build them up in holiness. Its class meetings, band meetings, and love feasts were all designed to advance spiritual growth and experience----to exercise the conscience before God, and to promote holiness of heart and life.

The second reason lies in the fact that the main emphases of the Methodist ministry were always those spiritual truths which are held in common by all saints and all denominations. Methodism had its distinctives, both true and false, as all denominations do, but these were not made the center of the hub, around which all else must revolve.

The Brethren failed in both of these particulars. The movement was primarily doctrinal, being more concerned to impart doctrinal understanding than to secure holiness of heart and life, and always exalting to the place of pre-eminence its own distinctive doctrines, rather than those which are held in common by all the saints of God. Who cannot see that such a ministry must inevitably produce a great deal of pride? The claim of superior knowledge is as conducive to pride as the claim to superior spirituality or superior holiness. It may be that we actually possess superior knowledge, and there may be no help for that, but if so, our greater knowledge lays us under greater obligation to guard against pride. Our higher knowledge ought to constrain us to be the more careful to cultivate holiness. Our superior knowledge ought to inspire us with fear, and compel us to cultivate above all things love and humility. And not mere abstract love and humility, but concrete appreciation for the spiritual good in those who lack our superior knowledge, and actual esteeming of others better than ourselves.

Further, we ought by all means to avoid the folly of comparing ourselves with each other, or the greater folly of comparing ourselves with our inferiors. Suppose I do have knowledge which is superior to that of my brother, what does that make me before God? My fellow-Christian and myself are both blind worms, grovelling in the earth, neither of us yet knowing anything as we ought to know. If the one worm happens to be a millimeter longer than the other, shall he be proud of it? Let him look up to God, and confess his nothingness. And this we ought to preach, diligently, earnestly, and continually, if we are to save our hearers from pride. When the wisest of preachers has delivered his most brilliant discourse, let him then say, I have given you a penny today, but there yet remain a thousand dollars in this book, much of which I have never yet understood; and above and beyond this book, a billion billion dollars which God has never given to any man alive. We are all worms of the dust, who know nothing. Let us labor to feel and to live what little we know.

Alas, we fear one of the most obvious reasons why the ministry of the word puffs up the people is that the preachers are puffed up themselves. They have little sense of their ignorance. They preach as though they know all. They think the dime in their pocket is a hundred dollar bill, and they present it to their hearers as such. A spirit of pride pervades their preaching, and how can their hearers escape the bane?

Alas again, we fear that one of the principle reasons that preachers do so little to form the character of their hearers is that they have so little character themselves. I have known preachers who boast and exaggerate, waste their time and money, fail to keep their engagements, arrive late to their appointments, write checks which they have no money to cover, borrow things and never return them, or return them late or broken. How can such preachers impart any character to their hearers? Indeed, what business do they have preaching?

To conclude, since it is a fact that knowledge puffs up, it is another fact that the ministry which aims primarily at imparting knowledge is almost sure to impart pride. The more so if that knowledge is presented as superior or peculiar. The only cure for this is a ministry which, while it imparts knowledge, diligently inculcates love, humility, holiness, and all moral virtue.

Cast It From Thee

Abstract of a Sermon Preached on Ocober 11, 1998

by Glenn Conjurske

In Matthew 5:29-30 we read, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

It may be supposed that “cut it off and cast it from thee” does not comprise two things, but is only an emphatic way of saying one. If a man found no more than this in the text, I would have little inclination to dispute with him. Nevertheless, I believe the two things may be distinguished, and in a manner which is neither forced nor artificial, but quite natural, and very profitable also.

If we read the text without “cast it from thee,” we feel a very great loss. “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” I say we feel a very great loss in reading the text thus, and it is not merely a loss of emphasis, but a loss of substance.

It is usually by experience that we learn the true import of Scripture, and the distinction between “cut it off” and “cast it from thee” first appeared to me when I was dealing with a young lady about her soul. She was in an ungodly relationship with an ungodly young man, and I of course insisted that she break it off. She did so, but I afterwards learned that she was still writing to him. She had cut it off, but she had not cast it from her. She was holding on to it yet, keeping the way open to repent of her repentance.

But this is not the way of a penitent sinner. When a man is convicted of sin, he is very much ashamed of himself, and of his sin. His only thought is to get rid of it. We see this very plainly in the conversion of Bud Robinson. He went to a camp meeting to have some fun. Had a pistol in one pocket and a deck of cards in the other. Went in and sat down by a girl, to flirt with the girl. But the Spirit of God soon got a hold of his heart, and he went down the aisle to cast himself headlong in “the altar,” to cry to God for mercy. When he was going down the aisle he said that the pistol in one pocket felt as big as a mule, and the deck of cards in the other pocket as heavy as a bale of cotton. He was ashamed of them. He only wanted to get rid of them.

When I was converted nearly thirty-five years ago, my first thought was to get rid of my cigarettes. I was converted in my bed in the night, and converted precisely when I was brought to feel ashamed of my smoking. When I got up in the morning, my first thought was to get rid of those cigarettes. They were in my jacket pocket, hanging in the corner of the kitchen. I put on my jacket, and went outside, got on my bicycle, rode down the hogsback to the bridge over the Pelican River, and threw them in. And you know, it never once entered my mind, while I was riding down to the river, to have one last cigarette. That in fact never entered my mind until thirty-four years later, just a few weeks ago, when I was talking with a young man about the nature of repentance. Not that it then entered my mind to have one last smoke. No, but it then for the first time occurred to me that it might have been possible for such a thought to have entered my mind. I never thought of having one last cigarette at the time, and it wasn't until thirty-four years later that it ever dawned upon me that such a thought was possible. But morally it wasn't possible. I was ashamed of the things, and only thought of casting them from me. If I had then been capable of thinking of having one last cigarette, before I cast them from me, my repentance would not have been worth a nickel, and it would not have lasted a week.

I knew a woman who was converted when I was a boy. She was also a smoker. She was converted on her knees beside the sofa in her living room, and her first thought was to get rid of her cigarettes. She pushed them under the couch cushion in front of her, and forgot about them. A week later one of the family found them under the cushion, and thought she was holding on to them. But she was doing no such thing. She had no thought of having one last cigarette, any more than I did, and neither was she keeping them on hand in case she decided to repent of her repentance. Her only thought was to cast them from her, and she put them in the first place that presented itself, and left them there.

