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A WORD FOR"'^ 

THE PRESENT CRISIS 

BY THE LATE REV. DR. PARKER, 
CITY TEMPLE, LONDON, ENG. 

At a meeting of the Free Church Council in 
England, the message of the President, Kev. 
Dr. Joseph Parker, was in part as follows: 

We were brought up amongst simple, unsus- 
pecting believers. They told us that the Bible 
was all true. They called it the Holy Bible, 
and they held it to be such. They told us that 
Eden was a real place, with real trees, and a 
real serpent. They told us that a four-branched 
river rolled through the sunny paradise; we 
thought that Adam bathed in Hiddekel, and 
that the gold that coloured the Pison stream 
was solid and yellow. We never doubted it. 
The place on the map w^as pointed out, wdth 
the assurance that if Eden was not there it v/as 
thereabouts. Some people believe this still. The 
Salvation Army believes it. Some Primitive 
Methodists believe it; Spurgeon believed it. In 
its highest, deepest, grandest meaning I myself 
believe it. 

Our mothers are responsible for a good deul. 
They were not literal grammarians, but they 

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were gigantic believers. They used to read to 
us the story of Joseph and cry over it, and 
made much of the coat of many colors, and 
when we came to '^your father, the old man 
of whom ye spake, is he well?^' our brawny 
fathers sobbed and pretended to be only cough- 
ing. If anybody had told us then what some 
people tell us now, that there was no Joseph — 
no old man — no coat of many colors — no life in 
Egypt — no forgiven brethren — no family recon 
ciliation, that it in all a dream, a fantasy, an 
illusion in color, I know not in what terms he 
would have been denounced and with what hor- 
ror ho would have been shunned. Some of us 
still believe in the history of Joseph; and when 
all other stories have run out, this story of 
Joseph will exact its tribute of tears from the 
eyes of far-off generations. 

Then in this matter of credulity our quaint 
old pastors were little better than our mothers. 
If some modern criticism is true, those old pas- 
tors wero unconscious impostors. They read the 
Bible and actually believed it, and preached it 
without a stammer. They used to preach about 
Daniel and the lions' den, and make us feel 
heroic in the heroism of the brave young man. 
Now it turns out that there were no lions, there 
was no den, and worst of all, there was no 
Daniel. The Book of Daniel is taken away 



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bodily. Yet we are told that the Bible has 
been given back to us by the critics, and that 
it is a better book than we had before. Some 
of us cannot yet recoive this saying. At pres- 
ent we are suffering from a grievous sense of 
loss. ' 

Do not suppose, however, that all the higher 
critics are of one mind, or that they all pursue 
one method, and do not suppose that every min- 
ister has given up Joseph and his brethren, or 
even Daniel and the lions ^ den. 

Broad and indiscriminate statements are apt 
to be untnie and unjust on all sides of great 
controversies. 

Our dear old pastors used to preach about 
David, and quoting, call him the ^' sweet singer 
of Israel,'' and now according to some it turns 
out that David was no singer at all, and that 
he probably never heard of the Psalms which 
he is supposed to have written. Still more 
widespread is the havoc made by some ruthless 
sickles. It is bad enough to lose Joseph and 
his brethren, Daniel and his den, David and his 
harp, Jonah and his whale, but these are com- 
parative trifles. .■'.'. ^ V 

There was, according to some, no miraculous 
conception, no ministry of miracles, no resur- 
rection of Christ. — All is idealism, poetry, 
dream, and hazy myth. Bethlehem and Nazar- 

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eth disappear from what we used to call the 
sacred page. 

In the old, old times when we were young the 
Christian Church had a heaven and a hell, an 
immortal soul, a direct revelation from heaven, 
a book which it called ''the Word of God.'' 

In those early days we thought that Chris- 
tians who died went to be ''forever with the 
Lord.'' We said in a sob, which was really a 
song, ' ' They shall hunger no more, neither thirst 
any more, neither shall the sun light on them, 
nor any heat. The Lamb which is in the midst 
of the throne shall feed them and lead them 
unto living fountains of water, and God shall 
wipe away all tears from their eyes. ' ' We said 
that each of them had a crown, a harp, and a 
white robe. Now we are told that all we sup- 
posed to be real was but fancy, mirage, and 
"the stuff that dreams are made of." 

Now I want you to see that if we yielded to 
these suggestions and demands we should be 
giving up a good deal. Do not suppose that 
it is easy for the soul to part with its very 
self — with all the things which would leave 
only emptiness and mocking echoes behind. We 
were sad when we saw the Bible thus depleted. 
We had really loved the Bible. It was literally 
Everything to us. So when it seemed to go 
from us piece by piece, our hearts were grieved 

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and our prospect was a great, all-covering cloud. 
When we were asked why we were so sad we 
could not easily refrain from saying — each for 
himself, "Why should not my countenance be 
sad, when the city, the place of my fathers^ 
sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof 
are burned with fire?'' 

