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Vol. 8, No. 3
Mar., 1999


By Glenn Conjurske

The readers of this magazine are no doubt well aware that its editor believes the modern evangelical church to be in a very poor condition. This is no passing fancy with me, but the deep-seated conviction of more than thirty years' standing, and almost everything which I see or hear adds to the depth of that conviction. One of the things which I regard as one of the most telling symptoms of the poverty and depravity of modern Christianity is its lack of seriousness. This lack, indeed, is so characteristic of modern Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, that I fear my readers may be at a loss to perceive what it is to which I refer. Christians are so accustomed to this glib, light, frivolous, irreverent, and half serious kind of Christianity, that it gives them no pain. It neither shocks nor disturbs them. Most of them have never seen any other kind of Christianity, and it may be they will be skeptical that any such malady actually exists. To know the disease, however, is half the cure, and what I therefore aim to do in the present article is to lay bare the disease.

Twelve or fifteen years ago I knew a man who was engaged in a ministry to young people. Such, alas, are usually the worst offenders in this matter, and the farthest from seriousness, and this man was no exception. I heard him preach often, and a good share of the time his hearers were laughing. So little indeed did he know of seriousness that when he aimed to be serious, he would say, “This is serious as a heart attack.” Yet this expression is the very reverse of serious. It is designed to excite a smile, to tickle the wit. It was quite compatible with his usual wit and humor, but certainly not calculated to create an atmosphere of seriousness. The man was so habitually light that he could not be serious when he tried to be.

But I must make it clear at the outset that by seriousness I do not mean the exclusion of humor. The time was when I would have rigidly excluded it, but long experience, observation, and meditation have convinced me that such a position is hyperspiritual. Humor is natural to the human race, which is precisely why the hyperspiritual condemn it, for to them natural and carnal are all one. It may well be that humor is a dangerous possession, and a snare if not properly regulated, but the same may be said of many other things, such as feminine beauty and charm, which are nevertheless the creation of God. There is “a time to laugh,” as well as “a time to weep,” and “a time to mourn.” (Eccl. 3:4). Though humor may be abused, though it may be indulged too freely, yet it is not humor which concerns me at present. Take away all the intentional humor from the modern church----for it is not possible to take away the unintentional----and religiously exclude it, and still we are faced with an appalling lack of seriousness, such as I suppose would be shocking to every true-hearted saint of God, if they were not so accustomed to it. In much of the modern preaching, in the modern books and magazines, in many of the meetings of the churches, in the everyday conversation of the Christians, it is simply impossible to believe that the actors in those scenes are half serious about God or heaven or hell, or life or death or eternity. There is no atmosphere of solemnity or sobriety. The most solemn things of eternity are handled in so light and glib a manner----in so flippant and irreverent a manner----that we are persuaded the Christians are not half so serious about their Christianity as they are about their jobs or the major league ball games.

This lack of seriousness appears in many ways. Some of the more obvious of them are the language of the church, the titles of its books, the pictures and illustrations which it employs, its advertising, the formatting and styles of type employed in its printing, and the songs which it sings, both words and music. A friend once gave me a tape recording of a meeting at a large charismatic convention, and I was frankly appalled at the music. One of the songs contained some such words as the following (which I must give purely from memory, after the passing of fifteen years):

“If I were a fish in the sea,
“I'd wiggle my tail, and giggle with glee,
“But I just thank you, Lord, for makin' me me.”

It is of course impossible to sing such trish-trash with any seriousness, to say nothing of reverence, and it so happened that after each verse the congregation laughed as though they were watching a comedian at the theater, and after the final verse there was an uproar of laughter and applause. These people obviously had no sense that anything was amiss, and very probably imagined themselves “filled with the Spirit” besides.

This is of course an extreme example, and I would not accuse the whole evangelical church of such antics. There is scarcely a vestige of real Christianity in the charismatic movement, and it surpasses all others in its inveterate irreverence, but the fact is, the charismatic sort of music is more and more used in evangelical and fundamental churches, and seriousness and reverence must of course give way before it. It was in an evangelical Baptist church that I heard a song which repeated over and over, “He's still workin' on me,” and from some other Evangelicals I have seen the slogan, “Be patient with me: God isn't finished with me yet.” Thus the Christians laugh off their own solemn responsibilities. And though some fundamental churches may not yet use such music in their meetings, the fact is, most of the people listen to it on so-called Christian radio or recordings, and these evil communications will corrupt what good manners they have left.

I grew up in a fundamental Baptist church, and the music in use was bad enough even forty years ago. The old hymns were used, of course, but so were a good number of modern “choruses,” including one called the “Hash Chorus,” which consisted of lines or phrases from numerous other choruses, all strung together without much sense, and certainly without any seriousness. This “Hash Chorus” was very popular, with the leaders of the church as well as with the young people.

Another field in which the modern lack of seriousness displays itself is in the titles which are affixed to many of the modern evangelical books. I recall seeing a book some thirty years ago entitled Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blond. The saints of God ought to have been scandalized by such a title----ought by all means to have refused to buy or read a book so named. But the book was evidently acceptable to modern Evangelicalism, and things have gotten worse, not better. A glance through a few modern book catalogs yields the following:

Becoming a Contagious Christian, by Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg.
Boomerang Joy, by Barbara Johnson.
Living Somewhere Between Estrogen and Death, by Barbara Johnson.
A Survivor's Guide to Home Schooling, by Luanne Shackelford & Susan White.
The Millennium Meltdown, by Grant R. Jeffrey.
Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, by David W. Bercot.
The Late Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsay.
Christianity 101, by Gilbert Bilezikian.
Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, various authors.
We Brake for Joy, various authors.
In the Grip of Grace, by Max Lucado.
Six Hours One Friday, by Max Lucado.
What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey.
Improving Your Serve, by Charles Swindoll.
Hand Me Another Brick, by Charles Swindoll.
Living on the Ragged Edge, by Charles Swindoll.
Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, by Josh McDowell & Bob Hostetler.
Radical Image! by N.T. Anderson, R. Saucy, & D. Park.
Being a Wild, Wonderful Woman for God, by Becky Tirabassi.
Life on the Edge, by James Dobson.
Parenting Isn't for Cowards, by James Dobson.
Love Must Be Tough, by James Dobson.
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart.
Love Busters, by Willard Harley.
User Friendly Prophecy, by Larry J. Randolph.
The Mom Factor, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.
Kid Think, by William Lee Carter.
Squeeze Play, by Bob Brinner.
The Awesome Book of Bible Facts, by Sandy Silverthorne.

We do not mean to say that all of the above titles are equally offensive, but they all manifest the lack of seriousness which permeates modern Evangelicalism.

