Date: November 28, 1937
Prayer for Preservation in the Faith
Thou long-promised Savior, Thou Christ of all compassion:
Come now in blessed Advent into our souls, so that by hearing Thy Word many throughout this wide land and beyond its boundaries may learn to know Thee, believe, love, and trust Thee, as the Redeemer of their souls, the Ransom for their sins, the Bestower of heavenly joy for all crushing sorrows. We ask not for the softness of life, the ease of wealth, the esteem of the multitudes; but with all our hearts we plead, Come, O blessed Christ, abide with us and preserve all Thy children until that glorious day of Thy second coming in power and majesty. In these turbulent days of upheaval and revolution, when men rage against Thy Cross and truth, when vicious unbelief seeks to dethrone Thee, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, so enlighten and strengthen us with that ever deeper faith in Thine indwelling grace which finds in Thee the Source and Fountain of all life, temporal and eternal. Drinking deeply of this living water, may we live faithfully, humbly, courageously, until we abide with Thee where there is no death, no sorrow, no tears. Come to us, then, and bless us as Thou hast promised to hear us when we pray in Thy name! Amen.
With Thee is the fountain of life. – Psalm 36:9
SOME months ago, in a coast-to-coast broadcast, the speaker took deliberate occasion to push God aside, deny the divine creation of man, substitute animal evolution for the hand of God, and acclaim shellfish as startling evidence in man’s evolutionary rise. His words are so significant that I shall read them to you: “Long ago some creatures, like the oysters, put their skeletons on the outside and their nerves on the inside that they might not suffer. But that was a blind alley; that offered no way through for evolution. So a new experiment was tried in creatures who put their skeletons on the inside and their nerves on the outside. What consequence has come from that! All man’s goodness, truth, beauty, love, would have been impossible without that.”
Now, that speaker was no disgruntled atheist or Russian anarchist. He spoke a cultured English; he used the word God a dozen times; and his program was a religious broadcast. Nor is that commentator on the emotions of the oyster an unfrocked preacher, barred from his pulpit because of doctrinal infidelity and the denial of Christian fundamentals. He is the acclaimed minister to a multimillion-dollar church; he is regarded by many as the most noteworthy religious voice in the nation; he thrives under the sponsorship of one of America’s wealthiest industrialists; he is, as contradictory as it seems, the radio voice of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America! The nation’s largest broadcasting system puts at his disposal Sunday after Sunday its entire coast-to-coast network of almost a hundred stations, free of all charge, while it discriminates against our broadcast by refusing to accept our Christ-centered programs even though we pay for every second of broadcasting time at full commercial rates.
I have cited this traitorous attack on the Scriptural doctrine of man’s creation because, in rebuttal, I want to testify to the revealed truth of man’s origin and destiny. Besides, many thousands of you, the earnest clergy and laity who are deeply concerned about worldliness, failure, and Bibleridiculing in many American churches, must learn to think clearly, speak decisively, and act drastically in preserving that first article of Christian faith: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Before it is too late, before others who teach that God, if there be a God, has nothing to do with the beginning or end of our lives assume control of our churches and schools, dictating the campaign strategy of the greatest rebellion against God in all history, we must have a fearless fight-to-the-finish determination to keep the Almighty enthroned in His holy majesty as the Author of life in this world and in the next. Despite ridicule from within the Church and without I ask you to join me this afternoon in the cry of faith:
ALL LIFE FROM GOD!
and to find one of a hundred Scriptural proofs for this statement in the praise of Israel’s poet-king, David, Psalm thirty-six, verse nine: “With Thee is the fountain of life.”
OUR PHYSICAL LIFE COMES FROM GOD
This picture of God and “the Fountain of life” portrays the almighty Creator as the Mainspring from which all existence flows, the endless Source from which all vitality and animation gush forth. Without this Fountain, the psalmist implies, there could be no life, but from its rich and flowing blessing all vegetation, all creatures, all men, draw their existence. As age after age rolls on in the startling cavalcade of time, wherever men find the vital spark and flame, they must trace it back to the Fountainhead, back to God, the eternal Author of all existence.
