"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 2, Number 10, October 1999

 

["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  They may also be downloaded at http://www.tegart.com/brian/bible/kjvonly.

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

 

Doug,

 

Like Ruckman, who you despise, you have become the opposite, one issue EXTREMIST.

 

As your friend, I'm tellin' you, GET A LIFE !!  Leave it alone (at least for a while, for God's sake !!)    Paul (yea, GOD) said, "Preach the Word", not... defend, attack, parse, inspect, correct, prove, dissect, etc., etc., etc., etc. !!!

 

To listen to you, and those of your ilk, is to think for 350 years there was no credible revelation in the English tongue.   Strange how all the benefits of the "Philadelphian Age" were realized thru the guide of the ol' Authorized Version !!!?

 

If all you can do is rehearse your incessant, redundant diatribe (see Prov 21:9), then just remove me from your list.   I have more important things to do (ETERNALLY important)!

 

Enough already!,

D----

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My reply:

 

D---:

 

Were there any factual mistakes in my (September, 1999 "The Spirit Itself") article?  Did I misstate the evidence?  Do you believe I am wrong in insisting that the Holy Spirit be called "He" in English Bible translations, or will you say that, yes, the Holy Spirit should be called "it" as the Jehovah's Witnesses insist?  If I am in error, please correct me.  If I am in the right, why don't you believe me?

 

Next Sunday, why not preach on why you think it is good and proper and right to address the Holy Spirit as "it" as the KJV and the NWT (but not the NIV nor the NKJB nor the NASB) do?

 

Noel Smith specifically singled out the "itself" references in Rom. 8:16, 26 in the KJV for criticism and correction.  I agree with what he taught me at BBC.  Am I blameworthy in this regard?  Is he?

 

And as for my becoming a one-issue extremist--I just checked all nine issues of AISI published so far in 1999 to see how many had anything on the present English Bible controversy.  In January, there was neither article nor book review on the subject.  The same was true of the February issue, and that of April, and May and July.  That's five out of nine, or 56% that do not even discuss the matter.  There was a single review of a book relevant to the topic in the August issue (just one among five reviews in that issue), and one article each in the March, June and September issues (each of which also had other articles on other subjects).  This seems to me to be something other than extremism and obsession with the KJVO issue. 

 

The truth is, it is the "hottest" topic among independent Baptists today, and merits considerable attention, perhaps more than I have given it.  I believe that Luther was right when he wrote, "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.  Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point" [quoted in Francis A. Schaeffer, NO FINAL CONFLICT, p. 13]. 

 

From my extensive study of Scripture and history, I am convinced that KJVOism is a grave error and a serious departure from the doctrines of the Bible, and of Baptists, and I am compelled to address it and refute its errors.

 

Doug Kutilek

 

PS I have left you on the mailing list for the time being.  Perhaps you will find the October issue more profitable.

---

 

Dear Doug,

 

Shalom from Jerusalem!

 

I have been blessed very much by your newsletters...insightful argumentation and analysis in a reader friendly style. I especially admire your restraint when dealing with whacko KJVOnlyism.  I came from a KJVOnly Charismatic background. . .by the grace of God am now, by conviction, Independent Baptist. Though I do love the classical reading style of the KJV (along with most early English literature), I do my readings and studies from a NASB when not using my Hebrew Bible.

 

My opinion, derived from my personal experiences in talking with my KJVO friends, is that they are emotionally attached (perhaps, weak in the faith, Rom 14:1). . . .just as my tongues speaking friends are when I clearly show them their errors.   Anyways, thanks for intelligently sharing what God has laid on your heart.  May our gracious God bless you and keep you.

 

B---- S-----

---

Doug,

 

I really appreciated your work on the neuter pronouns for the Holy Spirit.  I copied and filed the article.  It was very well done.  Thanks. 

