by Glenn Conjurske
We first meet Rachel where Jacob met her, at the well in Haran, where
she had gone to water her father's sheep, and where he had fled to escape
his brother's wrath. There Jacob soon saw what we are soon told, namely,
that Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. Neither are we
told this for nothing. Her beauty had its natural effect. Rachel
was beautiful and well favoured: and Jacob loved Rachel. When he
is approached, therefore, by her father with a tender of employment, and
asked to name his wages, he replies without hesitation, I will serve
thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
Now this seven years of strenuous labor, voluntarily undertaken, no doubt
had a very sweet and pleasing effect upon the heart of Rachel. Here she
plainly saw the love which Jacob had for her, and the value which he set
upon her, and the more so when Jacob told her from time to time (as we
have no doubt that he did) how light and easy his labor seemed to him
the years of toil seemed to him but days ----how much longer and
harder he would gladly labor to possess her ----what mountains he
would climb, what deserts he would cross, what rivers he would swim, to
secure her love. All this, we say, we have no doubt Rachel heard from
the lips of Jacob, for this is the way of a man with a maid
(Prov. 30:19), and we are not to suppose that a man who loved Rachel as
Jacob did would have had nothing to say to her about it, for he doubtless
knew nothing of those modern hyperspiritual doctrines which make it sinful
for a man to court a maid ----which call it emotional fornication
for a man to take the heart of a woman with his love. All this love, the
hyperspiritual tell us, must be reserved till after marriage.
And what then, we ask, is the way of a man with a maid? She
is no maid when she is married. Is this the way of a man with a
maid, to deal for her hand with her father? Let him believe it who
can. Jacob, we are sure, knew nothing of such notions, and we are sure
also that the flame which burned in his heart for Rachel was no secret
to her. She knew what she was to him, and for seven long years she was
in all her glory, smiling and singing, basking in the light
and the warmth of his love. These were no doubt the happiest years of
her life, for she knew nothing then of the thunderbolt which was to fall
upon her on the intended night of her wedding.
Here then is the sweet and pleasant picture of love and courtship as God
created it, and as the hearts of man and woman need it. And yet that wretched
hyperspirituality which can never find the hand of God in nature will
set aside all this sweetness, and despise it as a carnal delusion. Alfred
Edersheim, wise in other matters, speaks foolishly enough in this one.
Jacob, he says, had learned to love Rachel, Laban's
younger daughter. Without consulting the mind of God in the matter, he
now proposed to serve Laban seven years for her hand.
God, however, overruled the vain choice of Jacob, For Leah was,
so far as we can judge, the one whom God had intended for Jacob, though,
for the sake of her beauty, he had preferred Rachel. From Leah sprang
Judah, in whose line the promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled. Leah,
as we shall see in the sequel, feared and served Jehovah; while Rachel
was attached to the superstitions of her father's house; and even the
natural character of the elder sister fitted her better for her new calling
than that of the somewhat petulant, peevish, and self-willed, though beautiful
younger daughter of Laban.
Love, then, has nothing to do with marriage. It is a snare, that is all.
It led Jacob astray from the will of God. So far as we can judge,
he ought to have married the one he could not love, and rejected the one
he could not help but love. Love, then, is not of God. It is only a sweet
delusion. It is a carnal snare. Again I say, let him believe it who can.
How does it appear that Jacob contracted for Rachel without consulting
the mind of God in the matter? Has love nothing to do with the mind
of God? Are those natural attractions which draw a man and a woman together,
and cement their hearts as one, are these not the creation of God? Have
these nothing to do with the mind of God?
We know, of course, that those natural attractions may exist where character
does not, and we know that no man ought to marry for love alone, in the
absence of any spiritual fitness, but this is really irrelevant in the
present case. Rachel was at any rate as suitable for Jacob as Leah was.
We think Edersheim falls prey to his imagination in treating of their
characters. His theory is the father of his conclusion. We see no such
difference as he finds between Rachel and Leah. At the outset Leah certainly
appears in a worse light than Rachel. It may be that afterwards she progressed
at a faster pace, but we might naturally expect this, as she had the harder
lot, and there is nothing which works character like hardships.
We hold that it was right for Jacob to marry Rachel, that it was his love which made it right, and that it was most certainly right that he should
love her. Edersheim, however, is offended that he chose her for
the sake of her beauty. Thus does hyperspirituality despise the
gifts of God. The heart of man is naturally taken by feminine beauty,
as his tongue naturally loves the taste of a ripened peach, and his nostrils
naturally love the fragrance of the rose. He who condemns any of this
condemns the gifts of God, and so the God who created them.
The character of Jacob's love
----its strength and stability ----ought
to teach men that it stood upon a solid foundation. The seven years which
he labored for Rachel, seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. And mark, his seven years of labor tell but half
the tale. It certainly is not to be supposed that he labored the second
seven years for Leah, when, as Adam Clarke well says, it is not
likely that Jacob would have served seven days for Leah. But he
was in a hard place. Leah he had already, as the unrighteous wage for
the seven years he had toiled for Rachel. His right to Rachel is offered
him again, on the unrighteous condition that he labor seven years more.
To spurn this unjust demand with the contempt it deserved might well have
so alienated Laban as to endanger his hope of ever possessing Rachel at
all ----for none are ever so indignant and implacable as the unrighteous,
when their unrighteousness is exposed. He therefore set to work again,
to pay her price the second time. Thus dear, as Bishop Hall
remarks, is Jacob content to pay for Rachel fourteen years' servitude.
All this for the love of Rachel. And after all this we are to be told
it was the design of God that he should marry Leah? ----while the
beauty and charm of Rachel thus burned in his soul? We do not hesitate
to say that those who sin thus against nature sin against nature's God,
and the misery which they are certain to reap for it is the fault of none
Jacob had no love for Leah
----none of the sort of love of which
marriage is made. It was outside the realm of possibility for him to love
her as he loved Rachel, and could it have been right for him to marry her, to commit himself to her for both of their lives, in a relationship
in which neither of them could ever be happy? This is to affirm that man
was made for marriage, and not marriage for man. Such are the dreams of
the hyperspiritual. The rest of the race has dreams of another sort, and
those dreams are of God. They flow from the nature which God has created.
Here is all the choicest goodness of God, given to man even in the midst
of his sin. Here is the one portion of Paradise which man may carry with
him, when he must leave the rest of Paradise behind, guarded by the flaming
sword of the Lord. To despise this, and under the cloak of spirituality,
We know perfectly well that a man's love must stand upon a foundation
deeper and broader than mere outward beauty, but we know also that that
outward beauty is a large and essential part of that foundation. No man
can love a woman in whom he sees no beauty
----nor would she desire
such love if he could. While we speak, therefore, of Rachel's beauty,
and Jacob's love for her, we dare not pass by the beauty of Leah. It were
folly to suppose she had none. Doubtless she lacked the surpassing beauty
of Rachel. Moreover, she wanted that peculiar charm which would take the
heart of Jacob, but this did not render her case hopeless. Very far from
it. We would not say a word to discourage the plainest of women, and if
we did, we would not speak the truth. Passing by the fact that Beauty
is in the eye of the beholder, and passing by the further fact that
a good portion of feminine beauty flows from the soul within, we merely
rehearse this plain fact of history, that The sons of God saw the
daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all
which they chose. They were fair, all of them ----not
all equally so, but yet every one fair, each in her own way. They took
them wives of all which they chose, for the beauty of one takes
the heart of one man, and the beauty of another the heart of another.
No woman is altogether destitute of beauty, unless she is deformed in
soul. Leah was tender-eyed. Her case was not desperate, even
from the mere standpoint of nature, leaving God and faith out of the question.
She, however, evidently thought it hopeless, for the beauty of Rachel
was doubtless a constant discouragement to her, and she therefore stepped
in to take by stealth in the dark what she supposed she could not secure
in the open light of day. There was no need for this. Patience would have
had its reward, and her day would have come, as Rachel's had.