When Bud Robinson went down the aisle with that deck of cards in his pocket, feeling as heavy as a bale of cotton, do you suppose he was thinking about playing one last game of poker? If he had been, his repentance would not have been worth a cent.

But there are plenty of people who repent after this fashion. When I have preached repentance to some people, they have told me they would quit smoking as soon as they finished their pack of cigarettes. Do you know what I tell such people? I say, “No, you won't. You won't quit when you finish that pack. You'll go out and buy another one.” And I have never been wrong about that. In determining to quit after they finished their pack, they were not determining to quit at all, but in fact determining not to quit. Anyone who determines to repent in the future thereby determines not to repent in the present, and when the future becomes the present, his true determination will be seen. He will then be of just the same mind as he is today----determined not to repent in the present. And if one of these folks came to me and said, “You were wrong: I did quit after I finished my pack,” I would say, “That's fine, but your repentance won't last a week.” Such repentance is too shallow to be of any worth. No convicted and penitent sinner ever dreamed of sinning one last time before he quit. He is ashamed of his sin, and his only thought is to cast it from him.

And if he does not think of sinning one last time before he casts it away, no more does he think of keeping it near him, in case his repentance should prove to be too much for him. The man who quits his drinking, but keeps a bottle in the cupboard “just in case,” has not repented at all. He may have cut it off, but he hasn't cast it from him, and he will return to it, sure enough. A friend of mine dealt with a man who professed conversion. He was living with a girl in fornication, and upon his professed conversion he moved out of the house into a trailer in the yard. My friend told him, “That's not good enough. In two weeks you'll be right back in the house.” The only safe thing is to put some distance between you and your sin, and this is the only thought of the truly penitent. When Sam Hadley repented of his drinking, he was sitting on a whiskey barrel in a bar. He walked up to the bar and pounded it until the glasses rattled, and said, “Boys, I will never take another drink.” And what then? Did he sit down at the bar, or go back and sit down on the whiskey barrel? Oh, no. He says, “My only thought was to fly from the place.” He went outside, and went straight to the police station, though there was no place on earth he dreaded as he did the police station. He was living daily in dread of arrest, but he went straight to the police station, and asked the captain to lock him up. When the captain asked him why he wanted to be locked up, he said, “So I can't get near whiskey.” This was casting it from him. Those who keep it near by “just in case” have got no repentance worth the name. Their repentance ought to be repented of, and the fact is, their repentance will be repented of, though not in the sense in which it ought to be. They ought to repent of it because it didn't go far enough, but they will repent of it because it went too far. They keep their sin near by in case they should wish to alter their purpose, which only goes to prove that their purpose is three-fourths altered already.

For what other purpose would a man keep his sin near by? We once had a young man in this church who never should have been in it. He came to the meeting one day wearing a shirt with a Playboy emblem on it. I talked to him about it, and told him he couldn't wear such a shirt----not only that he couldn't wear it to the meetings, but that he couldn't wear it at all. He promised to do as I required, but I didn't really trust him, so I talked to him about it again a short time later, to see what he had done about it. He assured me that he was not wearing it. I asked him what he had done with it. He said it was hanging in the closet. He had cut it off, because I required it of him, but he had no compulsion to cast it from him, no loathing of it, no shame for it. He excused it, not to me, but to another. I told him we could no more allow him to have it in his closet than we could allow him to wear it. No one would see it in his closet, but for what purpose would he keep it? No man would see it in his closet, but God would. I told him Achan was not wearing his goodly Babylonish garment when Israel was defeated. It wasn't even hanging in his closet. It was hidden under his tent. But God saw it there, and it brought a snare and defeat upon the whole congregation. The sin was not in wearing the thing, but in possessing it, and I could no more allow him to keep it in his closet than I could allow him to wear it.

But the plain fact is, if he had had any shame over it, I would not have had to require anything of him. He himself would have been possessed by a desire not only to cut it off, but to cast it from him.

When sinners are awakened, they are brought as it were face to face with the judge of all the earth. They are then as a man under arrest, with his hands and his pockets full of contraband materials. His only thought is, How can I get rid of these? Again, when sinners are convicted of sin, they are as ashamed of their sins as they are of themselves. They do not think then of holding on to the sin, but only of casting it away.

And this I suppose to be the best test of the reality of repentance. A sinner who clings to sin has not repented at all. The man who cuts it off, but declines to cast it from him, may not cling to it with his hand, but he clings to it with his heart. This is lukewarm, half-way repentance, and it is really nothing better than no repentance at all.

Living by Rules

by Glenn Conjurske

The Bible has something to say about living by rules----something for it, and something against it. On the one side, all that the New Testament says of keeping the commandments of Christ or of God certainly implies our living by rules. I am of course aware that the very idea of keeping commandments is abomination to all those of the antinomian stamp, but they must set aside the very warp and woof of the New Testament in order to maintain their position. It is needless to quote proof texts here. All who have read the New Testament know very well that it speaks a great deal of the commandments of Christ, the commandments of God, and of keeping them. Yet in the teeth of all this, a man like Lewis Sperry Chafer can contend that God “does not lead His children by any rules whatsoever.”1

No? And what then was the Bible written for? Why are we told, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth”? (Eph. 4:28). Why are we told to lay not up for ourselves treasures on the earth, to speak the truth, to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together, to put off all malice, to obey those who have the rule over us, to honor all men, to obey our parents, to love our wives or obey our husbands? Are not these rules which are given of God to lead us?

Chafer and all his kind are extremely careful to reiterate everywhere that we cannot keep the commandments of God by our own strength, or “in the energy of the flesh,” but if this is so, what of it? Am I therefore not to keep them at all? If God tells me to labor, working with my hands, I simply do so, because God tells me to, and never trouble my head about whether I am doing it “in the energy of the flesh,” being certain meanwhile of this, that if I neglect or decline to do it, on the plea of inability, or unwillingness, or any other plea whatsoever, I am most certainly acting “in the energy of the flesh.”

But we are told we must be led and empowered of the Spirit, that it is not ours to do the work, but God's to do it in us. Chafer writes, “The divine standards for the believer's character and conduct are superhuman. This is reasonable since he is a citizen of heaven. The superhuman manner of life is to be lived by the enabling, supernatural power of the Spirit. ... He is not exhorted to attempt to do what the Spirit alone can do; he is rather to maintain the attitude of co-operation with, and yieldedness to, and dependence on, the Spirit.”2 Very well, then: sit in your rocking chair, fold your hands, and “yield” to the Spirit of God till he moves your hands to milk your cows or to saw your wood. I will come to see you in a year, and will find a skeleton in your rocking chair, with its hands still folded.

