"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 3 Number 3, March, 2000
["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.
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"THE GLORY OF THIS LATTER HOUSE. . ."
In November 1999, I taught a three-day seminar on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the village of Seini in northern Romania. Daily I and my translator traveled by train to Seini and then walked about a kilometer from the train station to the church. Along the road we took there was a decaying edifice, which by its design was obviously a synagogue, indeed a very large synagogue, larger than the vast majority of Baptist church buildings in Romania. The building was in an advanced state of decay, long abandoned and neglected.
Above the main entrance was a sign with a Hebrew inscription--now virtually illegible from weathering and rust. By careful attention, and with the angle of the sun just right, I was able to make it out: "GaDOL YiHYeH KeBOD HaBBaYiT HaZZeh Ha'aChaRON MiN-HaRi'SHON," which, being interpreted means, "Great shall be the glory of this latter house, more than [the glory] of the former [house]," a partial quotation of Haggai 2:9.
How ironic indeed! Here, this formerly magnificent synagogue, the pride and glory of the once-thriving Jewish community in Seini, bears silent but eloquent testimony, not to the glory of this latter house, but to the unmistakable fact that "the glory has departed."
In its context, Haggai 2:9 is commonly explained as meaning that, though the outward splendor of the second temple in Jerusalem, the one built after the return from exile in Babylon and dedicated in 516 B. C., was vastly inferior to the temple Solomon had built, nevertheless, it would have greater glory, the glory of the personal presence of the promised Messiah, a fact first fulfilled in the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22ff), and repeated often later in the life of Jesus, as a youth (Luke 2:42ff) and during His public ministry (John 2:14ff: etc.).
This synagogue, like so many others, and like the second temple, is a physical wreck, a wreck of ultimately spiritual causes. The promised Messiah did come to His temple (as Malachi clearly foretold, 3:1), but they did not recognize Him. He wept over their spiritual blindness, "If only you, yes, you, had known the things which would have brought you peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes." They did not see, and they did not believe, and their doom was assured. "If only you had listened to my voice! Your peace would have flowed like a river, and your righteousness would have swept on like a wave of the sea." But because of unbelief, their house was left to them desolate.
The ruined synagogue of Seini is a paradigm of the spiritual ruin of all the sons of Abraham--indeed, all the sons of Adam--who fail to see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6), the greater glory of the latter house.
SPURGEON ON DATE-SETTING PROPHECY BUFFS
"First, it is not for us to know the times and the seasons, and to be able to make a map of the future. There are some great events of the future very clearly revealed. The prophecy is not at all indistinct about the facts that will occur; but as to when they will occur, we have no data. Some think that they have; but our Lord here [Acts 1:7] seems to say that we do not know the times and the seasons, and that it is not for us to know. I pass no censure upon brethren who think that, by elaborate calculations, they find out what is to be in the future; I say that I pass no censure, but time has passed censure of the strongest kind upon all their predecessors. I forget how many miles of books interpreting prophecy there are in the British Museum; but I believe it amounts to miles, all of which have been disproved by the lapse of time. Some of the writers were wonderfully definite; they knew within half-an-hour when the Lord would come. Some of them were very distinct about all the events; they had mapped them all within a few years. The men who wrote the books, happily for themselves, had mostly died before the time appointed came. It is always wise to pitch on a long period of prophecy, that you may be out of the way if the thing does not come off; and they mostly did so. There were very few of them who lived to suffer the disappointment which would certainly have come to them through fixing the wrong date. I let time censure their mistake. . . .The bulk of them were most sincere students of the Word, and herein are a lesson to us. . . ." (p. 494)
"But there is something better than knowing the times or the seasons; it is good for us to know that they are in the Father's power:. . . .The time of birth, the time of the new birth, the time of a sore trial, the time of the death of your beloved one, the time of your sickness, and how long it shall last, all these things must come, and last, and end, as shall please your Father. It is for you to know that your Father is at the helm of the ship, and therefore it cannot be wrecked." (ibid., p. 496)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT
vol. 39, 1893
SPURGEON COMMENTS ON THE HOLY SPIRIT AND OTHER TOPICS
"Have we received the Holy Ghost? Is he with us now? If so it be, how can we secure his future presence? How can we constrain him to abide with us?
