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    January 8, 1885

    “Vain Philosophy” The Signs of the Times 11, 2, pp. 25, 26.

    DANIEL WEBSTER said: “There is more of valuable truth yet to be gleaned from the sacred writings, that has thus far escaped the attention of commentators, than from all other sources of human knowledge combined.” This is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptation. From the days and works of Origen to the present there has been a vast deal more of valuable truth that has escaped the commentators than they have ever discovered. The commentaries are valuable for one thing, that is, to show us the meaning of many of the Hebrew and Greek words, which cannot be brought out fully in a translation. With this exception, the value of any commentary, in points of doctrine or duty, is a minus quantity. Indeed almost all the commentators have the faculty of “darkening counsel by words without knowledge;” of creating difficulties where there are none. One of the best Bible scholars of modern times said that commentators are to the Bible what curtains are to windows. A window is made to let in the light; a curtain obscures it, or shuts it out.SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.1

    These thoughts have been suggested by reading the Sunday-school lesson notes in the different denominational papers and publications which propose to help in understanding the International Lessons; but particularly by the notes on Acts 20:2-16, Paul at Troas. In the eighth verse Luke says, “There were many lights in the upper chamber where they were gathered together.” On this Theodore D. Woolsey, D.D., LL.D., in the Sunday School Times, comments as follows:—SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.2

    “Why does Luke find it best to introduce the number of lamps in the chamber where Paul preached? Meyer answers, that the fall of the young man was thus at once perceived. But if so, there is no reason for mentioning the fact in the introductory way, before anything is said of Eutychus Clumptre more naturally explains the mention as account for the closeness of the room, which led to the sleep of Eutychus. It seems to be a sufficient explanation that the air was bad, and this comes fitly from the physician Luke.”SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.3

    Notice, the question is, Why does Luke mention the number of lights where they were gathered together? One answers, Because the fall of the young man was thus perceived. Another answers that it accounts for the heat and closeness of the room, which caused Eutychus to go to sleep. And Dr. Woolsey sums it all up in his saying that “it is a sufficient explanation that the air was bad.” The first of these has made the discovery that there were many lights in the upper chamber, so that they might know when a person fell out of the window. We wish that from the height of his great erudition, he had condescended to tell us whether it was so common a custom for people to fall out of the window that they must take lights to the place of meeting, so that they might see them fall? The second finds that there were many lights, because the room was hot and close. The third, who was an instructor in Yale College for fifty years, renders the profound decision that there were many lights where they were gathered together, because the air was bad. We wonder why the thought never occurred to them that the meeting was in the night, and there were many lights because it was dark.SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.4

    This idea of the air being bad, however, occurs in several places in the notes. H. Clay Trumbull, in giving his “Illustrative Applications” says: “Heat and smoke in a close and crowded room are solid obstacles to an intelligent hearing of the gospel, even with an inspired apostle for a preacher. Ventilation is often an important means of grace. That young man who sought it in the window, was doing his best to keep awake, even at the risk of his life.” According to this we have: 1. Heat and smoke in a close and crowded room. 2. This was a solid obstacle to an intelligent hearing of the gospel. 3. Ventilation is a means of grace. 4. This young man sought this, his only means of grace, on that occasion. And behold he went so sound asleep as to fall out of the window. Now if that was the effect of ventilation (the means of grace) upon the only one who had it, what could have been the condition of those in the body of the room, who had no ventilation, no means of grace? And yet on the other hand, if the windows were so wide open that a man could fall through, we cannot help wondering how the room could be “hot and close,” and how, with windows so wide open, there could be no ventilation!SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.5

    But by turning to the very next page of the same paper our wonder on this point is removed. Under the heading “Oriental Lesson-Lights,” we read: “The ‘upper room’ is the large and airy chamber beneath the roof... with large latticed windows on three sides through which the cooling breeze blows. This seems to have been the kind of room in which Paul’s meeting was held.” By this we find that the room, instead of being “hot and close” was “large and airy,” that instead of there being “no ventilation,” a “cooling breeze” could blow through. And although that wonder is removed, it is replaced by another, viz., we wonder which of these teachings (?) the Sunday-school scholars and teachers are to believe. Are they to believe the room was “hot and close” or “large and airy”? Are they to believe that there was no ventilation, or are they to believe that “a cooling breeze” could blow through the room?SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.6

    There is another subject in this same lesson that gives room for more vagaries. That is, “the first day of the week.” President Woolsey says of this, “The first day of the week, on which the Christian people gathered to break bread, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.” Now any one can read in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death.” In view of this we wish Dr. Woolsey would tell us how that, in commemorating the death of Christ, they in the same act could celebrate his resurrection. Again he says: “The time, in the present instance, for partaking of it, was omn the evening of our Sunday.” O that we wish he or some one else would tell us, if this was our Sunday evening, how that breaking of bread after midnight on Sunday night, could be any possibility be on the first day of the week?SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.7

    In the same paper Faith Latimer gives “Hints for the Primary Teacher,” in which she says: “When Paul was a young man, what was his name? He had been brought up a strict Jew, and all Jews kept the last day of the week as the Sabbath; but after Paul became the servant of Christ, he kept holy the first day of the week, and so did all Christians.” The Bible says nothing about this, and we should like to know how she knows it. Next she asks, “What made the change?” but gives no answer, nor any hint of what answer she expects shall be given. We should like exceedingly to hear the answers to that question that will be given by the different teachers in the Sunday-schools. How many will give the Bible answer: “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear our the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change times and laws” (Daniel 7:25), and show that the Papacy was what made the change? Further she says: “Who rose from the dead on the first day of the week? From that time it was called the Lord’s day.” On this we state these facts: Matthew wrote in A.D. 61, thirty years after the resurrection of Christ; Mark wrote about A.D. 63, thirty-two years after; Luke wrote the Gospel and the Acts about A.D. 64, thirty-three years after; Paul wrote 1 Corinthians A.D. 60, thirty years after; and John wrote the Gospel in A.D. 97, sixty-six years after, and every one of them called it “the first day of the week.” Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; John 20:1, 19.SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.8

    We can only wonder how persons can become so infatuated with themselves as authorities, as to make statements to be accepted as scriptural, which upon the slightest investigation are found to be flatly contradictory to the Scriptures. But such “wonders will never cease,” at least not as long as men will love falsehood more than truth, and their own will more than the word of God.SITI January 8, 1885, page 25.9

    Space forbids pursuing these fallacies any further; but every one of these can be found in a single number of the Sunday School Times (Dec. 20, 1884), and yet the list is not exhausted. And we are the more sorry to see them there, because the Times is generally exceptionally good.SITI January 8, 1885, page 26.1

    ALONZO T. JONES.

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