This symbol of the everlasting Fountain is far more than a picture. Passage after passage of the infallible Scriptures clearly ascribes the beginning of all things, and particularly the origin of man, to our heavenly Father. It was no ordinary act of His divine omnipotence, we learn, that called man into being. God was not content to say: “Let there be a man,” as He had said: “Let there be light.” A counsel of the Trinity preceded the great climax of Creation, the making of man, when God said: “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” A mere command might bring forth animals, but man was to be the personal handiwork of his Maker, for it is written: “The Lord God formed man.” The truth of this divine creation is not a side issue, but a basic and repeated truth, which pervades the whole Bible. Moses, in his valedictory to the children of Israel, reminds them: “God created man upon the earth.” Job stands before his Lord to declare: “Thou hast made me.” The psalmist sings: “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” Isaiah, bowing before the almighty Father, exults: “We all are the work of Thy hand.” The Old Testament closes with the prophecy of Malachi, who asks: “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?” And to add blessed certainty to these and many other statements of the Old Covenant, Christ Himself, speaking of our first parents, declares with positive finality: “God made them.” Let there be no misunderstanding on this fundamental fact: You cannot deny that the life which we live comes from God, the Creator, without contradicting the Bible in scores of emphatic passages, without implying that Christ Himself, the blessed Son of God, was guilty of misrepresentation. Question the first pages of the Bible, and what assurance have you for the last? If we begin to doubt the Biblical claims for creation, how can we be sure of the Scriptural pledge of atonement? Let us rather, as we contemplate the wonders of our bodies and the miracles of our lives, kneel down before the Father of life and declare: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come. . . . Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou hast created all things.”
Now, I am sure that clear across the country, up in Canada, down in Mexico, and wherever this message is received, mental protests will assert that man’s rise from the beast is an accepted fact, removed from all possibility of question, a truism of modem science. “All scholarship is on our side,” the exponents of man’s animal ancestry cry. “All the best scientists are evolutionists,” they continue. “Only half-wits, mental weaklings, and religious fanatics accept the Book of Genesis,” they conclude. And so successfully have they plastered this godless theory with scientific endorsement that most of us have forgotten how great a company of internationally acclaimed scientists, worldrenowned leaders in their special fields, have vehemently rejected the brute beginning. Professor Agassiz, in whose honor one of the largest natural history museums in the world was named, unhesitatingly declared that “any man who accepted the doctrine of evolution ceased thereby to be a man of science.” Sir William Dawson, eminent geologist and one of Canada’s foremost scientists, did not hesitate to say: “Evolution is a system destitute of any shadow of proof. . . . Man was created as the Hebrew literally reads.” Professor Fleischmann, German geologist, who at first accepted but then rejected the theory of the ape origin of man, asserted: “The Darwinian theory . . . has . . . not a single fact to confirm it. It is . . . purely a product of the imagination.” Lord Kelvin, who has been called the Napoleon of science, attacked the creative theories that rule out God and declared: “The atheistic idea is so nonsensical that I do not see how I can put it in words.” Edward Wallar Maunder, founder and president of the Royal Astronomical Society, wrote: “I accept the three great creeds of the Christian Church. . . . ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’ is the foundation of all science as well as religion.” Calvin Page, Nobel prize winner, frankly asserts that, even if there were no Bible, the inscrutable mystery of the vegetable kingdom would compel every natural and “unbiased mind to exclaim: ‘There must be a Creator!’” Dr. Austin H. Clark of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, considering the evidence presented by the great biological collection in that museum, affirms: “There is no evidence which would show man developing step by step from low forms of life. There is nothing to show that man is in any way connected with monkeys. . . . There are no such things as missing links.” Dr. Alexis Carrel, internationally famous scientist, whose recent book has received widespread attention, maintains: “Man assuredly never had an orangutan or an ape for his ancestor.” Here, then, are a few statements of first-rank scientists, and many more could be quoted. These men know that life cannot begin spontaneously. They know that in all ages, past and present (even though long years have been occupied with this issue and thousands of scientists have devoted themselves to this research and millions of dollars have been spent in this quest), no one has ever discovered a single instance of permanent change from one form of life to another.
Our truly great thinkers have faced the evidence, and the processes of sound reasoning tell them that the miracles in the human body cannot be the result of mere chance. They see, in laboratory studies, the development of the human being from such minute beginnings that the original life cells of 200,000,000 individuals, were they gathered together, would occupy a space equivalent to the size of half an aspirin tablet, and they tell themselves: “Evolution could never construct a system as marvelous as this.” They find a blanket of ozone above the earth filtering out a dangerous amount of certain sun-rays which would act disastrously upon every individual exposed to them,—and reverently they declare that the whole universe is stamped with the glory of God and man is surrounded with innumerable instances of heavenly planning. It is usually the amateurs who are most insistent in rejecting the Scriptures. Often last summer as I sat listening for sounds of wild life in the forests of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, I thought that, as the deer moved silently and swiftly through the woodlands while the crickets chirped noisily and the locusts hissed in steady shrillness, so the larger minds of the ages have been silent before God and His Christ, while small critics have been loudest in their boisterous bravado.
