"THE OLD PATHS

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Renewing the Foundations of America's Christian Heritage and Legacy

"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein."

Jeremiah 6: 16

"We are Puritans of the Puritans, descended throughout many generations of believers."

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I. THE ENVIRONMENT OF AMERICAN ECCLESIASTICAL CHANGE

A

merican Christianity has changed. Somewhere along the line, there's been a change in focus, a revision of doctrine and of ideals that has resulted in a new breed of Christian and a new breed of church that is entirely foreign to the historic, militant, doctrinally orthodox Christianity that has waged spiritual warfare for the cause of Christ and his Kingdom ever since our Lord's first advent. In saying this, I don't have reference merely to Ecumenism and the Emerging Church movement, but to Evangelicalism and to Fundamentalism as well. Across the board, a dramatic change has taken place that has sharply redefined Christianity along lines entirely alien to the Word of God and made its American manifestation an unrecognizable shadow of the Puritanism that gave us our King James Bible and laid the foundation for our once-great nation.

II. THE EVIDENCES OF AN EXTREME CORRUPTION
A. PERVERTED PULPIT PRIORITIES
We notice this change in our pulpits. While in our nation's earliest days, mighty men of God such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Ebenezer Pemberton, John Clark, Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, John Gano and John Leland focused overwhelmingly upon those majestic Scriptural doctrines of the first magnitude in the pulpit, those spiritual priorities have been gradually eclipsed by subjects of a mere tertiary importance. Even as late as the early twentieth century, men of God such as A. J. Gordan, Mordecai Ham, Bob Jones Sr., J. Frank Norris, John Roach Straton and T. DeWitt Talmage contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, both defending sound doctrine and rebuking sin in the severest of terms. Yet today, even among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, such preaching is deliberately silenced and criticized as "dogmatic" and "meanspirited." The doctrinal preaching that once focused upon the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the substitutionary blood atonement, the bodily resurrection, the personal ministry of the Holy Ghost, a literal Hell, predestination, justification by grace alone through faith alone, glorification, ecclesiastical and personal separation, holy Christian living and deep, personal piety has been replaced by psychology, self-help, motivational speeches and tertiary themes such as "servant leadership" and "transparency," while "balance" has become the new trigger word to suppress any imagined excess in zeal for sound doctrine or holy living and to marginalize anyone who threatens to rock the boat by pointedly rebuking the rampant sin and raw carnality that infests Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in the United States.

B. DISPENSATIONAL ANTINOMIANISM
At the root of American Christianity's spiritual and moral decline is the shift away from historic Biblical literalism to the artificial and wooden "literalism" invented by John Nelson Darby in the early nineteenth century and known popularly today as Dispensationalism. By an undue and perverted emphases upon the doctrine of progressive revelation, Dispensationalism has created an artificial and unbiblical dichotomy and tension between the harmonious covenants of Law and Grace (Galatians 3: 21 - 24). The two covenants (Galatians 4: 24) that God ordained to work harmoniously for the salvation of sinners have been wrongfully segregated and compartmentalized according to a manmade time stratification nowhere supported by Scripture, thereby making the Law of God irrelevant and actually antagonistic to God's covenant of Grace imparted through the shed blood, substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the quickening ministry of the Holy Ghost. With

