March 2017

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Someone was recently searching this site for more information about H. McAllister Griffiths. He was well known in the 1930s and 40s, but is largely forgotten now. He served as ecclesiastical counsel for J. Gresham Machen, Roy T. Brumbaugh and several others who were brought to trial in PCUSA church courts for their involvement with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Griffiths had been the managing editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, then went on to serve with the IBPFM and later as General Secretary for the American Council of Christian Churches [ACCC].

It was while in that latter position that he fell into some difficulties around 1944. The end result was that Griffiths left to avoid dealing with some matters and simply disappeared from the circles of fellowship of which he had been a part. Griffiths may have taken work in Canada for a time before returning to New York City to work in the public relations field. The rest of the story comes by way of a letter found among the papers of Dr. Allan A. MacRae. It is quite a story, and like the story of Jonah, it proves that the Christian may run, but the Lord will still use even His erring children in His greater plan, when and where He will. Dr. MacRae is here writing to the widow of Dr. William H. Chisholm, and in the course of the letter tells this account:

April 5, 1978

Dear Mrs. Chisholm:

Thank you very much for sending me the excerpts from the biographical sketch of your dear husband by Dr. Louis M. Barnes on September 20, 1977. It contained many facts that I had not previously known. Dr. Chisholm was one of the finest Christians I ever met. His messages in our chapel were a tremendous blessing to all of us.

It interested me to read that he had met you through Hall McAllister Griffiths with whom for a time I was very well acquainted. He had a great influence on Dr. Machen. After a time of very valuable activity in our group, interrupted by a few unfortunate lapses, Hall left us and we heard little about him for a number of years. However, I was happy to be told of a letter that he wrote toward the end of his life, mentioning his activity in helping to word resolutions and reports at a business meeting. He said that at the end of the meeting the vice-president of an important corporation had come to him and said: “Would you tell me how to be saved?” He said, “What makes you think that I can tell you how to be saved?” The man answered, “There is something about your attitude that makes me feel that you can.” Hall said that he then explained the way of salvation and the man bowed his head and received Christ as Savior. Later on Hall received a call from the man’s wife who told him that just a week after the meeting her husband had suddenly died of a heart attack. She said that before he died he had rejoiced greatly in his new-found salvation and that as a result of his witness she also had come to know Christ. I was glad to learn that though Satan had diverted Hall’s activities to quite an extent in his latter years, he still retained the most vital things of the Gospel, and was used to some extent to show forth the glory of the Lord, though far less than your dear husband was.

Hall was almost a genius, but was quite undisciplined. It is one of the faults of our present civilization that those with unusual ability are often undisciplined.

I hope that you and Mary are well and that the Lord is blessing. May He give you strength and bless you in all things.

Cordially yours in Christ.

/s/ Allan A. MacRae

Words to Live By:
Never turn loose of the Lord. If you truly belong to Christ, He will never turn loose of you. Draw near to Him day by day. Stay in the Scriptures; be constant in prayer. Make Him your All in All.

Located among the correspondence in the Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection, there is this letter from Dr. H. G. C. Hallock which has caught my attention. 

Henry Galloway Comingo Hallock, was born on 31 March 1870, and prepared for ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1893-1896. Upon graduation he immediately took a post as a PCUSA missionary to China. In 1905 he withdrew to independent ministry and teaching, serving later as Professor of Homiletics in the department of theology at the University of China, Chenju, Shanghai, 1925-1927.  For a time he had also been connected with the National Tract Society for China. Among some Princeton alumni information, there is indication that he remained in China up until at least June of 1942. Later returning to the United States, he died on 16 January 1951. 

The letter that follows is a powerful testimony from the field of conflict. It is a revealing letter, telling the truth about evil, and a hopeful letter, speaking the truth about our Lord who sovereignly prevails over evil, purifying His Church, raising up a strong testimony to His grace and glory. Today, Rev. Hallock’s “prophecy” of China’s future rings true. 

C.P.O.Box No. 1234, Shanghai, China, March 22, 1927.

