Olde Paths and Ancient Landmarks
The Old Paths — Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the wayes and see, and aske for the old paths, where is the good way, and walke therein, and ye shall finde rest for your soules: but they said, We will not walke therein.
—-King James Version, 1611.
Thus saith the Lord, Stand in the waies and beholde, and aske for the olde waie, which is the good waye & walke therein, and ye shal finde rest for your soules: but thei said, We wil not walke therein.
—-Geneva Bible, 1560
Thus saieth the LORDE: go in to the stretes, considre and make inquisicion for the olde waye: and yf it be the good and right waye, then go therin, that ye may fynde rest for youre soules. (But they saye: we will not walke therin).
—-Myles Coverdale's Bible, 1535.
The Lord seith these thingis, Stonde 3e on weies, and se 3e, and axe 3e of elde pathis, which is the good weie; and go 3e ther ynne, and 3e schulen fynde refreisching to 3oure soulis. And thei seiden, We schulen not go.
—-Later Wycliffe Bible, c. 1388.
The Revival We Need
Many in our day are talking of revival, many are praying for revival, many are laboring for revival, and yet revival does not come. I myself have prayed for revival for nearly a quarter of a century, and yet I have not seen it. Revival has been so near my heart, however, for so long a time, that I think I have a pretty good idea what it consists of, and it seems to me that many who are praying for revival are not praying for the same thing that I am. Indeed, I strongly suspect that many of them would actually oppose the revival for which I pray and labor, should God grant to them to see such a thing.
Many who pray for revival seem to mean nothing more by it than an increase in numbers, by the conversion of sinners. What I pray for (while certainly desiring the other also) is a return to the true doctrines and spirit of Christianity in the church. They pray for quantity. I pray for quality. They seek more of the same kind of Christianity which we have already. I seek a different kind of Christianity from that which we now have. I seek, as the first thing, a return to the Christianity of the New Testament, and then, that being secured, an awakening of sinners to convert them to that kind of Christianity.
The revivals of history have been of two sorts. Some have been primarily restorations, which have brought the church (or part of it) back to the true spirit of Christianity. Others have been primarily awakenings, which have served to convict and convert many sinners, but which have left the church essentially unchanged in its principles and practices. Unfortunately, the term “revival” is usually applied exclusively to movements of the latter sort.
The “great awakenings” of history have generally been of the latter sort, and so has the ministry of many of the great evangelists, such as George Whitefield, Charles G. Finney, D. L. Moody, Sam Jones, R. A. Torrey, and Billy Sunday. Far—-very far—-am I from despising or depreciating the ministry of any of these men. Very far also from failing to glorify God for the great awakenings of history, such as those of 1857 in America, 1859-1860 in Scotland and Ireland, and 1904-1905 in Wales. The records which I possess of those awakenings, and of the ministries of those men, are among the most treasured books in my library. But glorious as all of these movements were, none of them went deep enough, or far enough. They did not purify the principles which governed the churches, by a return to a closer adherence to the Bible. Many of them did little even to raise the moral standards of the church, or to increase its level of spirituality or devotedness. Indeed, some may actually have contributed to the reverse of that. The actors in those scenes seem to have assumed that all was essentially well in those matters, and so labored primarily to convert sinners rather than to restore the church to what it ought to be.
Some indeed, such as Charles G. Finney, did labor to reform the church, but this he did more by endeavoring to convert the sinners who were in it, than by raising its standards and purifying its principles. He was given in some measure to see his mistake, however, and after his failing health forced him to retire from his revival work he wrote:
“Is it not time something was done? Is it not time that some church struck out a path, that should be not conformed to the world, but should be according to the example and Spirit of Christ?
“You profess that you want to have sinners converted. But what avails it, if they sink right back into conformity with the world? Brethren, I confess, I am filled with pain in view of the conduct of the church. Where are the proper results of the glorious revivals we have had? I believe they were genuine revivals of religion and outpourings of the Holy Ghost, that the church has enjoyed the last ten years. I believe the converts of the last ten years are among the best Christians in the land. Yet after all, the great body of them are a disgrace to religion. Of what use would it be to have a thousand members added to the church, to be just such as are now in it? Would religion be any more honoured by it, in the estimation of ungodly men? One holy church, that are really crucified to the world, and the world to them, would do more to recommend christianity, than all the churches in the country, living as they now do. O, if I had strength of body, to go through the churches again, instead of preaching to convert sinners, I would preach to bring up the churches to the gospel standard of holy living. Of what use is it to convert sinners, and make them such Christians as these? Of what use is it to try to convert sinners, and make them feel there is something in religion, and when they go to trade with you, or meet you in the street, have you contradict it all, and tell them, by your conformity to the world, that there is nothing in it?
“Where shall I look, where shall the Lord look, for a church like the first church, that will come out from the world, and be separate, and give themselves up to serve God? O, if this church would do so. But it is of little use to make Christians if they are not better. Do not understand me as saying that the converts made in our revivals are spurious. But they live so as to be a disgrace to religion. They are so stumbled by old professors that many of them do more hurt than good. The more there are of them, the more occasion infidelity seems to find for her jeers and scoffs.”'
Finney had gone to work in and with the churches that then were, to convert sinners and bring them into those churches. In this work he was largely successful, but in looking back upon his work he plainly saw that the churches themselves into which those converts had been brought were in such a low spiritual state as to stunt and dwarf the new converts, and be themselves a stumblingblock to the world. He plainly saw that the revival which was needed was not a mere awakening of sinners, but a renovation of the church. Now if that was the great need then, it is very much more so today, for the church is certainly in a much lower condition today than it was a hundred and fifty years ago.
On the other side we see some movements which consisted primarily of a restoration of Bible principles and standards, but with very little awakening or conversion of sinners. The Plymouth Brethren movement was such a work. Though far from perfect in this respect, yet it undoubtedly did surpass every movement which had gone before it in its return to the bare word of God, divorced from the human traditions which obscure and make it void. Yet the spirit of evangelism was weak in the movement. As others have observed, no great evangelist ever arose from its ranks. It labored in and partook of the fruits of the great awakening of 1859, along with other denominations, but was never characterized by the awakening and conversion of sinners.
Much more to our mind than either restoration without awakening, or awakening without restoration, is to see both of them combined together, and this we do see in the Wesleyan Methodist movement. Methodism, of course, was far beneath the Brethren movement in its return to Bible principles, but it was second to none in its raising of the standards of righteousness, and its return to the true spirit of Christianity, and this was accompanied by such an awakening of sinners as the world has rarely seen, and which continued with more or less of strength for many years.
John Wesley, while strangely adhering to the corrupt Church of England, yet had spiritual sense enough not to leave the Methodists' converts to its care. He gathered them together in “societies,” (for he dared not form a church—-though that is what his societies actually were, and indeed ought to have been), where he provided himself for their spiritual welfare, and thus nurtured under his care one of the most fruitful and powerful entities in the history of the church. George Whitefield started out on the same plan, but afterwards gave it up, writing in a letter to John Wesley in 1748, “My attachment to America will not permit me to abide very long in England; consequently, I should but weave a Penelope's webb, if I formed societies; and if I should form them, I have not proper assistants to take care of them. I intend therefore to go about preaching the gospel to every creature”' —-and leave the converts, of course, to the care of whatever churches happened to be there, with whatever standards and principles the prevailing low spiritual condition of the church had bequeathed to them.
