Archive for the ‘encouragement and advice’ Category

Proverbs 21 (NASB)

On Life and Conduct

1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He wishes.
2 Every man’s way is right in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the hearts.
3 To do righteousness and justice
Is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.
4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
The lamp of the wicked, is sin.
5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage,
But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
6 The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue
Is a fleeting vapor, the [a]pursuit of death.
7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away,
Because they refuse to act with justice.
8 The way of a guilty man is crooked,
But as for the pure, his conduct is upright.
9 It is better to live in a corner of a roof
Than [b]in a house shared with a contentious woman.
10 The soul of the wicked desires evil;
His neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.
11 When the scoffer is punished, the [c]naive becomes wise;
But when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.
12 The righteous one considers the house of the wicked,
Turning the wicked to ruin.
13 He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be answered.
14 A gift in secret subdues anger,
And a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.
15 The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous,
But is terror to the workers of iniquity.
16 A man who wanders from the way of understanding
Will rest in the assembly of the [d]dead.
17 He who loves pleasure will become a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.
18 The wicked is a ransom for the righteous,
And the treacherous is in the place of the upright.
19 It is better to live in a desert land
Than with a contentious and vexing woman.
20 There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man swallows it up.
21 He who pursues righteousness and loyalty
Finds life, righteousness and honor.
22 A wise man scales the city of the mighty
And brings down the [e]stronghold in which they trust.
23 He who guards his mouth and his tongue,
Guards his soul from troubles.
24 “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names,
Who acts with insolent pride.
25 The desire of the sluggard puts him to death,
For his hands refuse to work;
26 All day long he [f]is craving,
While the righteous gives and does not hold back.
27 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination,
How much more when he brings it with evil intent!
28 A false witness will perish,
But the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.
29 A wicked man [g]displays a bold face,
But as for the upright, he makes his way sure.
30 There is no wisdom and no understanding
And no counsel against the LORD.
31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But victory belongs to the LORD.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 21:6 Lit seekers
  2. Proverbs 21:9 Lit with a woman of contentions and a house of association
  3. Proverbs 21:11 Lit simple
  4. Proverbs 21:16 Lit departed spirits
  5. Proverbs 21:22 Lit strength of trust
  6. Proverbs 21:26 Lit desires desire
  7. Proverbs 21:29 Lit makes firm with his face

“Flee from idolatry!” 1 Corinthians 10:14

The text which heads this page may seem at first sight to be hardly needed in England. In an age of education and intelligence like this, we might almost imagine it is waste of time to tell an Englishman to“flee from idolatry.” I am bold to say that this is a great mistake. I believe that we have come to a time when the subject of idolatry demands a thorough and searching investigation. I believe that idolatry is near us, and about us, and in the midst of us — to a very fearful extent.

The Second Commandment, in one word, is in peril.The plague has begun! Without further preface, I propose in this paper to consider the four following points:

I. The definition of idolatry. What is it?

II. The cause of idolatry. Whence comes it?

III. The form idolatry assumes in the visible Church of Christ. Where is it?

IV. The ultimate abolition of idolatry. What will end it?

I feel that the subject is encompassed with many difficulties. Our lot is cast in an age whentruth is constantly in danger of being sacrificed to toleration, charity, and false. Nevertheless, I cannot forget, as a clergyman, that the Church of England is a Church which has “given no uncertain sound” on the subject of idolatry; and, unless I am greatly mistaken, truth about idolatry is, in the highest sense — truth for our times!

I. Let me, then, first of all, supply a DEFINITION of idolatry.

Let me show what it is.

It is of the utmost importance that we should understand this. Unless I make this clear, I can do nothing with the subject. Vagueness and indistinctness prevail upon this point, as upon almost every other point in religion. The Christian who would not be continually running aground in his spiritual voyage, must have his ship well buoyed, and his mind well stored with clear definitions.

I say, then, that “idolatry is a worship in which the honor due to God, and to Him alone — is given to some of His creatures, or to some invention of His creatures.” It may varyexceedingly. It may assume exceedingly different forms, according to the ignorance or the knowledge, the civilization or the barbarism — of those who offer it. It may be grossly absurd and ludicrous — or it may closely border on truth, and admit of being most speciously defended. But whether in the adoration of the idol of Juggernaut, or in the adoration of the Host in St. Peter’s at Rome, the principle of idolatry is in reality the same. In either case, the honor due to God is turned aside from Him, and bestowed on that which is not God. And whenever this is done, whether in heathen temples or in professedly Christian churches — there is an act of idolatry.

It is not necessary for a man formally to deny God and Christ, in order to be an idolator. Far from it. Professed reverence for the God of the Bible, and actual idolatry, are perfectly compatible! They have often gone side by side — and they still do so!

The children of Israel never thought of renouncing God when they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. “These are your gods,” they said (your Elohim), “which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And the feast in honor of the calf was kept as “a feast unto the Lord” (Jehovah). (Exodus 32:4, 5.)

Jeroboam, again, never pretended to ask the ten tribes to cast off their allegiance to the God of David and Solomon. When he set up the calves of gold in Dan and Bethel, he only said, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold your gods, O Israel (your Elohim), which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:28.)

In both instances, we should observe, the idol was not set up as a rival to God — but under the pretence of being a help — a stepping-stone to His service. But, in both instances, a great sin was committed. The honor due to God — was given to a visible representation of Him. The majesty of Jehovah was offended. The second commandment was broken. There was, in the eyes of God, a flagrant act of idolatry.

Let us mark this well. It is high time to dismiss from our minds those loose ideas about idolatry, which are common in this day. We must not think, as many do, that there are only two kinds of idolatry — the spiritual idolatry of the man who loves his job, or family, orlusts, or money more than God; and the open, gross idolatry of the man who bows down to an image of wood, or metal, or stone, because he knows no better. We may rest assured that idolatry is a sin which occupies a far wider field than this. It is not merely a thing in India, that we may hear of, and pity at missionary meetings; nor yet is it a thing confined to our own hearts, that we may confess before the Mercy-seat upon our knees. It is a pestilencethat walks in the Church of Christ to a much greater extent than many suppose. It is an evilthat, like the man of sin, “sits in the very temple of God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4.)

Idolatry is a sin that we all need to watch and pray against continually. It creeps into our religious worship insensibly, and is upon us before we are aware. Those are tremendous words which Isaiah spoke to the formal Jew — not to the worshiper of Baal, remember — but to the man who actually came to the temple! (Isaiah 67:3): “But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol!”

Idolatry is that sin which God has especially denounced in His Word. One commandment out of ten is devoted to the prohibition of it. Not one of all the ten contains such a solemn declaration of God’s character, and of His judgments against the disobedient: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me,” (Exod. 20:5.) Not one, perhaps, of all the ten is so emphatically repeated and amplified, and especially in the fourth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy.

Idolatry is the sin, of all others, to which the Jews seem to have been most inclined before the destruction of Solomon’s temple. What is the history of Israel under their judges and kings, but a melancholy record of repeated falling away into idolatry? Again and again we read of “high places” and false gods. Again and again we read of captivities andchastisements on account of idolatry. Again and again we read of a return to the old sin. It seems as if the love of idols among the Jews was naturally bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh.

The besetting sin of the Old Testament Church, in one word, was idolatry! In the face of the most elaborate ceremonial ordinances that God ever gave to His people, Israel was incessantly turning aside after idols, and worshiping the work of men’s hands.

This is the sin, of all others, which has brought down the heaviest judgments on the visible Church. It brought on Israel the armies of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. It scattered the ten tribes, burned up Jerusalem, and carried Judah and Benjamin into captivity! It brought on the Eastern Churches, in later days, the overwhelming flood of the Saracenic invasion, and turned many a spiritual garden into a wilderness. The desolation which reigns where Cyprian and Augustine once preached, the living death in which the Churches of Asia Minor and Syria are buried — are all attributable to this sin of idolatry. All testify to the same great truth which the Lord proclaims in Isaiah: “I not give My glory will to another!” (Isaiah 42:8.)

Let us gather up these things in our minds, and ponder them well. Idolatry is a subject which, in every Church of Christ that would keep herself pure — should be thoroughly examined, understood, and known. It is not for nothing that Paul lays down the stern command, “Flee from idolatry!”

II. Let me show, in the second place, the CAUSE to which idolatry may be traced.

Whence comes it?

To the man who takes an extravagant and exalted view of human intellect and reason — idolatry may seem absurd. He imagines it too irrational for any but weak minds to be endangered by it. To a mere superficial thinker about Christianity, the peril of idolatry may seem very small. Whatever commandments are broken, such a man will tell us, professing Christians are not very likely to transgress the second.

Now, both of these people manifest a woeful ignorance of human nature. They do not see that there are secret roots of idolatry within us all. The prevalence of idolatry in all ages among the heathen, must necessarily puzzle the one — the warnings of Protestant ministers against idolatry in the Church, must necessarily appear uncalled for to the other. Both are alike blind to its cause.

The cause of all idolatry is the natural corruption of man’s heart. That great family disease, with which all the children of Adam are infected from their birth — shows itself in idolatry, as it does in a thousand other ways. Out of the same fountain from which “proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit,” and the like (Mark 7:21, 22) — out of that same fountain arise false views of God, and false views of the worship due to Him. And therefore, when the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians (Galatians 5:20) what are the “works of the flesh,” he places prominently among them “idolatry.”