 

R----

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E. M Bounds, POWER THROUGH PRAYER (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972 reprint)--

 

"God's plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than anything else.  Men are God's method.  The Church is looking for better method's; God is looking for better men."  (p. 5)

 

"Preaching is not the performance of an hour.  It is the outflow of a life.  It takes twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make a life.  The sermon grows because the man grows.  The sermon is forceful because the man is forceful.  The sermon is holy because the man is holy.  The sermon is full of divine unction because the man is full of divine unction." (p. 8)

 

"Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher." (p. 9)

 

"The preacher must impersonate the gospel.  Its divine, most distinctive features must be embodied in him." (p. 10)

 

"The preacher's sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself.  His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must be with himself.  The training of the twelve was the great, difficult, and enduring work of Christ.  Preachers are not sermon makers, but men makers and saint makers, and he only is well-trained for this business who has made himself a man and a saint.  It is not great talents or great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God--men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it." (pp. 11-12)

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Pride--a Pernicious Evil

 

"Pride is so natural to fallen man that it springs up in his heart like weeds in a watered garden, or rushes by a flowing brook.  It is an all-pervading sin, and smothers all things like dust in the roads, or flour in the mill.  Its every touch is evil as the breath of the cholera-fiend, or the blast of simoon.  Pride is as hard to get rid of as charlock from the furrows, or the American blight from the apple-trees.  If killed it revives, if buried it bursts the tomb.  You may hunt down this fox, and think you have destroyed it, and lo! your very exultation is pride.  None have more pride than those who dream that they have none.  You may labour against vainglory till you conceive that you are humble, and the fond conceit of your humility will prove to be pride in full boom.  It apes humility full well, and is then most truly pride.  Pride is a sin with a thousand lives; it seems impossible to kill it, it flourishes on that which should be its poison, glorying in its shame.  It is a sin with a thousand shapes; by perpetual change it escapes capture.  It seems impossible to hold it; the vapoury imp slips from you, only to appear in another form and mock your fruitless pursuit.  To die to pride and self one would need to die himself.

 

Pride was man's first sin, and it will be his last.  In the first sin that man ever committed there was a large admixture of pride, for he imagined that he knew better than his Maker, and even dreamed that his Maker feared that man might grow too great.  It has been questioned whether pride was not the sin by which the angels fell when they lost their first estate: I will not go into any controversy upon the subject; but there was certainly pride in the sin of Satan and pride in the sin of Adam.  This is the torch which kindled hell and set the world on fire." 

Charles. H. Spurgeon,

The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,

1883, vol. 29, p. 421.

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What I Learned from Reading 1,000 Books

 

In 1984, I decided to compile a complete list of all the books I had read since the 8th grade.  Having never made any kind of formal or informal account of my reading, I assumed then that the number would total some eight or nine hundred volumes.  Was I in for a shock--it came to just a little over 360.  I had been reading far less than I thought I had or should have been reading.  This spurred me to much greater diligence in this regard.

 

On September 10, 1999, by actual count, I completed reading the 1,000th book on my list (it happened to be James Dobson's WHEN GOD DOESN'T MAKE SENSE).  Having actually attained to this milestone, let me tell you some of what I have discovered from my reading.

 

First, the "rules" for a book to make the list:

1. It must be 100 pages or more in length (though I have hedged a bit on a few occasions and included shorter books especially if the pages were large and the print small).  The shortest book on the list was 48 pages, and was read in an afternoon.  The longest book read, James Boswell's LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, was exactly 1,200 pages long, and took me four years to complete (not read every day, mind you!).

 

2. It must be read all the way through (there was one exception to this rule--a book of some 330 pages, of which I read about 160 before I was compelled to return the book.  I included it because I had invested about 8-10 hours in reading what I did read of it).  This has kept many books off the list--books still waiting "completion"--THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO, Paul Johnson's MODERN TIMES, Bede's ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, and many more.

 

3. A book may be counted each time it has been read through.  There are perhaps 40 to 50 books on the list that have been read more than once (some of these even three times, and one fully seven times: ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell, which I used to re-read each year in preparation for a discussion of the book in one of the high school history classes I taught).

 

4. Bible reading is not included in the total, since I am reading various parts of the Bible at different rates (I read the Gospels more than the Epistles, and the New Testament with greater frequency than the Old.  How should one count this?  Does the New Testament read through count as one?  So I avoid this complication by simply putting Bible reading in a class by itself.  And how often have I read it through?  Not often enough).

 

What have I learned from reading fully one thousand books? 