We had so much, so very much, tc give up. 
Some of us have not even yet given up our 
faith. Blessed be God, some of us still believe 
in the whole Bible. We know that translation 
may have its faults, and that copyists may make 
blunders, and yet we hold to the whole book — 
we still call it the Holy Bible — it is to us in 
substance and in effect the veritable Word of 
God. And so-called higher criticism is not, how- 
ever, of the same quality. There are higher 
critics and higher critics. Some of them are as 
lovingly Biblical as the best of us, and we thank 
them for all their noble and most useful ser- 
vice. 

Yes, we have been asked to give up a good 
deal, and what, as I have already said, aggra- 
vates us most of all, is that we have been asked 
to believe that the giving of it up has made 
the Bible more precious than ever to us. 

Genesis turns out to be mainly fable. Abram 
is not a man, but an '^eponyman's hero"; 
Joseph "is not'' in a deeper and wider sense; 

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Shadraeh, Meshoch and Abednego arc mere 
dreams and nightmares; the books of Kings 
and Chronicles are removed bodily; Eceles- 
iastes and Solomon ^s Song ought never to have 
been in the Bible; yet, notwithstanding all this, 
wo are to think of the Bible being ^ ^ given 
back'' to us more precious than ever. We 
cannot do so all at once. Our training blocks 
the way. Early impressions are often indel- 
ible. It is hard to regard supposed enemies as 
all at once our disguised friends. 

For example, many of us were brought up 
to believe that Tom Paine was an awful char- 
acter — nothing short of an infidel, blatant, pre- 
sumptuous, defiant. Tom Paine was a kind of 
moral typhus, or a malignant form of smallpox. 
Every man who had a copy of his '^Age of 
Reason '^ kept it in a secret drawer and lent it 
at night time and under whispered vow of 
secrecy. To possess the ^^Age of Reason'^ was 
equal to having an infectious and loathsome 
disease. Bishop Watson answered ^ ^ The Age of 
Reason, ^ ' but the Bishop is now nowhere. Tom 
Paine ^s *^soul goes marching on,^^ but the 
Bishop is forgotten as if his book were a mere 
escape of gas. Tom Paine showed wonderful 
insight, and in a manner anticipated all the 
higher critics.*^ 

"^ 47,000 copies of the " Age of Reason " were sold in the 
United States last year. 

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For example, Tom Paine said, ' ^ Whoever 
wrote the Pentateuch, Moses had little or noth- 
ing to do with it/^ But some who say this 
very thing have orthodox chairs in English uni- 
versities, and sign even more articles than 
thirty-mne, whilst Tom Paine is branded as an 
infidel and had no professional income. Tom 
Paine said there w^ere at least two Isaiahs, in 
other words, that the Isaiah w^ho wrote the first 
part of the book never wrote the second, and 
perhaps neVer knew that a second part w^as writ- 
ten. Some higher critics say the very same 
thing to-day, whilst Tom Paine is still regarded 
by orthodoxy as a most noxious beast. Poor 
Bishop Watson is treated as an evangelical 
milksop, w^hilst Tom Paine is regarded as a man 
of progress and of advanced and modern 
thought. Still we are told that Tom. and his 
successors have given us ^^back'^ the Bible, ai-d 
that it is now^ more precious than ever. It is 
not for me to revile Tom Paine; but I take it 
upon myself to say that no Tom Paine, not- 
withstanding all his insight and foresight, 
ought to be in any Free Church pulpit, and if 
Tom Paine is there we ought to eject and de- 
nounce him as a man who is making a living 
under false pretences. 

It is not to be wondered at that some of us 
still cling to the Bible after the illiterate and 



traditional manner of our fathers and mothers 
and pastors. Blame our training. Take full 
account of our antecedents. We drew in our 
love of the Bible with our mother's milk. The 
Bible helped some of us w^hen the father died, 
and there was neither coal in the grate nor 
bread in the cupboard. It sanctified our pov- 
erty, our struggles, our desolation. It turned 
the grave into a garden plot. It put heart into 
us when all other things failed. The Bible has 
made us men. We are not to be told that this 
consolatory (not critical) Bible is still left to 
us. How^ long will it be? Still higher critics 
may possibly rise in years to come who will pur- 
loin this jewel alsOc 

Who can say how much of the Bible will be 
left in half a century? We have a right to 
be suspicious. Where much has gone, more may 
go. On the w^hole, therefore, I am of opinion 
that it is better to hold the Bible very much as 
we have always held it, to keep an open mind 
in relation to all competent and reverent criti- 
cism, to cling to the Bible in all its proved con- 
solations and particular results, and to leave 
many diflSculties and perplexities to be settled 
when in heaven w^e have more time and more 
light. 






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