Much could be said about the subject assigned to me, because it is very important, besides it is a very broad subject when applied to our Christian life. However, I fully realize that I am not the only speaker of the day; my time is limited and so is your patience. Furthermore, I also realize that I am speaking to Protestant Reformed young people. This makes my subject still more specific. I would like to emphasize from the outset that you must consider it a great privilege that you are Protestant Reformed young people. You are instructed and trained in the most thorough Reformed conception of the truth of the Word of God. The Lord in His providence has brought you into homes and churches where His Word is taught and preached and believed along the strictest Reformed lines. But this great privilege also carries with it tremendous responsibilities, as you undoubtedly know and as 1 hope to point out in the sequence. “Noblesse oblige,” nobility obliges.
I wish to emphasize the following three main thoughts under my general theme:
- Our Isolation as
- The Implications for our Life.
- The Preparation for our Task.
1. Our Isolation as Such.
It might be well to ask ourselves the question, what does the word “isolation” mean? If you look up this word in the dictionary, you will find that the word isolate comes from the Italian word “isolato” or “isola,” and means island. Hence we can easily understand how that the word isolate, when metaphorically used, in course of time got the meaning of being placed in a detached situation. An island is detached from the mainland; it is a tract of land surrounded by water. To be isolated, therefore, means to be detached from the rest, be different from the rest, occupy a particular, unique place.
Speaking of our Christian isolation, and now I have you, young people, in mind, it means that you occupy a very particular, unique place in the world, you are detached, isolated from the rest of the world. What do we mean by this? Do we not wear the same clothes, eat the same bread, breathe the same air as the world?
And coming to this Convention did we not travel me same highways which are also travelled by the people of the world in general? Is it actually true that we are an isolated group of people? It would not seem so. We are not living on an island surrounded by water. On the contrary, at present we hold our Convention in the shadow of a great metropolis, where the world pulse is throbbing.
Let us approach our subject from a different angle, and ask ourselves the question, what kind of a world are we living in from a spiritual-ethical point of view? The answer is, we live in a sinful world. In a world that lives out of the principle of sin and is dominated by the Prince of darkness. The world has always been wicked, nor is it necessary for me to give a long list of present evils to prove that the world of our day is extremely wicked. Sin has developed throughout the ages, is increasing by leaps and bounds, is rapidly approaching its climax of iniquity which is to be reached in the days of Antichrist. To illustrate with a few examples that we live in a very ungodly, wicked world, let me call your attention to some of the outstanding evils of the day. Look about you in the realm of international relations and you will see how that nation is rising up against nation, how that a bloody war is raging in many parts of the world. Thousands upon thousands of young men, just as lively and healthy and enthusiastic as you are, full of ideals and hopes, are butchered on the battlefields, wallowing in their blood, or maimed and crippled for life. Wars are fought on an unprecedented scale. Why? The answer is: Sin! Greed! Godlessness! Think of the many evils in the political life in the high places of our government. God’s law is transgressed, His Word ignored, His majesty defied as never before.
Our social and economic life is corrupted to the core. Divorces are on the increase, the home is destroyed, bestiality is extolled as free love. Life is so full of greed and corruption that one wonders that there still can be found superficial idealists whose aim it is to make this world an ideal place to live or even gain it for Christ. Blind leaders of the blind! They do not realize that Christ does not want this world. In the field of education the situation is no better. Our public schools, generally speaking, according to the testimony of men who know, are inculcating into the children of our nation the principles of Atheism. People who are in a position to know, tell us that our colleges and universities are breeding places of iniquity. In various foreign countries, I am particularly thinking of National Socialism and Communism, the situation is no better. The youth of the nations are taught to defy their leaders and to glorify the State. And the church? Alas! many church denominations have embraced the new doctrine of the social gospel. A gospel without the blood of atonement, without Christ and God. And the subsequent result is that many churches are but mere tools in the hand of the antichristian powers to realize the kingdom of antichrist himself. There is, generally speaking, among those who call themselves Christians, lack of spiritual knowledge, faith, love. Particularly the youth in an ever- increasing number turn their back to the church. Is this the great apostasy of which Scripture speaks? We could mention more present day evils. We could point to the evil of the worldly unions, of Sabbath desecration, of the pleasure madness of the general public, the great evil of movies and theatres, but let the former suffice. I think I have given clear and convincing proof of the statement that our present day world is more evil, more corrupt than ever before.
