|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Editor's note: The following sermon was delivered by the great British preacher Archibald G. Brown 150 years ago, but his words have immense relevance to the state of the church and the world in our time.
His theme - the imperative of preserving the Biblical landmarks of sound doctrine and Christ-like living - is timeless. In the 21st century, doctrinal landmarks such as the deity of Jesus Christ, salvation by His blood atonement, the necessity of regeneration, the exclusivity of the Gospel message, and the eternal conscious punishment of those who reject Christ, are rapidly vanishing from churches that were sound on these non-negotiable foundations of the faith only a generation ago.
As the landmarks of sound doctrine vanish, so also do the landmarks of the Christian life - Christ-like non-conformity to the present world-system, integrity in living, and self-denial for the cause of Christ. Instead, throughout the visible church we observe a self-indulgent, comfortable settling down in the world that is under Satan's sway. The church has forgotten that "friendship with the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4).
It is worth noting the composition of Archibald Brown's audience when he first preached this sermon. He spoke not to "high" church people, to intellectuals, to the well-to-do, to the "important" people in worldly eyes. He spoke these words to the people of the East End of London - uneducated dock workers, chambermaids, trolley drivers, common laborers, families in poverty, widows - those whom the unbelieving world considered its "off-scourings" (1 Corinthians 4:13) but "of whom the world was not worthy" (Hebrews 11:38) because of their stand for Christ. Brown lifted up such people to behold their Lord and Savior, and to take up their cross and follow Him.
Whenever anyone thinks they must "dumb-down" the Bible's message, I challenge them with the preaching of Archibald Brown. I pray that all who read this series may be challenged to hold to the ancient landmarks of doctrine and life set forth in the pages of the Word of God in such a time as this. - Paul Elliott
Delivered on Lord's-Day Evening, November 5th, 1871, by Archibald G. Brown at Stepney Green Tabernacle, London.
"Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set." Proverbs 22:28
Every age has its distinguishing character and mark. Some have been martial above everything else, and the pages of their history might appropriately be written in blood, and illustrated by battle scenes. Others may be truthfully described as "scientific," and some few as "profligate."
The present age I am inclined to catalogue as "radical." On every hand there has arisen a bold and defiant spirit of inquiry. Veneration for anything is at a discount. The oldest theories are now put to the most searching tests, and things that were looked upon with something akin to pious awe by our forefathers are now freely handled, and often with laughter. Old landmarks are being most unceremoniously shifted into remote corners, or else "improved" off the face of the earth entirely. This spirit pervades the political, scientific, and religious worlds alike, and in all three its reckless boldness seems upon the increase.
That I am not prepared to condemn this spirit in unmeasured terms most of you know. I have not one atom of sympathy with those who venerate everything that happens to be old. The very fact that some things have been permitted to grow old is cause for shame, and only increases my antagonism to their existence. An old error is the worst error of all, and though there may have grown around it associations and traditions linking it with the history of past ages, I yet say "down with it." Its hoary locks call for condemnation, not compassion.
But whilst recognizing the serviceable element in radicalism, I am convinced that, like fire, it makes a good servant, but a bad and mad master. Kept within proper restraints it will cure many things; unrestrained it will curse everything. The fire behind the bars [of a hearth] is a source of comfort and delight, but scattered broadcast it leads to a Chicago conflagration. In moderation this spirit serves as a timely preservative against the chilling influences of conservatism, pure and simple, but let it once pass beyond reasonable bounds and the danger of the fire is greater than that of the frost. France has found it so to her cost.
But it is not upon political landmarks I purpose speaking this evening. It is upon Scriptural. These are threatened as much, perhaps more, than any other. Not content to work in its own lawful sphere, the spirit that is now abroad impiously puts its hand upon the declarations of inspired writ, and as coolly proposes to shift or remove them as if they were so many conclusions of men who living in early days knew no better.
Against this we do and will protest with all the power that God has given us. There can be no parallel drawn between Scripture truths and political or scientific matters. The latter are the outgrowth of man's ideas and are therefore capable of improvement, the former are the thoughts of infinite wisdom and the utterances of One who knows no change. The latter are but repeated experiments, the former declared truths and Divine facts. When man ventures to tamper with these he puts his hands upon things entirely and utterly beyond his province.
I need hardly say that I am not going to teach from the text that we are bound to accept as binding all landmarks raised even by the best of men. Many a present landmark has no better reason for its continuance than "ancient custom," or "our fathers respected it." No, this night we speak only of those landmarks planted by God, through His prophets, Son, and apostles - those landmarks that have deeply engraved upon their front, "thus saith the Lord." We shall divide our subject into two parts, as follows. First, to look at some landmarks that are threatened, and secondly, bring to the front a few reasons why they should be left as they stand.
Next: The Attitude That Discards Biblical Landmarks
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