A religion of some kind man will have. God has not left Himself without a witness in us all, as fallen as we are. Like old inscriptions hidden under mounds of rubbish — even so there is adim something engraved at the bottom of man’s heart, however faint and half-erased — asomething which makes him feel he must have a religion and a worship of some kind. The proof of this is to be found in the history of voyages and travels in every part of the globe. The exceptions to the rule are so few, if indeed there are any — that they only confirm its truth. Man’s worship in some dark corner of the earth, may rise no higher than a vague fear of an evil spirit, and a desire to propitiate him — but a worship of some kind, man will have.

But then comes in the effect of the fall. Ignorance of God, carnal and low conceptions of His nature and attributes, earthly and sensual notions of the service which is acceptable to Him — all characterize the religion of the natural man. There is a craving in his mind after something he can see, and feel, and touch in his Divinity. He would gladly bring his God down to his own crawling level. He would make his religion a thing of sense and sight. He has no idea of the religion of heart, and faith, and spirit.

In short, just as he is willing to live a fallen and degraded life on God’s earth — so he has no objection to worship after a fashion — but it is always with a fallen worship. In one word,idolatry is a natural product of man’s heart. It is a weed which, like the uncultivated earth — the heart is always ready to bring forth. And now does it surprise us, when we read of the constantly recurring idolatries of the Old Testament Church — of Peor, and Baal, and Moloch, and Chemosh, and Ashtareth — of high places and hill altars, and groves andimages — and this in the full light of the Mosaic Law? Let us cease to be surprised. It can be accounted for. There is a cause.

Does it surprise us when we read in history how idolatry crept in by degrees into the Church of Christ — how little by little it thrust out Gospel truth, until, in Canterbury, men offered more at the shrine of Virgin Mary — than at that of Christ? Let us cease to be surprised. It is all intelligible. There is a cause.

Does it surprise us when we hear of men going over from Protestant Churches to the Church of Rome, in the present day? Do we think it unaccountable, and feel as if we ourselves could never forsake a pure form of worship — for one like that of the Pope? Let us cease to be surprised. There is a solution for the problem. There is a cause. That cause is nothing else but the deep corruption of man’s heart.

There is a natural proneness and tendency in us all — to give God a sensual, carnal worship, and not that which is commanded in His Word. We are ever ready, by reason of our sloth and unbelief, to devise visible helps and stepping-stones in our approaches to Him — and ultimately to give these inventions of our own the honor due to Him.

In fact, idolatry is all natural, downhill, and easy — like the broad way. Spiritual worship is all grace — all uphill, and all against the grain. Any worship whatever is more pleasing to the natural heart, than worshiping God in the way which our Lord Christ describes, “in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23.)

I, for one, am not surprised at the quantity of idolatry existing, both in the world and in the visible Church. I believe it perfectly possible that we may yet live to see far more of it than some have ever dreamed of. It would never surprise me if some mighty Antichrist were to arise before the end — mighty in intellect, mighty in talents for government, yes, and mighty, perhaps, in miraculous gifts too. It would never surprise me to see such an one as him setting up himself in opposition to Christ, and forming an infidel conspiracy and combination against the Gospel. I believe that many would rejoice to do him honor, who now glory in saying, “We will not have this Christ to reign over us!” I believe that many would make a god of him, and reverence him as an incarnation of truth, and concentrate their idea of hero-worship on his person. I advance it as a possibility, and no more.

But of this at least I am certain — that no man is less safe from danger of idolatry, than the man who now sneers at every form of religion; and that from infidelity to credulity — fromatheism to the grossest idolatry — there is but a single step!

Let us not think, at all events, that idolatry is an old-fashioned sin, into which we are never likely to fall. “Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” We shall do well to look into our own hearts — the seeds of idolatry are all there! We should remember the words of Paul: “Flee from idolatry!”

III. Let me show, in the third place, the FORMS which idolatry has assumed, and does assume, in the visible Church.

Where is it?

I believe there never was a more baseless fabric, than the theory which obtains favor with many — that the promises of perpetuity and preservation from apostasy, belong to the visible Church of Christ. It is a theory supported neither by Scripture nor by facts. The Church against which “the gates of Hell shall never prevail,” is not the visible Church — but the whole body of the elect, the company of true believers out of every nation and people.

The greater part of the visible Church has frequently maintained gross heresies. The particular branches of it are never secure against deadly error — both of faith and practice. A departure from the faith — a falling away — a leaving of first love in any branch of the visible Church, need never surprise a careful reader of the New Testament. That idolatry would arise, seems to have been the expectation of the Apostles, even before the canon of the New Testament was closed. It is remarkable to observe how Paul dwells on this subject in his Epistle to the Corinthians. If any Corinthian called a brother was an idolater, with such a one, the members of the Church “were not to eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11.) “Neither be idolaters, as were some of our fathers.” (1 Corinthians 10:7.) He says again, in the text which heads this paper, “My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14.) When he writes to the Colossians, he warns them against “worshiping of angels.” (Colossians 2:18.) And John closes his first Epistle with the solemn injunction, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21.)

It is impossible not to feel that all these passages imply an expectation that idolatry would arise, and that soon, among professing Christians. The famous prophecy in the fourth chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy contains a passage which is even more directly to the point: “The Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils!” (1 Timothy 4:1.)

The last passage I will call attention to, is the conclusion of the ninth chapter of Revelation. We there read, at the twentieth verse: “But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk!” Now, I am not going to offer any comment on the chapter in which this verse occurs. I know well there is a difference of opinion as to the true interpretation of the plagues predicted in it. I only venture to assert that it is the highest probability these plagues are to fall upon the visible Church of Christ; and the highest improbability that John was here prophesying about the heathen, who never heard the Gospel. And this once conceded, the fact that idolatry is a predicted sin of the visible Church, does seem most conclusively and forever established.

And now, if we turn from the Bible to facts of history — what do we see? I reply unhesitatingly, that there is unmistakable proof that Scripture warnings and predictions were not spoken without cause, and that idolatry has actually arisen in the visible Church of Christ, and does still exist. The rise and progress of the evil in former days, we shall find well summed up in the Homily of the Church of England on “The Peril of Idolatry.” To that Homily I beg to refer all Churchmen, reminding them once for all, that in the judgment of the Thirty-nine Articles, the Book of Homilies “contains a godly and wholesome doctrine, and necessary for these times.”

There we read, how, even in the fourth century, Jerome complains “that the errors of idols have come in, and passed to the Christians from the Gentiles!” And Eusebius says, “We do see that images of Peter and Paul, and of our Savior Himself, are made!” There we may read how “Pontius Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in the fifth century, caused the walls of the temples to be painted with stories taken out of the Old Testament; that the people beholding and considering these pictures, might the better abstain from too much surfeiting and riot. But from learning by painted stories, it came by little and little to idolatry.” There we may read how Gregory the First, Bishop of Rome, in the beginning of the seventh century, allowedimages in churches. There we may read how Irene, mother of Constantine the Sixth, in the eighth century, assembled a Council at Nicaea, and procured a decree that “images should be put up in all the churches of Greece, and that honor and worship should be given to the said images.” And there we may read the conclusion with which the Homily winds up its historical summary, “that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sorts — have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry, of all other vices most detested of God, and most damnable to man, and that for the space of 800 years and more!”

This is a mournful account — but it is only too true. There can be little doubt the evil began even before the time just mentioned by the Homily writers. No man, I think, need wonder at the rise of idolatry in the Primitive Church, who calmly considers the excessive reverence which it paid, from the very first, to the visible parts of religion. I believe that no impartial man can read the language used by nearly all the Fathers about the Church, the bishops, the ministry, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the martyrs, the dead saints generally — no man can read it without being struck with the wide difference between their language and the language of Scripture on such subjects. You seem at once to be in a new atmosphere. You feel that you are no longer treading on holy ground. You find that things which in the Bible are evidently of second-rate importance — are here made of first-rateimportance. You find the things of sense and sight — exalted to a position in which Paul, and Peter, and James, and John, speaking by the Holy Spirit — never for a moment placed them. It is not merely the weakness of uninspired writings that you have to complain of; it is something worse — it is a new system of religion!

And what is the explanation of all this? It is, in one word, that you have got into a region where the malaria of idolatry has begun to arise. You perceive the first workings of the mystery of iniquity. You detect the buds of that huge system of idolatry which, as the Homily describes, was afterwards formally acknowledged, and ultimately blossomed so luxuriantly in every part of Christendom.

But let us now turn from the past to the present. Let us examine the question which most concerns ourselves. Let us consider in what form idolatry presents itself to us as a sin of the visible Church of Christ in our own time. I find no difficulty in answering this question. I feel no hesitation in affirming that idolatry never yet assumed a more glaring form, than it does in the Church of Rome at this present day. And here I come to a subject on which it is hard to speak, because of the times we live in. But the whole truth ought to be spoken by ministers of Christ, without respect of times and prejudices. And I could not lie down in peace, after writing on idolatry, if I did not declare my solemn conviction that idolatry is one of the crying sins of which the Church of Rome is guilty!