Whitefield was certainly well aware of the awful state the church was in. Just three days after writing the above to Wesley he wrote the following to a friend in New England: “Poor New England! I pity and pray for thee from my inmost soul. May God arise, and scatter thy enemies! may those that hate thee be made to flee before thee! I am afraid the scene will be yet darker. But you know it is always darkest before day-break. It has been so in England. Matters, as to religion, were come to almost an extremity. The enemy had indeed broken in upon us like a flood. The spirit of the Lord is now lifting up a standard. The prospect of the success of the gospel, I think, was never more promising. In the church, tabernacle, and fields, congregations have been great, and perhaps as great power as ever hath accompanied the word. … I intend keeping myself free from societies, and therefore I hope to see you again next year.”' Here he presents a just view of the darkness which then prevailed in the church, but speaks as though the success of the gospel and the conversion of sinners were all the renovation she needed, and again expresses his purpose to limit his endeavors to that. He was certainly not unaware of the need to raise the standards and purify the principles of the church. Nevertheless, the course which he chose to pursue left that need for the most part unattended to.
Whitefield had largely acted upon this plan already, which is doubtless one reason why he had no proper assistants to care for his societies. Wesley did not find such assistants, but made them. In taking the course which he did, I believe that Whitefield made the same mistake which Finney afterwards made. I believe also that Whitefield lived to see that it was a mistake, for later in his life he voiced the following to an intimate friend, who was one of Wesley's preachers: “My brother Wesley acted wisely. The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.”'
The revival which we need consists of both a restoration and an awakening. It consists of both a return to Bible standards, principles, and practices, and also the obtaining of the power of the Holy Ghost to convict and convert sinners. But may not the latter in large measure depend upon the former? True, there have been awakenings in history which seemingly involved little or nothing of the renovation of the church, but it may be that the church in those days was not sunk so low as it is today. The Wesleyan Methodist movement certainly consisted of both of these elements, and observe, the restoration came first. For ten years before any awakening occurred among sinners, Wesley and his little band were exercising themselves to take up the cross and deny themselves, to pursue real Bible Christianity with all of their hearts, and to devote themselves heart, soul, mind, and strength to the cause of Christ. For ten years already they had endured the reproach of Christ, being branded as “Methodists” and “enthusiasts” (fanatics, as we would now say), for no other reason than that they possessed the true spirit of Christianity.
Some in our day, moved by bigotry, have undertaken to deny all of this, contending that the awakening which began under Whitefield in 1737 was a “totally new movement.” I cannot here take the time or space to answer this, but suffice it to say that no honest historian could think such a thing. It is true that the Methodists in the earlier years did not possess all of the light which was afterwards given to them, but why was that further light given to them, and not to their neighbors across town? For the same reason that Christ spoke to the multitudes in parables, to reveal the truth to his disciples, and to conceal it from the rest. When his disciples asked him why he spoke in parables, “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” (Matt. 13:11-12). It is true that the early Methodists lacked some important light in doctrinal matters, but they had the true spirit of Christianity, and bore a great deal of reproach for it. Therefore (as I surely believe) they were given the further light which they needed, and also the power of the Spirit of God to awaken and convert sinners.
Now to bring all of this down to our own day and condition, if the revival you seek is merely an awakening, merely an increase in numbers, merely an extension of the same kind of Christianity which we have already—-I question whether God himself has any interest in granting such a thing. Finney lamented in his day that the conduct of the church was a disgrace to religion. What would he say today!
The Bible has practically ceased to be the standard of the modern evangelical church. Conformity to the world has taken its place. Scriptures like “Love not the world” and “Redeem the time” are no more than dead letters to the most of the modern church, while they give themselves over to the pursuit of sports and hobbies and recreations and entertainments and worldly goods, the same as the rest of the world does. Such scriptures as “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth” and “Sell that ye have and give alms” are also dead letters, and most of the modern church lives today not one whit differently than it would if those scriptures were not in the Bible. And worse than this, the message coming from many of the Christian publications and pulpits of the day is designed rather to confirm the people in such a state of things than to correct it, all such scriptures being habitually softened, pared down, and explained away, if they are faced at all—-but more generally simply ignored. Lukewarmness prevails, so that in many fundamental churches a large proportion of the members do not even attend the Sunday morning meetings—-and of those who do, only a small fraction will be found present on Sunday night. The people are rich and full, and reign as kings, and the pulpits preach this up as a virtue. Believers are yoked together with unbelievers in education and politics and social clubs and sports and recreations. The music of the church is patterned after that of the world. Divorce is common in the church, as it is in the world, and it is regarded as a virtue to wink at it. The ungodly theater—-which the real church of God has stood against for generations—-has now been brought into the homes of Christians, in the form of the television set, and Christians are more devoted to that than they are to prayer, or the Bible, or Christian books, or anything that comes from God. Even feminine modesty has been thrown away, and many Christian women habitually dress in the same kind of tight or scanty clothing that the rest of the world wears.
And do we—-does God—-wish to convert sinners to such a Christianity as this? May we not rather, with perfect truth and justice, echo the feelings and sentiments of Charles G. Finney?—-of what use is it to make “such Christians as these,” when the more we have of them, the more the word and name of God are compromised, and the greater the stumblingblock we put before the perishing world?
We stand today in desperate need of just such a revival as took place in Judah under the good king Josiah, as it is recorded in II Kings 23. It began with a determination “to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in the book” (vs. 3)—-or in other words, to thoroughly change their ways, on the basis of the Book of God, which they had formerly neglected. There then follow seventeen verses (4-20) of breaking down and taking away, putting down and slaying, cutting down and burning with fire and stamping to powder. This is the sort of revival which is desperately needed today.
All of this work of purging was followed by the keeping of the passover, in such a manner as it had not been kept “from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah” (vss. 21-22). This, of course, plainly indicates that some part of the word of God concerning the passover had been neglected or ignored, explained away or made void, throughout almost the whole history of God's ancient people. And who will dare to affirm that such has not also been the case in the church of God? Those few serious reformers who endeavor to follow in the footsteps of Josiah know very well that it is the case. After the keeping of the passover there follows more putting away of “all the abominations that were spied in the land” (vs. 24).
This, and nothing less than this, and nothing other than this, is the revival which the church of God stands in need of today.
But there is one grand obstacle standing in the way of such a revival. It is exactly the same obstacle that stood in the way in Josiah's time, when the Book of God lay buried and forgotten in the rubble of the temple. The obstacle is ignorance and neglect of the word of God. The Bible is very little known in our day. The preaching of the popular preachers, the books which flow in floods from the evangelical presses, the seminars which are multiplied across the face of the land, all conspire together to evince the most shallow and superficial acquaintance with the message of the Bible.