But understand, I have nothing to say against wit or pleasantry, provided it is compatible with seriousness. The Revision Revised by Burgon, The Reformer Reformed by Nathan Bangs, The Considerator Considered by Brian Walton----these are all quite acceptable, and perfectly consistent with the most earnest seriousness. The Dipper Dipped and The Dunker Dunked may be in poor taste, though they are serious enough, and perhaps a little too serious. Even Spurgeon's pun, Smooth Stones from Ancient Brooks, is quite inoffensive. But Christianity 101 or The Late Great Planet Earth are of an entirely different sort. This is buffoonery.

But there is something even worse. There are many titles which would appear sober enough if the words were printed in a sober fashion, but too often this is not the case. The most wild and bizarre styles of type are chosen, and the titles splashed across the page in a manner which is indicative of the very reverse of everything serious.

If the article in the reader's hands were to appear in some of the popular evangelical magazines, the title would very likely appear thus:

Needless to say, nobody would. And the fact is, the use of such styles of printing is neither more nor less than worldliness. The church has not invented such styles of type, but has taken them over wholesale from the world. The reason for their existence is that the world in these degenerate times is absolutely possessed by a studied and purposeful absence of all seriousness. The names as well as the styles of many of those fonts of type indicate nothing so much as they do the studied absence of seriousness which characterizes the world. A few of those names are “Arson, Bazooka, BeeBopp, Bump N Grind, CatScratch, Dembones, Drippy Paint, EerieLight, Fat Cat, Fat Cow, Flug, Foo, Free N Wild, Funky, Gilded Cage, Hairpins, Hamburger, Horror, Horsepower, HotDog, Hot-Peppers, JazzPoster, Just Warpin, Lumpy, Madfont, My Left Font, Necromancer, Neon Lights, NoteScrawl, Overload, PigNose, Rap Man, Shlop, Sorry MOM, SpillMilk, Stinger, Swinger, Ultraworld, Urban Scrawl Chill, Violation, and Zirkle.” And most of the fonts themselves are as fantastic as their names. All of this stands as a solemn demonstration of the fact that the world has abandoned itself to a studied avoidance of seriousness. It purposely aims to be as careless and clownish and childish and foolish as it can. This spirit is undoubtedly inspired by the god of this world. Seriousness works directly against his cause. Nothing can suit his ends better than to have the whole race dancing and playing and laughing on the brink of hell. The cause of the gospel, on the other hand, can never prosper until men are sober and solemn in the presence of sin and death and eternity. The lack of seriousness which now permeates the church is simply copied from the world, by an evangelical church which is so worldly itself that it cannot recognize worldliness when it sees it.

Just now comes to hand the January Uplook magazine, published by some of the more conservative of the Open Brethren. On the cover stands the large title, “0-0! THE BIG BUG COMETH,” printed in all the colors of the rainbow, and accompanied by art work which is certainly not serious. Inside we have such titles as “Y2KAOS,” “Some Prayer Closet!” and “Panic Attack 2000.” Scattered here and there through the magazine are also bizarre or clownish illustrations, and fantastic fonts of type, some of which are scarcely legible. The whole presents an atmosphere which is anything but serious, and some of the content is lacking in seriousness also.

While engaged in writing this article, I have also received in the mail a conservative news letter, containing an advertisement for a book by Gary Parker, the title of which appears thus:

Another example of such antics----and one of the less offensive examples----appears on the title page of one of Zane Hodges' books exactly thus:

This, with a large fish symbol beneath it. Now the content of Hodges' book is serious enough----though shallow and unsound. Why then the tomfoolery on the title page? Is this an invitation to a circus, or to a sober discussion of solemn doctrine? And why the exclamation point? Some of my readers may consider me relentless, but for all that I cannot help thinking as I do that the profusion of exclamation points in modern evangelical literature is one tell-tale sign of its inveterate lack of seriousness. There is nothing of the atmosphere of seriousness in this----nothing of the sense that we are on holy ground----but rather the mood of a circus and the tone of a pep rally. Can any of my readers seriously imagine such things as

The Revision Revised! by John W. Burgon,
Checks to Antinomianism! by John Fletcher,
Feathers for Arrows! by C. H. Spurgeon, or
An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion! by John Wesley?

But these exclamation points obtrude themselves everywhere, and not only in the titles. I have seen modern literature in which nearly every sentence ended with an exclamation point----by men, too, which had nothing to say. We suppose these exclamation points serve the same purpose as the swearing of the man who is losing his argument. Having nothing to the purpose to say, he will at any rate say it forcefully. But the fact is, this profusion of exclamation points in Christian literature effectually destroys the atmosphere of seriousness which ought to characterize it.

But there is yet more. Even when the titles are serious, and printed in a sober format, the accompanying illustrations are often such as to infuse an atmosphere of foolish clowning. Men are commonly drawn in comic style, often with faces depicting the most moronic stupidity. Animals are drawn in the same style, but with faces expressive of human intelligence and attributes. The back of the Uplook magazine just received displays such a comic picture of a mouse, and the accompanying article, after speaking of justification and peace with God, closes with the childish trifling, “That's better than being a mouse!” All this is the reverse of seriousness, and in this the Uplook magazine is nothing different from a hundred others.

The comical, the wild, the silly, and the bizarre have become the rule rather than the exception, and this is especially so in publications intended for young people. Some time ago I received an advertisement in the mail for something called the “Memlock Bible Memory System”----”Recommended by Mary Pride, Cathy Duffy & Gregg Harris,” and “Used by kids 2-92 since 1989!” This is bad enough, but the illustrations are worse. Here is a sample:

Can anyone believe such a program likely to inspire the “kids” with anything serious? We think a grade school fire safety course----or a high school dating seminar----would inspire a great deal more seriousness than this. And what has “Gimme the first few words!” to do with the matter? Just this, that the whole idea of “Bible Memory” has degenerated into a game, after the manner of “sword drills” and “Bible Quizzing.” And the modern church is so accustomed to such things that it sees nothing amiss. To “Bible Quizzing” the present generation has added “Bible Bingo” and “Bibleopoly.” Is it any wonder that the young people do not take the Bible seriously? They may find more seriousness in the stock market, at a gambling casino, or at a ball game, than they do in most of what calls itself Christianity.

The deliberate and studied departure from seriousness on the part of those who minister to young people is one of the most lamentable aspects of the matter. In paging through a recent book catalog, I observed of course the usual number of foolish titles scattered here and there, but when I came to the young people's page, there was almost nothing serious. This is one of the greatest mistakes the church could make. It is an attempt to compete with the world on its own ground, and the only possible result of it is the production of a Christianity which is not serious, or in other words, a Christianity which is not Christian. To prevent losing the young people to the world, modern Evangelicalism has brought the world into the church. The “Christian” music and the “Christian” clothing and jewelry which are handed to the young people continually in this evil day, have so little of Christianity in them, and so much of the world, that in fact they are the reverse of “Christian.” I have before me a recent catalog from Christian Book Distributors. As is usual with Christian booksellers, much of the catalog is devoted to music, games, clothing, jewelry, movies, and other such paraphernalia. There is little that is serious in any of it, and much that is deliberately the reverse of it.

