December 18, 2017

Baptist Fundamentals: Things Not Shaken

Cortland Myers, D. D.
Pastor, Tremont Temple, Boston, Mass.

Editorial note: We are in the midst of a series of posts from the messages delivered at the Pre-Convention Conference of the Northern Baptist Convention, 1920. From the Conference the Fundamental Fellowship was formed which is today known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. The messages from the conference were published in a book called Baptist Fundamentals. The book has been digitized by Maranatha Baptist University and is available as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives collection in Logos format, available here. Links to previous posts will appear at the end of this post.

That those things which cannot be shaken may remain. — Hebrews 12: 27.

I question whether there is any word in our vocabulary that would express quite as fully and emphatically the world’s present condition as the word used in this Scripture reference, that verb which is freighted with such deep meaning — “shaken.” There has never been a period in human history in which there has been condensed so much of dynamic element to shake this world as in this recent half of a decade. The guns on the battle-field and on the sea shook it and made it unsteady in its pathway. They shook cathedrals from their foundation. They shook factories into ruins. They shook cities into ashes. They shook fields and forests and orchards into wreckage and ruin. They shook the very rivers until they ran over their boundary-lines and then colored them with crimson. They sent millions of our fellow men into early graves. They shook your world into pestilence and famine and disease, starvation and death. We never dreamed of passing through such a period of shaking as these recent years.

When this process was over and we thought it was all over and peace had at last dawned for humanity and a permanent peace according to promise and according to dream and the only just answer to the tidal wave of sacrifice, after we had given our billions of money and our millions of young manhood, had given without limit, sacrificed in every direction, then the peace promise and the quiet of our world was left in the hands of politicians, and greedy eyes searched all over the map of the world and then feet of animals instead of man climbed over into the trough and a sordid selfish transaction was immediately on, and the old game was being played, and the whole program was toward one end — the next election. England had it first, and Lloyd George had to be Prime Minister again, and he went over all his land making all kinds of promises, and he was elected. Then France immediately had her game, and Clemenceau had to be defeated, and another politician had to come in, and things had to be changed, and all kinds of promises were made by the politician. Then they threw the treaty over here to America, and the American Congress used it like a football and tried to get into a good game and a good play and reach the goal. They said, “We will get a touch-down in the next election.”

The greatest opportunity this world ever saw to make peace for humanity and no more war and bloodshed has been lost, basely lost, politically lost, worse than lost, and the political machinery is making the earth now shake from center to circumference, and wise men are wondering whether the old planet will be able to stay in its orbit any longer.

Everything has been shaken. Alas, some men’s faith has also been shaken. But I am rejoicing that in the midst of these world conditions and with no good outlook for the future, there are some things that cannot be shaken, and I am going to mention only those which are fortified and made absolutely secure by revelation.

First of all, the throne of God cannot be shaken. No matter what may take place in the world materially, no matter what may take place in its ultimate destination, no matter what may take place in any of the starry worlds, they may all disappear from their setting forever, and yet the throne of God at the center of this universe cannot be shaken. We have seen other thrones tremble, tumble, and fall. We have seen the crowns kicked around the earth and thrown into the rubbish-heap. We have seen the scepters used by the anarchist used as a walking-stick. We have seen throne after throne fall in the shaking process of these years, and some of them were considered the strongest and most durable thrones in the world. But they are gone in the period of a few days. One, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, all gone. Shaken from their foundation. The thrones of the earth are apparently insecure, seemingly on the increase of insecurity. No matter what you may name them. You may call them democratic it you please, and yet you mark them with instability and insecurity the moment you put them on top of the planet. It is all shaken, but when the thrones of the earth totter and tumble, the throne of God endureth forever. That is what the Scripture says.

We have been so sadly disappointed over the apparent failure as a result of this great world war and this upheaval. The earth was struck with a tidal-wave and a volcano and an earthquake all at once. We supposed some beneficial result was to accrue and the program was to be carried to a finish, and we have been tremendously disappointed. No worse failure was ever put on the table than the Treaty at Versailles. It has crumbled all to pieces today. Before it was signed it was going to pieces. It was a farce from beginning to end. With all my desire for a world peace, I could never have uttered another word to substantiate my fellow men’s faith in God if that peace treaty had not gone to smash. Why? Because the God at the center of the universe, whose throne is immovable, was absolutely ignored. His name was not mentioned, his blessing not asked. Infidelity wrote that document, and then we expect the good God to see it through. You will have to change every page of human history, if God did not pass judgment on such a bit of infamy as that. Heathen men would not permit it. One of the Big Three was an atheist, and he would not permit it. The others were not men enough to stand up for it. No breath of prayer was offered for it, and God was ignored.

