Date: March 13, 1938

A Prayer for Comfort

God, a mighty Fortress for the oppressed, our Refuge in all temptation:

For the sake of the bleeding sorrows of Thy Son, our Savior, forgive us our repeated transgressions. We put our trust entirely in Christ’s overabundant grace and know that because of Him Thou wilt not utterly forsake us, even though we have forsaken Thee. Thou who art Grace and Truth and Power, we ask Thee to make our faith a trust so beautiful and radiant that through Jesus we can find advantage in every affliction. When it seems that calamity is our continuing heritage and we are ready to sink into complaint and self-pity, let us find relief for our burdened hearts in Thy fatherly love. Control over life and death alike is Thine; and because at times we discern Thee only dimly, give us a clearer vision of Christ’s pardoning love. Take possession of our wills that we may not waste our energies in futile worry and vain regrets but find refuge under the shadow of Thy wing. In the multitude of our needs let us not overlook the needs of others. Rather give us a practical sympathy with their sufferings. Call us constantly to repentance and ever send us Thy Spirit with the assurance of Thine unfailing companionship in every lonely hour. Hear us in the name of the blessed Friend of sinners and Conqueror of sin, Jesus Christ, our Savior! Amen.

Ye . . . shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me.John 16:32

TWO hundred years ago, in the French and Indian War, nine-year-old Regina Hartmann and her young sister were captured by a band of marauding Indians near their home in Eastern Pennsylvania and forced to march more than four hundred miles through untracked forests, over the high Alleghenies, across treacherous rivers, to the camping-grounds of the red men. Here Regina, separated from her sister, completely detached from the world of her own people, grew up the berated slave of a cruel squaw. Gradually the habits of Indian life began to change Regina; yet never, in gloomy forests or dirty wigwams, could she escape an overpowering sense of loneliness and desertion. That bitter darkness was brightened by only one ray of hope—her faith in Christ and the sustaining power of prayer. Hers were God-fearing parents, and her father especially had taught his daughters many hymns and prayers. One of the sacred songs she could never forget; over the frenzy of war-whoops and in silent midnights she could hear it; of all hymns she remembered that this one was written for her since its first lines read: “Alone, and yet not all alone, I am in this my loneliness.” Often, when the vigilance of the squaw relaxed, the captive maiden would steal into the forest, kneel down in prayer, and then raise her voice to sing confidently: “Alone, and yet not all alone.” In this way she kept Christ as her Friend and Guide. After nine terrifying years the Indians were defeated, and by the terms of the treaty of peace all white prisoners were to be released. From many sections of Pennsylvania eager relatives hastened to Carlisle, where the prisoners were to be restored to their families. Heartbreaking as it seemed, those long years with the Indians had wrought such changes that Mrs. Hartmann could not identify her daughter; but when the mother hopefully recalled that her child had learned a number of hymns, mentioning the opening lines of several favorites, a young woman stepped forward from the ranks of the ex-captives and, strangely moved, began to sing: “Alone, and yet not all alone am I.” That song, together with other childhood hymns, completed the recognition, and in a moment mother and daughter were locked in each other’s embrace, shedding tears of joy over their happy reunion.

Pennsylvanians are projecting a monument to the memory of Regina Hartmann; but let us throughout the nation rather dedicate in the shrine of our hearts a memorial to her unwavering assurance of the Savior’s constant companionship during the pain of that loneliness.

Few sorrows are more widespread than the feeling of isolation, the suffering when one is destitute of all human help, deprived of all human hope, when no one in the wide world can understand one’s problems and solve one’s perplexities. Many of you know the pitiless pressure of that inner loneliness, and at some time all of you will experience that pain of solitude. You mothers deserted by your husbands; you young folks, with your dreams of married happiness cruelly shattered; you the aged, advancing beyond the threescore and ten, the fourscore, and, as some of you write, the century milestone of life, only to see your friends fall by the wayside, one after the other; you the bereaved, from whom death has snatched one whose happiness you held dearer than your own; above all, you whom sin has terrorized, who find yourselves lost in life, without a guide, without a goal,—you know that inner loneliness, that carrying of a burden which no one else can share, that standing alone on the crossroads of life where no friend can take your hand to direct you, that suffering of a harshness which no human sympathy can soften.

While all human remedies offer no guarantee against loneliness, we have, thank God, a divine cure that operates, not with surgery, medicine, psychology, but through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ and the constant companionship through which He enriches the lives of His children. With Him as our Savior and Friend, we, too, can face the most abysmal loneliness of life and still exult:

“ALONE, YET NOT ALONE,”

for through faith we understand the deep meaning of His words “Ye . . . shall leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me,” Saint John 16:32.

