Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1/30/08, Hiding Behind the Landmarks and Other Sanctimonious Monuments

[As promised previously in . . . . And In Secret Have I Said Nothing the following should be self explanatory. It consists of some remarks in red with links in italics on the original sermon "Moving the Landmarks" in black.
Further, in that Part II, Chapt. 23:7 of
Reformation Principles Exhibited on "Christian Worship" says. "The ministers of religion have no warrant for reading their Sermons to the congregation", there are some interjections/additions to the sermon below when it is given/read from what we know of the practice in the RPNA(GM) although we didn't listen to the mp3 which is also available on the Albany website. However, we can just about guarantee that any further remark by the minister as the sermon below was delivered, steered pretty clear of any remarks in red, verbatim or substantively. Consequently the whole story was not given and a less than forthright defense of what is supposed to be the truth, prevailed - in our opinion. The reader of course, may judge for themself.]

Moving The Landmarks
Proverbs 22:28
Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church, Albany, NY
December 23, 2007
Rev. Greg L. Price

Boundaries are given to us by God so that we stay where we ought to stay and so that we do not stray from those areas that God has appointed for us into forbidden territory. We can see the benefit of having property boundaries and landmarks so that we know where our property ends and where our neighbor’s property begins. In fact, you could be subject to civil sanction if you disregarded those property boundaries and built your home so that it overlapped onto your neighbor’s property.

It is paradoxical how individuals, families, church courts, churches and nations recognize this principle and yet how often when the subject shifts to moral issues and God’s commandments they do not want to hear about God’s boundaries. To the contrary, they want to talk about freedom by which they mean to be free of God’s moral boundaries found in His Law. This is one of the purposes of God’s commandments--to set moral boundaries for all men including elders, women, and children in thought, word, and deed.   

I would submit that the temptation to move the doctrinal boundaries established in Scripture and applied by our covenanting forefathers is much greater when we are not hedged in by the lawful spiritual authority of the Eldership, much more God’s Word which defines and sets the boundaries to the lawful spiritual authority of elders. When are children in the home more likely to cross over the boundaries established by God and applied by parents? When the parents are out of the room, or out of the house. Or when parents have driven the children out of the house and onto the street? Of that there is no mention, in that overlooked arguments and alternatives seem to be endemic to the official perspective in the RPNA(GM). And so likewise, we are all more likely to move the moral and doctrinal landmarks of our God and of our covenanting forefathers if/when the Session of this Church should be dissolved. Or even further, if the Session of this Church has moved them, if not failed to substantially teach them in the first place. For that reason, dear ones, we need to realize the grave and serious sin involved in moving the moral boundaries that we have hitherto professed and practiced as a covenanted Church. We need to renew our commitment and Covenant with the Lord that we will be faithful to those covenanted boundaries whether there is a functioning Church Court or whether there is no functioning Church Court. For there is a Lord to whom we have covenanted by way of our Church membership and by way of our Solemn League and Covenant to uphold and defend the moral truths taught in Holy Scripture and embraced and practiced by our covenanting forefathers. While there was at one time, mention made of renewing the covenants in the PRCE/RPNA, it never came to pass. One is nominally/tacitly committed by membership to all this above regarding the SL&C, but when it comes to substantive preaching and teaching, it just might be less than the same. This Lord’s Day, let us consider together the landmarks or boundaries which God has set in our lives and the sin involved in crossing over or moving those boundaries. There are two questions raised within our text that we must answer: (I) What Is The Sin Of Moving The Ancient Landmark? and (II) What Is The Landmark Of Our Fathers?

I. What Is The Sin Of Moving The Ancient Landmark?
A. Solomon literally commands us, “Stop moving the ancient boundary.”
1. For the Hebrew form of this prohibition actually assumes that the sin of moving the ancient landmark is presently going on, and it must be stopped. It cannot continue. Rather than giving the form of an universal prohibition, “Thou shalt not move the ancient boundary,” Solomon is a witness to the gross sin within the Church of his time in this very area and commands them at that time and us at this time to stop it immediately.
2. What were these landmarks that were being moved? The ordinary sense in which these landmarks would be understood in the days of Solomon would be that of common markers of some kind which divided one person’s property from another person’s property.
3. When we read in Proverbs 22:28, “Remove not the ancient landmark”, we ought not to conclude that what is forbidden in this verse is taking the landmark out of the field altogether and hiding it or destroying it. Solomon is not saying, “Stop picking up those good old landmarks and carrying them off to where they will never be found again.” Certainly that would be sinful without question. However, Solomon says in effect, “Stop shoving or pushing the good old landmark a little bit at a time so that no one knows where it originally stood in the first place.” For to shove the ancient landmark even a foot or two is to rob one’s

