by Glenn Conjurske
In II Samuel 16:23 we read the following remarkable statement concerning
Ahithophel: And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in
those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was
all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.
This man was among the wisest of the wise. So profound was his wisdom
that to ask the counsel of Ahithophel was as good as inquiring at the
oracle of God. Wisdom is the understanding of how to accomplish our ends,
whatever those ends may be, whether temporal or spiritual, and whether
good or evil. Such wisdom stands upon a thorough understanding of human
nature, of the nature of plants and animals and the forces of nature,
of the relationship between causes and effects. It consists of knowing
how men, or things animate or inanimate, will respond to the influences
which we bring to bear upon them. The man who sits on the back of his
stubborn mule and kicks and spurs and beats and curses has little wisdom.
For all his endeavors, yet the mule stands still. Wisdom ties a bunch
of hay to a stick, and holds it before the mule's nose. He moves to reach
the hay, but of course moves the hay with him. Such is the manner of wisdom,
and such wisdom Ahithophel possessed in such an astonishing degree that
he spoke always as an oracle of God. Whatsoever a man wished to do, let
him but ask Ahithophel, and the way would be made plain, as much so as
if he had asked the Lord himself.
Such a man could not be ignored. We read therefore in I Chronicles 27:33,
And Ahithophel was the king's counsellor. David stood in need
of such wisdom, in order to rule the people of God, and fight the battles
of the Lord, and he had sense and humility enough to make use of it. Where
the rash and the proud go on in their own way, disdaining to ask counsel
of men wiser than themselves, probably never suspecting that anyone else
might know better than themselves, and where the hyperspiritual spurn
to ask the counsel of any man, declaring that the word of the Lord is
quite sufficient for them, the wise and the spiritual ask counsel, and
are glad to avail themselves of the wisdom of the wise. Ahithophel's wisdom,
therefore, raised him to the highest platform of honor and usefulness
under the administration of King David.
But what astonishing thing is this which we read of this man? So
was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.
What sort of man could stand both with David and with Absalom?
What sort of man could lend his wisdom to the designs of both David and
Absalom? Surely Ahithophel was as destitute of character as he was rich
in wisdom. And this has something to teach us concerning the nature of
wisdom. Wisdom is not a purely spiritual thing. Neither is it the exclusive
property of the spiritual, or of the godly. The ungodly may be wise in
their own sphere
----wiser indeed than the children of light. Wisdom
is that understanding which gives us the capacity to accomplish our ends,
whether those ends are good or evil, and that wisdom may reach its highest
point in those who are the most wicked. In fact, it does so. Who more
wicked than the devil, and yet who more wise? The wisdom of Satan is apparent
wherever we turn in this world ----apparent in its sports and other
entertainments, in its commerce, in its education, in its technology,
in its religion, and in the internationalism and global ideology which
prevail at the present day. The devil knows how to accomplish his own
ends. He knows how to secure and hold the hearts of men. He knows how
to triumph over the cause of Christ. He knows how to bring the whole world
together at his feet, worshipping the beast, and the dragon which gives
him his power. All this is the fruit of his wisdom, and all of it turned
to ends which are never anything but wholly wicked. What wonder, then,
to see a man possessed of wisdom as the oracle of God, and yet entirely
destitute of character? Such a man was Ahithophel.
The wisdom of such a man could not be hid. He was a legend in his own
time. The wisdom of Ahithophel, like that of Lorenzo Dow, and like that
of Solomon, formed the subject of many a wondering conversation, wherever
men associated together at their leisure. When Absalom, therefore, led
the nation in rebellion against the throne of David, he felt it a plain
necessity to secure the services of Ahithophel. Who would go to war against
the oracle of God? Who could prevail against the oracle of God? Absalom
could never feel his cause secure, so long as the oracle of God was the
counsellor of David. He must secure the oracle of God for himself. Absalom,
therefore, sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor,
from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. Ahithophel,
we know, obeyed the summons, for he had no character. Off he goes, from
offering sacrifices to God, to offering his wisdom to Absalom. A grain
of loyalty to him he had served so long, a grain of gratitude, a grain
of righteousness, would have led him to spurn this invitation, but he
was destitute of all. To Absalom, therefore, he goes, so that he who dispensed
wisdom as the oracle of God yesterday to establish the purposes of David,
shall today dispense that same wisdom to overturn them.
Why this? Has David changed? Is the man who was worthy of his service
yesterday unworthy of it today? No. No such thing. But what does Ahithophel
care about worth? It is advantage which concerns him. David has not changed,
but David's circumstances are altered. When David rode high, Ahithophel
rode with him. When David was cast off, Ahithophel cast him off also.
But it is one thing to cast off David, and another to embrace Absalom.
Yet to Ahithophel, David and Absalom are all one. It was nearness to the
throne which he wanted, and he cared not who sat upon it. His wisdom was
unerring, as the oracle of God, and would serve as well to establish the
purposes of Absalom, as the purposes of David. And Ahithophel cared not
a whit which purposes were established, so long as he maintained his own
station and honor.
David soon hears that Ahithophel is gone over to Absalom. Such news would
fly upon the wings of the wind. The oracle of God which had served David
so well is now against him. Such news must fall heavy upon the already
prostrated heart of David, and he immediately lifts up his voice to God,
saying, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into
foolishness. But David well knew that he had asked a hard thing.
Can the oracle of God be turned to foolishness? Perhaps this was too much
to hope. The counsel of a wise man is wise, and is not so easily turned
to foolishness. But if the counsel of Ahithophel was as the oracle of
God indeed, as it was with both David and Absalom, yet Absalom was no
David. It may be a hard thing to expect foolish counsel from a man so
wise as Ahithophel, yet if he be a fool who hears it, the end is gained
all the same. The son of Solomon received wise counsel, but paid no heed
to it. David knew well enough that Absalom would receive wise counsel
from Ahithophel, yet that counsel might be defeated, if the ears of Absalom
could be turned away from hearing it. He therefore turns to his friend,
Hushai the Archite, and says, If thou return to the city, and say
unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father's
servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou
for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel. So much as David had trusted
in the counsel of Ahithophel in times past, so much he fears it now. So
much as he trusted it when it was for him, so much he must fear it when
it is against him. But Hushai had been the king's companion,
when Ahithophel had been only his counsellor, and Hushai is yet to be
trusted. He is sent therefore upon the dangerous and difficult mission,
to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.
The counsel of Ahithophel is good
----well adapted, that is, to
establish the purpose of Absalom, though utterly evil in itself. First,
Go in unto thy father's concubines. Make thyself as odious
as possible to thy father David. Make the breach between you irreparable.
Such counsel was both good and wicked. Morally it was wicked, but Scripture
calls it good counsel, for it was admirably adapted to the
end in view. It reveals to us not only the depth of Ahithophel's wickedness,
but the depth of his wisdom also. He is not content to give mere military
advice for the battle. He views the whole situation. He understands all
the emotions which obtain between David and Absalom. He will deal with
those first, ere he offers a word of counsel concerning the military conquest.
Go in unto thy father's concubines. That being done, he preaches
courage, and decision, and action. Defeat David quickly, while his heart
is discouraged, and before he has time to recover himself or strengthen
himself. In all this we see what surpassing wisdom may dwell in a man
who is evil and despicable, and utterly destitute of character.