In this world you—young people live. And in this world you must live, live as a detached group. You must be an isolated group in this world. Do not misunderstand me, your isolation does not consist in this, that you must withdraw from the world and literally move out of the world, and perhaps congregate on a small island in the Pacific, That is called Anabaptistic, and we are no Anabaptists, No, presently we all go again to our respective homes, wherever our homes may be, and there we are isolationists.
Again, your isolation does not consist in this, that you may never come in contact with the persons and things of the world. You must drive the same make of cars, use the same highway, walk on the same streets as the children of the world do. Again, you must wear the same clothes, eat the same food, and do the same work the world does. There are not Protestant Reformed cars, highways, sidewalks, dresses, or overcoats, etc. Still more, often you work at the same bench, in the same office, on the same farm with the people of the world. And all this is as it should be. It is perfectly legitimate.
No, your isolation is a spiritual isolation. That is to say, while the world lives out of the principle of sin and uses all things to promote its own selfish, sinful interests, you must live out of the principle of grace and live according to the unchangeable criterion of the Word of God. You must live out of the antithesis! Why? Because you are by the grace of God and in His providence and according to His very Word, a spiritually isolated people. When you were born and baptized you were separated to the service of God, to be of the party of the living God, to be a peculiar people. All this you know, and all this can be abundantly proven from Scripture.
2. The Implications for Our life.
That brings up the question, what does all the foregoing imply? To say it briefly, but to the point, it implies that you must live your own God-willed, narrow, strictly Calvinistic, Scriptural, Protestant Reformed life. That this is your God-given calling can be abundantly proven from Scripture. I lack the time to do this, but permit me to quote a few verses from I Corinthians 6, which is very clear on this matter. Here we read, verses 14 through 18: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said,
I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; I will receive you, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty/’ Don’t you think with me that Scripture here is clear and sheds a flood of light upon the subject we are discussing? Now what does all this imply respecting our every day, practical life? It means that in all your life’s activity you must walk as spiritually distinct from the world, and as isolated youth. You may not compromise with the world, you may not seek the world, your actions” may never be determined by the guiding principles of the world. You must always disagree with the world, stand opposed to the world, condemn the world. Or to say it in still more positive terms, you must be Protestant Reformed in all your life, your conceptions, your attitude, your speech, your work, your play, your walk. Your life must be a constant testimony to the fact that you are of the party of the living God. And whenever you do err, and we all do, and join hands with the world, the trumpet sound of God’s Word calls us to repentance. For God speaks, “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you.” The one dominating principle in your life must be, how can I please God, what does the Lord demand of me, what is His will? Apply that principle in every sphere, domain and situation of life; then act as God demands.
Perhaps I had better tell you, too, that it is extremely difficult to live this life of spiritual isolation. Difficult for various reasons. First of all, it is always easiest to walk the way of least resistance, and most people follow this course. Furthermore, the more you live out of the principles of the Word of God, the more the world will oppose you, and hate you, and persecute you. You will not gain the world, but you will reap the wrath of the world. It is also extremely difficult because of our sinful inclinations, the old man of sin dwelling within us. It is still more difficult because we are Protestant Reformed. Protestant Reformed people draw the lines of demarcation very sharply, because the Lord has granted them a vivid, a clear insight into the Word of His truth. We are not broadminded, we are narrow-minded. Too narrow-minded? Too consistent? Too particular? No, Scripture is our guide, the Word of God our criterion.