Most of the tee shirts are recklessly foolish. One of them reads, in letters simulating a basketball, “Without Him You Got No Game.” This is one of the least offensive. Another says, “Powered Up. Jesus inside.” But here I cease. Many of them are so shocklingly irreverent that I cannot stain my pages by a description of them. It is really impossible for me to conceive of a Christian either creating or selling such clothing. Surely it is not the love of Christ which produces such things, but the love of money. Neither is it possible to conceive of a real Christian wearing this clothing. The young people might be excused on the ground of inveterate ignorance, but it is hard to conceive how anyone who knows anything of his own sin or of the cross of Christ could be so fearfully irreverent. One tee shirt says in small type, “Choose to be Different. Choose Christ.” This is profaning the name of Christ. Those who wish to be different may choose Buddhism, or dye their hair green. Many do so, for no other reason. The same shirt quotes II Corinthians 6:17, though in type so small that no one is likely to read it. Meanwhile, between these tiny messages, the whole front of the shirt is filled with a picture which, besides being in poor taste, is utterly foolish. It seems to me that the real message of these tee shirts is just this, that Christianity is nothing to be very serious about.

But people suppose that young people want this kind of Christianity. Perhaps they do, but if so, this only goes to prove that they do not want Christianity at all. For whatever else it may be, this foolish irreverence is not Christianity. Little Johnny likes an occasional cup of coffee, but he will have it brewed with milk, not water, and he will have just a pinch of coffee in it, and half a teaspoonful of cocoa, and a whole tablespoon of sugar. But whoever calls this stuff coffee deceives himself, and deceives little Johnny too. It is scarcely correct to say that the evangelical young people are “lost to the world.” The fact is, they are conducted to the world, by their parents and pastors and “youth pastors.” It is their Christian training which dispels from their minds the very seriousness which is an integral and necessary part of Christianity.

And here I must turn to what may be the most serious aspect of the modern lack of seriousness, though it is the most difficult to describe or illustrate. The spirit of most of the modern evangelical literature is not serious. There is no solemnity in it. And what is even more telling, there is no earnestness. The solemn things of eternity are handled in such a light, glib, and careless manner that no serious impression is made on the soul. I cannot prove this by examples. It is not something which can be exemplified in the quotation of a sentence or a paragraph. It is rather something which will be felt in the reading of a chapter. Those who do not feel it would be convinced of nothing, though I were to quote whole books. They evidently have too little seriousness themselves to perceive the absence of it. But I may recommend a course to them which might teach them the truth of what I say. Let them turn off their “Christian” radio for a year. Let them put away their modern books and magazines, and spend a year reading such men as John Wesley and J. C. Ryle and John Burgon and R. A. Torrey. When they have spent a year at that, let them turn back to most any of the popular modern Christian books or magazines, and say whether they do not feel the difference.

To return to something more concrete, the very language of the modern church betrays its lack of seriousness. The most solemn things of eternity are continually spoken of in a low and clownish slang which of itself is calculated to dispel all seriousness. People no longer say, “I have sinned,” but “I messed up,” or “I blew it.” Gluttony is now “pigging out”----and apparently something to laugh over. Cheating and dishonesty are “fudging.” God is “the man upstairs.” A good time is a “ball,” or a “blast.” Such language as this pervades the “youth ministries” of the modern church, and there is a good deal of it even in the sermons and literature which are addressed to adults. The atmosphere of the sanctuary is absent. There is no sense that we stand on holy ground, and ought to put off our shoes. “The great and terrible God” has been turned into a Santa Claus. “The fear of the Lord” is contemned, or so defined as to mean nothing. “Our God” is no longer “a consuming fire,” but a jolly old grand-daddy. Sin and death and hell inspire no solemn awe. Life is a game, though scarcely to be taken so seriously as the Green Bay Packers. Christianity is a party. At any rate, we would never guess it to be anything else from reading much of the literature which is written to propagate or defend it.

We plead for a return to the old paths of earnestness, seriousness, solemnity, and sobriety. We are not pleading for anything somber----though there is place enough for that----but only for something earnest. And to that end we plead for the putting away of the music, the language, the pictures, the slogans, the advertising, and all the other modern tomfoolery which detracts from the seriousness which belongs of necessity to Bible Christianity. This alone will scarcely secure that seriousness of spirit which we long to see, but it will at any rate be a step in the right direction, to “strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die.”

The Other Missing Tears

by Glenn Conjurske

More than five years ago we published an article on “The Missing Tears.” We spoke then of the tears which characterized the pulpit in better days of the church, and of the general absence of those tears in the present day. The missing tears in the pulpit, however, are but one facet of the deficiencies of the modern church. We also look in vain for tears in the pew.

But what do we want with tears? Is there any value in them? Does their absence indicate some serious deficiency? We have no doubt that it does. Tears are the mark of feeling, of emotion as such, and the absence of tears marks the absence of emotion----at any rate, of deep emotion. We all know that women, in general, weep more easily and freely than men do. The reason for this lies in the constitution of femininity. The things which belong to the spirit predominate in the masculine constitution, and masculinity therefore excels in reason, determination, and action. The things of the soul predominate in the feminine constitution, and femininity therefore excels in emotion. Women therefore weep more easily than men do. Men of little understanding, or little feeling, have despised woman's tears, and a proverb was once current among such men which affirmed, “It is as great a pity to see a woman weep as a goose to go barefoot.” But this is a great mistake. A woman weeps because she feels. Such is the marvellous connection between our bodies and our souls, that when the soul is moved, the tear-drops flow. This is involuntary and unavoidable, as are all the motions of the soul in general. The lack of tears is a deficiency. It is the mark of a deficiency in the soul.

We know right well that emotion without reason is seldom worth much, but reason without emotion is no better, if indeed it be not worse. We suppose a woman who doesn't think a better creature than a man who doesn't feel. But modern Christianity has made it a virtue not to feel. Intellectualism reigns, and feeling is feared. Men are ashamed to weep, where they ought to be ashamed not to.

Now I believe this general absence of tears is one of the most telling symptoms of the poverty of the modern church. It bespeaks the general coldness of the religion of the present day, in which a dry intellectualism prevails, and heart feeling is either shunned or unknown. It bespeaks the shallowness of modern religion. It bespeaks the lukewarm state of Christians in general.

But more specifically, the absence of tears in the pew is one of the most telling indications of the poverty of what comes from the pulpit. An old proverb tells us, “What comes from the heart goes to the heart.” What fails to go to the heart has probably not come from the heart. The preaching which draws no tears has evidently not gone to the heart. At any rate, it has not gone very deeply into the heart. The coldest and most indifferent hearts can be made to feel, by an earnest preacher, who feels himself. The motions of the soul are involuntary, and men may be made to feel, and therefore to weep, quite against their own inclinations. I recall an incident which took place nearly twenty years ago, when I was speaking to men about their souls' salvation on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I spoke with an old penniless drunk, who I learned was living on a park bench, and begging for a living. After speaking with him for a while I began to tell him of the love of Christ for his sinful soul. The tears began to flow down his cheeks, quite against his will. He admonished me, “Don't talk to me like that. You make me cry.” The fact is, he was made to feel, and therefore to weep, though he was ashamed of his tears.

