In our previous article we laid emphasis upon the fact that the path of Christian isolationism is indeed a dangerous one. This implies of course that when this principle of isolation is applied to the department of our life which we describe by the term education, the result is inevitably a dangerous education.
Salutary it is, that we realize this, for especially two reasons. In the first place, it is well to realize thoroughly what we are doing and what we are supporting and what we are seeking. We do not want a movement for Reformed education that is based on anything less than good sound principles, not only, but we do not want a movement for Reformed education that is launched and maintained by parents who do not know and thoroughly understand the principles upon which they stand, and realize full well the consequences of their actions. We must not act blindly in this matter. We must not imagine that from any earthly point of view the outlook is rosy. On the contrary, the more stringently this principle is applied, the darker the outlook becomes. And we must realize this, lest we be disappointed at the results, lest we become discouraged, and lest we be tempted to give up the battle when our position becomes narrow. In the second place, we may certainly to a degree judge the true condition of any movement for Christian education by the amount of opposition it faces in the world and from the world, by the degree of its dangerousness. If in the course of its existence such a movement “finds the going easy”, meets with little opposition, experiences little of the dangers which we enumerated, we may be fairly certain that there is something wrong with the movement. We may be certain, because the difference of principle between Cod’s people and the world is a dividing difference an irreconcilable difference. And the manifestation of two such irreconcilable principles leads inevitably to a constant warfare. Sometimes that warfare may be cold, sometimes hot. Principally it is always hot. And therefore, we may safely conclude that when one or both parties in this warfare put the sword into its sheath, something radical has happened. And that “something” is without fail this, that the movement for Christian education has deserted its principle of isolation, and exchanged it for that of amalgamation.
But all this leads us to the question:
What Really is Safety?
If by the safety of God’s people in the world is meant the safety of our earthly life and existence, then it is indeed dangerous to be spiritually isolationist. Then all the dangers which we depicted in the previous issue of the STANDARD BEARER come into the picture. And they give the lie to the contention that there is any safety in isolation. For it is not only a fact that this principle of isolation calls for financial sacrifice, but that same principle requires that you condemn the world and express that they are not fit to educate your children. From that principle an act of separation flows spontaneously, a confession. You say: ‘T go forth from you, because I do not want to come into contact with that which is vile and impure. And I do not want my children to be trained by you. They are holy, sanctified, members of God’s covenant. And therefore, when I go forth from you, I take my children along, that neither I nor the children whom the Lord has given me may be contaminated by that which is unholy, but that together we may stand before the face of the Lord our God.”
And then indeed, from the viewpoint of the earthly it is not safe; and from the viewpoint of the flesh it is dangerous.
We must learn to understand, therefore, that this question of safety and danger is in no sense of the word a relative matter. It is not a question of safe, safer, or safest. Nor is it a matter of choosing between two alternatives: either to be safe now, in the world, in order then to suffer everlasting agonies in hell, or to be in danger now, here, in this life, in order then to be everlastingly safe in the life to come. But in the most fundamental sense there are only two possibilities, safety or danger. And those two possibilities apply to the one man in his one life: that is, a man is either in danger during all of his earthly existence and walks, and then he is walking always further down a dangerous path, until he is carried over the precipice into everlasting danger; or he is safe in all his walk and earthly sojourn, until he finally reaches the perfect and highest manifestation of that safety in the everlasting arms of the Almighty.
For safety is not a question of earthly goods, of earthly riches, of an earthly name, of earthly position, of worldly honor, or even of our earthly life itself. Such is the philosophy of the world—a deceitful and materialistic philosophy that had its origin under the shadow of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in paradise the first. By that philosophy the world is controlled. According to it the world acts. And by it the world goes to destruction. We cannot even qualify the term, and say that this is temporal safety. It is no safety at all! For he who would find safety in things, mere things, must understand that he not only finally is cast into destruction, but he is going progressively further into destruction. He is walking in slippery places. Would you say that the fool who goes out into the current of the Niagara River, and is being borne inevitably to destruction by that current, is safe, even though he himself may hilariously gloat that he is having a wonderfully easy and fast boat ride, and though he makes no effort to resist the force of the current that will surely carry him to his death over the falls? No more is the spiritual fool safe, who enjoys being carried by the current of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life, finding in that current all the things of this present world, while he is being swept to sure destruction by the swift tide of the very current which he has no desire to resist and which he makes no effort to resist.