And I must object to the subtle sophistry of all of this. It looks very plausible to say that we cannot keep the commandments of God, and are not exhorted to attempt what God alone can do, but this sets aside half of the New Testament with one stroke. The fact is, we are continually exhorted not only to attempt, but to do. Chafer's doctrine is indefensible. The plain fact is, no man ever yet obeyed the commandments of God except by his own volition. If we “yield” to God, we do this precisely by choosing to obey his commandments, and acting upon that choice. Any other sort of “yielding” to God is mere delusion.

For what purpose does Mr. Chafer suppose “the commandments of God” exist? “The grace-manner of life in the Spirit,” he says, “will be lived according to the grace teachings. These teachings, or principles of life, are written both to prepare the Christian for an intelligent walk in the Spirit, and to furnish a norm by which he may compare his daily life with the divine ideal. The grace teachings are not laws; they are suggestions. They are not demands; they are beseechings.”3

This may appear plausible enough, so long as he employs his unscriptural terminology of “grace teachings” and “grace-manner of life,” but what will he do with “the commandments of God”? Are these only suggestions? Are they not demands? That Paul understood the difference between law and grace we can scarcely doubt, yet he speaks of keeping the commandments of God. It is Paul who says, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (I Cor. 7:19)----the plain and only possible meaning of which is, “the keeping of the commandments of God is something.” That some of the “teachings of grace” are suggestions or beseechings we do not deny. So are some of the “teachings of the law.” Does this prove that there are no commandments in the law? No more do the suggestions of the New Testament prove that there are no commandments under grace. If a father sometimes advises his son, is this proof that he never commands him?

But no man with a system so flagrantly contradictory to both sense and Scripture as Chafer's is can be altogether consistent with himself. He grants in various ways that we are to keep the commandments of God, when he speaks unguardedly. Yet when he explicitly sets forth his particular theses, he all but denies it, saying we are not exhorted to attempt it, that the commandments are only suggestions, and given only that we might compare our progress with the standard. God, in other words, has given to us a detailed book of instructions and maps for our journey, and then put us into the back seat, to do the driving himself. If we ask what we are to do with the book, we are told that we may use it to compare our progress with the standard----to pass judgement, in other words, not upon our own work, but upon the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Duty, obedience, resolve, choice, determination, and everything else human, is rigidly excluded, with the single exception of yielding. But in maintaining that single responsibility, he in effect gives up his whole ground, for this yielding is certainly as “superhuman” as anything else which God requires of us, and if we are able by any means whatsoever to do this, by the same token and in the same manner we may do all. The plain fact is, in spite of all his subtle endeavors to eliminate it, in the end he makes the whole process of our sanctification dependent precisely and entirely upon our own responsibility and our own act. Not that his system is therefore harmless. No, for with a wisdom far in advance of Scripture he substitutes that one act for every other duty, and the natural tendency of this is to leave all else undone.

That the righteousness of the law is to be fulfilled in us, but not by us, is the contention of C. I. Scofield (Chafer's mentor) and all the deluded adherents of a one-sided grace theology. This, I say, is delusion. If God works “in us,” it is first “to will” and then “to do” of his good pleasure. We ourselves must both will it and do it, or it will never be done at all. He moves us to do his will, and this he does in no other way than by moving us to will to do it. This he does, not merely by some secretive operation directly upon our will, but through our hearts and minds and consciences, by the commandments and admonitions of his word, and by chastening us in the event that we neither do nor will to do them. He no more directly or supernaturally moves our wills to choose, than he supernaturally moves our hands to do. He leads us by his commandments, and by the rod of his discipline, which is proof enough that these commandments are not mere “suggestions.” God did not move Abraham's feet to go to Canaan, but moved his will to choose to do so, by binding his conscience with a peremptory command, and drawing his heart with an alluring promise. Abraham chose to go, and moved his own feet to do so, and Paul's description of this is that “By faith he obeyed, and he went out.” And he did not trouble himself all the way to Canaan as to whether he was acting in the flesh or the Spirit.

The plain fact is, no man ever did or can walk with God except in the way of obedience to his commandments, and this obedience is our own act, consequent upon our own choice. The yielding of which Paul speaks is not a mere abstract yielding of our hearts to the inner working of the Spirit of God, but a concrete yielding of our members to outward righteousness. “...for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Rom. 6:19). “As ye have yielded, so now yield YOUR MEMBERS.” When we yielded our members to uncleanness and iniquity, this was no mere abstract yielding to the power of the world, the flesh, or the devil, but a very concrete and specific yielding of our eyes and ears and hands and feet to particular acts of sin, committed because we chose to commit them. “So now” we yield those same “members” to specific acts of righteousness, in obedience to specific commandments. This and this only is the doctrine of yielding in Romans 6. Chafer's doctrine is a mere delusion, as directly against Scripture as it is against common sense.

But there are rules of another sort than the commandments of God. Many impose upon themselves self-made or man-made rules, and to my mind this is bondage indeed. But bondage or no bondage, there is often a great deal of evil in these self-imposed rules.

To begin with, to govern my conduct by a rule is simply to adopt an easy way, a way which requires no wisdom, no exercise of heart, soul, or conscience, no weighing of particular difficulties in particular circumstances, no scrutinizing of motives, no thoughtfulness or carefulness. The rule settles all----and may often enough settle it on the wrong side. Many have adopted, for example, the rule never to speak anything to the disadvantage of another in that person's absence. This proceeds on the assumption that it is always wrong to do so. That the most of such speaking which now exists in the world is wrong we may grant. It is the fruit of pride or ill will. But this is not always the case. Paul spoke to Peter's disadvantage in Peter's absence, and wrote it for all posterity by inspiration of the Holy Ghost. This was not wrong. There are many cases in which it is a simple necessity to speak to another's disadvantage, to warn others against following his example or his doctrine, to warn them to be on their guard against his devices, to enable others the better to help him, to vindicate my own course with reference to him, or to vindicate the course of a third party. But to know when and what to speak requires wisdom. It requires the searching of our own hearts also, to ascertain whether our own motives are pure. The need for any such wisdom or self-examination is set aside by the rule.