On another occasion I was knocking on doors preaching the gospel. I came to a house where there were four young people, evidently students, three young men, and one girl. I talked to them for some time, but it was a dreary argument, the girl especially strongly opposing all that I said. At length we fell upon the subject of persecution, and she said, “If you want to see persecution, look at the history of the Jews.” I looked her in the eye, and asked, what I suspected, “Are you a Jew?” She replied that she was. I said, “I know the history of the Jews, and when I read it I weep.” The tears began to run down my cheeks, but I continued to look her in the eye, and said, “I love Jews. And Christ loves Jews.” She immediately burst into tears herself, and covered her face with both of her hands to hide them, while she ran from the room. Now the fact is, she was made to weep quite against her will. Till that moment she had repeatedly spoken disdainfully of Christ. She was unwilling that I should see her tears. Yet she wept, and could not help it. She was made to weep because she was made to feel, and both of them quite against her will.

The fact then, that churches in the present day may go through their weekly routine for years and decades together, and never see a tear in the pew, is one of the surest indications of the weakness and unprofitableness of the pulpit. Christianity without emotion can scarcely be supposed to be Christianity at all. The Bible says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” though the modern church has turned what it calls “saving faith” into nothing more than an operation of the intellect. But the dry-eyed and emotionless Christianity of the present day is only a skeleton, or a shadow, of “the old-time religion.” Look where we will in the history of the church, and we see abundance of tears, not only in the pulpit, but also in the pew. In looking over the notes which I have taken in my reading over the years, I find several hundreds of references to such weeping congregations, so that it is hard to know where to begin to make a selection. The thing was indeed so commonplace in former times, that I have long ceased to make note of many of the instances which I meet with in my reading. It were an easy matter to quote scores of examples from the most prominent preachers of the past, but it might defeat my purpose to do so. My readers would likely say, We cannot all be Whitefields and Finneys and Moodys. I am therefore careful to include examples from the lesser preachers of the past, whose names are less known in the church of God, or perhaps altogether unknown.

I turn back five centuries, to one of those “Reformers before the Reformation,” Girolamo Savonarola. His biographer writes,

“Words fail to describe it; he was, as it were, swept onwards by a might beyond his own, and carried his audience with him. Men and women of every age and condition, workmen, poets, and philosophers, would burst into passionate tears, while the church re-echoed with their sobs. The reporter taking notes of the sermon was obliged to write: 'At this point I was overcome by weeping and could not go on.””'The amanuensis subjoined this note to many of these sermons.”

Nor was this mere empty emotion. “Never was a multitude so entirely dominated by pious emotion, so easily plunged in tears! By the end of Lent, Savonarola had won almost a greater victory than the political triumph achieved by his sermons on Haggai.

“The aspect of the city was completely changed. The women threw aside their jewels and finery, dressed plainly, bore themselves demurely; licentious young Florentines were transformed, as by magic, into sober, religious men; pious hymns took the place of Lorenzo's Carnival songs. The townsfolk passed their leisure hours seated quietly in their shops reading either the Bible or Savonarola's works. All prayed frequently, flocked to the churches, and gave largely to the poor. Most wonderful of all, bankers and tradesmen were impelled by scruples of conscience to restore ill-gotten gains, amounting to many thousand florins.”

Of the preaching of John Bunyan we are told, “His friend, Charles Doe, says, 'Thousands of Christians, in country and town, can testify that their comforts under his ministry have been to an admiration, so that their joy showed itself by much weeping.”'

Cotton Mather wrote in his diary in 1698, “...after our afternoon Exercises were over, I visited the Prison. There I pray'd with the poor Creatures, and preach'd unto them, on Psal. 142.7. Bring my Soul out of Prison. They heard mee, with Floods of Tears.”

The following is a description of the effects of a sermon of Jonathan Edwards “at Enfield, at a time of great religious indifference there”: “When they went into the meeting house, the appearance of the assembly was thoughtless and vain. The people hardly conducted themselves with common decency. The Rev. Mr. Edwards, of Northampton, preached; and before the sermon was ended, the assembly appeared deeply impressed, and bowed down with an awful conviction of their sin and danger. There was such a breathing of distress and weeping, that the preacher was obliged to speak to the people and desire silence, that he might be heard.”

From the great George Whitefield we might cite dozens of such accounts as this one: “Perhaps the auditory consisted of near fifteen thousand. Tears flowed like water from the stony rock.”

Thomas Rankin describes the first time he heard Whitefield: “He preached in the field adjoining the Orphan House yard. His text was Isaiah xxxiii. 13----17. The sermon exceeded all the sermons I ever heard. About the middle of it, I ventured to look up, and saw all the crowds around Mr. Whitefield bathed in tears.”

It was regarded as something unusual and unaccountable if the people did not weep under Whitefield's preaching.

William Grimshaw was wont to move his hearers to tears by both his preaching and his praying. J. C. Ryle writes of him, “The manner in which he conducted public worship at Haworth seems to have been as remarkable as his preaching. There was a life, and fire, and reality, and earnestness about it, which made it seem a totally different thing from what it was in other churches. The Prayer-Book seemed like a new book; and the reading-desk was almost as arresting to the congregation as the pulpit. Middleton, in his life of him, says: 'In performance of divine service, and especially at the communion, he was at times like a man with his feet on earth and his soul in heaven. In prayer, before sermon, he would indeed “take hold (as he used to say) of the very horns of the altar,” which, he added, “he could not, he would not, let go till God had given the blessing.” And his fervency often was such, and attended with such heartfelt and melting expressions, that scarcely a dry eye was to be seen in his numerous congregations.”'

Of Spurgeon we are told, “In his preaching and speaking he was witty, so as to interest souls; but he was wise to win them too. Tears were seen on the cheeks of penitents far more often than smiles on delighted listeners.”

From among numerous such accounts which might be related concerning D. L. Moody, I offer a couple:

“Many were evidently struck to the heart; some whom we heard scoffing at the commencement, were in tears at the conclusion of his address.”

“Mr. Moody seldom preaches a sermon that fails to move a large part of his audience to tears.”

A newspaper account of the preaching of William Booth says, “The speaker talks like a plain man to plain people. Everybody listens enthralled as he tells of his life's work, of the unbounded love with which he would like to surround and lead to Salvation every one who lives and moves. One gets to understand how this man could gather around him such masses of disciples, and why, right and left, many a lady deeply touched puts her handkerchief to her eyes and many a man wipes a tear from his cheek.”

Of Archibald Alexander we read, “It was a common thing for his hearers to be melted to tears.”