I would say, first, treat him as he should be treated. Worship him as the adorable Lord God. Never call the Holy Spirit 'it' [as the KJV does four times--ed.]; nor speak of him as if he were a doctrine, or an influence, or an orthodox myth. Reverence him, love him, and trust him with familiar yet reverent confidence. He is God, let him be God to you." (p. 57)
Charles H. Spurgeon
THE GREATEST FIGHT IN THE WORLD
Pilgrim Publications, 1990 reprint
"A church is a soul-saving company or it is nothing." (Ibid., p. 46).
"He that cannot be safely imitated ought not be tolerated in a pulpit." (Ibid., p. 48)
"We ought to prepare the sermon as if all depended upon us, and then we are to trust the Spirit of God knowing that all depends upon Him." (Ibid., p. 62)
A PRE-EMINENT CLASSICAL SCHOLAR ON
THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH OF SCRIPTURE
"The religion of the Jews from its first beginning to its fullest development in Christianity was founded on the belief that human nature can, in certain cases, at certain moments in the life of certain individuals, come into direct communion with the Divine Being, and can thus learn the purpose and will of God. In other words, God occasionally reveals Himself to man."
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay [1851-1939]
PAULINE AND OTHER STUDIES
London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1903, p. 3
A WORD ABOUT PARAPHRASES OF SCRIPTURE
Let me pass on a recently formed opinion of F. F. Bruce's THE LETTERS OF PAUL: AN EXPANDED PARAPHRASE (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 323 pages, hardback.
Printed paraphrases of Scripture have a bad name, chiefly as a consequence of the scorn heaped on Kenneth Taylor's immensely popular LIVING BIBLE which appeared in the 1960s. In truth, some of the criticism aimed at the LB was justly deserved. There is no question that by its very nature, the process of paraphrasing leaves wide open the door for reading in the text what is not there, and ignoring what is in fact an integral part of the teaching of the Biblical text. A paraphrase is never a substitute for a more literal translation for Bible study.
However, that is not to say that there is no place for paraphrases. Every competent preacher regularly restates, rephrases or puts into other words the words of the Biblical texts employed in the course of his sermon. No one condemns him for doing such. Indeed, such paraphrasing from the pulpit is necessary to help the hearer understand more clearly (or even understand at all) the meaning of the Scriptures. In truth, every Bible translation often paraphrases (the King James Version, e.g., does so repeatedly) and for the same reason. If it is not blameworthy for the pastor to orally paraphrase the Scriptures, how can it suddenly become blameworthy for a competent scholar such as Bruce to publish a paraphrase of the Scriptures? The paraphrase functions as a "running commentary" on the Biblical text, and as long as it is understood to be such, the reading and study of a paraphrase, and even the occasional reading of its rendering from the pulpit should not be condemned.
In preparing for a message on Paul's references to the incarnation given in December, 1999, I decided to examine Bruce's paraphrase, and read a majority of Paul's letters in this paraphrase, and I must say I was on the whole favorably impressed. Sometimes the best Bible study is the microscopic dissection of the finest details of the text (a process called "exegesis"), while at other times a panoramic view of the whole is the best approach. It is in this latter method that Bruce helped me see more clearly the flow of Paul's thought (which is frankly sometimes obscure at first, and second, glance--as Peter himself affirmed, 2 Peter 3:15,16). Naturally, there are some places where I think Bruce's interpretation of the text is incorrect and some places where his paraphrase fails to adequately bring out the force of the original, but in comparison with a couple of other paraphrases of Paul's letters that I have some familiarity with, his effort is head and shoulders above the others.
Those other two, by the way, are the recent revision of the Living Bible paraphrase called the NEW LIVING TRANSLATION which, in spite of its name, is still very much a paraphrase, and often presents an interpretation of the text which I think cannot be defended. The second is THE LETTERS OF PAUL by Arthur S. Way (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1950. Eighth edition), which is indeed very loose and highly interpretive, though some passages in it have been a balm to my own soul (e.g., I Corinthians 4:1-5).
Bruce's paraphrase has the English Revised Version of 1881 in parallel, so the reader can consult that most-literal of English versions and compare it with the paraphrase. Long out of print, this volume can been found used without great trouble (which, indeed, is where I got my copy).
MINISTERIAL EDUCATION by Glenn Conjurske. Published by the author, 101 pp., paperback. $4.00
The author is a pastor and editor and writes from extensive experience and immense reading regarding the question of the educational requirements for preachers of the Gospel. His thesis is that virtually the whole of "recommended" education for preachers is wrong-headed, at its best adding little to the real necessities of the ministry and at its worst being a real detriment to serving God. While not accepting everything the author asserts, I found much of what he said consistent with my own experience and exactly on target.