Now we are on the edge of an abyss. Do not imagine this is the result of shallow thinking or of insanity either, because it is universally agreed upon by thinking men. We are on the edge of an abyss just now. I have given you fundamentally the reason for it. This great war broke on the earth because nations forgot God. Germany first of all, and the rest of them following in the trail. Now we are on the edge of an abyss because the recognition is not made that the great defect is the failure to recognize God and the great need of this human family is the spiritual need. It is not in any economical program; it is not in any material progress; it is not in new inventions. God knows if you make them it will make the next war infinitely worse than this last one, and I read this last week of the men, and Clemenceau and Lloyd George were in the list, who said that we were getting ready for another war. It was inevitable. They are building bigger navies and creating bigger armies, making new inventions, and God pity the old world and its inhabitants with all their progress in inventive genius if you forget that the only salvation for this human race is to satisfy the spiritual need and the souls of men.

You know that Marx, who is the author of all this modern socialism, said there were four things to be gotten rid of before there could be any progress in the human family. First of all, you had to get rid of your abominable idea of a God; you had to get rid of the superstition of religion; you had to get rid of conscience, and you had to get rid of the insanity of immortality.

Now you have it. That is the fountain-head of all the streams of all socialism that have been flowing through Russia. It is to get rid of God, get rid of the church and religion, get rid of conscience, and get rid of immortality. That is the ashes and the quicksand upon which the Bolsheviki and all the rest are trying to build the structure which they call the social organization and new government and progress of the world. Nine-tenths of the people who are striking in America and those who are keeping the railroads from running and other conditions in peril, are in exactly that class. Whether they say it or not, they are there. It is their conviction to get rid of God, get rid of religion, get rid of conscience, and get rid of immortality.

A Russian leader wrote a letter the other day and says this: “When I kill a hen or kill a rat no one says anything. Why do you say anything when I kill a man, for he is only an animal with a little higher reasoning?” There is something in that to think about. That is no light remark. That is not something to turn away from. Think it through. Why is he not right? If what he believes of man is true, then I say his logic is perfectly right, and it is not for us to cry out at the killing of a man. If a man has no conscience and no immortal soul and he is only an animal, kill him. You kill a hen that you may feed on it. Kill a man that you may feed on him. Why not?

The throne of God still stands at the center of this universe unquestioned in spite of the cry of the Bolsheviki and his kind today throughout the world. The throne of God still stands, and we must reckon with it if we have any hope for our future. The changes may come, and they are constantly coming, but God still lives, and he still swings the scepter. If you do not believe that, all you need to do is to read the history of the Jews. When they went away and went into idolatry and fell down before heathen gods, they went into exile. That is the reason the Jews are where they are today. They have left God out. What is the matter with Germany? She had culture and education and music and art. She led the world. We went there for almost everything. Alas, we made the mistake, we went there for our religion. We forgot God. Germany left God out of the account and then came to ruin. Do not mistake it. The world has no border-line on it. It is all one. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and these United States are not separated from the consequences of the Jews and the Germans, from Ephesus and Karnak and Thebes, for your world is simply covered with the ashes of destroyed cities and governments, and all for the same reason. With all these changes of thrones going down and governments being destroyed, there is one thing that remains. The throne of God still stands, and I have that as my great hope and encouragement and comfort.

There is another thing that remains in the midst of the shaking process. That is just as evident and has no interrogation-mark after it. The word of the Lord endureth forever. All other things may be. All other books may go. All other literature disappear. All history even be forgotten, but the word of God remains.

In my brief experience we have had a period of atheism led on by that mocker and blasphemer of America and some other secondary followers here and some across the water, who gathered in his fortune from the pockets of his fellow men and women from whom he stole all their faith and the real riches of their life, and they were fools enough to pay him. His name is almost forgotten. We have no follower of his whatever in this country or the world. He is gone. The young people of this age have never heard his name. I passed through that period when this Book was torn apparently into shreds. He took it in front of his audience and tore page after page out of it, and even the covers he threw into the fire. He has gone into oblivion and is forgotten, but the Book still stands.

I passed through a period of criticism when inside of the church, the nominal church (and the greatest enemies are always inside the walls, never on the outside), when strong men, noble men in my presence, men who have been presidents of theological seminaries, said: “The old Book is gone. They have to cut it to pieces.” Schools have taken up what we call higher criticism and destroyed our Bible. We do not hear very much about higher criticism now. That is all past and gone. Their books are all thrown in the fire and on the rubbish-heap, and no one would pay a penny for them today. The Bible still stands.