Again, “As he proceeded in describing the successive scenes of our Saviour's sufferings, his hearers became deeply and almost universally affected. Feelings which could scarcely be suppressed were manifest in every part of the house: and tears were seen rolling down the cheeks of many but little accustomed to weep.”

I may insert here by contrast that some twenty years ago I heard a sermon on the same theme, called “Watching Jesus Die,” by the prominent Independent Baptist, Jack Van Impe, preached in the large Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, but the whole thing was so cold and empty that no one could have wept under it, though they had been accustomed to weeping.

In the journal of John Colby we read, “I felt the love of God like fire shut up in my bones; and the Lord enabled me to give every one his portion of meat in due season. Before I had done speaking, a number were melted into tears, and some began to cry for mercy.” Observe the power behind these effects: “I felt the love of God,” &c.

He writes elsewhere, “I spoke from Gen. xxiv.49: 'And now if you will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.' I thought by the attention and tears of the assembly, that a number answered in the affirmative.”

Again, preaching when exhausted with sickness and pain, “The Spirit helped my infirmities, and I was enabled to speak near an hour and a half. The people paid good attention, and many of them sat in tears through the meeting.”

Another says of the preaching of David Marks, “I had read his 'Narrative,' and regarded many of the statements contained in it, respecting the effect which almost always attended his preaching, as utterly unaccountable; but when I heard him the first time, which was but eighteen months since, [at Lagrange, Ohio. ED.] my incredulity entirely vanished. It was a communion season, and his subject was the Lord's Supper. It seemed that my soul was but a vessel of tears. I stifled my sobs, until I could not refrain from weeping aloud. It was so with many.”

James Murphy, an unknown Baptist preacher, wrote in 1804, “I preached 3 miles lower down the river Macadovick (formerly called St. Croix). This was also a powerful time; every heart melted, and every eye let fall the grateful or penitential tear.”

David Irish, another unknown Baptist, on a preaching tour in Canada, says, “Lord's day I preached with them again, and a joyful season we had: almost every countenance expressed their joy in having a preacher come to visit them; while many of their eyes were flowing with tears.”

Again, “After sermon we went to the water, and I delivered a discourse in defence of believers' baptism by immersion. The whole scene appeared to be attended with tokens of divine goodness. The people not only appeared solemn, but many of them were in tears.”

Jason Livermore, another unknown Baptist preacher, wrote in 1809, “Two persons who had previously received evidence of a change of heart, came forward and told what the Lord had done for their souls, and manifested a desire to be baptized. Accordingly the next morning, I baptized them, after preaching again to a solemn assembly, the greater part of which was in tears.”

Of the preaching of Adoniram Judson to the sailors on shipboard we read, “His manner of address was of the most touching description, and seldom failed in making the big tear roll down the weather-beaten cheeks of his hardy auditors.”

Under the preaching of George Brealey (Open Brethren), “There was a solemn awe on the company, and many found vent for their sorrow in sobs and tears.”

Again, “In the evening some two hundred came together to hear the Word, and a very deep feeling prevailed. Many cheeks were wet with tears.”

Daniel Baker, a little known Presbyterian evangelist, writes in his journal, “Preached in the morning from Mark xv.34. Had something of an unction. At the close of the sermon there was almost universal weeping.”

Again, “At night I preached my last sermon. At the close there was much tender feeling; there seemed to be weeping all over the house.”

Duncan Wright, one of hundreds of the ordinary sort of Methodist preachers, writes, “...it was delightful to see hundreds attending to my blundering preaching, with streaming eyes, and attention still as night.”

J. B. Finley, Methodist itinerant on the American frontier, says, “When I came round at the appointed time, I found all the men, women, and children of the settlements, within four miles, collected to hear me preach. I had great freedom, and during the discourse there was much weeping.”

Finley records of John Collins, “...when the period arrived for him to preach at Hillsboro we were there, and for the first time heard him preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to weeping multitudes gathered from all parts of the country.”

Benjamin Abbott, another simple Methodist itinerant, writes, “I went to my next appointment, where they had threatened to tar and feather me. Some advised me to go some other way; but when I arrived at the place, I found a large congregation assembled, to whom I preached, and God attended the word with power----many shed tears in abundance. One young woman stood by the fire, and leaned her head against the mantel piece, and wept to that degree that the tears dropped on the hearth until they made a small puddle.”

From many such narratives which I might give from the life of Abbott, I select the following. He had ridden to his appointment, incognito, in company with a constable who “swore by all the gods he had, good and bad, that he would lose his right arm from his body if the Methodist preacher did not go to jail that day.” Abbott says, “I took my saddle bags and went to the house; the man took me into a private room, and desired I would preach in favor of the war, as I was in a Presbyterian settlement. I replied, I should preach as God should direct me. He appeared very uneasy and left me, and just before preaching, he came in again and renewed his request that I would preach up for war; I replied as before, and then followed him out among the people, where he made proclamation as follows:----Gentlemen, this house is my own, and no gentleman shall be interrupted in my house in time of his discourse, but after he has done you may do as you please. Thank God, said I softly, that I have liberty once more to warn sinners before I die. I then took my stand, and the house was so crowded that no one could sit down. Some hundreds were round about the door. I stood about two or three feet from the constable who had sworn so bitterly. When he saw that I was the man, that he had so abused on the way, with so many threats and oaths, his countenance fell and he turned pale. I gave out a hymn, but no one offered to sing; I sung four lines, and kneeled down and prayed. When I arose, I preached with great liberty. I felt such power from God rest upon me, that I was above the fear of either men or devils, not regarding whether death or jail should be my lot. Looking forward I saw a decent looking man trembling, and tears flowed in abundance, which I soon discovered was the case with many others. After preaching, I told them I expected they wanted to know by what authority I had come into that country to preach. I then told them my conviction and conversion, the place of my nativity and place of residence; also, my call to the ministry, and that seven years I had labored in God's vineyard; that I spent my own money and found and wore my own clothes, and that it was the love that I had for their precious souls for whom Christ died, that had induced me to come among them at the risk of my life; and then exhorted them to fly to Jesus, the ark of safety---- that all things were ready----to seek, and they should find, to knock, and it should be opened unto them. By this time the people were generally melted into tears.”

Such scenes were common in the life of Benjamin Abbott, and of the Methodist preachers generally.

Of the simple and unknown Moravian missionaries in Greenland we are told, “With great propriety, on the last day of the year, the missionaries read their diary, and reviewed with thankfulness all the mercies shown to them and their flock. They commenced their vigil with a homily on the resolution of St. Paul, 'for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified;' and then reminded the Greenlanders of what their Saviour had done for them, particularly during the last year. The streaming eyes and expressive looks of the congregation spoke their thankfulness.”