[p.2] neighbor of his property given to him by God.
a. Dear ones, listen carefully. It is not the degree to which the landmark is moved that God condemns in Proverbs 22:28, but rather that the landmark is moved at all.
b. Just as the Ninth Commandment does not merely forbid telling big lies or telling many lies, but rather telling all lies, so the Eighth Commandment does not merely forbid stealing a lot from your neighbor, it forbids stealing from your neighbor at all: “Thou shalt not steal.” Period. It may be more aggravated of a sin to move the landmark a mile than a foot, but you have moved the landmark of your neighbor just the same and have robbed your neighbor of his property even if you have pushed the landmark a foot rather than a mile (just as you have robbed your neighbor if you have taken 1 dollar instead of 100 dollars or have taken 1 hour from your employer instead of 100 hours). Likewise regarding unjust excommunications, we might assume, but there is no mention of that.
4. To move these appointed markers was condemned by God as a cursed sin as we see in the following passages: Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17.
5. Dear ones, when we rob others of property, money, or time, let us not forget that God is the first and proper owner of all property, honor, possessions, money, and time (Psalm 24:1; Psalm 50:12). Thus, to rob our neighbor is to rob God of what He gave to our neighbor. And dear ones, God will not long stay His mighty hand against those who rob Him and continue in their sin (as the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:22, “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” ).
6. It becomes so easy to rationalize our robbing God and others when we do it in such small increments. “I’m just borrowing it for now, but I will return it later (but later never comes because it is conveniently forgotten).” Or “that store has so much, it surely won’t miss the little I have shoplifted.” Or, “I am so needy, surely my need justifies my stealing in this case.” Or, “I’m not taking this for myself, but for someone more needy than myself.” Thus, the end justifies the means (i.e. if we steal and move the boundaries for the right reasons, it’s justified). Dear ones, again I say, it is not how far the boundary has been moved that makes us thieves, but that we have moved it at all. If it is easy to push the ancient landmark a foot this time, it will be easier to push it two feet next time, and five feet the time after that until we have little or no conscience at even picking the landmark up and moving it a mile or burying it altogether.

B. Let us consider some other ways in which we may move the ancient boundaries. It is interesting that the Hebrew word translated “remove” in Proverbs 22:28 is also used as a noun in Proverbs 14:14 (“backslider”). For one who backslides from a position of truth or from a position of righteousness which he/she formerly embraced is condemned as a boundary mover.
1. Have you moved the good old boundaries in your life by falling into some sin which you continue to practice (perhaps secretly practice)? You may have everyone around you fooled, but you know you have moved the boundary of holiness in your life. Perhaps you are presently trying to justify your sin that you have only moved the boundary a little. No one else knows about it. It’s not a public scandal. It may be lust or pornography. It may be lying or cheating. It may be shoplifting. It may be prayerlessness. It may be a lukewarmness and apathy for the things of God due to the pleasures of this life or coveting the things of this life, or due to the music to which you listen, or the movies or sitcoms which you watch. The whole idea that drama, whether live in the theater or on the TV/video recorder privately in the home is a lawful recreation, never mind vocational calling for Christians is questionable. Historically by and large the presbyterian and reformed have said no. But it would not be the first time that license passes for liberty in the RPNA(GM). Just make sure you don't tattoo the wrong lyrics to the wrong sitcom on wherever. You might offend your weaker brother, who is to be patronized in that case might seem to be the RPNA(GM) position, if our facetiousness may be excused. Better yet confer with A Testimony and Warning Against Some Prevailing Immoralities, by the Reformed Presbytery on the question of drama, much more lots or gambling as compared to the practical positions of the RPNA(GM), the (nominally?) continuing moral person of the previous.