Dear Friend,

I have written several times about our Bible School and of our work among its students and about our students’ work among the chil­dren and with the people in the country villages, I hope you are inter­ested and that your heart has prompted you to help. There has not been time for a reply from you, as it takes a month each way for letters to go and come; but let me write again and tell you more. We are having very serious troubles in China. Fighting and unrest are all about us. I hear cannon booming and see many houses burning in Shanghai now as I write. Tho’ our Bible School is in the danger zone yet we have not been molested in the least. The militarists have closed a secular school of 600 pupils near us, as the generals feared the students were cutting the telegraph wires, R.R. tracks, and doing other mischief; but our Bible School goes on without interference. We are very glad and thankful to our Heavenly Father. We are grateful also that you have been praying for us.

Pray much also for China. An idea is abroad that a spirit of nationalism is among the people. This is largely a mistake. I do wish there were a spirit of real nationalism abroad, the leaders seeking the real good of their country and people; but I am sorry it is not so. The people are driven about in fear—like a flock of sheep pursued by mad— dogs or wolves—by men in the pay of Bolshevists. Lest these beasts of men be moved by pity for their own people the Bolshevists enlist perfect strangers from a distance to carry on propaganda, terrorize people, stir up strikes and shoot those too poor to strike, initiating a reign of ter­ror, making the workers afraid to work—lest they be killed for working or their wives and children be killed while they work. As soon as ample protection is provided the people are very glad to flock back to work. The so-called Nationalists, led by the Bolshevists, say they are seeking the good of the people; but wherever they go they rob and kill the people and smash up schools, hospitals, churches and Chinese temples. You friends in good old America don’t want them and can largely keep the Bolshevists out; but the Chinese are not able to do so, so these fiends carry on with a high hand. There seems to be no limit to their deviltries. They cry, “Down with imperialists! Give the people freedom!” but they themselves are tyranic imperialists, and crush freedom. They are domineering over­lords making a comparatively free people slaves. Freedom is impossible where they come. Like fierce, wild animals they are over-running the country, and the people, poor and rich alike, are fleeing for their lives.

But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christ­ians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before. Pray much, too, for the native preachers and Bible women, and also for the young men in our Bible School. They are staying firm in the school tho’ dangers are all around. — Shanghai just captured. Many Chinese killed. I can’t well flee. God guards. P.O. is closed. If this arrives you’ll know all’s well.

Yours in Christ’s glad service,

(Rev.) H. G. C. Hallock.

[emphasis added]

Admittedly this is long, but worth it. At worst, save it to read over the weekend. This is one of Dr. Machen’s lesser known works, a brief testimony, titled “My Idea of God,” which appeared in a book of the same name, a gathering of statements largely philosophical, which only served to make Machen’s testimony stand out all the more.

Editor’s preface:—

machen02JOHN GRESHAM MACHEN was born in Baltimore in 1881. After graduating from Johns Hopkins and Princeton Universities and the Princeton Theological Seminary, he studied in Marburg and Gottingen Universities, and was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1914. Since 1914 he has been associate professor of New Testament literature in Princeton Seminary, doing work betimes with the French Army and the A.E.F., in France and Belgium, during the World War.

Besides textbooks of Greek and many articles in reviews, Dr. Machen has written two books of unusual quality for general readers, Christianity and Liberalism (in which he holds that liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all, but a confection of modern theories exactly opposed to the Christian faith, with which there can be neither compromise nor unity) and What Is Faith? which inspired an extraordinary symposium in The British Weekly.

In the recent discussion which has agitated the Churches – now happily subsiding – Dr. Machen was the outstanding exponent of the conservative attitude, adding to a vital mind a lucid logic and a cogent style which left no shadow upon his meaning. His essay has value equally for its directness and its sincerity.


MY IDEA OF GOD

by J. GRESHAM MACHEN, D.D. PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

IF my idea of God were really mine, if it were one which I had evolved out of my own inner consciousness, I should attribute very little importance to it myself, and should certainly expect even less importance to be attributed to it by others. If God is merely a fact of human experience, if theology is merely a branch of psychology, then I for my part shall cease to be interested in the subject at all. The only God about whom I can feel concerned is one who has objective existence, an existence independent of man.