About the same time, though nearly at the other end of the globe, Robert Moffat writes of the South Africans, “The moral wilderness was now about to blossom. Sable cheeks bedewed with tears attracted our observation. To see females weep was nothing extraordinary; it was, according to Bechuana notions, their province, and theirs alone. Men would not weep. After having, by the rite of circumcision, become men, they scorned to shed a tear. In family or national afflictions, it was the woman's work to weep and wail; the man's to sit in sullen silence, often brooding deeds of revenge and death. The simple Gospel now melted their flinty hearts; and eyes now wept, which never before shed the tear of hallowed sorrow. Notwithstanding our earnest desires and fervent prayers, we were taken by surprise. We had so long been accustomed to indifference, that we felt unprepared to look on a scene which perfectly overwhelmed our minds. Our temporary little chapel became a Bochim----a place of weeping; and the sympathy of feeling spread from heart to heart, so that even infants wept.”

Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, a converted Indian, and missionary to his own people, writes thus of a sermon which he interpreted when a young convert:

“One Sabbath, in January, 1835, Brother Chandler preached from these words, 'And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.' He spoke with unusual liberty; I caught some of the same fire with which the sermon was delivered; and interpreted it with much ardor. O what a melting season it was! The anxious and expressive looks of the Indians; the tears streaming down their cheeks, all tended to add to the occasion.”

Such scenes were common. Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh quotes the testimony of another Indian convert as follows: “John Sunday's brother (Big Jacob), said, 'When the Methodists were preaching to our people, I heard that the chiefs and warriors were frequently in tears. I then said, I would not shed tears were I to hear them. Still, I wished to understand for myself. I went, with a full determination not to behave myself like a woman, I mean by crying. I sat near the door. The preacher was speaking about the Saviour's dying on the cross, while the Indians all around were sobbing. I began to feel serious, and then the tears fell involuntarily. Frequently, I wiped my eyes, but still the tears would flow. I asked myself, am I crying too? Brethren, I was ashamed to exhibit tears; but now [here he raised his hand to heaven], it is not through cowardice that I cry, for I never shed a tear on the battle field, nor even when my children or my friends lay dead before me. No! I never dropped a tear.”

But it is necessary to stop somewhere. I see from my footnotes that I have given but thirty-seven of such examples----only about a tenth of what I might give from the notes I have taken in my own reading. But the time would fail me to tell of Richard Baxter, of John and Charles Wesley, of Rowland Hill, of Howell Harris, of Daniel Rowlands, of Francis Asbury, of Freeborn Garrettson, of Valentine Cook, of Enoch George, of Jesse Lee, of James Caughey and a whole host of unlearned Methodist itinerants, of Lorenzo Dow, of Finis Ewing and a host of Cumberland Presbyterians, of Jabez Swan, of Robert Murray M'Cheyne.

These all moved their hearers to tears. They made them weep, because they made them feel. But how little of this is to be found in the twentieth century! We might name a few such preachers, such as Jonathan Goforth and Gipsy Smith, but these were carry-overs from the last century. Where are the weeping congregations today? We have heard of a “laughing revival,” whatever that may be, but never of a weeping revival. The plain fact is, the Christianity of the present day is of a different sort from that “old-time religion” which once flourished upon this groaning earth. The preaching is of a different sort. All the great preachers of the past have been men who moved the hearts of men. Now they only inform the intellect, and do precious little even of that.

D. A. Waite on “King James Only”

by Glenn Conjurske

I recently received in the mail a little paper by D. A. Waite (Bible For Today publication #2840), entitled “King James Only: What Does It Mean?” Mr. Waite complains that the “opponents of our King James Bible have hurled unkind epithets at those of us who have the firm conviction that our KING JAMES BIBLE (KJB) is the most accurate and the most valid translation in the English language available today,” and that “one of these unkind epithets is the term 'KING JAMES ONLY.”'

This is a mass of confusion. I myself believe the King James Version to be generally the most accurate and certainly the best version in English, and am certainly not its opponent. Neither do I use the term “King James Only” as an unkind epithet, but simply as the commonly understood designation of a well defined theological position, the same as such terms as Calvinist, Baptist, and Fundamentalist. If some men use the epithet as a term of reproach, this is unfortunate, but for Mr. Waite to imply that all who use it do so reproachfully, or that all who use it are opponents of the King James Bible, is unfair. Some use the term “Fundamentalist” reproachfully also. I gladly bear that reproach.

Waite goes on to say of “King James Only” that “It is a very all-inclusive, inaccurate, undefined, and therefore confusing term.” Such objections are unreasonable. We all know very well what “King James Only” means. It refers to those who hold the King James Version to be without error. This is the position of D. A. Waite himself. He told me so himself, in a telephone conversation some time ago. I asked him if he believed the King James Version to be perfect. He said he does not like to use the word “perfect,” as there might possibly be misprints in the copies, but he affirmed that he believes there are no translation errors in it. By this distinction he affirms that he believes in the perfection of the translation, though not necessarily in the perfection of the printing. To make such a distinction is a work of supererogation, however, for if Mr. Waite believes, as he says he does in the first paragraph of the tract before me, that “the KING JAMES BIBLE is 'God's Word, Kept Intact in English,” he ought to be able to believe it is “kept intact” in the printing as well as in the translating. Is God able to do the one, and not the other?

But waive all that. The fact is, D. A. Waite believes in the perfection of the King James translation. He believes the translation to be without error. This is the distinguishing tenet of the King James Only movement. It is this belief which has created the movement. Everyone who knows anything about the matter knows this very well.

But the King James Only men themselves seem never to be able to discover that which everyone else knows, and which is obvious enough in itself. They love to quibble about the meaning of the term. Some of them disown it. Why is this? John Wesley never quibbled about the meaning of “Methodist,” though he might have done so, and with more reason than the King James Only advocates have. He might have contended, and quite justly, that the term was inaccurate, that it was a term of reproach, that it had no meaning, and that it was too inclusive, embracing even Romaine and Toplady, many of whose doctrines and principles were quite at odds with Wesley's. But Wesley was not ashamed of the name “Methodist,” any more than he was of “Christian,” though every objection which might have been brought against the term “Methodist” might have been brought against “Christian” also. Why cannot the King James Only men do as Wesley did? If their position is the truth, if their movement is of God, let them don their name and wear it without shame.

But the King James Only men seem to be ashamed of their name, and therefore complain of its use, and quibble about its meaning. They complain that the name is confusing, while they labor to create as much confusion as they can concerning it. All this appears in the tract before us. Mr. Waite takes us first to a couple of dictionaries, to give us a technical definition of “only.” This was quite unnecessary. We all know what “only” means, and we know also that the meanings of common phrases are not to be determined by the dictionary definitions of their component parts. When a man endeavors to define a common and well known epithet by means of a dictionary, he will only obscure its meaning, not elucidate it. He will create fog, not dispel it. The man who takes me to a dictionary to teach me the meaning of “separation of church and state,” “Brethren principles,” or “deeper life doctrines,” either understands nothing of the matter, or else means to obscure the terms, or alter their meanings. The method necessarily raises suspicions concerning either the motives or the competence of him who employs it.

But to be short, Mr. Waite finds three definitions of “King James Only,” and none of them the true one.