But Hushai was very wise also
----wise enough to recognize the excellency
of the counsel of Ahithophel, and wise enough to understand how to defeat
it. Where Ahithophel had spoken to inspire courage and decision and action,
Hushai speaks to inspire discouragement and indecision and delay. He first
preaches up the strength and the wisdom of the adversary. David is a man
of war. David is wise, and will not lodge with the people. In this he
spoke precisely as the unbelieving spies had done at Kadesh-Barnea, concentrating
all the attention of the people on the strength of the adversary. And
as the people of Israel believed the discouraging report of the unbelieving
spies, so Absalom also hearkened to the discouraging counsel of Hushai,
and set aside the inspiring counsel of Ahithophel. There is something
in the heart of man which naturally tends in that direction, especially
in the heart of the wicked. Faith and a good conscience may make a man
as bold as a lion, but the wicked flee when no man pursueth. Absalom certainly
had no faith, and the very cause in which he was engaged was such as to
preclude a good conscience. He therefore naturally inclined to the counsel
of discouragement and delay. This counsel was artfully given, with a promise
of ultimate victory by present delay, and of greater glory by a grander
scheme. I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee,
from Dan even to Beer-sheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude;
and that thou go to battle in thine own person. Thus Hushai counts
upon the pride of Absalom's heart, as well as the fearfulness which belongs
to an evil conscience, and by all this prevails to defeat the good counsel
of Ahithophel, with counsel which Hushai himself knew very well to be
bad, For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel,
to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.
Ahithophel doubtless understood all this well enough. He who is capable
of giving good counsel is capable also of recognizing bad. He knew that
his own counsel was good, and Hushai's bad. He knew that the issue of
following the counsel of Hushai would be to bring evil upon Absalom. Had
the good counsel of Ahithophel come from a good man, he would doubtless
have felt pity for the infatuated Absalom. He would have intreated and
expostulated. He would have set himself to prove the superiority of his
good counsel, and so to save the deluded Absalom from his fate. But we
see nothing of this in Ahithophel. He cared no more for Absalom than he
did for David. He cared only for Ahithophel. He thinks only of Ahithophel.
Till now he had been sought and honored and followed. His counsel was
as the very oracle of God, and he reigned supreme in his sphere. Now his
counsel is rejected, and his pride cannot bear it. And when Ahithophel
saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose,
and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order,
and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.
Thus does pride carry men headlong to destruction
----for it was
nothing other than pride which moved Ahithophel to hang himself. That
pride had doubtless been growing for a long time. He was as an undefeated
boxer, perhaps crowing, I am the greatest, in his heart if
not with his lips. He was universally acclaimed, always sought, always
followed. His pride was therefore grown to such proportions that he could
not bear a single defeat. And here we see also that the most unerring
wisdom may dwell in the same man with the most senseless folly. Thus the
matter stands when wisdom is destitute of character. A moment ago he was
in the calmest possession of all the faculties of reason. He sees all
exigencies, all possibilities. He understands all causes and effects,
and gives counsel as the oracle of God. But now his counsel is rejected.
He is offended, indignant, humiliated, and Fire in the heart sends
smoke into the head. Passion reigns, and calm reason is thrust out.
Men will no more behold him as the undefeated Ahithophel, but now as the
man whose counsel has been set aside for that of his rival. Therefore
they shall no more behold him at all. He must kill himself. Here we see
too that he was as profane as he was proud ----much more profane,
indeed, than Esau. Esau will sell his birthright to save his life. Ahithophel
will throw away his life to save his pride.
Nor does this passion reign for a moment only. The counsel of the great
Ahithophel has been once rejected, and the great Ahithophel can never
more bear the humiliation. He does not take his life in a sudden fit of
passion, which momentarily clouds the reason. No, but as it were in a
reasoned and deliberate passion, which scorns all the claims of sense
and reason, that it might indulge itself in the pure wilfulness of passion.
He acts coolly and deliberately. He saddles his ass, rides to his city,
sets his house in order, and hangs himself. Here is the acme of folly.
Two things, then, are apparent in the life of Ahithophel. The first is
that the most unerring wisdom may dwell in the same soul with the most
consummate folly. The second is that that same wisdom may also dwell in
a man who is utterly destitute of character. What a grand mistake it is,
then, to admire a man on the basis of what we see in his mind. And a greater
mistake still to follow such a man, or to suppose him good because he
The Pride of Satan
by Glenn Conjurske
The fourteenth chapter of Isaiah gives us what is generally acknowledged
to be a description of the fall of Satan. He fell by pride, and the description
of his fall is in fact a description of his pride. We read,
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I
will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the
mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the
most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Five times he says I will, but there is nothing resembling
reason in any of it. The Bible teaches us to say not I will,
but if the Lord will, for we are all of us absolutely dependent
upon him and his will. Therefore the old proverb wisely says, Man
proposes, God disposes. He who says I will, without
any recognition of the will of God, is a fool. His I will
is a declaration of independence of God
----a declaration, that
is, of independence of him upon whom he is and must be absolutely dependent
for his very existence. Nor is the creature's I will foolish
merely, but wicked also. It is in fact the essence of sin. Yet in the
present article I aim to dwell merely upon its unreasonableness.
All pride is unreasonable, for who maketh thee to differ from another?
and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive
it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (I Cor.
We are obliged, however, to make a distinction here. Though all pride
is unreasonable, yet some pride has at least a show of reason in it. The
man who is proud of what he himself has done is much more reasonable than
the man who is proud of what he is by nature. He did nothing to produce
what he is, and he has no more right to be proud of this than he has to
boast of the light of the sun or the beauty of the stars. What he has
done, on the other hand, is the product of his own diligence and toil.
Again, the man who is proud of what he has done has a much more reasonable
pride than the man who only crows of what he can do or will do. The one
stands upon something real and substantial, the other only upon airy imaginations.
In short, the man who says I have is much more reasonable
than the man who says I am, or I will, or I
can. Nevertheless, even the most reasonable of pride is unreasonable
at best, in a creature who is dependent upon God for his very existence.
Thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee
power to get wealth. (Deut. 8:18). It is he that hath given thee
power to do whatsoever thou hast done. One touch of his finger would make
thee a drivelling idiot, or a helpless paralytic
----nay, a lifeless
corpse. If thou art anything else now, What hast thou that thou
hast not received? Why, then, dost thou glory?
But granting that some pride is more reasonable than other, we observe
that the devil's pride is of the most unreasonable sort. He does not say,
I have, for he had done nothing. He might now say, I
have, but the pride by which he fell was of a different sort. Neither
did he say, I am. Even this would have been more reasonable
than I will, for I am stands at any rate upon
something which actually exists, while I will stands upon
nothing. Why did Satan not say, I am? He dared to say, I
will be, and why not I am? He went so far as to say,
I will be like the Most High, and why not I am?
What better way to demonstrate a likeness to the Most High, than to be
able to say I am?
Ah! Satan, the very terms and expressions of thy pride do but demonstrate
how unreasonable it is! Thy words do but proclaim thine inferiority! Why
dost thou not say, I am like the Most High? Why must thou
say, I will be like the Most High? Though there is no truth
in thee, and though the unjust knoweth no shame, yet methinks shame itself
must keep thee from so bold a flight of fancy as I am like the Most
High. 'Tis too humiliating for thee to say I am, for
what art thou? Say now I am, if thou art something. Wilt thou
dare to say I am? Methinks not, for thou fearest to draw the
attention to what thou art in fact. Therefore thou must say, I will
be. What speech is this, for the great Lucifer? It declareth thine
ambition, but betrayeth what thou art. Small men love to see their names
next to the names of great men, and so thou also. Thou lovest to put I
and the Most High together in thy speech, that thou mightest
shine in his glory, and wilt thou not dare to put an am between
them? No, but I will be!
