Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity

Guard The Antiques

C. G. Caldwell, Sr., Manchester, Tennessee

I read one time of a maid who had just been employed and the mistress of the house set her to work dusting the living room. Presently there was a crash and the lady of the house rushed in to see what had happened. A valuable vase was lying on the floor, broken into small pieces. Sickened at the sight, she spoke to the maid angrily. "That vase was more than five hundred years old," she cried. "Now you have broken it!" The maid was not disturbed. "Five hundred years old, eh? Well, I'm glad I broke it. It's about time you had a new one."

There are many people today who seem to take the same attitude toward some of the values of life that the maid took toward the antique vase. Being old, they are of no value. Only the newest and most up-to-date theories can be accepted. Break the old ones and throw them away is the modern idea.

Wisdom and experience, however, both teach that newness and excellence do not always go together. Some new things, of course, are a great improvement over the old. Many modern ways of doing things are much better than the old ways. But there are many old things which are far superior, both in excellence and value, to anything modern. Among these are moral standards of living, ideals, spiritual qualities. No new standards of truth and righteousness have been, or will be, devised that can excel or even equal those announced by the Man of Galilee more than nineteen hundred years ago. The individual or group that tries to smash the principles of living, the standards of decency and purity, laid down by Him to accept some new and up-to-date ones will succeed only in corrupting human society and eventually destroying themselves. "Thy word," said David, "is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever." (Psa. 119:160).

There are many brethren today who seem to take an attitude similar to that taken by the above mentioned maid regarding the original teachings of the New Testament, particularly as these teachings apply to the organization, work and worship of the Lord's church. The pattern revealed by the Holy Spirit is too old and outdated to suit this modern age or to meet modern day conditions. It is obsolete, therefore, it must be cast aside and replaced with new, more modern and more up-to-date arrangements. Thus the church is drifting further and further away from the original divine pattern. And even more alarming is the fact that many brethren in an effort to justify these departures from the "old paths" are claiming there is no pattern.

God has always had a pattern for His institutions. He gave His people a pattern concerning the temple and the tabernacle and demanded that they build according to it. When He gave Moses instructions for the building of the tabernacle He said, "According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it." (Ex. 25:9). Centuries later, when God selected Solomon to build the temple, "David gave Solomon, his son, the pattern of the porch of the temple and of the houses thereof . . . and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit." (I Chron. 28:11,12). David told Solomon, "All this have I been made to understand in writing from the hand of Jehovah, even all the works of this pattern." (V. 19). If God gave His people a pattern concerning these (which were physical) why would He be so unconcerned about the details of the church (spiritual) that He gave no blueprint for it? God has a pattern for His church and we are warned to follow the blueprint. (Heb. 8:5; 2 Jno. 9). When brethren begin to talk about "Where there is no pattern" or say that "God has commanded us to do something but has not told us how to do it", they are either consciously or unconsciously opposing God and encouraging others as well as themselves to commit the sin of doing only that "which is right in their own eyes". Faith in the New Testament pattern lies at the very heart of the RESTORATION IDEAL. The very idea of restoring something implies a return to the ORIGINAL. Thus, a restoration of the New Testament church implies that the New Testament is a pattern for that which the church is to be in every age. If indeed the New Testament is not such a pattern, the restoration plea is a mockery and has no real meaning at all.

The church as revealed to us in the New Testament is a perfect institution, and sufficient to accomplish ALL the Lord intended for it to do. It is fully competent and thoroughly adequate to accomplish every work the Lord has seen fit to devolve upon it and no other organization or arrangement is needed or will be tolerated by Jehovah.

When men endeavor to serve God and humanity through a man-made institution they rob the church of the glory God has assigned it and exalt their own wisdom above the wisdom of God. All glory is to be given Him through His church. (Eph. 3:21). There is no work or service required of men as Christians that cannot be done in and through the "one body", the church. Whether it be evangelistic, benevolent, the work of edification, the local congregation is sufficient and the only organization through which it can be scripturally done. God in His "divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness". (2 Pet. 1:3). "All things that pertain unto life and godliness" are in Christ — in His church. Therefore, the church only can claim that which pertains to life and godliness, because all spiritual life is in Crist. (Eph. 1:3). "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16,17). In every work of righteousness, "every good work", the scriptures are sufficient to instruct us. Any work or service undertaken or engaged in by the church for which no scriptural authority or instructions can be found is not a work of righteousness. It is not a "good work" and is therefore sinful.

