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    December 29, 1890

    “How Readest Thou?” The Signs of the Times, 16, 51.

    E. J. Waggoner

    This is as pertinent a question at the present time as it was when the Saviour uttered it. Indeed, there probably was never before a time when there was so much need as now of professed Christians looking to their ground, to see where they stand. It is well understood that there is a great deal of rampant infidelity in the land, but how many realize that that infidelity is only the central portion of the stream, which indicates a strong current in that direction? It is a sad fact that infidelity is creeping-no, not creeping, but stalking boldly, into the church. That this is true, a few extracts picked up at random will suffice to show.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.21

    It is doubtless well known that the great question which is agitating the Methodist Church at the present time is the admission of women as delegates to the General Conference, and their ordination as ministers, which would soon follow. With this controversy we have nothing to do, and do not care at present to express our opinion as to its merits. We simply wish to show how the Bible is regarded by many persons high in church authority and influence. The extracts given will show a general casting off of the authority of the Scriptures.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.22

    Prof. L. T. Townsend, of New York (Presbyterian), contributes a chapter to Miss Frances E. Willard’s book, “Woman in the Pullpit,” and on page 153, after quoting 1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35, he says: “It must be perfectly apparent that if the prohibition in these passages is infallible, ...then Miss Willard and her friends may as well first as last retire from the controversy.” But Professor Townsend does not think that these texts affect Miss Willard’s case, therefore he does not regard them as infallible.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.23

    Take another passage from the same pen, and the disregard, not to say contempt, of the Scriptures will be still more apparent:-SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.24

    The pastoral epistles were addressed, not to Presbyterians in America, but to two young Jews. The writer of these epistles did not have in mind a thought of American Presbyterians. Why, therefore, do Presbyterians-we include not a few Methodists-speak and act as though they must heed the admonitions of these epistles, going so far as to enforce against women the supposed injunctions of these epistles? Why are they meddling in these affairs?-Woman in the Pulpit, pp. 146, 147.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.25

    Right glad are we that many Presbyterians and Methodists can be accused of regarding the epistles of Paul as authoritative even in these days. It shows that the spirit of the Reformation has not entirely died out.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.26

    The following two statements are from Methodists, published without signature in the New York Christian Advocate. It should be stated that the Advocate strongly condemns such utterances:-SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.27

    Paul, who definitely believed when he wrote those scriptures that the world would not even see the second century, much less the nineteenth, was ordering the churches for his own age.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.28

    So it must be remembered that Paul was a bachelor, and he was writing in the first century, in the midst of heathen surroundings, and endeavoring to be all things to all men, and not infringing upon local laws and customs more than he had to at a time when, as a rule, women had no rights that men were bound to respect.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.29

    Anyone can see that the same line of argument would rule out all the epistles, as well as the words of Christ, and then what have people to guide them?-Simply their own perverse wills. But let us read another statement from the pen of Miss Willard, whose every utterance is taken as gospel by several hundred thousand professed Christian men and women. She says:-SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.30

    Whoever quotes to the intelligent and devout women of the American church to-day, the specific instructions given by Paul to the illiterate and immoral women of Corinth, does so at the expense of sound judgment, not to say scholarship.-Women in the Pulpit, p. 50.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.31

    So it seems that the test of the value of any portion of Scripture is to be the intelligence of men and women, and their idea as to the necessity for it. If it suite them, it is all right; if it does not, they reject it. Of what value is the Bible to such people? Their own wills are their standard of right and wrong.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.32

    One more quotation must complete the view of the picture for the present. It is from a correspondent of the Christian Union, of July 24, and passes in that paper unchallenged. It is as follows:-SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.33