It may be a stubbornness or hardness of heart against the pricking of your conscience by the Holy Spirit of God. For we who are sinners (by nature) do not like boundaries. Due to the corruption of our own hearts we (by nature) resent them and hate them because these moral boundaries tell us that we are finite and limited creatures, and we want to be gods determining our own boundaries. In our sinful heart we say, “Boundaries spoil our fun. Boundaries do not allow us to express ourselves as we would like. Such as attempting to extraordinarily reincarnate the session of the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton over the phone and by the by and only long after the fact attempting to come up with a justification of it in the PPSA. Boundaries limit our freedom. I hate boundaries.” However, when the sinner comes to God confessing his sin of hating God’s holy boundaries and trusting alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for his righteousness (who never moved one of God’s moral landmarks) and trusting alone in Christ alone for his forgiveness (who has borne the guilt and curse for all of the times in which we have moved the moral landmarks in the sin of Adam, in the corruption of our nature, and in all of our own personal sins), God (through His unbounded grace) removes the hatred we have for God’s holy boundaries and replaces it with a love for God’s holy boundaries. And although the Christian will trespass across the moral boundaries God has established in His commandments, he no longer blames the holy boundaries which God has established, but blames himself as the culprit. For he is brought to shame as he realizes he has sinned against not only the holiness of God (in trespassing these holy boundaries), but has also [p.3] sinned against the wisdom of God and the love of God (who gives them for his good and not for his destruction according to Deuteronomy 6:24).
2. Have you moved the boundaries of truth in your life?
a. Have you become a backslidden boundary mover in compromising the truth in uncomfortable situations? You don’t want to stand out as a Christian (to be mocked or to be disliked) so it is just easier to blend in with family, friends, or co-workers when the truth of Jesus Christ is under attack (for example when the topic of holy days is being discussed especially at this time of the year when not only worldlings but also nearly all Churches are caught up in the celebration of Christmas which Christ Himself nor His Apostles or Prophets ever appointed and which brings Protestants ever closer to Rome in the celebration of the Christ-mass). I am not talking about being wise or timely in the way you stand for the truth (that we should do), I am talking about not taking a stand for Christ at all because it is embarrassing or uncomfortable. Are we so concerned about our own shame before others when the sinless Son of God willingly suffered the shame as a cursed criminal for sinners, sinners who deserved everlasting condemnation of the Son of God in hell?
b. Dear ones, many of those who have been excommunicated from the Church have backslidden from truths which they previously professed and embraced. And just what did you expect the sheep to do other than what they know best, in scattering. Just how well were they grounded in the truth other than the kind of steadfastness which tacit consent obtains? Of that there is no answer in this sermon.
(1) It is indeed grievous to hear that the ancient landmark of our fathers is being moved by some who no longer profess the descending obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant to us who dwell in the United States, Canada, and any other dominion or former dominion of Great Britain. In that it took until 2/16/06 to get a coherent answer on what exactly renovating the covenant and the PRCE/RPNA switched in '96 or so to the Reformed Presbyterian Terms of Communion, 8-10 years for the sheep to get in line on it would not be out of line seeing the precedent set by their elders in the faith. It sure didn't take that long to excommunicate anybody. Will it take 8-10 years to get a birth control paper as promised 6/14/03 (and evidently canceled Jan. '05)? I intend to spend time on this subject when we get to chapter 3 of Galatians. Just as all of the succeeding posterity of Israel as a moral person were bound by the covenant at Sinai, so are we the same moral person with our fathers who swore the Solemn League and Covenant in England, Ireland, and Scotland (Deuteronomy 29:15). Just as the covenant made at Sinai continued to bind all Israelites even after the ten tribes of Israel declared their independence from the two tribes of Judah, so are we yet bound even though we in the United States have declared our independence from Great Britain. Just as the moral person and posterity of the Israelites were bound to keep the covenant made at Sinai with God even