Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 10, 1950


John F. Rowe (Christian Leader. 1887)

David, the sweet Psalmist, in his haste, said all men are liars. I always thought that a strange saying while I was yet a youth. To even hint that the larger portion of the human family are liars shocked my tender nerves. I said to myself, "Is it possible that society was so depraved in the age of David that the prophet declared, There is none that doeth good, no, not one; they are all gone out of the way'." When yet a youth I was inclined to believe everybody, and to believe everything told me. My mother told me I was too confiding — intimated strongly that I was green—and that if I lived long enough I would learn something I never knew before. Still, it was hard for me to believe that one so young and unsuspecting would be imposed on by deceivers. I loved good men and admired great men. I thought all whom I met were precisely what they appeared to be. I soliloquized with myself a good deal. "Can it be possible," I said mentally, when I saw good men acting badly.

I said to myself, "I will seek the best of society; I will learn all I can of men and things. I care nothing for money nor worldly distinction. It is true, I am ambitious; but nevertheless, I will live for the good of my fellowmen. I will take infinite pleasure in elevating society. Above all things, I shall strive to please my great Creator." Once in the church of Christ, my cup of joy was full. I loved all men. I loved and esteemed in particular my brethren. "Here is heaven at least," I mused. "A rainbow of exquisite beauty shines over my pathway—the gateway to the portals of glory. What a magnificent horizon stretched out before my vision." When I accepted the truth as it is in Jesus, "Surely," I said, "the whole world will be converted—the Messiah will soon come to reign among his own people." I had unlimited confidence in my brethren. I said, "Christians cannot lie—Christians cannot deceive—Christians will always do me good and no harm. They will be the best and safest counselors." The church to me was a paradise—a safe retreat from a scoffing world—a house of refuge in times of distress. I heard people flippantly say, "an honest man is the noblest work of God." And then I heard preachers say, "A Christian is the highest style of man." That pleased me. I believed the proposition with all the powers of my soul. Such was my conception of Christian manhood as I saw it in the man Christ Jesus.

Long years ago I heard it said, "Presume every man to be innocent until he is proven to be guilty." I acted on that principle, and, as a consequence, confided my thoughts and purposes to—as I supposed—confiding friends. My confidence was now and then betrayed, but I kept on confiding until told by my bosom companion that I was one of the most gullible men she ever saw, and that I would believe that the moon was made of green cheese if somebody were to tell me so. That was a hard but a deserved hit. But still I continued to be taken in. I came to realize to some extent the meaning of the adage, "Keep your own secrets;" and I would resolutely keep them for a while. At college one day I was dreadfully shaken up when I heard the grand old president say: "Gentlemen, in this age of the world presume all men to be dishonest until you discover them to he honest, and you will save yourself much trouble." I thought the expression was just awful, but as the president was a man of age and extensive observation, I thought I would work by that rule. But, alas, my confiding nature reasserted itself, and I kept on presuming every man to be my innocent friend. I would fall into a reverie and reply to myself, "What, has the world come to this low level that, in order to self-protection, you must regard all men as dishonest until you discover the contrary?" I didn't want to believe the awful utterance. But it was a Christian who uttered the sentiment, and my inexperienced soul reluctantly acquiesced. It was a bitter pill to swallow, viewed from the standpoint of Christian ethics. I began to feel myself morally very weak, as, according to this sentiment I could confide in nobody. I was at the end of my tether, dangling in the hollow space of uncertainty. I began to realize the words of King David: "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the arm of human flesh, but trust in the living God." I said, "David ought to know whereof he affirms;" and again I said, "The Lord shall be my shield and buckler, my place of refuge in time of storms, the high tower of my defense, a present help in time of need, and in the shadow of the great Rock will I find peace and security."