But if there be such a really and independently existent Being, it seems extremely unlikely that there can be any knowledge of Him unless He chooses to reveal Himself: a divine Being that could be discovered apart from revelation would be either a mere name for an aspect of man’s nature – the feeling of reverence or loyalty or the like – or else, if possessing objective existence, a mere passive thing that would submit to human investigation like the substances that are analyzed in the laboratory. And in either case it would seem absurd to apply to such a Being the name of “God.”

A really existent God, then, if He be more than merely passive, if He be a living God, can be known only through

His revelation of Himself. And it is extremely unlikely that such revelation should have come to me alone. I reject, therefore, the whole subjectivizing tendency in religion that is so popular at the present time – the whole notion that faith is merely an “adventure” of the individual man. On the contrary, I am on the search for some revelation of God that has come to other men as well as to me, and that has come into human life, not through a mere analysis of human states of consciousness but distinctly from the outside. Such revelation I find in the Christian religion.

The idea of God, therefore, which I shall here endeavor to summarize is simply the Christian idea. I have indeed been enabled to make it my own; I love it with all my heart; but I should not love it if I thought that it had been discovered merely in the depths of my own soul. On the contrary, the very thing that I love about it is that it comes to me with an external authority which I hold to be the authority of God Himself.

At this point, however, there will no doubt be an objection. We have spoken about the knowledge of God; but in reality the knowledge of God, it is often said, is unnecessary to our contact with Him, or at least it occupies merely a secondary place, as the symbolic and necessarily changing expression of an experience which in itself is ineffable. Such depre-. ciation of knowledge in the sphere of religion has been widely prevalent in the modern world, and at no time has it been more prevalent than now. It underlies the mysticism of Schleiermacher and his many successors; it underlies the Ritschlian rejection of “metaphysics”; it underlies the popular exaltation of “abiding experiences” at the expense of the mental categories in which they are supposed to be expressed; and in general it is at the roots of the entire separation between religion and theology, experience and doctrine, faith and knowledge, which is so marked a characteristic of the religious teaching of the present day.

In opposition to this entire tendency, I for my part must still insist upon the primacy of the intellect. It may seem strange that the intellect should have to be defended by one who has so slight an experimental acquaintance with it as I; but reason in our days has been deposed from her queenly throne by pragmatism the usurper, and, wandering in exile as she does, cannot be too critical of any humble persons who rally to her defense. And, as a matter of fact, the passionate anti-intellectualism of the present age is having its natural fruit in a lamentable intellectual as well as moral decline. Such decadence can be checked – I, for my part, believe – only by a reemphasis upon truth as distinguished from practice, and in particular only by a return from all anti-intellectual mysticism or positivism to the knowledge of God.

Certainly, unless our contact with God is based upon knowledge of Him it ceases to possess any moral quality at all. Pure feeling is non-moral; what makes my affection for a human friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the knowledge which I possess of the character of my friend. So it is also with our relation to God: religion is moral and personal only if it is based upon truth.

If then, in order that there may be a moral and personal relation to God, there must be knowledge of Him, how may that knowledge be attained? I have no new ways to suggest: the only ways of knowing God which I can detect are found in nature, in conscience, and in the Bible.

God is revealed, I hold, in the first place through the things that He has made. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” This revelation of God through nature is commonly called – or used to be commonly called – “natural religion.” And natural religion is by no means altogether dead. Modern men of science, if they be thoughtful, admit that there is a mystery in the presence of which the wisdom of the wisest men is dumb; the true man of science stands at length before a curtain that is never lifted, a mystery that rebukes all pride. But this revelation through nature is far richer than many men of science suppose; in reality it presents to us not merely a blank mystery, but the mighty God. The revelation comes to different men in different ways. For example, when I viewed the spectacle of the total eclipse of the sun at New Haven on the twenty-fourth of January I925, I was confirmed in my theism. Such phenomena make us conscious of the wonderful mechanism of the universe, as we ought to be conscious of it every day; at such moments anything like materialism seems to be but a very pitiful and very unreasonable thing. I am no astronomer, but of one thing I was certain: when the strange, slow-moving shadow was gone, and the world was bathed again in the wholesome light of day, I knew that the sun, despite its vastness, was made for us personal beings and not we for the sun, and that it was made for us personal beings by the living God.