I say this in all sadness. I say it, acknowledging fully that we have our faults in the Protestant Church; and practically, perhaps, in some quarters, not a little idolatry. But fromformal, recognized, systematic idolatry — I believe we are almost entirely free. While, as for the Church of Rome, if there is not in her worship an enormous quantity of systematic, organized idolatry — I frankly confess I do not know what idolatry is!

(a) To my mind, it is idolatry to have images and pictures of saints in churches, and to give them a reverence for which there is no warrant or precedent in Scripture. And if this is so — I say that there is idolatry in the Church of Rome!

(b) To my mind, it is idolatry to invoke the Virgin Mary and the saints in glory, and to address them in language never addressed in Scripture except to the Holy Trinity. And if this is so — I say that there is idolatry in the Church of Rome!

(c) To my mind, it is idolatry to bow down to relics — mere material things, and attribute to them a power and sanctity far exceeding that attached to the ark or altar of the Old Testament dispensation; and a power and sanctity, too, for which there is not a jot of foundation in the Word of God. And if this is so with the holy coat of Treves, and the wonderfully multiplied wood of the true cross, and a thousand other so-called relics in my mind’s eye — I say that there is idolatry in the Church of Rome!

(d) To my mind, it is idolatry to worship that which man’s hands have made — to call it God, and adore it when lifted up before our eyes. And if this be so, with the notorious doctrine oftransubstantiation, and the elevation of the Host in my recollection — I say that there is idolatry in the Church of Rome!

(e) To my mind, it is idolatry to make ordained men mediators between ourselves and God, robbing, as it were, our Lord Christ of His office, and giving them an honor which even Apostles and angels in Scripture flatly repudiate. And if this be so, with the honor paid toPopes and Priests before my eyes — I say that there is idolatry in the Church of Rome!

I know well that language like this jars the minds of many. Men love to shut their eyes against evils which it is disagreeable to allow. They will not see things which involveunpleasant consequences. That the Church of Rome is an erring Church, they will acknowledge. That she is idolatrous, they will deny. They tell us that the reverence which the Romanish Church gives to saints and images, does not amount to idolatry. They inform us that there are distinctions between the worship of “latria” and “dulia;” between a mediation of redemption, and a mediation of intercession, which clear her of the charge. My answer is, that the Bible knows nothing of such distinctions; and that, in the actual practice of the great bulk of Roman Catholics, they have no existence at all.

They tell us, that it is a mistake to suppose that Roman Catholics really worship the images and pictures, before which they perform acts of adoration; that they only use them as helps to devotion, and in reality look far beyond them. My answer is, that many a heathen could say just as much for his idolatry; that it is notorious, in former days, that they did say so.

But the apology does not avail. The terms of the second commandment are too stringent. It prohibits bowing down, as well as worshiping. And the very concern which the Church of Rome has often displayed to exclude that second commandment from her catechisms, is of itself a great fact which speaks volumes to a candid observer! They tell us that we have no evidence for the assertions we make on this subject; that we found our charges on theabuses which prevail among the ignorant members of the Romish communion; and that it is absurd to say that a Church containing so many wise and learned men, is guilty of idolatry.

My answer is, that the devotional books in common use among Roman Catholics, supply us with unmistakable evidence. Let any one examine that notorious book, “The Garden of the Soul,” if he doubts my assertion, and read the language there addressed to the Virgin Mary. Let him remember that this language is addressed to a woman who, though highly favored, and the mother of our Lord — was yet one of our fellow-sinners — to a woman who actually confesses her need of a Savior for herself. She says, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47.) Let him examine this language in the light of the New Testament, and then let him tell us fairly whether the charge of idolatry is not fully made out.

But I answer, beside this, that we need no better evidence than that which is supplied in the city of Rome itself. What do men and women do under the light of the Pope’s own countenance? What is the religion that prevails around St. Peter’s and under the walls of the Vatican? What is Romanism at Rome, unfettered, unshackled, and free to develop itself in full perfection? Let a man honestly answer these questions, and I ask no more.

Let him read such a book as Seymour’s Pilgrimage to Rome, or Alfred’s Letters, and ask any visitor to Rome if the picture is too highly colored. Let him do this, I say, and I believe he cannot avoid the conclusion that Romanism is a gigantic system of Church-worship, sacrament-worship, Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship, and priest-worship! In one word, Romanism is a huge organized idolatry!

I know how painful these things sound to many ears. To me it is no pleasure to dwell on the shortcomings of any who profess and call themselves Christians. I can say truly that I have said what I have said with pain and sorrow. I draw a wide distinction between theaccredited dogmas of the Church of Rome and the private opinions of many of her members. I believe and hope that many a Roman Catholic is in heart inconsistent with his profession, and is better than the Church to which he belongs. I believe that many a poor Catholic at this day is worshiping with an idolatrous worship, simply because he knows no better. He has no Bible to instruct him. He has no faithful minister to teach him. He has the fear of the priest before his eyes, if he dares to think for himself. He has no money to enable him to get away from the bondage he lives under, even if he feels a desire. I remember all this; and I say that the Catholic eminently deserves our sympathy and compassion. But all this must not prevent my saying that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church. I would not be faithful if I said less.

The Church of which I am a minister has spoken out most strongly on the subject. The Homily on “The Peril of Idolatry,” and the solemn protest at the end of our Prayer-book Communion Service, which denounces the adoration of the sacramental bread and wine as “idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians,” are plain evidence that I have said no more than the mind of my own Church. And in a day like this — when some are disposed tosecede to the Church of Rome, and many are shutting their eyes to her real character, and wanting us to be reunited to her — in a day like this, my own conscience would rebuke me if I did not warn men plainly that the Church of Rome is an idolatrous Church, and that if they will join her they are “joining themselves to idols.”

But I may not dwell longer on this part of my subject. The main point I wish to impress on men’s minds is this — that idolatry has decidedly manifested itself in the visible Church of Christ — and nowhere so decidedly as in the Church of Rome.

IV. And now let me show, in the last place, the ultimate ABOLITION of all idolatry.

What will end it? I consider that man’s soul must be in an unhealthy state, who does not long for the time when idolatry shall be no more. That heart can hardly be right with God, which can think of the millions who are sunk in heathenism, or honor the false prophetMahomet, or daily offer up prayers to the Virgin Mary, and not cry, “O my God, what shall be the end of these things? How long, O Lord, how long?”

Here, as in other subjects, the sure word of prophecy comes in to our aid. The end of all idolatry shall one day come. Its doom is fixed. Its overthrow is certain. Whether in heathen temples, or in so-called Christian churches — idolatry shall be destroyed at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then shall be fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, “The idols He shall utterly abolish!” (Isaiah 2:18.) Then shall be fulfilled the words of Micah 5:13, “I will destroy all your idols and sacred pillars, so you will never again worship the work of your own hands!” Then shall be fulfilled the prophecy of Zephaniah 2:11, “The LORD will terrify them as he destroys all the gods in the land. Then nations around the world will worship the LORD, each in their own land!” Then shall be fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 13:2, “It shall come to pass at that day, says the Lord Almighty, that I will cut off the names of theidols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered.”

In a word, the ninety-seventh Psalm shall then receive its full accomplishment: “The LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice! Let the farthest coastlands be glad. Dark clouds surround him. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire spreads ahead of him and burns up all his foes. His lightning flashes out across the world. The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory! Those who worship idols are disgraced—all who brag about their worthless gods—for every god must bow to Him!”

The second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is that blessed hope which should ever comfort the children of God under the present dispensation. It is the pole-star by which we must journey. It is the one point on which all our expectations should be concentrated. “Yet a little while, and He who shall come will come, and will not tarry.” (Hebrews 10:37.) OurDavid shall no longer dwell in Adullam, followed by a despised few, and rejected by the many. He shall take to Himself His great power, and reign, and cause every knee to bow before Him.

Until then, our redemption is not perfectly enjoyed; as Paul tells the Ephesians, “We are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30.) Until then, our salvation is not completed; as Peter says, “We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5.) Until then, our knowledge is still defective; as Paul tells the Corinthians: “Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; then shall I know even also as I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12.)

In short, our best things are yet to come. But in the day of our Lord’s return every desire shall receive its full accomplishment. We shall no more be pressed down and worn out with the sense of constant failure, feebleness, and disappointment. In His presence, we shall find there is a fullness of joy, if nowhere else; and when we awake up after His likeness we shall be satisfied, if we never were before. (Psalm 16:11; 17:15.)

There are many abominations now in the visible Church, over which we can only sigh and cry, like the faithful in Ezekiel’s day. (Ezekiel 9:4.) We cannot remove them. The wheat and the tares will grow together until the harvest. But a day comes when the Lord Jesus shall once more purify His temple, and cast forth everything that defiles. He shall do that work of which the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah were a faint type long ago. He shall cast forth theimages, and purge out idolatry in every shape.

Who is there now that longs for the conversion of the heathen? You will not see it in its fullness until the Lord’s appearing. Then, and not until then, will that often-misapplied text be fulfilled: “A man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats.” (Isaiah 2:20.)

Who is there now that longs for the redemption of Israel? You will never see it in its perfection until the Redeemer comes to Zion. Idolatry in the professing Church of Christ has been one of the mightiest stumbling-blocks in the Jew’s way. When it begins to fall, theveil over the heart of Israel shall begin to be taken away. (Psalm 102:16.)

