A Hard Text about Swearing

Isabella’s brother-in-law Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained Bible verses that might seem confusing at first. Here’s one he wrote in 1889:


Matthew 5: 33-37:

33. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said of them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

35. Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Image of open Bible

With these words in mind, how, then, do good men swear on the witness stand in the court-room?

That is intended to be a solemn, religious thing, for the sake of truth and law and justice. It sets the fear of God before the witness to deter him from falsehood, and the love of God to lead him to tell the truth.

The spirit of prayer is in it.

Our Hard Text refers to profane, wicked, idle swearing. It is taking the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain. It is very common in ordinary conversation among many people. They curse and swear “by” this and “by” that, just for fun, or to make folks believe them, usually when they are telling a lie. At last it becomes a vile, dreadful habit, and in almost every sentence they swear. Many little children do this. It is an awful sin. It leads to destruction.

Shun the first step in that direction. Have a character for truth. Consecrate your tongue to Christ as He died on the cross to redeem your entire body and soul from all sin.

Have you ever wondered if swearing a solemn oath was the same as swearing in ordinary conversation?

What do you think of Rev. Livingston’s explanation?


Click on the links below to read more of Reverend Livingston’s “Hard Text” articles:

A Hard Text

A Hard Text in Matthew

A Hard Text: Matthew, Mark and Luke

A Hard Text in Matthew

Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand. Here’s one he wrote in 1888:


A Hard Text

Matthew 10:34: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
Photo of open Bible.

In Luke 2:14 the angels sing of Jesus when He was born, “On earth peace.” At first sight these verses in Matthew and Luke seem to contradict each other. They do not. The blessed Book never does that. Remember:

When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part, or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.

“I come not to send peace” to a sinner if he stay in his sins. “There is no peace to the wicked.” There ought not to be. But as soon as a sinner asks Jesus for forgiveness, he gets peace. That’s the way peace comes on earth; it is the peace of God in the heart; peace and joy in believing.

Now, when one gets this peace, it seems so good that he wants some other one to get it, too. So he speaks to his other one and urges him to confess his sins and seek Jesus; and in most cases this other one gets angry and talks against Jesus or Christians. That often happens in a family where one is a true Christian and the others are not. You see how trouble will come. There will be war in that family. It may not be a war of swords, but it will be a war of words. Jesus does not want the war, and there wouldn’t be any if the sinner would give up. But he does not usually surrender till after a hard battle with Jesus. So Jesus is said to send a sword or war. It simply means, “I am come to fight against the wrong; and people who are on the wrong side and stay there, will fight against me and my soldiers.”

My dear, dear children, I wish you may never be found with a sword in your hand, or mouth, or heart, fighting against the Lord. Let Him put His sweet peace into your heart, and when you draw the sword, draw it against sin.


Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.

Click on the links below to read more “A Hard Text” columns:

A Hard Text

A Hard Text: Mathew, Mark, and Luke

A Hard Text: Matthew, Mark and Luke

Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand.

Rev. Livingston wrote the following article for an April 1891 issue of the magazine:


A Hard Text

Matthew 8:28: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
Mark 5:1-2: And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit;
Luke 8:26-27: And they arrived at the country of the Gadarrenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
Photo of open Bible.

They don’t seem to agree. How to account for that?

But don’t you see that if the writers wanted to cheat the readers they wouldn’t contradict each other?

The truth in this case is that they mention different cities but in the same region or neighborhood. Christ went into the same neighborhood.

“There met him two … ” says Matthew.

But Mark and Luke mention one, so then here’s another seeming contradiction. Two cannot be one. How to account for this?

Easily enough.

Mark and Luke do not deny that there were two; they simply call special attention to the very furious one. He was a man of some standing before this and so his cure from such dreadful violence by the power of Christ would be so much the more noticeable.

This may be a key to many other “hard texts.” The writers only seem to contradict each other, whereas they may be telling different things about the very same person or thing, or calling special attention to one of several persons. When writers try to deceive, they do not give names and dates, [but] you will find them in the Bible.

It may not always be possible to harmonize all things as you read along in the Bible; but do not therefore conclude that those things cannot be harmonized.

Remember:

When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.


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Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.

Click here to read another “A Hard Text” article by Rev. Livingston.

A Hard Text

For over twenty years Isabella Alden and her husband edited a children’s magazine called The Pansy. While their names were credited on the magazine’s cover, the entire endeavor was a family affair.

Cover of the December 1891 issue of The Pansy magazine.

Isabella’s son Raymond regularly contributed poems, short stories, and science-related articles.

Her sister Marcia wrote “Baby’s Corner,” a monthly column for the magazine’s youngest readers.

Marcia’s husband, the Reverend Charles M. Livingston, contributed stories, anecdotes, and news items.

Charles Livingston (from the Livingston Family Album, courtesy GraceLivingstonHill.com)

Rev. Livingston had a talent for explaining the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand. He told young readers:

When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.

In 1888 Rev. Livingston wrote a brief article for The Pansy magazine about a certain Bible verse that young people—and adults—often found very confusing!

Here’s what he wrote:

A Hard Text?

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

A hard text? Some readers think it is. But suppose it read this way:

“If any man come to me and love not his family less than me … he cannot be my disciple.”

The other way is simply a strong way of saying this idea, that Christ must always be FIRST to His child. He must have our supreme love, and nothing must stand in the way. Do you get the idea?

Of course it does not teach one to hate anybody, much less a dear father, mother, brother, sister.

You know this same Jesus who spoke Luke 14:26 also said:

“Love,” even one’s enemies, and “Honor thy father and mother.”

Jesus cannot contradict Himself.

Readers of The Pansy enjoyed Rev. Livingston’s lesson so much, he wrote several more installments, and “The Hard Text” became a regular recurring column in The Pansy magazine!

Would you like to see more “The Hard Text” columns by Rev. Livingston?

What do you think? Did Rev. Livingston do a good job of explaining the meaning of this particular Bible verse?