The acknowledgment of God as the Fountain of our life must be firmly expressed in American churches, particularly in those that have questioned or denied the creative power of God. What will you Methodists say when I tell you that a paper published for your Sunday-schools contains a story entitled “Hoofs, Claws, and Paws,” toward the end of which we find this dialog:
“Were our toes once as long as our fingers, like the monkeys?” Betty laughed as she asked this question.
“I suppose they were,” Uncle Tom answered; “for once man walked on all fours and climbed like the monkeys. Like the monkey he, too, had a natural coat of hair and had no need of clothes.”
What will you Catholic friends say when I tell you that this statement is quoted from a Roman Catholic book issued under proper authority:
We Catholics must believe that life . . . must be traced back to God. . . . But we are entirely free in the question as to how the first thing got its life.
How will earnest Christians in the Congregationalist churches feel when I tell them that ninety-one per cent. of a group of their pastors, answering a questionnaire, stated that to their mind evolution was God’s way of creating? Can you not see the tragedy of it all—churches that should love God’s truth are contradicting the first chapters of the Bible? Unless a mighty protest is forthcoming soon, it will be too late to save thousands of American churches that are being sold out by an irresponsible, Scripture-denying clergy; for experience shows that once the creation is denied, the truth concerning the Bible, the Christ, His cross, His atonement, His resurrection, His second coming, and every glorious hope of our faith are soon cast overboard. How long will you pastors stand by and let church dictators, cheered by atheists and rank unbelievers, engage in sarcastic ridicule of that verity which the holy Christ proclaimed? How long will you Christian men and women in the pews help to pay fat salaries to preachers who boast: “I cannot accept the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2!”?
Another amazing fact calling for Christian action is the tragedy that in our grammar schools and high schools many of our children are being systematically weaned from their faith in the Creator, ironically enough at the expense of Christian taxpayers. For example, in New Jersey a Lutheran pastor found that his child had brought home a book from a supplementary reading course which told the sixth-grade children:
“The first people had hair growing, not just on their heads, but all over their bodies, like some shaggy dogs. They simply lay down on the ground when night came. They were bloodthirsty. They liked to drink the warm blood of the animals they killed as you would drink a glass of milk. They talked to each other with some sort of grunts—umfa, umfa—glug, glug.”
Now, the use of textbooks designed to teach children theories concerning the origin of life diametrically opposed to the plain teachings of the very first pages of the Bible not only constitutes a violation of that eminently American principle which separates the Church from the State and prohibits the teacher from interfering with the religious life of the pupil, but is also a major menace to our national welfare, a deathblow to the spiritual life of many children. Will you parents, whom God has appointed the human guardians of the souls of your own flesh and blood, not be ready to protest against such a diabolical attack? You spend much time and money to see that your girls and boys get proper food, that they are guarded against contagious diseases and accident. Will you not also watch over their spiritual life, so that their minds are not fed with this slow poison and they are not afflicted with the contagion that infects the soul? Speak out in protest to the teachers and principals in schools that feature these unscientific and withal destructive teachings!
If the irreligious obsession secures control in our churches and schools, we shall face ruin. We hear the cry: “If man has come from the jungle, then why not let the standards of the jungle rule? If he is closely akin to the barnyard, why not let barnyard morality hold its sway? If your life and mine go back, not to the love and power of God, but to some hairy, slinking, sharp-toothed, dullbrained half-man, half-ape, everything in religion is a fraud.” Then atheism screams: “Down with the Ten Commandments! Down with restraint! Down with virtue! Down with the family! Down with love! Down with God! Let men follow their lusts and satisfy their selfishness by cruelty and greed. Let wars come with all their vicious maiming and crippling.” Then in one of the maxims of an arch-evolutionist, “Be hard, . . . have no pity, . . . be cruel to everything that grows weak!”
That program of brutalized survival of the fittest was practiced in France during the revolutionary Reign of Terror. That triumph of bestiality was witnessed in the prolonged orgies during Russia’s first years of the communistic triumph. These terrifying scenes may be reenacted in our own beloved nation unless we keep God enthroned as the “Fountain of life” and penitently recognize His power and blessing. One of the reasons crime is more frequent than ever before is found in the deep tragedy that the number of those who dethrone God as Creator and Sustainer is multiplying. We must come back to God. In faith we must repeat the words of the psalmist: “With Thee is the fountain of life.”