Who is there now that longs for the fall of Antichrist, and the purification of the Church of Rome? I believe that will never be until the winding up of this dispensation. That vast system of idolatry may be consumed and wasted by the Spirit of the Lord’s mouth — but it shall never be destroyed excepting by the brightness of His coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8.)

Who is there now that longs for a perfect Church — a Church in which there shall not be the slightest taint of idolatry? You must wait for the Lord’s return. Then, and not until then, shall we see a perfect Church — a Church having neither spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing (Ephesians 5:27), a Church of which all the members shall be regenerate, and every one a child of God.

If these things are so, men need not wonder that we urge on them the study of prophecy, and that we charge them above all to grasp firmly the glorious doctrine of Christ’s second appearing and kingdom. This is the “light shining in a dark place,” to which we shall do well to take heed. Let others indulge their imagination if they will, with the vision of an imaginary “Church of the future.” Let the children of this world dream of some “coming man,” who is to understand everything, and set everything right. They are only sowing to themselves bitter disappointment. They will awake to find their visions as baseless and empty as a dream. It is to such as these, that the Prophet’s words may be well applied: “But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment!” (Isaiah 50:11.)

But let our eyes look right onward to the day of Christ’s second advent. That is the only day when every abuse shall be rectified, and every corruption and source of sorrow completely purged away. Waiting for that day, let us each work on and serve our generation; not idle, as if nothing could be done to check evil — but not disheartened because we see not yet all things put under our Lord. After all, the night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Let us wait, I say, on the Lord.

If these things are so, men need not wonder that we warn them to beware of all leanings towards the Church of Rome. Surely, when the mind of God about idolatry is so plainly revealed to us in His Word, it seems the height of infatuation in anyone to join a Church so steeped in idolatries, as the Church of Rome. To enter into communion with her, when God is saying, “Come out of her, that you be not partakers of her sins, and receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4) to seek her, when the Lord is warning us to leave her; to become her subjects, when the Lord’s voice is crying, “Escape for your life, flee from the wrath to come!” All this is mental blindness indeed — a blindness like that of him who, though fore-warned, embarks in a sinking ship — a blindness which would be almost incredible, if our own eyes did not see examples of it continually.

We must all be on our guard. We must take nothing for granted. We must not hastily suppose that we are too wise to be ensnared, and say, like Hazael, “Is your servant a dog, that he should do this thing?” Those who preach, must cry aloud and spare not, and allow no false tenderness to make them hold their peace about the heresies of the day. Those whohear, must have their loins girt about with truth, and their minds stored with clear prophetic views of the end to which all idol-worshipers must come.

Let us all try to realize that the latter ends of the world are upon us, and that the abolition of all idolatry is hastening on. Is this a time for a man to draw nearer to Rome? Is it not rather a time to draw further back and stand clear, lest we be involved in her downfall? Is this a time to extenuate and palliate Rome’s manifold corruptions, and refuse to see the reality of her sins? Surely we ought rather to be doubly jealous of everything of a Romish tendency in religion — doubly careful that we do not connive at any treason against our Lord Christ — and doubly ready to protest against unscriptural worship of every description.

Once more, then, I say, let us remember that the destruction of all idolatry is certain, and remembering that, beware of the Church of Rome! The subject I now touch upon is of deep and pressing importance, and demands the serious attention of all Protestant Churchmen. It is vain to deny that a large party of English clergy and laity in the present day, are moving Heaven and earth to reunite the Church of England with the idolatrous Church of Rome. The publication of that monstrous book, Dr. Pusey’s Eirenicon, and the formation of a “Society for Promoting the Union of Christendom,” are plain evidence of what I mean. He who runs may read. The existence of such a movement as this, will not surprise any one who has carefully watched the history of the Church of England during the last forty years. The tendency of Tractarianism and Ritualism has been steadily towards Rome. Hundreds of men and women have fairly honestly left our ranks, and become downright Papists! But many hundreds more have stayed behind, and are yet nominal Churchmen within our pale.

The pompous semi-Romish ceremonial which has been introduced into many churches, has prepared men’s minds for changes. An extravagantly theatrical and idolatrous mode of celebrating the Lord’s Supper has paved the way for transubstantiation. A regular process of unprotestantizing has been long and successfully at work. The poor old Church of England stands on a downward-sloping plane. Her very existence, as a Protestant Church, is in peril. I hold, for one, that this Romish movement ought to be steadily and firmly resisted. Notwithstanding the rank, the learning, and the devotedness of some of its advocates, I regard it as a most mischievous, soul-ruining, and unscriptural movement.

To say that reunion with Rome would be an insult to our martyred Reformers, is a very light thing; it is far more than this: it would be a sin and an offence against God! Rather than be reunited with the idolatrous Church of Rome, I would willingly see my own beloved Church perish and go to pieces. Rather than become Popish once more — she had better die!

Unity in the abstract is no doubt an excellent thing: but unity without truth is useless. Peace and uniformity are beautiful and valuable: but peace without the Gospel — peace not based on a common faith, is a worthless peace, not deserving of the name. When Rome has recanted her false and unscriptural doctrines — when Rome has formally renounced image-worship, Mary-worship, and transubstantiation — then, and not until then, it will be time to talk of reunion with her.

Until then, there is a wide gulf between us which cannot be honestly bridged. Until then, I call on all Churchmen to resist to the death this idea of reunion with Rome. Until then, let our watchwords be, “No peace with Rome! No communion with idolaters!”

Well says the admirable Bishop Jewel, in his Apology, “We do not decline concord and peace with men; but we will not continue in a state of war with God that we might have peace with men! If the Pope does indeed desire we should be reconciled to him — he ought first to reconcile himself to God.” This witness is true! Well would it be for the Church of England, if all her bishops had been like Jewel!

I write these things with sorrow. But the circumstances of the times make it absolutely necessary to speak out. To whatever quarter of the horizon I turn, I see grave reason for alarm. For the true Church of Christ, I have no fears at all. But for the Established Church of England, and for all the Protestant Churches of Great Britain — I have very grave fears indeed. The tide of events seems running strongly against Protestantism, and in favor of Rome. It looks as if God had a controversy with us, as a nation, and was about to punish us for our sins.

I am no prophet. I know not where we are drifting. But at the rate we are going, I think it quite within the verge of possibility that in a few years the Church of England may be reunited to the idolatrous Church of Rome! The Crown of England may be once more on the head of a Papist! Protestantism may be formally repudiated. A Romish Archbishop may once more preside at Lambeth Palace. Mass may be once more said at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s. And one result will be, that all Bible-reading Christians must either leave the Church of England — or else sanction idol-worship and become idolaters!

God grant we may never come to this state of things! But at the rate we are going, it seems to me quite possible.

And now it only remains for me to conclude what I have been saying, by mentioning somesafeguards for the souls of all who read this paper. We live in a time when the Church of Rome is walking among us with renewed strength, and loudly boasting that she will soon win back the ground that she has lost. False doctrines of every kind are continually set before us in the most subtle and specious forms. It cannot be thought unseasonable if I offer some practical safeguards against idolatry. What it is, whence it comes, where it is, what will end it — all this we have seen. Let me point out how we may be safe from it, and I will say no more.

(1) Let us arm ourselves, then, for one thing, with a thorough knowledge of the Word of God.

Let us read our Bibles more diligently than ever, and become familiar with every part of them. Let the Word dwell in us richly. Let us beware of anything which would make us give less time, and less heart — to the perusal of its sacred pages. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit — let it never be laid aside. The Bible is the true lantern for a dark and cloudy time — let us beware of traveling without its light.

I strongly suspect, if we did but know the secret history of the numerous secessions from our Church to that of Rome, which we deplore — I strongly suspect that in almost every case one of the most important steps in the downward road would be found to have been a neglected Bible — more attention to forms, sacraments, daily services, and so forth, and diminished attention to the written Word of God. The Bible is the King’s highway. If we once leave that for any by-path, however beautiful, and old, and frequented it may seem — we must never be surprised if we end with worshiping images and relics, and going regularly to a confessional!

(2) Let us arm ourselves, in the second place, with a godly jealousy about the least portion of the Gospel.

Let us beware of sanctioning the slightest attempt to keep back any jot or tittle of it, or to throw any part of it into the shade by exalting subordinate matters in religion. When Peter withdrew himself from eating with the Gentiles, it seemed but a little thing; yet Paul tells the Galatians, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” (Galatians 2:11.) Let us count nothing little which concerns our souls. Let us be very particular whom we hear, where we go, and what we do — in all the matters of our own particular worship. And let us care nothing for the imputation of squeamishness and excessive scrupulosity.

We live in days when great principles are involved in little acts; and things in religion, which fifty years ago were utterly indifferent, are now by circumstances rendered indifferent no longer. Let us beware of tampering with anything of a Romanizing tendency. It is foolishness to play with fire. I believe that many of our perverts and seceders began with thinking there could be no mighty harm in attaching a little more importance to certain outward things than they once did. But once launched on the downward course, they went on from one thing to another. They provoked God — and He left them to themselves! They were given over to strong delusion, and allowed to believe a lie. (2 Thessalonians 2:11.) They tempted the devil — and he came to them! They started with trifles, as many foolishly call them. They have ended with downright idolatry!