I passed through a period of what they called rationalism and that turned itself over finally into what we have named all over the world New Theology; then men lost their authority and depended on their own experience and other things, and this Book was gone. Germany led the way and spread it over the earth. The Bible was gone. Rationalism was the false god that scholars and other people worshiped. I passed through that period; but rationalism is dying or dead, and this Book still lives. The word of the Lord endureth forever. There grew out of this all kinds of “isms” until we are living in a day men call materialism. We are living in a day of spiritualism. We are living in a day of Christian Science, and living in a day of Russellism and all manner of devilisms. We are in the delta of the great Mississippi. We have passed thirty years of criticism from those who have tried to destroy this Book. Now we are in the delta, and all these things are destined to be lost in the great ocean of God’s everlasting truth.

I have seen the Ganges River run eighty miles out into the ocean and retain its yellow, muddy stream for eighty miles as it made its way through the ocean; but I have seen that eighty miles disappear and every last drop of water that came down the old Ganges lost in the heart of the great ocean. I have seen all these streams come down through these years, and, thank God, their muddiness is being lost in the great ocean of God’s truth. The word of the Lord endureth forever.

That is what we need. That is what the ministers need. We have almost lost our authority, and when we have lost that, we have lost everything. We have lost the supernatural; and when we have lost that, we have lost everything. What the ministers of God need today is to understand that this thing is not, can not, will not be shaken. This is the authority and the only authority. It is not in any pope, it is not in any rationalistic idea. It is not in any man-made authority. This Book comes from God and is the divine authority and his revelation to men, and I hold it as mine.

No great piece of oratory ever came from any other fountain-head. Patrick Henry at Virginia had it. Abraham Lincoln on the battle-field of Gettysburg had it. Wendell Phillips had it. Daniel Webster had it. Oh, would to God that Daniel Webster could walk down the halls of legislation today! We would hear something if he could appear there or his ghost show up some day. In all the period of this war, in these crisis hours in human history, there has not been a single speech made, not an address made, not a book written that will live tomorrow. Not one that will stand print or a schoolboy ever will read. We have had speeches down in Washington four hours and a half long but a mockery for humankind. If Daniel Webster with his soul conviction of God on the throne of this universe and righteousness to reign in the earth and a conscience back of it, could speak, something would be heard. We have not had anything like it. Absolutely nothing. The saddest commentary I know on this day and on the political world is that not a line or word will live for the schoolboy of the future. Nothing but politics.

Our ministers have been drinking at the same fountain. They have lost their authority, their soul conviction. I read only yesterday of a minister who preached on “Why Does a Dog Pant?” He had no gospel, no message, no Bible. Another minister preached on “Who Took the Ham out of Abraham?” All kinds of topics of that kind instead of the great truth out of God’s Book, burning with a holy passion and ready to sweat blood, backed up by the message of divine authority — the Book of God, the truth from cover to cover. Not that the word of God is in it, but it is the word of God. That always accomplishes its purpose.

I have up in my office a huge knife-blade which came from the jungles of Africa, made by one of the cannibals. That blade was given me by our Doctor Ostrom, who brought it from the Congo region. It was presented to him by the chief of the cannibal tribe, and that blade is all covered with human blood now. That old chief had cut off many human heads with that knife. What has happened? He was a savage, the chief of his tribe, with a knife that could chop off a human head as easily as a chicken’s head. Where is he today? What is he doing now? I have his knife, and he has my Bible. He is preaching the gospel of the Son of God to the cannibals in the jungles of Africa. That is what this old book can do. Nothing else in this world works miracles like that. The word of the Lord endureth forever.

Something else remains. The throne of God, the Book of God, the Church of God. I have my authority for it too. It came from the lips of the Son of God, and he ought to know. I do not, but he does. He said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Whatever he may have meant by that expression, he meant undoubtedly the extreme of all language to express the fact that there was nothing on earth or in hell that could ever shake the foundations of his church. That is a great comfort, is it not? He built his church according to his own statement on the heart of his gospel, that the great central fact of Christianity is in his deity. He said that was the foundation-stone on which his church should be built. Peter made the statement and Christ said, “That is where my church stands.” Not as an example; not as a teacher, good as he was. He walked through this world as no other man walked, but not that. He built his church not on any philosophy. He built it on no books, for he never wrote one. He built his church on the fact that God in the person of Christ came into this world and died on Calvary to save men. That is the foundation, and he said that church will never be budged or moved a hair’s breadth from that foundation.