 

A. First, that the only way to get any reading done is to plan to do it, and then do it.  Make it a high priority.  If you leave it until "later," later rarely comes.  It surely is more important than many of the trivial things we clutter our lives with--the idle conversation, the hours upon hours of viewing the news and whatever else we watch on TV, "hobbies" which have become pre-occupations, excessive recreation time, or whatever it might be.

 

Setting goals is essential, at least to me.  The fact that I have a yearly goal of 50 books, though rarely attained, nevertheless encourages me to get a good jump on the reading for the year in January (usually my most productive month) and spurs me on to try and read at least a book or two every month, regardless of how busy I get.

 

Keep records.  By checking my list, I can tell immediately what books and when I have read something by MacArthur or Spurgeon or Swindoll.  And my list also informs me of the time of year I am most likely to slack off in my reading.  I can also scan my list and jog my memory--"what was the name of that book on gambling I read several years ago?" or, "who wrote that excellent biography of John Quincy Adams?"

 

B.  Take notes.  This is essential if we wish to get the greatest long-term benefit from our reading.  Wilbur Smith said that reading without note-taking is mere self-indulgence.  I am an unrepentant under-liner of books I read (only those I own; I refrain when reading borrowed books).  And I create my own "index" to the book--listing page number and the incident, fact, or quote I wish to have ready access to.  This kind of note-taking easily doubles reading time, but it makes information readily available.  Such self-made indices are also quite handy when writing a review of the book.

 

Sometimes I will use the "best" or "standard" book on a subject as a bibliography file--listing other writings on the subject, or writing out quotes on the subject.  My copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible has its end leaves covered with quotes about the Vulgate, its value, its merits and defects, quotes I have discovered in various books along the way (including quotes from Spurgeon, Schaff, Moulton, and many others). Volume one of my copy of John Gill's commentary on the Bible is filled with numerous quotes about Gill, his work, etc. (which I hope to fashion into an AISI article in the future, "and this we will do, if God permit.").  Perhaps I should have card files for such things, but this seems easier to me.

 

C. I have learned that almost any subject can be well-learned simply by reading carefully the best two or three books on the subject--the only exceptions to this are mathematics and languages, and in reality, a person properly motivated and with a good foundation could even acquire a good knowlege of these subjects by reading alone.  Anyone who has taken two or three foreign languages and studied well could self-teach--at least for reading purposes--another language (I successfully taught myself German one summer in order to pass a graduate school residence exam, this after having studied Greek, Hebrew, Ugaritic, and Aramaic). 

 

There is value to formal classroom instruction, but the truth be told, a motivated student would garner much more information if the time spent in class were rather spent reading the top books on a subject under discussion.  Of course, the problem is finding the best books on a subject.

 

D. My chief source of knowledge and information has been reading, especially books.  Beyond any doubt, I have learned vastly more from books than from living teachers, tapes, videos and television combined, probably by a ratio of 95% to 5%.  From my three years in high school, I can remember precious few specific things I learned.  My 60 hours at Wichita State University before going to Bible college also left limited information in my mind.  Three years at Baptist Bible College, followed by five semesters at Grace Seminary followed by five years at Hebrew Union College and a completed Th.M program at Central Baptist Seminary did impart a considerable amount of detailed and recall-able information acquired via classroom lectures, but in spite of these very many years in the classroom, my reading greatly exceeds all my classroom time in extent of knowledge obtained.  In one case, I took a course in which the teacher's own book was the text for the class, and I learned more from reading that book than I did from the live (but not lively) lecturer.  Naturally enough, an author is generally fuller, more detailed, and more precise in written form than he can be in a live lecture.

 

E. Much reading can keep a teacher or preacher from getting stale, and will prove to be an endless source of illustrations.  Many preachers who read and study little soon stagnate, and soon move on--or remain and torture their unfortunate listeners with tedious and dull discourses that pass for sermons.  A growing preacher usually translates into a growing church (either numerically or spiritually or both; the inverse is also true).  Among a preacher's greatest assets can be a boundless curiosity and desire to learn.  Intense interest in a subject translates into enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is often very contagious.  If the preacher is excited about a Biblical subject, his listeners are liable to become so also.

 

And as for illustrations--I never have to search for illustrations for messages, and I own no books of sermon illustrations.  With extensive reading in history and biography, I can find in my memory an illustration for virtually any subject.