I

CHRIST’S CONFIDENCE IN THE LONELINESS OF HIS SUFFERING

These sad words “Ye . . . shall leave Me alone” were among the last addressed by Christ to His disciples; and little did they realize how soon this prophecy of their desertion and cowardice would be fulfilled. A few hours after Jesus had left the upper room, we find Him, as the Passover’s silver moon bathes the Garden of Gethsemane in its soft whiteness, kneeling alone in the last hour before His betrayal and arrest. He might have avoided that Garden, the spot where, as He knew, Judas, the hirelings of the churchmen, the brutal soldiers, and the bloodthirsty, armed mob would soon crush in on Him. He might have swayed the fickle holiday crowd in Jerusalem to acclaim Him and to turn against the jealousy of the priests, for a miracle could have transformed Him from a public enemy to a popular hero. He might have led the masses to revive their plan of placing the kingly crown upon His brow; a few loaves of bread, multiplied for the mob, would have made them clamor for His bountiful rule. But instead, Jesus walks resolutely into the shadows of Gethsemane and the hands of His murderers. He deliberately prepares to strengthen Himself against the cry of angry voices shrieking for His blood, to receive, not the diadem of royalty, but the cutting crown of thorns. His hour has come, the hour that long before had caused Him to shudder; and from that moment until His death-cry on the cross His soul was to be racked by agony, continuous and unrelenting.

So terrifying was the foreknowledge of this anguish that our blessed Savior yearned for the cheering, sustaining presence of His disciples, who could share His sorrows and whisper words of comfort to His sorrow-burdened soul. While eight of the disciples waited without the Garden, three, Peter, James, and John, the privileged group chosen to witness the transfiguration, the greatest display of the Savior’s glory, the three selected to behold the miracle of raising the daughter of Jairus, were now admitted into the sacred intimacy of His deep suffering.

Never has there been any agony like Christ’s. Listen to Him as His quavering voice breaks the stillness of the Garden to cry, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” These words mean just what they say—the sorrow of Gethsemane almost killed the blessed Christ. Only a little more and the weight of these woes would have ended His life. The sweat that falls from His pallid face and His tortured body as great drops of blood; the desolate cry of a breaking heart; the angel that revives the Christ of God—all these grip us, even today in our callous existence, as the beginning of the cruelest torture. that ever racked the soul of a sufferer.

“Why,” we ask, “did such terror lay its trembling hold on Jesus?” Was His a sensitive soul, that shrank from the disgrace of His arrest and the shame of the cross? That cannot be the answer to the mystery of His suffering; for how serenely had He withstood the sneers and blasphemies of those who had said that He, the Son of God, was allied with the devil! Did Jesus shudder in fear of the death that before another day had ended would claim His life? Death would have been a sweet relief from His suffering in the Garden. Many of you have witnessed what transcendent happiness the last hour can bring; you have seen how some of your own beloved ones have smilingly welcomed the end. Surely He who blesses the life and the death of His own would show even more courage and joy and resolution in the face of death than did that great company of Christian martyrs in the first centuries and in the twentieth, whose faltering lips spoke of hope and joy and peace.

We understand Gethsemane only when we realize that Jesus endured these infinite agonies because God “hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” To bear the sins of all the world; to pay the whole price demanded for the ransom of the wrongs of all mankind; to be made “sin for us,” although He Himself “knew no sin,” to feel in these hours the penalty of the accumulated wickedness of all the centuries,—that was the soul agony that almost took the Savior’s life.

How lightly and quickly have many accustomed themselves to say, “Jesus bore the sins of all the world”! Oh, how little we understand the consequences of our own sins! Think of the tragedies provoked by a single transgression of God’s Law. A thought of hatred that makes a man a murderer, a word of lust that finally breaks the happiness of the family, an act of selfish grasping that ultimately throws nations into long and bloody wars, such is the price that men pay for sin here on earth. What of the far greater consequences after this life, the appalling penalty of eternal death, everlasting punishment, perpetual banishment from God? If that is the wreck and ruin of one unforgiven sin, how terrifying the burden of all human transgressions borne by our Savior!

No wonder Jesus shrinks from being left alone in the dread hour of this ordeal and pleads with the three disciples to watch and pray with Him. It is a small request He asks, this death-watch; we grant it willingly today even to the coarsest murderer. The devotion of the disciples should count it one of their holiest privileges! Hardly has Jesus knelt down, only a short distance from those who in the beginning had been chosen “that they should be with Him,” when the very disciples who had unhesitatingly promised to drink the cup that He would drink, self­confident Peter, who a few moments before had earnestly pledged that, if all were to desert Christ, his loyalty would remain untamished,—hardly had Jesus begun His prayer when His death-watch sank in heavy slumber, overcome by exhaustion and sorrow.