What is this that thou sayest? I will be like the Most High.
Thy pride hath deceived thee. Thou speakest great swelling words, but
they are words of vanity
----the veriest emptiness. If thou wilt
be, then thou art not. What thou sayest is, I am not like the Most High.
He is above me. I am beneath him. He is superior. I am inferior. He is
infinite. I am finite. He possesses all things. I possess only what he
allows me. I am not like him, and this I proclaim in the very declaration
of my highest ambition.
I will be like the Most High. Ah! great Lucifer, swelling
with thine own greatness, must thy greatest aspiration be limited to this,
to be like thine enemy whom thou hatest? Canst thou aim no higher than
this? Canst thou shoot no truer than this? Thy greatest aspiration sings
the praise of him whom thou hatest! Is this the sum of all thine ambition,
to be like him? Surely then he is worthy of all thy love, all thy service.
Why dost thou not love him? Why dost thou not serve him? Thy words do
but proclaim thy wickedness. Thy words do but declare how utterly unreasonable
is thy rebellion.
But what is this that thou sayest? I will be like the Most High.
And how wilt thou accomplish this? Wilt thou be infinite in power and
wisdom? How wilt thou attain to this? Wilt thou be independent of thy
Creator? Wilt thou be self-sufficient, self-existent? And if thou wilt
be, why art thou not now? Surely it must be as easy to become self-existent
today as tomorrow. Thou wilt be like the Most High! Where then is thy
universe, which thou hast created? It must be as easy to create a world
today as tomorrow. Why dost thou say, I will be? Why not,
I am? How wilt thou be tomorrow what thou canst not be today?
If thou canst, why art thou not? Surely thy passion hath carried away
thy reason. Say I would, but not I will. Thou
hast set thine ambitions too high, and thy very expression of them declareth
that thou art not and cannot be what thou sayest thou wilt be.
But thou wilt be like the Most High. What, then, wilt thou be? Wilt thou
be love and light? Wilt thou be full of mercy and truth? Wilt thou promise
no more than thou canst give, and give all that thou hast promised? Wilt
thou give thy life for thy sheep? Thou hast no desire for these things.
The insincerity of thy pride is more than enough to prove it unreasonable.
Say not in thine heart, I will be like the Most High, when
thou hast neither the will nor the capacity for it. Say only, I will steal
the place that belongeth to him, for this is all thy desire.
And as with thy crowning ambition, so with all the steps by which thou
thinkest to ascend to it. Thine every word proclaimeth thy dependence upon him from whom thou declarest thine independence. I will ascend
into heaven! And whose heaven is this? Is this not the heaven of
God? Where is thine own heaven? Speak now the word, and create thine own
heaven! But no. Thou must ascend into heaven. Then thou art
beneath it, and beneath him who dwelleth therein. Thy words proclaim thy
dependence, thine inferiority.
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. But why the
stars of God? Where are thine own stars? Canst thou do nothing but appropriate and use
----nothing but steal and usurp? And is it thus thou must
think to be like the Most High? Thy passion hath overset thy reason. Thou
speakest to thine own confusion of face. Be like the Most High! ----by
appropriating and usurping what is not thine own! When hath ever the Most
High done so?
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides
of the north. And whose congregation is this? Who created these
spirits? Who created this mount? I will ascend above the heights
of the clouds. But whose clouds are these? Where are thine own clouds,
floating gloriously above thine own world? Thine every word proclaimeth
thy dependence upon God. Why thinkest thou then to cast off his yoke,
and declare thine independence? Thou knowest not how! Thou canst not so
much as speak the language of independence. Surely there never yet existed
anything so unreasonable as thy pride.
But if such is the pride of him who seale[th] up the sum, full of
wisdom, and perfect in beauty, if such is the pride of the chief
of the angels, who are greater in power and might than we, how unreasonable
is the pride of puny man? Dependent upon God for our very existence, dependent
upon him for every power which we possess, yet men swell with pride, which
in essence is neither more nor less than an assertion of their independence
of God. And this while they are unable to declare their independence of
the inanimate globe which he created. They cannot exist without the air
and the water. They are dependent upon the very earth under their feet,
and yet think to declare their independence of the God above them. This
is the unreasonableness of pride.
Death in the Pot
by Glenn Conjurske
It were hard to choose between zeal without knowledge, and knowledge without
zeal. The former may poison us, while the latter may starve us, and in
either case we die. Knowledge without zeal, if it do little good, will
at any rate do little harm, and this is perhaps to be preferred over death
in the pot.
These reflections are of course suggested by the man who gathered the
wild gourds, and shred them into the pot, though he knew them not.
And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land;
and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto
his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of
the prophets. And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found
a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and
shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not. So they poured
out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the
pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death
in the pot. And they could not eat thereof. (II Kings 4:38-40).
One went out into the field, to gather herbs. He was no Elisha
Moses or Samuel or Peter or Paul ----nobody whose name has ever
been heard of, but merely one, unnamed and unknown. Yet with
many another such a one, he thought more highly of himself
than he ought to think, supposed the prosperity of the work was dependent
upon his efforts, and was ever ready to run without being sent. Only let
the command go forth from Elisha unto his servant, Set
on the great pot, and off he goes to find something with which to
fill it. He has no consciousness that he might not be fit for such a work.
He takes his own fitness for granted, and is ready to enter the first
open door which presents itself. He is zealous and industrious. He is
doubtless a good man, one of the sons of the prophets. He is not afraid
of labor, for he goes far afield in the time of drought in search of food.
But the young man was as rash as he was zealous. Nothing is more common
than this. Zeal is one of the most dangerous of virtues. Zeal and rashness
naturally take to each other. And rashness, as nearly as I can tell, is
always the fruit of pride. Zeal and pride are common companions. Love
and pride repel each other. Humility and pride cannot agree. Meekness
and pride face opposite ways. But zeal and pride naturally take to each
other, and zeal, therefore, is one of the most dangerous of virtues. It
needs to be closely watched. It needs a tight rein. With the best of intentions,
it will do the worst of deeds.
So did the young man who gathered the wild gourds, and shred them into
the pot. All his intent was to feed the people, not to poison them. But
he was rash. He used no caution. He was rash because he was proud and
self-sufficient. He had gone out into the field in search
of herbs. It was a time of dearth, and herbs were scarce. But what singular
good fortune was this? Behold, a fine-looking vine, laden with fruit.
The gourds were doubtless as pleasant to the eyes as they
were abundant, for gourds commonly put good squash and pumpkins to shame
for their appearance. The young man was thrilled with his find, and doubtless
supposed the people would be also. He would be commended for bringing
in such an abundant supply in the time of dearth. He therefore asks no
counsel and makes no inquiry, but gathers his lap full, and forthwith
shreds them into the pot.
All this had been good work indeed, if he had gathered common herbs which
were known to be good for food, but as for these wild gourds, they
knew them not. Knew them not, and yet shred them forthwith into
the pot. The young man is evidently much more intent upon the glory of
his ministry, than upon the good of the people.
And the church of God is full of men of just this stamp, who feed the
people of God with doctrines as unwholesome as this man's gourds. They
are as zealous in searching for their doctrines as this man was in finding
his gourds. They love the Greek and Hebrew texts, and the learned lexicons.
They have a penchant for anything unusual. Common garden vegetables are
altogether too tame for them. They must have something wild, something
which has never been seen in a garden, something which comes from the
untilled field, and above all, something which they have discovered themselves.