Meanwhile, Rachel's day has come. She has entered into her own, and for
seven years she walks on air, breathing all the fragrance of the sweetest
and purest love which earth affords.
But why now this thunderbolt which falls upon her as it were out of a
clear blue sky? She saw no dark clouds on the horizon. She heard no distant
thunder. She saw only blue skies and the bright shining of the sun, and
expected nothing else
----only that tomorrow would be as this day,
and much more abundant ----only the sun more bright, and the sky
more blue. And while she looks only for this, behold! a stunning thunderbolt
fells her to the earth, and well nigh takes the life out of her. She looked
for a river of bliss, and behold! a river of tears. She looked for the
sweet fulfilment of all her dreams, and behold! the bleakest of nightmares.
Her soul is wounded to the quick, and our soul is wounded with hers. We
scarcely dare ask, Why? We can only put our hand upon our mouth, and stand
in awe. The ways of the Lord are past finding out. He giveth not account
of any of his matters.
Yet we cannot help but ask why. I have heard men say that when they get
to heaven, they intend to spend the first thousand years gazing upon the
face of Christ. I am not so spiritual. I have another plan. I intend to
spend the first thousand years asking why. Ah! the tangled mysteries of
this poor life of tears and groans and disappointments! The shattered
dreams! The blasted hopes! The fallen castles! The unrequited loves! The
undried tears! The flowers frosted in the bud! The whole creation
groaneth and travaileth together until now, and the whole of this
tear-stained earth sends up to heaven one grand cry of Why? We know that
sin is the reason in general, but we crave to know the reasons in particular,
and Christ explicitly, and more than once, forbids us to suppose that
any particular sin is the reason for some particular affliction. We know
nothing of the reason why, though we cannot but crave to know it
not for any idle curiosity, but because we feel from the depth of our
soul that to understand God, we must understand why. But the answer comes ----not
yet. Heaven will make amends for all. So the proverb affirms,
and so faith believes, and surely one of the amends which heaven will
make will be to teach us why. Meanwhile we ask,
Why was the serene happiness of this innocent girl thus violently wrested
from her in a moment, just when she expected to taste its sweetest fruit?
We have no theories. Perhaps Rachel was sinful, and stood in need of a
hard scourging. Perhaps she was vain, and sacrificed at the shrine of
her own beauty, thanking her own fair face and form for Jacob's love,
instead of giving honor to God. Perhaps she gloried over her destitute
sister, and must now be recompensed for that. Perhaps. But we know nothing
about it, and it would be as sinful for us to make such purely gratuitous
imputations against Rachel as it was for Job's three friends to do so
against Job. We suppose that if any such thing were true, the Bible would
give us some hint of it, but the record tells us nothing of the kind,
and we know nothing of the kind. But this much we know, that this is not
the day of judgement, and that here the righteous suffer. Here the innocent suffer. Here the strong and heartless father deals a crushing blow to
his tender, trusting daughter, and she must suffer for it, not he. We
know nothing of the reason for this, but we impute nothing of evil to
Rachel. The record gives us no right to do so. Much less do we have any
heart to do so. We only weep the tears of Rachel over again, and take
our consolation where alone we can find it, in the fact that Heaven
will make amends for all.
But whatever the sweetness and innocence of Rachel may have been before
her marriage, her character appears to little advantage afterwards. And
who could wonder at this? If the delights of pure pristine romance are
calculated to bring out all the best in a woman, it is a certain fact
that polygamy is sure to bring out all the worst. God created male and
----one male and one female. He never said, For this
cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wives,
and they three shall be one flesh. This is against the ordinance
of God, and it is certainly against nature. Whatever a man may be, it
is an utter impossibility for a woman to be happy in such a marriage.
Rachel and Leah were one flesh by their birth, but their marriage made
them adversaries. No kitchen is large enough for two women ----much
less is a marriage bed. This is such an outrage to everything that is
sacred to her feminine nature, that we can hardly blame her if it makes
her cross, irritable, petulant, peevish, jealous, and ruthless. She must
have the character of an angel to be anything else in so trying a place.
In love and marriage a woman must be all and have all. Neither can she
be content with a whit less than all. This is her nature, not as sin has
corrupted it, but as God has created it.
Rachel, therefore envied her sister. Leah had Jacob's children,
but Rachel had his heart. Why was she not content with this? Because she
was a woman. Elkanah thought to console Hannah with Am I not better
to thee than ten sons? but this was no consolation to a woman. Her
adversary provoked her sore. We suppose that Hannah was the loved
wife, as Rachel was. We can hardly conceive of Jacob saying to Leah, Am
I not better to thee than ten sons?
----for she had little
enough of his company, and nothing of his heart. We suppose, then, that
Hannah was the wife which was loved, and this compelled her adversary
to provoke her sore ----to press with all her feminine pettishness
the little advantage which she had, to establish her own worth, and the
inferiority of her rival. And it is hard to blame a woman for a desperate
attempt to be something, where she needs to be everything. No doubt Peninnah
was destitute of both love and faith, and her tactics were cruel and ruthless,
but the plain fact is, polygamy serves not only to manifest all that is
worst in a woman, but to swell and enlarge it also, while it dries up
all the springs of that sisterly affection which is so natural to the
Rachel therefore envied her sister, though she had much more
than her sister had, and came to Jacob with this petulant demand, Give
me children, or else I die! Her language leaves no doubt of her
impassioned earnestness, as her passionate earnestness leaves no doubt
of the depth of her need, but passion has gone too far. Her impetuosity
has led her to impiety. We shall have more to say of that by and by. Jacob
immediately perceived it, And Jacob's anger was kindled against
Rachel, and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee
the fruit of the womb? Her impetuous desire was not thus cooled,
however, and she responds with, Behold my maid Bilhah: go in unto
her, and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may have children by her.
Sarah had done this before her, and Leah did it afterwards, but we cannot
withhold our conviction that Rachel had less excuse for it than either
of them. Leah no doubt acted thus as a matter of quiet and desperate resolve,
and Sarah probably did so also, when worn down by hope long deferred,
but Rachel seems to have acted from mere impetuosity. She certainly had
less of need than Leah had, for she had her husband's heart and his company,
while Leah had neither. She, that is, had almost everything, while Leah
had almost nothing. Still we must grant that it was nothing other than
feminine need which drove her to this impetuous act, for in love a woman
can bear no rival. She can no more bear an inferior rival than a superior
one. She must be all.
While Leah, therefore, had children, and Rachel had none, Rachel
envied her sister. Leah envied Rachel also, and while envy persisted,
quarrels prevailed. 'Tis hard for a civil word to pass between two sisters,
when they must share one husband. Rachel but asks, and with courtesy enough,
for some of Leah's mandrakes, and she must be rebuffed with, Is
it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take
away my son's mandrakes also? Those lips which were resolutely sealed
while she stole Jacob from her sister are now quickly opened to reproach
her sister for stealing Jacob from herself. Such a taunt ill befits the
mouth of Leah. The man who steals his neighbor's goods can hardly complain
if his neighbor takes them back again. Leah had no claim upon Jacob, except
only by his grace. When the morning light revealed her, he might with
perfect justice have turned her out. If she had pleaded that now she was
defiled, no one else would have her, he might have rejoined that she should
have thought of that before she committed her sin. It was only by the
grace of Jacob that she was taken under his wing.
And in this her standing with Jacob, Leah is an undoubted type of the
church. Rachel stands for Israel, his first love, and the bride of his
covenant. She had a claim upon Jacob. Leah had none. She was received
by his grace alone. So far the type is clear, but beyond this we cannot
go. Jacob's subsequent treatment of Leah, and the fact that Rachel was
loved, and Leah hated, are no types at all. No type will stand on all
fours. Neither can we prove anything concerning the character of either
Rachel or Leah by the fact that they are types of the people of God. If
they are, then Jacob himself is a type of Christ, but certainly this proves
nothing concerning his character. The Old Testament types generally consist
in events and circumstances. The character of the persons involved is
subordinate or immaterial.