We are distressed by this drowsy indifference to the sufferings of Christ’s torn soul, and we wonder how these companions of Christ, blessed as no other human beings had ever been blessed, could have remained aloof from the Savior’s suffering as He began His descent into His valley of the shadow of death. Before we make comparisons, let us be honest enough to admit that today, too, a sleepy world neglects its Christ. Statesmen have closed their eyes to the great soul needs of the hour and have bitterly opposed Jesus. Even churches slumber on, in distracted indifference toward the cross of Christ, churches that are ready to take up the sword and fervently launch secular programs but that drug themselves into a stupor regarding the great central doctrine of the Bible, the divine atonement through Christ. If all the churches in the United States and Canada were awake and alert, would we be caught in the present chaos? Do you think that, if the Christian forces of America were watching and praying with Christ instead of lulling their followers, as many churches do, into dreams of sweet security and singing lullabies about man’s eternal goodness, spiritual life would recede to its frequent low ebb? Do you really think that, if a sacred vigilance would shake the sleeping churches out of their complacency, their desire for the comfortable Christianity that does not like to offend the non-Christian, that preaches the same message to the Jew, the Mohammedan, the Christian, we would have the weak, wilting caricature of Christianity which we behold on all sides? O God, arouse us from this stupor; shake our souls, so that out of this blight of indifference to Christ there may come forth a new, watchful, prayerful generation! Awaken some of us today who from this hour on will kneel with Christ and work with Christ and gain their victory through Christ!

For that victory we need a firmly grounded faith, not the hot and cold, strong and weak, fire-and-ashes type of faith that in one moment cries “Hallelujah!” and in the next changes to “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The trouble with the sleeping disciples was that their belief fluctuated with their emotions; and today the call of the hour is not for emotionalism but for sound, Scriptural indoctrination, a full, clear, reverent understanding of Jesus and His atoning love, in the pulpit and the pew.

Christ in the Garden has been the loneliest figure of all history. Today we glorify loneliness that makes newspaper headlines, when solitary scientists, like Admiral Byrd, isolate themselves in the frozen fastnesses of Little America or when intrepid adventurers like Colonel Lindbergh, the Lone Eagle, blaze new air trails, alone in the dark and icy skies between two continents, with the black waters yawning below. We marvel at the majestic solitude of those who, championing truth and right, tower to solitary heights above their fellow-men and their age: Lincoln, the loneliest of all the Presidents, or Martin Luther, the lone monk, who defied a world arrayed against him. Yet their burden of solitude cannot even bear comparison with the sinking loneliness of Jesus. “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled,” we read, in fulfilment of His warning “Ye . . . shall leave Me alone.” Alone He stood before Caiaphas and Pilate; for among the many whom He had helped in their body and soul and mind not one was grateful and faithful enough to stay with Him. Alone He faced the perjury and the blasphemy of His fellow-countrymen. Alone He received the death-sentence, and even the Talmud, commenting on His solitary sufferings, contains the legend that for forty days before Jesus’ death a herald hastened throughout Judea to ask if there were any who would intercede for Him; but no one, the Talmud concludes, pleaded His cause. Alone He died on the cross, without a single human voice raised to defend Him or a human hand lifted to help Him. How true His mournful prediction “Ye . . . shall leave Me alone”!

Bowed by the weight of all sin, Jesus still could say: “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” As we discover Him in the Garden deserted by His disciples and behold His pathetic figure dimly etched against the April moonlight, we see that Christ knew where to find unfailing strength, courage, and companionship for that last loneliness. He turns to God and prays the most penetrating prayer that can ever reach the Almighty. Confronted by the curse of our sin, His piercing cry rings through the silence of the night: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Three times He pleads with God, and finally He is steeled for His suffering. His own might forsakes Him, but His Father had given Him the assurance “I am not alone.” Except in that deepest suffering, when the divine wrath against sin spent its fury on His soul and He screamed: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He was not deserted; and because the unutterable love of God, who “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” was with Christ, the cross was not the final chapter, the grave was not the end. That trust in His heavenly Father was not misplaced; God gloriously raised Him from the dead to prove the truth of His confidence: “Alone, . . . yet . . . not alone, because the Father is with Me.”

