Dogs

by Glenn Conjurske

In describing those who are forever excluded from the tree of life and the heavenly city, the book of Revelation tells us, “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Rev. 22:15). Liars, murderers, whoremongers, idolaters, sorcerers—-these are all literal terms, literally designating literal persons. But at the head of the list stands “dogs,” a term which is certainly figurative, not a designation of four-footed canines, but of some class of human beings.

It is not uncommon for the Bible to represent men under the figure of various animals. The sheep represents the children of God, and the ass the ungodly. There are good reasons for the choice of those figures. The animals (or things) used for such figurative representations are used on the basis of something in their own nature, which makes them an apt picture of the thing represented. The sun is a very apt representation of Christ—-so apt indeed that I am compelled to suppose that it was created on purpose to be a picture of the Son of God. But among the lesser types of Scripture, there is perhaps none so apt as the dog, as the picture of ungodly men. The nature of the dog is in many points an apt representation of the nature of the natural man.

To begin with, dogs are filthy. They relish filth. They have an appetite for filth, and that of the most disgusting sort. It was a common proverb two thousand years ago, “The dog is returned to his own vomit again,” and the Bible calls this a “true proverb.” (II Pet. 2:22). He vomits out the disgusting stuff when he is sick, but so soon as his appetite returns, he is back to eat it again. This is a very apt picture of those men who repent by fits and starts. Under the influence of strong preaching or strong convictions, they cast the disgusting filth away, but their appetite for filth is stronger than their resolves against it, and they return to it again, as the dog to his vomit.

The dog’s appetite for filth seems insatiable. He eats filth not because he is hungry, but because he loves to eat filth. When I stayed as a boy on my grandparents’ farm, I was often scandalized to see the dog, well fed though he was, standing on the manure pile eating manure. And I have seen one dog sick with diarrhea, and another dog behind it, licking up the disgusting substance as fast as the other discharged it. My readers must pardon me here. It is no more pleasant to write such things than it is to read them, but I write the truth. It is true also that when God looks at this disgusting, filthy creature, he sees—-men. For men are as filthy as dogs. The men of modern society have an appetite for filth which is as insatiable as it is disgusting. There are women also who have the same kind of appetite—-though it seems that women are by nature quite incapable of descending so low as men commonly do. Indeed, I have often thought, in working with men in factories and elsewhere, and hearing their filthy talk, that if their wives but knew how filthy they were, they would have nothing more to do with them.

And not only are dogs filthy in their appetites. They are morally filthy, in their general habits. But here I restrain my pen. Those who have observed the habits of dogs will understand the things to which I refer, but my pen refuses to record them. In their morals also dogs are an apt picture of ungodly men.

But more. Dogs are not only filthy, but vicious. They love to fight, love to attack, and will do so upon the slightest provocation, or no provocation at all. I grew up in the days before the modern laws restraining dogs from running loose were enacted in most places, and most of my trips to and from school, or anywhere else, were a severe test of my wits and my physical powers, to arrive at my destination without being attacked by dogs. Though I knew not then the proverb, I surely knew the principle, to “Let sleeping dogs lie.” But dogs do not always sleep, and when they were awake, my resource was speed, or, when that failed me, kicking as hard as I could. When I was older, I used to carry a long club, and found ample use for it. It seems to me that there is scarcely anything in which the powers that be are so beneficial a “minister of God to thee for good,” as in their laws requiring dogs to be tied or kept in. Dogs are vicious in their natures, and though they may be well disciplined and well trained, they are hardly to be trusted to deal kindly with strangers, in the absence of their masters. Not that the presence of their masters is much of a safeguard. I have very often been attacked by dogs in their masters’ presence, the masters meanwhile, instead of calling off the dog, using all their powers of persuasion to convince me that their dog wouldn’t hurt me. And I once worked with a man who told me he had recently visited a friend’s house; the friend came out on the porch, where they talked for a few minutes, the dog meanwhile standing by behaving himself. The friend then invited him in. He started through the door, and the moment he set foot on the threshold, the dog sank its teeth into his ankle.

I am well aware that dog lovers have said a great deal in the defense of the dog’s propensity to attack. He is only “guarding his turf.” Not that the defense amounts to anything. We do not think too highly of a man who must pick a quarrel with everyone who sets foot near his property line. But dogs are vicious when they have no turf to guard. When I was a boy our family went one day to visit my grandparents. When we returned home at the end of the day, we found a large stray dog in our driveway. He was vicious, and not disposed to allow us to enter the premises. We all stayed in the car, while my father got out and beat off and drove away the intruder. More recently, I was out for an early morning ride on my bicycle. I rode by a government building, with a large parking lot. This was very early in the morning, and on a weekend, so that no one was present at the place. As I approached the parking lot, I saw what looked like a crumpled overcoat lying near the edge of the lot. But as I came near it, the old coat got up and charged me for an attack, growling and showing his teeth.