At any rate it is clear enough that Leah had no claim upon Jacob but by
his grace. Perhaps it was compassion which moved him to accept her. Perhaps
it was conscience, for he could hardly forget that he was a supplanter
himself, with a stolen blessing in his own hands. Perhaps it was only
the fear that in rejecting her, he would lose Rachel also. But whatever
moved him, his acceptance of her as a wife must have laid upon him some
obligation to be a husband to her. He evidently did little enough to fulfil
that obligation, if Leah must buy his company for a single night with
her son's mandrakes. Why was Jacob thus remiss?
Alas, though the reproachful taunt that Rachel had stolen her husband
was altogether out of place in the mouth of Leah, yet there was evidently
too much truth in it. Rachel evidently engrossed Jacob entirely to herself.
It had not always been so. In the earlier days of this unnatural marriage,
Leah had evidently had some share in Jacob, for she bore him four sons
in rapid succession. Now she must treat with her sister for a single night
of his company. Something had changed, and Rachel now engrossed Jacob
wholly to herself. This was no doubt easy enough to do, for all his love
was for her, and a man who is in love with one woman is driven by a compelling
desire to let her know it
----to make her feel it ----to leave
no doubt in her mind concerning it ----to make her feel that she
is indeed his all ----and how can he do this while he is paying
conjugal visits to her rival? And who can suppose that Rachel will urge
him to his duty, to be a husband to Leah also? Such a thing would be directly
contrary to all the deepest needs of her own nature. Much sooner would
we expect her to pout and reproach him for every attention which he paid
to Leah ----to weep and to say, How can you say that you love
me, when you leave me to cry alone while you spend the night with Leah?
Why should she make a vain attempt to share him with her sister, and so
insure that they must both be tormented by a continual round of offenses
and jealousies? If but one of them could have the happy possession of
him, why should it be Leah any more than herself? She indeed had the prior
right, where Leah had none at all, and she most likely used this fact
with Jacob to secure him all to herself.
It is hard to see Rachel so jealous of her own need, and so insensitive
to the same need in her sister. Did she not certainly know that while
she engrossed all of Jacob's attentions to herself there was a deprived
and aching heart in the tent of her sister? Doubtless she knew it, and
we suppose she felt it, but what was a woman to do? She needed what she
had, and how could she give it up? We think it most interesting that she
so readily gave up Jacob for a night for Leah's mandrakes. How many women
would sell their husbands for so small a price? We may suppose that Rachel
felt her sister's need only less than her own, and was therefore glad
of an opportunity to give her a share in Jacob, so long as it was on such
terms as maintained inviolate her own superior right
was Rachel who proposed this bargain, when she might have rejoined with
justice that the real and only thief was Leah herself, who had no right
to complain if she but took back her own. Her feminine nature would scarcely
allow her to treat Leah as an equal, who had a right to Jacob, but she
would allow her to buy what was thus acknowledged on both sides to belong
by right to herself. Not that Leah's heart could acknowledge Rachel's
right, any more than Rachel could acknowledge hers, but how could she
spurn so easy a purchase of what she so desperately needed? Something
is better than nothing, and therefore her pride must be swallowed,
the bargain made, and the mandrakes paid, or she would have nothing at
all of Jacob. By her act, at any rate, she acknowledged Rachel's right,
and on such terms Rachel would grant her what she would otherwise engross
wholly to herself.
From all this it plainly appears that Rachel had in very deed taken away
----not that Leah had any right to complain of it.
In all this she was only paid in her own coin. The grand theme of all
of these Old Testament histories is discipline in the school of God, and
oh! how exquisite the workings, how intricate the turnings, of that discipline.
Leah takes her husband from Rachel on her wedding night, and now she must
have her husband taken by Rachel for an endless succession of days and
nights, for weeks and months together. She is thus paid in her own coin,
but good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. This
is the ordinary way of God, for he will have us to feel by all means the sinfulness of sin. Our hearts may ache and our eyes run down with tears
for Leah, and yet we must say, This is righteous.
And we are all enrolled in the same school. For whom the Lord loveth
he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. We must
therefore often enough ache and weep for ourselves, while the Lord pays
us also in our own coin, and good measure, pressed down, shaken
together, and running over. This is not to turn us from our sin,
for we may have been turned from it many years ago, but to cause us to
feel its sinfulness, and to warn others also that whatsoever a man
soweth, that shall he also reap. Oh, how slow men are to believe
in the bitter consequences of sin. They sow their wheat hoping to reap
a hundred fold, but they sow a bushel of wild oats, expecting to reap
only a peck or a pint. But God is not mocked, and God will not have it
so. The sin of five minutes may bear bitter fruit for five decades. All
this is written large in the lonely tears of Leah.
But Rachel must be scourged in the same school, and if the rod which falls
upon Leah fills our eyes with tears, that which Rachel must feel leaves
us almost too stunned to weep. When she uttered her importunate demand,
Give me children, or else I die! how little did she dream
that her children would be her death! Yet so it was, and when we contemplate
her history, we can only exclaim, Behold the goodness and severity
of God! Goodness, indeed, for God remembered Rachel, and God
hearkened to her, and opened her womb, and she conceived, and bare a son,
and said, God hath taken away my reproach. All this is beautiful
and tender. Rachel's longing desires and Rachel's reproach were felt in
heaven, and God opened his hand to satisfy her longings, and remove her
reproach. Her tears are dried, and she holds in her arms the bundle of
joy for which her heart so long has ached. Behold, the goodness
But she has yet a day of reckoning to come, and must yet feel his severity
also. And here again we stand in awe, and confess that the ways of God
are past finding out. We know that God commonly visits impiety with a
much sorer scourging than immorality, and what appears to us a great immorality
will receive a softer stroke than what appears a very venial impiety.
Eating and drinking unworthily at the Lord's table receives a much heavier
stroke than notorious incest. For this cause many are weak and sickly
among you, and many sleep (I Cor. 11:30), while for that cause we
read of no judgement at all.
Samson lies with a harlot till midnight, yet rises up from that iniquity
and carries off the gates and bars of the city by the power of the Spirit
of God. Uzzah but steadies the ark, and is slain. Samson meant nothing
good. Uzzah meant nothing but good. Yet God bares his arm to enable Samson
to escape with his life, while the same arm is bared to take away the
life of Uzzah.
There was a tinge, if no more, of impiety in the petulant speech of Rachel,
and how dearly must she pay for it.
And what can we say to all these things? He giveth not account of
any of his matters.
We ought by all means, however, to devote the most careful attention to
every example of the severity of God which the Bible affords
us, for these things are not written for nothing. The rod which Rachel
felt has something to teach us, and well it will be for us if we learn
what it is.
And first, we might learn to be content with such good as we have, and
not to so pine for the good which we lack as to become impetuous and imperious
in our demand for it. We know right well that those desires which belong
to our nature are hard to quell, and God condemns not men or women because
they are not angels. Still, we may desire and not sin. We may desire and
not demand. Rachel's wrong did not lie in her desire for children, but
in the petulancy of her speech.
And here again, what may appear venial to us is treated otherwise by God.
Moses was faithful in all his house, yet because he spake
unadvisedly with his lips on one occasion, he must forfeit the land
of Canaan. Rachel spoke unadvisedly with her lips also, and must now die
the death of which she had so lightly and petulantly spoken. Ah! with
what carefulness ought we to open our lips! Do we not certainly know that
every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof
in the day of judgment? Do we not certainly know that in the same
day of judgement, by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy
words thou shalt be condemned? (Matt. 12:36-37). Some of our modern
divines have determined that this day of judgment, of which
the Lord so solemnly speaks, does not so much as exist, yet even they,
we suppose, must reckon with the rod of God in this life, for he scourges
every son whom he receives, and we are apt to feel more deeply the rod
which falls upon us in this life for our careless and impetuous words.