Others impose upon themselves the rule never to say anything about another which they would not say to him. This rule has all the faults of the preceding one. There may be very good reasons for saying something about someone, and equally good reasons for not saying it to him. Some men will not receive admonition. “He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame, and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.” (Prov. 9:7). There is nothing to be gained by admonishing such men, and something to be lost----no good to be done to the offender, and harm to be gotten to ourselves. Yet we may have good reason to speak of his ways or his wrongs to others. This is to be determined by wisdom, weighing the merits of each case, and examining our own motives also. The rule is merely an easy way, eliminating the need for wisdom or virtue.

Not only so. These rules which eliminate the necessity for wisdom often entail putting wisdom in abeyance, and actually moving us to act unwisely. The man who will never speak to another's disadvantage behind his back will sometimes fail to do what is wise and right, and what may be his plain duty. So likewise the man who will never say to a third party what he will not speak to the man himself. His rule will often put him on the wrong side, either in refraining from speaking what he ought to to others, or in getting himself a blot by speaking it to the man himself.

Some have imposed the rule upon themselves that if they possess anything which they have not used for a whole year, they will get rid of it. There is apparent wisdom in this, but also a good deal of actual folly. It may be generally true that if we can live a year without using a thing, we have no need of it, but this is certainly not always true. I may drive for a year without a flat tire, and therefore never use my jack or my lug wrench. Shall I therefore get rid of them----and my spare tire also? Ah, but those who live by this rule never meant that it should apply to a lug wrench or a spare tire. No, but why then do they profess to live by the rule, and why seek to impose it upon others? The fact is, the rule itself is faulty. It has as much of folly in it as of wisdom. There are many things for which we have only an occasional need, and these are not to be parted with because we pass a year without using them. I have a great many books which I do not use once a year----perhaps some which I do not use once in five years----but I surely would not part with them. There are times when I need them.

Now it seems to me that the faultiness of such a rule consists precisely in the fact that it is too detailed and specific. The time of one year is completely arbitrary. Where does the Bible suggest anything like this? Wisdom will teach us to part with----or to abstain from acquiring in the first place----those things which we do not need and are not likely to use at all. This is a sound principle, and wisdom is required in the use of it. The rule that I must possess only what I use every year requires no wisdom, and will often lead us to do what is foolish----to throw away one year what we must buy again the next.

And this is the case with the most of such rules. They prescribe what may be generally good and right, but which is not always so, and in so doing they entail some things which are wrong or foolish. This is not the case with the rules of Scripture or the commandments of God. We suppose they are usually broader and more general than the self-imposed rules of men. Where the Bible requires temperance, man imposes abstinence, and this with such determination that the very word “temperance” has come to mean abstinence to many minds. God gives a broad rule which requires the exercise of our moral faculties. Man replaces this with “Touch not, taste not, handle not”----a rule which we might teach to a cat or a dog, and which may be kept without wisdom or moral exercise. The rules of Scripture are not so detailed and specific. They consist of principles which actually require wisdom in their application. They require the weighing of circumstances and the examination of motives, for what may be right in one circumstance, or for one reason, may be wrong upon another.

The commandments of God are wise, and will keep us in the paths of righteousness. The rules of men often contain a mixture of wisdom and folly, and the same rule will often cause us to err on both sides, requiring us sometimes to be righteous overmuch, and do more than our duty, and at other times relaxing us into a moral turpitude which satisfies itself with less than its duty. On the one side, the conscience whips us to do more than God requires, and it may be more than we are capable of under the present circumstances, while on the other side the conscience is satisfied when the rule is kept, though our duty at the time may go much beyond the rule.

D. L. Moody, in his early days in Chicago, adopted for himself the rule never to let a day pass without speaking to someone about his soul, and he took his rule seriously. R. A. Torrey tells us, “His was a very busy life, and sometimes he would forget his resolution until the last hour, and sometimes he would get out of bed, dress, go out and talk to some one about his soul in order that he might not let one day pass without having definitely told at least one of his fellow-mortals about his need and the Saviour Who could meet it.”4

This was perhaps going beyond the call of duty. It is certain that God has imposed no such rule upon his people, and the rule itself would be impertinent and impracticable to many, such as a mother in a country cottage. The much greater danger, however, lies on the other side. Such a rule is very likely to move its adherent to suppose that when he has kept his rule, he has fulfilled his duty, and so to content himself with speaking to one, when he might have spoken to twenty.

The same is true of other rules to which Christians subject themselves. Many vow to read so many chapters of the Bible every day. On some days this may be scarcely possible, as in a time of sickness, or of mental anguish. Yet they will read over the words, in order to keep their rule, though they may be physically or emotionally incapable of reading to any profit. On the other side, when they have read their chapters, and so fulfilled their rule, they will cease, though they might profitably read much more. There really ought to be some spontaneity in our spiritual life, and these rules are a poor substitute for this. Not only so, but they may serve to blind us to our actual spiritual condition. The man who must resolve to kiss his wife every day really stands in need of something deeper than this, but so long as the outward expression is kept up, the inward deficiency is not perceived.

Others adopt the rule of reading the Bible straight through----and of course keep count of how many times they have done so. There may be more of pride than of profit in this, and more of folly than of wisdom. It may be that we ought to read the book of Luke ten or twenty times while we read Leviticus but once, but the self-imposed rule stands in the way of this.

Others adopt the rule of “one book at a time.” This may contain a grain of sense for “fools,” who according to the old proverb, “are always beginning,” and never finishing, but the rule is too sweeping. The fact is, some books are not worth finishing, and we cannot know this until we begin them. Other books may be very profitable, though as abstruse and heavy in content as they are ponderous in size. Am I to read such a book straight through, without reading anything else meanwhile? This is not wisdom, but folly. Too much of this heavy reading will weary us, and what ought to be for our profit will become an unprofitable drudgery. Wisdom would lay the heavy book aside for a time, and read something lighter, but the self-imposed rule holds us to the unprofitable chore. Common sense will teach us better than this, and better than any of these specific self-imposed rules.

To conclude, the commandments of God are wise, and the keeping of them will develop our moral faculties while it keeps us in the path of right and duty. The rules of men are most often a mixture of wisdom and folly, which will both lead us astray and dull our moral senses. It is a matter of plain and peremptory duty to keep the commandments of God, while it is rather will-worship and mistaken zeal to impose self-made rules upon ourselves or others. Yet here we find a strange anomaly. It is often the same people who slight the keeping of the commandments of God, as some kind of dreaded works of the law, or label as legalism those rules which are in fact necessitated by Biblical principles or common morality (such as forbidding women to wear tight or skimpy clothing), who also submit themselves to gratuitous rules of their own, and seek to impose them on others. This is double folly.