For all this they will scour the papyri and the dead sea scrolls, the
Greek and Latin fathers and the heathen poets, ancient history and archaeology,
the Delphic oracles and the Babylonian soothsayers, hunting for some new
turn of meaning which they may put upon some Greek or Hebrew term, in
order by any means to find some new insight which will set aside the common
interpretation or the common doctrines, or add some new light to the dim
theology of their forefathers. With these wild gourds they fill their
lap full. No harm done yet, except to themselves, but they cannot stop
here. They must proceed immediately to shred their wild gourds into the
pot. They ask no counsel of their superiors
----probably do not
so much as suspect that they have any superiors. They do not inquire whether
their new insight be not an old error, which was refuted long ago by Martin
Luther or Richard Baxter. They do not inquire whether it will stand with
the analogy of Scripture, nor with the dictates of common sense. They
have found these gourds themselves, and like Tischendorf with his newly
discovered Sinaiticus, they very much overvalue them, and can scarcely
wait to give their discovery to the world. We all tend to overvalue our
own discoveries, but wise men learn to check and moderate that inclination,
and humble men are diffident of their own findings. This young man, however,
had neither wisdom nor humility. Into the pot, therefore, go the gourds.
And he has a multitude of successors in the church of God. They consider
nothing of the effects which their doctrine is likely to have upon those
who imbibe it. They really have no capacity to understand those effects.
The doctrine is their own child, and they love it as the apple of their
eye. They can scarcely wait to preach it, or to set it forth at length
in a great book with their name on the title page.
All this is the way of rash zeal. Yet all this folly might be spared,
if men would but ask counsel of their superiors. The death in the pot
might have been spared, if the young man had but asked counsel. There
must have been somebody present who understood the poisonous nature of
these wild gourds. As soon as the men began to eat, it was immediately
ascertained by somebody that there was death in the pot. Not that anybody
felt the symptoms of the death itself, for that must have been somewhat
slow in its working. No one dropped dead at the first bite, yet someone
knew that there was death in the pot. This they knew by its smell, its
taste, its texture, or its appearance. Some experienced man could tell
both that there were wild gourds in the pot, and that those wild gourds
were deadly. He might have told the young man this before the gourds were
shred into the pot, but the young man did not ask. It had never entered
his mind to ask, for he was as foolish as he was self-sufficient and zealous.
That zeal is a valuable commodity we have no doubt. Yet in this day of
prevailing lukewarmness, we are apt to set a higher value upon it than
it deserves. The time was when I would value a man on the sole basis of
his zeal, but that time is past. Long experience has taught me that the
more zealous a man is, the more cautious I ought to be of him. It may
be that the less zeal a man has, the less likely he is to do good, but
'tis also true that the more zeal he has, the more likely he is to do
harm. The lukewarm and lazy shred no wild gourds into the pot. Where I
once looked for zeal, I now look first for humility. Zeal without humility
is perhaps more dangerous than zeal without knowledge. But give me a humble,
loving man, and the more zeal he has, the better.
The Prophet's Commission
Abstract of a Sermon Preached on July 4, 1999
by Glenn Conjurske
See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms,
to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build,
and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:10). Here is the prophet's commission.
Now observe, that while this commission contains six items, it may be
divided essentially into two, the negative, and the positive. Observe
further that the negative comes first, and that there is twice as much
of it. But the terms of this commission are rather unpopular today. Modern
Evangelicalism practically repudiates the negative. It wants a positive
message. It speaks with contempt of negativism. And this for
the simplest of all reasons. It would rather please the world and the
flesh than the Lord. This is the ruling passion of modern Evangelicalism.
But Fundamentalism dislikes the negative part of the prophet's commission
also. Fundamentalism at large is addicted to a false doctrine of grace,
and it is to save this false doctrine that the negative message is feared
and shunned. The Bible tells us to put off the old man, and put on the
new, in that order. But our grace theologians will not have it so. They
will have us put on the new man without putting off the old, and tell
us that if we put on the new, the old will fall off of itself. Evangelicalism,
then, wants no negative message because it displeases the world. Fundamentalism
wants no negative message because it overturns its one-sided doctrine
of grace. And many there are who want no negative message for both of
these reasons combined.
But God prescribes a negative message. The prophet of God is sent to root
out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down. All this is
to clear the ground, in order that he might build and plant. But the negative
comes first, and must come first. God's first work is always to clear
the ground. He does not sow his wheat among thorns, nor build upon a faulty
If I were asked what is wrong with the modern church, there are many things
which I could reply, but one which would be prominent among them is that
we have a myriad of men who have set up to be prophets, who aim only to
build and to plant, without first clearing the ground by rooting out and
pulling down. I have no doubt that one of the primary reasons for this
is that many of them know so little of the word and ways of the Lord that
they see nothing to pull down. They see nothing amiss. They suppose that
modern Christianity is just what it ought to be, and all we need is more
of it. But I believe there is another class who know very well that there
is very much amiss in the modern church, who yet decline to root out and
pull down simply because it is too difficult.
Let it be well understood that the prophet's commission is no easy one.
He is to root out. This is not easy. When we moved into our
former residence seventeen years ago, we set to work to turn a horse pasture
into a garden. We went to work with a shovel. We turned over a shovel
full of dirt, picked up the sod, and shook the dirt out of it, and threw
the roots aside. Of course modern folks have found an easier way. They
go into the pasture with a rototiller, and till up the whole field without
taking the roots out, but before their vegetables come up, they have a
thriving field of hay, all deeply rooted. And this is exactly what happens
in the spiritual realm when men think to plant without first rooting out.
Roots are deeply entrenched, and hold fast to the soil. If we take hold
of many weeds, and endeavor to pull them out, we will come off with only
a handful of leaves, while the root remains just where it was. Many of
these roots have been long growing. They have gone deep, and spread wide.
They grip tenaciously, and will not come out easily. These roots are doctrines
long held, customs long practiced, sins long indulged, false ways long
supported, worldly ways long cherished.
Now when the prophet first sets out, nothing looks easier than to root
out these false things. He proceeds upon the mistaken notion that reason
will prevail in the church. It will be a simple matter of pointing out
----quoting the pertinent scriptures ----demonstrating
the evil tendencies or consequences of the thing. But when he takes hold
of that weed and begins to tug, he does not find reason at the root of
it, but emotion. Men have long enjoyed the thing, long supported it, long
poured their energies and resources into it, and to touch that root will
immediately raise a storm of opposition. Men will not inquire, Is
this thing right or wrong? They will not ask, Does the Bible
countenance or condemn it? They will only say, We like this
thing. I recall years ago attempting to deal with a young couple
in our congregation, in which the wife was obviously the head. When I
pointed this out to them, and endeavored to prove it by what I had seen
with my own eyes, the wife replied with some feeling, We like it
this way. I had the temerity to ask her whether God liked it that
way, but this was a question which she had not troubled herself about.
Next the prophet must pull down. And pull down what? Obviously what other
folks have been building up. And who will sit idly by and watch us pull
down what they have been building up? Here again we will meet with a good
deal of emotion, and very little reason. Men don't like to see their buildings
pulled down. Yet if you will not do this, you are no prophet of God.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. Jeremiah, you
know, is commonly referred to by a descriptive epithet, but he is never
called the prophet who rooted out and pulled down and destroyed
and threw down. If you called Jeremiah by such a name, most people
would have no idea whom you meant. Jeremiah is called the weeping
prophet. And there is no other way to root out and pull down and
destroy and throw down. If this is done with tears, the people will accept
it. If a man knows that you love him, you can tell him anything you please.
