Treading the Old Paths
The opening address at the Mid-America Keswick Convention delivered by Dr. A.W. Tozer, pastor of Christian and Missionary Alliance Church of Chicago.
It has happened many times over the centuries that the church has become so preoccupied with certain vital truths that she has for a time lost sight of other truths fully as important and has allowed them to fall into desuetude and be for all practical purposes wholly lost to the people of God.
This has happened in the immediate historic period through which we have just come and the tragic results are now quite apparent. It would not be difficult to demonstrate that many of the serious weaknesses among us have resulted from an unconscious distortion of truth, an overemphasis on some doctrines and a corresponding under-emphasis on others. Truth must be held in balance to be effective. It is not necessary to deny a truth to destroy its usefulness. It can be made impotent by de-emphasis, for what we believe enough to stress is all that will actually work in our lives and in the life of the church. Truth must get into the center of our interest before its power is released to us.
A movement has long been urgently needed in this country to bring certain neglected truths into focus again and emphasize them until they become active and powerful in the church of the living God. Only thus can the evil effects of the present doctrinal imbalance be destroyed. Only thus can we Christians win back and possess again all of our blood-won heritage.
The prophet Jeremiah once exhorted Israel, “Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways and seek, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). I want to mention nine old paths in which we must walk again if we are ever to recapture the radiant power that many of our fathers knew.
First, there must be in evangelical circles a return to the right divine-human relationship. By that I mean we must put God again where He properly belongs and man where he belongs. Over the last fifty years in America there has been a slow dimming down of the glory of God among us and a corresponding rise of the importance of mere men. The result is a nightmare of man-worship, a glorification of outstanding individuals, which robs God of the glory that is His. Now I believe that God is the Most High God, high and lifted up sitting upon the Throne. I believe that He is in the Heaven and we are here on Earth; to Him belongeth righteousness and to us confusion of face; and I believe that we evangelicals will never have back upon us again the old glory until we return to the faith that puts God where He belongs, that humbly kneels before Him, that takes the low place and puts God on the throne of His glory. When more Isaiahs see God high and lifted up with His train filling the temple there will be more seraphims flying with hot coals from off the altar.
Secondly, we must again emphasize the truth that is fallen into disrepute in the day in which we live, that there can be no Saviourhood without Lordship. We must cease to make Jesus Christ a convenience, a way to escape hell, and must preach Him again as Head of His church and reverently own Him as Lord over all. We have a divided Christ in America. We come to Him and ask Him to save us, and He does. Then perhaps years later we learn He is also the Lord. I don’t believe that this is healthy Christianity. I believe that we should begin again to emphasize the doctrine that Jesus Christ cannot be divided, that He is Lord always before He can or will be Saviour, and that He must be made Lord in our lives, Lord in our churches, Lord in our schools, Lord in our advertising and Lord in our thinking and praying and living.
Thirdly, we must get back again to the belief in the spirit as well as the letter of the Word. One of the greatest utterances ever made on this round Earth was that of our Lord when He said, “God is Spirit and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and truth.” Here He placed true religion in the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. He glorified the inner shrine where God meets with man, deep down in what the old writers called the “penetralia”—far in beyond the outer court, in that holy place where only God and the worshipping soul can come. And there is the essence and the dwelling place; there is the fiery bush, there is the holy Shekinah. Once more we must emphasize the importance of the spirit of the Word as well as the letter. Only thus can we be delivered from the dead textualism which has captured us in the day in which we live and is fast reducing us to impotence.
The fourth is a repudiation of the evil liaison between the world and the church. The church is today living in a twilight zone. We are slavishly imitating and following and kowtowing to a world that we should repudiate. The Bible tells us that if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us, but we seem to have forgotten this. There was a time in history when the Church stood up on its feet and took the positive stand and the world imitated her. Now it is turned around and we are imitating the world, so that religious journalism, and religious advertising and even religious singing is often but a poor echo of the world. My brethren we need to reverse that trend and one time more preach and believe and stand for the fact that there must be a radical division in spirit as well as in practice between a fallen world and a redeemed Church.
