"AS I SEE
Volume 4, Number 6, June 2001
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
CHARLES WESLEY'S REMARKABLE CONVERSION
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) is the
least well-known of the founding triumvirate of Methodism that included his
older brother John and a fellow Oxford alumnus, George Whitefield. Whitefield
was the evangelist par excellence of the group and the first of the Methodist
field preachers (and he alone labored extensively in both Great Britain and the
American colonies), though both John and Charles were also notable preachers who
each drew crowds in the thousands and sometimes tens of thousands. John was the
administrator and organizer of Methodism, and its chief prose writer (his
collected works fill 8 substantial volumes in one edition). He also preached the
most sermons of the three, no doubt because of his great longevity (Whitefield
died at 56, Charles at 80, while John survived to 88). All three were prolific
journal-keepers, especially in the earlier years of their preaching, and these
personal journals are valuable testimonies to the power of God in the conversion
Before conversion, all three of these great men were part of the Oxford "Methodists," a group of Oxford students and graduates, originally organized by Charles, who sought to gain peace with God and earn eternal life by strict, methodical adherence to rules of conduct, asceticism, and good deeds. Of course, they found no peace in their strenuous efforts, though their intentions were utterly sincere.
Though the youngest by several years, Whitefield was converted first, in 1735. Not long afterward, John and Charles, both ordained by the Church of England, went to the colony of Georgia, John to be a missionary to the heathen Indians, and Charles to be private secretary to the governor of the colony, General Oglethorpe. Their stay in the New World was not long. Charles was felled by a serious illness and departed Georgia less than a year after arriving. John stayed only a few months longer, being in despair when he came to realize that though he had come to convert the heathen, there was no one to convert him!
Back in England, the Wesleys encountered Moravians, a religious sect centered in Germany. The Wesleys had met some of this persuasion in the American colonies and were singularly struck by their peace with God in times of great trial and calm assurance of salvation though they were "ignorant and unlearned men." The particular individual that was God's instrument to point them both to salvation by grace was Peter Boehler.
In February, 1738, Charles was laid low by illness and despaired of life. Peter Boehler visited him on his sick bed on the 24th. Let us read Charles' account:
"At six in the evening, an hour after I had taken my electuary, the tooth-ache returned more violently than ever. I smoked tobacco [to ease the pain]; which set me a vomiting, and took away my senses and pain together. At eleven I waked in extreme pain, which I thought would quickly separate soul and body. Soon after, Peter Boehler came to my bedside. I asked him to pray for me. He seemed unwilling at first, but, beginning faintly, he raised his voice by degrees, and prayed for my recovery with strange confidence. Then he took me by the hand, and calmly said, 'You will not die now.' I thought within myself, 'I cannot hold out in this pain till morning. If it abates before, I may recover.'
He asked me, 'Do you hope to be saved?'
'For what reason do you hope it?'
'Because I have used my best endeavors to serve God.'
He shook his head, and said no more. I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart, 'What, are not my best endeavors sufficient ground of hope? Would you rob me of my endeavors? I have nothing else to trust to.'"
Charles remained in England due to recurring illnesses, though he had planned to return to Georgia. In April, 1738, on the 28th, he recorded in his journal:
"In the morning Dr. Cockburn came to see me; and a better physician, Peter Boehler, whom God had detained in England for my good. He stood by my bedside, and prayed over me, that now at least I might see the divine intention, in this and my late illness. I immediately thought it might be that I should again consider Boehler's doctrine of faith; examine myself whether I was in the faith; and if I was not, never cease seeking and longing after it, till I attained it."
The physical ills and spiritual struggle continued into May, during which Charles came into possession of Martin Luther's commentary on Paul's letter to the Galatians, a volume which emphasizes repeatedly that salvation is by faith alone, without human works or our "best endeavors."
On the 21st of May, a Sunday, the drawing, illuminating and convicting work of the Holy Spirit was complete. Through the spoken words of a friend, Charles was brought finally to repentance and faith--"Still I felt a violent opposition and reluctance to believe; yet still the Spirit of God strove with my own and the evil spirit, till by degrees he chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced, I knew not how, nor when; and immediately fell to intercession. . . . I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. My temper for the rest of the day was, mistrust of my own great, but before unknown, weakness. I saw that by faith I stood; by the continual support of faith, which kept me from falling, though of myself I am ever sinking into sin. I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness (I humbly hope to be more and more so), yet confident of Christ's protection."
