Why Many Believers Are Not Saved
by Glenn Conjurske
I say many believers are not saved, and I speak advisedly. I believe indeed
that the majority of the believers in many Evangelical and Fundamental
churches, and in many Brethren assemblies, are not saved. The proportion
may vary a great deal from one church to another, but taking the modern
church as a whole, I believe it safe to say that a large proportion of
those who make it up are not saved. By their fruits ye shall know
them, and many of them are so little different from the world that
an angel could not tell the difference.
Nor do I speak without the Lord, nor without the Bible. The Lord says,
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied
in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done
many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew
you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Now it goes without
saying that these many believed in him, who prophesied in his name, and
in his name did many wonderful works. Yet all who insist upon the doctrine
of justification by faith alone are obliged to contend that these many
did not believe in him
----or something which amounts to the same
thing. They will tell us that these many did not really believe
in him ----whatever that may mean. Or they will tell us that their
faith was deficient or defective ----that it was not real faith.
But all such explanations are devised solely to maintain their theology,
with not a word of Scripture to support them. What saith the Scripture?
Does the Lord say to these many, Depart from me, ye
who did not really believe in me? Does he say, Depart from
me, ye whose faith was defective? Not a word of it. Neither does
he say, as some modern preachers would have it, Depart from me,
ye that trust in your own wonderful works to save you. Not a word
of that either. What he says is, Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
They are lost because they work iniquity, and they work iniquity in spite
of the fact that they believe in Christ, and do many wonderful works in
Now God has a directive for those who work iniquity, and that directive
is not that they believe, but that they repent. Now God commandeth
all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed a day, in the
which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath
ordained. (Acts 17:30-31). Why does he not command all men everywhere
to believe, if that is the only condition of salvation? Is God less intelligent,
less consistent, than the modern preachers of Antinomianism? Some of those
preachers tell us that repentance is unnecessary to salvation. And why
then does God command all men everywhere
----all the lost sinners
on the face of the globe ----to repent? Does he set the whole race
of men to do mere needless busy-work, in place of the one thing needful?
But other preachers of salvation by faith only will agree that repentance
is necessary to salvation, and yet affirm that we need not preach it,
as it is a necessary part of saving faith. So speaks William Pettingill,
a disciple of C. I. Scofield, in answer to the questions, What place
has repentance in salvation? Should we tell people to repent of their
sins to be saved? Pettingill replies, The Gospel of John is
the Holy Spirit's Gospel Tract, written that men might believe that Jesus
is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing they might have life
through His name (20:31). And it does not mention the word 'repentance.'
But that is only because repentance is a necessary part of saving faith.
Strictly speaking, the word repentance means 'a change of mind.' It is
by no means the same thing as sorrow (II Cor. 7:10). Since it is not possible
for an unbeliever to become a believer without changing his mind, it is
therefore unnecessary to say anything about it. The only thing for a man
to do in order to be saved is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is at any rate plain speaking. But query: if repentance is
a necessary part of saving faith, and if it is therefore unnecessary
to say anything about it, why did the apostles of Christ constantly
preach it? Why did the Lord commission them to preach repentance
and the remission of sins among all nations? Nay, why does God himself
command all men everywhere to repent? Are the disciples of C. I. Scofield
and Lewis Sperry Chafer wiser than the apostles of Christ? Are the preachers
of salvation by faith alone wiser than God?
But there are many who define repentance more soundly than Pettingill
----who define repentance as the forsaking of sin ----whose
minds are yet befuddled by the false notion that repentance is a necessary
part of faith. That notion is certainly not derived from the Bible. It
is rather a classic example of getting our theology from our theology,
instead of from the Bible. That repentance is a necessary part of saving
faith is a simple theological necessity for those who preach faith as
the only condition of salvation, and to this theological necessity they
tenaciously cling ----and tamely bow ----though it requires
them to make void many plain scriptures. To make repentance a necessary
part of faith shows no more sense than to make faith a necessary part
of patience, or love a necessary part of marriage. The two things are
diverse, and easily distinguished.
We realize that the language which is usually employed by these preachers
makes repentance a necessary part of saving faith, but the
very terminology is a mere necessity of their theological system, and
serves only to perpetuate the error. Though the Bible speaks constantly
of faith, it never in a single instance speaks of saving faith
distinguished from a non-saving kind ----and the necessity to use
unscriptural terminology is a certain indication that there is something
unscriptural in the theology which requires it. Indeed, to those whose
eyes are open, the unscriptural terminology is a trusty signal, pointing
directly to where and what the error is. The error here is that there
are two kinds of faith, saving faith, and faith which does not save, but
there is not one word in the Bible of such a distinction. Some, we know,
will press the book of James into their service to maintain this distinction,
but James is as much against them as are Jesus and Peter and Paul. More
on that in its place.
Meanwhile, we do not wish to speak with too much dogmatism on the other
side. We do not pretend to know everything, and we are quite well aware
that most error contains at least a grain of truth, and maybe a dozen
grains. We grant
----we preach ----that the faith of many
is defective. They fail to trust that God is better than the devil, or
more willing to make them happy than the devil is. They trust God for
the life to come, and trust the world for the life that now is. They trust
God for eternity, but follow the devil for time. This is defective faith,
certainly. Their faith does not proceed so far as to believe that the
ways of God are better than their own, or that holiness is therefore better
than sin. We grant all that, and preach it too, and yet are not sure that
such defects may not consist with the faith of the gospel. The faith of
the gospel is a trust in the grace and mercy of God, through the cross
and blood of Christ, and we suppose such faith may exist in the presence
of a great deal of unbelief ----unbelief in the wisdom and goodness
of God, unbelief in the superiority of his ways over those of the world,
the flesh, and the devil, unbelief in his ability or willingness to care
for our interests or secure our happiness, and unbelief of a dozen sorts
besides. We may trust God for eternity, and fail to trust him for tomorrow.
It is a plain fact that faith comes in many degrees. The Lord speaks of
little faith and great faith, and it is to saved
men that he says, O ye of little faith. There is no perfect
faith under the sun, and there may be a good deal of unbelief mixed with
the best faith of the best of men. All our faith is defective, and yet
if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed ----the least of all
seeds ----nothing shall be impossible to us. Such faith, defective
as it is, will move mountains, and save our souls also. All our faith
is defective, yet the Bible does not trouble us therefor, nor ever, anywhere
teach us to doubt our salvation on that account. It does not teach us,
that is, to have less faith, because we have little, nor does it anywhere
set us upon finding genuine faith, supposing what we have to be false,
nor ever require anybody for any reason to believe after any other manner
than they have done already. All our faith is defective, yet it is saving
faith for all that ----unless it be alone, for faith alone will
save no one, as James plainly teaches. The Bible teaches us indeed to
doubt our salvation if we continue in sin, without repentance, but never
for failing to believe aright.
We suggest that those who insist upon the distinction between saving and
non-saving faith will do the theological world a favor by attempting to
define what non-saving faith is. We strongly suspect that if they would
seriously attempt to define what it is, they would find themselves describing
nothing other than what the Bible presents to us as the faith of the gospel
believing the record that God gave of his Son, believing in the heart
that God hath raised him from the dead, etc. Yet myriads believe all this
who are not saved.