II

THE CHRISTIAN’S CONFIDENCE DURING HIS LONELINESS

None of us can live completely beyond the overreaching shadow of loneliness. Money cannot buy exemption from its depressing power; for some of the wealthiest people I know are the loneliest. Culture cannot secure the release from its black spell; for it is said that the man who owns one of the greatest chains of newspapers in the world forbids every one to mention death in his presence. Nor has political power kept great leaders from experiencing that forsaken, banished feeling which robs life of its peace. Think of exiled Napoleon pacing the sands of St. Helena or of Nicolai Lenin, helpless despite his dictatorial powers, dying a pathetic death while the physicians clustered about his bedside engage in cold, disinterested bantering!

As we see the Christ of Gethsemane, behold His blanched face, clenched hands, lips parted in agonized prayer, great drops of death-sweat falling from His body, His disciples vanished into the background, the darkness almost rumbling overhead, yet withal the face of Christ and His eyes of trust directed heavenward to God, let us remember that whatever burden of loneliness may weigh us down, He has promised: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”; that, no matter how dark the road, our faith in Him enables us to feel His abiding presence, to grasp His strengthening hand, to experience the truth of His promise: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

See how gloriously Christ, who through faith in Him restores us to the open arms of His Father, can enrich our empty lives! Many of you are troubled by secret sins. They isolate you, build a wall around you, cut off your happiness. A distracted young woman in the South, uncertain of Christ’s pardon and forgiveness, writes that the peace of her soul has vanished. The young man to whom she was engaged has suddenly married some one else, and the shock of this desertion, recalling an unholy transgression of God’s Law, makes that young woman feel alone in a drab and grasping world. To her and to the ten times ten thousand others whose loneliness is the same in principle and whose sorrow is only different in kind I say: Behold the forsaken Savior once more and with penitent hearts believe that just as soon as you can say in trusting faith: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me, grant me Thy peace,”—your loneliness is over; you have a heavenly champion “that sticketh closer than a brother.” Let His grace enrich your poor, lonely, joy-starved hearts! Trust Him and His never-failing, close-at-hand guidance, His blood-bought cleansing of your soul, and you will know that, if all else in life disappears and the closest ties of blood and friendship are severed, yet with Him at your side, you can say: “Alone . . . yet . . . not alone.”

How many of you there are who are earnestly striving for a better, cleaner, purer life! Your conscience is burdened by the tragedy that, against your better knowledge and with fatal frequency, you succumb to unholy impulses. You want to defeat sin and live closer to God. Thousands of you young men and women want to lead clean, chaste lives and keep yourselves pure for your life’s companion; and yet, try as you may, it seems to many of you that you are fighting a solitary battle against unnumbered foes, that temptations crowd in to support the lustful longings of your all too human heart and our Christless world. To you I say in the name of this lonely Christ and the words of our beloved hymn:

Go to dark Gethsemane,

Ye that feel the Tempter’s power;

Your Redeemer’s conflict see,

Watch with Him one bitter hour;

Turn not from His griefs away,

Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

When you men and women trying to break the slavery of some degrading sin watch and pray with Christ, you will not be alone; you will have the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and the resources of this triumphant Trinity to assure you of the blessed answer. Once you learn to pray with Christ in the name of His holy love and in reliance on His divine grace, you will have the strength of Heaven to help you overcome earth’s weakness.

This week has brought again scores of those shattering letters that teach us anew how much sorrow can be crowded into a home or a heart. Another tearful account of a child of fourteen months that will never be able to sit up, never be able to speak or smile or think! Another story of terrifying death on the highway with a brave patrol officer cut down by a hit-and-run driver! A poor demented sufferer staggers into my office to claim that he is the crucified Christ Himself! An only son snatched from the land of the living! How cruel life sometimes seems and how lonely and forsaken the empty hearts of the afflicted! Yet—praise be to the eternal love that will not let us go!—the deepest tragedies cannot find us alone if we are Christ’s. As the broken grave on Easter came after the cross of Good Friday, once we are Christ’s, our sorrows will turn to our greater good, and after the sufferings of this time will come the celestial glories, where there is no loneliness, no parting.