Time rolled on, and public cares and responsibilities increased upon me, which, in a measure, obliged me to confide my plans and purposes to other parties. I finally found one man who never deceived me, long since gone to rest and reward. We worked side by side for many years. He also discovered my weakness, and more than once said to me: "You are too confiding; you allow men to mislead you." I really began to think it was as he said. I said, "I will put my trust in God, and walk circumspectly—I will watch every man, and watch myself." But base, selfish men pumped me and obtained the secrets of my heart. These men flattered me; next they used intrigue; next they betrayed me and sold me for less than thirty pieces of silver. Men stood by me and called me a good fellow as long as I worked in their interest—as long as they had any expectation of reward and promotion through my humble instrumentality. The Christian code of morals said to me, "Look not every man upon his own things, but every man also upon the things for welfare of others." I tried hard to live up to this Christian injunction. I thought it was a grand thing to serve others, rather than to be served, for did not our Savior himself come to minister rather than to be ministered to? Men stood by me as long as I had patronage to bestow—as long as they had expectation of money gain. I have been mystified to think that, after I had brought young men out of obscurity, and recommended them in good faith, and secured places for them, they should abandon me and add insult to injury, by trying to break me down, and if possible destroy my usefulness. This is a feature of human depravity I cannot understand, on any principle of psychology or metaphysics. It is a stunner, and in my silent meditations when only God is present, I would say, "Can it be possible?" I had spent hours in their society, ate with them at the same table, lodged under the same roof, and talked freely and fraternally of the things of the kingdom of God; and yet, because I did not fully meet their expectations, and because I did not sufficiently flatter their vanity, and did not more fully gratify a sordid ambition, they offered themselves to higher bidders and slid out. It went hard to give up these once familiar friends, whom I loved, and whom I desired to benefit.

I discovered that in projecting a new enterprise, I could have plenty of help and sympathy and good advice, provided I would make my abettors generals and captains and field officers, and not ask them to serve in the ranks on common soldiers' wages. I discovered that it was glory they sought, and not hard work and small monetary reward. I found that the weight of a few dollars would tip the balance against me. I found that every man had his price, which idea made me wish I had money patronage to bestow; but on reflection, I thought that faith in God and hard labor and the pursuit of honest convictions would lead me in a safe and secure way. I would not fear what men could do to me. I would watch and pray and labor on. I would bide my time. "Time is a great leveler, and all must come to time," I soliloquized. I say to myself, "All seek their own, not the things which be of God." What an execrable thing is selfishness and self-seeking! What a hideous, cold-hearted thing is self-love without the grace of God! Self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, and the greed of gain, with a heart empty of all noble sensibilities—how detestable. Bent on victory—bent on supremacy—bent on retaliation, at the sacrifice of all sentiments of philanthropy and genuine feeling, and the sour, soul-seeking revenge—how despicable, how utterly debasing! To reveal the secrets of a friend—to betray him with a kiss into the hands of an enemy—to take advantage of his confiding nature—to plot against him when his back is turned—to practice the arts of duplicity—to form alliances with the wicked in order to defame the character of a trusting, unsuspecting comrade—to use the guiles of a wily world in order to entrap the unwary—oh, how all this crushes the tender feelings, lacerates the wounded heart, strikes down the innocent soul, and blights hope and fond expectation. 0 Lord, protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Let me hide myself in thee.

The heart-history of Prince David has been the heart-history of many. I now realize the full force of David's plaintive words: "If it had been an enemy I could have borne it, but it was my own familiar friend who kicked up his heel against me." I queried, "If I lose confidence in all men, will I not lose all confidence in myself—then what?" Then I heard, as it were, a still, small voice saying, "I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will withhold no good thing from them who walk uprightly. I will give to you grace and glory. I will lift upon you the light of my countenance. I will lead you in a safe path." Then my heart took fresh courage, and my spirit leaped with joy inexpressible, and I saw a light above the brightness of the sun; and I cried out: "0 Lord, help my unbelief; search me, and try my reins, humble my proud spirit; chasten me for nobler aims, and discipline me for large sacrifices."

"Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Receive us; we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man." "Wherefore, henceforth know we no man after the flesh."

My meditations are ended.