There is, however, a great difference between Josiah's ignorance and that of the modern church. The people of God in Josiah's day had lost the letter of the Bible. The church in our day has lost the spirit of it. Josiah had never heard the words of God. When he did hear them, he took them seriously, at their full face value, and acted upon them. The modern church hears, but heeds not. The men of our day know very well that the Bible says, “Labor not for the meat that perisheth”—-“Lay not up for yourselves treasures on the earth”—-“Sell that ye have and give alms”—-and yet no more act on those scriptures than their ungodly neighbors do. The women of our day know very well that the Bible says that it is an abomination for them to put on that which pertains to a man, that women are to keep silent in the churches, that their adornment is not to be that outward adornment of putting on of gold and silver and apparel, that they are to be keepers at home—-and yet are no more governed by those scriptures than they are by the Book of Mormon, or the Koran. There are, of course, exceptions to this dismal state of things, but I am speaking of prevailing conditions which are too patent to be denied.
The modern ignorance of the Bible is not innocent or excusable. The present state of things has been brought about by compromise, by pride and false security, by lukewarmness and carelessness and apathy, all of which have reduced the present-day evangelical church to a level at which it cannot so much as understand the plain message of the Bible. An unwillingness to change our ways, to deny ourselves, to bear the reproach of Christ, to suffer persecution, to do the will of God at any cost, renders us incapable of understanding the book which we hold daily in our hands. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” (John 7:17). “If thine eye be single”—-having but one object before it: to do the will of God regardless of the cost—-“thy whole body shall be full of light, but if thine eye be evil”—-governed by your own will and desires—-“thy whole body shall be full of darkness”—-rendered thus incapable of understanding the revelation of God. (Matt. 6:22-23).
So long as Josiah remained ignorant of the Bible, so long he remained completely unaware that any restoration was called for. For the same reason modern evangelicals remain unaware of the same thing. Many are aware that all is not as it should be in the church, but few seem to be aware of the extent and seriousness of the matter. I believe it is for this reason that the revival which many seek consists of the awakening and conversion of sinners, rather than an awakening and purging of the church. The lukewarm church has no consciousness of its own condition, but says, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,” knowing not that she is “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:18). Many hold it as a doctrine that these words of the Lord apply to the church of our day, but seemingly very little feel their awful import.
Moreover, to wait for God to bestow an awakening, by his own means and in his own time, comports very well with the softness and lukewarmness of our age. If we seek a restoration, this requires us to be up and doing—-to humble ourselves and change our ways—-to begin the work of self-searching and self-judging and self-denial, the work of purging and pulling down and overthrowing—-and this will not only require a high price of ourselves, but also serve to make us odious in the eyes of those who are not willing to pay that price.
The modern church of course wants the results—-the power and the success—-which the early Methodists possessed, but it is not willing to take the same course of devotedness and self-denial—-and of enduring reproach for it—-which led to those results. The very course which the Methodists pursued with such a glorious issue would be regarded as extremism and fanaticism by Christians today. When here or there a man among us rises up to bear a testimony against the prevailing lukewarmness and compromise, and to call the people back to the old ways and standards, immediately he is called a legalist, and labeled as “divisive,” “proud,” “judgemental,” or “extreme”—-while every precept and principle of the Bible is diluted and compromised under the pleas of “balance” and “moderation.”
All of the same charges, of course, were levelled against the early Methodists. In 1739 a prominent English clergyman published four sermons against the Methodists, entitled “The Nature, Folly and Sin of being Righteous over-much; with a particular view to the Doctrines and Practices of certain Modern Enthusiasts.” George Whitefield made answer in a sermon entitled “The Folly and Danger of being not righteous enough.” In this he says, “The writer upon this text tells us, 'That it will be accounted unlawful to smell to a rose:' no, my dear brethren, you may smell to a pink and rose too if you please, but take care to avoid the appearance of sin. They talk of innocent diversions and recreations; for my part, I know of no diversion, but that of doing good: … for, indeed, the diversions of this age are contrary to christianity. …perhaps many of you will cry out, 'What harm is there in it?' My dear brethren, whatsoever is not of faith, or for the glory of GOD, is a sin: Now does cards tend to promote this? Is it not mispending your precious time, which should be employed in working out your salvation with fear and trembling? …the playhouses, are they not nurseries of debauchery in the age? … If you have tasted of the love of GOD, and have felt his power upon your souls, you would no more go to a play, than you would run your head into a furnace. … The polite gentlemen say, 'Are we to be always upon our knees? Would you have us be always at prayer, and reading or hearing the word of GOD?' My dear brethren, the fashionable ones, who take delight in hunting, are not tired of being continually on horseback after their hounds; and when once you are renewed by the Spirit of GOD, it will be a continual pleasure to be walking with, and talking of GOD, and telling what great things JESUS CHRIST hath done for your souls; and till you can find as much pleasure in conversing with GOD, as these men do of their hounds, you have no share in him.”'
John Wesley, too, answered charges innumerable of the same sort in his Earnest Appeal. Let one example suffice: “Others allege, 'Their doctrine is too strict; they make the way to heaven too narrow.' And this is in truth the original objection, (as it was almost the only one for some time,) and is secretly at the bottom of a thousand more, which appear in various forms. But do they make the way to heaven any narrower than our Lord and his Apostles made it? Is their doctrine stricter than that of the Bible? Consider only a few plain texts: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.”For every idle word which men shall speak, they shall give an account in the day of judgement.”Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' If their doctrine is stricter than this, they are to blame; but you know in your conscience, it is not. And who can be one jot less strict, without corrupting the word of God? Can any steward of the mysteries of God be found faithful, if he change any part of that sacred depositum? No. He can abate nothing, he can soften nothing; he is constrained to declare to all men, 'I may not bring down the Scripture to your taste. You must come up to it, or perish for ever.' ”'
Here the man of God strikes the nail exactly upon the head. Too strict! The next thing you know, it will be sin to smell a rose! Legalistic! So the modern evangelical church brands everyone who stands for the Bible at full face value. The very reason why the church of God today stands in such desperate need of a renovation—-and the very reason why she cannot see that she does—-is that she has been so long in the habit of bringing the Bible down to her own level, instead of coming up to the level of the Bible, that she no longer has any proper conception of either the spirit or the substance of Holy Scripture. If she sees a man who takes all of the principles, precepts, and examples of the Bible seriously, and regulates all of his conduct thereby, she is honestly at a loss to understand what makes him so strange.