    I have been interested in reading a criticism of Lyman Abbott, by his brother Edward, and I am impelled to jot down a few thoughts as they have occurred to an outsider. I could not but be surprised that, of the nineteen texts quoted by Edward Abbott, to establish an important, and one generally regarded as an essential, doctrine of Christianity, only one is from the sayings of its Founder, and in that one, the language is unquestionably figurative. Will not a higher and truer criticism, before long, come to regard the writings of the apostles to be just what they are, namely, the expression of their personal opinions? May they not have been sometimes mistakes? What warrant have we for assuming that Paul, Peter, James, or John were able to draw any truer conclusions from the contents of the four gospels than Lyman Abbott, H. W. Beecher, Dr. Channing, and a thousand others-especially if we accept the claim of Edward Abbott, that the spirit of truth is now, as well as has been, in the church?SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.34

    There you have the result to which all the others are tending if they have not already arrived. It is open infidelity of a large part of the Bible, and virtual rejection of the remainder, since it all stands on the same foundation. It is terrible to contemplate the gross deceptions into which the church will plunge when such ideas become prevalent; and they are rapidly spreading, for they are intrenched in high places. The book from which the most of these quotations are made, is indorsed in the highest terms by Dr. Joseph Parker, of London, Dr. Talmage, and Joseph Cook. Is this not evidence that the church is on the “down grade”?SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.35

    But we have not written this simply to expose the infidelity of these men and women. We have written in order that every reader may stop and answer carefully the question at the head of this article. Do you believe the Bible implicitly, or do doubts steal across your mind as you read? The foundation for all this infidelity exists in the mind of everyone who holds the words of Peter, Paul, James, John, Moses, David, Isaiah, or Solomon, recorded in the Scriptures, as of any less authority or truth than those uttered by Jesus in the sermon on the mount. Note the surprise of the writer last quoted, that out of nineteen texts in support of a Christian doctrine, “only one is from the sayings of its Founder.” Is a scripture any less the word of God if written by one of the apostles or prophets than if spoken with an audible voice by the Lord himself? Are you, dear reader, in the habit of attributing “degrees” to inspiration, and of considering one passage as more valuable than another, according as it meets your approbation? If so, you are in great danger. You say you believe that it is all true, although of varying authority and importance. Very well, we accept your statement that you believe the Scriptures, and ask you to accept the following as true: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.SITI December 29, 1890, page 570.36

    And please remember that in this Bible, all of which you profess to believe, the apostle Paul’s epistles are classed with “the other scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:16. They were given by inspiration too.SITI December 29, 1890, page 603.1

    We ask you to believe the statement contained in this verse: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13.SITI December 29, 1890, page 603.2

    Here is another: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 14:37.SITI December 29, 1890, page 603.3

    That is, the man who does not acknowledge Paul’s writings as the commandments of the Lord, is unspiritual. He cannot discern spiritual things. How many are putting their own unspiritual doubts in the place of the holy word of God.SITI December 29, 1890, page 603.4

    No one can receive from the Scriptures that living power which they are designed to give, unless when he reads them he drops from his mind all thought of the men who penned them, and of their human frailties, and hears only the voice of God. Thus did the apostles regard the Old Testament. For instance, Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9, 10 to the unbelieving Jews at Rome, introducing the text thus: “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Aesaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying,” etc. Acts 28:25. Again, in Hebrews 10:15-17 we have a quotation from Jeremiah 31:33, in which Jeremiah is not mentioned, but the words are credited to the Holy Spirit. And again, in Hebrews 1:8, 9 we have Psalm 45:6, 7 quoted, and David is not mentioned, but the words are quoted as addressed by God the Father directly to the Son, without any human agency. They are indeed just as much the word of God as those which were spoken on Mount Sinai, or the Mount of Olives, and the New Testament is not a whit behind the Old.SITI December 29, 1890, page 603.5

    Let us, then, avoid the beginnings of infidelity. Let us leave no room for doubt to creep into our minds, and this we can do by accepting the whole Bible, not as the word of man, but as the word of God. Then, remembering that “every word of God is pure,” let us receive it with humble reverence, and hide it within our hearts. E. J. W.SITI December 29, 1890, page 603.6

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