The hard and the harsh will only offend people. We are to preach a negative
message, but not to scold. I have preached two scolding messages in my
life, and the people never forgave me for either one of them. We are sent
to root out and to pull down, but this will never be done to any purpose
but with weeping eyes. And this, by the way, is one great disadvantage
of putting our message on paper. We won't say it should not be done. Jeremiah,
and all the prophets, put their negative message on paper, and so did
Paul. But here is the difficulty. Paul says, For out of much affliction
and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears, (II Cor.
2:4), but those tears do not appear on the paper. I have written many
things which are weighty and powerful, and which may appear harsh, but
I have written many of them with floods of tears. Thirty years ago, when
I was hard and harsh myself, I used to read Christ's denunciation of the
scribes and Pharisees, and picture him speaking as the piercings of a
sword, with scathing looks and caustic tone. But when God began to soften
my own heart the picture changed completely, and then I saw the Lord speaking
those same words with a voice choked with emotion, and tears running down
his cheeks. This is the manner in which we ought to root out and to pull
down, for in no other way will we win the hearts of men, and till that
is done, there will be no building or planting.
But here is a grand difficulty. There are many who set up to be prophets,
who are no prophets of God at all. Having no love, they are nothing. They
go about in good earnest to root out and pull down and destroy and throw
down, but having no tears, they offend everybody, and blame everybody,
too, for being offended. But after a few years of this they get tired of offending everybody. At this point they ought to say, I am not
a prophet of God. I lack the main ingredients. If I am not a weeping prophet,
I am no prophet at all. I lack the tears because I lack the love. I will
retire from the prophet's office, till I am fit for it.
This, I say, they ought to do. But you will rarely find it done. No. Instead
of this they hold the prophet's office still, but omit the first two thirds
of the prophet's commission. They preach a positive message, and all the
shallow and lukewarm and worldly souls are delighted with it, and with
the man who preaches it. But they are no prophets of God.
I am highly delighted with the old Baptist evangelist Jabez Swan's description
of his commission. His business was to plow up to the fence. He would
go into the various churches, and find the plot of ground all grown over
with thorns and thistles, and inhabited by snakes and rats and vermin,
with just a little square in the middle nicely plowed. He went in determined
to plow up to the fence. To do this he had to uproot a great many briars
and thorn bushes, and disturb all the snakes and rats, and the business
was not very pleasant. But we have another sort of preacher now. A church
or assembly wants a man to come to preach to them. He is flattered, and
is glad to do so. He finds a little patch in the middle of the field beautifully
plowed and planted, and he goes to maintain it. He thinks he can make
it grow a little greener and a little taller. He is not unaware of the
great unplowed border around the little patch in the middle, but he goes
to co-exist with that. He ought rather to say, I am no prophet of
God, and will not go at all.
But we must say something yet of the second half of the prophet's commission.
This is our proper business. The rooting out and pulling down is only
to make room to build and plant. As difficult and strenuous as the rooting
out and pulling down may be, we ought to get it done and over with, and
get down to our proper business. There are some who never do anything
but root out and pull down and destroy and throw down. Some of the cults
belong to this class, and so do some Fundamentalists. Their whole existence
is bound up in opposing everything, in proving all the churches wrong,
all the preachers hirelings, and all their doctrines heresy. And I tell
you, there is only one possible result of such a ministry. It will puff
up all their adherents with the most reeking pride. The church is full
of people who know how to oppose every error, while spiritually they are
nothing but crying infants themselves. They can oppose every outward error,
of doctrine or practice, while their own heart is all grown over with
thorns and thistles, and inhabited by snakes and vermin. Our real business
is to build the people up in faith and love and holiness and humility,
to travail in birth till Christ be formed in them, to teach them to walk
with God, and to prevail in prayer. But we must clear the ground first,
and there is nothing that will do it but a negative message.
National Barn Cleaning Week
by Glenn Conjurske
My readers will probably wonder what barn cleaning has to do with Christianity.
I am equally at a loss to know what the political activity of the modern
church has to do with Christianity. I do know that we see never a whit
of such activity in Christ or any of his apostles
----not a whiff,
not a scent, not a shred, not a scintilla, not an iota of political activity
in the New Testament. Paul's claiming of his Roman citizenship is the
only text which is usually pressed into service for this purpose, and
that really has nothing to do with the subject.
The aim and end of the political activity of Fundamentalism is to clean
up the world
----to reclaim America for Christ, as I
recently saw it expressed in a Christian political flier ----but
anyone who knows what the world is must certainly know that this is as
hopeless as cleaning the barn. Farmers can doubtless tell us that there
is no such thing as a National Barn Cleaning Week. Nevertheless,
some years ago I saw a sign in a cow barn which said,
National Barn Cleaning Week
---- December 31
And so it is also with the political activity of the church. It is as
never-ending as cleaning the barn, and as futile also. Though the barn-cleaning
goes on forever, the barn is never clean, for though the government may
require us to install a bathroom in the barn, the cows will never learn
to use it. There is only one possible way to thoroughly and permanently
clean the barn, and that is to turn the cows out. The barn is dirty because
the cows are in it, and nothing short of turning them out will ever clean
Just so with the endeavors of the church to clean up the world. The world
is dirty because the devil and all his demons are in it. The devil is
its prince and its god, and so long as he is so, the world will be just
what it is. You can no more clean up the world without putting the devil
out of it than you can clean the barn without turning out the cows. For
a hundred years American Evangelicals have been cleaning up the country,
the government, the schools, the laws, the theater, the radio and television
short, reclaiming America for Christ ----and yet the
whole of it remains just as dirty as ever, and we think a good deal dirtier
now than it was a hundred years ago. So what has the church gained for
all its pains? When Christ returns, he will turn the devil out, and then
the world will be cleaned up. Meanwhile, why does the church waste its
energies in a hopeless task, for which it has not a single word of authority
in the New Testament?
We do not fault the farmer for cleaning the barn. Though he will never
get it quite clean, he may at any rate keep it cleaner than it would be
otherwise. And some may suppose that though the devil yet reigns supreme
in it, Christians may at any rate keep the world a little cleaner than
it would be without their efforts. It may be there is a little less filth
in the world for the efforts of Jerry Falwell and James Dobson and Beverly
LaHaye. We frankly doubt it, for the whole world yet lieth
in the wicked one, and he is yet its prince and god, for all the
efforts of all our Dobsons and Falwells. But granting the world is a little
cleaner for their efforts, this does not alter our position. It manifests
a great lack of spiritual intelligence to labor to clean up the devil's
kingdom, while the devil remains its ruler and god, and Christ is cast
out of it. The farmer does well to keep the barn as clean as may be, for
it is his barn, but the world is not ours, nor Christ's, but is the devil's
kingdom. Let us go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his
reproach. There is our proper place, and our proper business.
And while we frankly doubt there is less dirt in the world for the political
efforts of Christians, we are quite sure there is a good deal more dirt
in the church. No man cleans the barn in his Sunday shoes. Farmers have
more sense. Yet the political arena dirties the feet of all who enter
it, as much as ever cleaning the barn could do. It robs men of the meekness
of Christ and the spirit of the gospel, lowers their affections from heaven
to earth, and fills their hands with carnal weapons. In short, it does
no good to the world, and great harm to the church.
by Glenn Conjurske
Modern Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and Brethrenism are steeped in
antinomianism. It manifests itself everywhere. I have observed it even
in some who claim to be standing strongly against antinomianism. In conversation
with them I have soon discovered that they use all the same arguments
and proof texts as the most unguarded antinomians, so that I have been
entirely at a loss to know what they could mean by their opposition to
it. I do not doubt their sincerity, but as said, the modern church is
simply steeped in antinomianism. Its atmosphere is antinomian. This is
seen in numerous arguments against what is regarded as legalism, in the
standard orthodox interpretations of numerous texts of Scripture, and
in numerous doctrinal assumptions and assertions, which few venture to
Those assumptions are such as the following:
The Gospels do not contain the gospel, but the law.
