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Reviews | Words and Weights

Words and Weights

Dennis Gillett

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

96 pages

Words and Weights

The Testimony review (from October 1994)

Counsel … and sound wisdom

AS THE MANY thousands of those who heard the late Brother Dennis Gillett speak could testify, he was the master of the pithy phrase and the (apparently) artless aside. Whether he was elaborating on a helpful illustration from Scripture or from personal life, he had the ability – in great measure – to draw in his audience (including the president, who needed always to be on his toes!), and to captivate his listeners with well-chosen words, of simplicity, of conviction and, above all, of compelling yet homely wisdom. All the more welcome is it, therefore, now that his voice and pen are stilled, to have in print some of his most recent, and most helpful, words. Reproducing, from The Testimony (1990-91) and from The Christadelphian (1991-93), two separate series of thematic studies written in his uniquely distinctive style, Words and Weights preserves for a still wider readership what the book’s subtitle so rightly characterises as Brother Dennis’s “comfort and counsel from simple words of Scripture”.

Weighty words of comfort

One of the consistent aspects of Brother Dennis’ long and faithful ministry to the Brotherhood, whether in print, from the platform, or in person, was his concern to provide help in a wholly practical way with the daily spiritual warfare of his brethren and sisters in Christ – “my comrades”, as he so often called us. The series of articles from The Testimony, with their overtly exhortational aim (to “Lay aside every weight, and the sin …”), are a valuable synthesis of this key element of his labours over so many years. “The main difficulty”, he tells us at the outset of the series, “is recognising the obstacles” – those things which hinder us in the race for eternal life, especially those sins which he intriguingly characterises as ‘respectable’, including the less obvious ‘weights’ like disappointment, resentment and guilt.

Concerning disappointment we are told: “Racers need plenty of breath; it is no advantage to lose it by sighing”; and: “Instead of grumbling over the unacquired, far better to use to the full what is in the lap”; and, by way of warning: “Think of those who were mastered by disappointment: Esau, Saul, and the people who halted at Kadesh-Barnea”. On guilt we are advised: “Since God forgets the sin which has been pardoned, why should the sinner revive it through remorse?”. As for resentment, rather than harbouring it we are counselled to have “more reverence, less self-esteem”, since “resentment is antipathetic to real humility”, and “anything which fosters humility must be a help in alleviating the impediment which resentment presents”.

Brother Dennis reminds us also that other people’s failures can be a hindrance, because of the discouragement they can bring. The antidote, he suggests, is not to expect too much of others and to concentrate on the Lord’s advice to “have salt” in ourselves: to ensure that our faith is genuinely our own and that our complete reliance is on the Lord alone. Doubt, too, should never be allowed to hold us back: “Read sound, reliable works”, says Brother Dennis; and, above all, “study the Bible quietly. Remember, faith is not only believing about Christ but trusting in Christ. Do that and lay aside every weight” (reviewer’s emphasis).

Fear, spiritual stagnation, worldliness and compromise are all potential ‘weights’ which are given a couple of pages’ attention; and no one could fail to find something of relevance and help among so many common facets of life – all of which are looked at in a characteristically sympathetic and understanding way. Above all, as you reflect on the spiritual wisdom which the author distils so expertly from the Word, you know that Brother Dennis is ‘on your side’, willing on all his readers to make some genuine progress in the race for eternal life.

Simple words of counsel

The series from The Christadelphian (“Little words, big meanings”) is likewise packed full of valuable instruction. All the more remarkable is it that so much is drawn out of the seemingly insignificant words of Scripture, ‘but’, ‘if’, ‘in’, ‘so’, and even ‘and’. But then; as Brother Trevor Pritchard reminds us in his perceptive foreword, it was a principle with Brother Dennis “that life is made up of the little things: not the grand public testimony for the Truth; not the heroic act in which the disciple somehow gets in front of his message … but the little things of everyday life: the thoughtful word, the kindly act, the listening ear and the silent witness … the little things … are the real indicators of a life of commitment to Christ”.

And so it is that Brother Dennis draws out for us the hidden marrow from these easily overlooked Bible words. He shows us, for example, that though Bible ‘buts’ do not always introduce failure (Deuteronomy 4:28,29 being quoted as an example of a context where a ‘but’ precedes blessing and triumph), they do generally represent a negative note which we would do well to avoid in our own daily living. “‘But’”, he concludes, “represents the reservations which disciples are tempted to make about following the Master altogether. Whatever follows, ‘but’ in our lives is the one thing we must strive to overcome. Some enticement, some habit, some indulgence, some relationship, which has the effect of sapping our resolve and diluting our faith: some room marked ‘private’ where Christ cannot come; some half-hour in the day when the King is not welcome; something we dare not hand over – at least not yet. Give ourselves five minutes of honesty and we shall know the real meaning of ‘but’”.

The word ‘if’, we are told, “is a very little word, but sometimes it has the biggest meaning of all”, especially in the sense of ‘if only’. Luke 12:39,40 is the primary example mentioned (“if [only] the goodman of the house had known …”), the conclusion drawn from it being: “All down the ages, ‘if only’ has been the cry of the unprepared and the uncareful”. Yet Brother Dennis’ last word on ‘if’ is encouraging rather than depressing: “There is another ‘if’ to surcharge our spirits. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). ‘If only’ we confess our sins. Of all big meanings, this must be among the best and the noblest”.

‘In’ too is seen to be a word of capital importance in certain contexts: “In the Truth, in Christ, in the Kingdom of God. A little word indeed, and so ordinary, but to measure it by its opposite is to reveal how vital it can be. Out of the Truth, out of Christ, out of the Kingdom of God. When Noah’s door was shut, to be in was decisive. The best side of the Bridegroom’s door was inside. The first judgement put two sinners outside a wonderful garden. The final condition of the wicked is outer darkness. When the King will say, ‘Come ye blessed …’ he means come in for ever. When he will say, ‘Depart ye …’ he means out finally.”

Regarding ‘so’, in the sense of ‘to such an extent’, Brother Dennis reflects as follows on John 3:16: “Our sensitivity has become dulled. We have heard it so often, we know it so well, it leaves us unamazed. To guard against it, dwell always on this: ‘You … (and here put your own name) … hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death’. That is the big meaning of ‘God so loved the world’.”

The functional importance of ‘and’ is illustrated by two telling examples: John 13:30 (“and it was night”) and Mark 16:7 (“Go tell his disciples and Peter”). Of the latter, Brother Dennis, seeking “to imagine the effect on the heart of Peter”, says: “Just his own name and a little conjunction – but what a message! Peter knew he was still in the fellowship of friendship. This is the best ‘and’ that was ever spoken. Later on, Peter will write, ‘He hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3). And he knew what he meant.”

Well worth preserving

Words and Weights is a delightful little book which would be read with profit by all, and the ‘tasters’ selected in this review are typical of it. A handy index of Scripture passages adds to the overall usefulness of the work. The whole of the book’s eighty-five pages offers a varied diet of ideas and comments on Scriptural topics from a much-loved brother in Christ, whose homely wisdom and spiritual insight have proved well worth preserving in this form.

REG CARR

(Originally published in the October 1994 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 358-359), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

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