The Old Time Religion

Acts

The Old Time Religion

June 13th, 1974

Acts 8

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
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Southern Baptist Convention

Savannah, Georgia

Pastor’s Conference Address

THE OLD TIME RELIGION

DR. W. A. Criswell

6-13-74     Acts 8

 

Dr. Weber, and our brothers and sisters from the ends of our Baptist Zion, and my brother in the faith, Dr. Lockridge––if he can preach like that with Shadrach and Meshach, no telling what he could have done had his mama added Abednego––God love him and God bless him.  I hardly know what to think about our assembly hall here.

I went down to the polls and voted for the bond that built this thing and I am just turning over in my mind whether to go back and ask them for my money back.  I do not know what to think of it, but it is spacious and we are here.  And Dr. Weber asked me to preach on The Old Time Religion.  So we will begin.

In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts it says:

Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which were spoken by Philip

And there was great joy in that city.

[Acts 8:5, 6, 8]

The Old Time Religion: I lived at the passing away of the old, when people used to shout, and mourn, and weep, and get religion.  And I have seen the birth of the new day, and the new theology, and the new sophistication that is increasingly cold and unemotional and removed.  But I am old enough to remember the day when people shouted all over the church and all over the town.

So much am I sometimes identified with the long ago faith, that I remember one time at dinner at church in our home, after the morning service,  our little grandson Cris seated there––he’s in the choir now, grown––he evidently that day had a story or a lesson on Noah and the ark.  And as he sat there and ate dinner, in all sobriety and seriousness, he turned to me and said, “Granddaddy, did you know Noah?”

In every church in which I grew up and in which I began to preach, there was always a big, round potbellied stove.  And so many of the men came to church chewing tobacco, and they’d sit there in the congregation, then when they got to the place where they were about to drown, they’d go over there, lift up the lid or open the door, and nearly put out the fire with ambeer.

In those days the revival was the epoch.  It was an event, and nobody could be saved until Friday before the fourth Sunday in July, and at that time we all got religion, everybody.  It was full of feeling and emotion.  We cried.  We wept.  We mourned before the Lord.  When I was saved I could hardly see the preacher for the crying.

Today, we express our emotion and our feelings in the Cotton Bowl, or at the Texas Stadium, or at the Ranger baseball park.  But when I was a boy, we expressed it in the church.  We were happy.  We cried.  We shouted.  We clapped our hands.  We praised God.  We said, “Amen!”  Sing it with me:

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

It’s good enough for me.

It was good for Paul and Silas,

It was good for Paul and Silas,

It was good for Paul and Silas,

It’s good enough for me.

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

It’s good enough for me.

It will take us all to heaven,

It will take us all to heaven,

It will take us all to heaven,

It’s good enough for me.

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion,

It’s good enough for me.

[“Old Time Religion,” African American Spiritual, circa 1890]

 

The old time religion was a religion of the Book!  I never heard an old time preacher in my life who doubted the Word of God.  From the first verse in Genesis to the last verse in the Revelation, he believed every syllable and every sentence of it.  Now sometimes that might bring about some unusual circumstances.

There was an old southern preacher who stood up to take his text and didn’t know that some mischievous boys had glued the pages of his Bible together.  So he opened the volume and took his text, and he read, “In those days, when Noah was a hundred forty years old he took unto himself a wife.”  And he turned what he thought was one page and continued to read, “And she was forty cubits broad, thirty cubits high, made out of gopher wood; and daubed on the inside and out with pitch.”  The old preacher scratched his head and said, “My brothers and sisters that’s the first time I ever saw that in the Word of God.  But,” he said, “if the Word of God says it, I believe it.”  He paused and then he added, “This just goes to prove that other great passage in the Scripture which says, ‘We are fearfully and wonderfully made” [Psalm 139:14].  That is the old time preacher, believing every syllable of the Word of the Lord.

We live in another generation today.  These young people come back from college and the university, and they say to me, “You know, we don’t believe the Bible anymore.  We’ve outgrown that.  We’re educated now.  We know beyond that.  This isn’t so; that’s mythology and legend.”  They say to me, “We have been to school, and we have learned that we have all come from a green scum.”  I say, “What?”