First, the question of a secular undergraduate degree--considered essential in most '"mainline" denominations and deemed a virtual pre-requisite for most seminaries--is addressed. What spiritual value, it is asked, can be expected from spending four years imbibing the atmosphere, philosophy, and wisdom of the secular university? Indeed, the whole of the secular university is at enmity with God. It is affirmed, and is unquestionably true, that there is no more spiritually debased, debauched, corrupt and corrupting place on earth than the secular American university. How can such an education enhance a man's spiritual qualifications for the ministry? (Conjurske does not address the subject of university training which is essential for entrance into many a honorable profession other than the ministry: nursing, medicine, accounting, engineering, teaching, etc. How can this necessary information be gained while at the same time avoiding the spiritually corrosive atmosphere of the university?).
The so-called "Christian" colleges and universities are considered scarcely better than the unabashedly secular ones. Indeed, the natural tendency for colleges founded on Christian principles to become spiritually "run down at the heels" is proven by the fact that most of the early colleges and many later ones in American history began as conservative Christian institutions but have since abandoned any pretense of being Christian, or cling to the name Christian while abandoning it wholly in philosophy, worldview, and purpose. Such spiritual erosion is usually very rapid (within a generation or two of the death of the founders). The chief problem is that "knowledge" becomes valued over "wisdom" and the "praise of men" in the matter of accreditation becomes the guiding star, rather than the wisdom and glory of God. The course content of the average Christian college can scarcely be differentiated, if it can at all, from comparable courses at "State U." So how are such colleges "Christian"?
Bible colleges and institutes are viewed as lesser evils, because they do focus on Bible knowledge and practical skills that are believed to be valuable in the work of the ministry, and have less of the secular atmosphere than the secular or Christian college. Of course, the danger remains that they will fill heads with knowledge while leaving hearts spiritually empty, or worse, draining those hearts of whatever fervor they had when they first arrived on campus. Not uncommonly, teachers in Bible colleges and institutes are not spiritually-minded people but time servers (certainly not true of all), and, truth be told, they are too often poor teachers besides. (Conjurske asserts more than once that the Apostles never started a Bible college or institute. I think Paul's use of the lecture hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus for two years of daily instruction to the disciples proves Conjurske in error on this point [Acts 19:9, 10]. To this could be added Paul's command to Timothy to pass on to faithful men the things which Paul had taught him [2 Timothy 2:2] which in principle certainly allows for a formal training situation).
Seminaries, which by definition are specialized institutions that focus on preparing Gospel ministers, are often deservedly called "cemeteries." While they may teach the mechanics of sermon preparation, they neglect the much more needful matter of heart preparation, without which all preaching is vain. From my own experience as a student at one time or another in three different seminaries, I can affirm that a seminary professor with a heart burning for the conversion of men's souls is a rarity. (Of the first seminary I attended, I jokingly say that the only time I ever heard a professor talk about witnessing for Christ was to condemn someone for doing it. Not entirely true, but almost).
While information and knowledge of a direct Biblical kind, as well as those more peripheral, are indeed truly valuable to the preacher of the Gospel, the one essential preparation is the preparation of his heart, and that can only come in the school God conducts for the individual soul--with Moses on the backside of the desert, with Joseph in an Egyptian prison, with Elijah by the brook Kerith, with Daniel sold into Babylon, with John the Baptist in the desert regions until his showing to Israel, with David Brainerd in the woods pouring his soul out to God for the poor pagan Indians, with John Bunyan in Bedford jail. The quiet, private school which only God keeps teaches lessons no university, college or seminary can ever teach, and yet these spiritual lessons taught through suffering, loneliness, poverty, persecution and diverse trials are truly essential to any productive ministry. Indeed they are more important than all the college and seminary courses combined, because in them is the secret to power with God. All the wisdom of Egypt counted as nothing in the work of Moses compared to the lessons of the decades in the desert.
Conjurske marshals one after another of dozens of mighty men of God who were nevertheless not men of the schools or of much formal education. Besides the great Biblical characters, mighty with God though of limited formal education by the world's standards, we read of Bunyan, Carey, Christmas Evans, Cartwright, Finney, Spurgeon, Moody, Trotter, Sunday, Gipsy Smith and many others who, though lacking any college education and in many cases with little or no grammar school instruction, nevertheless were mighty instruments in the hand of God for the salvation of sinners.
