remove not the ancient landmarks


“Remove Not the Ancient Landmarks which thy Fathers have Set”

We have been called to a life of separation. It is written “Be ye holy for I am holy” (1Pet 1:16).

The fact that we assemble together in groups called ecclesias ( = “a calling out” – Strong) has the implication of separation – and a boundary that must not be crossed. An ecclesia is an assembly of people convened in consequence of their acceptance of an invitation to come out (Eureka Vol1, p 120). Acts 15:14 declares “God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them at people for his name”. One writer put it well that here is “an invitation to separation, consecration and dedication”.

There have always been those who either deliberately or through ignorance have caused a breakdown of the barrier so essential to maintain unity and fellowship.

The actions of the sons of God with the daughters of men (Gen 6) are a typical example of such a breakdown – but in later times God called his people “out” to be a separate people to manifest His Holy Ways.

Today the ways in which the barrier can be broken down are sometimes very subtle and seemingly harmless. There is a great need to “maintain unity and distinctiveness from the world and ensure that worldly ideals, standards and beliefs are not imported into the fellowship” (The Christadelphian Waymark, Jan 1999, p 14).

The use of modern language is one area where the special nature of the Truth is under threat. We can marvel at the wisdom of our pioneer brethren in the way they worded the BASF and described our various activities. Their philosophy was not to copy the apostasy, but emphasise the difference between Christadelphian and Worldly organisations by the use of exclusive and where possible Biblical language, whereas modern language obscures the clear understanding of the truth and blurs demarcation lines.

One of the great blessings of the use of the common version of 1611 is that the original meaning of words can be traced and understood. Let us remember that the law and the testimony are the words of the Spirit and are therefore acceptable forms of speech.

The meaning of a word is defined by its usage and may differ greatly from its etymology. In modern times so many words have changed their meaning, “prevent”, “you”, “thee”, and “gay” are but a few – and for this reason a really old dictionary (usually quite cheap in a second-hand bookshop) is an invaluable aid to understanding the AV translation and the difficult words in the vocabulary of our Pioneer brethren. Our forefathers used language couched in terms indicative of the fact that we were not just another Church.

Our Children at Primary School were frequently asked to write a short essay on what they had done the previous weekend. They wrote:- we went to the “meeting” or we went to a “fraternal”. This provoked immediate enquiry because of the special language used showing we were different. It even made a topic for a Parents’ night.

We list below just a few of the changes that have taken place – there are of course many more: –

“Public lectures” have become “Services”, we send “delegates to conferences” “falling asleep” is referred to as simply “death”, “singing classes” are now “choirs”, “youth circle” is now a “youth club”, “ecclesias” call themselves “churches”, we are described from within as “Christians” – when according to modern usage we manifestly are not. In previous times, aliens were respectfully asked to sit at the back, but now “interested friends” are encouraged to sit amongst brethren and sisters. We have “workshops” and “seminars”, terms imported from the business world. We are addressed as “brothers and sisters” rather than “brethren and sisters” – language used by trade unions. Our presidents greet us with “good morning” – far removed from the Apostolic greeting of “grace and peace”. “Recording brethren” are referred to internally merely as “secretaries”.

Many will argue no harm done – we should use the language of the times, but yet when put together, these things do narrow the gap of separation and show that we have lost the wisdom of our brethren in former “uneducated” (!) Generations. We should be careful before we make changes to our distinctive language – or we run the risk of merging more and more with Christendom which is astray.

How good it is, therefore, to use whenever possible the language of scripture in conversation and prayers for we know that this will be acceptable to our Father in heaven. “Therefore, brethren stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught” (2Thes 2:15).

“Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel” (Phil 1:27).

John Hamnett