when they were not in the land, did not have their own functioning king or priesthood, so are we who are the familial, ecclesiastical, and national posterity of those who covenanted with God in the Solemn League and Covenant. Dear ones, covenants between men are binding and it is sin to break such covenants, how much more to backslide or to deny a covenant made with the everlasting and omnipresent Lord of the whole world by our faithful covenanting forefathers? Note carefully the seriousness of the sin of covenant-breaking (especially with God) and the list of sins with which it is associated (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3) All well and good, but nothing of substance as to what upholding that covenant means now in America. Specific and particular explanation and duties are called for, not pious ecclesiastically correct buzz words in sermons to the choir. Spell out what this all means rather than deal in generalities. In a word, as above, stop hiding behind the landmarks and start expounding and applying them to today.
(2) Furthermore, some have moved the boundaries of truth in denying that Presbyterianism is alone of divine right and now do not look upon denominationalism as an evil schism within the Church of Christ. To the contrary, it is proposed that we can tolerate or accommodate such sinful divisions within the Church of Jesus Christ. This is completely contrary to the express teaching of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), of the apostles (1 Corinthians 1:10), and contrary to our Solemn League and Covenant which states that all such sinful divisions are to be uprooted rather than tolerated. By officers or people in the pew? And just how are the occupants of the last supposed to do that other than not attending? All well and good, but hard to implement when the RPNA(GM) doesn’t have a clear vision of what it stands for or making sermons available to its people all the while excoriating occasional hearing. Be ye warm and well fed, with whatever sermons you are able to find. Granted things have improved since the TE moved to Albany some years ago, but these things are of first principles and the RPNA(GM) should be up to speed about them from the get go. They do after all claim to be teachers in Israel. To the contrary, the Apostles did not form distinct but yet approved denominations when doctrinal differences and practices occurred, but rather they instructed us to withdraw from those promoting such sinful and schismatic divisions within the Church (in Romans 16:17). And dear ones, if we are to withdraw from one who does so, how much more are we to withdraw from many who do so--even if they call themselves a Church - but not even if they call themselves a church court? Again, we assume what we need to prove. We know that the Solemn League & Covenant was a lawful oath, but that does not mean that ipso facto, so too the oath was lawful or even expedient. Even the Sixth Commandment would require us to care enough for our own spiritual welfare and the spiritual welfare of our children that we not unite ourselves with or sit under the Ministry of those who have departed from the biblical landmarks and attainments of our spiritual forefathers. But the RPNA(GM) has not departed from the biblical landmarks and attainments of our spiritual fathers in advocating the lawfulness of tattoos or the PPSA?
(3) “But the various denominations use the Scripture to defend their positions--they are not unbiblical.” Dear ones, every sect and denomination or extraordinary church court, will seek to use the Bible to justify their separate and distinct existence even when it is for an unbiblical reason. So too, we might assume the PPSA appeal to Matt. 18 and Acts 15, never mind the complete absence of Scripture when it came to calling the former RPNA a GM when there was no General Meeting and that is distinctly not how the word or title has been used historically among those whom the RPNA(GM) claims to be the continuing moral person, as can be seen from the Minutes of a Reformed Presbyterian General Correspondence—1846. Can we call this hypocrisy, if not a violation of the 9th commandment? Even the devil looked to the Scriptures to support his moving the boundaries of truth when he tempted Christ to leap from the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:6, “for it is written”). We can certainly deceive ourselves with emotions and words of so-called “freedom” in how good it is to be set free from those “legalistic” boundaries. or “enemies of the court who have self excommunicated themselves. The apostle Paul has warned us that the time will come when members of the Church will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3-4).But officers are not members and always love sound doctrine? Let us therefore ever pray in all humility that God will grant His grace to live within the boundaries of