Christ did not preach the gospel, but the law.
Repentance belongs to law, not grace.
Repentance is only for the Jews.
Holiness is optional.
Holiness is imputed, not actual.
Holiness is positional, not practical.
The terms of salvation and the terms of discipleship are not the same.
We can do nothing to receive eternal life.
Salvation is by faith alone, regardless of repentance or righteousness.
A life of faith is perfectly consistent with a life of sin.
Such propositions, and others like them, obtrude themselves everywhere.
They are woven into the very warp and woof of modern theology, and they
all work directly to confirm the common belief that the ungodly, the unholy,
and the unrighteous may inherit the kingdom of God.
It is with one of these doctrinal assumptions that I deal in the present
paper. The leading article in Dave Hunt's The Berean Call for March of
1999 begins with this statement: The word 'holy' is always used
one way in Scripture concerning God, who is holy in and of Himself; and
in another way for created mankind, creatures and things which can only
be called 'holy' when set apart by God for His use. (Italics added.)
This statement is as strong as it is subtle. The word holy
is ALWAYS used one way of God, and another way of man. Perhaps, if nothing
more were meant by it than that the holiness of God is natural, and that
of man acquired. This is an obvious truth, but on the back of this obvious
truth rides a subtle error. By a mode of argument which is very common,
either for lack of thought, or by intentional sophistry, two diverse things
are associated together, one of them true and the other false, and these
two are presented as though they are one. It is true that God is holy
by nature, while any holiness found in man must be acquired. But the statement
does not stop at this. It implies further that the holiness of God and
the holiness of man are of different kinds. It is implied that while the
holiness of God is intrinsic and actual, that of man is only forensic,
consists, that is, only of being set apart by God for His use,
regardless of the character of the vessel thus set apart. Hunt does not
affirm that the vessel which is made holy by being thus set
apart may be actually unclean ----actually unholy, that is ----but
neither does he deny it. He makes no statement at all on the subject.
He does not raise the issue at all. This might be quite excusable at another
time than the present day. If we lived in a time when all men confessed
that the holiness which God enjoins upon his people must be of the same
sort as the holiness of God himself, we might forbear to state the fact.
But in the present day, when almost all assume the contrary, the failure
to state the truth, or to raise the issue at all, is a fatal omission.
It raises the strong presumption that Hunt himself stands on the antinomian
side of the question, while it is certain that his statement will be taken
in an antinomian sense by most of his readers.
We absolutely deny the implications of Hunt's statement. When God says,
Be ye holy, for I am holy (I Pet. 1:16), this is not talking
about two different kinds of holiness. Holiness is separation from sin,
whether in God or in man. Light is the Bible emblem of holiness, and if
God is light, the meaning of this is, and in him is
no darkness at all, and the practical application of it is, If
we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie,
and do not the truth. This is holiness, and it is practical holiness,
and of just the same kind in God and man, though varying in degree. God
is perfect in holiness, while men are imperfect, but the essence of that
holiness is the same. It is separation from evil.
The Bible says Be ye holy, for I am holy. Substitute anything
else for the word holy here, and no one would dream that two
different things were meant. Peter quotes this text from Leviticus 11,
where we read, Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any
creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean
with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. For I am the Lord your God:
ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy, for I am
holy. Neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing
that creepeth upon the earth. This belongs to what is ceremonial,
in the Levitical law, but the merest child may see that it is entirely
----entirely concerned with what we do. Peter lifts it
from the ceremonial to a higher sphere, but he does not alter the nature
of holiness a whit.
The commands of God to Be ye holy are certainly concerned
with actual and practical holiness. We read in Leviticus 20:7-8, Sanctify
yourselves therefore, and be ye holy, for I am the Lord your God. And
ye shall keep my statutes and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you.
Who can doubt that this is practical holiness? To state that holiness
consists of being set apart by God for his use is to misdefine
it in the most serious manner. To state that the Scripture always uses
the term holy one way of God, and another way of man, is to
greatly strengthen the bulwarks of antinomianism.
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Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated
by the Editor
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Appetite comes with eating.
We have no appetite for what we have never eaten. Appetites are acquired,
and they are acquired by eating. No man was born with an appetite for
ice cream. If he is addicted to it now, he acquired that appetite by eating
it. Appetite dwells in the soul, and though some appetites may belong
to our nature, most of them are acquired. Few would dispute this so long
as we speak of physical food.
But this is equally true of all the lusts of the flesh, and herein this
proverb is found to contain weighty theological truth. The appetite for
sin is both acquired and strengthened by partaking of that sin. Indulgence
in sin begets an appetite for it, and continued indulgence strengthens
that appetite. No man was born with an appetite for the card table, the
gambling hall, or the dance floor. He may have been born with sinful propensities
which would naturally incline him that way, but that is another matter.
No man was born addicted to cigarettes. It is certainly safe to say that
few men ever enjoyed the first cigarette they smoked. They had no appetite
for it. But by indulging in the perverted act, generally to please others,
or gain their esteem or acceptance, they acquired such an appetite for
it as became quite irresistible.
No man was born with an appetite for hard rock music. This is no natural inclination. It is difficult to imagine anybody liking or enjoying the
stuff the first time they hear it. There is nothing sweet in it, nothing
pleasant, nothing to appeal to the soul of man, but only the banging and
bumping, clanging and thumping, of numerous drums, only the discordant
screeching and screaming of the ever-present saxophones, only the howling
and yowling and growling and screaming and screeching of demented human
----nothing enjoyable, nothing any way resembling music ----and
yet I have heard recently that eighty-seven percent of the young people
today listen to this stuff. Many of them apparently enjoy it, and many
are absolutely addicted to it. Their appetite for this is acquired. Sinners
though they be, they were never born with any such appetite. It was acquired
by indulgence, and not by a single act of indulgence, but by long continuance
in it. It is thus that all the lusts of the flesh are strengthened in
the soul of man.
Though we surely believe in the natural depravity of the whole human race,
it were really ridiculous to suppose all men to be equally sinful in their
appetites, any more than they are in their deeds. Every man is born with
a natural inclination to gratify himself, and with an inability to control
his lusts, but most of those lusts are yet undeveloped or non-existent.
It were folly to suppose that Adam, the moment after he ate the forbidden
fruit, was consumed by all the overwhelming passions of the whoremonger,
the sodomite, the gambler, the drunkard, or the idolater. No more is an
infant born in such a state. No man is born enslaved to any of those lusts.
Those appetites are acquired by indulgence, and many men live their whole
lives without ever experiencing some of those passions at all.
But well we know that this will cut across the grain of some men's theology.
So far have some gone with their doctrine of depravity that they must
have the babe in the womb as depraved as a pimp. So far have others gone
with their doctrine of two natures, that they utterly exclude the self-evident
fact of one person. They will not allow that the man who is born of the
Spirit is the same person as the child who was born of the flesh, and
thus of course they must deny any relevance to character or habit. Yet
we have but one soul
----one personality, one individuality ----and
it is that soul which is to be saved, or salvaged, by the redemption which
is in Christ Jesus. That soul is salvaged and restored by breaking the
power of sin, and this consists of breaking the power of lusts and habits
which have been acquired by indulgence.