Say to Jesus now: “Take Thou my hand and lead me O’er life’s rough way,” and as your heart of faith glows with His blessed presence, He will stand at your side in sickness, in loss, when the mortgage is foreclosed on your home, when the floods sweep it away, when family troubles arise, when you find yourself, as thousands of you do, isolated because of your sins and imprisoned! Take Christ, particularly in preparation for that final journey when only He can accompany you, when you leave all else behind and as a solitary traveler launch out alone, to worlds unseen. For if you, watching and praying with Christ in the Garden, have that triumphant faith which penitently seeks His sure mercies, there will never be any sorrow, any fear of death, in which, beholding Christ, you can declare: “I am ‘alone . . . yet . . . not alone,’ because through Christ my gracious, loving, forgiving Father in heaven is with me now and forever.” God grant you all this abiding blessing—Christ in your soul and life. Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: March 6, 1938

Supplication for Christ’s Presence in the Home

Blessed Savior:

Our hearts are raised thankfully to Thee for the love with which Thou hast blessed the Christian homes of our land. On the way to Thy bitter sufferings on Calvary Thou didst tarry to bring salvation into the home of a sinner; on the night of Thy betrayal Thou didst ask for a guest-chamber in one of the Judean homes; nailed to the cross, Thou didst provide a home for Thy bereft mother. Graciously behold us, with the joys and sorrows of our family circles; come into our homes with Thy redeeming, sin-removing presence, Thy strengthening, purifying love, Thine everlasting, death-destroying hope, so that with Thee, as the divine Guest, even in the poorest, smallest home and in the hearts of the homeless, parents and children may find pardon for their sins, peace with the Father and the promise of the eternal home in heaven. Unfold to us that heavenly wisdom and prudence by which we make time and find occasion to commune with Thee daily in Thy Word and in fervent family prayer! Endow us with that reverent obedience which constantly seeks to meet Thy will in our family relations and by Thy Spirit to live with Thee and for Thee in our hearts and homes! Come, then, Lord Jesus, be our Guest! Bless us and abide with us now and forever! Amen.

The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber?Luke 22:11

HOW suddenly disaster can overtake our homes! Last Sunday no one in Southern California anticipated how swift destruction could sweep from the Sierra Madre Mountains down upon the coastal cities. Five days of heavy downpour filled the ravines with swirling waters; dry river beds became roaring torrents, and as these walls of water crashed their way to the sea, bridges, highways, buildings, were carried away in the swath of ruin that made many an eyewitness think of the end of all things. Crowds stood by helplessly as their dwellings broke and toppled into the worst flood which that garden spot has known in sixty years. Among the houses left standing, hundreds were found to be uninhabitable. Conservative estimates place the number of homeless at no fewer than ten thousand, the damages to homeowners at more than ten million.

That was havoc concentrated into a few hours’ time, restricted to a relatively small area; and as we express our sympathy to those who have thus suffered disheartening losses, we know that in the wake of this water-soaked ruin rebuilding operations will soon remove the scars of destruction. More serious family disaster, that leaves an irremovable mark, home collapse, that can never be rebuilt, is an everyday tragedy throughout the nation. Cold figures tell us that, if the last seven days were an average week, about five thousand American homes were shattered by divorce. One million American homes, approximately, were blighted by acute pain, lingering sickness, the loss of sight and limb, the flickering flame of age. Two million and more homes were destitute of any income except Federal or local relief, as meager as this often is. Eight million underprivileged families have lived through another scant week, while twenty-seven thousand American homes were overshadowed by that final and deepest sorrow, death. Yet no research can give us the appalling total of the homes that mask to the world their heart anguish and misery, the homes where marital dishonesty is exiling the last remnants of love; where pride and selfishness are making husband and wife hate each other; where drunkenness and debauch, lying and cursing, are turning dreams of happiness into a nightmare of regrets; homes where thankless children are robbing their parents of their peace, bringing them into premature graves; families that are defiled by rebellion against God, contempt for Christ and His Bible. These homes cannot be restored by flood relief, reconstructed according to blueprints, rebuilt with Federal aid.

For strength in these sorrows that follow sin; for help in the sudden afflictions that can befall any family even in the moment of its highest happiness; for an antidote against lust, blind passion, selfishness, we must have, not uniform marriage and divorce laws, not enlarged social service and increased staffs of case-workers, not new ideas in child-training and new programs for home management, not charm courses and personality instruction, not merely an understanding of the budget nor education in the problems of the homes; before and beyond all this we must have the pardoning, cleansing, strengthening, purifying presence of Christ. Not to be misunderstood or have the force of my assertion weakened, I repeat: For better, happier, stronger, purer homes, which will be the forecast and foretaste of the heavenly mansions, we need Jesus, our divine, eternal Christ, our Savior, Redeemer, and Ransom from sin.

Now, it is the undeserved mercy of Jesus that He seeks entrance into your household and eagerly awaits your invitation, by His presence to bless every family from the East to the West joined in the far-flung reaches of our Sunday worship. As I now put before you individually that question which Jesus asked at the beginning of His Lenten suffering in the words “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber?” (Saint Luke 22:11), will you not answer—and I ask you now to repeat this response aloud with me:

“COME, LORD JESUS, BE OUR GUEST”

and welcome Him with His immeasurable blessings to your hearthside?