But I return to the many which the Bible says believe, and yet are not
saved. In John 1:12 we read, But as many as received him, to them
gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on
his name, but in John 2:23-25 we are told that many believed
in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not
commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that
any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. Some modern
Antinomians, we know, are sunk so low in theologically-dictated nonsense
as to affirm that these many were all saved. A fine salvation
this must be, in which the Saviour will not commit himself to the saved.
We do not trouble ourselves to refute such stuff. We hold it to be self-evident
that these many, to whom Jesus would not commit himself, were
But why not? The text tells us they believed in his name,
and though there is a slight variation in the English version, the expression
is the same in the Greek in John 2:23 as it is in John 1:12. Regardless
of what our theology is, we must all account for the fact that these many,
who believed in his name, were not saved. All the preachers
of salvation by faith alone
----if they are aware of the existence
of this text ----will come forward with one voice to affirm that
they did not really believe, though the Bible says they did, or that they
believed with the wrong kind of faith, though the Bible says nothing of
that. Such explanations are dictated by the necessities of their theology,
and not by anything whatsoever in the Bible. Others of them affirm that
their faith was false, or non-saving, because it was the result of seeing
the miracles which he did, and faith which is based upon miracles
can never save. Harry Ironside, for example, says, A faith that
rests upon miracles is not a saving faith. A faith that rests upon signs
and wonders does not bring salvation to anyone. ----and this
directly in the teeth of John's explicit statement at the close of this
book, And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his
disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that
ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing
ye might have life through his name.
Ironside's assertion demonstrates to what shifts men will resort in order
to maintain a theological dogma which is false, and all who maintain the
modern dogma of salvation by faith plus nothing must resort
to one such shift or another, to account for the fact that these many
who believed in his name were not saved, but they all bark
up the wrong tree. They all tell us, in one way or another, that their
faith was defective. I say, on the contrary, that what they lacked was
repentance. The Bible plainly teaches us that we are saved by repentance
toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ and his
apostles preached, Repent, and believe the gospel. Why this,
if faith is the only condition of salvation? Why this, if repentance is
a necessary part of faith? If a mother tells her daughter to fill the
sink with soap and water, will anybody be found so senseless as to contend
that the soap is a necessary part of the water? If the Bible admonishes
us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ, who will be found to contend that the grace is a necessary part
of the knowledge? If God exhorts us to faith and patience, who will maintain
that the faith is a necessary part of the patience? If the Bible directs
us to repent and be baptized, who will pretend that repentance is a necessary
part of baptism, and that every man therefore who has been baptized has
also repented? And just as foolish as all these is the assertion that
repentance is a necessary part of faith, and that all therefore who have
----or who have believed aright ----have repented.
This assertion does not arise from common sense or sound reason or Holy
Scripture, but is directly in the teeth of all three. It is dictated by
the necessities of a theological dogma, and that dogma is false.
We must account somehow for the fact that the many who believed
in his name were not saved. We may do this two ways. We may affirm,
as most do, that the faith itself was defective, or we may affirm that
something else besides faith was necessary. From the standpoint of pure
reason, either of these explanations is equally acceptable. Modern theology
necessitates the former explanation. But what saith the Scripture? If
the modern theological dogma is true, that faith is the only condition
of salvation, and if the conclusion which is derived from that dogma is
also true, that there are two kinds of faith, saving faith and non-saving
faith, then surely the Bible ought to have something to say on the matter.
But we look in vain. Never does the Bible admonish us to be sure we have
real faith. Never does it exhort us to make sure we have the right kind
of faith. Where in all the Bible is there a single hint in that direction?
On the other hand, the Bible does command us to repent and believe.
The Bible does admonish us to add to our faith virtue, and
knowledge, and temperance, etc., that we may make our calling and election
Ah, but James speaks of dead faith, and this of course implies that there
is such a thing as living faith. We know it well, but we shall hardly
consent to have our firm ally James turned against us, by preachers who
can scarce brook his strawy epistle at all, except when they think they
can use him to make a point for their own mistaken notions. But they use
him amiss. They use him only to misuse him. Read on.
What is the point of James's strawy second chapter? What is it that he
labors to prove? Precisely this, that by works a man is justified,
and not by faith only. (James 2:24). What right have they, then,
who contend for justification by faith only, to resort to the second chapter
of James for an argument? Had they not better steer clear of him? Do they
suppose that James, by the Spirit of God, penned plain inconsistencies,
inadvertently building up the very dogma which he aimed to tear down?
If not, surely they will find no countenance for their notions here.
Well, what is it that James says concerning this dead faith, which cannot
save? What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath
faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister
be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart
in peace, be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those
things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit? Even so, faith,
if it hath not works, is dead, being ALONE. James speaks not one
word about faith being unreal, or defective, or deficient. His whole complaint
is that it is alone
----and he speaks so for the express purpose
of establishing the doctrine that faith alone cannot justify. Paul concludes
that a man is justified by faith without the deeds OF THE LAW,
but he never preaches salvation without repentance, or without works meet
for repentance. Quite the contrary. The equating of the works of the law
with works meet for repentance has caused endless confusion in modern
theology ----with little excuse, however, for repentance belongs
entirely to the gospel, and has nothing to do with the law. The law requires
perfect obedience, and in its very nature allows no room for repentance.
Can faith save him? James asks, and answers that it cannot,
if it be alone. We know that our modern preachers must frame the question,
Can that faith save him? pressing the Greek article into their
service, and stretching it a little too. We only tell them to consistently
do so with the Greek article, and they will make nonsense of the New Testament.
The article is used with faith eight times in the passage,
as it is times innumerable with abstract nouns throughout the New Testament.
It means nothing other than faith, as the English Bible translates
it throughout the passage. Some stretch the Greek article so far as to
put the question, Can that kind of faith save him? but this
is nothing other than a typical example of getting our Bible from our
theology, instead of our theology from our Bible. The Bible never anywhere
else distinguishes different kinds of faith, nor here either, unless we
wrest the language of the text.
Again, Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well. The
devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that
faith without works is dead? Now it is perfectly plain that the
faith of which he speaks here is dead faith, which cannot save. Yet observe
what he says concerning it. Thou believest that there is one God:
thou doest well. Thou doest well, to have a dead faith
which cannot save thee! Why does he not say, Thou doest ill,
if that faith is not real, or if it is defective? Thou doest well,
so far as the faith is concerned, but something else is wanting. His complaint
is not that the faith is not real, but that it is alone
it is without works. Men will say that if it were real, it would not be
alone, but this they say only because their theology requires it. The
Bible says nothing of the sort.
Once more, Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and
not by faith only. ... For as the body without the spirit is dead, so
faith without works is dead also. Now there is no difference between
a dead body and a living one. The difference lies wholly in the fact that
the dead body is alone
----being without the spirit.
And as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works
is dead also. It is not said that the body is defective, or not
real, but that it is alone, that it is without the spirit. The fact is,
a body may be very defective, and yet alive. It may lack arms and legs
and ears, it may be diseased with cancer or leprosy, and be alive. And
so may defective faith be alive also. We cannot give life to a dead body
by curing its defects, nor can we to a dead faith either. We cannot give
life to a dead body by any surgical operations upon it, by pouring medicines
down its throat, by altering its constitution in any manner whatsoever,
but only by adding to it a spirit. Adam's perfect body, newly created
by God, was as dead before God added a spirit to it as our diseased and
crippled bodies are after the spirit departs. And as it is with a dead
body, so it is also with a dead faith. As the body without the spirit
is dead, so faith without works is dead also. Reason would suggest,
then, that the cure is not to alter the nature of the faith, but to add
to it the missing works.