“Yes, we’ve all come from a green scum.  That’s what my professor teaches me, and that’s what we have learned in our books in school.  And we don’t believe the Bible anymore!  We all came from a green scum.”  Wouldn’t that inspire you?  “Once I was an amoeba, then I was paramecium, then I was a fish, then I was a bird, then I was a marsupial, then I was a monkey, then I was an anthropoid, and now I am a Homo sapien.  I don’t believe the Bible anymore, I’m smarter than that.”

Once I was a tadpole beginning to begin

Then I was a frog with my tail tucked in

Then I was a monkey in a banyan tree

And now I’m a professor with a Ph.D.

[author unknown]

The “old time religion” believed the Bible, word for word; from cover to cover.  Look for a moment at the miracle of the Holy Scriptures; written by forty men over a thousand five hundred continuous [years] and after two thousand years still unchanged.  And yet, though it is written against a background of so diverse and many faceted and many colored cultures, yet none of the weird, monstrous errors of the day will you find in the Word of God.  For example, we can read today, through the discoveries of archaeology, we can read today the very text that Moses studied.  The Scriptures say that Moses was learned in all of the arts and science of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22].  And we can read today the textbook that Moses studied in his day.  Those ancient Egyptians under the Pharaohs had a science of cosmogony, the beginning of the world.  And the textbook of those ancient days that Moses studied, those textbooks say that there was a big egg flying around, round, round, and round.  And after the process of mitosis had been completed, why, the egg hatched and out of it came the world.  That’s what Moses was taught.

So I picked up the Word of God expecting to read about that flying ovoid.  And instead the first sentence I read, one of the most profound sentences and revelations in all of the Scriptures:  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1].  So much of the Bible, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, some of the Minor Prophets, was written against the background of the Babylonians.  We can read the text that Jeremiah and Daniel and Ezekiel and the ancient people in the captivity, we can read the text that they studied.

The ancient Babylonians had an anthropology, and this was their science of the beginning of the human race.  They taught in their finest elucidations of the day, they taught that there was a great chaos monster named Tiamat, and there was a great, good god named Marduk.  And Tiamat and Marduk fought, and Marduk overcame Tiamat, and then, according to their finest science, Marduk flattened out the body of Tiamat and that became the earth.  And then their science book teaches that it was upon that occasion when the earth was flattened out that Marduk spit and where he spat men came up.  And then men spit and where they spat women came up.  And then the women spit and where they spat animals came up.

When I read that, I thought about that sign that an old wag chained in a warehouse, “Don’t smoke, remember the Chicago fire,” and he wrote underneath it, “Don’t spit, remember the Johnstown flood.”  That was the science of the day of the Bible.  But you find nothing of those weird and monstrous errors in the Word of God.  Instead, you find the latest word according to the latest discoveries.

Look at the miracle and marvel of the Word of the Lord.  For example, in Job, chapter 26, it says, “God hangeth the world upon nothing” [Job 26:7].  When that was written all men believed that the earth was somehow affixed to a solid foundation, all the world.  And it was hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of years later that they found that the earth was swinging around the sun in space.

Everybody, all men everywhere in every school, every academician, every professor and teacher of earth science taught that the world was affixed to some kind of a solid foundation.  The Egyptians taught that the world was held up by five pillars, one at each corner and one in the middle. Now I can see how they could imagine you could crawl to the corner and look at that pillar.  But I tell you that fifth one underneath was sheer, unadulterated speculation.

Every schoolboy knows that the Greeks taught that the world was held up on the back of a great giant by the name of Atlas.  And the Hindus taught that the world was on the back of a giant elephant who balanced himself on a giant turtle who was swimming in a cosmic sea.  And when the turtle moved, that was earthquakes.  That was the science of the day, of the background against which the Bible was written.