(3) Let us arm ourselves, last of all, with clear sound views of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the salvation that is in Him.

He is the “image of the invisible God,” — the express “image of His person,” — and the true preservative against all idolatry, when truly known. Let us build ourselves deep down on the strong foundation of His finished work upon the cross. Let us settle it firmly in our minds, that Christ Jesus has done everything needful in order to present us without spot before the throne of God, and that simple childlike faith on our part, is the only thing required to give us a saving interest in the work of Christ. Let us not doubt that, having this faith, we are completely justified in the sight of God — will never be more justified if we live to the age of Methuselah and do the works of the Apostle Paul. We can add nothing to that complete justification by any acts, deeds, words, performances, fastings, prayers, alms-deeds, attendance on ordinances, or anything else of our own.

Above all, let us keep up continual communion with the Lord Jesus! Let us abide in Him daily, feed on Him daily, look to Him daily, lean on Him daily, live upon Him daily, draw from His fullness daily. Let us realize this, and the idea of other mediators, other comforters, other intercessors — will seem utterly absurd. “What need is there?” we shall reply: “I have Christ, and in Him I have all. What have I to do with idols? I have Jesus in my heart, Jesus in the Bible, and Jesus in Heaven — and I want nothing more!”

Once let the Lord Christ have His rightful place in our hearts, and all other things in our religion will soon fall into their right places. Church, ministers, sacraments, ordinances, all will go down, and take the second place. Except Christ sits as Priest and King upon the throne of our hearts — that little kingdom within will be in perpetual confusion. But only let Him be “all in all” there — and all will be well. Before Him every idol, every Dagon shall fall down!

Christ rightly known, Christ truly believed, and Christ heartily loved — is the true preservative against ritualism, Romanism and every form of idolatry!

J.C. Ryle

Blog copied from Apprising Ministries. Please consider supporting Ken Silva and the work that he is doing.

I know a lot of discussion has surrounded the heresy of Modalism lately due to T.D. Jakes’s star appearance on the seeker-sensitive sitcom known as the Elephant Room 2. There is another rank heresy that challenges the very nature of God which is just as bad as Modalism. Those who teach that Jesus is not the eternal Son of God are also attacking the very core nature of our Lord. The truth is that God never changes and He has existed eternally as The Father, Son and Holy Spirit three but yet One(Hebrews 13:8).

It was deeply encouraging when John MacArthur repented of his error of denying the eternal Sonship. See: Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ

I personally believe denying Christ’s eternal relationship within the Trinity is as deadly as what Modalism teaches. I would encourage all my readers to ponder what I have written today.

IS YOUR MODERN TRANSLATION CORRUPT?
Answering the Allegations of KJV Only Advocates
by James R. White

King James Version Only advocates argue that all modern translations of the New Testament are based on Greek manuscripts that contain intentional doctrinal corruptions. However, an examination of the most important manuscripts underlying these translations demonstrates that such charges are based more upon prejudice than fact. The papyri finds of the last century, together with the great uncial texts from the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., do not deprecate the deity of Christ, the Trinity, or salvation by grace through faith. Modern translations, such as the NIV and NASB, are not “corrupt” but instead trustworthy and useful translations of the Word of God.

Baptist writer William P. Grady, in a chapter titled the “Synagogue of Satan,” writes, “The average Christ-ian is unaware that the manuscripts from which the modern ‘Bibles’ have been translated are Egyptian in origin; more specifically, Alexandrian. This lack of understanding is exacerbated by little or no knowledge of Egypt’s heretical climate at that time. When these factors are appreciated, the weakness and hypocrisy behind the modern revision movement becomes more readily apparent.”1

The claim that modern Bible translations such as the New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are based upon “corrupt” editions of the Greek and Hebrew texts is a common argument of King James Only advocates. Believers who encounter the claims of individuals such as Peter Ruckman,2 Samuel Gipp,3 Gail Riplinger,4 or D. A. Waite5 will often hear that while the King James Version (KJV) is based upon “God honoring manuscripts,” the modern translations are based upon only a handful of heretical, corrupt manuscripts.6 They allege that these manuscripts can be linked to every kind of heretical belief, even when those beliefs are contradictory to one another. One will find KJV Only advocates7 linking these manuscripts to Arianism, Gnosticism, liberalism, and Roman Catholicism. These manuscripts allegedly deny salvation by grace through faith, the resurrection of Christ, and the existence of hell, and affirm any number of other heresies and errors. Therefore, since nearly all modern translations8 are based upon these “corrupt” manuscripts, the translations are also corrupt and should be rejected by all “Bible believers.”

The importance of the topic should not be underestimated. While the vast majority of conservative Christian scholars completely reject the KJV Only position,9 the emotionally charged rhetoric of KJV Only advocates causes unnecessary concerns among many believers. It is a sad truth that most Christians have only a vague knowledge of the history of the Bible and almost no knowledge of the mechanisms by which the Bible has come to us today. Issues regarding the transmission of the text over time (the process of copying), the comparison of one written text to another (textual criticism), and translation are not popular topics of discussion or study in the church today. Therefore, the claims of KJV Only advocates are liable to deeply trouble many Christians, even to the point of causing them to question the reliability and usefulness of their NIV or NASB Bibles. When believers are wrongly led to doubt the integrity of the translation they have used for years, Christian scholars have a responsibility to set the record straight.

Moreover, there is a real desire on the part of many to hold to the “old ways” — the “traditions” of the “good ol’ days” when things were so much better than they are today. Since many believers distrust anything connected with the term “modern,” for them the KJV becomes an icon of what was “good” about the past, and modern translations end up representing everything that is wrong with today’s church.

Is there any weight to the charges being made against the manuscripts used by modern translations? Should one distrust modern translations? Those are the questions we must answer.

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

In 1516 a Roman Catholic scholar and priest, Desiderius Erasmus, published the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament. Over the course of his lifetime four more editions would come out, each differing in various ways from the other. It was this Greek text that influenced the life of Martin Luther.10 Indeed, all of the Reformers11 used this text — a point KJV Only advocates often make. We should point out, however, that their choice of the text was not due to anything other than availability. Erasmus’s text was widely published and relatively inexpensive, and hence was easily obtainable. Textual studies had not yet advanced to the point of even being able to identify different kinds of text types in the underlying Greek manuscripts. Therefore, to attempt to enlist the Reformers as advocates of one particular text type over another is to embroil them in a debate that was not theirs.

Robert Estienne, better known by his Latin name, Stephanus, continued Erasmus’s work. Theodore Beza, who succeeded Calvin in Geneva, used Estienne’s work. Beza was particularly interested in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, even collecting a few of the more important manuscripts himself. He produced a number of editions of the Greek New Testament.

All of these editions — the five of Erasmus, Stephanus’s text (primarily his 1550 edition), and Beza’s editions — were available to the King James translators while they labored between 1604 and 1611. Since these editions differed at various points,12 the translators also played the role of textual critics, weighing the various readings and making decisions as it seemed best to them, just as modern editors and translators do. It is important to note that the resultant King James New Testament text did not exist in that exact form prior to 1611. That is, there is no family of manuscripts, or even a single manuscript, that reads exactly as the King James New Testament. The translators used an “eclectic” methodology, recognizing that no single manuscript should be elevated to the status of the “standard,” but that each manuscript contained scribal errors of various kinds, and that the true and original text was best sought in the plurality of texts.

A few decades after the publication of the KJV, an advertisement appeared for the printed edition of the Greek New Testament that claimed, as advertisements are prone to do, that it represented the “text received by all.” In Latin this phrase boiled down to the textus receptus, and hence an advertising blurb became associated with the Greek texts of the Erasmus–Stephanus– Beza line so that today one will find the phrase used to describe the text from which the KJV was translated.13 It is important to note, however, that the Textus Receptus (TR) normally used by KJV Only advocates did not exist in 1611. That is, the TR used today is normally the one created by Scrivener in 1894, which took as its basis the English translation of the KJV, giving the reader the Greek textual choices made by the KJV translators.

The TR was the “standard” text for more than 200 years in most of Europe. While more manuscripts came to light during this time, it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that a serious challenge to the preeminence of the TR was mounted through the work of Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort. Westcott and Hort recognized the existence of text types or “text families” in the growing number of manuscripts available to scholars, and they asserted that the most common form of the NT text, found predominately in later manuscripts, was the result of an earlier revision. This meant that the TR, in their view, represented a later, secondary form of the text. The earlier, more primitive (and hence more pure) form of the text was to be found in those manuscripts that predated this revision.

The TR text generally represents the Byzantine family of manuscripts. The Byzantine text type is by far the majority text type and is to be found in the vast majority of later NT manuscripts. The other text types include the Western, the Caesarean, and the most important, the Alexandrian. The names indicate that these text types are related to geographical areas, though it should not be assumed that all Alexandrian manuscripts come from Alexandria, nor all Byzantine manuscripts from Byzantium.