This is not to say these were, or rather remained, ignorant men. In every case, their call and service to God compelled them to be diligent students of Scripture and of Gospel literature: commentaries, topical books, and such resources as came within their reach. Not a few gained substantial knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and also Latin. Though not formally educated in human institutions, they nevertheless were extensively self-educated through much reading and diligent application, and Divinely-"educated" through communion with God.
Besides this and several other books he has written, Glenn Conjurske edits a monthly magazine called "Old Paths and Ancient Landmarks," which is regularly of real merit. The cost is $12/year. A sample copy will be sent for a $1.00. His address is: 2815 Boyce Dr., Rhinelander, WI 54501
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF PETER CARTWRIGHT edited by W. P. Strickland. St. John, Ind.: Christian Book Gallery, 1997 reprint of 1856 edition. 525 pp., $6.00. paperback
No group of evangelical Christians grew so rapidly in numbers in America from 1800-1850 as the Methodists. The lion's share of this growth was due to the devoted, self-sacrificing labors of first dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of Methodist circuit-riding preachers. These often meagerly educated (in a formal sense) men, were nevertheless armed with Bible, hymnbook and a Methodist training manual, and with a certainty that God had called them to carry His message of salvation to those without it. Braving cold and heat, rains, flood, fire and blizzard, often hungry, poorly clothed, frequently abused and sometimes physically assaulted, they traveled from settlement to settlement, from village to village, and from isolated farm to isolated farm with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Almost as soon as the first pioneers entered any given area on the American frontier, the Methodist circuit riders were there with Bible, sermons, and Christian literature.
The "Dean" of Methodist circuit-riders was surely Peter Cartwright (1785-1872). Converted at one of the first "Cane Ridge" camp meetings in 1801, Cartwright became an "exhorter" then a "preacher" and went on to hold various positions of authority in the Methodist hierarchy.
At the time Cartwright wrote his autobiography, he was in his early 70s, had itinerated for nearly 50 years, had preached almost 15,000 times, had seen thousands of converts, baptized (after the Methodist sort) 4,000 adults (and numerous children) and conducted over 500 funerals. The phrase "in labors more abundant" comes immediately to mind. Cartwright's circuits at one time or another included parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Illinois, the latter being the place of his longest labors.
Cartwright was nothing if not bold and forthright in everything he did. He doesn't hesitate to denounce those he deems worthy of denouncing--whether Millerites, Campbellites, Shakers, Mormons (he personally confronted Joseph Smith in Illinois), universalists or others. He saves his "best" ire for those who taught immersion of believers as the only valid baptism, those who taught the congregational form of church government, and those who believed in the eternal security of the believer. In short, Baptists. He seems to relish in noting this Baptist preacher who fell into doctrinal error, that one who was discredited by immorality, and the other who was a drunkard. True enough, he does occasionally drop a compliment on a Baptist preacher or two as a sop, but on the whole, he had little more than contempt for Baptists. While Cartwright objected to the "immersion exclusivists," he nevertheless sometimes baptized adult converts by immersion.
Cartwright was a rough and tumble guy. He repeatedly reports times in various camp meetings, revivals, and preaching engagements in which he used physical violence against rowdies and others who tried to disrupt his meetings.
Cartwright also had a strange myopia about his own faults. After roundly denouncing some Presbyterians and Baptists as sheep-stealers when Methodists were drawn away by them to their churches, he nevertheless glories in 'doing the work of God' when he drew off an entire Presbyterian congregation--along with their building and assets--to the Methodist ranks.
Not infrequently, he laments about how things had deteriorated in his day, a far cry from 'the good old days.' He denounces an educated ministry (not entirely without cause; too often a formal education fills a young preacher's head and empties his heart). He likewise bemoans the ruin that having "settled" preachers (i.e., those who ministered to a single congregation and did not ride the circuit) was bringing on the Methodist Church.
In spite of a Cartwright's personal "warts" (and he had many), he was nevertheless a diligent spreader of the Gospel message of Christ and Him crucified. Multiplied thousands in glory owe their salvation, humanly speaking, to the self-denying labors of Peter Cartwright. We would be well-advised to match his zeal and devotion.
