One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.
And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ‘twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed – do not laugh –
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.
That bent, and turned, and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And travelled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach –
But I am not ordained to preach.
Well, I am ordained to preach and perhaps the major thing that separates Baptists (and their like) from others in Judeo-Christianity is the fact of it being the Bible (and the Bible alone) that serves as our sole guide. We do not look beyond the sixty-six books of Scripture to also follow what the rabbis (Jew), fathers (Protestant) or popes (Catholic) have said and done in the far past (and now treat them as also being inspired and infallible). The honest truth is, the one thing Jesus attacked more than anything else while here on earth was that of the religious leaders elevating their own teachings as being equal to God’s Word itself.
Mark 7:7-9,13 – “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. … For laying aside the commandment of God … Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition … Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
All that being said, we also must guard against having those things we’ve always done becoming so traditional in our mind that they now rise to the level of being scriptural with their own book, chapter and verse.
Once upon a time, a mother was teaching her daughter the family recipe for making a whole baked ham. It was the very best ham anybody had ever had, so they always followed that recipe carefully. They prepared the marinade, scored the skin, put in the cloves, and then came a step the daughter didn’t understand. “Why do we cut off the ends of the ham?” she said. “Doesn’t that make it dry out?” “You know, I don’t know,” said the mother. “That’s just the way grandma taught me. We should call grandma and ask.” So they called grandma and asked, “why do we cut off the ends of the ham? Is it to let the marinade in, or what?” “No,” said Grandma. “To be honest, I cut the ends off because that’s how my mother taught me. I added the marinade step later, because I was worried about the ham drying out. Let’s call great grandma and ask her.” So they called the assisted living facility where great grandma was living, and the old woman listened to their questions, and then said. “Oh, for land sakes! I cut off the ends because I didn’t have a pan big enough for a whole ham!”
The bottom line? If it’s in the Bible, let’s do it. If it’s not there, let’s be free to change it if we so decide.