In the second place, God is revealed by His voice within us. I am perfectly well aware that that voice is not always heard. Conscience has fallen on evil days: it is drowned by a jargon of psychological terms; it is supposed to be rendered unnecessary by an all-embracing network of legislative enactments.

The categories of guilt and retribution are in many quarters thought to be out of date, and scientific sociology is substituted for the distinction between right and wrong. But I for my part am not favorably impressed with the change; self-interest seems to me to be but a feeble substitute for the moral law, and its feebleness, despite bureaucratic regulation of the details of human life and despite scientific study both of individual human behavior and of the phenomena of human society, seems to be becoming evident in an alarming moral decline. The raging sea of passion cannot, I think, be kept back permanently by the flimsy mud embankments of utilitarianism; but recourse may again have to be had to the solid masonry of the law of God.

In the third place, God is revealed in the Bible. He is revealed in the Bible in a way which is entirely distinct from those ways that have just been mentioned. The Bible tells us things about God of which no slightest hint is found either in nature or in conscience. Of those things we shall speak in a moment.

But first it should be observed that, in addition to that fresh information, the Bible also confirms the revelation which has already been given. The confirmation is certainly necessary; for the revelation of God both in nature and in conscience has been sadly obscured. In comparing the fortieth chapter of Isaiah or the first verse of Genesis or the teaching of Jesus with the feeble and hesitant theism which is the highest that philosophy has to offer, and in comparing the unaided voice of conscience with the fifty-first Psalm or the searching law presented in the Sermon on the Mount, one feels that in the Bible a veil has been removed from the eyes of men. The facts were already there, and also the gift of human reason for the apprehension of them; but the light of reason somehow was obscured until in the Bible men were enabled to see what they ought to have seen before.

Thus, in these three ways there is attained, I hold, a genuine and objective knowledge of God. Certainly that knowledge does not remove the feeling of wonder which is dear to the mystic’s heart. Indeed, it ought to accentuate that feeling a thousandfold. There is nothing in the knowledge of God which should stifle, but everything which should awaken, the “numinous” quality in religion of which Otto speaks. God has gently pulled aside the curtain which veils His Being from the gaze of men, but the look thus granted beyond only reveals anew the vastness of the unknown. If a man’s knowledge of God removes his sense of wonder in the presence of the Eternal, then he has not yet known as he ought to know.

Yet partial knowledge is not necessarily false, and there are certain things which are known about God.

At the very centre of those things stands that which is most often denied to-day; the very centre and core of Christian belief is found in the awful transcendence of God, the awful separateness between God and the world. That is denied by modern men in the interests of what is called, by a perversion of a great truth, the “immanence” of God. We will have nothing to do – men say – with the far-off God of historic theology; instead we will worship a God who exists only in and with the world, a God whose life is found only in that life which pulsates through the life of every one of us. Pantheism, in other words, is substituted for theism, on the ground that it brings God nearer to man.

But has it really the desired effect? I, for my part, think not. Far from bringing God nearer to man, the pantheism of our day really pushes Him very far off; it brings Him physically near, but at the same time makes Him spiritually remote; it conceives of Him as a sort of blind vital force, but ceases to regard Him as a Person whom a man can love. Destroy the free personality of God and the possibility of fellowship with Him is gone; we cannot love a God of whom we are parts.

Thus, I for my part cling with all my heart to what are called the metaphysical attributes of God – His infinity and omnipotence and creatorhood. The finite God of Mr. H.G. Wells seems to me to be but a curious product of a modern mythology; He is to my mind not God, but a god; and in the presence of all such imaginings I am obliged to turn, very humbly but very resolutely, toward the dread, stupendous mystery of the Infinite, and say with Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

This devotion to the so-called metaphysical attributes of God is unpopular at the present day. There are many who tell us that we ought to cease to be interested in the question how the world was made, or what will be our fate when we pass through the dark portals of death. Instead, we are told, we ought to worship a God who is not powerful but merely good. Such is the “ethical theism” of Dr. McGiffert and many others; Jesus, it seems, was quite wrong in the stress that He undoubtedly laid upon the doctrine of heaven and hell and the sovereignty of God. We moderns, it seems, can find a higher, disinterested worship – far higher than that of Jesus – in reverence for goodness divested of the vulgar trappings of power.