[p.4] truth which He has revealed in the Scriptures and not backslide from them (Jeremiah 6:16). For our intellectual pride will deceive and mislead us into pushing back the boundaries of truth (of course “in the interests of truth”). For no professing Christian is likely to say, “I’m moving the boundaries because I want to deny the truth and embrace error.” Watch, therefore, with all vigilance and diligence for the words of the enemy come to us as they did to Even, “Yea, hath God said….” Test the teachers and the impressions and position papers on tattoos and church government in your own soul by the infallible Scriptures. Let not the desire for new light or new courts or new power blind you to the true light of Scripture. The Lord God is jealous for His doctrine, worship, and government. Let us not provoke Him to wrath because we play so loose with that which essential to the very character of God: namely truth (not contradicting truths, but one truth just as there is only one God). When we move the landmarks of truth it is not simply against our neighbor that we have sinned, but against our God we have sinned who has established these moral truths for us to embrace, profess, and practice whether there is a functioning and faithful Church Court or not. as opposed to even the mere existence of a court. Somehow we get the impression that if it exists and is functioning - after a fashion - we might presume it to be a faithful Church court. We respectfully don’t think so.

II. What Is The Landmark Of Our Fathers?
A. The removal of the ancient landmark according to our text in Proverbs 22:28 is rendered a double transgression.
1. First, it is transgression against my neighbor who is alive right now, for I have moved the landmark to his hurt. I have robbed him by taking his property, his honor, his good name, the time I owe him, or the mercy I owe. Or I have robbed him by taking from him the truth in doctrine and life by embracing and teaching him my error. perhaps even of the lawfulness of cutting and marking ourselves with tattoos or extraordinary church courts that meet over the phone with no public announcement or minutes and any exposition of the circumstantial basis for this phone session is left to those without office in the church. Whenever we move those divinely appointed boundaries in our life, we necessarily rob others who are presently living. Exactly and that might include those who have been excommunicated from the RPNA(GM) over the oath and the PPSA.
2. Second, it is a transgression against my neighbor who is no longer living, but is dead. For observe that Solomon says in Proverbs 22:28: “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” Dear ones, did you know that you could sin against those who have preceded us in death? How is that possible?
a. We sin against the dead by sinning against our “fathers” who taught clearly the truth as revealed in Scripture for us to follow. Our “fathers” in the faith have blazed a path through the theological jungle and have lived and suffered such persecution for standing for the truth, and many were martyred with the truth of Jesus Christ sounding forth as a testimony to not only those who heard them, but as a testimony for us who followed them. Donald Cargill and James Renwick died as covenanters for the divine right of Presbyterianism, and for the descending obligation of our Solemn League and Covenant. We sin corporately against our “fathers” when we renounce the biblical truths for which the faithful Church of Scotland stood. For the faithful Church of Scotland stood for the national unity of Christ’s Church (not denominationalism, not sectarianism). Dear ones, we treat the blood they shed for Christ and His truth as common or even shameful when we backslide from the “attainments” in reformation which they ascended to in Church and State. Question: Are the papers on tattoos and extraordinary church government in the RPNA(GM) something we want to put on up on par with the attainments of the historic reformed presbyterian church? Are they truly truths found in Scripture? Or have we blazed new paths under the name of old paths and castigated and excommunicated any who don’t agree, all the while we refuse to post them publicly or acknowledge them on the RPNA(GM)'s website?
b. We are not papists in following our “fathers” implicitly by way of oral tradition. Or elders by way of tacit consent? Get serious, please and read Q.3 of the PPSA (pp.21,23) and the arguments for the existence of the court (pp.13,14), in light of the comments, however contradictory and confusing in the letter of 6/14/03 and TE G. Price’s ability to administer the sacraments because like Renwick and Cargill, he had a lawful ordination as a minister. It's called power of order and power of jurisdiction and the previous answers have not been good enough, in that again the letter of 6/14/03 contains statements for and against the existence of a court and falls short of a clear and cogent presentation of the truth. In other words, lets not pretend the letter is so transparent and obvious as is assumed by those who appeal to it selectively in the PPSA (pp.13,14). But as our Fifth Term of Communion correctly states, “An approbation of the faithful contendings” of those witnesses and martyrs of Jesus Christ. This is not an implicit faith in the authority of our “fathers”, but rather an implicit faith in the authority of the Holy Scriptures and to the doctrine, worship, and Church Government that conforms to that alone infallible standard of truth. An implicit faith in the Scriptures is supernatural. A belief that the papers on tattoos and the legitimacy of an extraordinary electronic session has to be reasonable and demonstrably in conformity with the historic confessional doctrine, worship and church government of the church. Do the elders of the RPNA(GM) really believe that? Again then one why do they not post them publicly on their website and two, why do they leave it up to individuals who are not members of their court, as in Principium 1643 - hence the obvious label ‘surrogate and proxy elders’ - to defend the fundamental hinge of their argument: that personal presence of officers is a mere/unnecessary circumstance to the convening of a lawful court of Christ (pp.35-39)? Even if it is true, this is still negligence on their part and shirking their duty to defend and teach sound doctrine to those over whom they claim such lawful oversight in their court. In other words, if somebody wants the office and expects any reasonable respect for the same, they need to try fulfilling the responsibilities entailed before copping out with decrees of “self excommunication” and sluffing off one’s duties to teach - particularly controversial and contested points to others, who are not even officers. No wonder, there was a perception of favoritism among those who opposed or questioned the PPSA and the oath. It actually existed.
c. Dear ones, God calls us today to cling to that which was faithfully passed down to us by our “fathers.” We are not to let their testimony for the truth be trampled under the feet of a world or even of a Church, if not an extraordinary church court that thrives on moving the ancient boundaries of truth (Revelation 2:24; 3:3). Dear ones, we multiply our sins when we ignore or neglect the faithful contendings of our forefathers rather than walking in their footsteps. even perhaps by advocating the lawfulness of cutting and making marks on ourselves in tattooing or hyping modern communication technology, all the while we ignore modern transportation technology and the examples of the apostles and elders in Acts 15 to personally visit, deliver and explain the synodical decree to those over whom the synod claimed oversight, as per the PPSA’s supposed argument from this passage (pp.7,9) which totally ignores that legitimate object lesson from the text? That is but one of the questions we are left with unanswered after examining this sermon.

Paul in Acts 20:26,27 testifies to the elders of Ephesus that "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God". Can the elders of the RPNA(GM) say as much? That they have taught the whole counsel of God to those over whom they claim - right or wrong - oversight? We respectfully think not.