He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life (Prov. 13:3), and
we have little doubt that if Rachel had kept her mouth, she had kept her
life also. But Rachel was impetuous. The passion, therefore, which ruled
her heart must rule her tongue also, so much so that the anger of her
loving Jacob was kindled against her. And was not the anger of God kindled
also? Yet he comes slowly to reckon with her for this, and will first
remember her need and her reproach, and open his bountiful hand to her,
that she may enjoy his goodness, and praise him in the land of the living.
When He Hath Tried Me
Abstract of a Sermon on Job 23, Preached on February 10, 1999
by Glenn Conjurske
When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Here we
have a living and vibrant statement of faith. It was spoken when Job was
shut up in the furnace, when God would not answer him, and when he could
find no way out. This is the proper sphere of faith. This is where faith
lives and moves, in the dark, in the fire, in the prison, in the crucible,
in the vice, when God has shut you up and left you there, and answers
none of your cries.
When he hath tried me. Job was not speaking of some theoretical
proposition here. He was in the midst of the trial, and you will be there
too if you haven't been. It is the way of God to try his saints, and oh,
he knows how to go about it. When God tries a man, he will know that he
has been in the furnace. God knows how to arrange every circumstance,
to give you the bleakest outlook, the keenest disappointment, the most
exquisite pain. He thrust Job down from the height of position and prosperity
in one day, and set him on the ash heap, covered with sore boils, surrounded
by unfeeling friends, to misjudge and accuse him, and beside all this,
God himself shut up the heaven over him, and would answer none of his
pleading. Oh that I knew where I might find him! he says,
that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before
him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would tell him that I would
not treat my child this way. I would plead my weakness. I would plead
the cleanness of my hands. I would plead the reproach which now stains
the righteous and the God of the righteous, even in the eyes of these
three friends, when they see the righteous thus cast down. I would tell
him how the wicked mock and triumph. I would fill my mouth with
arguments. All this, if I could find him
----but I cannot.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot
perceive him; on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold
him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.
All my cries avail nothing. All my tears are wasted. None of my arguments
move him. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and
not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips;
I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food
all this avails me nothing. He is in one mind, and who can turn
him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth
the thing that is appointed for me, and many such things are with him.
He tries me, and I cannot escape it, nor move him to relent.
Now there are two reasons why God tries his saints. One is to change what
they are, and the other is to display what they are. God works both of
these together, by the same means, for the same afflictions which prove what we are serve also to purify us. Before I was afflicted, I went
astray, the Psalmist says, but now have I kept thy word.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn
thy statutes. (Psalm 119:67 & 71).
No doubt all of Job's afflictions were used of God to purge him, but that
in fact was not the primary purpose of Job's trials. He was not tried
to change what he was, but to prove what he was. The refiner may put his
gold in the fire to purge away its dross, but he may also put it there
merely to prove that it is gold. This, we know, was the primary purpose
of God in putting Job in the crucible. We know this from the first and
second chapters of the book. God challenged the devil, and said, Hast
thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth,
a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
The devil returned the challenge
----told the Lord that if he would
put forth his hand and touch all that Job had, Job would curse him to
his face. God gave the devil permission to make the trial. This was not
to change Job, but to prove that he was what God said he was ----to
prove that he was what he professed to be.
Now God knows how to go about his work. He knew how to try Job. He knew
what sort of furnace to put him in, and how hot to heat it. No doubt Job
had some dross, though he was the best man on the earth, and no doubt
the furnace purged some of it away, but that was only a subordinate purpose.
It was God's purpose to prove what Job was. God has set his hand to try Job, and therefore when Job has wept all his tears, and plied God with
all his arguments, he can only say, He is in one mind, and who can
turn him? What his soul desireth, even that he doeth.
He performeth the thing that is appointed for me, and many such
things are with him. He tries me.
Now observe Job's faith. One facet of faith is that it takes all things
from the hand of God. It says, The cup which my Father hath given
me, shall I not drink it? It sees no betrayer, no Pharisees, no
fickle multitude, no Herod, no Pilate, no soldiers
Father. This is the viewpoint of faith, and so speaks Job. When
he hath tried me. He sees no wicked Chaldeans, no ruthless Sabeans,
no heartless, accusing friends to add insult to his injury, but only God.
When he hath tried me. He performeth the thing that
is appointed for me.
You may suppose that if you are a saint of God, you will be tried also.
God will put you in the vice, and apply the pressure. He will put you
in the furnace, and apply the heat. He will shut you up in the prison,
and leave you to languish there. And what then? Will you look about for
someone to blame for your plight? This is the common way of pride and
self-will and unbelief. All this pain might be spared me if it weren't
for my unreasonable mother, my hard-hearted father, my foolish husband,
my rebellious children, my careless friend, my heartless employer, my
wicked neighbor, the officious deacons, the proud executive director.
You blame them, and it may be nurse the blame into resentment, and so
your trial makes you worse instead of better, and thus you exercise all
your wits to prolong the trial. When God puts you in the crucible and
begins to blow the fire, you ought by all means to drag out all your dross,
and expose it directly to the flame. By that means, if any, you might shorten the duration of the trial, or mitigate the severity of the flame.
But no: you cling to the dross, and hide it in your bosom, and compel
the Lord to heat the fire hotter.
Now to blame anyone else for your plight is directly against the way of
faith. Faith sees only God. Indeed, I tell you plainly, when God tries
you as he did Job, you will be compelled to acknowledge his hand in it.
Who but God could have tried a man as Job was tried? When God puts you
in the furnace, you will then say, Who but God could cause such exquisite
pain? Who but God could arrange such impossible circumstances? Who but
God, who knows my inmost heart, could deal out such keen disappointments?
Who but God could shut up every avenue of escape?
God knows how to touch your tenderest part. God knows every avenue of
your soul, and he knows exactly how to direct every arrow to the very
place where you will feel it most. The poor man's cow dies,
an old proverb says, and the rich man's child. The rich man
would feel nothing if a dozen of his cows died, and God intends for you
to feel the trial. He knows how to blast your dearest hopes. He knows
how to thwart your fondest expectations. He knows how to weary and wear
you down. He knows how to give you bitter disappointment where you expected
deliverance. Joseph expected deliverance from the mouth of Pharaoh's butler,
and no doubt passed every day with great hopes, after the butler was restored
to his place. But it was God who tried him, and it was not yet time to
open the door of his prison. He watched and listened day by day for the
news of his release, but every day added to his disappointment. He no
doubt prayed most earnestly
----and the God who had given the butler
his dream could no doubt bring the plight of Joseph to his remembrance ----but
Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgat him.
Joseph's gleam of hope therefore died away, and his prospect was made
only the more bleak, for the ray of hope which had lightened it.
But God remembered Joseph. The butler forgot him, but God remembered.
God only appears to forget his children when he tries them. This is part
of the trial, and perhaps the most necessary part. But I will tell you
this, that no man is ever so conscious of his gold as when it is in the
fire. No man puts his gold in the fire and forgets it there. When God
puts you in the fire or the prison, this is not to destroy you, but only
to refine you, or to prove that you are gold. The case may indeed appear
hopeless to you. You can see no light at the end of the tunnel. You are
straitly shut up in the inner prison, and your feet fast in the stocks.
Your circumstances are hopeless already, and every change which comes
is for the worse. You have no prospect, and no hope.
But faith regards none of this. Faith looks not at the darkness of the
night, the heat of the fire, the straitness of the prison, the unreasonableness
or the hard-heartedness of men, the folly of father or mother or husband
or wife, the wickedness of rulers, or the injustice of judges. Faith looks
up to God, and says, I shall come forth. No matter how tight
the prison or how dark the dungeon, I shall come forth. No
matter how great the folly of friends or the malice of enemies, I
shall come forth. No matter how long or how dark the tunnel, I
shall come forth. Maugre all the malice of men, and all the power
of Satan, I shall come forth. My groans will be turned to
songs. My tears will be turned to smiles. My disappointments will cease.
