Slipping Away

"For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should SLIP AWAY" (Hebrews 2:1, N.Tr.).

"Lest haply we DRIFT AWAY from them" (R.V.).

There is a saying, it has appeared in writings for many years, and we have heard it often in public addresses; it is: "A hundred years ago the truth was recovered for us." With the greatest respect to those who use it, I suggest that it is one of those sayings that need revisions for it may be extremely misleading. The oftener it is repeated the larger the US may appear in our eyes, until the truth becomes secondary to the US, and the US becomes the centre round which the truth revolves. The fact is the truth never needed to be recovered for anybody, it was never lost; it has always been there, in Christ, in the Spirit, in the Word of God. The truth stands for ever sure. But it has been the way from the beginning for men to slip away from the truth. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews knew this well, hence his warning to us to take heed lest we should slip away. The Old Testament is a history of truth revealed and of men of God rejoicing in it for awhile and then slipping away from it, and God in His mercy recalling them to it and again the drift. We of this favoured church period have been no better in this respect than those of other dispensations, and it is a wholesome thing to realise and confess this, for no sooner do we cease to give heed abundantly to the things that we have heard than we begin to slip away. There is the continual need of recall and recovery to the truth, it was never more needed than today — Remember, Repent, Return.

In this connection there is another evil of which we need to be aware; it is mistaking the effect of the truth in those who have gone before us for the truth itself, and of imitating or endeavouring to perpetuate the effect of the truth, instead of giving abundant heed to the truth itself. We should rejoice whenever we see the truth put into practice and be encouraged by it, as we rejoice and are encouraged by the triumphs of faith recorded in Hebrews 11; but in none of those worthies was faith seen in its completeness and perfection, for this we must look off steadfastly to Jesus, and even so in no man or body of men has the truth been fully manifested, even in the best of them the effect might have been greater, there is only one perfect standard, only One could say "I am… the Truth." We must fix our attention on Him, there is failure everywhere else.

We might use the well-known illustration of the schoolboy's copy book. The head line is copper plate, it is perfect. The boy appreciates this and he does his best under its influence, and his copy is quite commendable. But if his copy of the headline becomes his standard his writing will deteriorate until at the foot of the page there will be little resemblance between the headline and his writing. If we set up someone else's copy of the truth as our standard there must of necessity be serious deterioration. And this is done when tradition, precedent, the judgment of some able teacher, living or dead, or any group of men becomes our standard and guide in our Christian life and communion, or in any difficulty or crisis. We cease to be held by the pure perfect Word of God, we slip away, and sects and parties, strife and discord are the sure result. Our safety lies in, "What says the Lord?" and "It is written."

When spiritual life declines and there is this slipping away, almost unconsciously the tradition of the elders becomes important, rules and regulations are pressed in order that an outward and uniform standard of conduct might be maintained, but while that may satisfy the ecclesiastical mind there is nothing in that for God and it tends to the bondage of the conscience and soul; the fear of man takes the place of the fear of God and what others may say to simple subjection to His Holy Word. The last chapter of the church's history on earth is being written, we have reached the foot of the page, and the contrast between that which we see and that which is set before us in the Word of God is saddening to every one who can discern it. Do we long for recovery? It can only come to us as we are delivered from the trammels of every false standard; as we look off from the effect of the truth in others and cease to make their words and ways our rule and return to the truth itself. Our Lord and Leader has not changed or failed. See how He presents Himself to the last three of the seven churches (Rev. 3), "These things says He that has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars." "These things says He that is holy, He that is true, He that has the key of David." "These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God."

Brethren, it would be a vain thing to set to work to imitate the effect of the truth in others, but we can humbly seek to be recovered to the truth that produced revivals in the past. The more we consider what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2 and 3) the more we feel the need of the urgent call to remember and repent, repeated so often in those messages of the Lord to the Churches.