And this is precisely what Peter admonishes us to do. And beside
this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience
godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness
charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that
ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord
Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see
afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore
the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election
sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance
shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:5-11).
We of course expect that some of our modern Fundamentalists will come
forward to assert that this scripture has nothing to do with salvation
they commonly say of all the Scriptures which require anything of us but
bare believing ----but we cannot stay to argue with them. That salvation
is the only issue in the passage is transparent on its face.
Now observe what it is that Peter exhorts us to. He writes to those who
have faith. It would be without sense to admonish them to add to their
faith the other things mentioned, if they had no faith to which to add
them. Neither does he tell them to believe, nor to get faith. Faith they
had. He exhorts them to add to it this host of other virtues, that by
this means they may be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge
of the Lord Jesus Christ, but that so (by adding these virtues)
an entrance may be abundantly ministered to them into the everlasting
kingdom of Christ, and thus are they to make their calling and election
That the passage stands directly against the antinomian orthodoxy of modern
times there is not the slightest doubt. That it stands against the modern
dogma of salvation by faith plus nothing is equally certain.
The perfectly plain
----the only possible ----sense of the
passage is that we must add to our faith these other things, and so make
our calling sure. And I say that our modern antinomian preachers know
very well that this is the only possible sense of the passage, however
they may endeavor to wrest it. Which one of all the modern preachers of
salvation by faith alone would ever have penned such a passage as this,
from their heart, and with the full consent of their mind? Who that preaches
salvation by faith plus nothing would dare instruct men to
add to their faith, that so an abundant entrance might be ministered to
them into the kingdom of Christ? The thing is utterly impossible. Though
they may endeavor to wrest it from its plain meaning, and tell us, as
usual, that it is mistranslated, and that the Greek means something other
than the English, yet they know very well that the passage as it stands,
in Greek and every other language, is a thorn in their flesh. It is such
a scripture as they cannot be comfortable with, and would not have penned
if the matter had been left to them. No man who believes that faith is
the only condition of salvation ever could pen such words as these.
But further, if the passage is plain proof that we are not saved by
faith plus nothing, it is also proof that these virtues are not
the inevitable fruit of faith. We are to add them to our faith, and this
we are to do by giving all diligence. Peter speaks forcefully
also of the awful condition of those who fail to add these things to their
faith, which certainly proves that a man may have faith and not works,
as it also does that he may have faith and be lost.
Ah, but we shall be told that these folks do not have true faith. They
do not have saving faith. The faith which they have is deficient, defective,
notional, intellectual, unreal. They have only a false and worthless faith,
a non-saving faith. Very well
----but mark the consequence. Peter
comes forward to exhort all these mere nominal professors, who have no
genuine or saving faith, to take such steps as will make them real Christians.
And what does he tell them? To believe? Not a word of it. To be diligent
to get a better, truer, sounder faith than that which they have? Not a
breath of it. What he tells them is to ADD TO their worthless, non-saving
faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness,
and charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make
you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of
our Lord Jesus Christ ----in spite of the fact that your faith
is false and non-saving. If ye do these things ye shall never fall,
though your faith is dead and empty. By means of adding these virtues
to your faith, an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly
into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, though
the faith to which you add them is worthless. To such absurdities are
they reduced whose doctrine requires them to wrest the Scriptures, but
who fail to think in the process.
The real difficulty is that our modern preachers do not trust the Scriptures.
In their own false theology they have unbounded confidence, and whenever
that theology comes into collision with the Scriptures
it does very often ----it is always the Scriptures which suffer
for it. The word of truth must always yield to the false theology. We
must therefore have endless wresting of the precious book, and continual
skirting and evading of its contents. For all their preaching of faith,
they have but little faith in many of the plainest statements of the Bible.
And those who preach this easy salvation by faith only set men practically
upon a course of making bricks without straw. Those honest, earnest souls
who seek to make their calling and election sure are set upon the impossible
task of believing aright, where they may have failed to do so before,
though a college of theologians cannot tell them how to go about it. On
this plan many have repeated their salvation experience a
dozen or a score of times, and remain as uncertain of their salvation
as ever. What they need is not some different kind of faith, but repentance.
The great evangelist Sam Jones laid hold of this, and set men upon the
----and extremely simple ----course of repenting.
Says he, If you are doing wrong, quit it. This is repentance,
and you need no faculty of theologians to define what it means. He continues,
About twelve years ago the grace of God came gushing into my heart,
and I knew that I was a sinner and ought to quit sinning. That lesson
has lingered with me from that hour to this. The poorest, weakest man
in this city may decide to-night, and God will help him to the point where
he will never need help. The devil tempted me sometimes till my knees
got weak. But God's grace is sufficient to make you quit doing wrong and
go to doing right, in the name of Christ. That is my religion.
What is the difference between what I was fifteen years ago and
what I am to-night? Was his faith false, defective, unreal, fifteen
years ago? No, but it was alone, without works. He continues, I
have never believed any thing since that time that I did not believe before.
I believed before, but did not do. I have now been a believer and a doer
for twelve years. That is the difference between a Christian and a sinner.
It is faith in Christ; it is following, loving, revering Him. I have never
been converted, if a man must believe something afterward that he didn't
believe before. It is not believing so much as it is doing. 'Show me your
faith,' says James, 'without your works, and I will show you my faith
by my works.' Now you are getting down to facts. I believed and did not;
now I believe and do. The teaching is that you must quit doing wrong.
Here is the plain doctrine of the Bible. Simon the sorcerer believed (Acts
8:13), but in spite of that Peter perceived him to be in the gall of bitterness,
and in the bond of iniquity. How, then, does Peter advise him? Does he
tell him that his faith is defective or unreal, and that he must believe
aright, or believe otherwise than he has done already? Nothing of the
kind. The language of the Bible is as plain as can be against such a notion.
Then Simon himself believed also
----the same as the
others had done. He was a believer, as much as they were. What Peter tells
him is, Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if
perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. Faith without
repentance has never yet saved a soul, and never will. That a man may
have faith without repentance is plain from the text before us, as well
as from a host of other scriptures ----and from the lives of a great
host of believers in Evangelical churches and assemblies all over this
land. That their faith is false is what no man can prove from the Bible.
That it is defective we grant, but so is mine and thine. The difficulty
is that their faith is alone, without repentance, without works meet for
repentance, without virtue. They believe in Christ ----in his deity,
virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious death, bodily resurrection, and
literal return. They believe the record that God hath given of his Son.
They believe in the efficacy of his shed blood to wash away their sins.
They trust in Christ for salvation ----and are saved
according to Curtis Hutson and Zane Hodges, though they are ungodly. They
believe, but cling to their sins. They sow to the flesh, and shall of
the flesh reap corruption. They sow not to the Spirit, and therefore shall
not of the Spirit reap everlasting life. They do not mortify the flesh.
They live after the flesh, and so must die. They live in their sins, and
shall die in their sins. They love the world, and if any man love
the world, the love of the Father is not in him, however sound his
faith or trust may be. Faith they have, and perhaps a good deal too much
of it, for faith without works is not only dead, but presumptuous also.