Modern Greek texts, such as the Nestle-Aland 27th edition and the United Bible Societies 4th edition, which underlie modern English translations and are used most often in college and seminary-level Greek classes, are based not upon just a few texts, but upon all Greek manuscripts. Unlike the TR, which was derived from only one stream of the large Byzantine family of texts, the modern texts draw from the entire range of Greek texts. The modern Greek texts also provide extensive textual notes indicating what readings are to be found in which manuscripts. This is important for the person who wants to check the choices made by editors and translators, as well as for the person concerned about alleged “secrecy” on the part of modern textual scholars. Modern Greek texts are open in allowing the reader to examine all the relevant manuscript readings, leading to honesty and accountability.

HOW READINGS ARE DETERMINED

When manuscripts differ from each other, one needs a methodology to determine which reading to include in the Greek text and in any translation derived from that Greek text. Given the fact that no two handwritten Greek manuscripts read exactly the same, everyone who engages in creating printed editions of the Greek text or translations into modern languages must struggle with textual diversity. Erasmus did so, the KJV translators did so, and modern scholars engage in the same task. The King James Version is just as much a result of this process of study and examination as any modern text, and those who assert it is somehow above such “human” activities are simply ignoring the facts of history. If KJV Only advocates wish to say that all the decisions made by Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, and the KJV translators were perfect, they need to explain why. Simply assuming this won’t do.

Most of the textual differences that have attracted charges of “corruption” by KJV Only advocates come from the fact that modern textual scholars believe that certain text types carry more weight in determining a reading than others. That is, rather than simply counting manuscripts to see which reading has more manuscripts on its side, scholars recognize that other factors must be considered. Most agree that the Byzantine text type, as a whole, is a later form of the text, while the Alexandrian text type generally represents an earlier form. Since the TR, and therefore the KJV, represents a Byzantine form, modern texts will differ at places from the KJV where scholars determine that the KJV’s reading comes from a later, rather than earlier, time.

Modern Greek texts do not simply reproduce the entire Alexandrian text type. Instead, each variant is examined as a single unit, with both external considerations (e.g., which manuscripts contain which readings) and internal considerations (e.g., context, determining which reading is most difficult, etc.) being used to determine which reading will be placed in the main text. It is important to note, however, that those readings not chosen are still included in the textual apparatus at the bottom of the page, and at times modern translation committees will choose one of these variants as their main reading, feeling free to disagree with the editors of the Greek text they are relying upon.

WHAT IS “CORRUPT”?

The charge of “corrupt manuscripts,” while often made, is far less often defined. What does the term mean? Textual critics use the term to refer to any variation from the original text. Hence, spelling the name of the pool in John 5:2 Bethzatha rather than Bethesda would be called a “corruption” of the text, though such a difference is hardly relevant to the meaning of the text. This is why textual scholar Bruce Metzger can title a work on the subject, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 

KJV Only advocates, however, do not use the term in this way. Most often they use it to communicate the idea of specific, purposeful, doctrinal corruption or perversion. Any variation from the chosen standard (the KJV) is considered a “corruption.” And there are many such variations. But does this make modern texts “corrupt”? Certainly not. In point of fact, if we make the most primitive form of the NT text the standard, the Byzantine text type (and hence the KJV itself) shows evidence of having the largest number of scribal errors, additions, and expansions, and hence would be, in the most accurate use of the term, the most “corrupt” form of text. It all depends on what one defines as the “chosen standard,” for the standard determines which texts end up labeled “corrupt.”

Textual variations exist. This is a fact everyone must deal with, including every KJV Only advocate who wishes to be honest with history and with himself or herself. But why are there variations? And does the presence of variations make a manuscript “corrupt”?

One of the most important advances in our knowledge of the Greek manuscripts since the days of King James comes from the area of scribal habits. We are able to recognize much more clearly now what kinds of errors people are liable to make when they are hand-copying a manuscript. The largest portion of textual variants in the NT comes from simple scribal errors, not from purposeful “corruption” of the text for theological reasons. For example, even modern writers will engage in the error of homoeoteleuton — that is, “similar endings.” When copying a sentence, people often skip a word or phrase due to a similar ending appearing later in the line or on the next line. It is obvious that this took place in James 4:12a in the later Byzantine manuscripts. While the earlier texts read, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, ” the majority of texts simply have, “There is only one Lawgiver,” the term “and Judge” being deleted. The Greek term for lawgiver is nomothetes, and the word for judge is krites. Notice that both terms end in the same three-letter cluster, tes. A scribe, having written the first term and returning his eyes to his original text, simply caught the second appearance of the letter cluster and mistook it for the first. Not realizing this oversight, the scribe continued on, thereby inadvertently deleting the term “judge.”

The same type of error is found at 1 John 3:1, where modern translations (based on the earliest texts) read, “. . .that we might be called the children of God, and we are!” The later texts (on which the KJV is based) have simply, “that we might be called the children of God.” Similar endings are again found in the Greek, the letter cluster men this time causing the problem. A scribe simply skipped the small phrase “and we are,” and this reading became the reading of the majority of Greek texts.

We can identify many more examples of simple scribal error in the texts of the NT. The important thing to note is that such errors do not require one to believe in any grand conspiracy theories, nor must one search for some “hidden meaning” behind the variant itself. The Byzantine scribes who did not have the reference to God as judge were not denying that He is just that, nor were they denying 1 John’s statement that we are the children of God right now by faith in Christ. Yet KJV Only materials are filled with this kind of reverse argumentation.14

Another kind of “corruption” of the NT text was purposeful. (Yes, there are purposeful corruptions in NT manuscripts.) Almost always these changes are toward what would be called “orthodoxy,” not away from it. Most often these corruptions come from scribes who were attempting to “help out” the biblical text. Over and over again, for example, one will find scribes trying to harmonize the parallel accounts of events in the Gospels. There was a desire to make Matthew, Mark, and Luke say the same thing in the same words.

A quick glance at a parallel Greek text of the Gospels15 provides multiple examples on almost every page. One such example will suffice. In Luke 9:23 Luke recorded the Lord saying that the disciple must take up his cross daily and follow Him. Since Matthew and Mark did not include the term “daily,” a large portion of later manuscripts “harmonized” the passage by deleting the phrase from Luke.

Should someone ask, “But how do you know someone didn’t add it to Luke?” we must first point out that the reading is found in the most ancient manuscripts of Luke. Furthermore, why would a scribe try to make Luke different than Matthew or Mark? The tendency we find in the texts is to make things the same, not different. Those who have spent time in the text of the NT know the truth of this rule of thumb: “The original reading is most likely the one that best explains how the others arose.” If one can easily determine how a particular reading could give rise to the others, that reading gets the weight of the internal evidence on its side. One can then factor in the manuscript evidence so that a final decision can be made.16

The same thing happens in the Pauline Epistles that bear similarity to one another, such as Ephesians and Colossians. One of the most famous instances of harmonization is found at Colossians 1:14. KJV Only advocates refer to this passage with great frequency. In a recent Bible Answer Man broadcast a caller attacked the NIV for “taking out the blood at Colossians 1:14.” In Salt Lake City I encountered a KJV Only advocate who was passing out tracts outside the Mormon temple and who referred to the NIV as the “bloodless Bible,” again citing this passage. When one compares the KJV with modern translations at this point, it certainly seems like there is a problem.

KJV

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

NASB

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

NIV

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Where is the phrase “through his blood”? Here we have another example of how parallel passages can cause scribes to “harmonize.” Note the source of the phrase in the parallel passage in Ephesians 1:7:

KJV

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

NASB

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,

NIV

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

The phrase “through his blood” in Ephesians 1:7 is found immediately after “in whom we have redemption.” Hence, later scribes, possibly inadvertently, inserted the phrase in Colossians as well. In point of fact, the KJV’s reading at Colossians 1:14 is the minority reading based upon only a few comparatively late manuscripts. It should be emphasized that all the modern translations contain the phrase at Ephesians 1:7. Why? Because they are seeking solely to translate the Greek text, and the Greek text — the best Greek text no matter how one slices it — has this reading. There is no conspiracy, no cut-and-snip methodology occurring in these reputable translations.

ALLEGED DOCTRINAL “CORRUPTIONS”

Are modern translations “doctrinally corrupt”? Some are. The New World Translation published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is certainly corrupt doctrinally and textually as well.17 Some translations give evidence of rank liberalism or a less-than-orthodox view of Scripture. But the reputable, scholarly translations used regularly by believers such as the NASB and the NIV are most certainly not doctrinally corrupt.

The textual variant at John 6:47 helps us demonstrate that the broad spectrum of passages most often cited by KJV Only advocates do not, upon close examination, support their charges of doctrinal corruption. Dr. D. A. Waite of The Bible for Today alleges just such corruption in his book Defending the King James Bible. He alleges a “SERIOUS THEOLOGICAL PERVERSION” (emphasis in original)18 in modern texts at John 6:47. Note the comparison:

KJV

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

Modern Translations (here NASB)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

Modern translations do not contain the phrase “on me” at this verse, causing Dr. Waite to comment, “To make salvation only a matter of ‘believing’ rather than solely, as Christ said in this verse, ‘believing on Me,’ is truly ‘ANOTHER GOSPEL’! If you were trying to lead someone to Christ with the NIV or NASV, using this verse, they could ‘believe’ in anything and still have ‘everlasting life’ — whether in Santa Claus, in the Easter Bunny, in the Tooth Fairy, in Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, or in any of the false world religions!” (emphasis in original).19

Accusations of preaching “another gospel” are quite strong. But does the accusation have merit? Not at all. The NASB and NIV are brimming with the phrase “believe in me.” Just a few verses before John 6:47 (in v. 35), the NASB reads, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’” (emphasis added). And in the immediate context of John 6, v.40 reads, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son, and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (emphasis added). Other places in John where the phrase appears in modern translations include John 7:38, 11:25-26, 12:44, and 46. If the modern translations are trying to preach “another gospel,” why do they include all these references that contradict this “other gospel”? What’s more, how do they explain the many places where the KJV has the simple phrase “believe,” such as at Mark 9:23 and Romans 1:16 and 10:4? Is the KJV guilty of teaching “another gospel” because it does not have the specific phrase “in Him” or “in Christ” at these places? Of course not.