Yet Job says, “God hangeth the world upon nothing!” [Job 26:7].  In the Book of Isaiah, the great prophet says, “God is the One who sitteth above the circle of the earth” [Isaiah 40:22].  That was said a thousand years before it was established that the earth was round.  You don’t have to apologize for the Word of God before any professor, or any school, or any university, or any academician, or any learned man in the earth.  It is true yesterday, and true today, and will be true forever!

The old time religion is a religion of the Book.  The old time religion is a religion of the blood.  “Except there be atonement, blood, the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22].

Today, we have grown beyond that old time gospel.  They say it is outworn, and outmoded, and medieval, and has no pertinency to our present life.  And these fatists bluntly, and brutally, and rudely, they say, “If we have tractors to move mountains, we don’t need faith.  And if we have penicillin, we don’t need prayer.  And if we have positive thinking, we don’t need salvation.  And if we have the state, we don’t need the church.  And if we have manuals on science, we don’t need the Bible.  And if we have an Edison or an Einstein, we don’t need Jesus.”

But what the modern generation and the modern world forgets is that the Bible addresses itself to a far deeper need in the human heart; that of a rebirth, a regeneration, a new man, and a new life; we need God! [John 3:3, 7].  Sometimes I think, “What if Spiro Agnew instead of accepting bribes under the table and kickbacks from governmental contractors, what if he had taken it to God and asked God in prayer what he should do?”

Sometimes I think about our president of the United States.  What if instead of using language that blasphemes the name of the Lord, and instead of chicanery that undermines and undercuts his opponents and his political enemies, what if he had read in God’s Book, “Thou shalt not use the name of the Lord thy God in vain” [Exodus 20:7], and what if he had read in the Book, “Pray for your enemies and them who despitefully use you?”  [Matthew 5:44]

I think of one of the greatest governors that Texas has ever had, and one of the most popular, and a man who bids there, maybe to become president of our United States, I think of John Connelly.  Instead of being involved in those corporate financial maneuverings, what if our former governor and the treasurer of the United States, what if he had taken it to God and asked God about it in prayer?

I think of Senator Ted Kennedy, the scion of that family, what if instead of abandonment, what if he had taken his heart and his life to Christ and asked God to bless him?  What America needs, what the world needs is changed men; a new heart, a new life which makes for a new culture, and a new society, and a new political scene, and a new nation, and a new world.  We need the old time religion!

And some will say, “But what if I took God and gave my heart and life to God and then went down and failed, then what?”  No man ever ultimately and finally fails who took his life, and his heart, and his destiny, and his every tomorrow, and his every decision to Almighty God.  You can’t fail with God!  Our Lord Jesus Christ was rejected by men and lifted between heaven and earth [Matthew 27:32-50], where apparently He was refused by God [Matthew 27:46].  There on the cross He was reviled and abused [Matthew 27:39].  And as though cursing and reviling were not vile enough, He was covered with spittle [Matthew 27:30].  And as though spittle was not contemptuous enough, they plucked out His beard [Isaiah 50:6].  And as though to pluck out His beard was not brutal enough, they crowned Him with thorns [Matthew 27:29].  And as though the thorns did not pierce deeply enough, they drove nails through His hands and His feet [Matthew 27:32-35].  And as though the nails did not tear brutally enough, they thrust a spear into His side, and blood and water, the crimson of His life, poured out [John 19:34].

That’s what it meant for Jesus to give His life in obedience to the will of God [Luke 22:42].  But today, He is the hope, and the sign, and the aegis of the salvation of the world! [Philippians 2:8-10]. “If in Flanders Field the poppies blow, it will be between the crosses, row on row.”  The old time religion, the religion of redemption, of the blood, of the cross, of a commitment to the will and purpose of God; a new society, a new kingdom of God upon earth, the old time religion.

Not only a religion of the Book [Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11], not only a religion of the blood [Colossians 1:14], the old time religion is a religion of the blessed hope, the coming again, the appearing, the parousia, the presence of our Lord [Titus 2:13].  He is coming under a twofold image, under a twofold simile.  He is coming as a thief in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2], and He is coming as the living lightening splits the bosom of the sky [Matthew 24:27].