It sounds noble at first. But consider it for a moment, and its glory turns to ashes and leaves us in despair. What is meant by a goodness that has not physical power? Is not “goodness” in itself the merest abstraction? Is it not altogether without meaning except as belonging to a person? And does not the very notion of a person involve the power to act? Goodness divorced from power is therefore no goodness at all. The truth is that overmuch abstraction has here destroyed even that which is intended to be conserved. Make God good and not powerful, and both God and goodness have been destroyed.

In the presence of all such abstractions, the heart of man turns with new longing to the Living and Holy God, to the God who is revealed in nature, in the dread voice of conscience, and in the Bible. But as one turns to such a God, there is no comfort but only despair; the whole human race is separated from God by an awful abyss. Strange indeed, to us Christians, seems the complacency of the world; the very root of our religion is found in the consciousness of sin.

But at that point, on the basis of such presuppositions, there comes the really distinctive revelation that the Bible contains. It is not a revelation of things that already were true, but the explanation of an act. The Christian religion is based not merely upon permanent truths of religion, but upon things that happened in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago; it is based not merely upon knowledge of what God is, but also on a record of what God did. Into our sinful world – the Christian holds – there came in God’s good time a Divine Redeemer.

His coming, marked by a stupendous miracle, was a voluntary act of condescension and love. During the days of His flesh, He proclaimed by His word and example the law of God. He proclaimed it in a new and terrible way that of itself could only deepen our despair. But with His proclamation of’ the law there went His proclamation of the gospel; with His pronouncement of the Divine judgment upon sin there went His offer of Himself as Saviour. When that offer was received in faith, there was not only cure of bodily ills, but also forgiveness in the presence of God.

At first faith was implicit; men trusted themselves to Jesus without fully knowing how it was that He could save. But even while He was on earth He pointed forward with ever increasing clearness to the redeeming work which He had come into the world to do. And at last, on the cross, that work was done. The Divine Saviour and Lord, for the love wherewith He loved us, bore all the guilt of our sins, made white and clean the dark page of our account, and reconciled us to God. There is the centre of our religion. But how pitiful are my words! I may perhaps make men understand what we think, yet I can never quite make them sympathize with what we feel. The holy and righteous God, the dreadful guilt and uncleanness of sin, the wonder of God’s grace in the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the entrance through Christ into the very house of God, the new birth by the power of God’s Spirit, the communion with the risen and ascended Lord through His Holy Spirit present in the Christian’s heart – these are the convictions upon which rest our very lives.

If these convictions are false, they must be given up. But so long as we think them true we must act in accord with them, and it is morally wrong to ask us to do otherwise. At this point appears the profoundly unethical character of most of the proposals for Church union that are being made at the present day. The right way to combat us who call ourselves evangelical Christians is to combat honestly and openly our central convictions as to God and sin and redemption, not to ask us to hold those convictions and then act contrary to them. So long as we think as we do, we cannot, if we love our fellow men, allow them, so far as our testimony is concerned, to remain satisfied with the coldness of what we regard as a baseless and fatal optimism. We must endeavor, by the preaching of the law of God and of the gospel of His love, to bring them into the warmth and joy of the household of faith.

[This work by Dr. J. Gresham Machen was first issued as a chapter in the book, My Idea of God, published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1927, and appeared on pages 39 – 50 of that volume.] To view or download a PDF of this work, click here.

April is coming on fast, and thoughts begin to turn to General Assemblies. Well, indulge the policy wonks if you would please, and hopefully others will find this somewhat interesting. The following concerns why or how it is that we have the safeguard in place, that says a man coming from another denomination cannot become the pastor of a church until he has first met with and been approved by the Presbytery. Why do we have that rule? Where did it come from? Well, as they say, here’s the rest of the story:—

The PCA’s Book of Church Order, in the first paragraph of the chapter treating of the ordination and installation of ministers, states in part that

Ordinarily a candidate or licentiate may not be granted permission by the Presbytery to move on to the field to which he has been called, prior to his examination for licensure or ordination. Likewise an ordained minister from another Presbyterian Church in America Presbytery or another denomination, ordinarily shall not move on to the field to which he has been called until examined and received by Presbytery.