Again, we must put the Cross back in the heart of man where it belongs. Now there are two crosses, or, more properly, there is a cross that belongs in two places. The cross on the hill redeemed us. In lonely sorrow Christ died for us on the Cross on the hill and that is the foundation of all hope of all men, world without end. But Jesus also taught that that same Cross must be transferred to the heart of His followers so that the old man with his deeds may be put to death and instead of excusing and glorifying the flesh, we should repudiate it and crucify it. You know that the old man is supposed to be dead. I understand that when someone reminded [D.L.] Moody that the old man was judicially dead, he replied, “Yes, judicially he is, but actually he ain’t.” Today we fall back upon a judicial crucifixion of our old ego, and then we go along loving ourselves clear down to the end of our days. God deliver us from it and help us to take the cross from the hill and put it in the heart, so that we may be crucified with Christ, actually as well as judicially, and day by day bear that Cross. Then there will be no place for the proud, no place for the lustful, no place for the money-loving, no place for the self-loving, no place for the self-confident; but the old man with his deeds will be crucified and we shall be raised to newness of life.
The sixth is a return to internalism as opposed to externalism. You know that every great movement including the Keswick movement began with internalism. I mean by that, that religion was declared to be of the heart, the inner man was all that mattered, not the beauty of the woman nor the strength of the man, nor the importance of his degrees, but internally a man was to serve God in spirit and in truth. And then slowly as the movement or the denomination moved on it moved out from the center to the outside and externalism took over. The Pharisees are good examples of externalism. They were externalists. Jesus Christ came and cut through all of their externalism and went straight to the heart of them and said that out of the heart cometh a man’s deeds, his goodness or his badness. The outside was nothing. He put religion where it belongs, inside of a man.
The seventh is that we must recapture the holy art of worship. This is so sacred that I feel it can only suffer from being discussed in public, but I must say something about it. God wants worshippers; He calls us to worship Him. In our day we are busy making workers, when God is trying to make worshippers. Let it be remembered that any kind of religious work that does not spring out of worship will be all wood, hay and stubble in the great day of Christ. I am glad we are using the Inter-Varsity hymnal here with some of the old British hymns that have some meaning in them. We’ve sung ourselves into Tin Pan Alley and we ought to get out of it again and get back to the ancient songs with some real quality of worship in them. In our gatherings we must minister unto the Lord not unto individuals nor unto denominations. Our ministry must be unto the Lord, and in reverent worship we must listen for His voice and hear what God the Lord will speak.
Again, and eighthly, there must be a return to New Testament methods. Some people say, “We believe in the Bible message, but we believe in modern methods.” My brethren, the Church is busy today, certain sectors of it, preaching a Bible message and then cancelling out all of the good they do with the methods they use to promote that message. We must go to the Bible for our methods as well as our message. It is entirely possible to be orthodox in our message and liberal in our methods. Now I know that a great many good fundamentalists will wish I had not said this but I am saying it nevertheless. I think it is possible to be a liberal in everything but our creed—a liberal in our relation to the world, a liberal in our lack of worship, a liberal in our externalism—yet when it comes to our nominal creed, be entirely biblical. My brethren, we must have Bible methods as well as a Bible creed.
And lastly, we must get free from our strange fear of the Holy Spirit. In America in the last half-century there has been a frightful reaction from the Holy Spirit because of the fanaticisms of certain brethren who have gone to radical extremes. We have become afraid of the Holy Spirit. My brethren this ought not to be. The Holy Ghost is our friend. “He proceedeth from the Father and the Son,” says the old creed. He cometh down from the heart of Jesus to us and therefore, instead of our fearing Him, we should open wide every window of our soul to His incoming. We should pray,
“Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quickening powers;
Come she abroad a Saviour’s love,
And that shall kindle ours.”