Safety is not in things. Things as such have nothing to do with the safety of any man, be he a child of God or a child of the devil. There is only one kind of safety—the safety of being the object of God’s favor. To know Him, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to taste His favor, His blessing, His goodness, His grace, His mercy, His lovingkindness which is better than life—that, and that only, is safety. And to be separated from the God of all grace, and instead to be pursued by His wrath and fierce anger—that is danger.
Of these things we must be constantly reminded. For it is so easy for us to be deceived by the philosophy of this present world and by our own deceitful flesh. Before we are aware of if almost, we fall into the error of relativism in regard to this question of safety and danger. And we must understand that the dangers of this spiritual isolation of God’s people are but apparent dangers, while really our safety is exactly in this isolation, no matter how dangerous it may appear. If we understand this, we cannot attempt the foolish, halting gait of him who essays to walk with one foot in the world and the other in the kingdom of heaven.
Real Safety in Isolation
Hence, it is not when God’s people individually, or the church as a whole, are rich and lack nothing and make themselves worthy of the friendship of the world, that they are safe. Exactly then they are lost. And well may we remember the unqualified truth of the words of the Lord Jesus: “He that would save his life shall lose it!”
But it is just when the people of God keep their identity in the midst of the world, when the church remains church, when they manifest clearly and unequivocally that they are God’s people, of His party—be it with the loss of everything else—that they are safe. Then let the world and the gates of hell rage. As long as God’s people do not go under spiritually, they have the victory. And the latter is possible only in isolation, never in amalgamation. And remember: this principle applies to all of life, education included!
That is the real lesson of church history, of all of sacred history. Israel did not go down to defeat because of her isolation, but exactly then, when it forsook the living God and united with the world. Never do you find any instance in the history of God’s old dispensational people in which they were defeated while they faithfully maintained their isolated position. To be sure, the powers of the world raged against them because they were God’s people. It was not the intention of Assyria and Egypt and Babylon to assail the people of Israel because they were so apostate. They raged against the people of God. But nevertheless, it was at those periods when Israel forsook the Lord their God, played the harlot with the nations of the world and their idols, and because apostate, that they invariably went down to defeat.
The history of the new dispensation teaches the same lesson. When the church becomes rich, powerful, and influential at the cost of its spiritual identity, then it has lost the battle and laid down its own life. And it is that church that refuses to be swallowed up by the world, either from within or from without, that remains safe and secure.
What is the ground of that safety? Scripture teaches us that they are safe because God is their refuge and because underneath are the everlasting arms.
They are safe, then, not because of their isolation. If that should ever be the relation, their safety would be a very insecure and doubtful matter. For at the very best, the Isolation of God’s people is but very imperfect and characterized by many failures. But they are safe, then—and safe before their own consciousness too—because then it has been realized in them through the Spirit of Christ, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” For it is God that chose them. He it Is who called them. He it is who for and in and through them fights the battle, who maintains His covenant, who makes them more than conquerors. And He it is who shall finally reveal that the cause for which they stand by grace, is indeed the cause of the Son of God, which surely hath the victory.
Dwell alone then, you and your children. Do not hesitate to be a separate people also in the sphere of education. But know that this is no cause of the flesh, but a cause of faith.
Then you shall have to “go it alone”, yes—but with your God. And He is a sure refuge. With Him you are forever safe. His arms are everlasting! And in Christ Jesus they are underneath you!
Our safety lies in isolation!