We are quite willing to grant, however, that such rules may be of some use, especially as a temporary crutch to the weak, to aid them in establishing proper habits or overcoming weaknesses, yet we think it a great mistake to adopt them as permanent vows, or in any way to bind the conscience by them. Those who stand in need of such crutches might benefit from the wisdom which many of these rules embody, and avoid their folly, if they would employ the rules loosely, leaving themselves free to act contrary to their rule when wisdom so dictates. Yet I frankly suppose that those who so employ their rules will soon find that wisdom will suffice without them----that when wisdom is allowed its proper place it will soon supersede the rules, and make the rules themselves quite needless.

POSTSCRIPT: Since writing all of the above, I have run across an editorial in the Uplook magazine (Open Brethren), for November of 1998, which contains the following remarkable statement, under the head of “Jewish Legalism.” “The devil is resurrecting this tactic as many overcompensate for the careless living we see all around us. There is a growing emphasis on physical circumcision as a ritual, dietary schemes (not for health reasons but as spiritual placebos), and dress codes which move one up the ladder of spiritual superiority.”

This is typical of the careless spirit of modern Evangelicalism, but it is a mystery to me how any teacher of the church can put dress codes in the same category with ritual circumcision. If a woman has a “dress code” by which to avoid exciting and tantalizing the passions of men, this has no more to do with “Jewish legalism” than it has with Mormon polygamy. Neither is it to gain any “spiritual superiority,” though as a plain matter of fact, to refuse or abandon such a dress code is a pretty certain mark of spiritual inferiority----either that or unaccountable ignorance----and I would guess there is generally a good deal more of spiritual pride in those who despise the poor “legalists” than there is in those whom they despise.

But more, if a woman follows a “dress code” to avoid offending God, this is no more “legalism” than it is to lay not up for herself treasures upon the earth, or to forsake not the assembling of the saints. Plain and modest dress is of God. Costly, showy, fashionable, and immodest dress is of the flesh. It is high time that the saints of God cease to be intimidated by cries of “legalism,” whenever they endeavor to maintain standards of righteousness, or to keep themselves unspotted from the world.

1 He That Is Spiritual, by Lewis Sperry Chafer. Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing Company, 1966, pg. 115
2 Grace, by Lewis Sperry Chafer. Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing Company, 1967, pag. 343, bold type mine.
3 ibid., pp. 343-344
4 Why God Used D. L. Moody, by R. A. Torrey, Chicago: The Bible Instisute Colportage Ass'n., n.d., pg. 39


A Few More

Books I Would Like to See Written

by Glenn Conjurske

And first, though I have never thought of a suitable title for it, a commentary on important texts of the Bible, consisting primarily of the comments of the old men of God on those texts. It is too late in life for me to begin such a work, if it is not too late in the history of the world. But the fact is, good commentaries are extremely rare. Most of the commentaries which exist comment at length on the obvious, and pass by the harder things with scarcely a word. This is little more than a waste of time and paper. Then too, most of the commentaries which exist are not the work of the men most qualified to write them. Many of them are the work of intellectuals who are positively unspiritual, who seem to suppose that the Scriptures may be understood by means of mere linguistic studies. There are numerous such commentaries, such as those of H. B. Swete,
J. B. Lightfoot, B. F. Westcott, and Keil and Delitszch. Others are the work of men who certainly leave something to be desired in spirituality, such as John Gill and Charles Hodge. But one of the greatest weaknesses of commentaries in general is due to the method by which they are written. Each commentator consults the commentaries which already exist, and so incorporates a great deal of unspiritual, intellectual speculation into his own. But the fact is, the soundest and most telling and enlightening comments on any particular verse of the Bible will seldom be found in a commentary, but rather in an apt application of it in the journal of John Wesley or Francis Asbury, in a comment on its translation in one of Burgon's books, in a doctrinal article in an old issue of Moody Monthly, in a controversial letter in the Guardian, in a sermon on some other text by William Jay or Rowland Hill, in some oblique reference in The Pilgrim's Progress, in a doctrinal book by R. A. Torrey or Archibald Alexander, in an old Methodist biography, in an apt application in a hymn or poem ----and in many other such sources. I offer one example, from the table-talk of Richard Cecil. He says,

“I have a shelf in my study for tried authors; and one in my mind for tried principles and characters. When an AUTHOR has stood a thorough examination, and will bear to be taken as a guide, I put him on the shelf. ... When I have turned a CHARACTER over and over on all sides, and seen it through and through in all situations, I put in on the shelf. There may be conduct in the person, which may stumble others: there may be great inconsistencies: there may be strange and unaccountable turns----but if I have put that character on the shelf: difficulties will all be cleared up: every thing will come round again. I should be much chagrined, indeed, to be obliged to take a character down, which I had once put up; but that has never been the case with me yet; and the best guard against it, is----not to be too hasty in putting them there.”

Where could we find, in a commentary, so apt a comment as this on “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins”?

Such a commentary as I desire has never been written, so far as I know, but it surely ought to be. If I had begun thirty years ago to make a textual index of such comments, I might now have the materials in hand to produce such a book, but I had no one to guide me to such an undertaking. Perhaps some young man might do it yet. If he begins now with the right kind of reading, and continues at it for thirty or forty years, he may then have both the materials and the depth necessary to write such a book----though I suppose such materials might be better gathered by a dozen or a score of likeminded men (or women) than by one. I have begun now to keep notes of such materials, too late to produce the desired book, but perhaps not too late for some profitable articles for this magazine.

Some of my readers are doubtless familiar with The Translators Revived, by Alexander McClure, an old work, revived in our time by the King James Only movement----not that it will much help their cause. I would like to see a similar work entitled The Revisers Revived. This, if properly done, and by a man who knows the facts and understands the issues, would go far to establish the real nature of the Revised Version, which is a repository of liberalism, intellectualism, and pedantry, and indeed a proclamation that there are 36,000 “plain and clear errors” in the New Testament of the Authorized Version. Any man who thinks so only proclaims his own unfitness to revise it. But the actual fact is, the alterations in the Revised New Testament were limited to 36,000 only by the presence of a more conservative element in the company of revisers. Some of the liberals, such as B. F. Westcott, believed the revision did not go far enough.