But faith they have. They believe in his name, but they neither
repent, nor bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, nor obey, nor follow
Christ. They believe, but do not repent. They believe his promises, but
disregard his commandments. Faith they have, but it is alone, and cannot
All Agreed on Repentance & Faith
by the editor
Twice in the past I have published statements by prominent men of God,
to the effect that all Christians are agreed on the terms upon which men
may obtain salvation.
The first of these, by Brownlow North, appeared in October of 1997, on
The second, by Richard Baxter, in December of 1997, on page 284.
North belonged to the nineteenth century, and Baxter to the seventeenth.
Since publishing those two, I have found another which says essentially
the same thing. This one is from Richard Cecil, who flourished mainly
in the eighteenth century, living from 1748 to 1810. He says,
There has been a slander brought against religion
we are NOT AGREED, as to the truths we should set before men. I say, it
is false! We ARE agreed. All, who know anything of real religion, are
agreed, that the SUBSTANCE of the matter is contained in REPENTANCE toward
God, and FAITH toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
If a man, like the Prodigal, feels that he has left his father's
house, turned his back on God
----and is become a fool and a madman
for so doing ----and that there is no hope but in his returning
again; if such a change of mind is wrought in him by the Holy Spirit,
as he wrought in David, when he cried, Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin: if, like Peter, he goes forth weeping bitterly ----feeling
that he has acted foolishly and wickedly, and that his only hope is in
the mercy of God through the Saviour ----then the man enters so
far into the spirit of religion ----REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD.
But does he rest in this? Nay, he knows that if he could offer thousands
of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil, he could make no satisfaction
for the sin of his soul. He looks to the atonement!
whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.
Repentance toward God must be accompanied by faith toward our Lord
This is what Christ preached, this is what Paul preached, and this is
what has been agreed upon by all the men of God through all the centuries,
until the present antinomian age, in which repentance has been either
denied, or so defined as to mean nothing at all, or something very different
from what has been meant by it from John the Baptist onward, through all
Four Unpopular Words
Abstract of a Sermon Preached on December 6, 1999
by Glenn Conjurske
In Hebrews 13:17 we read, Obey them that have the rule over you,
and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must
give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief, for that
is unprofitable for you. This verse contains four unpopular words,
concerning which I will speak this morning.
The first of those unpopular words is obey. The whole human
race has a strong aversion to obedience. We like to do our own will, not
to submit to the will of another. To do our own will is the essence of
sin, but since the fall of Adam we are all sinful, and love therefore
to do our own will. We very much dislike being told what we have to do.
We want to determine that ourselves. This is true of all of us by nature
nature as God created it, but nature as it now exists, fallen and sinful.
We are not born with a natural inclination to obey our parents, but quite
the reverse. When my first child was very small, I taught her a little
rhyme, which I required her to repeat on suitable occasions. It said,
Obey, obey, right away. But though this rhyme was often in
her mouth, it was not in her heart. Neither was it in yours, or mine.
We had to be forced to obey, by hard strokes on our posterior ends, and
most of us didn't learn it very well after all.
But as though it were not enough that we were born with an aversion to
obedience, we have been nurtured in that aversion since the day we were
born. In America at least, all these evil propensities of our sinful nature
have been immeasurably strengthened by the principles of democracy, in
which we have been immersed since we were rocked in our cradles. We grew
up in an atmosphere of self-will, being told ten thousand times that This
is a free country, the implication of this always being that we
may therefore do as we please.
Our nature and our education and environment have thus combined together
to make obedience extremely unpopular. We do not care to obey anybody.
The carnal will do as they please. The carnal who think they are spiritual
will profess that they owe obedience to God alone. They will obey God,
but not man. They need no pastors or elders to tell them what to do, and
certainly no church hierarchy. They proceed of course on the assumption
that they are as competent as any pastor or elder to know what the will
of the Lord is, and perfectly inclined also always to do it, whereas the
plain fact is, if it were the will of the Lord which concerned them, they
would set themselves to obey them that have the rule over them. The text
does not command us to obey God, but men. God commands this, yet they
repudiate the command of God, under the plea of obeying him. Whence it
plainly appears that it is not the will of God which moves them, but self-will,
and a good deal of pride besides.
But I proceed to the second unpopular word, which is rule.
People don't like to be ruled, for the same reasons they don't like to
obey. They want to do their own will, and want no one telling them what
they have to do. But here is the plain fact: if you belong to the church
of God, you are under rule, and not the rule of God only, but of them
that have the rule under God. Somebody has the rule, and those who
have it have been given it by God. Paul says to the Ephesian elders in
Acts 20:28, Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the
flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers. The
flock is bound to obey these, and submit to them
follow their advice if they please, but obey them. I am very well aware
that there are many who occupy the office of elders who are no way fit
for the place. They are disqualified by the Scriptures, and have no business
in the office which they hold. This is true, without a doubt. But I say
nothing of such elders at this time. The fact is, though it may be hard
to find them in such a day as this, there are true elders in the church,
to whom God himself has given authority over the flock, and these the
flock is commanded to obey.
The church is no democracy. Democracy is not God's way of government.
God has never established a democracy, and never will. Marriage is no
democracy, the family is no democracy, and neither is the church. But
people today are so steeped in democracy that they seem unable to understand
God's method of government. The only notion they have of obedience is
the keeping of laws which they themselves have had a part in enacting,
and which they understand and approve. But God does not command obedience
to laws, but to rulers. Obey them that have the rule. They
may require things which you do not understand, and which you have no
capacity to understand. If God has made them overseers in
the church, your business is to obey them, and not merely
their enactments which you happen to understand, or to like.
And you must understand that the whole theme of this morning's sermon
is bound up with the subject of church membership. There are many who
repudiate church membership in principle, claiming they can find no such
thing in the Bible, but there are also many who decline it as a simple
matter of self-will. They do not wish to be ruled. They want their independence.
They will do as they please. Let any man endeavor to rule them, and they
will immediately declare their independence. I have seen people leave
churches ostensibly over the most trifling issues, where I believe the
only real issue was, they were not willing to be ruled. This scripture
is a perfect dead letter to them, and this is precisely as they would
have it. Nobody has the rule over them, and they are generally as confused
and unsettled as the Israelites were in the book of Judges, when there
was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own
eyes. I used to have great hopes of these folks who could never find a
church which they could join, for I certainly am not blind to the wretched
condition of most of the churches today, but the experience of thirty
years has taught me that most of these independent souls are simply unwilling
to be ruled. They are ruled indeed, but it is by pride and self-will.
God says, Obey them that have the rule over you, and this
assumes that somebody has that rule, unpopular as this may be.
We realize that there are two sides to every question, and of course two
sides to this one. We know very well that there are thousands of pastors
and elders in churches all over this land who are utterly unqualified
for their places, being worldly, unspiritual, and ignorant of the Scriptures,
elders in the church who cannot rule well their own houses, and indeed,
elders who care nothing about ruling the church. We are not preaching
submission to such elders (though it will usually be harmless enough)
and rather suppose that saints ought to depose them, or leave their churches
the latter, as the former course is likely to cause endless strife.
But to proceed. The third unpopular word in this text is submit.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.
Submission is as unpopular as obedience, and for all the same reasons.