Keep thy heart with all diligence, the Bible says, for
out of it are the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23). But keep it from
what? Keep it how? Keep it from sin, of course, but what does this mean?
Keep thy heart from sinful appetites. Keep it by refusing to indulge in
those things which will either beget or strengthen those appetites.
Young people stand in need of solemn admonition at this point. Let them
understand that Appetite comes with eating. Let them understand
that the indulgence in sinful activities will beget sinful appetites,
or strengthen those appetites which already exist. Thus the sin which
was once easily resisted becomes the sin which easily besets, and if the
indulgence is continued, the appetite becomes a consuming passion, overwhelming
and irresistible, and the soul a hopeless slave to a lust which it might
never have known, but for its sinful indulgence. It is a glorious thing,
no doubt, for the soul to be salvaged from the lusts of the sodomite,
the gambler, or the extortioner, but more glorious that those lusts should
never be known. Appetite comes with eating. Let men beware,
therefore, what they partake of. Let them remain simple concerning
evil. A single attendance at a circus, a rodeo, a horse race, a
car show, a ball game, a concert
----a single reading of a mystery
novel or political harangue ----may create an appetite which never
before existed in the soul. Continued indulgence of that appetite may
create a passion which is irresistible.
But eating begets good appetites as well as evil. O taste, and see
that the Lord is good. Those who have no appetite for Christian
reading may acquire one. Those who have no appetite for prayer may acquire
one. Those who have no appetite for solitude and reflection may acquire
one. Nay, those who are positively disinclined to the things of God may
acquire an appetite for them, by choosing to do as they ought. The first
steps in religion must consist of denying ourselves, and taking up the
cross, but if we resolutely do as we ought, what was at first our burden
may become our delight.
First deserve, and then desire.
Though I have but lately written on this proverb, a sign which I recently
saw at a gas station suggests another word. The sign said, Get the
credit you deserve. Now as a plain matter of fact, the credit which
a great many people deserve is no credit at all, but this sign assumes
that everybody deserves credit. We see the same sort of perverted thinking
in the rhetoric of liberal politicians, who love to talk of giving everybody
the health care they deserve, the wage they deserve, the quality of life
they deserve, etc. This assumes that all the lazy and improvident, all
the vicious and wicked, all the gamblers and drunkards, deserve everything
which the righteous and the industrious deserve. The lazy man deserves a good wage. The spendthrift deserves financial security. Such rhetoric
teaches all men to suppose themselves deserving of all things, and heaven
to boot. If this philosophy comes not straight from the devil, I know
not what could. The effect of such thinking on the souls of men is the
most pernicious which may be imagined, and as far as possible from the
truth of God. It sets aside with one stroke all the ways of God in administering
rewards and punishments, to the deserving and the undeserving. But to
complete the sophistry, this liberal age labels as uncaring those who
reward the deserving, and withhold from the undeserving. Is God then uncaring,
who will render to every man according to his works? Is Christ,
who shed his blood for the sins of the world, uncaring because he says,
They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy? We
think this proverb one of the best of medicines for this soft, selfish,
shallow, and liberal age.
An Allegory on Allegorical Interpretation
by Glenn Conjurske
Peter and John were two small boys, whose father's employment kept him
away from home six days in the week. One week while their father was away,
John disobeyed his mother and talked back to her. His mother contacted
his father and informed him of the matter. Said his father, Tell
John that when I come home I am going to give him a whipping. Then he
may have all next week while I am gone to think about his naughtiness,
and if he shows sufficient sorrow and repentance when I come home the
following week, I will take him out for an ice cream cone.
All the remainder of the week John's little brother Peter walked around
with solemn face, often repeating to John, You are going to get
a whipping when Father comes home. Father has spoken, and he will not
go back on his word. And so it came to pass. Father came home, and
John got his whipping, along with many solemn admonitions to spend the
following week considering the evil which he had done. And John was indeed
solemn all the week.
Not so Peter, however. He had come to understand the spiritual interpretation
of his father's words, and was filled with encouragement. He had learned
that his father's words did not apply to John at all, but to himself,
nor were they to be taken literally, nor supposed actually to refer to
something so trifling as an ice cream cone. His story this week was therefore,
Father is going to take me out and buy me a bicycle when he comes
----for the ice cream cone is not to be understood literally,
and as for John, he has sinned and forfeited his blessings.
In vain did his mother expostulate with him. In vain did she press upon
him that the ice cream cone was promised to the same boy as the whipping.
In vain did she insist that their father's word concerning the whipping
was literally fulfilled, and so likewise would be the promise of the ice
cream cone. None of this made any impression upon Peter. This was the
carnal interpretation of his father's words, while he understood the spiritual interpretation. Yet when Peter's father came home, John got the ice cream
So much for the allegory. In the application of it I need only point out
that it is an exact picture of that system of interpretation which is
the foundation of amillennialism. There are numerous prophecies in the
Bible which predict the judgement of Israel, and their subsequent restoration
and blessing. All of those prophecies which concern the judgement of Israel,
amillennialists interpret literally and apply literally. That is, they
understand them to speak of literal judgements, and apply them to literal
Israel. But all of those prophecies which speak of the subsequent restoration
and blessing of that same Israel they take spiritually, that is allegorically,
not literally, nor will they allow that they are to be applied to Israel.
That is, they affirm them to speak of spiritual blessings, rather than
of the literal blessings which the words actually state, and they divorce
their application from Israel, concerning whom they were spoken, and appropriate
them to the church, that is, to themselves.
Now it is this glaring inconsistency that renders those who spiritualize
prophecy absolutely without excuse. If prophecy is to be interpreted spiritually,
let them so interpret all of it. But to take all the prophecies of judgement
literally, and allow them to apply to those of whom they were originally
spoken, while they take all the prophecies of blessing spiritually, and
appropriate them to themselves, this can only be called trifling with
the word of God. Such interpretation
----and I solemnly
protest that it is debasing the word interpretation to call
such shifts by that name at all ----would never be allowed for a
moment, if it were not the word of God with which we were dealing. No
righteous man would allow such interpretation of a government
charter, of his father's will, of a court judgement, or of any other document
whatsoever. How then is it legitimate to so trifle with the word of the
living God? It is not legitimate. It is impiety.
Not that I would charge that impiety upon all who hold to this system
of interpretation. No, for most of them have been led into it by others,
with little thinking, and without half understanding the issues involved.
Yet I do insist
----and that as a matter of simple historical fact ----that
it was impiety which originated this system. It was a lowering and debasing
of the word of God, the fruit of a wretched unbelief which put Greek philosophy
upon a level with the word of God, and then, to reconcile the two, maintained
the philosophy in its integrity, and threw the word of God to the winds.
A Casket of Jewels
SPARE - HOVRES of Meditations
[Bishop Henshaw was a medium between Bishop Hall and Bishop Ryle. Like
Hall, he was a master of spiritual meditation. (He lived in the seventeenth
century, when men had time to meditate.) Like Ryle, he was plain, practical,
----knowing nothing of the modern grace theology and
the modern refinements which make void the word of God. This may render
him the less acceptable to the present age, but the more needed. How is
it that I never heard of this man till the present year? What treasures
more may be waiting for the diligent searcher of the history of the church?
That we brought nothing into this world, is not more every where knowne,
than it is of every one beleeved; but that wee shall carry nothing out
of this world, is a sentence better knowne than trusted, otherwise I thinke
men would take more care to live well, than to dye rich.