My reproach will be taken away. Those who now spare not to spit
in my face will honor me as before. The years which the locust hath
eaten will be restored to me. I shall be delivered from all my troubles,
and all my fears. I shall come forth.
Yet more, I shall come forth unhurt. I shall come forth as gold,
refined and purified if I need it, but no way injured. The fire cannot
hurt the gold. The gold is precious to him who owns it, and he would not
hurt it. If he blows the coals and fans the flames, this is to try the
gold, but not to hurt it. If he puts the bellows into the hands of your
friends, or your enemies, or the careless, or the unreasonable, or the
malicious, or the foolish
----or the devil himself, as he did in
Job's case ----it all remains just the same. The fire cannot hurt
the gold, no matter who works the bellows. When he hath tried me,
I shall come forth ----as gold.
A Most Interesting Testimony of J. W. Burgon
On the Position of Certain Scholia
In Several Mss. of the Book of Mark
by the editor
Certain cursive manuscripts of the book of Mark, namely Evan. 20, 215,
& 300, contain a notice to the effect that some manuscripts end here,
but that the ancient ones contain also what follows, to the end. Now it
so happens that this note does not appear following verse 8, but rather
after verse 15. Upon finding this note at this place, the critics assumed that it was misplaced
----that it in fact belonged after verse 8,
and that it was meant forsooth to refer to The Last Twelve Verses
of Mark, and not merely to the last five.
To this view Burgon gave his assent in 1871, writing on pages 118-119
of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, In Codd. 20 and 300 (Scholz proceeds)
we read as follows:
----'From here to the end forms no part of the
text in some of the copies. In the ancient copies, however, it all forms
part of the text.' Scholz (who was the first to adduce this important
testimony to the genuineness of the verses now under consideration) takes
no notice of the singular circumstance that the two MSS. he mentions have
been exactly assimilated in ancient times to a common model; and that
they correspond one with the other so entirely that the foregoing rubrical
annotation appears in the wrong place in both of them, viz. at the close
of ver. 15, where it interrupts the text. This was, therefore, once a
scholion written in the margin of some very ancient Codex, which has lost
its way in the process of transcription; (for there can be no doubt that
it was originally written against ver. 8.) And let it be noted that its
testimony is express; and that it avouches for the fact that 'in the ancient
S. Mark xvi.9 ----20 'formed part of the text.
'(3.) Yet more important is the record contained in the same two MSS.,
(of which also Scholz says nothing,) viz. that they exhibit a text which
had been 'collated with the ancient and approved copies at Jerusalem.'
What need to point out that so remarkable a statement, taken in conjunction
with the express voucher that 'although some copies of the Gospels are
without the verses under discussion, yet that in the ancient copies all
the verses are found,' is a critical attestation to the genuineness of
S. Mark xvi.9 to 20, &c.
Thus wrote Burgon in 1871. In 1873, however, upon examining ms. Evan.
215 (an undoubted sister to numbers 20 and 300, upon which he comments
above), he found a fact which indicated that he was mistaken in his acquiescence
in the verdict of the critics, that the scholion was misplaced, and he
explicitly retracted that acquiescence. What convinced him to the contrary,
and what its significance, he related in one of his letters to Scrivener
in The Guardian (1873, pg. 1369). I have carefully consulted Burgon's
published books, as well as those of Scrivener and others, and so far
as I can learn, this information has not been printed elsewhere. It is
certainly valuable, and as the Guardian which contains it is very scarce
at this date, I reprint it for the readers of Olde Paths & Ancient
Landmarks. It will repay a careful study, and I say study,
for it is certain that most of us will make little of it by a casual reading.
Burgon writes of Evan. 215 at Venice, You will remember that Evan.
20 at Paris (their Reg. 188) exhibits extraordinarily original conformity
with Evan. 300 (their Reg. 186); and has been brought into exact conformity
by its ancient (perhaps its first) possessor, by a process of careful
correction, of which abundant traces are observable in every page. 'A
second hand has been busy here,' say the critics. Yes, indeed: very busy.
But the purpose of that 'secunda manus' deserves to be stated. The perplexing
circumstance with regard to these two codices, however, is not their extraordinary
----(for every page of S. Mark's Gospel
begins, in both, with the self-same syllable, alike of Text and Commentary,) ----but
the fact that they both alike profess to have been 'copied from, and collated
with, the ancient copies at Jerusalem.' How is that possible, if their
respective texts exhibit the extraordinary dissimilarity which was pointed
out in a recent book on 'the last Twelve Verses,' &c., p. 279-80, ----?
Now, you will share the surprise and satisfaction I experienced
----(and a glance was enough to suggest as much), ----that
Venet. 544 (our Evan. 215) proves to be nothing else but a duplicate of
Reg. 188 (our Evan. 20).
After several paragraphs describing the incidentals of the manuscript,
not the text, Burgon continues,
I need hardly tell you which place I first turned to [the end of
Mark, of course
----editor]; or how, by what I found there, (viz.
at fol. 142 b), I recognised in an instant the general identity of Evan.
215 with Evann. 20 and 300. You shall be presented with three lines of
the Codex: the second and third being (with the cross at the end of the
first line) in small vermilion uncials: ----
ðÜóç ôy êôßóåé:
enteuqen ews tou telous en tisi twn AntigrAfwn
ou keitAi en de tois ArxAiois pAntA ApArAleiptA keitAi
(i.e. preach the Gospel to every creature: + From here down to the end
in some copies is not found: but in the ancient ones all is found without
Then follow, overleaf, (fol. 143) the remaining verses of S. Mark's
Gospel. I have explained the matter thus fully, because I desire in this
place to withdraw unreservedly the acquiescence in Scholz' view which
I have elsewhere expressed, (viz. at p. 118 of a recent volume,) as to
the position which this critical annotation must be thought to have originally
occupied; and from which, in the process of transcription, (according
to Scholz,) it has lost its way. I have long been persuaded that the position
which this note at present occupies,
----(viz. between the 15th
and the 16th verses of S. Mark's last chapter,) ----is its true
position. And the Venice MS. which I am describing effectually establishes
the point. The foregoing rubricated note never could have stood between
verses 8 and 9: the proof being that the subscription at the end of S.
Mark's Gospel, cited above, actually specifies slz (i.e. 237) as the number
of the êåöÜëáéá (i.e.
the [so called] Ammonian sections) in the second Gospel: but the 237th
section belongs to ver. 14, ----which must therefore be retained.
Accordingly, it is retained, ----begins the last section, ----in
Evan. 215, and has the number 'slz' prefixed to it.
We are therefore in this way presented with an independent and hitherto
unsuspected witness to the integrity of 'the last Twelve Verses': as I
proceed to explain.
Two stories are found to have been current anciently concerning
the ending-place of S. Mark's Gospel; the first,
----that it ended
at ver. 8; the second, that it ended at ver. 15. But these two stories,
by their inconsistent character, effectually neutralise and dispose of
one another, ----regarded as evidence that 'the last Twelve Verses'
are not genuine. The prevarication of the witnesses, I mean, is a fatal
circumstance to both. For, ----
(1) Here are two statements which simply refute one another, if
it be proposed to accept the admitted fact that certain ancient copies
of S. Mark came to an end at ver. 8,
----and certain others at ver.
15, ----as an indication that, at one of those two places, the original
Gospel came to an end also. On either hypothesis, S. Mark must clearly
have been incomplete from the first. Accordingly, Griesbach and Dean Alford
persuaded themselves that 'the last leaf of the original Gospel was torn
away': ----a startling view of the question, truly. But, (disputing
nothing, in order by any means to come at a result), ----Pray then
at which verse did the missing leaf of the sacred autograph begin? Did
it begin with what (if we had it) we should call ver. 9? or with what
(if we had it) we should call ver. 16? for it cannot, I presume, have
begun at both.