Brother John, also influenced by Peter Boehler, and by reading Luther (in his case, the commentary on Romans), came to a full knowledge of the true way of salvation by faith alone, three days later, May 24, 1738.
What a transformation occurred in Charles! In the next month, thirty people came to Christ in his presence and in part through his instrumentality. Thereafter, his preaching met with increasing success (the crowds often numbered in the many hundreds and multiplied thousands), and the opposition from the state church and from unbelievers grew apace. The power of God rested upon him, as it had upon Whitefield previously. Indeed, as deeply impressed as I was a number of years ago by the accounts in Whitefield's journals of Whitefield's preaching and the many who were turned to righteousness by it, I discovered that equally remarkable incidents abounded in the post-conversion ministry of Charles Wesley. It is so extraordinary as to almost seem to be fiction, yet it is remarkably and literally true. That it amazes us is no doubt due to the fact that there is so little manifestation of the power of God in the ministry of most preachers today.
Charles reports that he began a hymn the day of his conversion, interrupted his work lest he fall into pride, but resumed and finished it a couple of days later at the urging of a Mr. Bray. I have found two undocumented claims that the hymn in question was "And Can It Be?" which is to my mind the greatest hymn Charles Wesley (or anyone at anytime) ever wrote. What a marvel, written in the rapture of newly experienced grace, mercy, peace and forgiveness--
"And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain?
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou my God shouldst die for me?
'Tis mystery all! Th'Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn Seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine;
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore:
Let angel minds inquire no more.
He left his Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race;
"Tis mercy all! Immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light:
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, with all in Him, is mine,
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in Righteousness Divine
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown through Christ my own."
[All quotations from Charles Wesley's journals are from The Journal of the Rev. Charles Wesley, M. A., ed. by Thomas Jackson, volume I. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980 reprint of 1849 John Mason, London, edition; for a readable and readily accessible biography of Charles Wesley, see A Heart Set Free: the Life of Charles Wesley by Arnold A. Dallimore. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1988]
THE GUIDING HAND OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE
"Be sure that it is no business of yours to perfect that which concerns you in providence; God has promised to do it, and only presumption will dare to interfere. 'Stand still and see the salvation of God' is often the wisest policy as well as the truest heroism. Take care that you put not forth an unbelieving hand to snatch the unripe fruit from the tree."
Charles H. Spurgeon,
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,
vol. 25, 1879, p. 666.
EVEN IN DEATH, SPURGEON WON SOULS
An unnamed government employee (in Paris?) testified, "that he had been brought up as a Roman Catholic; and that, a few years ago, there came into the office of his department a copy of The Illustrated London News. As he was learning English at the time, he was naturally interested in reading it. The number contained an account of the funeral of the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the illustrations of which attracted his attention. The letterpress made some reference to Mr. Spurgeon's sermons and the world-wide fame which they had obtained. This led him to procure some copies of the sermons, and these, by God's grace and blessing, were used for his conversion."
(Quoted from the preface to How to Enjoy the Bible by E. W. Bullinger, in E.W. Bullinger: a Biography by Juanita S. Carey, pp. 156-7)
A FUNDAMENTAL BAPTIST FELLOWSHIP RESOLUTION CONCERNING
The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship is, as the name suggests, a group of fundamental Baptist pastors, professors, missionaries and others who have associated themselves together to fight the good fight of faith and propagate the Gospel message. They have long been led by Pastor Rod Bell of Virginia, and have as their publication Frontline, a bi-monthly magazine of good quality in both content and format. There is a strong, but not exclusive, element of Bob Jones University graduates in the FBF.
I was recently made aware of a resolution passed by the FBF at its 75th annual meeting in 1995 at Faith Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. This resolution regarding Bible inspiration and translations is at once the most sound and sensible thing I have read in so brief a compass on this controversy, and I think it worthwhile to publish it here.
"In light of the considerable discussion among fundamentalists about the issue of manuscripts and textual theories, no particular belief about the best textual theory should be elevated to the place of becoming a core fundamental belief. Fundamentalists may hold the doctrine of inspiration with equal strength without embracing the same belief about textual criticism.