Since Cartwright's autobiography covers a very important time in the religious history of the United States, it spills over with interesting information on various subjects: the origin, conduct and excesses of camp meetings; the fact that the early Mormons claimed to speak in tongues; Methodist circuit riders conducting "invitations" to the altar long before Charles Finney began the practice; the history of the split of American Methodists over slavery in 1844 (the Baptists split over the same issue the next year); and the growing rift in America as a whole over slavery.
Once Andrew Jackson was among Cartwright's listeners. On several occasions, Abraham Lincoln also heard Cartwright preach. In fact, twice Cartwright ran for elective office against Lincoln, once in 1832 for the state legislature in Illinois (Cartwright won) and in 1846 for the U. S. Congress, when Lincoln was 37 and Cartwright was 61 (Lincoln won). Cartwright never mentions his race for the U.S. Congress (perhaps because he lost) and never mentions Lincoln by name (mostly likely because in 1856, Lincoln was not yet famous-and not a soul could have guessed he would be President four years later). In that race for Congress, the evidence from other sources is unmistakable that Cartwright or his political minions maliciously slandered and misrepresented Lincoln's religious views for political gain. Lincoln was painted as virtually an atheist and an enemy of organized religion, neither of which was true. This slander did compel Lincoln to write out and publish an accounting of his religious views, the only time in his life he did so.
The labors of the early 19th century Methodist circuit riders is an episode in American history that deserves our attention. Cartwright's autobiography gives an instructive and readable introduction to these men and their work.
A couple of quotes--
In connection with the second of the three great "New Madrid" earthquakes in the Mississippi Valley in December, 1811-January 1812, Cartwright relates:
"I had preached in Nashville the night before the second dreadful shock came, to a large congregation. Early the next morning I arose and walked out on the hill near the house where I had preached, when I saw a negro woman coming down the hill to the spring, with an empty pail on her head. (It is very common for negroes to carry water this way without touching the pail with either hand.) When she got within a few rods of where I stood the earth began to tremble and jar; chimneys were thrown down, scaffolding around many new buildings fell with a loud crash, hundreds of the citizens suddenly awoke, and sprang into the streets; loud screaming followed, for many thought the day of judgment was come. The young mistresses of the above-named negro woman came running after her, and begging her to pray for them. She raised the shout and said to them, 'My Jesus is coming in the clouds of heaven, and I can't wait to pray for you now; I must go and meet him. I told you so, that he would come and you would not believe me. Farewell. Hallelujah! Jesus is coming, and I am ready. Hallelujah! Amen.' And on she went, shouting and clapping her hands, with the empty pail on her head." (pp. 180-1)
"In th[e] agency of the Holy Spirit of God I have been a firm believer for more than fifty-four years, and I do firmly believe that if the ministers of the present day had more of the unction or baptismal fire of the Holy Ghost prompting their ministerial efforts, we should succeed much better than we do, and be more successful in winning souls to Christ than we are. If those ministers, or young men that think they are called of God to minister in the word and doctrine of Jesus Christ, were to cultivate, by a holy life, a better knowledge of this supreme agency of the divine Spirit, and depend less on the learned theological knowledge of Biblical institutes, it is my opinion they would do vastly more good than they are likely to do." (pp. 209-10)
CARL SANDBURG ON LINCOLN AND CARTWRIGHT
Carl Sandburg in his famous biography of Lincoln gave an account of an encounter between Peter Cartwright and Abraham Lincoln in 1846, when both were candidates for the U. S. Congress from Illinois:
"[Lincoln] went to a religious meeting where Cartwright in due time said, 'All who desire to give their hearts to God and go to heaven, will stand.' A sprinkling of men, women and children stood up. The preacher exhorted, 'All who do not wish to go to hell will stand.' All stood up--except Lincoln. Then Cartwright in his gravest voice: 'I observe that many responded to the first invitation to give their hearts to God and go to heaven. And I further observe that all of you save one indicated that you did not desire to go to hell. The sole exception is Mr. Lincoln, who did not respond to either invitation. May I inquire of you, Mr. Lincoln, where you are going?'
Lincoln slowly rose: 'I came here as a respectful listener. I did not know that I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright. I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of great importance. I did not feel called upon to answer as the rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I desire to reply with equal directness: I am going to Congress.' " (Carl Sandburg, ABRAHAM LINCOLN. New York: Galahad Books, 1993, one-volume edition, p. 84)
[Lincoln also once got a grandson of Cartwright acquitted on a murder charge; Cartwright testified at the trial. See Sandburg's book, p. 149]