And finally in this connection it also might be well to speak a word of encouragement to you. Remember always—We have a God who is Almighty, the exhaustible fountain of all strength. It is in His power that we do and can tight this spiritual battle, and live our life of Christian isolation. Remember also that in our Christian isolation lies our strength. And even though our position seems to be hopeless, the struggle impossible, ours is the victory in Christ, now in principle, ultimately in the day of Christ. And He who overcometh will receive the crown of glory.
3. The Preparation for Our Task.
Lastly, how about the preparation for this task of living our own spiritually isolated life? For even though it is our calling now already to live and walk as a spiritually isolated people, it will become our task in an ever-increasing measure as we grow older and take our places in the front ranks of the army of the living God. We should be equipped for this task, don’t you think so? If you choose a particular vocation in life you prepare for it. You are trained with a view to it. At present our boys are trained in the army for combat duty. Now you may not like the idea of being a soldier, of having your friend, brother or loved one drafted for army service, but you know as well as I do, if war should come, our young men will do the fighting. It stands to reason, the better they are trained and the more thoroughly they are equipped, the better they will be able to fight and to stand their own ground over against the enemy. Would it not be very cruel to send a group of raw recruits without any adequate equipment against a modern, up-to-date and fully equipped enemy force? This is but a picture of the spiritual reality I am talking about. Remember, there is no ‘if about this spiritual battle. You are all draftees. You all must fight. And he who does not fight is a deserter and has run over to the camp of the enemy. It is either, or, for or against. Well, how are we to be prepared for our task, thoroughly equipped? For this is necessary a thorough training at home, in school, in church, yes, but because of our age we must be willingly, actively and consciously engaged in self-training, self-discipline, self-instruction. Under guidance and supervision, certainly, but nevertheless so, that we are an army of volunteers and that we all enroll. Don’t wait until you are drafted. You were drafted already by God when you were born and baptized. He demands you for His service, and you must consciously take that obligation upon you.
Gradually we are pushed to the front. As the older ones pass on we take their places and must hold high the Protestant Reformed banner, the banner of the truth, fight the spiritual battle, live the antithesis, be a spiritually isolated people. What is necessary for our training? How must we prepare? To be able to fight the enemy you must know him, his tactics, his approximate strength. How do we learn to know the enemy? From the Word of God and life itself. We must live along with the times, understand the signs of the times, our present day world. We also must know ourselves, our weaknesses, our limitations, and our strength. How do we know? From the Word of God. By diligent self-examination and knowledge of self. How do we know what our isolation implies? How can we apply the principles of isolation to the various spheres and circumstances of life? The answer is, by knowing the Word of God. In brief, to be thoroughly equipped, to live the life of Christian isolation we must know the Protestant Reformed truth. . . I counsel you: Study the Word of God faithfully, diligently, individually and collectively. And here is where your society can be of tremendous importance to you. Use all the God-given means at your command to become thoroughly equipped, your calling is and will be increasingly difficult. I know from experience that active membership in your society is a great help to you to become prepared for your task. May God bless your societies, your organization! Whether we are to keep a Protestant Reformed church will depend, under the blessing of God, upon what you do today, tomorrow and in the days of your youth.
“How shall the young direct their way?
What light shall be their perfect guide?
Thy Word, O Lord, will safely lead,
If in its wisdom they confide.
Upon Thy precepts and Thy ways
My heart will meditate with awe;
Thy Word will be my chief delight,
And I will not forget Thy law.”
The Board, representing the Federation of Young People’s Societies, wishes to thank the Publishers of The Standard Bearer for their kind generosity in making this issue of their paper available to commemorate the Third Annual Young Peoples’ Convention. We appreciate this gesture of true cooperation, believing it is an indication of real interest in our Federation. We also wish to thank the Ministers and various contributors for permission to publish their material.