Additionally, proper evaluation of the doctrinal integrity of any particular English translation can only be done by examining its faithfulness to the original languages, not by comparing it with another English translation. While the process of comparing it with other translations may be profitable for matters of clarity and readability, this process cannot pass as the test of doctrinal accuracy since it is illegitimate to check one copy by another; one must compare the copy to the original.
In a day when translations abound, fundamentalists must exercise careful discernment in both the selection and rejection of translations. Some professing fundamentalists have wrongfully declared one translation to be the only inspired copy of God's Word in the English language and have sought to make this a test of fundamentalism.
Since no translation can genuinely claim what may only be said of the original, inspired writings, any attempt to make a particular English translation the only acceptable translation of fundamentalism must be rejected." (Copied from www.f-b-f.org).
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS
Our attentive and intelligent readers have once again spotted a few errors in the latest issue of "As I See It" and have supplemented our information on several points. A long-time friend, a "missionary kid" raised in Brazil and now a missionary to France, pointed out that the Portuguese phrase in Daniel 3:25, "ao filho dos deuses" should be translated "the son of the gods," rather than "a son of the gods," as we affirmed. I readily acknowledge that I was so focused on how the Aramaic elahin was translated, whether "God" or "gods"--this being the crucial point at issue in the discussion--that I gave insufficient attention to whether the article preceding filho/son was definite or indefinite.
Another friend in northern Wisconsin, a very well-read pastor and himself the editor of a monthly publication, noted that our date for the Bishops' Bible was incorrectly given as 1562, rather than the correct 1568. He had additional valuable information and observations to make regarding the article on "God forbid," though we cannot agree with quite all of his conclusions.
A friend in Turkey reported that the International Bible Society has prepared a new version in Turkish based on the Hebrew and Greek texts, but with a strong influence from the NIV, following a pattern we discovered in recent Spanish and Romanian versions.
Another reader, a missionary to Haitians, informed us that a KJV-based Creole NT has been prepared (called, we suppose, "Le Roi Jacques" version?) and an OT is underway. Happily, the NT has apparently been done with much greater conscientiousness than the Spanish NT we spotlighted last issue.
Finally, a missionary in Belize confirmed what we had heard but could not independently confirm regarding the identity of the translator of the "Rey Jaime" Spanish version. A missionary named McVey (no relation to the Oklahoma City bomber, to our knowledge) is the culpable party in producing the Rey Jaime.
CORNBREAD AND CAVIAR: REMINISCENCES AND REFLECTIONS by Bob Jones, Jr. Greenville, S. C.: Unusual Publications, 1985. 220 pp., hardback.
On our recent trip to South Carolina for our younger son's graduation from the Citadel, we stopped in at Bob Jones University to make a whirlwind tour of the campus. We were favorably impressed with what we saw of the well-manicured campus. I was especially impressed with the bookstore, inasmuch as there were several choice volumes for sale at reduced prices. Among them was this personal account by the late Bob Jones, Jr. I remember when it came out, and I wished to obtain it then, but was unable to do so, and had not seen it for sale since.
As far as I can recall, I only heard Bob Jones, Jr. in person once (at the funeral of my Bible college professor Dr. Noel Smith), though I had seen him in at least one--likely more--of the BJU films. Indeed, so convincing was he as the persecuting cardinal or bishop or whatever it was in "A Flame in the Wind" that I despised him for years! Jones, Jr. may be characterized as "the cultured fundamentalist," with his extensive training and experience in Shakespearean and other drama, and his detailed interest and knowledge of fine art (unfortunately the BJU art gallery was closed the day we visited).
Because he was the son of evangelist Bob Jones, Sr., and the president for many decades of Bob Jones College (later University), he came into contact with a very broad spectrum of religious leaders in the U.S. and abroad. In these personal reminiscences, Jones in his usual plain-spoken manner tells of his interaction with such figures, names names (only occasionally hesitating to do so), and gives his forthright opinions of them and their actions (there is, occasionally, a hint of Pecksniffianism). There are personal reminiscences of Billy and "Ma" Sunday, Homer Rodeheaver, H.A. Ironside, John R. Rice, Billy Graham (decidedly critical), Jerry Falwell (often critical) and others.