First, it may refer to those who use the King James Version in preference to the originals, and regard it as superior to the originals. He repudiates this, and so repudiates Peter Ruckman and all his disciples.

It may refer to those who believe the English Bible ought to be used exclusively by all the nations of the earth, and that foreigners must learn English in order to learn the word of God. This appears to be setting up a straw man, in order to knock it down. I was till now ignorant that such a sentiment existed, but he finds it somewhere expressed by Samuel Gipp, and repudiates it.

The third meaning applies to those who believe the King James Version should be the only English Bible used by those who speak English. This definition he owns, making it clear meanwhile that he believes it proper to consult the originals, but that “we use ONLY THE KING JAMES BIBLE in our preaching, memorization, public reading from the pulpit, Bible school literature, Bible school classrooms, Bible institutes, colleges, universities, seminaries, and in similar areas.”

This third definition merely obscures the issue. The term “King James Only” does not relate merely to the use which we make of that version, but to the manner in which we regard it. For centuries there have doubtless been saints and sinners innumerable who used nothing but the King James Version, but they did not regard it as “perfect and without error.” Many of them doubtless knew it was a translation from the inspired originals, and subject to the infirmities and prejudices of the translators. The man who defines “King James Only” on the basis of the use which we make of the version, while he ignores the question of its supposed infallibility, only obscures the issue. “What is wrong,” Mr. Waite asks, “with exalting the KING JAMES BIBLE to its supreme place in the English speaking world? What is wrong with holding that the KING JAMES BIBLE is the most accurate translation available in the English language today? What is wrong with believing the King James Bible to be superior in its Hebrew and Greek Texts, in its translators, in its technique of translation, and in its theology? What is wrong with considering as inferior the modern versions of the Bible?”

I answer, nothing is wrong with most of that----most of it is my own position----but none of it has anything to do with the issue. This is only manufacturing fog----only casting dust in the air----only laboring to obscure the issue. When a whole movement has been founded upon a belief in the inerrancy of the King James Version, it can only deceive people to reduce the issue to nothing more than believing it the most accurate. The only question which Mr. Waite ought to have asked here is, “What is wrong with believing that there are no errors in the King James Bible?” This is the only issue. Why do the leaders of this movement religiously ignore it?

In this they proceed exactly as certain Calvinists, who defend Calvinism by asking, “What is wrong with believing that man is unable to save himself? What is wrong with believing that we are saved by the grace of God? What is wrong with believing that the blood of Christ is efficacious to save sinners?” And I answer, “Nothing is wrong with this, but every Arminian believes it as well as you do----and you know it.” These are not the issues, and the Calvinists know it as well as I do. The real issue is absolute predestination. The man who attempts to defend Calvinism on any other ground is either ignorant or dishonest. Let him now ask, “What is wrong with believing in the unconditional predestination of human beings to heaven or hell?” and we may trouble ourselves to answer him. His other questions are only casting dust in the air. Their only purpose is to deceive the simple.

And so we say to the King James Only men: Ask now, “What is wrong with believing that the King James translation is perfect and without error?” When they reduce the controversy to this, we shall then believe that they understand the issue, and mean to face it fairly and squarely. This is the only issue. If they do not know this, they must be very naive.

But we fear they do know it, and labor to hide it. They proceed just as the Calvinists who speak of grace! grace! grace! and “the doctrines of grace,” and “everlasting love,” while they labor assiduously to keep predestination and reprobation out of sight.

And the King James Only men evidently have a purpose for ignoring and suppressing the main issue. The Dean Burgon Society would of course like to persuade itself that Dean Burgon is one with themselves. They would like to persuade others of this also. But how is this to be done, except by pulling the wool over our eyes? It is certain, from many of his own statements, that Burgon did not believe the King James translation to be without error. It may be true, as Mr. Waite insists, that Burgon was opposed to the revision of the King James Version, but that is nothing to the purpose. He certainly was not opposed to revision as such. He was only opposed to the kind of revision which the liberal revisers of his generation could produce. But even if Burgon had opposed revision as such, not even this would suit Waite's purpose. Many have opposed the revision of the English Bible, not because they supposed it perfect, but because they believed it adequate, and feared spoiling it in the attempt to improve it. They believed, in other words, in letting well enough alone. But “well enough” is not the same thing as “perfect and without error.”

But D. A. Waite and his allies should understand that in so defining “King James Only” as to include Burgon, they have included me also. But what will they do with me? Burgon they want. Me they don't. Why not? In the matters under discussion there is not a whit of difference between myself and Burgon. Ah, but Burgon is dead, and can no longer speak for himself. Solomon says, “A living dog is better than a dead lion,” but for their purposes it is just the reverse. The living dog can bark. The dead lion yields the consent of silence to whatever they say. So they build the sepulchre of the dead lion, while they stone the living dog. But if the dead lion could yet roar, he would not roar under their banner, for any agreement of Burgon with the principles of Waite is purely imaginary.

Burgon held neither the King James Version nor the Textus Receptus to be without error, but believed that both of them required correction. Of the Textus Receptus he affirms that a proper “act of penance to be submitted to by the Revisers would be the restoration of the underlying Greek Text to very nearly----not quite----the state in which they found it when they entered upon their ill-advised undertaking. 'Very nearly----not quite:' for, in not a few particulars, the 'Textus Receptus' does call for Revision, certainly.” Elsewhere Burgon writes, “At least, I will convince every fair person that the truth is what I say it is----viz., that in nine cases out of ten, the commonly received text is the true one.” No intelligent and honest man with these two statements before him can believe that Burgon held the Textus Receptus to be without error. Does D. A. Waite believe that the Textus Receptus certainly calls for revision in not a few particulars? Does he believe it true in only nine cases out of ten? And remark, it goes without saying that if Burgon held the necessity of revising the Textus Receptus in not a few particulars----suppose it to be in one case out of ten----the King James Version would require to be altered to the same extent.

Under the page heading “A Revision of the Greek Text, required,” Burgon says, “Whenever the time comes for the Church of England to revise her Authorized Version (1611), it will become necessary that she should in the first instance instruct some of the more judicious and learned of her sons carefully to revise the Greek Text of Stephens (1550)”---that is, the Textus Receptus.

But further, it is a plain fact that Burgon did not use only the King James Version in his public ministry. He used the liturgy of the Church of England, which did not always employ the King James Version, but retained the Great Bible in the whole book of Psalms.

In his “Dedication” to The Revision Revised Burgon says, “If, therefore, any do complain that I have sometimes hit my opponents rather hard, I take leave to point out that 'to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun': 'a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embracing': a time for speaking smoothly, and a time for speaking sharply.” Burgon quotes from Eccl. 3:5, but not from the common King James Version. He quotes from the margin of the original King James Version. This margin is nothing regarded by the King James Only movement, and is not contained in the Bibles which they commonly use, nor in the “Defined” King James Bible which Mr. Waite publishes.