Physical Phenomena in Revivals. Almost all the great revivals in history have been characterized by various physical manifestations, some of them evidently supernatural, accompanying the conviction and conversion of sinners. Physical prostrations have been very common, and there have also been numerous other physical effects, such as blindness, deafness, dumbness, trances and visions, and “the jerks.” Some men of God have warmly embraced and defended the whole of these manifestations as the work of God, while others have opposed the whole as the work of the devil. Others have attempted to discriminate between them, embracing some of them as of God, and rejecting others as of the devil. It may be we will see such things again, whether we will or no, should the longed-for revival come to us, and it may be well to be prepared for them. I am sure I have plenty of materials in hand to write such a book, if only I had time. The book would consist, first and foremost, of descriptions and accounts of actual instances of such manifestations, and should include also the judgements of the prominent men of the church concerning them.

Anecdotes of Asbury. I have not yet discovered a good biography of Asbury. But here are two facts. First, the best part of any biography consists of anecdotes and incidents. Scripture biography consists almost entirely of this. And second, there are dozens of such anecdotes of Asbury thickly scattered throughout the realm of Methodist biography. I always make note of them, and adjure all my friends to do the same. A collection of these would be most edifying.

A Few Hints on the Corruption of the English Language

by Glenn Conjurske

Those who love their English heritage must find it a great grief to see their beloved language corrupted before their eyes. I speak of corruption, not merely of change. All living languages are subject to change, and there is no help for that, but all change is not corruption. Some change is beneficial, and serves to refine and enrich the language. We have no objection to that. Yet we expect little beneficial change in the present age, for two reasons. The first reason is that the English language as it has been bequeathed to us is so rich and refined that there is little room for further refinement. The second reason is that the present age, in general, is too shallow and ignorant to be capable of introducing beneficial changes.

Yet the English language is rapidly changing in our day. It is the speaking of a language which changes it, and the multiplied use of the language in the present day, occasioned by the modern means of rapid travel, and the various forms of electronic communication, has greatly accelerated its rate of change. This is an age which does little else but talk, and the increased use of the language necessarily increases its rate of change.

But there is more. In those days when travel was slow, when most people neither travelled much nor far, and when electronic communications did not exist, the alterations which took place in the language must necessarily have been slow to spread. Few men would have been exposed to those changes which took place, and that only over a long period of time. It would have taken months or years for local “colloquialisms” to spread across the state, whereas now those alterations may be at the ends of the earth in a matter of seconds.

All of these things have conspired together to produce a very rapid corruption of the language. Believing as I do that the language is the gift of God, I must believe also that it is the responsibility of the children of God to resist these corruptions. Even as a mere matter of expediency this is wise, for the more the language is changed, the more our links with the past are weakened. Our highly educated age complains that it cannot understand the King James Bible, and at the rate in which the language is being corrupted today we may soon have a generation which cannot understand Kenneth Taylor's paraphrase.

There are two kinds of corruption taking place in the English language at the present time. The first is purposeful, and originates with those who lack all seriousness and sobriety, including young people and those who cater to young people, radio announcers, and the sports, entertainment, and advertising industries in general. It consists of a frivolous and smart-aleck manner of speech, which is purposely the reverse of everything serious. This sort of speech has virtually destroyed the sober word “awesome,” by using it in jest. It manifests itself also in a passion for abbreviating everything which has more than two syllables, so that we now have a veritable inundation of such corruptions as “math” for “mathematics,” “photo” for “photograph,” “gym” for “gymnasium,” “trig” for “trigonometry,” “fridge” for “refrigerator,” “the fed” for the federal reserve system, or “the feds” for the federal authorities, “TV” for “television,” “temp” (or “temps”!!) for “temperature,” “info” for “information,” “sub” for “substitute” (or “submarine”), “vac” for “vacuum cleaner,” “deli” for “delicatessen,” “quote” for “quotation,” “precip” for “precipitation,” “ID” for “identification,” and “champs” for “champions.” This is all corruption, though much of it, such as “ad” for “advertisement,” and “gas” for “gasoline,” is so well established and accepted, that it seems futile to hope for any reversion.

Of the same sort are “LP” for “liquefied petroleum,” “MDO” for “medium-density overlay,” “PC” for “personal computer,” “e-mail” or “email” for “electronic mail,” and “PVC” for--------plastic pipe, and I do not recall what the letters stand for, though I once knew it. The fact is, there are hundreds of these abbreviations in common use, many of them used every day by people who have no clue as to what they mean. Part of the fault for this lies in the intellectualism which must name things with elongated and technical epithets which in their very nature are foreign to the tone of common speech. The people cannot be moved to say them, and so abbreviate them. Another part of the fault may lie in the hurry and impatience of modern society. But be that as it may, the language is now full of such abbreviations, and the irreverence of modern Evangelicalism even dares to bring such things into the sanctuary, with such tomfoolery as PTL for “Praise the Lord.” And the use which is made of this is more flippant than the thing itself. The time was when the existence of such a thing would have been a practical impossibility, and if someone had been found frivolous enough to give it birth, it would have shocked the spiritual sensibilities of the whole church of God. That time is past. Familiarity with evil has dulled the senses of the saints. The spirit of the world now pervades the church, and seriousness has taken its flight. And in all this the corruption of our God-given language, and of the spiritual gifts of God, are seen to be not far apart.

The intellectual pride of the modern educational system, the medical profession, and the government at all levels, has largely contributed to the same sort of corruption, by first adopting a bombastic and outlandish sort of official speech, which must call everything by the longest, most technical, and most meticulous names which can be concocted by fertile brains which have nothing else to do, and then reducing all their ludicrous epithets down to the first letters of each word, so that the common language is now forced to groan under an inundation of such things as IQ, AIDS, the IRS, the EPA, the DNR, the BLM, the NEA, and OSHA. We are at a loss to tell which is worse, the abbreviations, or many of the ludicrous terms which need to be abbreviated.