 

F. After reading 1,000 books on a great diversity of subjects, I am profoundly humbled by how vast my ignorance remains.  Had I twenty lifetimes to read, I could not begin to exploit the truly worthwhile volumes in even a moderately-sized public or university library.  No matter how much I read in this life, I will remain sadly ignorant of much that is worth knowing in science, biography, church history, theology, linguistics, literature and a horde of other topics. 

 

My ignorance is constantly being emphasized.  Each good book I read may lead to a half dozen or more other books, or even to entirely new subjects.  I'm constantly discovering people and things about which I previously knew nothing.  Such discovery is an adventure I do not wish to miss by neglect.

 

G. Reading, even much reading of good books, is no substitute for protracted personal Bible study and a vibrant spiritual life.  True enough--books can be a great assistant in these regards.  A commentary may impress deeply a particular truth.  A biography may present a worthy example of Christian devotion and zeal.  A book on prayer or soul-winning may stir the reader to action.  But still, it is Scripture that we must study and from Scripture that we must derive our spiritual meat.  It is Scripture that is inspired, it is Scripture that is infallible.  And it is in Scripture that we will find "the sincere milk of the word" by which we grow spiritually.  There is no substitute for Bible reading. 

 

H. Buy and read the best books--because you will want them anyway eventually--instead of inferior, or second-rate books, simply because they are "cheaper."  Most books on whatever subject are second- or third-rate, or worse.  Probably less than 2% of all new Christian books published in a given year are of any permanent value, and probably not 10% are of any great temporary value.  No doubt similar figures apply to secular books.  A. T. Robertson stated, “The man who has the best tools, other things being equal, will do the best work.”  “One can,” he said, “usually tell the quality of a preacher’s work by looking at the books in his library,” (The Minister and His Greek New Testament.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977 reprint, pp. 23, 24). 

 

At my present rate of about 40 books per year, it takes about 25 years for me to read 1,000 books.  If I live to be 96, as one of my grandfathers did, I will read no more than 3,000 books in my lifetime.  Even if I significantly increased my reading to 60 books per year (which I actually exceeded once), I cannot attain to more than 4,000.  My library at present numbers right at 4,000 books.  Considering these things, it becomes apparent that I have no time to waste on petty or inferior books.  There is too much to learn, with too many worthwhile books calling for my attention for me to throw away hours and days on inferior works.  I have no time to squander on, e.g., a book denying the Deity of Christ, when there are half a dozen and more really excellent books on the subject from an orthodox perspective which I have not yet read.

 

And to discover the first-rate works, the really valuable stuff, I am constantly reading book reviews, examining bibliographies in the back of books, and plaguing reading friends with the question, "what have you read lately that was especially good?"  If I discover that a man's opinion of good reading is sound (at least from my perspective), I will consult him again and again.  (Of course, Andre Maulraux was correct when he said that in love as in literature, we are often amazed at other people's preferences).

 

And I seek out books about books.  Of these, I have a whole shelf full.  I have read and re-read and re-read yet again many of my books about books.  Finding the best book on a subject is a great saver of time and money.

 

Books--these are my single greatest delight: essential tools to feed the soul and the mind and to enable me to feed others.  I cannot give out high quality instruction unless I take in high quality and abundant instruction.  I am like a dairy cow--if I am to give an abundance of "milk," I must be fed on the finest of "grasses, grains and pure water,"--first-rate reading material.  What did Paul in prison wish for?  Books!  I'd rather have $20 to spend on books, than to have a $3,000 set of golf clubs given to me (if I had to actually use them!).

 

Like it or not, we who teach and preach the Bible to others are in the information business.  We are valuable to our hearers (in part) to the degree that we are knowledgeable about our subject.  And any subject so serious and important as our relationship to God through Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible demands--DEMANDS--my best efforts to be as well and as accurately informed as my resources of time, energy and money will allow.  Anything less than my best in this regard is inexcusable.

---Doug Kutilek

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"The Spirit Itself" Revisited

 

In response to my article in the September, 1999 issue of AISI on the four-fold King James Version designation of the Holy Spirit as "it," a reader sent me an article (apparently authored by Joey Faust of Refuge King James Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas) defending the KJV on its use of "it" with reference to the Holy Spirit.  The gist of the defense is this: the KJV and the NASB both refer to Jesus as "it" more than once, and no one objects to that.  The passage noted is Matthew 14:26-28, wherein Jesus walks on the water.  The versions, quoting the disciples, say "It is a ghost/spirit," to which Jesus answers "It is I."  Then Peter states, "if it be thou/ if it is you . . ." 

