The Importance of Established Landmarks
I esteem very highly the early pioneer ministers of this Evening Light Reformation and the standard of holiness they held both in life and teaching. I consider those standards to be right because they worked and produced results, and the results they produced are the very same results the people of God yearn for and decry the lack of in our midst today. I reverence those early brethren to the extent that it is very grievous to me when I hear people criticizing them and challenging their teachings. But it is common practice among those who accept and condone the innovations of worldly things, which have been coming in among us little by little over the past few years, to speak lightly of the standards taught and held by the early brethren. They also discredit those who hold for those standards yet in our day, and sometimes such remarks as this are heard: “I do my own thinking. I do not accept a code that has been handed down by tradition from someone way back there that I did not even know,” etc. Sometimes those who stand for those old standards are accused of just subscribing to some old tradition and doing things because someone else said to do it, etc. But when we see those old standards and that old way work and produce results and better results than the codes which people want to bring in and go by now, that is the deciding factor in our thinking.
Of course, that attitude is not fair on the face of it, for who of us do not do things because others do them? Those who are in the “know” regarding those things, tell us that the human race produces only a very small percentage of leaders. All the others are followers. Have any of you ever been conscious of having originated any style or fashion which went on and later became popular and was generally adopted by the world? If you cannot say “Yes” to this question, then are you not just following the styles and fashions originated by others and doing those things because the world does them? If you did not originate the styles and fashions you are subscribing to, then certainly you are a follower and not a leader. Then why would you think it fair to condemn and ridicule those who choose to stand by the standards who have come down to us from our fathers?
Would any of you even imagine, that if the styles were to change in the world to long skirts, that you would continue to wear the short ones you now clamor for? If suddenly no woman of the world would ever curl her hair or wear a permanent, do you imagine you would still think it necessary to curl yours and contend for those things as you do now? If not, why not? Then why would you think it proper and fair to taunt those who choose to stand by the old landmarks and not move the bounds in such a way and think of them as you do?
You may ask—and I have been asked—if I believed the early brethren had all the light. I would not have to believe that for my statement to be true in regard to them. But let us realize there is a vast difference between new light as it is being advanced today and more light on what the brethren of the early days taught and the church subscribed to in that time. I believe without doubt that we of our day have more light on some points of truth than they had in their day because there have been developments in the intervening time which would throw some clearer light on some points of truth than they could have had in their day. I can accept additions of light on these points of truth on that basis, but I cannot accept “new” light which contradicts the basic teachings of the early brethren on any points of truth. But I believe that the doctrines taught in the early days of this Evening Light Reformation contained the overall coverage of the truth as taught in the New Testament, though some of it was perhaps in a limited sense which developments have brought out clearer than they had it.
But let me make it clear in this respect that most of the points I could call to mind in this category would be dealing with scriptures of prophecy and having to do with the signs of the times and the fulfillment of prophecy and not with the real standards of holiness and Christian living. In regard to that, I believe I can say here that I accept the standards as taught and lived by the early brethren as being right, full and complete, and as having no need of any deductions or additions. And I feel inclined to warn all of you at this point to be careful about accepting or being carried away with any of the innovations of worldly things or variations in teaching and practice which have been coming in among us the last few years and are coming in among us now.
If I could see more real godliness and deep holiness of life and more of the power of God accompanying these things, I could be more interested in them. But when I fail to see this but rather the opposite, a decline in spiritual power and deep holiness of life and more worldly-mindedness, etc., I feel that the best policy for the church is to flee these things and follow after godliness. Let us not remove the old landmarks nor remove the bounds which have been set for us by those who have gone before us. Let us remember that God’s Word pronounces a curse on all who do this.
I do not believe anyone could successfully contradict that there was more real divine power and spiritual life and more miracle working power and healings and genuine powerful conversions and devils cast out, etc., in those early days than what we are able to witness and testify to in the church of our day. I know you don’t like that. I don’t either. I would like to see it different, but to be honest I must face up to the facts as I see them and I feel you should, too. Some of the very folks who are taking in with these innovations of worldly things and variations from the former teachings and practices of the earlier brethren, decry the lack of spiritual power and miracles and healings, etc., in our day and refer back to how the early brethren did it and ask why our brethren of today do not do it that way. It is the age-old idea of wanting to have the cake and eat it, too, which cannot be done. Some would like to have all that power and glory and benefits of the early church but they are not willing to follow that standard. The two can never be harmonized so we may as well stop trying; and if we are willing to throw the standards of the early brethren overboard, just throw the rest overboard also, and quit worrying about what they had that we do not see in that same measure in the church of our day. We can never hope for the one without the other.
We hear folks sometimes talking about God restoring to us certain things which they are conscious to be lacking. This is the wrong approach to the problem. We should be praying for God to restore us to the standard and place in our lives and experiences where these things are. These things, divine glory, spiritual power and blessings, etc., make up the faith which was once delivered to the saints. They were delivered once, were never taken away and consequently can never be given again. They were enjoyed by the church in the early morning time. Then when there was a decline from those standards of the early morning church, these things were no longer enjoyed in a general sense. Then, after the long reign of the beast of Revelation 13 (Papalism), known as the “Dark Ages,” and the reign of the second beast (Protestantism), known as the “dark and cloudy day,” when the Evening Light Reformation broke and the saints came out into the full light of the gospel and back to the standards of Christ and the apostles and the early morning church, they found these things right there where they had been left when the first apostasy came and they enjoyed them then just as the early church did. This should be sufficient to convince us that the standard of holiness and spiritual life are closely connected with the manifestations of divine glory and power among us.