Gods children are ever the better for being miserable, and end in that;
It is good for mee that I have been afflicted; let God use me how Hee will
on earth, so I may have what Hee hath promised to those that love Him
in heaven; Who would not be a Lazarus for a day, that hee might fit in
Abraham's bosome for ever?
Afflicions are the medicines of the minde, if they are not toothsome,
let it suffice, they are wholesome; 'tis not required in Phyficke that
it hould please, but heale, unlesse we esteeme our pleasure above our
health: let me suffer, so I may reigne, be beaten, so I may be a son.
Nothing can be ever too much to endure for those pleasures which endure
There was never good but was hard to get: the prison and the hatchet,
sores and crums leade to Abraham's bosome, and the way thither is by weeping-crosse:
if many tribulations will carry me to heaven, on Gods name let me have
them; welcome the poverty, which makes me heire to those riches that never
hall have an end.
I will deale for my soule, as for my body, never refuse health because
the Phiicke that hould procure it, is bitter; let it distast me, so it
Al consciences like all stomacks are not alike[;] how many doe we see
digest those innes with ease, which others cannot get downe with struggling,
one straines at a gnat, when another swallowes a camell: hee that will
keepe cleere of great sinnes, must make conscience of all. I will thinke
no sinne little, because the least endangers my soule, and it is all one
whether I sell my SAVIOVR for thirty pence, with Iudas, or for halfe I
am worth, with Ananias; whether I goe to hell for one in, or for many.
This life is but a journey unto death, and every day we are some spannes
neerer the grave; how is it that wee which are so neere our death, are
so farre from thinking of it? Security is a great enemy to prevention,
and a presumption that wee hall not dye yet, makes men that they doe not
prepare to dye at all: it is good taking time while time is; if it come
suddenly and find thee unprepared, miserable man that thou art, ...
Therefore hath Nature given us two eares and but one mouth, that we should
heare twice as much as wee should speake: with all thy secrets trust neither
thy wife nor thy friend, hee that is thriftie of his owne tongue hall
lesse feare anothers.
Much knowledge not much speech, Emblem's a wise man. I shall ever hold
it neither safe nor wise, alwaies to speake what I know of my owne affaires,
nor what I thinke of others; a man may speake too much truth.
Eating was the first sinne in the world, and it is now the sinne almost
of all the world; and as before the building of Babel so still in this,
all the Earth is of one language, what shall we eat, or what shall we drinke,
and wherewith, &c. Eating and Drinking have taken away our stomacks
to spirituall things: I will never be so greedie as to eat my selfe out
of heaven: He loves his belly well, that with Esau will sell his Birth-right
for pottage: of the two, I had rather beg my bread with Lazarus, than
my water with Dives.
That two contraries cannot conist in the same subject, is as good Divinity,
as it is Philosophy; Good and evill are like Fire and Water, ever contending
till the one bee conquered; either my sins and I must part, or God and
I: I cannot be at once Gods Church, and the Divels chappell.
The good man takes his God as he doth his wife, for richer, for poorer,
in sicknesse and in health: we may not alwaies judg of Gods favour by His
bounty. I am but a novice in Religion, if I thinke I cannot be Gods sonne
Commonly those men are hottest in the pursuit of honour, that least deserve
it; While deservednesse sits still, and bides his leisure that gives and
takes where he list, and when, and how, and to whom; and at last is importun'd
to the place, not for the good he shall receive, but for that he may doe:
he will not be great upon all termes, but will rather endure poverty,
than part with his honesty, and not sell his soule to buy a purchase, What
will it profit a man to gaine the world, and lose his soule?
... It is hard to bee prosperous, and bee loved at once: Those that will
be great, shall be envied; it is hard but safe, to be contented with a
little: but if I cannot avoid ill tongues, my care shall bee not to deserve
them; and then, let Shimei curse.
There was never any that was not ambitious: every man is borne a Corah,
onely some more superlative than other. But of all men I most wonder at
those that are ambitious only to be talk'd of, and since they cannot bee
notable, they would bee notorious; and with Cain bee mark'd, though for
murderers. Whether I know much, or am knowne of many, it matters not,
onely this I will care for, that God may not say to me in the last day,
I know thee not.
It is a common fault to forget what wee have beene, when wee are changed
for the better: how many have been resolved for heaven in their sicknesse,
that in their whole skinne have disclaim'd it, and requited the recovery
of the body with a relapse of the soul. To receive good at the hands of
the Lord, and not evill, is unreasonable to expec: but to receive good
at the hands of the Lord, and returne evill, is wicked and not to be endured.
I will never pray more heartily to God for a blesing, than for grace to
manage it: Wherefore hould I be blessed to my cost?
That which I heare from David, I would heare from every good man, Thy
word is a lanterne to my feete, &c. To his feete, not to his eyes
alone: if we use the Word of God onely to gaze on, & see fine stories,
to discourse by, not live by, it wants his use, and wee want our goodnesse,
and hall want our glory; knowledge without pracice adds to our punsihment
together with our in. How many Pharisees have sate in Moses chaire that
hall never sit in Abrahams bosome, onely for this, because they knew and
This life, as if it would never be done, is ever providing for; Eternall
life, as if it would never begin is never preparing for. I will care for
this life, but not dote on it: I will remember I shall live ever, but not
In some cases and some things, a man may know too much. It is not good
to bee prying into the privie Counsailes of God: I doubt whether some
mens overboldnesse with the hidden things of God, have not made them an
accursed thing to them; and presing before their time or leave, into the Holy of Holy's, have barr'd themselves from ever comming thither at all:
why should wee call for light, where GOD will have none, & make windowes
into heaven? I will admire God in Himselfe, and bee content to know Him
no farther than in His word where this light leaves mee, I will leave
enquiring, and boast of my ignorance.
God doth not looke for every thing from every one; for ten talents where
Hee left but two: onely Hee there exacs much, where He hath given much:
if the seed of thorny or stony ground bring forth no fruit, or withered,
it is no marvell; but where He hath dung'd and gooded, to expect a crop
is but reasonable. The more I have, the more I have to answer for; the
greater my trust, the greater my account: Let others care how to get more,
my care shal be how to pay for that I have already.
Another Methodist Revival on A Dance Floor
[This is the third example which we have been able to present to our
readers of a Methodist revival on a dance floor. We have also given a
precious account of such a revival among the Baptists. These are marvellous
works of God
----but all of them much more than a century ago. Where
are such things today? ----editor.]
At this meeting great opposition was manifested by the wicked; but, notwithstanding,
though it seemed all the spirits of darkness had gathered there from the
knobs, the Sun-fish hills, and the Dividing Ridge, yet many were converted
to God; and of this happy number many were young people. After the meeting
ended, a party who were opposed to the revival, and were offended at the
loss of their young companions who had embraced religion, got up a dance.
A young man by the name of J. Fraley was the leader. The time at length
came, and youth and pleasure met to chase the hours with glowing feet.
But hark! in the midst of the revelry a cry! Some one has fallen in the
dance, and he cries aloud,God be merciful to me a sinner!
It is Fraley, the leader. Consternation is spread over every face; terror
fills every mind! Others join the cry, and then and there was hurrying
in every direction from the scene of that gathered throng. Brother John
Foster, a local preacher, was sent for, and the sound of mirth and revelry
gave place to the sound of prayer, while the loud laugh was exchanged
to louder cries for mercy. Then began a glorious work of God, and many
in that ball-room were converted, and filled with greater joy than ever
earthly pleasure could give.
----Sketches of Wetern Methodism, by J. B. Finley. Cincinnati:
Printed at the Methodist Book Concern, for the Author, 1854, pp. 323-324.
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.