Lest We Forget
By Jerry C. Brewer
It is the curse of men that they forget. History is replete with examples of God's people who forgot him and turned after the ways of the world. It began with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3), led Lot to the plains of Sodom (Gen. 13:12), and caused Israel to wander 40 years in the wilderness (Deut. 1:34-40). Forgetting God brought apostasy in Israel after the death of the generation that followed Joshua (Judges 2:7-10). It brought a king to rule over Israel and led them into bondage to the Assyrians, the Medes and Persians, and the Greeks (1 Sam. 8:4-9, 19-20).
A failure to heed the authority of God led the early church to depart from the divine order of government and gave rise to apostate Catholicism. Seeking a reformation of the Catholic Church, well-intentioned men failed to heed God's will in the New Testament and produced the Babel of sectarian creedism.
In the latter part of the 18th and early 19th centuries there arose a cry in our land calling men back to the ancient order. Great men of the Restoration Movement studied their Bibles and concluded, often independently of each other, that followers of Christ should "speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent; do Bible things in Bible ways; and call Bible things by Bible names" (1 Pet. 4:11). Unique in its plea and revolutionary in its approach to man's relationship with God, that movement swept America like a raging prairie fire. It consumed the hearts of honest truth seekers and New Testament Christianity took root from the unadulterated seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11). Entire denominational congregations threw aside the shackles of human creeds and confessions of faith and pledged allegiance to Christ alone.
Opposition from the denominations was sharp and swift. Then, as now, New Testament Christianity strikes at the jugular of sectarianism. It pulls down the ramparts of denominational power and strips fiefdoms from petty rulers. It offers liberty in Christ and freedom from the rituals and trappings of manmade religion. It exposes error and exalts the authority of Christ and his Word as allsufficient in matters religious.
The Presbyterians sent N.L. Rice to battle the power of God's Word. Seeking to stem the rising tide of truth and silence the call for a return to the Jerusalem gospel, the infidel Robert Owen marched forth with the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Catholics. Clad in the armor of God and wielding the sword of the Spirit, men like Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Tolbert Fanning, Jacob Creath, and David Lipscomb met the attack. The fire of God's Word burned in their hearts (Jer. 5:14; 20:9), and when the dust settled those great soldiers of the cross stood victorious and sectarianism whimpered back to its corner to regroup. A divided, denominational world, built on the shifting, whispering sands of men's laws cannot stand against the truth of God.
But men forget, and danger always lurks within. The apostle Paul said digression and apostasy would come from among those who claim to be Christ's.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29).
Battles won in generations past do not constitute complete triumph. It is for each generation to set watchmen on the walls of Zion and guard against those of whom Paul spoke. The church on the threshold of the 21st century faces the same dangers it did when Paul uttered his warning.
We have come full circle. Where does the fire of restoration burn today? Not in apostate churches like Southern Hills in Tulsa nor in the instrumental music crowd of the Farmers Branch church in Texas. Not in some of our colleges. Not in the headlong rush down to the plains of Ono to fellowship those who oppose us nor in the well-watered plains of Sodom's "grace only" crowd. Having once tasted pure gospel waters, these wolves among the flock would drag us back to the broken cisterns of man's wisdom. As the dog returns to its vomit and the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Pet. 2:22), they would have us deny the Lord and embrace a "new gospel" for a new age. Paul said to mark and avoid them (Rom. 16:17) and pronounced a curse on those who would pervert the gospel of our Lord Jesus (Gal. 1:8-9).
Lest we forget, the fire of restoration still burns in the Word of God. As efficacious to salvation today as it was a thousand years ago, God's Word remains a fire that refines the soul and a hammer to break the hardened heart (Jer. 23:29). It has never lost its innate power. Preached and lived without the admixture of human doctrines and the compromising spirit of the times, it is still the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). The torch of truth, kindled by the Holy Spirit, lifted to light a pagan world and carried by men of God in previous generations, must not be extinguished in our time.
O God thou hast taught me from my youth and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Yet even when I am old and gray headed, O God, forsake me not, until I have declared thy strength unto the next generation. (Psa. 71:17-18).