That makes this true that there is no church in this world that does not rest on that foundation. Christian Science is not a church. It is a farce. It is a fake to call it a church. It is an organization. It is like other organizations, like world organizations, but the Church of Jesus Christ is founded on the deity of Jesus Christ, so Christian Science is no church. The Unitarians are no church. They are a club, because the church is built on the foundation-stone of the deity of Christ. The real church of Christ — I do not mean only the material structure of wood and stone, I mean the real spiritual church, the body of Christ, the men and women who belong to him everywhere in this world, that great organization known to God and cared for by God and waiting for Christ’s coming — that is the church which stands forever, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

This is the day of big things. We are accustomed to big things. We jump right into big things. We counted money by the billions. We kept on doing that until we raised unbelievable sums of money for the Y. M. C. A. and for the Red Cross, and just as soon as we got through with one drive we had another. We had the big things so much in our mind that we had to keep on, so we had a big drive for the church. Men said, “If we are going to save the church of Christ, we will save it by having these big things and having big organizations and big money and big machinery.” Men have said to me within a few days, “This is the age of big things, and it will stir men and women to do big things and give money.” I do not think so. They have swept the country with speakers and organizations, and this is what they say, that they are going to tell the preachers “how to put it over.” Men who never knew such a thing as the Holy Ghost are coming to tell the preachers “how to put it over.” The fact in the case is that nine-tenths of these men are ecclesiastical parasites, they are theological pigmies, they are ministerial traitors, and they are trying to tell us, by a big piece of machinery, how to put it over. Not a word about humiliation; not a word about repentance; not a word about the Holy Ghost, or looking to God, but “how to put it over.”

The Israelites thought they knew how to put it over so they got the ark back in the camp. They never turned toward God at all. They never thought of repentance, humiliation or sorrow or tears. “We will smash the Philistines.” And the Philistines themselves were scared, and they said, “Now let us come together as we are and be neighbors.” But what happened? They went right into battle, plunged right into it because they had the ark. They had the machine there and thought they were safe; but thirty thousand of them were wiped off the earth. Then Samuel said: “We have made an awful blunder. Let us get to Mizpeh quick, and get down before God and be humiliated and pray.” And on his knees the great man of God fell, and tears of penitence rolled down his face. God was recognized, and the battle was won. You put the machinery in the camp; but you cannot take God with it. You think the thing is done and we will put it over, but the Philistines will defeat you day after tomorrow. What the church of God needs is the Holy Ghost, needs the gospel of the Son of God, needs repentance and humiliation, needs to come back.

These may be dark days, and they are, but we have seen others in history. The word of the Lord endureth forever. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and still lives. The throne of God still stands. The gates of hell shall not prevail against his church. In the darkest hour of human history, according to this Book, he is coming back again. He may come today, but when he comes the world will have a king that is above every other king and who swings the scepter of peace and rules the nations of the earth; the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is coming back. He is not going to fail.

I have been always interested in M’Cheyne, and I read a bit of his biography the other day. He died at twenty-nine years of age. Wherever his feet stepped Scotland shook. Whenever he opened his mouth there was an electric force that swept in every direction. Whenever he entered there was a magnetic personality that drew everybody toward him. He lived a wonderful life, and hundreds and thousands of people followed him into the kingdom of God. This incident about him fell into my hands this last week.

A traveler anxious to see where M’Cheyne had preached and worked, went to the Scotch city and found the church. He told the old sexton he had come a long ways and wanted to see where M’Cheyne had preached. The sexton said, “Come on,” and that old gray-haired Scotchman led the way into M’Cheyne’s study. He said, “Sit down in that chair.” The traveler hesitated a moment and then sat down. On the table in front of him was an open Bible. He said: “Drop your head in the Bible and cry like a child. That is the way our minister got ready to preach.” He said, “Come on with me.” He took him up into the Scotch pulpit before the open Bible. “Now,” he said, “stand there and drop your head in your hands over the Bible and begin to weep.” He said, “That is the way our minister preached.”

With a deathless conviction that breaks up the fountains of the deep and wets my face with tears, I shall continue to remember the throne of God and stand in the shadow of the cross and hold the Book to my heart and preach the glorious gospel of the Son of God, and believe in its everlasting triumph.

Link to Baptist Fundamentals and other works available in Logos format as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives, produced by Maranatha Baptist University.

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