He is coming as a thief in the night, [2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2]; clandestinely, furtively, secretly, with unsandaled feet.  He is coming to steal away His jewels out of the earth, His pearl of price [Matthew 13:45-46].  He is coming secretly to rapture away, to snatch away His people [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18].  And it will include us all, these who have fallen asleep in Christ and we who are alive and remain to the presence of His coming, all alike we shall be changed [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52].

These that have fallen on foreign fields in unmarked missionary graves, these whom we have loved and lost for a while, and all of us who abide and remain alike, we shall be raised to meet our Lord in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:17].  The resurrection of the dead, promised to us in Christ will occur at that great moment of confirmation and glory [1 Corinthians 15:23].

There’ll not be a bone left in the region of death.  There’ll not be a relic left for the devil to gloat over.  We all shall be changed, the dead and the alive [1 Corinthians 15:51-512; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17].  As it was in the days of Enoch, translated [Genesis 5:24]; as it was in the days of Noah when God shut him up [Genesis 7:16]; as it was in the days of Lot when the angel snatched him out [Genesis 19:16], then the tribulation and the judgment fell [Genesis 19:24-29].  So it be at the consummation of the age when Jesus comes for His own.  There may be two sleeping in a bed; one shall be taken, the other left [Luke 17:34].  There may be two grinding at a mill, one shall be taken, the other left [Luke 17:35].  There may be two working in a field; one shall be taken, the other left [Luke 17:36]; when Jesus shall come for His own [Luke 17:34-36].

And He is also coming as the livid lightening breaks the bosom of the sky, shining from the east to the west [Matthew 24:27].  He is coming visibly and openly and personally, gloriously.  The text of the Apocalypse is Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him.” Jude 14:  “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints.”  The Lord is coming with His people, openly, personally, gloriously, in the shekinah glory of God Almighty.  He is coming.  He is coming.

He is coming in the glory of the Father as God the Son and the Son of God [Mark 8:38].  He is coming in the glory of the angels as the Captain of the host of heaven [Matthew 25:31].  He is coming in the glory of the church as the Bridegroom with the bride [Matthew 25:1-13].  He is coming in His own glory as Christ the Son of God [Matthew 25:31], Christ the Son of Abraham, Christ the Son of David, Christ the Son of Man [Mark 13:26], the virgin born Man [Matthew 1:23], the crucified Man [Matthew 27:32-50], the risen Man [Matthew 28:5-7], the God Man [John 20:28], the manifest and eternal Savior of the world [1 Timothy 3:16].

He is coming, as Dr. Lockridge says, to be the King of the Jews [Matthew 2:2], to be the King of Israel [Isaiah 22:22], to be the King of the nations [Revelation 12:5; 19:15], to be the King of the whole world [Isaiah 40:10], the King of the kings, and the Lord of lords [Revelation 19:16], the Lord God Pantokrator [Revelation 1:8], the Lord God Almighty.  He is coming as the restorer and recreator of this earth [Revelation 21:5], its manifest and eternal Lord.

Then shall be brought to pass those glorious prophecies of the old Book, of the old time faith and the old time religion:

When they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they do not learn war anymore [Isaiah 2:4];

When the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…

And the ravenous, carnivorous lion shall eat straw like an ox…

When they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain; when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

[Isaiah 11:6, 7, 9]

It may be at midday, it may be at twilight

It may be this night that the blackness of midnight

Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,

when Jesus comes for “His own.”

O joy! O delight! should we go without dying,

No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.

Caught up through the clouds, with our Lord in glory,

When Jesus comes for “His own.”

[“Christ Returneth”; H. L. Turner, 1878]

Amen, amen, amen.  “Even so, come, blessed Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].  The King is coming!

THE OLD-TIME RELIGION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 8:8

6-13-74

I. Introduction

1. Lived between old shouting, mourning, weeping and beginning of new sophisticated but the old is most remembered

2. Pot bellied stove

3. Heartfelt with many tears

II. Religion of the Book

III. Religion of the blood, Hebrews 9:22, redemption

IV. Religion of the blessed hope