Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Remove Not the Ancient Landmark"

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set," (Proverbs 22:28.)

The Israelites had many memorials which could be considered "ancient landmarks."  The twelve stones placed in the river Jordan after the children of Israel had passed over on dry land; the altar Abraham built at Bethel; the altar Noah built after the waters of the flood had receeded, are all examples.

In our day, we also have "ancient landmarks."  Immediately, I think of the Statue of Liberty. Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi,  our Lady of Liberty was a gift to the United States from the people of France.  The Jefferson Memorial comes to mind as well.  We have scattered our country with memorials and testimonials to the countless patriots who helped form this country and of battles fought.

Ancient landmarks exist in our Christian realm as well, though not made of stone or brass, the old hymns.  These great songs were not written by musicians for the purpose of making money, they were written out of great faith in the midst of great pain.

One was Charlotte Elliott, who after 13 years of being an invalid, at age 32, Charlotte wrote the five verses to "Just As I Am" in 1834.  She suffered much during the last 50 years of her life and during that time wrote 150 hymns, most of which were published anonymously.

Another was Horatio Spafford.  In 1870, he and his wife lost their only son, four years old,  to pneumonia.  In 1871 he lost a sizable investment of real estate in the Great Fire of Chicago.  Then on November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic, his four daughters aged from eleven to two, were drowned when their ship was stuck by an iron sailing vessel.  Spafford traveled to England to meet his wife and when over site of his daughter's death, penned the words to "It Is Well With My Soul."

I think of the song, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," written by Thomas Dorsey, during his inconsolable grief at the death of his wife, Nettie, during childbirth and the subsequent death of his infant son two days later.

One of the greatest hymn writers of all time, Fanny Crosby, was blind from six weeks of age.  Crosby once said, "when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior." She was the writer of over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, including "Jesus is Tenderly Calling You Home," "Blessed Assurance," and "To God be the Glory."

This list could go on and on.  It makes me sad to think that there are those, individuals and corporate entities, who desire to give up these hymns of great profession of faith to replace them with short choruses which repeat the same words over and over.  To me, it is a form of removing our ancient landmarks.

The justification for this is that young people don't understand the hymns.  My thought is, do they understand the gravesite at Normandy?  Do they know why the Statue of Liberty stands so proudly in New York harbor?  Do they know why there is a monument to Jefferson?  Not if they are not taught.  

To erase the great hymns of the past would be like dismantling the Statue of Liberty, of sanding Mount Rushmore down to smooth stone or building an apartment complex in place of the Washington Monument.

Let us commit to remind each other of our great ancient landmarks, to share the stories of our great hymns which praise and honor our Lord in the midst of great hardship and pain.

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