If Josiah had been to a modern evangelical or fundamental Bible college, or sat in a modern church, and learned the modern evangelical arts of explaining away and making void the word of God, the restoration of his day would never have taken place. “The Bible doesn't mean not to have these things—-it just means not to trust in them. It doesn't mean not to do these practices of the heathen—-it only means to change the way in which we do them. It doesn't mean to get rid of these things—-it only means not to set our hearts on them. It doesn't mean not to do these things at all—-it only means to keep them in balance.” In short, every command and prohibition in the Bible means—- —-just what we are now doing—-just what we have always done—-just what the world around us does—-just what our own church or denomination does—-just what we please to do. And so, by all of this modern juggling and twisting and wresting and paring down and diluting, we have made of the Bible a book to confirm us in our own ways, instead of the book which God gave to reprove us, and correct us, and instruct us in righteousness.
The revival which we need, then, is a return to the standards of the Bible, the spirit of it as well as the letter of it, beginning with simple obedience to the plain commands of God. When the modern church of God will cease making void the word of God in order to maintain her traditions, when she will cease diluting and paring down and explaining away the word of God in order to retain her pleasures, when she will take up the cross and deny herself, when she will go forth unto Christ outside the camp, bearing his reproach, then she might with confidence pray for the awakening and conversion of sinners.
C. H. Spurgeon on Worldliness
I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church. Nowadays, we hear Nonconformists pleading that they may do this, and they may do that,—-things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, “Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog's meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage! Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God's children, you would loathe the very thought of the world's evil joys, and your question would not be, 'How far may we be like the world?' but your one cry would be, 'How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?' Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, 'How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?' ”
—-The Soul-Winner, by C. H. Spurgeon; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1897, pp. 300-301.
God Give Us Men
God give us men endued with power,
God give us men of single eye,
God give us men as true as steel,
God give us men who fast and pray,
God give us men with weeping eyes,
God give us men of courage strong,
God give us men to preach, to pray,
(May be sung to the tune “Retreat,” by Thomas Hastings.)
William Tyndale's Letter from Prison
[The following letter is the only thing extant in the handwriting of William Tyndale, the first translator of the New Testament from Greek into English. Tyndale spent the last year and a third of his life in prison in the castle of Vilvorde, and wrote the following letter from thence to the governor of the castle. The letter is very touching, and in the reading of it we almost feel ourselves in the presence of the writer of II Timothy 4:13. Whether or not the books he requested were granted to him we have no way of knowing. We do know that before his death he had translated the Old Testament as far as II Chronicles. The Pentateuch had been published before his imprisonment, and the rest was published in Matthew's Bible in 1537, the year following Tyndale's death, and thus became the basis which eventuated, after several revisions, in the King James Version. The original of this letter is in Latin. It was first published, with the following translation, in William Tyndale, by R. Demaus, in 1871 (pp. 475-477), from which I give it. The translation appears also (on pp. XIV & XV) of A Bibliographical Description of the Editions of the New Testament, William Tyndale's Version in English, by Francis Fry (1878), with a facsimile of the Latin original.]
I believe, right worshipful, that you are not ignorant of what has been determined concerning me [by the Council of Brabant]; therefore I entreat your Lordship and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here [in Vilvorde] during the winter, you will request the Procureur to be kind enough to send me from my goods which he has in his possession, a warmer cap, for I suffer extremely from cold in the head, being afflicted with a perpetual catarrh, which is considerably increased in the cell. A warmer coat also, for that which I have is very thin: also a piece of cloth to patch my leggings: my overcoat has been worn out; my shirts are also worn out. He has a woollen shirt of mine, if he will be kind enough to send it. I have also with him leggings of thicker cloth for putting on above; he also has warmer caps for wearing at night. I wish also his permission to have a candle in the evening, for it is wearisome to sit alone in the dark. But above all, I entreat and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the Procureur that he may kindly permit me to have my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Grammar, and Hebrew Dictionary, that I may spend my time with that study. And in return, may you obtain your dearest wish, provided always it be consistent with the salvation of your soul. But if any other resolution has been come to concerning me, that I must remain during the whole winter, I shall be patient, abiding the will of God to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, whose Spirit, I pray, may ever direct your heart. Amen.—-W. Tyndale.
Carnal and Spiritual Christians
There are two errors abroad concerning carnal Christians. On the one side, many virtually deny that there is any such thing as a carnal Christian. This they do with a worthy motive, and in a worthy cause. They see the grace of God turned to lasciviousness by ungodly men who claim to be Christians. They see such men confirmed in their ungodliness by a false gospel which requires no repentance or holiness in order to salvation. To counteract such delusions they affirm that if a man is carnal, he is no Christian. There is no such thing as a carnal Christian.
The all-sufficient answer to such assertions is a simple quotation of the words of Paul: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” (I Cor. 3:1.) Again, “For ye are yet carnal,” and “Are ye not carnal?” (Verse 3.) Paul here plainly refers to a state in which they are. The fact that some men improperly define that state is no excuse for others to deny its existence.
The men who for all practical purposes deny that there is such a thing as a carnal Christian object to dividing Christians into two classes, carnal and spiritual. This they say will lead to pride in the spiritual class. But Paul plainly does thus divide them. Moreover, he speaks to the spiritual as a class in Gal. 6:1—-“ye which are spiritual”—-plainly assuming that they which are spiritual know who they are, and what they are. He is aware that they may be in danger of pride, but he does not guard against it by denying that they are spiritual, or by placing them in the same class as those whom he calls carnal. He rather exhorts them (in the same passage) to “the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The real danger of pride lies in another direction. It lies in treating the novice, the babe in Christ, as though he were spiritual. When Paul lays down the qualifications for an office which only the spiritual are fit to fill, he expressly excludes the “novice,” for the precise reason that he is in danger of being “lifted up with pride” (I Tim. 3:6). This plainly indicates that the danger of pride lies peculiarly in the “novice”—-in the “babe in Christ”—-and not in the “spiritual,” that is, not in the mature and experienced saint (for that that is what Paul means by the term, I intend to prove in this article). Thus to prevent pride in the spiritual, where the danger of it is least, this doctrine actually encourages pride in the novice, where the danger of it is greatest, by treating him as though he were spiritual.
As for dividing Christians into two classes, it is just about as plain as language can make it that that is what Paul actually does in I Cor. 3:1, as well as Gal. 6:1, and it is foolish to deny the plain teaching of these passages in order to combat the abuse which some men make of it. The apostle John does not hesitate to divide Christians into three classes, and upon exactly the same basis upon which Paul divides them, namely, their experience and maturity in Christ. This is evident from the very terms which John uses to distinguish them, namely, little children, young men, and fathers (I John 2:12-14).
But on the other side is a more serious error. Carnal Christians, the contention is, are real Christians who are living in sin—-men who know God, but are “out of fellowship” with him—-true children of the Father, who are “out of the will of God.” While we may grant that such teaching springs from a worthy motive—-from a desire to uphold the grace of God, and protect it from the presumption of dead works and human merit which would frustrate and make it void—-still it is an unhallowed touch to the ark of God, and the doctrine contained in it is false and destructive.
A true child of God is one who is in fellowship with God. All others “lie and do not the truth,” nor does the blood of Christ cleanse away their sins (I John 1:6-7). Nor is it possible for a true saint of God, as a general, habitual, or characteristic thing, to be “out of the will of God.” For, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21.) And again, “He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (I John 2:17.)