As we have seen all along, the modern translations are simply translating the text before them, and in this case the phrase “in me” is not found in the most ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of John. Later scribes most probably inadvertently harmonized the phrase “believe” with the more common “believe in me,” resulting in the KJV reading. There is no perversion here. Instead, this is one of literally hundreds of examples that could be presented from the text of the Gospels that show the tendency of scribes to utilize the most common way of saying things, often resulting in this kind of harmonization. Anyone who thinks that the lack of the term “in me” at John 6:47 somehow alters the gospel itself has an extremely strained view of how one determines the gospel message from the text of Scripture.

A little patience and a little study will reward the diligent student with answers to all of those passages cited by KJV Only advocates regarding alleged doctrinal “corruption.” In each case the reputable modern translations will be cleared of the charge.

Many other examples could be examined that confirm that modern translations such as the NASB and NIV, far from being corrupt, are in fact the best examples of faithful English translations of the best Greek texts we have available to us. The Christian who studies, memorizes, and obeys the Scriptures as he or she finds them in modern English translations can be confident in the text he or she uses. While the KJV remains to this day a venerable translation, those who attempt to make it the standard to the detriment of more readable (and in many instances more accurate) modern versions are in serious error.

James R. White is Scholar in Residence at the College of Christian Studies, Grand Canyon University, and the director of ministries for Alpha and Omega Ministries in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (Bethany House) and Letters to a Mormon Elder (Bethany House).

NOTES

1William P. Grady, Final Authority (Schererville, IN: Grady Publications, 1993), 73.
2See The Christian’s Handbook of Manuscript Evidence (Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Bible Press, 1990).
3See The Answer Book (Shelbyville, TN: Bible & Literature Missionary Foundation, 1989).
4See New Age Bible Versions (Munroe Falls, OH: A. V. Publications, 1993).
5See Defending the King James Bible (Collingswood, NJ: The Bible for Today, 1992).
6In this article we focus primarily upon the New Testament text, as the majority of allegations of “corruption” are aimed at Greek New Testament manuscripts rather than the Hebrew Old Testament.
7It is vital to note that we use the term “KJV Only” to represent only those who believe the KJV alone is the God-honoring English translation today. There are many differences among those who attack modern translations. Men such as Samuel Gipp (a student of Peter Ruckman) attack those who defend the Greek text (known as the Textus Receptus, or “TR”) that underlies the KJV rather than the KJV text itself. In answering the question, “What is the difference between a ‘Textus Receptus Man’ and a ‘King James Man?’” he writes, “A ‘TR Man’ gets his manuscripts from Antioch and his philosophy from Egypt” (The Answer Book, 78). In the same way, those who defend the TR attack those who go so far as to invest the KJV translation with “divine preservation” or even the status of “advanced revelation.” Dr. Theodore Letis has identified the position many of the more radical KJV Only advocates have as “cultic” in these words: “Anyone who ascribes the inspired characteristics of the Hebrew Bible or the greek N.T. to an English Bible and anathematizes everyone who does not agree with them is a cult. These tend to be…highly separatistic and unlearned Baptists.” (Internet post from the “Theonomy-L” mailing list, dated Friday, June 16, 1995.)
8The New King James Version (NKJV) is based upon the same texts used in the translation of the original 1611 KJV. Despite this fact, KJV Only advocates attack the NKJV with as much fervor as they do the NASB and the NIV.
9It is important to differentiate the KJV Only position and the related “TR Only” position (which asserts the superiority of the specific Greek text used by the KJV translators) from the “Majority Text” theory proposed and defended by men like Zane Hodges, Art Farstad, and Maurice Robinson. The Majority Text theory, while commanding a rather small minority of scholarly support, is far removed from the position taken by people such as Peter Ruckman and Gail Riplinger.
10It was from this text, for example, that Luther recognized the vast difference between the Latin Vulgate’s “do penance” and the Greek’s “repent.”
11This is not to say that none of them made corrections or changes to the text. Calvin, for example, disagreed with Erasmus’s text in a number of places.
12For examples, see pp. 63-70 in this author’s work, The King James Only Controversy (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995).
13There are actually as many as 100 different texti recepti, so to speak, each one differing in small matters from the others.
14An excellent example is provided by Gail Riplinger, author of New Age Bible Versions. The cover of her book claims, “The Greek manuscripts, critical editions, lexicons and dictionaries behind the new versions are examined, revealing their occult origins, contents, and yet unreleased material — a blueprint for the Antichrist’s One World Religion and government….Documented are the thousands of words, verses, and doctrines by which new versions will prepare the apostate churches of these last days to accept the religion of Antichrist — even his mark, image, and Lucifer worship.” Riplinger claims that “all new versions, based on a tiny percentage of corrupt Greek manuscripts, make the fatefully frightening addition of three words in Revelation 14:1” (p. 99). A comparison of the KJV with modern texts indicates that the KJV is missing the emphasized words: “The Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Riplinger writes of this alleged addition, “Will the unwary, reading Revelation 14:1 in a recent version, be persuaded that the bible sanctions and encourages the taking of ‘his name’ on their forehead before they receive his Father’s name?” (p. 100). A familiarity with the critical apparatus of a Greek text would have saved Riplinger from concern about such conspiracies, for in point of fact it is only a “tiny percentage” of all Greek manuscripts that do not contain the phrase. It fell out in a small number of manuscripts due to the repetition of the Greek phrase to onoma and the Greek term autou. Again, there is no need to look for “conspiracies” when a normal scribal error of sight is a far more logical and rational explanation.
15Kurt Aland has provided such a tremendously helpful tool, Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1985).
16I hasten to remind the reader that Erasmus and the KJV translators used similar reasoning. Hence, the KJV’s readings were arrived at in the same way. For example, in citing a textual variant at Matthew 20:22, Erasmus correctly noted that the phrase in question was most probably borrowed from Mark 10:38, even though retaining it in his text. Modern textual critics agree, and have placed the reading in footnotes.
17I note only in passing the fact that the NWT, though ostensibly following the 1881 W&H text, deliberately deletes the word “me” at John 14:14, despite its presence in the W&H text, so as to avoid having another reference of prayer to Christ. This is blatantly obvious “textual criticism on the basis of theology.”
18Waite, Defending the King James Bible, 158.
19Ibid.

This article first appeared in the Winter 1996 issue of the Christian Research Journal.

 J O H N – B U N Y A N’ s Dying Sayings 

Published in Offor’s 1861 edition of “Bunyan’s Works.”


A collection of aphorisms gathered and classified under headings.
They are his thoughts, whether uttered in his last illness, or expressed earlier in life.

OF SIN.

  • Sin is the great block and bar to our happiness, the Procurer of all miseries to man, both here and hereafter. Take away sin, and nothing can hurt us; for death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, is the wages of it.
  • Sin, and man for sin, is the object of the wrath of God. How dreadful, therefore, must his case be who continues in sin! For who can bear or grapple with the wrath of God?
  • No sin against God can be little, because it is against the great God of heaven and earth; but if the sinner can find out a little god, it may be easy to find out little sins.
  • Sin turns all God’s grace into wantonness; it is the dare of his justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, and the contempt of his love.
  • Take heed of giving thyself liberty of committing one sin, for that will lead thee to another; till, by an ill custom, it become natural.
  • To begin a sin, is to lay a foundation for a continuance; this continuance is the mother of custom, and impudence at last the issue.
  • The death of Christ giveth us the best discovery of ourselves, in what condition we were, in that nothing could help us but that; and the most clear discovery of the dreadful nature of our sins. For if sin be so dreadful a thing as to wring the heart of the Son of God, how shall a poor wretched sinner be able to bear it?

OF AFFLICTION.

  • Nothing can render affliction so insupportable as the load of sin; would you, therefore, be fitted for afflictions, be sure to get the burden of your sins laid aside, and then what afflictions soever you may meet with will be very easy to you.
  • If thou canst hear and bear the rod of affliction which God shall lay upon thee, remember this lesson–thou art beaten that thou mayest be better.
  • The Lord useth his flail of tribulation to separate the chaff from the wheat.
  • The school of the cross is the school of light; it discovers the world’s vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God’s mind. Out of dark affliction comes a spiritual light.
  • In times of affliction we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.
  • Did we heartily renounce the pleasures of this world, we should be very little troubled for our afflictions; that which renders an afflicted state so insupportable to many, is because they are too much addicted to the pleasures of this life, and so cannot endure that which makes a separation between them.

OF REPENTANCE AND COMING TO CHRIST.

