Separation from Evil and Holiness to the Lord: Part 3, Objections Considered

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Now, in view of what has been before us, I gather that if there is one divine way of dealing with evil, viz., separation from it, we are never safe until we have acted on it. God holds us responsible as to association. What, then, is proposed instead of it? Let us examine this a moment. There is first the palliation of evil, when the good intentions of the evil-doer are pleaded, along with the extenuating circumstances that led to it; but no amount of palliation of evil will ever remove the evil, and it is the evil itself I must separate from. (1 Tim. 5:2222Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22)) Serious souls must admit that there is not separation from evil, though we act on the most complete and elaborate palliation of it that was ever framed.
Next we find that, instead of acting on God's principle of separation from evil, delay is urged. This is a more specious and subtle method of the enemy, and is often attended with complete success. This Scripture has been quoted, " He that believeth shall not make haste " (Isa. 28:1616Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16)), in order to give the apparent sanction of the word for delay. But if the reader will turn to Rom. 10:1111For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 10:11) and 1 Peter 2:66Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. (1 Peter 2:6) he will see how the apostles Paul and Peter understood these words of the prophet. One quotes them, "shall not be ashamed," the other, "shall not be confounded."
We may also remember that Lot believed the angel and yet is bidden to " haste " (Gen. 19:2222Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Genesis 19:22)), that Paul the believer was urged by Ananias not to "tarry," but to be baptized (Acts 22:1616And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)), and himself writing to the Hebrews (chap. 6:18) speaks to them of those who "have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." (See also Matt. 3:77But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Matthew 3:7)) Hence, I must object to the use of this passage when applied to hinder my immediate separation from evil, unhesitatingly affirming that such an interpretation is not of God. With the same desire for delay it has been asked, " Which of us is perfect? Who then is fitted to cast the stone at his brother? " Here again I must object to a manifest perversion of Scripture, and to an entire misapplication of it. The Lord's own words in John 8, which are here referred to, are, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her," not as is taught and inferred in the question "without sins." There is a great difference in saying "without sin" and "without sins." (Compare 1 John 1:88If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) with James 3:22For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2)) But the immediate effect of raising a question as to one's own perfection, is to make every humble soul turn away from the evil before him to become hopelessly occupied with himself. That we are not perfect in the sense the questioner means is admitted, but it is totally beside the mark; for does Scripture say any where that we must be, before we can judge and separate from evil? Alas! if it did there could be no separation and no judgment of any evil at all. Did the apostle so direct the Corinthians? I fully admit the importance of Matt. 7:3-53And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3‑5); Lev. 6:2626The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. (Leviticus 6:26), &c.; but I refuse to dig for supposed (though admitted) imperfections in myself or in others, and thus vainly occupy myself and them, when the evil from which I am commanded to separate is manifest and unjudged. Alas that delay, urged upon us because we are not perfect in our practical life day by day, which we admit, should so hinder separation from evil, and stumble real godly souls as it does and has done. Bring in anything else-delay by calling for self-judgment, humiliation or whatever may be proposed instead of what God requires, and we are allowing the leaven to work, becoming ourselves defiled, and departing from separation from evil, God's principle for the preservation among His saints of practical holiness, while we have already lost communion with God, who is light; for in Him is " no darkness at all." Nor will any godly soul, I think, be bold enough to deny these inevitable results.
Yet another reason has been pressed in favor of delay, and this is when evil, in the Church or otherwise, is of long standing, or has been sanctioned or committed by one who, himself a Christian, has been of reputation and beloved amongst the saints. Nor is the quotation of Scripture wanting in this connection. I have heard quoted this passage: "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." (Psa. 105:1515Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. (Psalm 105:15)) Or again, "Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (Num. 12) As in the other cases so here, I need scarcely say there is a wresting of Scripture. To seek to walk in separation from evil, to seek to exercise conscience as to its existence where manifest, or failing this to separate myself, is not doing harm to any of the Lord's "prophets." It is the very reverse of this, even a blessing to them all. Nor were the words addressed to the Lord's people-another reason for their inapplicability-they were addressed to the nations, as the context will show. As to speaking "against Moses," it is still more manifest that the quotation can have no possible application. Sin or evil is in Scripture everywhere spoken against by the Lord Himself, nor do we assume equality (as Aaron and Miriam did) with what we speak against. There was no desire in the heart of either to separate from what they presumed to be evil in Moses, through his marrying an Ethiopian woman; but there was a desire to assume to be what they were not, namely, equal with him of whom the Spirit has recorded that he was " meek above all the men which were upon the earth," and this God rebuked. But if it is that which the Lord condemns, the fact that it is of long standing can be allowed no weight, and if countenanced by one who has held or holds some influence over the minds of the saints, there is all the more reason why there should be no delay, lest the leaven work and they become through his influence deceived and ensnared. But we have Scripture testimony, and no delay was proposed to the mind of the apostle Paul when Peter, himself of reputation and beloved, had been betrayed into error, and Barnabas and others were in danger of becoming leavened by it. (Gal. 2:11-2111But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:11‑21)) He acted faithfully and at once, painful as it must have been to him to do so.