As for a true Christian “living in sin,” certainly neither Paul nor any other New Testament writer ever entertained any thought of the possibility of such a thing. Paul addressed the Corinthians as carnal Christians, but he never supposed that they were (as a general or habitual thing) living in sin
—-nor that they could be Christians at all if they were. “Know ye not,” he writes to them, “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Cor. 6:9-10.) As for any even of those Christians whom he addresses as carnal bearing such a character, clearly he never contemplated that, for he says, “And such were some of you, but ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (Verse 11.) And elsewhere the same apostle writes, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was deliverd to you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:17-18.) Yet again, “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24.) And another apostle adds, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: He that doeth righteousness is righteous. He that doeth sin is of the devil. … Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
(I Jn. 3:6-9.)
Clearly, then, he that is “living in sin” is no Christian at all, carnal or otherwise. Paul calls a carnal Christian a “babe in Christ,” but “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; all things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:l7.) The Corinthians did indeed have a fornicator among them, but can anyone suppose, in the light of the above scriptures, that Paul could regard him as a Christian? No way. Paul calls him a “wicked person,” and instructs the saints to put him away from among them, and deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved (I Cor. 5:5, l3).
Whatever a carnal Christian may be, then, it is not one who is living in sin. “He that doeth sin is of the devil”—-and is no Christian.
What, then, is a carnal Christian? The scripture already quoted makes this so clear that it is really a wonder that there is any confusion about it. “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” A carnal Christian is a babe in Christ. He is “in Christ,” and therefore he is a new creature, from whom the old things have passed away, and in whom all things have become new. He is Christ's, and therefore he has crucified the flesh in general, and its affections and lusts in particular. But he is a babe in Christ. He is one who has only just entered upon that course of scourging which every son whom God receives must endure (Heb. 12:6), and so obviously has not attained that state of spirituality to which that scourging is designed to bring him. He is a “babe,” and therefore liable to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14—-where “babe” is the same word in the Greek as in I Cor. 3:1), whereas “he that is spiritual discerns all things”
(I Cor. 2:l5).
He has but just entered upon that course of the renewing of his mind, by which he is to be gradually transformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 12:2), and is therefore largely ignorant of “that good and perfect and acceptable will of God,” while many worldly thoughts and ways cleave to him unawares.
He is a “babe,” standing in need of milk, and not of strong meat (Heb. 5:13, where “babe” is again the same word in the original), for he is “unskillful in the word of righteousness,” his senses having been but little “exercised to discern both good and evil” (verse 14)—-and this, through his own lack of diligence, may remain the case when for the time he ought to be a teacher (verse 12). He has only just entered upon that course of “beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” by which he is to be little by little “changed into the same image, from glory to glory.” (II Cor. 3:18.)
He is a “novice” (I Tim. 3:6), and therefore likely to be “lifted up with pride” (as the carnal saints in fact were at Corinth, I Cor. 5:2)—-unfit, therefore, for a place of leadership. Nay—-he is unfit also for certain private ministry, for Paul says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one, in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal. 6:l.) In so saying he excludes the carnal Christians from such ministry, for the spiritual and the carnal are explicitly contrasted in I Cor. 3:l: “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.” The carnal are likely to do a poor job of restoring the erring. They lack the discernment, the understanding, the patience, the humility, the meekness, the gentleness—-all of those things which a long course of scourging and renewing of the mind is designed to give to them.
But this brings me to another popular error of our day. Many hold and teach that the same Christian may be carnal one day (or one minute), spiritual the next, and perhaps carnal again the next, and so on, depending upon whether he has been “emptied of self, and filled with the Spirit.” But such teaching is nothing more than a proof of the extreme shallowness of the theology of those who hold it, for it is directly against all that the Scriptures have to say on the subject. Paul says, “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Cor. 3:3.) This obviously refers to a habitual state, an ongoing condition, not to a momentary lapse. He further states in the same epistle, “He that is spiritual judgeth [margin, discerneth] all things, but he himself is judged [discerned] of no man.” (I Cor. 2:15.) Can a babe in Christ, who stands in need of milk and not meat, and who is in danger of being carried about by every wind of doctrine, jump immediately into the state of one who discerns all things? And if he can, why does Paul write in Galatians 6:1, “Ye that are spiritual, restore such an one”? They might all be spiritual at any moment. Why does he not command them to become so, and then proceed to restore the erring?
There is no possibility of such a thing. A “babe in Christ” is carnal, and cannot become spiritual except only as he is scourged and renewed in his mind, and so little by little transformed into the image of Christ. He is “in Christ,” and so is a new creature. He is “born of God,” and so doth not commit sin. But he has only just begun that process of growth by which he will “grow up into him in all things,” (Eph. 4:15), and so become “a perfect man” (vs. 13), “of full age” (Heb. 5:l4), feeding upon strong meat, discerning all things, and filled with all the fruits of love and holiness. Now all of this takes time. “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again”—-and this for their own lack of diligence. Paul writes to the Corinthian saints, “Ye are yet carnal.” He labors with the Ephesians that they might be “no more babes.” Thus the man who feeds upon the sincere milk of the word, exercises himself to discern both good and evil, holding faith and a good conscience, will in time leave the carnal state behind him for ever, growing up into Christ in all things.
This is the true doctrine of the Bible, which maintains both the holiness of the gospel and those who profess it, and the humility of the babe and the novice, by keeping him from those places for which only the spiritual are fit, and from those notions which lead him to suppose that he may pop into spirituality in a day or a minute, and so stand upon a level with the full-grown saint. A carnal Christian is a babe in Christ. A spiritual Christian is a mature saint. Both of them have renounced all known and deliberate sin, or they are no Christians at all. Both are committed to the narrow path of righteousness and holiness. But there is a great difference between them in strength, in depth, in understanding, and in their degree of attainment in faith, in love, in humility, and in all holy emotions and virtues.
[Gipsy Smith was born in 1860, and grew up in a gypsy wagon, without ever seeing the inside of a school house or church building. He was converted at the age of 16, taught himself to read, began to preach seven months later at the age of 17, and became one of the greatest evangelists of the present century. He died in the work in 1947, at the age of 87.]
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching, . . . saying, Repent ye.”
—-Mark i. 14, 15.
The Bible, especially the New Testament, is the handbook of repentance. It commands it, it urges it, enforces it, repeats it, drives it in everywhere. Over sixty times repentance is enforced. The great doctrine of repentance occupies a very prominent place in the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles. All the epistles were written to show men how to do it, because there is no such thing as vital communion, fellowship with God, without it. And I want to speak plainly about Bible repentance, and I pray God to help me, for I have not anything pleasant to say. It is far easier to congratulate than it is to expostulate. My business is not to speak smooth things, but to say some things that you may resist, fight, get angry with; and you may get angry with me for saying them, but they are here, and it is my business to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” There is no intelligent conversion without an intelligent understanding of these words. May the Holy Spirit breathe light upon these truths, and help us to see them! For it is my business to make you see what God means when He says, “Repent ye.”
