Recently I’ve been working with our collection of an old periodical titled THE EVANGELICAL STUDENT. More about that periodical next week. But for now, here is a sample article from that little journal.
THE WAR PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
by John B. Champion
[The Evangelical Student 5.2 (January 1931): 21-23.]
To his professor a student once said: “I am troub1ed about the perseverance of the saints.” The teacher replied: “It is the perseverance of sinners that bothers me.” I do not purpose to discuss now whether the saints can be lost after being saved. This article will deal with Christian perseverance in “fighting the good fight of faith”. The faithful warrior sees the battle all the way through, endures unto the end, is saved, and saves the day.
About thirty years ago I found myself facing in a new way the struggle with modern unbelief. To calmer skies and more peaceful fields I resolved to remove. An old soldier, now in glory, said to me, “Don’t run away from this fight; victory is on the other side of the battlefield.” His words changed the whole course of my life. For them I shall ever be grateful to God and to him. They are here passed on as “the word in season to him that is weary”.
A battle half won and then deserted is but defeat too easily accepted and victory given to the enemy at far too little cost. It is being beaten under a leadership that never led the way to defeat. Christ never yet led a retreat. The story is an old one-that of a French general who, noticing the marvelous effect of the bagpipes on Scottish soldiers, commanded a piper to be captured. ~1any dead ones could be found on the field of battle; but it was a long time before a live one was captured. Brought into his presence the general asked him to play a march, then an advance, then a retreat; whereupon the Scot threw down his pipes on the ground in disgust. Asked what was the matter, he replied, pointing to the bagpipes, “She never learned to play a retreat.” Any Christian warrior may possibly come to defeat, but never by following “the Captain of our salvation”. He cannot ever be really defeated, though some soldier may run away from the victory assured by His leadership. Lack of necessary persistence may cause one to desert His standard half-way across the battle-field. The perseverance of the warrior-saints is the price they must pay to share in the victories of Christ. He ever has His faithful elect who do not quit the fight because of the unpleasantness of fighting, the weakening of fear, the paralyzing effect of half-heartedness, love of ease, of popularity with the enemy, or because of some other dangerous defect. Pacifist saints, supine saints, and saints grown weary of the conflict may lay their armor down just when Christ needs them most.
“O watch, and fight, and pray!
The battle ne’er give o’er;
Renew it boldly every day
And help Divine implore.
Ne’er think the victory won,
Nor lay thine armor down;
Thy arduous work will not be done,
Till thou obtain thy crown.”
Self-respect alone should help one to stay in the conflict against Modernistic unbelief. At an interdenominational meeting the great Congregationalist, Joseph Parker of London, England, began his address in his usual dramatic fashion. Said he: “The brother who preceded me described himself as a humble Presbyterian minister.” Adjusting his pince-nez glasses, Parker continued, “I will now turn me about to behold this great sight–a humble Presbyterian minister.” No small part of Presbyterian stamina has been Presbyterian self-respect. It has good reason for its existence. Back of it are centuries of the most heroic battling for the Kingdom of God. And, let a Baptist say it, 110 denomination is holding steadier in the tremendous conflict and falling-away today. Modernism has no such roll of honor as theirs. Where is Liberalism’s Knox, Chalmers, Guthrie? These men were not destructive and parasitic. They counted not their lives dear unto them. “Who follows in their train?” A noble army of all ages and denominations! Surely no one gets into better company by going over to those who have thrown over the faith of the heroes of all the Christian ages. Respect yourself, then, as a soldier of the King in the company of the heroes whose scars are badges of glory! In the midst of more than half a dozen diplomas in my study is an unpretentious bit of paper with these words printed in capitals: “God will not look you over for medals, degrees and diplomas, but for scars”. Then in another corner the text of my ordination sermon, “Be thou faithful unto death; and I will give thee a crown of life.” “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
There has recently passed away the heroic soul of Robert Dick Wilson. He did many things worthy of praise to his memory. Not least among them was this: his demonstration that we have nothing to fear from Modernistic scholarship. Invariably he went the unbelieving critics more than one better in research and in painstaking erudition. Yet the great dailies here could spare his passing to glory scarce a half dozen lines. That lack of appreciation was their loss, not his. Their tide of taste has long ago gone down to the level of ill-smelling mud-flats and all sorts of decaying debris.
Few Modernists read their own literature to much extent, let alone the writings of conservative and constructive men. They need not be feared for depth of thinking. For example, over the radio come the mellifluous tones of a Modernist leader telling us the one way to keep our faith is to keep on changing it; that Paul did this. He was a conservative a Pharisee; and he became a liberal-a Christian. After this Paul made four definite changes in his doctrine, and so forth, ad libitum. How much depth to that? It was the Sadducee who was the liberal of that day, believing neither in angel, nor spirit, nor resurrection, exactly as the Modernist liberal does today. Where, then, is the boasted progress? No Jew ever regarded Christianity as liberal Hebrew faith. The Hebrew was a preparatory faith, was a shadow of the coming substance. The law had “a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image.” Second Thessalonians is not a change of Paul’s doctrine about the Second Coming. In 2:5 Paul says: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” That is, the things which must happen before the Lord comes again. At the time Paul was with them, evidently during the founding of the church of the Thessalonians, he had taught them that a falling away must first come. It was because they had been told this, Paul believed he could write to them as he did in his First Epistle.
There is a vast difference between the change of natural growth in the harmonious development of doctrine, and the change that denies practically every fundamental of the faith-the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth, Biblical miracles, redemption in the death of Christ, His resurrection, His second coming, the inspiration, reliability and authority of the Scriptures. As Brunner shows in The Theology of Crisis, Modernism is not a change in Christianity, but a change from it. It is but shallow word-jugglery to make devastating destruction of the faith appear as the keeping of it. This reminds me of a student’s amazement when taught in a Modernist seminary that to be a good minister he must have a two-compartment mind-one in which to hold what he believed privately, for himself; and one to hold what the people would like to have preached to them. This student thought that pure Jesuitism.
Such are the things to be given no quarter. He who throws away the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, can never fitly fight any battle for God. And only the Spirit of Christ can really defend Christ and Christianity. Any other spirit but makes trouble for both, no matter what truth is held or believed. Then let us persevere in the battle for the truth and in the Spirit as they are in Christ Jesus.
“Sure I must fight if I would reign:
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the cross, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war,
Shall conquer, though they die;
They view the triumph from afar,
By faith they bring it nigh.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.”