I

WE NEED THE LORD JESUS AS OUR GUEST

It was on Thursday, the last full day of the Savior’s life, that this memorable question was asked, and according to ancient custom the Passover lamb was to be eaten that night. Where were these paschal rites to be held? He who as almighty God could commandeer all the treasures of the universe, as weak, suffering Man had no home, no legal title to an inch of space on the earth which, with all its fulness, was His own. So destitute was Christ—and remember this, you to whom radical agitators portray Christ’s religion as a creed for the comfortable suburbanite—that He once exclaimed: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” Jesus might have celebrated that Passover with His friends in nearby Bethany; He could have selected any one of many homes in Jerusalem, benefited by His miraculous healing or help; for in spite of open disapproval by priests and scribes, hundreds who had been blessed by His power would gladly have placed their dwellings at His disposal. For His last unbroken hours with His disciples, however, and for His parting instructions to those who would soon be called to start the Gospel of forgiveness on its victorious course throughout the world, Jesus had selected a certain home in Jerusalem and within that home a definite upper room. There, removed from the turmoil of that great holiday when more than a quarter of a million Passover lambs were slaughtered, Jesus, as the one Lamb of God, whose sin-bearing would make the Passover sacrifice unnecessary, could give to His disciples and us, in the literal truth of His last will and testament, not merely a memorial, but the Sacrament, His own holy body and blood.

We know nothing of the exact location of this house or of the identity of the owner. To prevent men from honoring the place rather than reverencing the Christ, all distracting details are omitted. Some conjecture that it was the home of Joseph of Arimathea to whom Jesus sent His disciples with the request “Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples?” Others, with more probability, suggest the house of John Mark. Who knows what the true facts are?

One personal, penetrating fact we do know: This same Christ—the excruciating agonies of the first Good Friday passed forever, the redemption through His blood accomplished for all eternity—sends to every one of us the message “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest­ chamber?” It matters not what size and value, material and architecture, furnishings and facilities, location and neighborhood, your home may have nor what financial and social rating, race and nationality, schooling and culture, your family; the Christ who is every man’s Redeemer, who on the cross loved all the world to its remotest reaches, says, not of a sifted few listed in the Blue Book, Who’s Who, the Social Register, Bradstreet’s, but of every home: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me.”

How sorely we need the abiding presence of this divine Guest in every one of our homes, surrounded as we are by well-organized, highly commercialized attacks on the home and Christ’s ideals of family life! Let us look at the facts. Think, for example, of the magazine madness that has gripped this nation, the open indecency and blatant vulgarity featured in suggestive sex publications with their applause for prostitution, their acclaim of fashionable harlotry, their gloating over brazen adultery, their suggestive drawings, revolting illustrations, featured in the present craze for picture magazines, and remember that your twelve-year-old son can put ten cents on the newsstand and take away one of these immoral publications that will leave its sensuous appeal irradicably impressed upon his young mind. Your sixteen-year-old daughter can pay fifty cents for a particularly pernicious magazine with smooth-finished, expensively printed pages that enjoys a large circulation among those who believe that it is fashionable to read filth. Or think of the lending libraries, which cunningly place the worst of all books in a special section conspicuously marked Risque, so that young readers, idle housewives, lecherous husbands, can get right down to the garbage books without any lost motion; remember that the five cents of your children are greedily taken in exchange for the loan of these vicious volumes written by shameless and abandoned writers.

This is only one sector of the assault on purity and decency systematically promoted in many hotels and nightclubs, taverns and dance-halls. The same attack, though usually veiled, is seen all too frequently by the thirteen million people who every day pay their admission to American motion-picture theaters. One of the latest offenses, and one of the most dangerous, is the crafty commercialism, the diabolic deceit and falsehood practised by some of the agencies engaged in the manufacture and spreading of material for the artificial restriction of the family. Some of you druggists have been thoughtful enough to mail me the propaganda and literature issued by these concerns, and I have never seen anything more greedy and grasping than the profit-seeking and the fraud advertised by some of these ill-famed businesses.