To the Christian these words offer inestimable comfort. He knows that He has not been placed on this earth by chance, that his life is not a haphazard existence that may be crushed by the first cruel tyranny of fate. He knows that man was the masterpiece of God and that, while all men through their sins have lost the divine image, Christ through His suffering and atonement has brought them grace, peace, light,—the best that life can offer. The disciple of Christ knows that, since Jesus promised, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” that Savior’s divine companionship will guide every penitent, trusting believer by day and night. Every one who accepts Christ has the assurance, pledged by the eternal Word of God and sealed in the Savior’s blood, that everything which life may bring comes from the loving, sustaining, preserving grace of our Lord Jesus. Restored to the exalted position of divine sonship through our Savior, you and I can face life with our heads and our hopes high; for then we know that, come what may, our prosperity or adversity is for our good; our weal or woe is sent for our strengthening, our joys or sorrows through Christ are a hallowed part of the abundant and complete life.
OUR HEAVENLY LIFE COMES FROM GOD
Our greatest glory, however, is found in the faith which teaches us that God “is the Fountain of life” for the hereafter; that this life, with all its tears and laughter, can be but the prelude to that glorified existence in heaven before which we stand hushed and speechless.
Of course, this promise centers in Christ Jesus. Without Him and His Word we could have not even the slightest assurance of life after death has taken its toll, and our bodies, marred or crippled as they may be, racked or ruined by relentless disease, are laid to decay in the grave. We might sigh and plead for the certainty that all does not end with our last breath and that the burial-ground does not mark the last of all our hopes; but without Christ we would have only the speculations of philosophers, one contradicting the other, only the guesses of scientists, and the conflicting denials of immortality and eternity. Without Christ we could pray for a hereafter where the wrongs of this world would be righted, unfinished tasks completed, problems solved and answered; but if we could cry by day and night, without Him these piteous prayers would be answered only by a mocking echo.
Even if we had the assurance that there is a life beyond the grave and that death is not the final chapter, we should still be confronted by the searching inquiry: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” How can I be saved for this new existence, purified for the blessings of the next life? For when people think of death, they think of sin; they think of Judgment; all the follies and pretenses of life fade, and the glib excuses vanish. When life lingers in its last moment, men take no time to catalog their virtues and add up their accomplishments; but as the irrepressible monitor of conscience draws before their eyes in rapid panorama the sins of their existence,—in these moments, before a soul launches into eternity, men need the promise of a ransom that can pay the wages of sin, the pledge of an “Advocate with the Father”; they need what culture and learning can never give: the surety of the divine, redeeming Presence.
Then it is, when reason falters and self-reliance fails, that Christ comes with the assurance that through His suffering, His death, His resurrection, all our sins are canceled, our guilt removed, our indebtedness to God entirely paid, our sin-stained souls washed completely white by His blood, and, all praise to His Savior love! our death transformed to life. It is the glory of our Christian faith, not only that it teaches men that they come from God, but it also shows them that through faith in Christ and His atonement—and through that faith alone—they will return to God. Because this is the answer to humanity’s paramount need and its deepest fear, and the promise of its highest joy and happiness, Christ has heaped the promises of this blessed eternity. Listen to Him as He pledges: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” “I say unto you, He that heareth My Word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” “My sheep hear My voice, . . . and I give unto them eternal life.” “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Take Him at His word! Trust Him! Believe Him! Live with Him!
Some of you perhaps are obsessed with the fatal neglect of your soul by which you push aside the thoughts of eternity and postpone week after week and year after year your intention to find the one truth by which you always can be prepared for a blessed end. You take a hundred precautions to safeguard your body and preserve your property, but you are utterly indifferent to the demands of God for your eternal soul. How do you know that you will ever have another chance to hear the appeal and promise of Christ? How do you know that the convenient tomorrow on which you plan to set your house in order will ever dawn? “Now,” the Scriptures remind us, “is the accepted time.”
Today the Christian churches celebrate the beginning of the Advent season, which is to prepare for the coming of Christ; and this Sunday marks the start of a new churchyear. What an appropriate day for your coming to Jesus for the start of a new and blessed life in Christ! As He once came in the weakness of our flesh to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, may He now, with all His forgiving, comforting, strengthening love hold His advent into your heart and be born again in you! As He once came into His royal city amid the hosannas of the palm-waving multitudes, may He now come into your heart as your faith exults: “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” Let me impress this upon you: Tomorrow, tonight, the next hour, may be too late. Will you not in this moment come to Christ, find the abundant life which He came to bring? Will you not now approach the Fountain of life, drink of its life-giving waters and—through our blessed Savior—live forever? God grant that you will! Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.