But submission is not quite the same thing as obedience. Submission is
a deeper thing. It goes farther. Submit yourselves, the text
says. This is more than mere obedience to a requirement.
But we must look at what this submission is not, before we endeavor to
explain what it is. We are absolutely opposed to any cultish notions of
submission. We are not to sacrifice either our mind or our conscience
to any man, no matter what his authority. This is the cultish doctrine,
the doctrine of the Mormons and Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses. Authorities
have no right whatsoever to compel or over-ride the conscience of any
----to compel them, that is, to do what their conscience disapproves.
This is the way of the cults, and its effect ----no accident, by
the way ----is to make the authorities equal to God himself, to
displace God, and put themselves in his place. To submit yourselves
to them that have the rule over you certainly does not mean that. You
must render to God what is God's, and to lesser authorities ----to
Caesar ----what is Caesar's. To submit the conscience to man is
to rob God of his due, for the conscience belongs by all means to God,
and this I hold to be a fact which requires no proof. It is self-evident
to all who understand the workings of conscience.
We are very well aware that refractory souls will usually plead conscience
for their independent course, where conscience in reality has nothing
to do with the matter. If the authorities require you to do what God forbids,
then you may plead conscience. But if they require you to abstain from
what God permits, it is mere perversity to plead conscience. Paul admonishes
us in Romans 14 voluntarily to abstain from things which are right, and
if so, we may certainly do so without violating our conscience. Permission
to do something is no command, and it is certainly within the rights of
authorities to require abstinence from things which God permits, such
as the drinking of wine, or the killing of game. It is no sin to sleep
on the floor, yet if your mother forbids it, you submit, and acknowledge
her right to forbid you, and that whether you understand her reasons or
not. To claim that her prohibition violates your conscience, because it
is right to sleep on the floor, is just perversity. Very shallow reasoning
also, such as no man of sense would be moved or intimidated by. Authorities
have no right to over-ride the conscience, but they certainly have the
right to over-rule these shallow pretenses concerning conscience, though
they will be branded as tyrants and persecutors for so doing.
But authorities have no more right to subject the minds of their people
than they do their conscience. Brigham Young, the successor of Joseph
Smith as the Prophet of the Mormon Church, taught that a woman must not
only submit to the practice of polygamy, but must approve it in her heart.
He declared that any woman who rebelled against the divine ordinance
of polygamy in her heart would be damned
----to which Fanny Stenhouse
rejoined that then every woman in Utah must be damned, and every woman
in the world besides. Authorities have no right to subject the minds of
their people, and this for the simple and obvious reason that they have
no ability to do so. Authority is meant to control the conduct of men,
not their thoughts. The authorities in the church have the God-given right
and responsibility to require submission to their standards, but they
have no ability to require men to agree with them. It is just here that
one of the primary reasons for the existence of authority lies. If all
men understood what was right, what was wise, what was best, and were
also inclined to do it, there would be no reason for authority to exist.
We require women to dress modestly, and this for these two reasons. First,
they may have no understanding of what is immodest, or why. And if they
do understand, they may not be inclined to do as they ought. We can make
rules and set standards, but some people can find as many loopholes as
we can make rules. Some will do their best to keep the letter of the law,
and discard its spirit. It is not the business of the shepherd merely
to give the sheep a rule-book, but to watch over them, and see to it that
they do as they ought. We once had a woman here who habitually dressed
immodestly. I dealt repeatedly with her husband about it, but nothing
changed. At length I told this woman that I had often dealt with her husband
about the matter, but that he had never done anything effectual. She replied
my surprise ----He never did anything. So here you have
the two reasons for the existence of authority. She had little understanding
of what she ought to do. He understood it perfectly well, but had little
inclination to do anything about it. He did not care to tangle with his
wife over this, and so left it alone. This is why God has put authorities
over the church, and given them the right and the responsibility to require
the people to do as they ought. And it is equally the business of those
who are under that rule to submit themselves to it.
But this does not extend to the submission of the mind. We may require
a woman in this church to wear dresses, and modest dresses too, but we
cannot require her to understand the matter, or to believe it wrong to
wear trousers. The authority exists precisely for those cases which she
does not or cannot understand. Babes in Christ cannot understand much
of anything. They may see no wrong in watching television
wrong in following the major league ball games ----no wrong in wasting
their time ----no wrong in a hundred kinds of conformity to the
world. They need someone to tell them what to do, and require them to
do it. Understanding will come later.
I do not much concern myself about it if a woman can see no wrong in wearing
slacks, so long as she doesn't wear them. She may submit herself, and
yet her mind remain just where it was. The mind cannot be forced. But
to submit herself certainly means more than mere obedience to the requirement.
What would you do with a woman who submitted to our requirement that she
wear dresses, but made it her business to talk it around that there was
nothing wrong with wearing slacks? What would you do with her? I would
put her out of the church. I was about to say I would put her out of the
church as soon as I would a woman who refused to wear dresses, but the
fact is, I would put her out a good deal sooner. She is a trouble-maker,
and she really has no business in the church. She spreads dissention and
discontent, and is certainly not submitting herself to them that have
the rule, though she obeys their requirement. Submission is more than
obedience. Submission embraces the spirit of obedience. It honors them
that have the rule, and does honor to their standards also, even
where it disagrees with them, or cannot understand them.
Paul charges Timothy to charge the people that they teach no other
doctrine. (I Tim. 1:3). Christ indeed goes beyond this, and says
to the angel of the church in Pergamos, But I have a few things
against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam,
who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel,
to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast
thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing
I hate. (Rev. 2:14-15). There is nothing here of teaching at all,
but only of holding certain doctrines. But these doctrines are abominations.
To hold them is proof of a wrong state of heart, and those who hold them
are to be put out of the church. The Lord's complaint against this angel
is that he had them there, in the membership of the church, who held such
doctrines. So far, then, them that have the rule have power
over the mind also, but this does not extend to every innocent mistake
or every matter of mere ignorance. We may let folks hold a good many things,
but yet forbid them to teach them.
But some will say, This will undermine the right of free speech. What
right of free speech? This is one of the principles of democracy, but
not of the Bible. You look at the Holy Catholic Church of the dark ages,
and the Communist regimes of the present century, and you see one extreme.
You look at American democracy, and you see the other extreme. Neither
are right, and neither are wise. On the one side, a totalitarian state
will establish what is wrong, and allow none to speak against it. On the
other side, a democratic state will establish what is (in general) right,
and allow everybody to speak against it. Seditious and treasonous speech
is protected by the constitution. If this is a necessary part of democracy,
then democracy is suicidal in its constitution. If you had a child in
your house who meticulously obeyed all your requirements, but continually
told the rest of the children how stupid they were, would you allow such
conduct? You would prove yourself stupid indeed if you did.
Submit yourselves, the Lord says, and this is more than mere
obedience to the letter of the requirement.
And who is it to whom God requires this submission? Angels? Glorified
saints? No, but to men in the flesh, men of like passions with yourselves,
men who are failing and fallible. You of course know very well how fallible
your leaders are, but you may be assured that God knows it as well as
you do, and yet God requires you to obey them, and submit yourselves to
them. This is for your benefit, and in fact it ought to be easier to submit
to the authorities in the church than to any other authorities whatever.