With marriage ridiculed, parenthood scorned, childhood left to entertain itself with newspaper comic strips, gangster movies, and crime broadcasts; with preachers bringing reproach on the name of the Church by conducting marriage mills, where drunken couples and runaway children can be made man and wife, or other preachers championing divorce, organizing birth-control clinics, making dance-halls of their parish-halls; with the American death-rate perilously close to the dropping birthrate, we ought to realize that, as no nation in the past has been able to withstand the ravages of immorality and decay of the home, so this nation cannot escape disintegration unless it upholds domestic morality. Because this is a civic issue, of greater importance than many of the programs over which our legislators are engrossed; because any state, whether it is Christian or pagan, must seek to maintain the virtues of purity and decency, the sanctity of the home and the blessing of marriage, I ask all you public-spirited citizens, as your fellow-American, to take decisive action against every manifestation of immorality, whether in print, on the air, on the screen or stage, or in any form of commercialized entertainment. Protest against all this, organize against it, and drive these greedy enemies of purity from your communities!

As a Christian and a minister of Jesus Christ, however, I ask for much more. Civic organizations, new laws and enactments cannot completely meet this crisis. It has been shown that in too many cases police officers and higher-ups, paid to preserve law and decency, have connived with the underworld and worked hand in glove with lawyers devoid of all conscience, honesty, and ethics, as the tragedies which the great prophet Isaiah denounced are enacted before our eyes. I ask for more than education, because we must realize that some of our biggest and intellectually best colleges and universities are not taking the right stand for the home, for marriage, and for parenthood; that in some of these schools, even among those endowed by Christian people for the teaching of Christian virtues, the most infamous radicals thrive. They are the generalissimos in the satanic assault on the home, who have led thousands of our young people, sent to college with the prayers and by the sacrifices of their parents, to discard their Christian faith and regard themselves as educated animals, urged by bestial lusts, that must be answered fully and without any restriction imposed by the Bible or by Christ. Even in those cultural citadels where men of civic honor refrain from attacking the home, education alone can never solve our domestic problems nor end the quest for personal purity. Dr. Richard Cabot of Boston in his new book states that, if knowledge were the prerequisite for purity, physicians and nurses, with their intimate knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and disease, might be expected to be the most chaste and moral of all human beings. He declares, however, that his forty-year contact with medical people has shown him that they are no better in this respect than others, and that in his long practise he cannot recall a single instance in which any of his patients was beset by trouble or disease contracted through ignorance of the facts of life. Of course, we hear a great deal about education in that widespread and commendable warfare waged against the social maladies and their ravages of body and soul; but how much better it would be if, instead of waiting until these terrors come and then trying to cure them, we could stop them before they start by an effective program of purity, by creating, with God’s help, within men what education, directed to the mind, can never produce, a new heart, and by renewing a right spirit within us. Only Christ can do that; only He can strengthen us to wage a successful battle against the regiments of impurity and spiritual ruin; and for that reason, when He asks you today, “Where is the guest-chamber?” may you answer with ready hearts and deepened faith, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest!”

We must answer, “Be our Guest,” not only on account of this iron ring of impurity that surrounds the family from without; we need His blessed presence to counteract the sin and the selfishness that thrive within every one of us. Have you ever noticed that inexplicable tragedy by which people who present a cordial, polite appearance to the world about them reserve their bestial side for the home and release their meanness on those who ought to be dearer than all the world to them? Street angels and house devils! Give human avarice and lust free play, and you will witness with your own eyes that men can sink even lower than the beast. Last week a God-fearing mother wrote that her husband had deserted her and her four young children, leaving her penniless, for another married woman; and now in brazen sin he lives with that adulteress next door to his own wife and children. From such harrowing cases of unfaithfulness and desertion, through cruelties that make husbands brutes or that tear demanding, extravagant, luxury-loving wives or mothers from the home, with no companionship for the husband, no love for children, no interest for cooking, washing, cleaning, mending, through the disobedience of children, the neglect of their parents, to the smaller, trivial misunderstandings that break the peace in the home, we have a telltale, tearful catalog of sin and its consequences. No police methods will break that power. A prison warden may bring his cat-o’-nine­ tails twenty times down the back of a wife-beater, but that will not drive sin from his heart. You cannot educate families against domestic warfare nor successfully give young people a high-school course on home obligations and expect all evidences of disrespect and ingratitude to disappear. Only One can solve the problem of sin, forgive and remove it, restrict its ravages, and strengthen us for the new life, and that is the Christ, who even now asks you, “Where is the guest-chamber?” and to whom, I pray, you will answer, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest!”