I learned a great deal from his accounts, particularly the personal side of many names and places prominent in 20th century American Christianity. I discovered, for example, how and why the Winona Lake Bible Conference waxed and waned over the decades, to completely disappear, with the Grace Brethren acquiring all the assets by accepting the conference's debts (I never learned any of this while a student in Winona Lake for 2.5 years in the mid-1970s).
Jones knew how to write and how to relate an anecdote. There is much here of interest. The book should be obtained and read.
THE DELUGE STORY IN STONE by Byron C. Nelson. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1968. 190 pp., paperback.
The author is not Byron Nelson the golfer, but a creationist and defender of the literal interpretation of the Genesis account of the Great Flood (Genesis 6-9). He was, apparently, a Lutheran theologian (the book was originally issued by Augsburg Publishing, a Lutheran denominational press). Though originally published in 1931, when creationist literature was a rare as Queen Anne's farthings, the information assembled and presented is still of considerable merit today, some of it not to be met with elsewhere.
Nelson traces the ebbs and flows of Flood geology among geologists. Before the 19th century, the great majority of geologists were catastrophists, that is, they believed the dominant features of earth's physical and geological features are a consequence of a great catastrophe, the Biblical Flood, and not the end product of slow and almost imperceptible changes over vast ages of time. This latter view, now called uniformitarianism, arose, not because of the compelling evidence in its support, but due to a rising spirit of unbelief and rejection of the supernatural element in Scripture.
Nelson shows that the most obvious and simple explanation of a broad variety of geological features is a world-wide flood. These phenomena include the masses of live-buried animals and plants in the fossil strata; the level bedding planes of most sedimentary rock strata, even those supposedly separated in their origins by multiplied millions of years; the jumbled masses of fossil bones from a diverse animals; the "out of order" position of many sedimentary rock layers (supposedly "younger" rocks lying beneath supposedly "older" rocks above); polystrate fossils (such as trees that extend as much as 80 feet through numerous sedimentary layers--compelling proof that all the layers were deposited at one time). Virtually none of Nelson's arguments or proofs need revision, even after the passage of 70 years.
Whether this volume is available in reprint, I do not know; if it is found new or used, it should be bought promptly.
E. W. BULLINGER: A BIOGRAPHY by Juanita S. Carey. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000. 181 pp., paperback. $15.95
This is the first and only published biography of prolific British clergyman and author Ethelbert W. Bullinger (1837-1913). I could in fact find no account of his life in four different reference works that usually yield some notice of prominent Christian figures.
Born into a Methodist home in Canterbury, England where his family had lived for 300 years, Bullinger was trained in youth as a musician, but became an ordained priest of the Church of England, and occupied various Anglican pulpits for about 25 years before retiring from active ministry to focus on writing. It is for his writings that he is remembered today. As Bullinger studied and wrote, he departed more and more from mainstream Anglicanism though he never left the Church of England. He became what today would be called a fundamentalist, insisting on the necessity of the great fundamental doctrines of the faith: the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, Christ's Deity, sinlessness, substitutionary death, physical resurrection, and Second coming, the latter of which Bullinger understood to be pre-millennial. He was a pre-tribulationist and a dispensationalist.
Among his best known works (many still in print--reprinted of late by Kregel) are The Companion Bible, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, Numbers in Scripture, and The Witness of the Stars.
Besides the numerous books and pamplets which he published, he also founded and edited for almost 20 years a monthly magazine "Things to Come," which (no surprise) had a strong emphasis on Bible prophecy.
Bullinger had a number of doctrine "peculiarities," shall we say. He is generally acknowledged to be a hyper- or ultra-dispensationalist, indeed the father of the movement--making The Book of Acts up to 28:28 a separate dispensation, with the church age only beginning then. This led him to divide up Paul's epistles into two groups: the pre-Acts 28:28 ones, and those written after that date with the latter alone being for the church age. He rejected baptism and the Lord's Supper as not for the church age (since they are not specifically mentioned in Paul's post-Acts 28:28 epistles; this view has some kinship to Quaker views). He seems to have also gone to seed to some degree on Bible numerics and even astrology.
Charles Ryrie, in his book Dispensationalism Today (Moody Press, 1965) p. 194, mentions some of Bullinger's other oddities: "He held the heretical doctrine of the extinction of the soul between death and resurrection. He was silent on the final state of the lost, and many of his followers were and are annihilationists." These are quite serious matters, but are not mentioned in Carey's biography.