God lays down very stringent and particular qualifications for the elders
in the church, to assure that they are good and wise men, and fit to exercise
authority over others. God requires you to obey husbands and parents and
masters and civil authorities also, while all those positions may be occupied
by the basest of men. Any man who is old enough to have a child can exercise
parental authority, and God requires his children to submit to him. Any
boy old enough to marry may exercise the authority of a husband, regardless
of his character, and wives must submit, though it be with many tears
and sorrows. In the church it is quite otherwise. There God allows none
in authority but those who are fit for it. To submit here, therefore,
ought to be easy enough, and I believe it will be easy enough to those
whose hearts are right. I am perfectly well aware that many of those who
actually occupy the positions of authority in the churches are not fit
for the place, and this raises many other questions. Certainly such rulers
should be put out of their office, but that may not be possible. Family
ties may reign, or party politics, or popular indifference. The path of
the true-hearted saint will be a difficult one then, but I cannot pursue
that here. When God requires his people to submit to those who have the
rule, and obey them, he is certainly speaking of those who ought to have
the rule, those who are fit for the place, and whom God himself has put
in that place.
But them that have the rule by God's appointment are not perfect.
Even the best of men may err, and do err. Yet their errors won't hurt
you. The authority of the shepherd remains a benefit to the sheep, in
spite of any errors which he may make. He may require you to give up something
which is not wrong, but you would have a hard time finding a case of a
Scripturally qualified elder actually requiring anybody to do anything
which is wrong. God so safeguards authority in the church as to make this
a practical impossibility, and if it should occur, you ought to obey God
rather than men. In all other matters, God requires you to obey and to
submit, and this is for your good, for they watch for your souls, as a
tender parent would.
But this brings me to the fourth unpopular word in our text. The first
time I preached on this text I entitled the sermon Three Unpopular
----but I have since discovered that there are not
three, but four. The fourth of these unpopular words is watch.
Do you like to be watched? Do you like somebody keeping an eye on you,
to make sure you are behaving as you ought? With all the modern ideas
of freedom and democracy firmly established in people's minds, along with
a good deal of rhetoric about the right to privacy, most people
have an aversion to being watched. But let me tell you a thing or two
about this. It is generally those who are not behaving themselves who
object to being watched. When I hear someone speaking contemptuously of
the methods used by policemen to catch speeders, I know I am talking to
someone who speeds ----or wants to. When little Johnny is into mischief,
of course he doesn't want his mother watching him. One of our men recently
mentioned a conversation he had had with a labor union boss, who objected
to the workers being watched by the management. My response to this was,
It is the worthless who object to being watched. I have worked in many
different places during my life, and it never troubled me at all to be
watched by the supervisor. I supposed if he watched me long enough, I
might get a pay raise, or a promotion. I worked for five years for a temporary
employment agency. We had to call the office to get a job assignment,
and when one job was finished, we called in for another. Two of us were
sent one day to a large warehouse, to unload two semi trailers of roofing
and siding. I asked the regular men at the warehouse how long they thought
it would take us, as I wanted to call in for another job for the next
day, if we could finish this one in a day. They assured me there was no
way we could do it in one day. But as a matter of fact, we did it in half
a day. We were done by noon, and we didn't work ourselves to death doing
it. We worked at a good pace, as I always did, but certainly nothing heroic
or extraordinary. At any rate, the supervisor soon noticed us, and after
the mid-morning coffee break he gathered all his regular men together,
to the number of eight or ten, lined them up in a semi-circle around the
loading dock where we were working, and said, I want you to stand
here and watch these fellows for a while, and learn how to work.
Now I tell you, it was my glory to be watched that day. I didn't object.
The first job my son Timothy had was cutting and loading fire wood. His
boss told me one day that he and another man had together loaded the truck
in the same amount of time that it took Timothy to load it by himself,
but, he added, it almost killed us. Now I really
doubt my son would have objected if the boss had watched him. It is the
loafers who object to being watched. It is the thieves and pilferers.
It is the little boy who is into mischief. It is the man who is trying
to get away with something. These all hate to be watched. The upright
have no objection. One of our women came to me once and said, I'm
glad to have an elder watching over me. She wanted to be corrected
if I saw something wrong in her.
But let me tell you another thing about this. It is the proud who hate
to be watched. The humble are willing to be corrected, glad to be corrected.
The proud can't bear it. Yet God has set elders in the church precisely
for this purpose. He calls them bishops, or overseers, and puts them in
the place of authority for the very purpose of over-seeing, or watching
over the flock. Yes, and he requires the flock to submit to them also.
If you think this is hard, you will have to have a battle with God over
it. He is the one who requires you to obey and submit, and he is the one
who requires the elders to watch over you.
And if you think your place is hard, you ought to try the place of an
elder. John Wesley was envied by many for his authority, but he continually
speaks of that authority as a heavy burden. The Lord says, Lovest
thou me? Shepherd my sheep. Tyrants may love such a position, but
nothing short of love for the Lord will move a humble and spiritual man
to take up such a burden. The Lord says, Lovest thou me? Shepherd
my sheep. This is what the Greek says, though it is obscured in
the English, by the rendering of two different words as feed.
Shepherding is more than feeding. This is keeping the sheep together,
keeping them in bounds, keeping them in order, keeping them out of trouble.
The shepherd who loves the Lord will take up the task, but he is sometimes
ready to think the Lord has set him over a herd of mules, instead of a
flock of sheep. We all have something of the mule in us, inherited from
Adam, and it is the business of the shepherd to perform surgery, and cut
the remnants of the mule out of the sheep. And what God requires of the
sheep in this scripture is that they deny themselves, and obey and submit.
Here, then, are our four unpopular words. Obey them that have the
rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls.
And all this God commands, as unpopular as it may be, and commands it
all for the good of his people, though he knows very well their rulers
are not perfect.
by Glenn Conjurske
No man can exercise authority aright unless he has moral authority which
is equal in measure to his official authority. We have all known small
----and small women too ----in large positions, and their
position of authority inevitably becomes a detriment both to themselves
and those who are called to submit to them. I met such a man once in a
large furniture factory, where I was operating the freight elevator. As
soon as I began to unload the freight on his floor, he came up with the
air of a dictator, and informed me that nobody could put anything on that
floor without his permission ----thus demanding that I ask his leave
to do my job. I declined to do this, but told him the freight belonged
on his floor, and asked him where he would like me to put it. He was in
a passion by this time, and would only order me to take the freight back
where I got it, along with threats to report me to the manager. I ignored
him, and unloaded my freight, for I plainly perceived that he had no concern
to do his job, or to serve his employer, but only to flaunt his own authority.
Nothing is more common than to see parents who lack the moral weight to
effectually wield the authority which they hold in their hands. Being
large enough in body to have children, and so to obtain parental authority,
they are too small in soul to use that authority aright. They cannot command
the respect of their children, and they seem to know this intuitively.
