Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

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BT 15
















OCT 9r^ ]







Copyright, 1916





The Cause of God (1 Kings 19:9) 1

Old Testament Religion (Psalm 51:12) 14

The Wrath of Man (Psalm 76:10) 24

: For Christ's Sake (Matt. 5 :11) 32

This- and Other-Worldliness (Matt. 6:33) 43

Light and Shining (Mark 4 :31-35) 53

; Childlikeness (Mark 10:15) 65

" The Glory of the Word (Jno. 1 :1) 81

Looking to Men (Jno. 5 :44) 93

y A Half -learned Christ (Jno. 6:68:69) 103

The Conviction of the Spirit (Jno. 16:8-11) 116

Christ's Prayer for His People (Jno 17:15) 128

The Outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:16, 17) 135

Prayer as a Means of Grace (Acts 9:11) 146

Surrender and Consecration (Acts 22:10) 154

,. The Summation of the Gospel (Acts 26:18) 165

The Spirit's Testimony to Our Sonship (Rom 8:16) .... 179

The Spirit's Help in Our Praying (Rom. 8:26, 27) 193

All Things Working Together for Good (Rom. 8:28) 202

Man's Husbandry and God's Bounty (1 Cor. 3:5-9).. . . 211
Communion in Christ's Body and Blood (1 Cor. 10:16

-17) 222

The Spirit of Faith (2 Cor. 4:13) 231

- New Testament Puritanism (2 Cor. 6:11—7:1) 243

^ Paul's Great Thanksgiving (Eph. 1 :3-14) 259

Spiritual Strengthening (Eph. 3:16) 267

The Fulness of God (Eph. 3:19) 279

The Sealing of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) 289

-7 Working Out Salvation (Phil. 2:12, 13) 298




The Alien Righteousness (PhU. 3:9) 314

Peace With God (PhU. 4:7) 326

The Heritage of the Saints in Light (Col. 1 ;12) 340

The Hidden Life (Col. 3:1-4) 350

Entire Sanctifieation (1 Thess. 5:23, 24) 361

The Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim. 3:16) 373

The Inviolate Deposit (1 Tim. 6:20, 21) 385

The Way of Life (Tit. 3:4-9) 393

The Eternal Gospel (2 Tim. 1:9, 10) 402

Communion with Christ (2 Tim. 2:11-13) 415

Prayer as a Practice (James 5 :16) 428

God's Holmess and Ours (1 Pet. 1 :15) 440

Childship to God (1 Jno. 2:28—3:1) 448

n^HOSE who are unfamiliar with the life of Princeton Theo-
logical Seminary and desire to learn something of the nature
and the early history of the "Conferences "held in the "Oratory"
of the Seminary may be referred to the Life of Archibald Alexander
by his son, James W. Alexander, pp. 420 ff ; the Life of Samuel
Miller by his son, Samuel Miller, vol. ii, p. 400; and the Life
of Charles Hodge by his son, A. A. Hodge, pp. 453 ff ; with the
last of which may be compared the Preface to Conference Ad-
dresses by Charles Hodge.



1 Kings 19:9: " What doest thou here, Elijah? "

The history of Elijah suppHes us with one of
the most striking, and, we may add, one of the
most instructive, sections of the Old Testa-
ment. With him begins the wonderful history
of Prophetism. Through him we obtain a glimpse
which we would not willingly lose of God's deal-
ings with His people: His faithfulness to them
when they were unfaithful to Him; His unre-
mitting efforts to withdraw them from sin and
keep them in that intimate and obedient relation
to Him in which alone was safety to be found.

At first sight the narrative may appear ob-
jective to a fault. We are told nothing of who
Elijah w^as, how he had been trained, whence he
came as he passes across the page of history.
In the midst of Ahab's wicked rule suddenly he
stands before the idolatrous King and pronounces
the curse of God, which for his sake should fall on
the land which he had polluted with his apostasy.
And as suddenly as he appears, so suddenly he
withdraws again. Hidden at Cherith or at Zarep-


hath for a period measured by years, he appears
on the scene of public history once again as un-
expectedly and as much a messenger from on
high as at first. Everywhere he goes the powers
of heaven accompany him, and his appearances
and disappearances are almost as sudden as the
bolts of heaven themselves.