As designed by God, built by Christ, and revealed by the Holy Spirit, the church represents God's ways and His ways are not only always best but always sufficient. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. 55:8,9). Any effort on man's part to add to or improve upon to Lord's arrangement for the accomplishment of His purpose through His church is a manifestation of disbelief in the all-sufficiency of this holy institution and constitutes a brazen attempt to impeach God's wisdom in the arrangement and execution of His divine plan and program. Those who seek out new ways and means of serving God, who refuse to walk in the "old paths" and regard the Divine Rule as old fashioned, outmoded and obsolete, can succeed only in dishonoring God and ultimately destroying themselves spiritually.

Israel was commanded to "remove not the ancient landmarks". (Deut. 19:14). The word "ancient" denotes antiquity. Webster defines the word, among other things, as "dating from a remote period; of great age". "Landmarks" identified land areas, personal holdings. Israel was commanded not to remove them. Much depended upon these original "landmarks". Their homes, their possessions depended upon them. They were not to be removed or replaced. Likewise, much depends upon the "ancient landmarks" in ,spiritual Israel. Our home in heaven depends upon a recognition of and a steadfast refusal to "remove the ancient landmarks." Our salvation depends upon our being in the right church and following the right way. Christ built His church. (Matt. 16:18). He built but one. (Eph. 4:4). In this institution He placed salvation. (Isa. 46:13; cf. Acts 4:11, 12; 2 Tim. 2:10). There is no salvation in any of the man-made churches, and they are many. Hence, it behooves us to find the one Christ built, to look for and find the "landmarks" by which alone it may be identified. Some landmarks are frauds. The Catholics have erected some but they are too recent. Some of my brethren now seek to remove the "ancient landmarks" and replace them with something new. Marks erected before or since Jesus built His church are either too old or too young to be the original "landmarks".

The church had its beginning in Jerusalem. (Acts 2). To find the original marks which identify the Lord's church we must go back to Jerusalem — back to the New Testament. Here we find the original marks — the original divine pattern. These original "landmarks" were erected by Christ and His apostles. They are authoritative; they are genuine and we dare not "remove", disregard or attempt to replace them with marks of our own choosing.

Israel was also admonished to "ask for the old paths .... the good way, and walk therein". (Jer. 6:16). In the New Testament Christianity is spoken of as "the way". (Matt. 7:13,14). Paul calls it "the more excellent way" (I Cor. 12:31) and "the new and living way". (Heb. 10:20). Peter speaks of "the way of truth". (2 Pet. 2:2). Isaiah gave a description of this way (Isa. 35:8-10) and finally Jesus said, "I AM THE WAY". (John 14:6). If we ever get to heaven we must walk in this "WAY". It is "the way of holiness". (Isa. 35:8-10) No unclean person — that is, no one who has not been cleansed by the blood of Christ (I Jno. 1:7) — shall walk therein. It is a "straight and narrow" way. (Matt 7:13), yet it is a way too plain for error. (Isa. 35:8) It is a way that leads upward. The Christian life is a growth. (Phil. 3:12-14). To experience this growth one must be nurtured by the "sincere milk of the word' (I Pet. 2:2) until he is able to stand strong meat or sound doctrine. (I Cor. 3:1,2). We must not despise this way but must seek after it and follow it. And while it is called the "new and living way" it is to us the old the original, way marked out by Christ. Old ways in religion are the original fountains of inspiration. To Israel, the law of Moses, but to us, the teaching of Christ and His apostles. (Acts 2:42; I Pet. 2:21). New ways do not lead to heaven. They are deceptive, delusive and destructive. Hence, we are commanded to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3). Paul charged Timothy to "guard that which is committed unto thee". (I Tim. 6:20). "I am set," said he, "for the defense of the gospel." (Phil. 1:17). Paul marveled that some were "so soon removed . . . . unto another gospel, which," said he, "is not another; but there be some that . . . .would pervert the gospel of Christ." (Gal. 1:6-8).

In our services to God we must guard well the "antiques", the original teachings, the "ancient landmarks". Men and angels are cursed if they depart from the old paths. (Gal. 1:8). To some the original commandments and ordinances of Christ are of little value; they are out of date, obsolete and worthless. To these people the organization of the church as originally planned and set forth by the Holy Spirit, the simplicity of its worship and the extent and pattern of its work, both in saving the world and caring for the needy, are all too old fashioned to be of any value and must be replaced with more modern arrangements in both organization and procedure. The pattern set forth in the New Testament may be old-fashioned and unattractive to some but it is original and, therefore, more valuable than any modern arrangements devised by man. It is wise to guard well the "antiques" in both moral standards and spiritual considerations. "Remove not the ancient landmarks."