God's Law relegated to the centuries of antiquity prior to the birth of Christ, and a supposed "Age of Grace" now in effect, the modern American Christian sins and indulges the flesh with blatant impunity and outright presumption under the false and unbiblical premise that God's Law is irrelevant to this "Dispensation" and that he or she lives in this supposed "Age of Grace," all the while ignoring the plain statements of New Testament Scripture that sin is the transgression of the Law (I John 3: 4), that we have no right to sin that grace may abound (Romans 6: 1) and that we will be judged by the perfect Law of liberty (James 2: 8 - 12) which we ought to fulfill through the outworking of a fervent Christian charity (Romans 13: 8 - 10). Thus the Dispensationalism of John Nelson Darby and C. I. Scofield has fostered the outright antinomianism of modern American Christianity along with numerous other errors, including the denial of the true Spiritual Israel, the Israel of God (Galatians 6: 17) and the doctrine of Peter Ruckman that undermines the foundation of salvation by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2: 8 - 9) and has ultimately disrupted and shattered the entire unity and harmony of the Sacred Deposit of Scripture, beguiling the church of God into a licentious dismissal of God's Law never before accepted by any branch of the Christian faith outside of Gnosticism or the Ranters. We may rightly identify Dispensationalism, that damnable, despicable doctrine of devils devised by Darby, as the corrupting cancer of the church, the great point of departure from our Puritan heritage and the harbinger of the approaching Antichrist, the Lawless One foretold in II Thessalonians 2: 8.

C. THE LORD'S DAY PROFANED
A most noteworthy feature of American Christianity's radical antinomianism is the utter disregard and contempt for the Lord's Day everywhere visible among the people of God. While bygone generations of Christians - most conspicuously our Puritan founders - have understood the clear and unmistakable implications of the possessive case used in Revelation 1: 10 and have consequently striven to render unto God the things which be God's (Matthew 22: 21), the modern Christian feels that he or she has the right to appropriate the Lord's Day to himself or to herself however he or she may feel fit, which is nothing less than to steal what God has clearly and unmistakably designated as belonging uniquely to him in contrast with the other days of the week. Worse than this, the most culpable parties involved in this audacious theft are the very Fundamentalist pastors, evangelists and missionaries who argue that God has preserved every jot of his Word in the King James Bible and the Greek Textus Receptus. While arguing for the immeasurable value of every jot of Scripture, they nevertheless pass glibly over the crystal clear implications of the possessive case used in Revelation 1: 10 and steal the Lord's Day for themselves in order to indulge the flesh by participating in America's idolatrous adoration and outright worship of professional and collegiate sports clubs on Sunday, when, of all days, the hearts and thoughts of God's people ought to be attuned to heavenly things and not to things on the earth.

1. PROFANED BY THE ABSENCE OF REVERENCE

Once the concept of sanctification for the Lord's Day - that is, the Biblical and historical truth only recently dismissed and discarded that the Lord has claimed and sanctified the first day of the week unto himself to be used uniquely in worship, in prayerful meditation and in the furtherance of his kingdom rather than fleshly indulgence - fades into extinction and the day is free to be used in any manner whatsoever, regardless of how profane or carnal it may be, the principle of Biblical reverence will soon vanish with it. And this we see all too easily around us as even church services themselves are no longer something sacred to be approached with humility and respect. Indeed, the entire tone of worship today in the United States of America is utterly devoid of the reverence and godly fear demanded by Hebrews 12: 28 - 29, even in the most conservative of Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches. The whole Biblical imperative of reverence and godly fear in our service to God has been replaced with an attitude of flippant presumption. No longer is the pulpit considered "the sacred desk" from whence God's flock is fed with the sincere milk and meat of the Word, and the Gospel proclaimed with conviction and fullness of power, as it was in our nation's infancy. Instead, it has become a mere platform where ecclesiastical histrios put on a performance and "rock out" or chat about whatever carnal trivialities or even outright vulgarities happen to flutter through their brains at any given instant. The services once sacred to worship, to edification, to exhortation, to evangelization, to spiritual instruction, to the magnification of the blessed name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and to the public rebuke and correction of sin and carnality are now reduced to a mere "celebration," a concert, a Christian Comedy Hour or Pastor Joe's Storytime.

2. PROFANED BY SENSUAL MUSIC

With the Scriptural demand for reverence long since dismissed and forgotten, nothing stands in the way of reducing the Lord's Day to the level of complete and total entertainment in every area, from the pulpit to the pew. No longer do the people of God unite in singing worshipful praise to the most high God as a congregation. Instead, a band or a praise team provides an entertaining performance of the exact same variety as the performances given in any secular club, concert or coffee shop. And, as one would expect, the responses of the congregation mirror exactly the responses of the audiences attending any of the abovementioned secular entertainment events.