 

The use of the impersonal "it" to refer to Jesus here, both in the KJV and in a 20th century modern English version is supposed, therefore, to justify and excuse the KJV's four-fold designation of the Holy Spirit as "it."  It is alleged by Mr. Faust that, "the KJV is not bound by many of the narrow rules of grammar that men came up with in later generations." 

 

Any acquaintance with the history of the English language would have informed that writer that in fact the English of 1600 was bound by many more conventions of grammar than is the English of today (e.g., KJV English has a separate form for the third person singular subjunctive mood not found in modern English).  But more to the point, the use of "it" in Matthew 14, and the use of "it" with reference to the Holy Spirit are two wholly distinct uses of "it."  In Matthew 14, in each case, the "it" with reference to Jesus is what grammarians call "the anticipatory it of the deferred subject" (see Henry Fowler, MODERN ENGLISH USAGE.  Oxford University Press, 1944, pp. 301-303; cf. James Murray, et al., THE COMPACT EDITION OF THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY.  Oxford University Press, 1971, pp. 1492,1493 [= vol. 8, pp. 516, 517]; and WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1971, vol. II, p. 1202, column 2, "it" under heading 3 a (1) ). 

 

In each occurrence of this special use of "it," the "it" precedes the deferred subject (in questions, such as "who is it?" the word order is naturally inverted), and typically the verb is a form of the "be" verb--"is" "was" "will be."  That is exactly the case with all the "it"s in Matthew 14:26-28.  However, in all the cases involving the Holy Spirit (John 1:32; Romans 8:16, 26; I Peter 1:11, KJV), the usage is entirely different.  In each case "it" refers back to a previously introduced subject, not a deferred later one, and in no case is a form of the "be" verb employed.  The KJV examples with regard to the Holy Spirit therefore do not at all fit the pattern of the "anticipatory it of a deferred subject," and that usage in Matthew 14:26-28 cannot be cited to justify what the KJV does in John 1:32; Romans 8:16, 26; and I Peter 1:11.

 

The cases, then, are not parallel, the usages are distinct, and the objection is over-ruled.  The criticism of the KJV for referring to the Holy Spirit as "it" remains valid.

                                                ---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEW

 

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS: A PUBLIC LIFE, A PRIVATE LIFE, by Paul C. Nagel.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.  432 pp., $30.00

 

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) is the only son of a U. S. President (at least to date) to also attain to that highest elected office.  He also shares the distinction with his father of being the only two Presidents among the first seven who served only one term, and among the first six Presidents of being the only ones not from Virginia.  He is the only President in U.S. history whose mother and wife were both First Ladies.

 

John Quincy Adams was a man of notable distinctions.  Among his Quincy ancestors was a signer of the Magna Carta in 1215.  His ancestors had resided in Massachusetts since before 1640, worshipping in the same church for five generations.  He was an eye-witness (at considerable distance) of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

 

Being the son of prominent lawyer and colonist leader John Adams brought young Adams many privileges and opportunities denied to virtually all other American youths of the time.  He accompanied his father to Europe (particularly France) in 1778, remaining there for six years, during which time he gained perfect fluency in French (for a time both reading and speaking it better than English), and was exposed to European culture, especially the theater and literature.  His father saw to his education in classical studies, both Latin and Greek, and JQA was a lifelong reader of literature in both these languages.  He served two years as translator in St. Petersburg, Russia (where French was the court language), though he was only 14 years old when he began, and unaccompanied traveled across Sweden and Denmark to Ghent in Belgium where his father was negotiating the treaty ending the American revolution.

 

Admitted to Harvard College at age 17, he graduated in 1787, second in a class of 51, and then studied law for three years (which he strongly disliked and was never a great success at).  All his life he aspired for a literary rather than a legal or political career, and in fact wrote a number of significant works of real importance.

 

He returned to Europe in 1794 because, at age 26, he was appointed by Washington as American ambassador to the Netherlands.  He subsequently became by turns minister to the King of Prussia, ambassador to Russia, and Minister to Great Britain.