I am afraid that in our zeal to get people into the kingdom or the Church we have lowered the standard. These words meant far more when they were uttered than they do today with most people. I am afraid that with the familiar way with which we use them and the constant contact with them and with the daily handling of them, we have somehow allowed their edge to be worn off. They do not mean as much to us. The depth, the breadth, the height, the length of these mighty utterances do not search us and illuminate and startle, and thrill and overwhelm as they used to. But they do mean as much. If we have not eyes to see and ears to hear, if by long contamination with evil, and soothing the conscience with opiates from hell, if crying, “Peace” where there is no peace has brought a stupor upon us, that is our responsibility, not God's or His Word's. God means as much by these words today when He says, “Repent ye,” as He did when they were first uttered. I am afraid we have brought them down, we have lowered them, we have pulled them from their heights down to the low levels of our own poor experiences. But that is not the way to climb with measured step the hills of light, and walk in unbroken fellowship with God. I am afraid that in our zeal to get people into what we call the Church we have been more anxious about heads than hearts. In order to capture, we have compromised and lost. We have been more concerned about filling our Church registers than we have about the kingdom. We have not sufficiently emphasized the greatness of coming to Christ, and we have said, “It is only a step.” Who told you so? Only a step to Jesus? It is not true. It is not gospel. Only a step to Jesus? Then it is a very big step. We have made it a very little thing, and we have multitudes of people joining the Churches. It is child's play. It used not to be. When I came to Christ I came under the old Act. It was a conflict, it was a warfare, it was a pilgrimage, it was a struggle, it was cutting off the right arm and plucking out the right eye, it was being maimed if necessary. It meant sacrifice. There was a day in our calendar called Good Friday; there was a place called Calvary. It meant coming out, being forsaken, abused, slandered, rejected, despised, hated, persecuted, a fool for Christ's sake, sneered at, laughed at, misrepresented, suffering the cross. What does it mean now? A picnic. It is a “social,” it is an entertainment, it is a guild, an ordinance; and with multitudes of people who call themselves Christians it means nothing more. We have made it too easy, but Jesus never made it so: He never deluded anybody. He never cried “Peace” where there was no peace. He knew the danger of saying “Peace” when the soul was in anarchy and the will in rebellion, and the whole man against God. He could not cry “Peace.”
No, He never made it easy. We have said to anybody and everybody, “Only believe.” The New Testament does not say so. The devil believes, and believes more than you do; in his heart he knows more about it. He believes; and if he says he does not, he is a liar, he is shamming. He believes far more than any of us, but he is not a saint. Jesus has never made it easy. There was one man who came and asked, “Are there few that be saved?” and He said, “Strive, struggle, agonize to enter in at the strait gate.” He never made it easy. Here is another man who came and said, “Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” But Jesus knew he had not counted the cost, and said, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.” Here is another who came and said, “Lord, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus diagnosed the case instantly, and put His finger on the weak spot of his life and said, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.” He did not make it easy. Here is another man who came and said, “Lord, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.” Jesus said to him, “Ye must be born again.” And to the multitude of people who listened to Him He said, “If any man will be My disciple, let him take up his cross and deny himself.” He never made it easy; and the man who makes it easy to be a Christian preaches a mongrel gospel. Jesus said, “Repent.” John preached repentance. He came to preach it. It had the first place in his sermons. It was first and last with John, “Repent, repent.” You say it is too startling, sensational, vulgar; but remember, it was God's vulgarity “Repent.” No man who preaches as John did will be popular.
They put John in prison for preaching repentance, and so that the doctrine should not be silent, as soon as John was shut up Jesus began where John left off, and His first public sermon to the world was on repentance. He knew where to begin. “Repent ye,” said Jesus. That is His first utterance, and if you care to go to His last before He left His disciples and was received up yonder in the clouds, He gave them the commission to go and preach repentance. So that in the first and the last utterances of the Son of God you have repentance enforced. And when He was back again on the throne, when angels and archangels had received Him with the shouts of triumph and welcome which He deserved, when He had been exalted as a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance, as though He knew that some of us would shrink from driving it in, as though He knew that some of us would be afraid to push it home, He said to Saul, “Saul, you go to the Gentiles and make them—-make them—-do works meet for repentance.”
Jesus never made it easy. Let any man who ever tried honestly but one day in his life to serve God with all his powers, let him tell me if it was an easy thing to do. It is not easy. It is a struggle, it is a fight. Jesus Christ on Calvary is not a substitute for the life He means you to live, but the means by which you get the power to live the life. No, there is no salvation without repentance. This is the first step. First things first. And the man who misses repentance will miss everything. If your repentance is shallow your religious life will be shallow. If your coming to Christ does not mean everything you will not get everything. If your surrender is not complete you cannot receive. If your hands are filled you cannot take hold. It is only those who come empty-handed that can cling. It is only those who turn from darkness to light that understand God. It is only those who leave the devil who can receive God. No, we must repent.
“Then,” you say, “what is repentance?” Listen—-it is not conviction. It is possible to be convicted without repentance. Why, it is hardly possible to meet and talk with anybody in these days but at some moment of their life's history they have been convicted of their need of Christ. It is hardly possible to meet with anybody who does not know what he ought to do and what he ought to be. You cannot meet and talk with any man that has not light about these things; but light is not life.
What brings you to a mission service? Deep down in your conscience, the soul of you, the man of you, back of everything, hid away that nobody else can see, there is a real cry in your soul for God. That is conviction. That is God-given; that is Holy Ghost-brought, that is the result of the light that flashes over the cliff-tops of eternity, that is the soul's awakening. It is one thing to be awake, it is another thing to get up. You have often heard your minister preach. Maybe you have been hearing him for years. Perhaps you sit in the gallery or away back in one of the pews, or near to him, and every time he preaches and you hear him, you go home and say, “My pastor is right; I ought to be a Christian, I know I ought,” and you feel beneath the powerful pleadings of your own pastor, beneath the pleadings of the evangelist, you know God's claims, you admit them, you feel them. They are right, they are reasonable, and you ought to surrender. That is conviction. But it is one thing to be convicted and another thing to repent. Conviction is not repentance.
What is repentance? It is not sorrow. Sorrow for sin is one element of repentance, but you can be sorry without repentance. There is a kind of sentimental sorrow, a sorrow at the thought of coming retribution and exposure, which is mean, selfish, devilish, and is not healthy and life-giving. There is a sorrow that weeps at funerals and sentimental plays, and weeps beneath the ordinary preaching and the special preaching. There are multitudes of people who think they are not far from the kingdom because their tears come easily; they whisper all sorts of sweet messages to themselves because they can weep. They tell themselves they are not hard, and therefore there must be hope for them, and all the while they are holding on to forbidden things and walking in forbidden paths, and keeping company with those who are destroying them and leading them far from God. It is no good to cover God's altar with tears while your heart is in rebellion. It is no good to hold out one hand apparently to the Cross with the other holding on to a black hand behind you. You cannot hold Dagon in one hand and the Ark of the Covenant in the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. It is no good to sing on Sunday with your face toward the Cross and on Monday with your feet toward the beershop.