Nor is there the danger that is feared of "endless division if we separate from evil," nor is the outcry to be heeded that " it will destroy all our corporate testimony." The testimony, either individual or corporate, is already gone when we have ceased to act on separation from evil, and the only remedy, the only way of recovery, is its recovery; for separation is at the basis of everything ever owned of God as His testimony. Have we a corporate testimony or an individual one worth retaining if it involves the giving up of, not merely one tittle of the truth of God, but of a great fundamental principle which lies at the very root of all His dealings with us, as it has been laid down by Him as a first necessity with all the faithful that have gone before us? Far be the thought; to give it up is to give Him up. Alas what are we now, and what is the testimony? A little remnant always went out from evil associations, and acted professedly on this God-taught principle of separation from all evil, maintaining that He demanded it. They found themselves together in our own days in various localities, as two or three gathered together "unto His name," who desired to maintain what is due unto it. Thus, and thus only, they became a testimony by separation, a testimony to failure and departure from God's ways for His people, a testimony nevertheless to His faithfulness (Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20); 2 Tim. 2:1919Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2:19)) Is it not humbling that such, if they once knew the blessedness of all this, should now be found fearing to act upon it, or be found advocating or defending delay, or indeed anything else, as God's present instruction for His people? Excuse the evil committed-palliate it in what way you will-call the desire to separate from it division, haste, or by what name soever you may, the godly soul who reading the Word for himself is governed by it, will not be deceived by such' expressions. He knows that the judgment of evil and separation from it are of God, and that whatever may be proposed instead, nothing so shakes the power of the enemy. The greatest blow a Christian can inflict on the power of the prince of darkness is to separate himself from evil, and grace is given for it. Blessed be His name that He can and will use now such a feeble folk as we are for this end if we are true to Him! Separation from evil is a sure defense. "The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks." (Prov. 30:2626The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; (Proverbs 30:26)) Let us remember that our wisdom is to act like they do, and having thus acted, our strength is "to sit still." (Isa. 30:77For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still. (Isaiah 30:7))
Reformation has come in instead of separation. No objection is raised to it; and while separation from evil is denominated division, party work, and bigotry, reformation is lauded under such names as philanthropy, or brotherly love, or even charity. We must look deeper than man's praise or condemnation, if we desire to know which is right, and what is the origin of each. Now reformation pre-supposes the existence of evil. But all that God does must of necessity be perfect, to it, therefore, certainly the idea of reformation cannot apply. Reformation had its origin in the proposal of the serpent to the woman in Eden. " God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:55For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)) The suggestion of the enemy found here in the infancy of our race was, that there was imperfection in God's work, which the woman could amend. This proposal, yielded to, brought in the ruin. We thus see the thought of reformation was the fruit of a corrupt tree. Is it less so to-day? If it brought sin and death into the world, and separated man from God by giving him entirely false thoughts of God, it perpetuates the ruin when acted on now. Reformation to-day says that there is something good to be retained. What did it effect in Eden? Not separation from evil, but separation from GOD the only source of good. And what does it effect when acted on to-day? What can we retain? It effects the same end; for there is nothing to be retained but what is of God, and HE is separate from all evil. There is no way but the cross, and the practical carrying out of what it means day by day, when faith has grasped its meaning. By the cross and faith in Christ what is effected? Man is brought into fellowship with God, to know Him as Father in all the intimate relationships of a child. But it is God in all the unchanged holiness of His nature still, though now, to us, in the relationship of Father. This is never to be forgotten. Thus while we see that reformation brought in ruin, and still perpetuates it, separation was God's remedy, and is still; and that if we desire to get that which is perfect we must return to Him which necessitates it. To what is of God, and to that which was from the beginning (1 John 2:7,87Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. 8Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. (1 John 2:7‑8)), the far-lauded scheme of reformation does not and cannot apply. " I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it." (Eccl. 3:1414I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14)) This is the language of the wisest man that ever lived, and it is the language of faith today. Nothing, then, but the cleaving to and resting in the perfection of that to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken, will ever satisfy that shrinking from evil, or lull to rest those heart-yearnings after practical holiness, which, right in themselves for every one born of God, have only been found since sin came into the world.
I have spoken but of the negative side-separation from evil; there is also the positive-holiness to the Lord. We are called from the one unto the other. But the latter is, as to practical holiness, impossible without the former, separation from evil, and therefore I have dwelt more on that side, as of first importance. In Christ, and the results of His work on the cross, we have both; and it is because we have that we are exhorted to both in our daily life. "As He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." If true to Him, I am leaving the one (evil), I am reaching after the other. " Let us go forth unto Him" (Heb. 13:1313Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. (Hebrews 13:13)) is the extent and limit of my separation. I am going to be like Christ when He appears, as we see in 1 John 4 Being not like Him yet, but with this knowledge that I am going to be, I " purify myself " now; and the apostle adds the extent of this, " even as He is pure." Here is the positive side, " as He is pure;" and John knows no cessation of this work, until the day dawns, and the shadows flee away, and he who longed for more likeness to Christ on earth at last finds that he is "like Him."
H. C. A.