In other words, the response is nothing short of absolute, unadulterated, raw carnality. The response corresponds exactly to the performance, which is also unmixed carnality. The sexuality of the driving voodoo rhythm and the breathy, sliding vocals have absolutely nothing to do with lifting the hearts of the audience away from earthly things or with crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts, and they have absolutely everything to do with provoking the sexual appetites. The audience responds, not because of any activity of the Holy Spirit among them, but because the music has stimulated their libidos.

Nowhere is this corruption more absurd and ridiculous than in Fundamentalist churches. The scenario among Fundamentalists is rendered all the more laughable because it is perfectly obvious that the younger Fundamentalist pastors and families are getting as close to the line as they possibly can without technically crossing it. It's perfectly obvious where the hearts of these younger Fundamentalists are. It's perfectly obvious that a rapidly growing number of younger Fundamentalist pastors and families would have Contemporary Christian Music in their churches if some of their older members wouldn't object or leave or if they wouldn't face any criticism from other churches within their fellowship. But since some small fragments of inhibition still exist among them, they - the same way that schoolchildren do - get as close to the line as they possibly can without technically crossing over, making childish excuses to justify their preference for carnal, sensual entertainment over Biblically reverent worship. "I don't think that it's wrong to tap your feet a little." "We don't want to sound too 'high church.'" "Sliding isn't that big of a deal." All this and similar tripe, which simply opens the tent door for the proverbial camel and the further corruption of God's worship to the grieving of God's blessed Holy Spirit.

3. PROFANED BY THE IDOLATRY OF PROFESSIONAL AND COLLEGIATE SPORTS

And if the experience in the church's morning service is carnal, that in the home is all that much more so. For as soon as the church service lets out, the family rushes home, turns on the television and immerses itself in the idolatry of America's sports obsession. Never mind the greed, the alcoholism, the pride or the lust that drives the sports entertainment industry. Never mind the crudeness and crass vulgarity of the audience or the prideful arrogance of the players. The same family that could scarcely mumble out the chorus of a hymn in praise to the Lamb that was slain for their sins is now screaming to the point of potentially rupturing a blood vessel as a group of grown men chase a ball around a field. Thus these Dispensationalist Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, to their own shame and the grief of God's blessed Holy Spirit, fulfill the Scripture that says, "They that forsake the law praise the wicked."

D. THE ABSENCE OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE
We notice this change also in the staggering absence of Biblically mandated church discipline. In three decades among independent Fundamental Baptists, I have never seen church discipline practiced even once, outside of my own pastorate. It certainly hasn't been because of a lack of sin among independent Fundamental Baptists. Nevertheless, in situations that I have witnessed that genuinely called for church discipline, said independent Fundamental Baptists not only refused to administer it, they actually demonstrated a real hostility at the suggestion of it.

This is nothing short of blatant rebellion against God. Church discipline is not a suggestion offered by Scripture. It is a solemn duty that every church has a responsibility to fulfill. And when churches refuse to obey God's explicit and unmistakable commandment on this subject, they are demonstrating nothing less than hardhearted, stiffnecked, stubborn rebellion against God. And the Bible says that stubbornness and rebellion are equally as bad as witchcraft and idolatry (I Samuel 15: 23). In other words, across this country, the overwhelming majority of churches might just as well be involved in practicing Wicca, Voodoo or black magic. You may object that that sounds extreme, but that's exactly how the Bible terms it. And God has not changed since the days of King Saul, regardless of what Dispensationalism teaches. There is no variableness or shadow of turning with him (James 1: 17). He remains eternally immutable, absolutely the same in all ages, and will remain so when time itself shall be no more. Consequently, his expectations of absolute obedience to his commandments remain unchanged as well, and this encompasses his commandment that his churches administer church discipline in cases of known, unrepentant sin among church members.