(2) On the other hand,
----Is it not evident that these two
inconsistent statements satisfactorily explain one another, also?
It is well known that according to the Western order, S. Mark's
Gospel stood last. Will not then a missing last leaf of one early Evangelium,
everything after döïâïíôï
ãÜñ was lost; and a missing last leaf of another Evangelium, ----whereby
everything after ðÜóç ôy êôßóåé
was lost; ----fully explain this divergent testimony? which, rightly
understood, is clearly not inconsistent; much less contradictory.
That it will account for the known facts of the case, is at least
undeniable. The phenomenon which has so sorely exercised the critics,
is expressed by the following scholion found in four Evangelia (virtually
in five*) written against ver. 8: viz. 'In some copies, the Evangelist
----Behold, a second phenomenon has come to light, of
a precisely similar kind: viz. that in three other Evangelia, occurs
precisely similar in tenor, (viz. this: 'In some copies, from this place to the end is not found':) but then this other scholion is found written
after ver. 15. What else, in the name of common sense, is the obvious
solution of the entire problem but that, anciently, copies were current
of Evangelia which had been mutilated at two different places? ----And
so much in the way of post-script to what has been already offered elsewhere
concerning 'the last Twelve Verses.'
An extraordinary confirmation
of this opinion is at hand. In all the three MSS. now under discussion,
profess, remember, to have been 'copied from, and collated with, ancient
copies at Jerusalem'; and bear so many astonishing marks of scrupulous
accuracy on the part of their copyists;) ----ver. 15, and the note
upon it, are observed to stand at the extreme foot of the page: viz. at
the bottom of fol. 140a of Evan. 20, ----fol. 147a of Evan. 300, ----fol.
142b of Evan. 215. Are we not even led by the hand by this singular circumstance
to the proposed inference, ----viz. that the archetype from which
these three Evangelia were remotely derived contained a mutilated copy
of the second Gospel? in other words, that not 'the last leaf of the original
Gospel' but of some copy of infinitely less importance 'was torn away'?
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
So far Burgon. Little more need be said on a point which he has belabored
in such detail. I only remark that it is fairly common to find ancient
manuscripts mutilated at either the beginning or the end, as the natural
result of wear. It is not at all uncommon, even in printed books, to find
either the first pages or the last missing. I often see old books advertised
with title page missing. This is especially true of books
which received much use, as Bibles and hymn books. I once bought an old
Swedish Bible, with the beginning of Genesis gone, and I have a number
of books in my library with first or last pages loose or gone. The Gospel
of Mark stood last in many of the codices containing the four Gospels,
as Burgon has pointed out, and my readers will of course understand that
the last leaves in such manuscripts would not be identical, as they are
in printed books of the same edition. The contents of the last leaf of
each hand-written manuscript would vary with the exigencies of the case.
The testimony of existing manuscripts thus points to the fact that some
ancient exemplar had lost its last leaf, containing the last twelve verses
of Mark, while some other ancient exemplar had lost its last leaf, containing
the last five verses. All agree that Mark could not have intentionally
ended his Gospel without the last twelve verses, any more than a musical
scale could end without the last note. This is quite generally felt. Hence
some ancient scribe, finding his copy to end with for they feared
in verse eight, felt obliged to add something, and so came into existence
what Scrivener calls that trifling apocryphal supplement which
appears in Codex L.
We remark too that the conjecture of Alford and others is improbable on
every account. Scrivener speaks of conjectures that the Evangelist
was cut off before his work was completed, or even that the last leaf
of the original Gospel was torn away, and calls them wild
surmises, while he calls Burgon's hypothesis one which is
probability itself by the side of those we have been speaking of.
We quite agree, and remark further that Alford had very low and unsatisfactory
views of the inspiration of Scripture, and his wild surmise
is not only improbable, but impious also. Every pious man must believe
in the providential preservation of the text after some fashion
dissenting entirely from the modern notions of it ----and it is
quite unthinkable that God should have suffered the inspired ending of
Mark's Gospel to be irretrievably lost ere ever a single copy of it was
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated
by the Editor
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
Soon hot, soon cold.
This proverb applies to many things, from romance to religion, and may
be true in friendship, politics, doctrine, or church fellowship.
Long experience has taught me to have little confidence in those who are
soon hot, in any sphere whatever. Some who have read but one
or two issues of this magazine, or heard its editor preach but once, will
tell me what a great man of God I am, and what profound spiritual insight
I have, but I hardly expect their warmth to last six months, and I have
known a case where it didn't last a week. They will be as soon cold as
they were hot. We are all apt to take warmly to those who take warmly
to us, and so much the more if they do so suddenly, or immediately upon
becoming acquainted with us. Our vanity leads us to suppose it is some
excellency in us which accounts for their warmth, but it is in fact quite
the contrary. It is nothing in ourselves at all, but something in them which makes them soon hot. They have probably been as soon hot towards
a dozen others before they met us, but were soon cold again, and they
will be soon hot and soon cold towards a dozen more after they leave us.
It is no excellency in ourselves which makes them soon hot, nor any defect
in us which makes them soon cold again, but some moral deficiency in themselves.
We would like to suppose it was their superior judgement apprehending
our superior worth which made them soon hot towards us, but it was no
such thing. It was no judgement at all on their part, for they really
had no basis upon which to judge. It was in reality all passion. We happened,
perhaps by accident, to tickle their feelings in the right spot. We gave
them a little personal attention, or happened to speak their own Shibboleth,
and we were immediately exalted to a high pedestal, but by and by we will
rub their fur the wrong way, and they will be as soon cold as they were
All this is neither excellency nor defect in us, but only their own instability.
Those who are soon hot towards a man of real excellence will be just as
soon hot towards a man of no worth, and just as soon cold again towards
both of them. It must be obvious that when people are soon hot, the warmth
of their admiration exists entirely independently of the objective character of whatever it is which they so readily embrace. They are of necessity
largely ignorant of that. It would take time to learn that, but they are
warm in their embraces long before any such time has elapsed. Those who
warm up gradually and cautiously do so on a solid objective basis. They
learn to love the thing just in proportion to their actual knowledge of
its true character. Such warmth is likely to be lasting. Those who are
soon hot, on the contrary, cannot possibly be so on the basis of any true
or objective knowledge.
Now it goes without saying that those who are soon hot and soon cold are
rash and unstable and impatient, and these are moral defects. They are
the fruits of pride and unbelief and selfishness. The unbelieving always
make haste. They can never wait patiently upon the Lord, but
go flitting about from one thing to another, seeking the will of
----namely, their own will ----taking warmly to
whatever promises to give them the place they seek, but dropping it as
quickly, so soon as it appears that the place was not tailor made for
themselves. They cannot fit in anywhere. They are the standard, and every
place is either too high or too low for them.