 

He was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature after returning to the States, lost a race for the U.S. House and then was chosen U. S. Senator by the Massachusetts legislature in 1803, resigning this position after some years when he was appointed ambassador to England.  For a time while Senator, he was also professor of rhetoric at Harvard (and had been offered the presidency of that school).  He was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the nomination being approved by the Senate, but Adams declined the appointment.

 

He next served as U. S. Secretary of State during all eight years of the Monroe presidency.  In those days appointment as Secretary of State was the almost sure road to the White House (both Madison and Monroe had served in this capacity before being elected President).  While Secretary of State, Adams also served as president of the American Bible Society. 

 

Adams came in second in the popular vote in the 1824 presidential election, but was chosen by the House of Representatives as President when Henry Clay (who came in fourth in the race) threw his support behind Adams.  Adams' appointment of Clay as his Secretary of State was widely viewed as a political pay-off (which it most probably was not).

 

Adams' single term as President was singularly unsuccessful.  Supporters of Andrew Jackson (who won a plurality of the popular vote and the electoral votes in the 1824 election) were bent on opposing any and everything Adams proposed during his term.  They succeeded handsomely, and in the 1828 election (the Presidential race for which more or less began the day Adams was chosen President in 1825), Jackson won majorities over Adams in both popular and electoral votes.

 

In 1830, Adams was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives--the only former President to serve in Congress after his Presidency.  There he was often combative, especially in his bold opposition to slavery, and his opposition to the annexation of Texas (his opposition helped delay Texas' admission to the Union for almost ten years).  He strongly opposed the war with Mexico, though he was among a very small group in Congress who did.  After more than 17 years in the House, he suffered a fatal stroke while rising to address that body in February 1848.

 

What kind of man was Adams personally?  He was certainly intellectually-oriented, being better-equipped and better-cultivated in that regard than any other President, including, I dare say, the much-(over-)praised Thomas Jefferson.  He was a linguist, with fluency in French, high competence in Latin and Greek, and possessing a good knowledge of German, Dutch, Italian and even Russian.  He was a very extensive reader, drawn to books by his father's superb library, and later building a most excellent collection of books on his own.  Personally, Adams was austere, aloof and cold, at least toward most people.  Perhaps "reserved" is the most accurate term.  He had a strong inclination in his nature toward pessimism (probably at least partly generated by his parents very high and demanding expectations) and was plagued most of his adult life with fits of depression, some of it being quite severe and debilitating.

 

He was a physically active man, regularly walking several miles daily for exercise, as well as often swimming for an hour and more (and on one occasion almost drowning in the Potomac River while President).  He had a great liking for gardening and cultivating trees of all sorts, and was an enthusiastic hunter and fisherman.

 

Adams was certainly among the most religious of our Presidents.  He was a Trinitarian, expressly rejecting his father's Unitarianism, and was a self-described moderate Calvinist.  He was a lifelong Bible reader (reading it in English, French, German, and Greek), regularly reading at least 2 chapters a day or more for most of his life.  While President, he often attended as many as three church services each Sunday, going to Presbyterian, Unitarian, and Episcopalian churches by turns.  He wrote poems based on many of the Psalms; these were published in a hymnal in the 1840s.  I was about to pronounce this Adams a true believer until I read of his apparent rejection of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, or at least his great difficulties with that doctrine (p. 407).  I am left in doubt.

 

In spite of Adams' acceptance of the Bible as God's authoritative revelation to man and the world's perfect standard of ethics and morals, he nevertheless often fell far short of that standard in practice.  He not infrequently ate to excess and drank wine to the point of drunkenness, suffering much the day after (a strong tendency toward alcoholism plagued the Adams family for generations.  Adams lost a brother and two sons to alcohol abuse).  He also battled against a short and hot temper, and frequently lost the battle.

 

Nagel's account is more a personal than a political biography, and is drawn in large measure from the extensive journals and letters written by Adams.  Adams' extensive journals--begun when he was 11 and kept up more or less for nearly 70 years--are without any doubt the most important journals kept by any major public figure in American history.  The volume is well-written and well-made.  This is THE book to read if you wish to know John Quincy Adams the man.

                                                ---Doug Kutilek

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