E. LANDMARKISM
And yet, in spite of all this abominable wickedness and corruption that flies in the face of God's holiness, modern Fundamentalism has adopted a new air of pride along with its growing acceptance of Landmarkism. Now most Fundamentalists will never admit to being Landmarkers or Baptist-Briders, but the popular "local-church-only" theory of Ecclesiology is simply an abbreviated form of Landmarkism. Logically, the two positions are inseparable, yet the modern Fundamentalist wants to claim a "localchurch-only" position, while distancing himself from Landmarkism and viewing Landmarkers as radicals. The hypocrisy of this position is matched only by the arrogant air of superiority and contempt that the Landmarkers-in-denial exhibit towards those who hold the Biblical and historic Baptist position of a Universal Church reflected in the local church. Thus, God's blessed Holy Spirit is grieved, not only by false doctrine, but by pride as well.

III. THE EXPECTATION OF AN EFFECTUAL CORRECTION
All of this is an abuse of our God-given stewardship and is utterly contrary to the Word of God and grievous to God's blessed Holy Spirit. Consequently, the great movements of the Holy Ghost in mighty revival that our forefathers witnessed are extinguished and forgotten except by a select few aged saints who remember something of the great national revivals that swept the United States in the twentieth century. In vain have modern American Christians prayed and preached about revival while continually provoking the Spirit of Christ that is in them to anger by their flippant presumptuousness, raw carnality and earthlymindedness and their irreverent abuses of the sacred stewardship entrusted to them for the

ministry of the Word, the furtherance of Christ's kingdom and the rebuke, opposition and correction of sin and wickedness. And until in humility and genuine repentance modern Christians amend their doings, correct the error of their ways and seek God's forgiveness, revival will never come.

American Christianity cannot afford to continue on this path. The Bible commands us, in times of apostasy and declension such as these to "ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein." That means that we must return to our spiritual roots, retracing our steps all the way back to our very foundations. We must not accept any substitutes, anything different that has deviated from those old paths. We must find the old paths themselves and nothing else, and must return to them.

IV. THE EXAMPLES OF AN EMBATTLED CHURCH
And the old paths did not originate in the nineteenth century. They did not begin in 1883 or in 1850 or in 1832. They began with the revelation of a promised Seed in the Garden of Eden and have been walked by faith by the people of God ever since. They have been trodden from generation to generation since the time of Adam and Eve down to the Apostolic and Sub-apostolic Eras. And whenever idolatry and superstition and human traditions and the commandments of men (Titus 1: 14) have eclipsed God's truth and obscured the strait and narrow road, God has always had a pure remnant that refused to bend, refused to bow the knee to Baal, and has stood and contended for the purity of the faith once delivered to the saints.

During the Dark Ages, they were known by many names - Novatians, Donatists, Paulicians, Montanists, Bogomils, Vaudois, Waldenses, Waldensians - but first and foremost throughout as Cathari - Puritans. When the Waldenisan missionary Walter Lollard carried the Gospel into England and evangelized the British Isles anew and afresh, they became known as Lollards. And when the Protestant Reformation fell short of a thoroughgoing Biblicism, these Lollards - among them our Baptist forefathers - led a new wave of Puritanism that brought us our King James Bible, laid the foundation for the United States of America and witnessed the sweeping power of the Holy Ghost in Great Awakenings of monumental proportions.

It is just this Biblical Puritanism that we must return to, this historic demand of the true saints and martyrs since the time of Christ for a pure Biblical Christianity untainted by the idols and innovations of any given time period. We must purge out the old leaven. We must purge out the new leaven. We must purge out anything contrary to the clear and plain revelation of Scripture, anything that obscures

the simplicity that is in Christ and distracts from the preeminence of the Son of God and his truth as revealed in the Word of God. We must have purity. Nothing else will do.

The time has come again for just such a Puritanism. We need just such a Puritan remnant today. May God raise it up to his everlasting glory and praise. May God grant us a new Puritan revolution.