Such folks are usually both proud and selfish. Some of them are looking
for someone to influence, and usually with themselves more than with the
truth. Anyone who appears receptive to themselves will be warmly embraced,
but he will be dropped just as quickly, as soon as he manifests any disagreement
or independence of thought. As for selfishness, many there are who are
casting about for someone who will give them a great deal of personal
attention. They seem to suppose the man of God has nothing in the world
to do but to write to them, or talk to them
----to pamper and baby
them, and make them feel good. They speak to him, or write to him, with
a detail of their personal needs and problems, and if he answers them
kindly and endeavors to help them, they are soon hot. He is
now their beloved pastor, and there is none like him. He is next to an
angel in their eyes ----though they know almost nothing of his character
or doctrine. But only let him endeavor to deal faithfully with their faults,
only let him indicate, however gently, that he is too busy to give them
all the attention which they crave, and they are soon cold,
and he who was a great man of God yesterday is full of faults today. They
must, of course, find many grave faults in him, for how else can they
justify themselves for resisting his admonitions, and turning their backs
upon him? But there was no change in him, all the change being in the
unstable soul who was soon hot, and is just as soon cold. I have watched
such souls warm up to me, and cool off again ----indeed, expected
and predicted their coming coolness while they were yet warm ----all
the while maintaining myself the same gentleness and firmness, and the
same caution, towards themselves. Only let such souls discover that we
do not admire them as much as they admire us, and all their admiration
It may be that in the course of time these warm admirers discover our
actual faults and deficiencies, but this is hardly the reason why soon
hot turns soon cold. Those faults might have been well enough known, and
friendship and devotion remained just as warm as ever
must love men with their faults if we are to love at all. But those who
are soon hot and soon cold will mistakenly ascribe something near perfection,
and anon stumble over small faults which ought to be overlooked.
by Glenn Conjurske
Lot is the favorite character of all who are antinomian in doctrine. Whenever
their unholy gospel is challenged, whenever they feel any need to scrape
up some scriptural support for it, they fly directly to Lot, paint him
as black as they can, and then insist that this monster of iniquity was
a saint of God, on his way to heaven. He is their grand proof that men
may be saved without repenting of sin, without submitting to the Lordship
----that men may walk in all manner of sin, and yet be
saved ----their grand proof, in short, that Ye shall not surely
die, though ye live in all manner of wickedness from the cradle
to the grave, so long as ye have but a grain of faith, or a grain of presumption.
Their proof, of course, is worth nothing unless it is a fact that Lot
was actually unrighteous. They must bend all their energies, therefore,
and employ all their perverse ingenuity, in order to prove that Lot was
practically wicked, and some of the shifts I have seen employed to that
end are so shallow and ludicrous as to be really contemptible. John R.
Rice, regardless of the good that was in him, was certainly one of the
warmest advocates of the most pernicious sort of antinomian gospel, teaching
explicitly that we cannot tell a Christian by the way he lives. He, with
all who preach this unholy gospel, uses the occasional falls and failures
of the saints to prove that habitual sinners may be saved. He is particularly
hard on preachers who preach the true gospel, affirming that they pervert
the plan of salvation, which according to Rice is by grace alone
by faith alone, and may be without Scriptural repentance, righteousness,
holiness, or morality. In a sermon entitled Judge Not! he
labels as self-righteous critics all who contend that those
who live in sin are not saved, and gathers up all the sins of the saints
to prove it. Lot is of course his prime example.
Under the heading Bible Examples Prove That Many Are Saved Who Do
Not Act Like It, he rehearses all the sins and imagined sins of
Lot. All who use the example of Lot to bolster up their antinomian gospel
are accustomed to paint him much blacker than he was, and Rice is no exception.
To be sure, the example of Lot is a sorry one, but we have no warrant
from this to make him a habitual or impenitent sinner. There is a very
great difference between walking on a low plane of faith, and living impenitent
in sin, and it would seem that lest there should be any mistake here,
Peter informs us, in one of those rare instances in which the New Testament
adds to the Old Testament record, that the Lord delivered righteous Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked. For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul
from day to day with their unlawful deeds. (II Peter. 2:7-8). This
is as prolix as it is explicit, and certainly teaches us that Lot was
practically righteous from day to day. He was weak, but not
wicked. He neither engaged in any unrighteous conduct, nor approved it,
but vexed his righteous soul with it from day to day. And
in all this I would guess that Lot was far above a great host of modern
Fundamentalists, who by means of their radio and television sets both
watch and listen to, and apparently enjoy, the very things which vexed
Lot from day to day
----for we can hardly suppose they watch and
listen to all this profanity and sensuality and violence and worldliness
for the purpose of vexing themselves.
Rice quotes Peter's description of Lot also, but only to prove that Lot
was all right in his heart, though all wrong in his life, and that therefore
we dare not judge! the state of a man's heart from the life
which he lives. This is perhaps the most pernicious part of the business,
for by this means Rice teaches that a good tree can bring forth evil fruit,
directly against the clear and solemn teaching of Christ. Ye shall
know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of
thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt
tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,
neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth
not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by
their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt. 7:16-20). And once more,
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the
tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
(Matt. 12:33). Rice makes the tree good and the fruit corrupt, and denies
that the tree may be known by its fruit. He applies the evil fruit only
to false doctrine, and vehemently denies that it has anything to do with
the life that we live, but we suppose this hardly requires any refutation.
I dare say the interpretation was never heard of in the world before,
and would not have been heard of now if it was not necessitated by his
Rice's first proof that Lot was practically unrighteous was that he had
fellowship with the wicked Sodomites calling them brethren. This
is grasping at straws. By the same token he could have proved Peter wicked,
when, full of the Holy Ghost, he addressed as brethren the
wicked Jews who had crucified the Lord, when preaching to them on the
day of Pentecost. Stephen did the same, to the wicked Jews who were shortly
to stone himself, in Acts 7:2. Paul did the same in Acts 13:38, 22:1,
23:1, and elsewhere. To condemn this as practical unrighteousness in Lot
But there is a more serious charge. Lot had fellowship with the
wicked Sodomites. Rice offers no proof of this. Certainly calling
them brethren was no sin. He certainly did not have fellowship with their
evil, since he vexed his righteous soul with it from day to day. But we
may as well make the most that may be made of this charge. Lot sat
in the gate of Sodom. (Gen. 19:1). The gate of the city was the
place of authority, the place of judgement. Lot had evidently run for
office. He was engaged in politics. He was set to clean up Sodom,
to save Sodom, for he now had an interest and a stake in Sodom.
No doubt in all his political activity he was in fellowship with the people
of Sodom, but in this he was not one whit different from the great majority
of modern Fundamentalists, including Rice himself and all his disciples
among the Independent Baptists. Curtis Hutson, John R. Rice's successor,
avowed that he would share the platform with unbelievers at a political meeting, though not at an ecclesiastical meeting. We suppose Lot would
have done just the same, but this is no proof of his unrighteousness.
It may prove his weakness of principle, and his lack of spiritual discernment,
but not his unrighteousness. He did wrong precisely because he supposed
it to be right, and in this he differed nothing from Curtis Hutson and
John R. Rice himself.
Rice speaks further, in the same paragraph, of Lot's life of covetousness,
worldliness, and drink
----all this, of course, directly in
the teeth of the Bible. For first, Paul tells us in language which cannot
be mistaken, For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean
person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in
the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5:5). If Lot was a covetous
man, he was lost. As for Lot's alleged worldliness, James tells us, Whosoever
therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James
4:4), and John, If any man love the world, the love of the Father
is not in him. (I John 2:15). We realize that a great discount must
sometimes be taken for ignorance, but we believe that nevertheless these
two texts contain some of the most solemn statements in the Bible. God
will judge how far a man may be ignorantly conformed to the world, and
yet be a righteous man. These world-borderers may stand upon very slippery
ground, yet ignorance is not the same thing as deliberate unrighteousness.
But where is the proof that Lot was either covetous or worldly? He chose
the well watered plain of Jordan, and that is really all we know about
it. If Lot had been a member of one of John R. Rice's Baptist churches,
this would have been called good business sense. We do not justify Lot
in this matter. We think his choice but manifested the coldness of his
faith and the weakness of his principles
----but this is another
matter from unrighteousness. Unrighteousness defiles the conscience, and
we suppose there must be some sense of sin in a thing in order to make
it unrighteous. And we very strongly suspect that if the truth could be
known, it would be found that a myriad of those Independent Baptists who
were lately under the care of John R. Rice were a great deal more covetous
and worldly than Lot was or could have been. Lot had no radio nor television
nor computer games ----no worldly magazines or newspapers ----no
public education ----no major league ball games. But these things
are not regarded as worldliness at all by most of the modern church, though
they are in fact the essence and epitome of it, while a man may have flocks
and herds, and a house in the city, and not be covetous or worldly at
all. At any rate, to accuse Lot of these things we must set aside plain
New Testament scriptures. Either Lot was not a righteous man, or the covetous
may be. Both propositions are directly against the plain statements of
the New Testament.