Where does that requirement come from? Why is it important? Well, history is what we do here, so a bit of background seemed important as I came across it recently.
As the PCA’s Book of Church Order is based directly on the polity of prior denominations, this history is also directly relevant.

The setting of this story is the meeting of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern). It is the third day of their General Assembly, and the report comes that an entire Presbytery wants to join the denomination. There is testimony that these men are entirely orthodox. But they would rather not suffer the pain of a theological examination by the receiving body. At which point the Rev. E. Thompson Baird rose to address the issue:

Rev. Dr. Baird sketched the history of the origin of the rule requiring the examination of ministers passing from Presbytery to Presbytery. Dr. Lyman Beecher came to a Presbytery in New York from some Congregational Association, and was admitted without examination, and immediately took a letter of dismission to an Ohio Presbytery, and was received, and subsequently stated that he had never signified his adoption of the Confession of Faith. The late Dr. Alexander therefore advocated the adoption of the examination rule, for without it a single Presbytery might deluge the church with heretical ministers. The rule was not directed especially against the New School Church, for at the time of its adoption that church had no existence. Nor had it been suspended in the case of the United Synod.—They had examined the Old School and the Old School had examined them, and it was not until they were thoroughly satisfied as to one another’s soundness that they came together. Nor could it be reasonably objected to. He was not ashamed to proclaim anywhere what he believed as to the great doctrines of religion, and he was not willing to alter our whole system to open the door to a few who were not willing to come in the same way that others had been received. The importance of it is increased at this time—it is more necessary than ever in these days of fanaticism that we should have such a rule. Even in the case of old ministers he thought it a good thing to talk over our views occasionally. When a venerable father in the church comes to be examined, if we cannot find any heresy in him, we can at least learn a great deal from him about the great doctrines of grace. The speaker continued that if the rule is absolute, nobody’s feelings can be hurt by it. He therefore saw no necessity for its repeal.

And apparently he made his case well, for when the report was adopted, the Assembly refused to repeal the rule requiring the examination of all ministers entering a Presbytery. So our Book to this day still expects and requires a Presbytery to examine and receive a minister before he can be allowed onto the field of ministry within that Presbytery.

Again, we’re off the calendar by a few days with this post, but the following article from the April 1949 issue of THE BIBLE TODAY may have some contemporary interest. This particular article is a transcript of a radio message by Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. and it was the third in a series of five messages on the general theme “The Biblical Basis of Liberty.” These messages were delivered over the ABC Network in the spring of 1949, under the auspices of the American Council of Christian Churches.

What the Bible Teaches About Economic Liberty

DR. BUSWELL’S RADIO MESSAGE, MARCH 19, 1949.

THE Biblical doctrine of economic liberty begins in the book of Genesis in the Garden of Eden before any sin had entered into the good world which God had made. Moses tells us, “And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it,” Genesis 2:15. Here we have the elements of harmonious economic activity. It is in the spirit of the Scripture for us to expand the sentence in its setting, to include the tilling of the soil and the entire range of the cultivation of natural resources, as a normal activity for man.

The next step in the economic doctrine of the Bible is found in the third chapter of Genesis after man’s fall, after sin had entered into the world, after man had corrupted the holy character which God had given him. As a part of the disciplinary punishment for sin we read that God said, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Genesis 3:17-19.

Reflecting upon the symbolism which Moses here gives, it appears that one of the best disciplines God has given to a sinful race is the economic necessity of earning a livelihood. We need not look far to see many illustrations of the fact that hard work, the necessity of providing food, shelter, education and development for our children, is a stabilizing, integrating factor in human life.

The economic implications of the Mosaic law are too vast to examine in detail in a brief message of this kind. Suffice it to say that the principles of thrift, industry, provision for one’s family, and care of the unfortunate are all implied, or expressly taught. Much attention has been focused upon the law of the year of jubilee. Some have falsely supposed that a sort of communistic economic principle was implied. But nothing could be further from the facts. The import of the law of the year of jubilee was to keep the agricultural lands distributed among the families of the nation. Monopoly of natural resources was prevented. Fair opportunity for all was the end in view.