They must operate, therefore, from a position of felt weakness. Yet little
does it occur to them to change their ways, and so earn and deserve the
respect of their children. Instead of this, they compensate for their
felt weakness by an obtrusive officiousness, and a continual flaunting
of their position. They must be always cracking the whip. They must raise
their voice, and yell. They must speak reproachfully and sarcastically,
endeavoring thus to transfer the blame to their children for their own
lack of moral weight. They must bolster their own position by enacting
petty and oppressive rules. They are unwilling to give their children
the liberty which becomes their age and their character, but require them
to ask permission to do those things which they ought to be able to do
at their own discretion. And such parents seemingly delight to deny the
permission when it is asked
----not for any good which might be
pretended to the child, but only to make him feel the weight of their
authority, only to show him who's boss. Thus they uphold their
own authority, at the expense of the reason for its existence. Their own
felt weakness gives them an inner compulsion to keep everything under
their own control, and the less they have of moral power, the more they
must flaunt their official power. They do not look to the real good of
their children, but only to maintaining their own position of superiority,
and so exercise their authority in a manner which is consistent with neither
love nor righteousness. They use their position to deprive and demean
and humiliate their children. They threaten what they will do, gloat over
what they can do, demand the unreasonable, deny the reasonable, and practice
petty persecution in a hundred forms. Such parents I have known.
But so far from strengthening their own position, all such ways invariably
weaken it. Unable to earn the respect of their children, they resort to
high-handed and oppressive measures, and so earn their contempt. I have
known a father who never referred to the Bible at all, except to quote
Honor thy father and thy mother. Being unable to earn that
honor, he must continually demand it. But the more honor is demanded,
the less it will be received. Those who deserve the respect of their lessers
have no need to demand it. Those who demand it prove by the very fact
that they must do so, that they do not deserve it.
The man who has moral weight can rule without such tactics. What he is
commands respect. He has no need to crack the whip. This is true even
in governing animals. Egerton Ryerson Young was a missionary to the Indians
in the Northwest. His travels in winter were all by dog-train, and he
kept a good number of dogs for that purpose. He did not hesitate to use
the whip when it was needed
----even felled his favorite dog to
the ground with an oak axe handle when the occasion called for it ----yet
he says of his rule over his dogs, By kindness and firmness they
were easily broken in, and then a whip was only an ornamental appendage
of the driver's picturesque costume. The man who has moral weight
may generally rule without the whip.
And so it is in every sphere. The more a man has of moral weight, the
less occasion he has to assert his official position. The less he has
of moral weight, the more he is obliged to flaunt his position. Official
authority is often oppressive, and a good deal of the rebellion, revolution,
and democracy in the world has been brought about by an abuse of authority,
on the part of men who wielded official power, but who lacked all the
elements of moral power. This brings authority itself into disrepute.
Moral authority, on the other hand, is not subject to such abuse. In the
nature of the case, it can't be. It consists of an elevation of spirit
and character, which is altogether above the petty tactics of abusive
power. It consists of a moral superiority which is readily recognized
and owned, and to which men readily submit. The men who possess such moral
worth may rule others without possessing a scintilla of official power.
Such we believe, were the judges of Israel. The Lord raised up judges,
and the people submitted to their rule, though they apparently had no
official position at all. This is by all means the best kind of authority,
whether it is accompanied by any official position or not.
D. L. Moody never had any official position of any sort, yet he wielded
authority. God, says William R. Newell, gave him spiritual authority
in the consciences of Christians throughout the whole world. A corps
of evangelists did his bidding. Singers were more or less under
Moody's direction. They yielded to the behests of a man who had
no official authority, because he was a man of moral weight.
John Wesley had no official position over the Methodists. God raised him
up, God gave him his authority, and his moral authority was quite sufficient
to maintain his position. Some resented his authority, others envied it,
and some repudiated it, while better men gladly submitted to it.
Frances Asbury exercised the same power in America. He had official authority,
given to him by John Wesley, ratified by the Americans, and his authority
over American Methodism was absolute. There was no appeal from his judgement,
and of course this was resented by the proud and the willful. Yet his
moral authority was such that the whole Methodist Connexion gladly submitted
to him. His funeral discourse, preached by Ezekiel Cooper, contains the
following description of his moral power:
His episcopal charges, official directions, and constitutional appointments
and orders, in general, were punctually observed, and respectfully, willingly,
and cheerfully obeyed. Very few, either primitive or modern, ever knew,
or acquired the art, better than he, of obtaining, exercising and supporting,
the pastoral and episcopal influence and authority; and of using it, with
so much dignity, respectability, usefulness, and approbation. He had a
particular qualification for governing; his peculiar temperature of mind
and spirit, his dignified manner of conversation and deportment, his stern
reserve, tempered by a social freedom, his authoritative decisions, softened
down by gentle soothings, and his apparent inflexibility and independent
opinion, placidly yielding to reasonable and amicable accommodations;
carried with them an impressive, and almost irresistible influence; and
gave him a kind of patriarchal ascendency and superiority. And which,
had a powerful tendency to inspire others with filial reverence, and profound
respect for the man, and to create a respectful diffidence, almost to
embarrassment, in his presence; and to produce a pliable and courteous
disposition of yielding, to his opinions, words, and wishes. Thus, in
almost every circle, where he moved, he gained a kind of irresistable
ascendency, influence, and authority, like a father in his family, and
a ruler in Israel. We well know, what influence his presence had, what
weight his words carried, and with what decision and precision, his opinion
and judgment, would put to silence, and settle, the knotty, or the doubtful
question. Who of us could be in his company without feeling impressed
with a reverential awe, and profound respect, for the man, the christian,
the minister, and ambassador of God? It was almost impossible to approach,
and converse with him, without feeling the strong influence of his spirit
and presence, upon our minds, sentiments, words, and actions. There was
something, in this remarkable fact, almost inexplicable, and indescribable.
Was it owing to the strength and elevation of his spirit, the exalted
and sublime conceptions of his mind, the dignity and majesty of his soul;
or the sacred profession and authority, with which he was clothed, in
his distinguished character; as an eminent christian, remarkable for piety,
and an ambassador of God, invested with divine authority? But so it was,
it appeared as though the very atmosphere in which he moved, gave unusual
sensations of diffidence and humble restraint, to the boldest and most
undaunted confidence of man.
This is moral authority, and when this is found in conjunction with the
official authority which Asbury bore, it is a most propitious combination,
and of unspeakable benefit to all who are governed by it. And who but
small minds and petty spirits, who but the proud and the ambitious, who
but the headstrong and the willful, would object to such a man holding
the supreme official authority which Asbury held?
It is the absence of such moral power which brings official power into
----which brings the very institution of authority into
disesteem. This is most unfortunate, for the authorities which God has
established are designed to be a boon and benefit to men, and men stand
in need of that benefit. I have seen souls enough who repudiate ecclesiastical
authority, and march off under their own banner, and most of these fare
no better than a child would do, who ran away from home. That God leads
some in such a path ----the Luthers and Wesleys of the world ----I
have no doubt, but most of those who take that path are too small to walk
steady in it. They are sheep without a shepherd, having none to correct
them and none to lead them, and their dreams and visions and doctrines
and standards are all awry, and generally full of self.
But there are two sides to the question. While many who renounce the authority
which God has set in the churches are moved by nothing more than their
own pride, others are forced to this by the abuse of that authority on
the part of men who have no fitness for the positions which they hold.
