Return to the Landmarks
In Genesis 26:12-25, we have a story related concerning Isaac, the son of Abraham, which has an important connection with my thought here. Before this time Abraham had dwelt among the Philistines in the land and had dug wells of water there for his flocks and herds which were very great. Now Abraham had died and the Philistines had stopped up the wells of water which he had dug. Isaac came to dwell in that same land and he had great flocks and herds also, and he went in and dug out those same old wells which had been dug in the days of Abraham, his father, which had been stopped and filled with earth by the uncircumcised Philistines. Verse 18 says, “And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.”
Now let us realize that the common tendency is always to slacken and let up. This must be steadfastly resisted by all of us. The natural trend is always downward and the drift is always away from God and right. We, as saints, must not give way to this tendency but must pull against the tide of the world with all the strength we have. Each generation is inclined to accept just a little lower standard than the preceding generation held. Whatever standard we hold now, the rising generation will hold just a little lower standard and so on and on with each succeeding generation unless the heart is definitely wrought upon by the Spirit of God and a deep spirituality and deep holiness of life is maintained. Those among us who are more worldly minded and consequently less spiritual will always be ready to settle for a lower standard of life and ready to stop the wells which have been dug by our fathers.
But let us take note in the above scriptures that Isaac “digged again” in the wells of his father and called them by the same names, etc. Oh, how we need to dig deep in the wells of our fathers—the early brethren—those wells of deep sincerity, deep humility, deep devotion, deep spirituality, deep godliness, and deep holiness of life and deep in the well of separation from the world and worldly things. Many today, are not living that consecrated, dedicated, separated life unto God which characterized the saints of the early church and those who lived in the early days of this Evening Light Reformation. Too much self, too much flesh, too much worldliness and the wells of our fathers become clogged, and we can never expect them to be a well spring of living water springing up into everlasting life and producing in our lives the blessings, joy, happiness, and power and grace that was and is manifested in the lives of those who keep all these things cleaned out of their lives. In 1 John 2:15-17 we read, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” Here we have a clearly set landmark and definitely established corner stone from which to run all our land lines and set our bounds. Let us call things by the same names by which our fathers called them and let us not feel it extremism to do so. The early brethren taught strongly against the wearing of gold and all ornamentation. Plainness and modesty in dress and behavior and general conduct of life characterized the lives of those early brethren and saints. The New Testament teaches this also: 1 Peter 3:3 and 1 Timothy 2:9. But I have seen entirely too many gold watches, gold bands, and ornaments among us in recent years for my comfort. I see today too many short sleeves, short skirts, thin and sheer apparel, spike heels, bare limbs, etc., among us. The brethren of former years taught against all these things and many more in principle. But there is a move on foot today to remove the bounds and destroy the old landmarks. Let us watch and be sober, folks.
Lewis F. Powell, president of the American Bar Association, in an address to a convention of this association in Miami, Florida, on August 9, 1965, said, “An orderly society cannot exist if every man may decide which laws he will obey.” Surely we can readily grasp the import of this and see that in a society where every man is a law unto himself, there could be no order. But how about a church where each one is a law unto himself and where the standard is set to accommodate the individual consciences of the communicants? Could that be orderly, any more than a society could be orderly on that basis? No. But God is calling for order in His church. His word says in 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” I readily recognize the importance of the individual’s conscience and contend that he should keep his conscience clear between him and God at all cost. His conscience may not be perfect and clear, but if he is inclined to trifle with his conscience, what chance does he have? What chance would God have to deal with him? One must never reach such a point as that. But while recognizing the place of the conscience in everyone’s life and relationship with God and placing proper importance upon it and keeping it clear between the individual and God, at the same time I contend that the individual’s conscience has nothing at all to do with what we are to teach the church as its standard of holy living. I also recognize that God deals with people according to the light and knowledge they have, in part. But I also contend that the individual’s light has nothing at all to do with determining what shall be taught to the people.
The individual’s light is respected between him and God. So is his conscience. But neither is respected as a standard for the church to go by. If we just teach according to the people’s light and knowledge, how would they ever gain more light? God wants us to lift up a standard for the people according to His Word irrespective of the people’s light or individual consciences and let them all come to it. But, of course, while they are getting to it, their standing with Him is rated according to their light, knowledge, and conscience, etc. and we should allow for that also in extending our fellowship and confidence to them while they are coming to it.
If God told us to lift up a standard for the people, would He not expect us to do that? Certainly. Would He expect us to be governed in that standard by any individual circumstance or condition? Certainly not. He would expect us to be directed by His Word and that only in lifting up that standard. But if we were to attempt to lift up a standard according to the individual’s consciences, we would have many standards. But he said a standard.