The prevention of monopoly of natural resources is a constant theme in the Bible from the time of Moses through to the end of the New Testament. Isaiah says, for example, “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room . . .” Isaiah 5:8. The clear implications of Isaiah’s teaching are in accordance with the principle of modern reform legislation keeping the natural resources of the land available for all.

The central text of the New Testament in the realm of economic doctrine is, I believe, Ephesians 4:28, in which St. Paul places before the church the Christian ideal of economic activity, namely, “Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Here we have liberty, thrift, industry, saving, private property, and care for the weak and unfortunate all clearly implied as economic principles.

Some have taken their chief text for New Testament economic doctrine from the experiment in communism recorded in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. It is true that under the spiritual impulse of Pentecost, the Christian community in Jerusalem practiced economic communism. All who have carefully read the record have observed, however, that the community of goods was purely voluntary. The record makes it perfectly clear that there was no compulsion, and one who did not wish to contribute his property to the common fund was equally in good standing with one who did so contribute.

Beyond the immediate record, however, there are other facts in the New Testament which have not been so commonly understood. When Saul of Tarsus was converted and became the Apostle Paul, and when he began the establishment of churches throughout the great cities of the Roman world, with his keenness and wisdom, he instituted an economic principle diametrically opposed to the community of goods which the Jerusalem group had been practicing. In his earliest epistles, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he teaches individual thrift and industry, private property and individual responsibility, and he said most emphatically “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thess. 3:10. A moment’s reflection will show that Paul had seen the weakness of the Jerusalem practice.

When there was a famine in both Antioch and Jerusalem, Antioch, where Paul was in charge, had to feed Jerusalem where the communistic experiment had been going on. Thus the New Testament demonstrates the communistic experiment to have been a failure.

At the end of Paul’s life, we find his same doctrine of economic liberty clearly taught in his latest writings. With reference to the care of widows in particular, but with application to all dependents, Paul taught “But if any provide not: for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” (I Timothy 5:8)

Not only in the clear and direct teachings of the Scripture, but also in the prophetic portions, looking far on into the future and forecasting the conditions under the reign of the Messiah, the visible kingdom of God on earth, individual liberty and responsibility is the ideal. Both Isaiah and Micah, his contemporary, predict that when the Messiah of Israel rules over all the earth, and when all harmful pests and pestilences, noxious weeds and poisonous reptiles, are done away, when the “desert shall blossom as the rose” and when an “handful of corn” in the tops of the mountains shall bring forth fruit “like Lebanon,” in that day of economic peace and blessedness, “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; [not the public vine and fig tree] and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” Micah 4:4

It is thus the ideal of the Scripture from beginning to end that economic liberty and economic responsibility shall prevail.

This does not mean that Bible believing Christians must necessarily oppose all social economic enterprise. We have no argument as to whether the government of society in general shall, or shall not, own and operate the public utilities. We do not claim Scripture sanction for detailed economic policies of State for all believers under all circumstances. What we claim is that the Bible teaches that the economic world at all times should be so organized that individual responsibility and enterprise will be free to engage in productive activities with honest hope of economic reward.

Some will say, “This theme seems remote from the gospel. It does not sound like Bible teaching.” Let me emphasize the fact that Bible teaching is practical teaching, and that there is much instruction in the Bible for the daily conduct of our lives; finally, and most important, let me point out that economic liberty taught in the Bible, economic liberty coupled with individual responsibility, is quite in harmony with, and is a necessary implication of, the gospel of God’s grace, offered freely to all mankind. Just as the “earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” and just as he has “given it to the children of men,” (Psalm 24:1 and 115:16), so the grace of God for salvation, for everlasting life, is free and boundless, and offered to all mankind “without money and without price.” As free as the air we breathe, as free as the rain which God sends upon us all, so free for all who will receive it is God’s saving grace.

Christ has come into the world to reveal the love of God for the race of mankind which has corrupted itself and gone the way of sin and confusion. If we obey God’s economic law, economic peace and harmony will prevail; if we accept God’s spiritual plan, we shall discover that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13. See Joel 2:32)

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