Official power they have, but nothing in the way of moral power. Surely
such rulers must bear the blame when the poor sheep are driven away. A
selfish or egotistical man in a place of authority, lording it over his
subjects by petty oppression and high-handed measures, using his position
for his own ends or his own glory, is one of the greatest evils under
the sun, and there is really no excuse for allowing such men in authority
in the church of God, though there may be no recourse in the state or
Those who occupy places of authority will rarely have occasion to assert
----I do not say never ----if they make it
their first business to deserve that position, by what they are, and to
honor that position, by what they do. Mildness and gentleness, caring
and yielding, mercy and clemency, goodness and faithfulness, firmness
and reasonableness, consistency and stability ----these are the
elements of moral power, and those who would govern must have all these
in a measure large enough to constitute moral superiority. Men of a right
spirit will gladly submit to felt and acknowledged superiority. The proud
and headstrong, of course will submit to no one, nor will they acknowledge
any superiority above themselves, poor and petty though they be. Being
superior is an unpardonable sin in their eyes. They can brook anything
but this. It is primarily for such folks that authority exists. The
law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient,
and upon them it ought to be brought to bear, with whatever rigor their
case requires. The use of bare authority, however, ought to be a rare
thing, reserved for the headstrong and the refractory. In general it is
no business of the shepherd either to drag or drive the sheep, but to
lead them, and this can be done by none but a man of moral weight.
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Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated
by the Editor
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One is better than none.
One and none is all one.
These two proverbs appear to stand in direct contradiction to each other,
yet they are both true, and both wise. They are, indeed, both excellent
proverbs. Anyone who had a mind to it might compile numerous such pairs
of proverbs, which apparently contradict each other, and all of them true
and wise. No proverb is of universal application. Each is true in that
sphere to which it applies, or on that side of the question to which it
speaks, and to press it beyond that is to make nonsense of it.
These things are true of human speech in general, and of divine speech
also. The Bible is replete with one-sided statements, true in their own
sphere, but altogether false if pressed too far. Most of the false doctrine
in the church consists of pressing certain statements of the Bible beyond
their legitimate meaning, while ignoring the scriptures which speak on
the other side. There are two sides to every question, as
another proverb speaks, and it is the way of the Bible to speak to both
sides of every question
----not usually in the same context, however.
We may find a plain statement of one side in Ephesians or Hebrews, while
the other side will be found in an example tucked away in Numbers or First
Chronicles. Shallow thinking and simple ignorance take one side without
the other, and make a false doctrine of it.
We are all aware
----all of us, at any rate, who use a good translation
of the Bible ----that the Bible contains at least one pair of these
apparently contradictory proverbs, for we read in Proverbs 26:4, Answer
not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him,
and in the next verse, Answer a fool according to his folly, lest
he be wise in his own conceit. Certain modern Bible-menders, the
translators of the New American Standard Version, have altered the second
verse to Answer a fool as his folly deserves, but this is
folly indeed, and I trust I may be forgiven if I answer it as it deserves.
These translators evidently supposed that they were the only ones on earth
who knew how to think, and must therefore do all the interpreting for
the rest of the race, but they have only demonstrated that they had little
ability to think at all. The most salient feature in this pair of proverbs
is the fact that they apparently contradict each other, that the one enjoins
what the other forbids ----a fact preserved in every other version
I have ever seen. This fact requires us to think, to determine the proper
application of each proverb. The NASV destroys all this, by an officious
meddling which thinks to be wiser than God, and which must explain everything
instead of translating it.
Now it may be that there are other pairs of proverbs in the Bible which
apparently contradict each other, but they do not stand next to each other.
There are without doubt many plain statements which are apparently contradictory,
as when we are told in one text to labor not for the meat that perisheth,
and commanded in another text to labor for it. Such things require us
to exercise our minds. Shallow thinking takes one side without the other,
and makes something false of it.
As to the two proverbs before us, One may be vastly, immeasurably
better than none. He that findeth a wife findeth a good
thing, and he that finds one has found all, while he that finds
none has nothing. How much better, for the woman who longs for motherhood,
to have one child, than none. How much better to have one friend, than
none. The man who is far ahead of his times
----or, which is far
better in these days, far behind them ----may consider himself fortunate
indeed if he has one who can understand him. How vastly superior is this
to none. If the deep theologian has but one who can understand him, how
satisfying this will be! ----but how alone will he be if he has
none. If the deep thinker has but one who can think with him, how immeasurably
better is this than to have none. If the true poet finds one who can appreciate
his poetry, how much more satisfying is this, than to find none.
To descend to lower spheres, how much better for the man lost in the wilderness
to have one match, than none. How much better for the hungry man to have
one biscuit, than none. How much better for the thirsty man to have one
cup of water, than none.
But then if he has a hundred head of cattle to water, One and none
is all one. If we have a dollar, and need a hundred, One and
none is all one. If we need four tires which will hold air, and
have but one, One and none is all one. The meaning of this,
by the way, is that one is all the same as none. One is as good as none.
If we have but one nail with which to shoe a horse, One and none
is all one. Two and none may be all the same also. There was a time
when I was out of money, and out of almost everything else also. I was
walking across a field, and found two quarters. But what could I do with
fifty cents, when fifty dollars would not have sufficed? I carried those
two quarters in my pocket for a week, without spending them, though we
were in need of most everything. My bus, in which we were travelling,
was broken down. The gas tank was empty. We were out of almost all kinds
of food, and what could I do with two quarters? Two and none were all
It is the application of proverbs which gives them life, and in the examples
before us the reader may plainly perceive that it is the application which
gives them truth. Misapplied, they will both be false. Truly applied,
they are full of wisdom.
A Modern False Definition of Repentance
by the editor
A little booklet has lately been put into my hands, entitled The
Gospel, written by Dallas Seminary graduate Ron Shea, published
by the Clear Gospel Crusade, and endorsed by Curtis Hutson
and John F. Walvoord. The booklet tells us that Saving repentance
is to stop trusting in gaining eternal life through religion, religious
rituals, or obedience to God's laws. (And this slip-slop English
was written by a man who has spent years in college and seminary, and
earned master's and doctor's degrees. Our lot is cast in evil times.)
The definition is based on one phrase from the book of Hebrews, repentance
from dead works, while it ignores everything else in the Bible.
This is typical of the Dallas school, having come originally from Lewis
Sperry Chafer, but it is really perverse. It stands directly against the
whole church of God for nineteen centuries, in which repentance was always
defined as the forsaking of sin, and it stands directly against the Bible
also. God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, but
a large segment of all men, including all the atheists, agnostics,
and irreligious men of every sort, have nothing to repent of by this definition.
They do no religious works, and some of them have never done a religious
work in their lives. He presses Luke 13:1-5 into his service, and twists
it to his own ends without quoting it, to support the assertion that If
he believes that obeying the laws of God are (sic) necessary to get to
heaven, he must repent. But that text says nothing whatever about
obeying God's laws, but of being sinners.
When John preached repentance, and men asked him What shall we do
then? it was their sin he addressed, not their righteousness, nor
their religion. He prescribes righteousness, and speaks never a word of
religion. Repent of this thy wickedness the Bible says to
Simon Magus, who thought to obtain the gift of God with money. I
gave her space to repent of her fornication. And the rest
of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of
the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols
of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood, which neither
can see, nor hear, nor walk. Neither repented they of their murders, nor
of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Are we to suppose all these things are religious works, by which men thought
to gain a place in heaven?
This clear gospel is nothing other than the devil's lie. Ye
shall not surely die, though ye sin to your heart's content. You
must repent of your righteousness, but not of your sin. Can false doctrine
sink lower than this?
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.