  • The end of affliction is the discovery of sin, and of that to bring us to a Saviour. Let us therefore. with the prodigal, return unto him, and we shall find ease and rest.
  • A repenting penitent, though formerly as bad as the worst of men, may, by grace, become as good as the best.
  • To be truly sensible of sin is to sorrow for displeasing of God; to be afflicted that he is displeased by us more than that he is displeased with us.
  • Your intentions to repentance, and the neglect of that soul-saving duty, will rise up in judgment against you.
  • Repentance carries with it a divine rhetoric, and persuades Christ to forgive multitudes of sins committed against him.
  • Say not with thyself, Tomorrow I will repent; for it is thy duty to do it daily.
  • The gospel of grace and salvation is above all doctrines the most dangerous, if it be received in word only by graceless men–if it be not attended with a sensible need of a Saviour, and bring them to him. For such men as have only the notion of it, are of all men most miserable–for by reason of their knowing more than heathens, this only shall be their final portion, that they shall have greater stripes.

OF PRAYER.

  • Before you enter into prayer, ask thy soul these questions–1. To what end, O my soul, art thou retired into this place? Art thou not come to discourse the Lord in prayer? Is he present; will he hear thee? Is he merciful; will he help thee? Is thy business slight; is it not concerning the welfare of thy soul? What words wilt thou use to move him to compassion?
  • To make thy preparation complete, consider that thou art but dust and ashes, and he the great God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that clothes himself with light as with a garment; that thou art a vile sinner, he a holy God; that thou art but a poor crawling worm, he the omnipotent Creator.
  • In all your prayers forget not to thank the Lord for his mercies.
  • When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words, than thy words without a heart.
  • Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
  • The spirit of prayer is more precious than treasures of gold and silver.
  • Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God. and a scourge for Satan.

OF THE LORD’S DAY, SERMONS, AND WEEK DAYS.

  • Have a special care to sanctify the Lord’s day; for as thou keepest it, so it will be with thee all the week long.
  • Make the Lord s day the market for thy soul; let the whole day be spent in prayer, repetitions, or meditations; lay aside the affairs of the other part of the week; let thy sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer. Shall God allow thee six days, and wilt thou not afford him one?
  • In the church be careful to serve God, for thou art in his eyes, and not in man’s.
  • Thou mayest hear sermons often, and do well in practising what thou hearest; but thou must not expect to be told thee in a pulpit all that thou oughtest to do, but be studious in searching the scriptures, and reading good books. What thou hearest may be forgotten, but what thou readest may better be retained.
  • Forsake not the public worship of God, lest God forsake thee, not only in public, but in private.
  • In the week days, when thou risest in the morning, consider–1. Thou must die. 2. Thou mayest die that minute. 3. What will become of thy soul. Pray often. At night consider–1. What sins thou hast committed. 2. How often thou hast prayed. 3. What hath thy mind been bent upon. 4. What hath been thy dealing. 5. What thy conversation. 6. If thou callest to mind the errors of the day, sleep not without a confession to God, and a hope of pardon. Thus every morning and evening make up thy accounts with Almighty God, and thy reckoning will be the less at last.
  • What folly can be greater than to labour for the meat that perisheth, and neglect the food of eternal life?
  • God or the world must be neglected at parting time, for then is the time of trial.
  • To seek yourself in this world is to be lost; and to be humble is to be exalted.
  • The epicure that delighteth in the dainties of this world, little thinketh that those very creatures will one day witness against him.

OF SUFFERING.

  • It is not every suffering that makes a martyr, but suffering for the word of God after a right manner; that is, not only for righteousness, but for righteousness’ sake; not only for truth, but out of love to truth; not only for God’s word, but according to it; to wit, in that holy, humble, meek manner, as the word of God requireth.
  • It is a rare thing to suffer aright, and to have my spirit in suffering bent only against God’s enemy, sin; sin in doctrine, sin in worship, sin in life, and sin in conversation.
  • The devil nor men of the world can kill thy righteousness or, love to it, but by thy own hand; or separate that and thee asunder without thy own act. Nor will he that doth indeed suffer for the sake of it, or out of love he bears thereto, be tempted to exchange it for the good will of all the world.
  • I have often thought that the best of Christians are found in the worst of times. And I have thought again that one reason why we are no better, is because God purges us no more. Noah and Lot–who so holy as they in the time of their afflictions? And yet who so idle as they in the time of their prosperity?

OF THE LOVE OF THE WORLD.

  • Nothing more hinders a soul from coming to Christ, than a vain love of the world; and until a soul is freed from it, it can never have a true love for God.
  • What are the honours and riches of this world, when compared to the glories of a crown of life?
  • Love not the world; for it [the love of the world] is a moth in a Christian’s life.
  • To-despise the world is the way to enjoy heaven; and blessed are they who delight to converse with God by prayer.

OF DEATH AND JUDGMENT.

  • As the devil labours by all means to keep out other things that are good, so to keep out of the heart as much as in him lies, the thoughts of passing from this life into another world; for he knows if he can but keep them from the serious thoughts of death, he shall the more easily keep them in their sins.
  • Nothing will make us more earnest in working out the work of our salvation, than a frequent meditation of mortality; nothing hath greater influence for the taking off our hearts from vanities, and for the begetting in us desires after holiness.
  • O sinner, what a condition wilt thou fall into when thou departest this world! If thou depart unconverted, thou hadst better have been smothered the first hour thou wast born; thou hadst better have been plucked one limb from another; thou hadst better have been made a dog, a toad, a serpent, if thou die unconverted, and this thou wilt find true if thou repent not.
  • A man would be counted a fool to slight a judge, before whom he is to have a trial of his whole estate. The trial we have before God is of other-guise importance, it concerns our eternal happiness or misery; and yet dare we affront him?
  • The only way for us to escape that terrible judgment, is to be often passing a sentence of condemnation upon ourselves here.
  • When the sound of the trumpet shall be heard which shall summon the dead to appear before the tribunal of God, the righteous shall hasten out of their graves with joy to meet their Redeemer in the clouds; others shall call to the hills and mountains to fall upon them, to cover them from the sight of their Judge: let us therefore in time be posing ourselves which of the two we shall be.

OF THE JOYS OF HEAVEN.

  • There is no good in this life but what is mingled with some evil; honours perplex, riches disquiet, and pleasures ruin health. But in heaven we shall find blessings in their purity, without any ingredient to embitter, with everything to sweeten them.
  • O! who is able to conceive the inexpressible, inconceivable joys that are there? None but they who have tasted of them. Lord, help us to put such a value upon them here, that in order to prepare ourselves for them, we may be willing to forego the loss of all those deluding pleasures here.
  • How will the heavens echo of joy, when the bride, the Lamb’s wife, shall come to dwell with her husband for ever!
  • Christ is the desire of nations, the joy of angels, the delight of the Father; what solace then must that soul be filled with that hath the possession of him to all eternity?
  • O! what acclamations of joy will there be when all the children of God shall meet together, without fear of being disturbed by the antichristian and Cainish brood!
  • Is there not a time coming when the godly may ask the wicked what profit they have in their pleasure? what comfort in their greatness? and what knit in all their labour?
  • If you would be better satisfied what the beatifical vision means, my request is that you would live holily, and go and see.

OF THE TORMENTS OF HELL.

  • Heaven and salvation are not surely more promised to the godly, than hell and damnation is threatened to and executed on the wicked.
  • When once a man is damned, he may bid adieu to all pleasures.
  • O! who knows the power of God’s wrath.? none but damned ones.
  • Sinners’ company are the devil and his angels, tormented in everlasting fire with a curse.
  • Hell would be a kind of paradise if it were no worse than the worst of this world.
  • As different as grief is from joy, as torment from, rest, as terror from peace; so different is the state of sinners from that of saints in the world to come.

Eye of a Needle

     “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (See also Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25.)

There is believed to be here a reference to a proverbial form of expression common in the Jewish schools, when one desired to express the idea of great difficulty or of impossibility. Lightfoot gives several quotations from the rabbis, where the difficulty is represented by the image of an elephant going through the eye of a needle.

Some writers, however, think that there is an allusion in our text-verse, not only to a proverbial form of speech, but also to a fact. They refer to the low, narrow entrance to houses in ancient times, and to the difficulty a camel would experience in entering, though even a camel might enter if his load were removed and he kneeled down, which may be considered a hint to rich men who would enter the kingdom of heaven.

Rev. J.G. Wood writes in Bible Animals, “In Oriental [ed. note: this term was used widely in years past to describe most of the Asian continent, now commonly referred to as the Middle East] cities there are in the large gates small and very low apertures, called metaphorically, ‘needles-eyes.’ These entrances are too narrow for a camel to pass through them in an ordinary manner, or even if loaded. When a laden camel has to pass through one of these entrances it kneels down, its load is removed, and then it shuffles through on its knees. A traveler to Cairo, Lady Duff Gordon, wrote to me saying, ‘Yesterday I saw a camel go through the eye of a needle, namely, the low-arched door of an enclosure. He must kneel, and bow his head to creep through; and thus the rich man must humble himself.’ ”

It has been said that the purpose of the “eye of the needle” gate was so that merchandise could not be brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, although the pack animals and the merchants could come in for protection, but only through this restrictive gate.

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (Rev. ed.].) (447). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.