Home > Hermeneutics > The simple negative often implies, conversely, the positive

The simple negative often implies, conversely, the positive

Arthur Pink10. The simple negative often implies, conversely, the positive. This is a very simple canon of exegesis, yet one to which the attention of the young student needs to be called. A negative statement is, of course, one where something is denied or where the absence of its opposite is supposed. In common speech the reverse of a negative usually holds good, as when we declare, “I hope it will not rain today,” it is the same as saying, “I trust it will remain fine.” That this rule obtains in Scripture is clear from the numerous instances where the antithesis is stated. “Thou wilt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” is explained in “Thou wilt show Me the path of life” (Psalm 16:10, 11). “I have not refrained My lips, O Lord, Thou knowest. I have not hid Thy righteousness within My heart,” and then the positive side at once follows:

“I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation” (Psalm 40:9, 10).

“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor… Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor,” (Ephesians 4:25, 28).

Many other examples might be given, but these are sufficient to establish the rule we are here treating of.

Now the Holy Spirit has by no means always formally drawn the antithesis, but rather has in many instances— that we might exercise our minds upon His Word—left us to do so. Thus,

“A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench” (Matthew 12:20)

signifies that He will tenderly care for and nourish the same. “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) is the equivalent of, It must be, it most certainly will he, fulfilled. “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5)

implies that in union and communion with Him we “can do all things” (Philippians 4:13)—incidentally note how the former serves to define the latter: it is not that I shall then be able to perform miracles, but fitted to bring forth fruit! “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14) has the force of “Come out from among them and be ye separate,” as verse 17 shows. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory” (Galatians 5:26) imports Be lowly in mind and esteem others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3). “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1) equals My design is to inculcate and promote the practice of holiness, as all that follows clearly shows.
Negative commandments enjoin the opposite good:

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7)

implies that we are to hold His name in the utmost reverence and hallow it in our hearts. Negative threatenings are tacit affirmations: “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain”: rather will He condemn and punish him. Negative promises contain positive assurances:

“A broken and contrite heart O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17)

means that such a heart is acceptable to Him.

“No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11)

is tantamount to saying that everything which is truly good for such will certainly be bestowed upon them. Negative conclusions involve their opposites: “The father of the fool hath no joy” (Proverbs 17:21) purports that he will suffer much sorrow and anguish because of him—oh, that wayward children would make conscience of the grief which they occasion their parents. “To have respect of persons is not good” (Proverbs 28:21), but evil. Negative statements carry with them strong assertives:

“Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment” (Job 34:12):

rather will He act holily and govern righteously.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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