But, however rapid the action, and however
much, at first view, the narrative may seem to
wear the appearance of objectivity; however
much it may seem to be concerned only with the
history of Israel and God's endeavour through the
words and works of His prophet to awaken His
people to righteousness and rescue them from the
slough of their idolatry; the story of Elijah yet
manages to be primarily and above all else the
story of Elijah. Somehow, as in music some-
times a secondary strain is carried on, shot through
the dominant theme of the composition, in har-
mony with it and yet separable from it, and need-
ing but a little emphasizing to make it the chief
burden of the whole; so within the bosom of this
narrative of how God sent His prophet to Israel
with His thunder-message calling it back to the
service of Him, of how He dealt thus faithfully
with His people and sought to save them from
themselves and for Him, there lies, not hidden,
but embraced and preserved for us, the touching
account of how God dealt with and trained the
prophet himself. As Jesus, when He sat in the


judgment hall of Annas offering Himself a victim
for the saving of the world, yet had time to turn
a significant glance upon Peter as he stood deny-
ing Him before the courtyard fire, and thus saved
His poor repentant follower in the saving of the
world; so God in His use of Elijah for the teach-
ing of Israel also found time to train the heart
of the prophet himself.

These chapters are crowded with teaching for
us. We must select, from the wealth they bring
to us, some one thing on which our minds may
especially dwell to-day. Let it be this instruc-
tive element in them: God's way of training His
prophet. Let us observe in the case of Elijah
how God dealt with him in His grace so as to
bring him to a better knowledge of himself, of
God and of the nature of the work to which he
was called. When once we approach the narra-
tive with this purpose in view, it becomes diflScult
to see anything else in it. We forget Israel in
Elijah. Israel seems only the instrument upon
which and by means of which Elijah's heart and
soul were taught. We have in a word empha-
sized the subordinate strain until it becomes domi-
nant; and the very possibility of this is a clear
proof that the subordinate strain was planted in
the music by the Great Composer, and that it was
meant that our ears should hear it.

We are told, we say, nothing of the early life,
the early training, or directly, of the character of


Elijah. He appears suddenly before us as the
messenger of God's wrath. Like his great anti-
type — who was greater, our Lord being witness,
than even he — he is a voice from the wilderness
crying the one word, Repent! He is the human
embodiment of the wrath of God. AMierever he
goes destruction accompanies him. Drought,
fire from heaven, floods of rain, death for the ene-
mies of God, follow hard on his footsteps. He is
embodied law. And as such he is a swift witness
against his people. Obedience, repentance, strict
account, these form the essence of his message.

God chooses appropriate instruments for His
work. And we have reason to believe that the
sternness of Elijah's mission was matched by the
sternness of his aspect and the sternness of his
character. We are therefore justified in having
said that he was, not merely the messenger of
God's law and wrath, but their embodiment. He
was by natural disposition, as framed under prov-
idential circumstances, and by \artue of the side
of God which he had as yet apprehended, nothing
loath but rather naturally inclined to act as the
witness of God against his people, well-fitted to
call down the vengeance of God upon them and
to delight in the overthrow of His enemies. He
was in danger of thinking of God only as a law-
giver and the just avenger of His wounded honour.
Hence arose the necessity of the training of the
prophet. Every incident of his career, as it is


recorded for us, entered into this training. As
we cast our eye over it, we observe that what
Elijah needed to be taught was (1) dependence on
God; (2) fellowship with man in his sufferings;
(3) confidence in God's plans; and (4) a sense
of their essential and broad mercifulness.

These lessons are brought home to him by
means of two stupendous miracles over nature,
wrought for the purpose of teaching the people
that Jehovah and He alone is God, — so closely
intertwined were the two lines of Divine work,
the training of the people and the training of
Elijah. No sooner had the prophet declared to
the apostate King the word of God sent to him,
"As the Lord, the God of Israel liveth, before
whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain
these years but according to my word," than a
special personal message came from the Lord to
him saying, "Get thee hence, and turn thee east-
ward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is
before Jordan. And it shall be that thou shalt
drink of the brook, and I have commanded the
ravens to feed thee there." Thus it was brought
about that both Israel and Elijah were simul-
taneously learning the lesson of the littleness of
man before God. But diversely. Israel was
learning that it could not with impunity break
God's law; Elijah that even God's servants de-
pend on Him for their every want. The self-
willed nation was learning to submit to its Lord;


the perhaps too self-confident prophet was learn-
ing the weakness of flesh and man's utter depend-
ence on his Maker.