In 1867, Bullinger became head of the nearly extinct Trinitarian Bible Society, and lead it to its highest level of prosperity, influence and activity up to that time. It is not noted in the book but merits mention that during Bullinger's tenure, the TBS published numerous works that were based on the so-called critical text, rather than the textus receptus (I mention this only because the present day TBS is rather rigid in its adherence to the textus receptus and the KJV; see Andrew J. Brown, The Word of God Among All Nations: A Brief History of the Trinitarian Bible Society 1831-1981. London: Trinitarian Bible Society, 1981)
Bullinger's family life seems to have often been less than ideal. When in his late 20s, he married a women 7 years his senior. Their two sons died in relative youth, one of malaria in Africa, the other of perhaps a heart attack or stroke at age 44. Much of the Bullingers' married life was spent apart, at least some but not all of the time because of Mrs. Bullinger's health concerns. The author of the book was unable to determine her whereabouts or residence for long periods. E. W.'s household was looked after by a niece for virtually the whole of the last 20 years or more of his life.
The author spent 3 years in England engaged in the research for this book, and was assisted with materials, documents and photographs by Bullinger's only granddaughter. The present volume is a revised edition of a volume first published in England in 1988. The research was thorough and the writing competent. A fuller treatment of Bullinger's theology and a better overview of his critics' objections would have been helpful. Likewise, more could have been said showing Bullinger's strong embrace of the critical Greek text as closer to the original than the textus receptus (a couple of comments in the book could even be taken--erroneously--as support by Bullinger of the KJVO/TRO point of view).
As one who has no direct personal acquaintance with the writings of Bullinger, I nevertheless on the strength of cautions from numerous authors I respect will suggest that Bullinger's writings, especially on dispensations, numerics and astrology are probably not the best thing to place in the hands of new or immature believers, since it is just on such subjects that neophytes are apt to go to extremes.
A GUIDE TO THE PURITANS by Robert P. Martin. Glasgow: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1996. 532 pp., paperback. $25.99
While the short title of this volume might suggest that it is restricted in its scope to the Puritans per se (ca. 1559-1660), the subtitle and the preface make clear that it covers a much broader spectrum. The subtitle reads "A topical and textual index to writings of the Puritans and some of their successors recently in print." In truth, the book could just as easily have been called "A Guide to the Puritans and Other Reformed Theologians and Writers from 1560 to the Present Day." Besides the usual suspects--Manton, Owen, Sibbes, Flavel, Brooks, Bunyan, and others of the Puritan era--we find included the writings of Edwards, the Princeton Hodges (and other Princetonians), Dabney, Thornwell, and other Southern Presbyterians, 19th century British preachers, Spurgeon, Ryle and more, plus numerous 20th century figures including Pink, Lloyd-Jones, and leading figures at Westminster Seminary. The author laments that the work is necessarily incomplete (e.g., I noticed that none of John Gill's tracts or sermons are indexed, though his book The Cause of God and Truth is included; brief reflection would no doubt reveal other gaps).
Puritan and Reformed authors included here are those whose works have been recently or are currently available in print (what would be the immediate value of indexing Puritan works that are long out-of-print and completely inaccessible?).
Martin classifies the works indexed under multiple headings: topical index, scriptural index, biographies, reviews and introductions; sermons subdivided under funeral, Lord's Supper, ordination, special occasions, and farewell sermons. Letters and miscellaneous items, with a comprehensive list of works indexed round out this work.
Commentaries are not indexed (with a few minor exceptions), since any given Biblical text can be easily located in the expositions of Calvin or Henry or Poole or Ryle et al., nor are they even listed, reviewed or annotated since most pre-1876 commentaries of note are reviewed, some in great detail, in Spurgeon's Commenting and Commentaries (no point in re-inventing the wheel). Likewise, the sermons by Spurgeon in the 62-volume New Park Street Pulpit/ Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit are not indexed, since a complete textual and topical index already exists (available from Pilgrim Publications of Pasadena, Texas).
While I would never claim the designation Reformed--indeed would find much to disagree with in Reformed literature--nor would I lay claim to being a Calvinist (though I find myself in more agreement with Calvin himself than with many of his self-styled "Calvinist" followers), nevertheless, I am happy for this guide, and am sure that I will be consulting it frequently. The author has laid us greatly in his debt.