I sat in a home a few days ago playing with a boy of ten. His face was bright as the sun. He looked as happy as any child in the home, calling me “Uncle.” Presently his mother had missed something, and she came in and said, “Jack, have you taken so-and-so?” His head dropped. “Jack, have you taken so-and-so?” No answer. “Jack”—and she came and put her hand on his shoulder—“did you take—” “Yes, mother;” and he began to cry. Oh, he was sorry; he did look sorry; he sobbed as though his heart would break. What for? He was just as guilty five minutes before, and he knew he was. What made him sorry? Sorry that he had sinned against his mother? No. Sorry that he had sinned against God? No. Well, what was his sorrow? He was sorry because he was found out. And there are multitudes of professing Christians whose religious sorrow is no deeper. That is the sorrow that worketh death. There is a godly sorrow, sorrow because I have sinned against God. “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.
. . . For thou desirest truth in the hidden parts, honesty where no eye but Thine can see, transparency where no light but thine can penetrate.” There is a sorrow that means death. There is a sorrow for sin that worketh life. Which is yours?
What is repentance? Listen. It is not promising to be better. There are plenty of people who have been promising to be better ever since they can remember, from boyhood or girlhood. When God has laid His hand upon them, as He does in a thousand ways, they are ready to promise, and do promise. Where are you, you who have been making promises till your hair is grey and broken every one of them, and angels beholding your shattered promises have shuddered to the tips of their wings. You are further from God than ever you were in your life, with all your promises. Your psalm-singing and your hymn-singing, and your church-going, and your offerings, and all the rest of your religious paraphernalia, are so much mockery because you have not walked the straight and blessed path of obedience and trust.
It is not enough to promise. It means more than that. If it is not conviction, if it is not sorrow, if it is not the desire to be better and the promise to be better, what is it? What is repentance? Is it crying? No. Is it excitement? No. Is it emotion? Is it kneeling down and groaning? No. Is it going and hearing preachers? No.
What is it? Listen. Jesus Christ tells you in that beautiful picture in the fifteenth of Luke. It is a wonderful chapter. There are three cases in that chapter—-the silver, the sheep, and the son. The sheep was lost out of the fold, the silver was lost in the house. The sheep was lost without any intention of being lost, but it was lost. The silver was lost in the house through somebody's carelessness, and it may be there is somebody lost in your house, in your pew in the church, through somebody's carelessness. God help you to find out who that somebody is! The son was lost, and it was his own fault. He was a prodigal before he left home. He was a rebel before he got a penny of his fortune. He was as bad in heart and in mind before he received a cent of the money as when he had spent it all. He was guilty the moment he said to himself, “I will demand the portion of goods that falleth to me.” When the sheep went astray a man went after it. When the silver was lost a woman went after it. When the son went astray nobody went after him. How is that? Remember who told the story. Nobody went for him. How is that? Because he was a man, because he was a moral agent, because he was accountable to God for his own act. Why did not the father gather his servants with the elder brother, why did he not gather his neighbours together, and say, “Look here, I have lost my boy, let us go and find him and bring him back in spite of himself”? Why did he not? Because if they had brought him back again he would have been a prodigal still, he would have been a rebel inside the house as well as out of it, for no man comes till he returns; and heaven and the Bible, Christ and Calvary, the Holy Ghost and eternity stand absolutely defeated before the citadel of the human will. Do not forget it. Listen. The prodigal went astray, took every step from the homestead of his own deliberate choice, step by step away up into the far country, and he had to come to himself, he had to come back every inch of the way, and he did not send a letter home to his father and say, “If you will sent the old chariot I will come home,” and he did not ask anybody to give him a lift. He had to walk back every inch his own self, step by step, with bleeding feet and aching head, and broken heart. He had to do it. “But,” you say, “the father ran to meet him, did he not?” Yes he did, and He will run to meet you when He sees you coming, but you must come. Coming is repentance. It is the response of the will. Repentance is the response of the enlightened, redeemed man to the call of God, the “I will” of the soul. It is putting your hand on your heart and getting hold of what has been your curse, the thing that has chained you. It is getting hold of the thing that has made hell of earth for you, the sin of your heart—-for I have discovered that there may be a dozen sins in a man's life, but there are not a dozen that predominate; there is one overmastering, predominating, all-prevailing sin that enslaves and damns, and if that sin goes everything goes. It is putting your hand to your heart and plucking that out root and branch and saying to God, “There it is, and I will die before I will sin again.” Have you repented in that fashion? Don't talk about Church membership, don't insult God by talking about the Communion until you have done this: this is the first thing and the others will not be expected until you have done this. “Repent ye,” make a full surrender to God.
Brother, listen to me once more. Repentance, when it is done, is such a beautiful thing that Jesus Himself said, “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” Have you repented along that line? There are some of you who do not understand how it is you have no peace and no joy in your profession. I know, just as well as if I lived with you, I know if you have no joy and no peace in your professed faith it is because you have never turned to God wholly. Some of you say, “I want peace.” Never mind peace; do as you are told, and peace will come. There are some people more concerned about nice feelings, happy feelings, ecstasies and joys, and all the rest of it, than they are about putting God in His place. You put God in His place, and you will have peace; you honour God, and you will have peace.
A dear fellow came to me when I was in South Africa, and he said, “Sir, I want to get relief from a guilty conscience,” and he had an awful story to tell, a story that made me shudder. He unfolded a page in his history that I dare not tell you. Then he said, “Sir, I want God's pardon.” I said, “My brother, how do you expect to get it?” He said, “By an honest attempt to undo the past.” “Then,” I said, “turn your face that way and wait for peace.” “But,” he said, “that will mean prison, and it may mean a lifetime in prison.” I said, “Turn your face that way. It is no good to talk about peace while there is wrong to be righted, while there are stripes that need to be washed; it is no use to talk about peace till you get right with God.” “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace.” Righteousness, that means rightness, wholeness, harmony—-and then the music. There will be no music till the instrument is put in tune. You know where you have to yield; you know the point of controversy between you and God; you know the thing that has hindered you, you know the thing that robbed you, you know the thing that has darkened your sky, you know the thing that has come in between you and God, you know the thing about which you have persisted in having your own way and not God's. When you yield on that thing, you will repent.
Will you do it now? “But,” you say, “I am a church member.” Never mind. You say there is some one near that knows you. Never mind. You say people expect better things of you. Never mind. Be honest. Put God in His right place. Turn from sin to God, from darkness to light—-and you can do the turning. The Spirit enlightens, the Spirit breathes tenderness, the Spirit coaxes, woos, tries to win. God the Holy Ghost is doing His work in your heart, but, brother, you must submit. When you submit wholly, that is repentance. God help you to do it!
—-Reprinted from As Jesus Passed By, by Gipsy Smith.