In the silence of the wilderness, hidden in one
of those torrent-clefts which fall into the Jordan
valley, Elijah was dependent on God's hand for
his daily food; on the water which flowed at
first in quantities full enough for his needs over
the rocks of the brook's bed, but gradually grew
less and less until it trickled in drops scarcely
numerous enough to moisten his parched lips;
on food brought to him by the unclean ravens.
Thus gradually he learned to sympathize with his
suffering fellows and to rest on God. It was meet
that he who seemed to have the dominion of the
heavens in his hands, who prayed that it should
not rain and it rained not, should share in the
want which resulted; and should learn to sym-
pathize with poor suffering, even if sinful, human-
ity, like that greater one who was yet to come and
learn also how to sympathize with us through His
participation in our griefs. How fully he learned
his lesson the subsequent narrative tells us in the
beautiful story of his dealings with the widow of
Zarephath with her cruse and barrel, and her sick
and dying child — one of the most Christlike nar-
ratives among all the Old Testament miracles.
Thus then as Israel was prepared for repentance,
the prophet was prepared inwardly to be a fit
messenger to his suffering brethren, bringing


them relief from their sore affliction. We re-
peat it, God sends His messages by fit instru-

And so, in due time, Elijah comes to bring the
famished land relief. We all remember the story
of the tremendous scene wherein Elijah — the
"prodigious" Tishbite, as an old author calls
him — challenges the prophets of Baal to meet him
in a contest of worship on Carmel, and defeats
them by simply calling on his God; and then
draws down rain on the parched ground by the
almighty virtue of his prayer. No scene of higher
dramatic power is to be found in all the world's
literature. As we read, we see the prophet ruling
on the mount; we see him bent in prayer on the
deserted summit; we see him when, the hand of
God upon him, he girded up his victorious loins
and ran before the chariot of Ahab, the sixteen
miles through the driving storm, from Carmel
to Jezreel. No scene we may say could have
been more nicely fitted to his mind or to his nature.
Here the king of men was king indeed and his vic-
tory seemed complete. But God's children must
suffer for their triumphs. Were there no thorns
in the flesh, messengers of Satan, sent of God to
buffet them, there would be no one of men who
could serve the Lord in the scenes of His triumph
without grave danger to his own soul. And
Elijah needed to learn other lessons yet. He
needed to learn that God's victories are not of the


external sort and are not to be won by the weapons
of men.

How quickly after the triumph comes the mo-
ment of dismay. "And Ahab told Jezebel," says
the simple narrative, "all that Elijah had done,
and withal, how he had slain the prophets with
the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto
Elijah, saying, *So let the gods do to me and more
also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of
them by to-morrow about this time.' And when
he saw that, he arose and went for his life and came
to Beersheba." Thus, Elijah has his lesson to
learn again after his miracle. We need not won-
der at his sudden flight. It is the price that strong,
fervent spirits pay for their very strength, that
they suffer a correspondingly strong reaction. So
it was with the prophet's antitype, John the Bap-
tist, when in the prison he lost his faith and sent
to ask Him whom God had Himself pointed out
to him on the banks of Jordan, whether, indeed,
He was the Coming One. So it was with Peter
also, who could venture on the waves, but only
to cry, "Lord save me, I perish"; who could
draw his sword and smite the High Priest's ser-
vant, but only at once to deny his Lord at the
challenge of a servant maid. So now it was with
Elijah. God's hand had been outstretched at his
call. He had shut up the heavens at his bidding
and had nourished him at Cherith and given him
miraculous sustenance at Zarephath, and the


widow's son back from the grave. He had sent
down His fire from heaven and dehVered the
priests of Baal into his hand and opened the
heavens at his prayer. But Elijah could not
trust God, now, to deliver him from a woman's
hate; and that, although her very message bore
in it the betrayal of her weakness.