A second form of corruption is the result simply of the unprecedented ignorance of this highly educated age. 'Tis strange, but the same generation which has such a passion for abbreviating long words has a passion also for making longer words by combining shorter ones. I see this everywhere, even among the most “educated.” Yesterday I saw a sign at a department store which read, “NO PARKING ANYTIME.” This is wrong. “Any time” is not one word, but two. We must say it as two words. There are cases in which it may not be improper to combine two words to make a compound, but we can do this only when they are said as though they were one word, with only one accent for the two of them. Thus it is perfectly proper to use “everyday” as one word, if I speak of “my everyday clothes,” but it is certainly improper to say “I wear my everyday clothes everyday.” In the second occurrence “every day” must be said as two words, with “day” receiving its own strong accent. The only proper way to write this is, “I wear my everyday clothes every day.” Yet I continually see the improper form of this in print, particularly in advertisements, such as “Low prices everyday.” We frequently also meet with “anymore” as one word, and “everyone” where it ought to be “every one.” It is proper to write “Everyone in the family went hunting,” but we must write “every one of them came back empty,” for in the second instance “one” must be said as a separate word. All the confusion here is the result of the inveterate ignorance of the most of our modern high school and college graduates. They have been taught how to make love and how to make trouble, but not how to write their mother tongue----much less to think or to care.

The first principle which ought of course to govern us in the writing of English is past usage. But the love of innovation which possesses the present age, coupled with a general ignorance of the literature of the past, has thrown usage to the winds, and we now see numerous expressions compounded into one word, which have always been written as two in the past. I cannot go so far as to universally condemn this, for there are cases in which it is logically allowable, and has the sanction of generations of usage, but in many cases it is certainly improper. When an adjective and a noun stand together, and all the accentuation rests on the adjective, it is allowable (and sometimes even necessary) to write them as one word. The fact is, we practically say them as one word, and it seems natural enough to combine them. Our ancestors have often done so, and many such expressions have been written as one word for many years. Among these are “typewriter, bedroom, bookstore, bookshelf, bookseller, marketplace, teapot, tomboy.” Some of these may be written either as one word or two, but it is at any rate acceptable to write them as one, for we practically say them as one.

Yet there are thousands of such expressions which till now have been written as two words, and what but ignorance or the love of innovation must now write them as one? I have just seen “trapline” as one word in an Uplook magazine. This is an innovation, and requires a shift in both accent and cadence. Why must we innovate?

There are also many such expressions which it is certainly improper to write as one word, for we cannot properly say them as one. The accent does not fall entirely upon the adjective. The following noun receives its own accent, and in some cases a heavier accent than the preceding adjective. Such are “wild ox, blue house, tin cup, good book, bright light, french toast, glass door, red barn, black cat, blue sky, sweet dreams, rough road, world war.” So, of course, “down payment,” which D. A. Waite improperly prints as one word in his new “Defined” Bible.

In some cases it is absolutely necessary to write the same expression both ways, depending on what we mean by it. A wildcat is not the same thing as a wild cat. The former is a species of the cat family living in the wild. The latter is a domestic cat which is not tame. And “wildcat” is said as one word, with the accent all falling on “wild,” while “wild cat” is said as two words, with the heavier accent on “cat.” So also “bluebird” and “blue bird.” The one is a specific species, the other an unspecified bird which is blue. So we may write “flashlight,” or “stoplight,” but we may not write “brightlight” or “redlight.” “Stop light” is in fact practically said as though it were one word, with the heavy accent on “stop,” while “light” gets the heavier accent in “red light.” So again, we may and must write “wildcat,” but we cannot write “wild deer,” “wild boar,” “wild horse,” or “wild dog” as one word. These are all spoken as two words, and must be written so. A greenhouse is a different thing from a green house, and we must both write and say them differently, according to our meaning. We may write “payday,” or “someday,” but we must write “hot day” and “cold day.”

There are numerous expressions in which the accent falls heavy on neither the noun nor the adjective, but is equal, or nearly so, on both. It is an improper innovation to write these as one word, for it requires us to say them differently than we have done. This is not using the language, but rewriting it. Examples of this which often appear in the evangelical literature of the day are “endtimes” and “texttype.” These are innovations, and improper. If there is a heavier accent in “end times,” it falls on the noun. We do not say “these endtimes,” any more than we do “these lasttimes” or “these lastdays.” We say “last days” and “last times” and “end times.” The innovation is not a proper one.

The accents on “text type” are nearly equal, but this must be changed if they are written as one word. And here I must say, though I cannot pretend to know much about it, that I suspect this “texttype,” which we see so much of in modern literature, comes to us from the influence of the German. Modern textual critics are much enamored with German scholarship, and for this cause, after two centuries of “textual criticism” in English, we must now have “text criticism,” after the German Textkritik. I suspect that “texttype” comes from the same source, in imitation of the German Textform, Textgestalt, etc. The English language does not need this, any more than the English church needs German theology.

I have touched upon only a few of the forms of corruption which are now rife in America. Besides these we have a veritable inundation of uncouth and unrefined slang, which regularly appears in the evangelical and fundamental literature of the present, often purposely, in a foolish attempt to appeal to “modern man,” or modern young people, and otherwise as the fruit of mere ignorance. Something may be done about it, however. The first thing is, to move people to care----a hard task, no doubt. That being done, to move them to give up their radios and television sets and tape recorders and computers, and read. Not that it will help anything if they read the modern literature which is already permeated with such corruptions, but a steady diet of the old and solid literature of the church will at any rate give them a taste for proper English.


Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated

by the Editor


He pulls with a long rope that waits for another's death.

That is to say, he is likely to have a long wait. This may be so in the nature of the case, according to the laws of chance and averages. But there is more. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” (Prov. 15:3), and the Lord may make it his particular business to disappoint the selfish designs of men. The children who wait for their father's death, in order that they may have his goods, may pull with a long rope indeed, and may pull for nothing too, for he may outlive them all. As another proverb has it, “He who waits for dead men's shoes may go barefoot.” It would seem in general a selfish and sordid thing to wait for another's death, and God may often have a hand in disappointing such base designs.

Nevertheless, in many situations it is natural and unavoidable to wait for another's death, and in some cases this may be innocent enough. Those exiled English Protestants at Geneva during the reign of Queen Mary no doubt waited for her death. Joseph and Mary in Egypt no doubt waited for the death of Herod, and did not dare to return to Israel till they were informed, “They are dead which sought the young child's life.” (Matt. 2:20). He must be something more than human who could avoid waiting for another's death in such situations, and in such cases the same God who gives a long rope in the instances of sordid selfishness may work to shorten the rope of him who waits, by shortening the life of his persecutor.