Chats from my Library
The Best Books
Years ago an acquaintance asked me to send him a list of the ten best books I had ever read. This I found to be a difficult thing to do—-not because of any difficulty in deciding which books were best, but because I am hard pressed to find ten books good enough to put on such a list. Six present themselves to my mind immediately, but those six seem to be in a class by themselves, and I am reluctant to list any more along with them.
Now before I tell you what books these are, I must first tell you what sort of books they are. To come straight to the point, they are books which make the heart burn—-books which strike the chords of sympathy deep in the soul, books which open the fountains of feeling and the fountains of tears. Yet this alone cannot be the test of a good book, for in fact some very bad books will pass this test—-at least, so I understand it, for I do not read such books myself. I refer to novels and fiction—-which are not good books. Moving they may be, and very pleasing, but they are only marshmallows and cotton candy—-sugar and air—-and you cannot feed your soul on that. Souls are built up with truth, not with imagination.
Along with the power to move the heart, a book must also contain solid spiritual substance. Yet neither can this alone be the test for the best books. There are many books which have plenty of spiritual substance, but which have little ability to make the heart burn. These may be called good books, but they are not the best. Into this class will fall most everything which is aimed primarily at the mind—-designed primarily to instruct the intellect. A good commentary (if you can find such a thing) may be solid and spiritual and edifying, but it can never rise to the level of the best of books. A good doctrinal treatise may be as excellent as it is necessary, but it will never rise to the highest level. The most edifying books are experience books—-though I am well aware that a certain class of shallow souls will not be able to understand this. When I was a Bible school student—-heady and doctrinal—-my favorite book in the Bible was Galatians. Now I find my delight in Jacob and Gideon, Job and David, Mary and the prodigal son.
Experience books, then—-biographies and histories, especially the former—-I put at the head of the list. But in many biographies, even of the best of men, we meet with another difficulty. “Good men live,” says C. H. Spurgeon, “and then poor writers bury them in coffins called biographies.” And even if written by a good writer, most biographies are at two disadvantages: First, a biographer must necessarily speak more of outward actions than of the inward workings of the soul, but it is the latter which will open the fountains of our own souls. Further, it is rare that the writer of a biography is as great a man as his subject. He may often lack the ability to properly portray him, or even to understand him. If a man's life is worth writing, there is no man who can write it so well as himself, and all of the books which I regard as the very best are autobiographies, of one sort or another. The books are these:
The Journal of Charles Wesley.
Gipsy Smith: His Life and Work, by himself.
Memoirs of Charles G. Finney, written by himself.
Down in Water Street, by Samuel H. Hadley.
Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, by Charles Chiniquy.
Autobiography of Peter Cartwright.
Concerning this list please observe: 1. The books are not necessarily listed in the order of their worth, for that I have not attempted to determine, except that I put Charles Wesley first. 2. Their presence on this list does not imply that I endorse everything in them: far from it, in fact. 3. There may be other books which I might regard as equal to these, if I could but get my hands on a copy.
A number of other books also come to mind which are very good, but not up to the level of the first six. These are also autobiographies, namely, the Journal of John Nelson; Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, by John Bunyan; and the “Life Story” of Bud Robinson, contained in his Sunshine and Smiles.
To these I add a few biographical works, which are in fact largely autobiographical: Jerry McAuley: An Apostle to the Lost, edited by R. M. Offord; Richard Weaver's Life Story, by James Paterson; and The Redemption of Paul Rader, by W. Leon Tucker.
The books on Paul Rader and Bud Robinson have too much lightness about them, which detracts from their value, but still, taken all for all, they are among the best.
Finally, I add two books which are neither biography nor autobiography, but which do contain a substantial autobiographic element. These are An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, by John Wesley, and “By My Spirit”, by Jonathan Goforth.
There, gentle reader, you have my list, and I have given you not merely my “ten best,” but fourteen of them. The list is based entirely upon the memory of these books which is stamped upon my mind—-the savor which they left upon my heart when I first read them. All of them were read from a dozen to a score of years ago (though I have since given a second reading to some of them), and in all of the intervening years I have found no others to equal them, though I heartily wish that I could.
Postscript: since writing the above my wish has been fulfilled, for I have recently discovered another which I dare to add to this list, which will bring the total to fifteen. This is a small book of only 103 pages, (counting blank and virtually blank pages, title page, two pre-title pages, etc.), with the very imposing title, The Infallibility of the Pope at the Covncil of Constance: The Trial of Hvs, His Sentence and Death at the Stake, in Two Letters by a Member of the Covncil, Fra Poggivs, To his friend and brother in Christ, Leonhard Nikolai, edited (that is, translated, I assume) by Beda von Berchem. The title page also informs us that the book was formerly printed in 1523, 1846, and 1875, “always in the Teutonic tongue,” and printed for the first time in English in 1930. The pre-title page gives a more practical title to the book: Hus the Heretic by Poggius the Papist. The book is a vivid eyewitness account of the trial and death of John Huss, and includes many of the brief speeches given by the council members as they cast their votes for or against the man of God. Unlike most of the books mentioned in this chat, this one is very scarce.
Old-Fashioned Methodist Preachers
…in reference to the Methodist Episcopal Church, when we consider that her ministers were illiterate, and not only opposed and denounced by the Catholics, but by all Protestant Churches; that we were everywhere spoken against, caricatured, and misrepresented; without colleges and seminaries, without religious books or periodicals, without missionary funds, and almost all other religious means; and our ministers did not for many years, on an average, receive over fifty dollars for a support annually, and a Methodist preacher's library consisted of a Bible, Hymn-Book, and a Discipline, may we not, without boasting, say with one of old, “What hath God wrought?”
A Methodist preacher in those days, when he felt that God had called him to preach, instead of hunting up a college or Biblical institute, hunted up a hardy pony of a horse, and some traveling apparatus, and with his library always at hand, namely, Bible, Hymn-Book, and Discipline, he started, and with a text that never wore out nor grew stale, he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” In this way he went through storms of wind, hail, snow, and rain; climbed hills and mountains, traversed valleys, plunged through swamps, swam swollen streams, lay out all night, wet, weary, and hungry, held his horse by the bridle all night, or tied him to a limb, slept with his saddle blanket for a bed, his saddle or saddle-bags for a pillow, and his old big coat or blanket, if he had any, for a covering. Often he slept in dirty cabins, on earthen floors, before the fire; ate roasting ears for bread, drank butter-milk for coffee, or sage tea for imperial; took, with a hearty zest, deer or bear meat, or wild turkey, for breakfast, dinner, and supper, if he could get it. His text was always ready, “Behold the Lamb of God,” etc. This was old-fashioned Methodist preacher fare and fortune. Under such circumstances, who among us would now say, “Heream I, Lord, send me?” —-Autobiography of Peter Cartwright
Old articles are reprinted without alteration (except for corrections of printing errors), unless stated otherwise. The editor inserts articles by other writers if they are judged profitable for scriptural instruction or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's own views are to be taken from his own writings.