Was there not a deeper spring for this distrust
still.? With all his training, Elijah did not as
yet know his God. His life had fallen on evil
days, times of violence that demanded violent
remedies for their diseases. And he could not
beheve in the efficacy of any but violent remedies.
Fresh from Carmel and the slaughter of the priests
he was impatient of the contuiuance of evil, and
expected the miracles of Carmel to be but the
harbinger of the greater miracle of the conversion
of the people to God in a day. \Mien Elijah
awoke on the morrow and found Israel altogether
as it had been yesterday, he was dismayed. Had
then the triumph of yesterday been as nothing.?
Was Jezebel still to lord it over God's heritage?
What then availed it that the fire had fallen from
heaven? That the false priests' blood had flowed
like water? That the rain had come at his bid-
ding? Was the hand of God outstretched only
to be withdrawn again? Elijah loses heart be-
cause God's ways were not as his ways. He can-
not understand God's secular modes of working;
and, conceiving of His ways as sudden and mirac-


ulous only, he feels that the Most High has de-
serted His cause and His servants. He almost
feels bitter towards the Lord who had let him
begin a work which He leaves him without power
to complete. Hence Elijah must go to the wil-
derness to learn somewhat of the God he serves.
After his first miracle of closing the heavens, he
learned what man was in his sufferings and in his
needs. Now he has opened the heavens and is to
learn what God is and what are the modes of His
working and the nature of His plans.

There is no mistaking the purpose of God in
leading the prophet into the wilderness; nor the
import of the teaching He gives him there. The
disheartened prophet, despairing of the cause of
God because all things had not turned out as he
had anticipated, throws himself on the desert
sands to die. But there God visits him; and leads
him on to Horeb, where the Law had been given,
where it had been granted to Moses to see God's
glory, the glory of the Lord, the Lord God, mer-
ciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in
mercy and truth. Reaching the Mount the
stricken prophet seeks a cave and lodges in it.
And then the word of the Lord came to him with
the searching question, '* What doest thou here,
Elijah.^ " We do not need to doubt that there
was reproof in the question; but surely it is not
reproof but searching inquiry that forms its main
contents. The Lord had Himself led Elijah here.


for his lesson. And now the Lord probes him
with the deepest of questions.

After all, why was Elijah there? The question
calls for reflection; and reflection which will bring
light with self-condemnation; and with the self-
condemnation, also self -instruction. " What doest
thou here, Elijah? " The honest soul of the prophet
gives back the transparent truth: "I have been
very jealous" . . . and so on. Here we see dis-
trust in God and despair of His cause; almost
complaint of God, for not guarding His cause bet-
ter; nay, more, almost complaint of God that He
had left His servant in the lurch. The Lord deals
very graciously with His servant. There is no
need now of reproof; only the simple command
to go forth and stand upon the mount before the
Lord. And then the Lord passed by; first a
great, strong wind rent the mountains and brake
in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but it was
not in the wind that the Lord was. And after
the wind, an earthquake; but the Lord was not in
the earthquake. And after the earthquake, fire;
but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the
fire, a sound of gentle stillness. Elijah does not
now need to be told where the Lord is. The
terror of the storm, of the earthquake, and of the
flame, is as nothing to the awesomeness of the
gentle stillness. "And it was so, when Elijah
heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle,
and went out and stood in the entering in of the


cave." Did he already begin to suspect that he
had mistaken the storm that goes before Jehovah
for Jehovah's self? The terror of the law for the
very hand of Him whose essence is love? The
terrible preparation for the Gospel for the Gospel
itself? But there is still no word of direct instruc-
tion. Only the old question still sounds in his
ears. "And behold there came a voice to him
and said *What doest thou here, Elijah?'" To it
he returns the same answer as before; but surely
in deep humility of spirit. Be that as it may, how-
ever, the Lord proceeds to tell him that He has
yet work for him to do and sends him back with
instructions which imply that there is a long future
for the fruition of His plans. And whether at
once or more slowly we cannot doubt that the
lesson had its effect and Elijah learned not to
lose hope in God's cause because God's ways in
accomplishing it are not our ways.