Now in all of the viciousness of these creatures, in all of this propensity to attack, we see a very apt picture of a good many human beings.

But more. Not only are dogs vicious, but cowardly as well. I have spent countless hours knocking on doors to preach the gospel, and I have had a good many confrontations with loose dogs. I learned long ago never to turn my back to a threatening dog. That is the opportunity he is looking for, and he will immediately attack. Dogs are cowardly, and unless trained to do otherwise, will always attack from behind. I learned long ago that an attacking dog may be kept at bay simply by looking him in the eye. Some of the old Methodist itinerants had learned the same thing, no doubt by hard experience. I find in the life of Bishop Hedding, “Through all this region each family had one or more savage dogs, which were companions of the men when out on their hunting excursions, and general sentinels at home in the night. They were usually chained in the daytime, but set loose at night. One evening, as the bishop had been walking in the fields for meditation, and was returning to the house, he encountered one of these ferocious dogs that did not recognise his right to be there. He was without any means of defence, and none were accessible. He, however, held the dog at bay with his eye for a whole hour; when a member of the family discovered the predicament he was in, and came to his relief.”[

But what a picture these vicious, cowardly quadrupeds present to us of vicious and cowardly men—-and women.

“Beware of dogs,” Paul says, but, however dangerous these quadrupeds may be to itinerant preachers, Paul makes no reference to the four-footed variety. He speaks of the two-footed and two-faced sort, who wag their tails to your face, and attack behind your back. Look them in the eye, and they will speak nary a word against you, but behind your back all is changed. Where is the man who will be just the same to your face as he is behind your back? He is a faithful man, of the sort which shall enter by the gates into the city of God. But “without are dogs.”

But understand, thus far we have given only half the picture of the nature of a dog. There is a great deal to be said on the other side also. The dog is called “man’s best friend,” and not without reason. Dogs have a capacity for friendship and fellowship with man, which no other beasts possess. Dogs are faithful and devoted to their masters, in a manner and to a degree which no other animal can approach. How many dogs will trot along under the hot sun hour after hour behind the tractor, while their master plows the field, merely to be near him—-for they neither expect nor receive any other reward for this. They obey and serve their masters, without stint and without question. They will protect their masters from danger, without a thought of the cost to themselves.

Indeed, there is another matter, yet deeper, in which we seem to see something truly noble in a dog. A dog is capable of showing shame for his deeds, and in what other animal can such a trait be found? Catch a dog on the sofa, where he knows he does not belong, and he will appear to be so genuinely ashamed of himself that it is hard to punish him for it. You will never see such shame in the cat or the cow.

Now in all of this we may read the native nobility of man, who in spite of all his filthiness and viciousness and perfidy, is yet made in the likeness of God, and yet capable of very much that is very noble and endearing. I know, there are many whose theology compels them to the belief that there is nothing good in fallen man—-that the image of God in him is quite effaced—-but they must close their eyes to the facts. That there is nothing good enough we grant, but the remnants of his divine origin are not totally obliterated. There is not one noble thing in the nature of a dog which does not appear also in the nature of fallen man. But what does it avail, while he is vicious and filthy? God will not look at half of a man’s character, but all of it, and he will judge every man according to his works.

I once dealt, over a period of time, with a woman who had obviously come from a refined circle of Society, but who was rapidly sinking into the lower depths. She knew she was a sinner, and had some deep desires for salvation—-only not strong enough to move her to submit to God. I had advised her to sit down with a piece of paper and write out a list of everything in her life which she knew to be sinful, and then look over that list and consider that this is what God required her to repent of. To my surprise, she did it, and informed me that one sheet of paper was not big enough for the list. But a while later she told me that she had decided to make a list of her virtues also, to see if she could balance the account. She sat down with her pencil and paper, to list everything good which she could find in herself, and afterwards told me seriously that she could find nothing good in herself except this, that she loved her children. Yet that she did have, and is it not good? To be “without natural affection” is one of the marks of the perilous times of the last days (II Tim. 3:3). It is evil, and it can hardly be anything but good to possess that affection. Not good enough, surely, while the woman who possessed it spent her time drinking at the bars, or in company with men who were the very scum of the earth.

Now such is the very nature of a dog, composed of so much that is so noble, and yet so much that is vicious, filthy, and disgusting. In all of this the dog is a true picture of man, and the fact is, none of the noble traits of man will avail anything at all before God, while the vicious and the filthy remain. “Without are dogs.”

Glenn Conjurske

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