Burgon wrote a commentary on the Gospels also. He based his comments on the King James Version, but very often corrected it, in a manner which has long been roundly condemned by the King James Only movement. I glanced through one chapter only of this commentary, the tenth chapter of John, and found that Burgon corrects the Authorized Version ten times in that chapter. I give a sampling:

“1 ... But He that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep.

“Rather 'a Shepherd of the sheep.' CHRIST alone is 'the Shepherd:' and He will be found presently, (namely, in verse 11,) to reveal Himself by that name. ...

“10 ... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

“Rather, 'in abundance.' ...

“11 I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.

“Rather, 'layeth down His life;' as in verses 15, 17, 18. ...

“16 ... and there shall be one Fold, and one Shepherd.

“Rather, 'And it shall become one Flock, one Shepherd:' ...

“25 JESUS answered them, I told you, and ye believed not:

“Rather, 'and ye believe not.”

'30 I and My FATHER are One.

“Rather, 'I and the FATHER are One.' ...

“36 say ye of Him, whom the FATHER hath sanctified, and sent into the World, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the SON of GOD?

“'Him' should be in italics. It is rather, 'Say ye of Me.”'

We trust this will suffice to show how far Burgon was from believing the King James Version to be without translation error. We are aware that he published this commentary as a fairly young man (42), and we are quite ready to suppose that in his maturer years he would have regarded some of these corrections as mistaken or unnecessary, but certainly not all of them, and he certainly never repudiated this commentary. We have shown above that he did not use the King James Version exclusively in his public ministry, or in his published works. Much more could be said here, but to be short, any man who so defends Calvinism as to make a Calvinist of John Wesley or Glenn Conjurske is lacking in either understanding or uprightness, and precisely the same must be true of any man who can so define “King James Only” as to include either John Burgon or the editor of Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks.

We have no disposition to quarrel with Mr. Waite. We suppose he is sincere and godly. His doctrine, however, we cannot accept, nor can we approve the tactics by which he endeavors to maintain it, nor his misstatements of the plain facts. We suppose that public teachers ought to be held responsible for their public utterances, and not for their doctrine only, but for their methods and tactics also. We shall not complain if they deal the same with us, though we aim to give them no occasion for it.

Intellecualism & the Interpretation of Scripture

by Glenn Conjurske

God made all the intricate complexities of nature, but he never made a microscope. What he intended for us to learn from nature is to be learned by the naked eye. The lessons of nature are to be gleaned by watching the flock of sheep on the hillside, or “the way of the eagle in the air,” not by dissecting those creatures in a laboratory. “Go to the ant,” the Bible tells us, and there we may learn wisdom, but I once knew a man who on the strength of this advice of Scripture began to study the ant, from a scientific viewpoint. But whatever we may learn by such a study, it is far from the Lord's intent in the matter. He only means for us to “go to the ant” and observe his habits. Any child may do this, with no scientific instruments, and without a notion of the Latin name of the ant. When we have examined the anatomy of the ant under our microscopes, we have killed the ant, and slain the text also. We have so refined it as to divorce it entirely from its original intent, and instead of taking home to our hearts a simple and lively lesson, we have filled our heads with a heap of dry bones.

But this is the way of intellectualism. It would rather have a heap of dry bones than a spiritual lesson which a child can apprehend. It actually despises the simple and spiritual interpretation of Scripture. There is nothing in that to feed its pride, nothing in that to bolster its conceit of intellectual superiority, nothing in that to distinguish it from those who walk in the beaten path. It is altogether too elementary.

Intellectualism knows nothing of the spirit of the little child. The simple and the obvious it will regard as so many vulgar errors. It must have something hidden, something beneath the surface, something above the clouds, something which can only be found in a Hebrew lexicon, an ancient inscription, or the Dead Sea scrolls. It must have something which the common herd cannot find at all.

This intellectualism is in fact a grave moral fault, and God himself treats it as such. “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Luke 10:21). Now who are these “wise and prudent”? The Revised Version renders this “the wise and understanding,” and the New American Standard, “the wise and intelligent.” The Geneva Bible may strike nearer home with “the wise and learned.” But understand, God hides his truth from no man except for moral delinquency. No harm in wisdom or intelligence, no harm in learning, if they are found in those who are but babes in spirit, but this is seldom the case. Intellectualism is at the farthest remove from the spirit of babes, and the plain fact is, intellectuals cannot know the truth of God. From them God himself resolutely hides it. The intellectual interpretation of Scripture is always wrong----always wrong in spirit, though it may occasionally chance to light upon the “correct” construction of the text.

Meanwhile, God opens his treasures to babes. It is a grand certainty that the childlike Gipsy Smith, who never went to school for a day in his life, knew more of the truth of God than a whole truck-load of learned lexicographers. If you would know the truth of God, you must become a babe. You must cease to despise the obvious and the elementary, and learn to delight in them. You must put away your hidden meanings, intellectual superiority, Hebrew roots, deep erudition, Arabic cognates, profound scholarship, Greek syntax, academic degrees, fine-spun theories, analytical prowess, theological acumen, minute micrology, Egyptian mummies, and learned tomfoolery----in short, you must put away whatever savors of pride----and learn to read the Bible as a little child.

The Editor Answers His Own Challenge

Above a year ago, in my review of David Cloud's For Love of the Bible, I challenged the whole King James Only movement to produce a single explicit statement, prior to Fuller and Ruckman, ascribing perfection to the King James Version. None have responded, though my review has been reprinted by others, and gone far beyond the circulation of this magazine. But I have found such a statement myself, and I pass it on to my readers, for I am not one to conceal my opponents' strong points----not that I think this point very strong after all.

Spencer Cone led a segment of the Baptists of America, in about 1850, in a move to revise the English Bible. He met with very strong opposition from a majority of his fellow Baptists, and says concerning that opposition, “A great deal had been said in regard to the translators and translation of the Scriptures. He had heard his brethren here utter the most singular remarks in relation to the forty-nine translators appointed by King James; and some had gone so far as to pronounce the Bible as translated by the distinguished forty-nine, a perfect work! Had we ever heard of a work so lauded to the skies?”

Yet mark: all that we have here is a second-hand report, made by an opponent, in a heated controversy----and a report of the substance only (not the words) of the statements of unknown persons, made in the heat of the same controversy----and a bitter controversy, which dissolved lifelong friendships. Heated and reactionary statements are almost always extreme, and heated opponents are very likely to impose upon them extreme interpretations, never intended by those who spoke. We know not who spoke such things----whether learned divines, or ignorant blunderers. Neither do we know exactly what they said or meant. They might have meant only that the English version was perfect in its plan and principles, or that it was perfectly adequate, and not that it was inerrant in every detail. Neither do we know that they would have made, or that they did maintain, such assertions on calm reflection, in the absence of a heated controversy. But let the King James Only movement make what they can of the statement. I do not suppose it will be much, for they will find no continuity between this and the movement which arose more than a century later.

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.