And as it would seem to be unavoidable in some cases to wait for another's death, we do not hesitate to affirm that it is sometimes the only right thing to do. David waited for the death of Saul. He knew that the throne of Israel was his by the appointment of God, and he knew also that he could never possess that throne while Saul lived. He waited, therefore, for the death of Saul, and this was not only the right thing to do, but the only right thing. For David not to have waited for Saul's death, he must either have killed him himself, or given up his hopes for the throne of Israel. He must, in other words, have given up either faith or a good conscience. And nowhere does the faith of David appear more noble than in his waiting for the death of Saul. “Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time. And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless? David said furthermore, As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.” (I Sam. 26:8-11).

David was certainly waiting for the death of Saul, waiting for the Lord to smite him, or for his day to come to die, as many other of the saints of God have waited for the death of their persecutors. This was faith, and this it was which kept David from smiting Saul himself.

But if this was faith, it was also “faith and patience.” David waited for another's death, and this he did rightly and unavoidably, but he pulled with a long rope. He must suffer years of persecution and exile, dwelling in dens and caves of the earth, hunted as a flea on the mountains, ere his wait was ended. Meanwhile, there was nothing he could do but wait. This was right, and though he pulled with a long rope, patience had its end, and faith its reward.

John Wesley on Legalism

I cannot find in my Bible any such sin as legality. Truly we have been often afraid where no fear was. I am not half legal enough, not enough under the law of love.

I find no such sin as legality in the Bible: the very use of the term speaks an Antinomian. I defy all liberty but liberty to love and serve God, and fear no bondage but bondage to sin. Sift that text to the bottom, and it will do the business of poor H---------- and all his disciples: 'God sent His own Son in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.' Justitia legis, justitia legalis. [The righteousness of the law is legal righteousness.] Here is legality indeed!

Legality, with most that use that term, really means tenderness of conscience. There is no propriety in the word if one would take it for seeking justification by works. Considering, therefore, how hard it is to fix the meaning of that odd term, and how dreadfully it has been abused, I think it highly advisable for all the Methodists to lay it quite aside.
----The Letters of John Wesley, edited by John Telford. Standard Edition. London: The Epworth Press, 1931, vol. V, pp. 210, 211-212, & 222.


Old Time Revival Scenes


[The following scenes began when an announcement of preaching had been mistakenly circulated, and a man who was present got up to preach, so as not to disappoint the people.] About midway of the sermon, quick as lightning from heaven, the power and presence of the great Head of the Church was manifested in the midst. Ah! it was truly glorious----sinners crying aloud for mercy, mercy----happy Christians shouting, lukewarm professors weeping and groaning----while those who had been at variance with each other were now in each other's arms weeping, and mutually begging each other's pardon for their hard thoughts and still harder words against each other, promising hereafter and for ever, to live in brotherly love, and to pray for one another.

The meeting continued until about midnight. Next day they met again, and yet a greater display of glory and of power pervaded the entire assembly; and thus it continued, more and more gloriously, for eight days and nine nights, and at its conclusion one hundred and seventeen whites and several colored persons were added to our Church. Never did I witness, before or since, such displays of divine power. Profane sinners, down-right skeptics, and God-defying wretches, would enter the church with their sarcastic grins, and countenances telling out upon them their rage and hellish malice at the work going on, and in less than ten minutes the very vilest of all such would be stricken to the floor, as if shot by a deadly arrow, and for an hour or so remain speechless, breathless, pulseless, and, to all appearance, perfectly dead----then, afterwards, with a heavenly smile, look up, stand up, and shout aloud, “Glory, glory to God! my soul is converted, and I am happy.” Many became afraid to enter the church, and at a tavern one day it was asked by the company who would venture to go in and bring back the news of what was going on, when a Mr. Mackey proposed himself, as he was not afraid. I knew this young man well----he was amiable, only very wild and heedless about religion. I noticed him when he came in. I saw him when he began to count the number of persons then down on the floor. He proceeded as far probably as from one to six in counting, when down he came. He lay for about an hour. I remained close by him, and when he arose he commenced shouting “glory to God!” and taking me by the hand, exclaimed, “Oh! had I known the power of God, I should not have resisted it, as I have done.” So when he made the report at the tavern, he had, of course, to report himself among the number of the slain of the Lord.

But the most happy convert that I witnessed, was a young man of talents, birth, and education, but a professed infidel. He came into the church, fearing no consequences, and defying any power, human or divine, to make a fool of him; when, astonishing to relate, in about ten minutes, yonder he lies, prostrated on the floor at his full length. Breathless and pulseless he lay for an hour or more, and when he rose, it was tremendously glorious----and of all the loud shouting and incessant shouting I ever heard, it took the lead. He afterwards became a minister of the gospel. O for such times again in the churches!
----Autobiography of the Rev. Joseph Travis, Edited by Thomas O. Summers. Nashville, Tenn.: Published by E. Stevenson & F. A. Owen, Agents, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1856, pp. 23-25.

Bishop Asbury on the Study of Greek

Joseph Travis writes, “When my name was called in Conference, and the question asked, if there was any thing against me, my presiding elder (Reddick Pierce) answered, 'Nothing against him.' I was in the act of walking out, and got nearly to the door, when Bishop Asbury remarked, “I have something against Brother Travis.' I turned round to ascertain what it was. He said that he understood that I had been studying Greek this year. I pleaded guilty to the charge, but remarked that in so doing, I viewed myself as treading in the footsteps of some of our most worthy and excellent brethren, such as George Dougherty, and many, many others. He made a few remarks on the danger of preachers' neglecting the more important part of their work, viz., 'the salvation of souls,' for the mere attainment of human science. He then bade me retire. The next day, meeting with me by myself, he took me in his arms and gave me an affectionate hug, requesting me not 'to think hard of his remarks to me the day before: that he merely designed whipping others over my shoulders.”' 1

Asbury evidently well understood that some may safely learn Greek, and keep it in its proper place, while others will become both wrapped up in it and puffed up by it. The bishop read both Greek and Hebrew himself.

We admire also the wisdom of Asbury, in whipping others over the shoulders of Travis. Spiritual advisers are always in a difficult place when they are obliged to correct, for many men do not receive correction very well. If he had administered the reproof to those who needed it, they would likely have taken offence. He chose, therefore, to reprove them under the name of one of those humble and sensible souls, who would neither be hurt by his study of Greek, nor offended at the Bishop's admonition.

1 Autobiography of the Rev. Joseph Travis, pg. 65.

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.