We will not say that Lot never did a covetous thing, but a life of covetousness is another matter. Rice never understood this, and
always used the occasional blots on a holy life to prove that those who
were habitually unholy, unrighteous, or immoral could be saved. This is
directly against the Bible.
As for Lot's life of drink, this is misunderstanding all around.
If Rice had said life of drunkenness, we would deny it, though
he was drunk twice, not by his own choice, but by the machinations of
his daughters. But since Rice says, life of drink, we may
grant that, while we yet deny that this was sin. We have no doubt that
Lot used wine as a beverage, as we have no doubt that Abraham did also.
The fermentation is God's natural way of preserving the juice, and there
is no doubt that all the saints were accustomed to drink it, except Nazarites,
and even they certainly drank it when not under a vow. Those vows were
generally temporary, and were not, by the way, a mere abstinence from
wine, but from all the fruit of the vine, including grapes
and raisins. If the wine was wrong, were the grapes and raisins also?
If the wine was wrong, why did the Lord command only temporary abstinence
from it. This is all the shallowest sort of thinking, and involves us
Nay more, if it was wrong to drink wine, why did the Lord command the
children of Israel to turn their offerings into money, and take it in
their hand to the place of his tabernacle, and bestow that money
for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for
wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou
shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou,
and thine household? (Deut. 14:26).
Well, but I know that it is useless to speak on this subject, for modern
Fundamentalism regards the use of wine as one of the cardinal sins. This
they do regardless of everything the Bible says on the subject, and this
they certainly will do regardless of all that I can say. Perhaps they
are the less to be blamed for it, for early prejudices are hard to shake
off. Nevertheless, the scriptures on this theme are so plain as to leave
them but little excuse, and the reasonable
----not to say honest ----interpretation
of those scriptures can lead to but one result, and that the direct opposite
of what is commonly held by Fundmentalists today.
Well, but Lot also committed incest with his own daughters. It is hard
to tell what this can have to do with the subject. In this he did what
he never would or could have done had his mind not been first stupefied
by wine. This was his daughters' act, not his own, for he certainly cannot
be supposed to have known what he was about when he did it. This is plain
on the face of the text, and his daughters certainly knew that their father
would commit no such lewdness while he was in his senses. They were careful,
therefore, to make him drunk, and evidently to make him so drunk that
even his returning senses on the following day brought no recollection
of what he had done
----for who can suppose he would have repeated
the same offense the following night, if he had been conscious of having
done it? This were to make him wicked indeed.
For getting drunk he doubtless had some responsibility, for we do not
suppose his daughters poured the wine down his throat with a funnel. But
sift this to the bottom also. We may certainly suppose that Lot at this
time was extremely discouraged and downcast, having just lost all that
he had in the world, including his wife, and apparently some of his children.
We know that discouragement weakens all the faculties, and particularly
the power of the will. The Bible itself prescribes wine in such a case.
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto
those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty,
and remember his misery no more. (Prov. 31:6-7). This was no doubt
his daughters' plea. It is hard to see you so downcast, father.
Will you not take a little wine, and cheer your heart? All this
Lot may have done without sin, and without suspecting anything. There
came a point, no doubt, at which he had drunk enough, and ought to have
ceased, but we may suppose that it was just at this point that his mental
faculties began to be blurred, so that he was not conscious that he was
getting drunk, and this, coupled with the repeated and gentle coaxing
of his daughters, led him to such a state of intoxication that he knew
not what he did, and we are certain that he would not have done it otherwise.
We do suppose that Lot had some responsibility for this drunkenness, though
not the same as if he had not been coaxed to it. And we are certain that
it is a different matter to get drunk on one occasion, under such discouragements
and such coaxing, than it is to live a life of drunkenness.
Well, but Lot offered his virgin daughters to the perverted men who beset
his house around. This was certainly the worst act of his life
worse than his lying with those daughters himself, for the former he did
deliberately and consciously, the latter only when stupefied by wine.
We can say but little to excuse this act, though it is true that he was
in a great strait, and acted under great pressure, evidently choosing
this evil in order to prevent a greater. Still, it was an act of unbelief and of cowardice ----as unbelief is often cowardly, where faith
is very bold ----and such an act as it is hard to imagine a father being guilty of at all. Why did he not rather sacrifice himself, and spare
his daughters? This act can hardly be too strongly reprobated.
Still, it will hardly serve the purpose of those who wish to prove from
Lot that the unrighteous may inherit the kingdom of God. A single unrighteous
act, committed by a righteous man under great duress, when threatened
with violence, and to prevent what he evidently regarded as a greater
evil, cannot be brought to prove that those who are habitually unrighteous
can inherit the kingdom of God. Paul affirms directly the contrary. For
this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man,
who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and
of God. LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU WITH EMPTY WORDS. (Eph. 5:5-6). And
once more, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the
kingdom of God? BE NOT DECEIVED: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor
thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners,
shall inherit the kingdom of God. (I Cor. 6:9-10).
Some will doubtless suppose that I quote these scriptures too often, but
I think that to quote them at all will be much too often for some folks.
They love to talk about salvation by faith, but they do not believe Paul.
Lot was a righteous man. So says Peter. And He that doeth righteousness
is righteous. So says John. Lot then was practically and habitually righteous. To use his occasional falls, bad as they were, to prove that
the habitually unrighteous may inherit the kingdom of God is simply to
wrest the Scriptures, and to deceive the souls of men. This is a very
sorry business, and so much the more when his falls are painted as blacker
than they are.
John Newton on the Apostolic Fathers & the Early
----1725-1807, Anglican clergyman, author of Amazing
Grace. The reader may add this to the testimonies printed in the
February magazine, following the review of David Bercot's Common Sense.]
We have no ecclesiastical book of this age extant worthy of notice, except
that called the First of the Two Epistles to the Corinthians, which are
ascribed to Clement, bishop of Rome, who is supposed to be the Clement
mentioned by St. Paul in his epistle to the Romans. This epistle is not
unsuitable to the character of the time when it was written, and contains
many useful things; yet it is not (as we have it) free from fault, and,
at the best, deserves no higher commendation than a pious, well-meant
performance. It stands first, both in point of time and merit, in the
list of those writings which bear the name of apostolical fathers; for
the rest of them, if the genuine productions of the persons whose names
they bear, were composed in the second century. For as to the epistle
ascribed to Barnabas, St. Paul's companion, those who are strangers to
the arguments by which many learned men have demonstrated it to be spurious,
may be convinced only by reading it, if they are in any measure acquainted
with the true spirit of the apostle's writings. We are, indeed, assured
that both the epistles of Clement, this which bears the name of Barnabas,
several said to have been written by Ignatius, (the authenticity of which
has likewise been disputed,) one by Polycarp, and the book called the
Shepherd of Hermas, which is filled with visionary fables, were all in
high esteem in the first ages of the church, were read in their public
assemblies, and considered as little inferior to the canonical writings;
which may be pleaded as one proof of what I have advanced concerning that
declension of spiritual taste and discernment which soon prevailed; for
I think I may venture to say there are few, if any, of the Protestant
churches but have furnished authors whose writings (I mean the writings
of some one author) have far surpassed all the apostolical fathers taken
together, and that not only in point of method and accuracy, but in scriptural
knowledge, solid judgment, and a just application of evangelical doctrine
to the purposes of edification and obedience.
But though the first Christians were men subject to passion and infirmities,
like ourselves, and were far from deserving or desiring that undistinguishing
admiration and implicit submission to all their sentiments, which were
paid them by the ignorance and superstition of after-times; yet they were
eminent for faith, love, self-denial, and a just contempt of the world.
----The Works of the Rev. John Newton.
New-Haven: Nathan Whiting, 1824, vol. II, pg. 384.
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.