How full all this is of lessons to us! Let us at
least not fail to learn from it: (1) That the cause
of God does not depend on our single arm to save
it. "I, I only, am left," said Elijah, as if on him
alone could God depend to secure His ends. We
depend on God, not God on us. (2) That the
cause of God is not dependent for its success on
our chosen methods. Elijah could not under-
stand that the ends of God could be gained unless
they were gained in the path of miracles of mani-
fest judgment. External methods are not God's


methods. (3) That the cause of God cannot fail.
EHjah feared that God's hand was not outstretched
to save and fancied that he knew the dangers and
needs better than God did. God never deserts
His cause. (4) That it is not the Law but the
Gospel, not the revelation of wrath but that of
love, which saves the world. Wrath may pre-
pare for love; but wrath never did and never will
save a soul.

We close then, with a word of warning and one
of encouragement. The word of warning: We
must not identify our cause with God's cause;
our methods with God's methods; or our hopes
with God's purposes. The word of encourage-
ment: God's cause is never in danger; what He
has begun in the soul or in the world, He will com-
plete unto the end.


Psa. 51:12: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation."

"And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned
against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David,
The Lord also hath put away thy sin." It may al-
most seem that David escaped from his crime too
easily. We may read the narrative and fail to
observe the signs of that deep contrition which
such hideous wickedness when once recognized
surely must engender. There is the story of the
sin drawn in all its shocking details. Then Nathan
comes in with his beautiful apologue of the ewe-
lamb, and its pungent application. And then we
read simply: "And David said unto Nathan, I
have sinned against The Lord. And Nathan said
unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin."
After that comes only the story of how the child
of sin was smitten, and how David besought the
Lord for its life and finally acquiesced in the
Divine judgment. One is apt to feel that David
was more concerned to escape the consequences
of his sin than to yield to the Lord the sacrifices of
a broken and a contrite heart. Does it not seem
cold to us and external, David's simple acknowl-
edgment of his sin, and the Lord's immediate re-
mission of it? We feel the lack of the manifesta-



tions of a deeply repentant spirit, and are almost
ready, we say, to wonder if David did not escape
too easily from the evil he had wrought.

It is merely the simplicity of the narrative
which is deceiving us in this. The single-hearted
writer expects us to read into the bare words of
David's confession, " I have sinned against the
Lord," all the spiritual exercises which those words
are fitted to suggest and out of which they should
have grown. And if we find it a little difficult to do
so, we have only to turn to David's penitential
Psalms, to learn the depths of repentance which
wrung this great and sensitive soul. One of them
— perhaps the most penetrating portrayal of a truly
penitent soul ever cast into human speech — is
assigned by its title to just this crisis In his life;
and I see no good reason why this assignment
need be questioned. The whole body of them
sound the depths of the sinful soul's self-torment
and longing for recovery as can be found nowhere
else in literature; and taken in sequence present
a complete portrayal of the course of repentance
in the heart, from its inception in the rueful review
of the past and the remorseful biting back of the
awakened heart, through its culmination in a true
return to God In humble love and trusting confi-
dence, to its issue in the establishment of a new
relation of obedience to God and a new richness
of grateful service to Him.

Let us take just these four. Psalms 6, 38, 51, 32.


In Psa. 6 sounds the note of remorse — it is the
torment of a soul's perception of its sin that is
here prominently brought to our most poignant
observation. In Psa. 38, the note of hope — not
indeed absent even from Psa. 6 — becomes dom-
inant and the sorrow and hatred of sin is coloured
by a pervasive tone of relief. In Psa. 51, while
there is no lessening of the accent of repentance
there is along with the deep sense of the guilt and
pollution of sin which is expressed also a note of
triumph over the sin, which aspires to a clean
heart and a steadfast spirit and a happy service
of God in purity of life. While in Psa. 32, the
sense of forgiveness, the experience of joy in the
Lord, and the exercises of holy and joyful service
overlie all else. Here we trace David's penitent
soul through all its experiences; his remorseful
contemplation of his own sin, his passionate reach-
ing out to the salvation of God, the gradual re-
turn of his experience of the joy of that salvation,
his final issuing into the full glory of its complete

In some respects the most remarkable of this

Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 1 of 27)