II

WE WILL BE BLESSED WHEN THE LORD JESUS IS OUR GUEST

When you open your hearts and your homes to Christ, accepting Him as your own all-powerful, all-loving, all­sufficient, all-forgiving Savior; when, in effect, you say, “O Christ, You have asked me, ‘Where is the guest­ chamber?’ I know that I am not worthy to have You come into this all too sinful heart; yet I cling to Your promise of mercy. I believe the promises of grace. I know that You suffered for me, that You were buffeted, beaten, bruised, for me; that the vengeance wreaked upon You before Annas and Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate, the agonies afflicted on Your holy body by Your own countrymen and the Roman soldiery, that the weight of agony crushing Your soul as You hung suspended from Calvary’s cross,—that all this was for me, on my account, the payment for the ransom of my sins; and so, impure, sinful, unclean, I come to You, just as I am, to be strengthened by faith, to have Your divine assurance that in the sight of God I am pure, cleansed, free from the stain and the guilt of sin. O come into this heart of mine, into this house dedicated to You and Your love, and be our beloved, revered Guest”; when you answer this question of Jesus, “Where is the guest-chamber?” with that faith and that love, then that Savior will hold His happy entrance into your home and bless it first of all with the assurance of forgiveness for every wrong that lingers in your lives. I cannot emphasize this truth too often, and I wish that it were possible to proclaim it every day; the first, basic foundation truth for the happiness of your family, but particularly for the blessed assurance of the eternal home is this trusting faith in the free mercies of Jesus which this Lententide seeks to impress upon you.

I know of course that there may be a modicum of external happiness without Christ. Perhaps the pagan Zulus in darkest Africa, steeped in their witchcraft, superstition, and terrorizing idolatry, have a kind of happiness in their dirty kraals. I will concede that the young men and young women who are joined in marriage by the justice of the peace because they do not want to have any association whatever with the Church may enjoy a type of satisfaction in their married life. I am not asking that you say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” to receive that minimum of human happiness. I want you to have in your home the peace which passes all understanding, the joy which the world cannot have, the happiness from heaven, the assurance that with forgiven sin and the personal presence of Jesus our home-life can be enriched in a way that makes our groping, Christless world seem destitute by comparison.

The longer we contemplate this mercy, the more we are amazed at the depths of Christ’s divine riches, even to those who fear that they may have sinned too disastrously to merit His presence. It was Jesus who, far from minimizing the sin against the commandment of purity, nevertheless refused to cast a stone on that scarlet woman, penitent before her accusers. It was Jesus who indicted even the lustful thoughts of the heart, yet who spoke peace to a woman of sin kneeling before Him in the house of Simon, the Pharisee, much to the dismay of the smug and self­righteous. Today He is still the same Christ of all mercies; He does not ask what kind of home you have. You may live in one of the company houses in back of the slag heaps near a Pennsylvania colliery or in a one-room cabin in the tiff-mining districts of Missouri; yours may be basement rooms, an alley shack, or a furnished room or a crowded tenement. Men may keep their distance from your doors; but as the Savior in the days of His flesh entered the house of Levi, the publican, and ate with that outcast, saying: “I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance”; as He tarried with the half-breed Samaritans and later, hastening steadfastly to Jerusalem, interrupted the march to His death by entering the home of Zacchaeus, another hated publican, to speak the promise: “This day is salvation come to this house, . . . for the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” that divine Christ is now eagerly poised before your threshold, awaiting your invitation, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

When He enters our home, He comes with peace and strength to curb our lusts; for the peace of God which comes to us once we are justified by faith reflects itself in the peace which we maintain with our fellow-men. This is no theory; this is tangible, provable fact. Put Christ into the hearts and lives of husband and wife, and you will find the highest of all human love, so holy that the Scriptures employ it as a figure of Christ’s self-denying, self-sacrificing devotion for the Church. Put Christ into any home, and parents and children will be welded together in an unselfish affection mirroring that sacred love by which God calls the believers in Christ His children. Homes blessed by our glorious Savior will reecho His patience, His forbearance, His willingness to share burdens. Homes with Jesus as the perpetual Guest are not the problem homes of America today.

True, Christ as the unseen but ever-present Guest in every Christian home holds out none of those attractions by which men like to gauge happiness. His indwelling is no charm against the afflictions, trials, pains, sorrows, that the human heart fears and from which it craves escape. If we could put Christ’s cross on American doorposts to keep out sickness, reverses, death, you and I know that every home across the sweep of this broad continent would be conspicuously cross-marked. Because Jesus promises us no such exemption from suffering, millions of our homes are closed to Him. If only unhappy men and women could realize the far richer blessings that this divine Guest bestows on those who are His, as He permits grief only for the sake of greater glory, pain only for final praise, poverty only for ultimate riches, loss only for spiritual and heavenly gain, sickness of the body only for health of the soul! Are you troubled with the wearying pains of sickness? Read how Jesus went into Peter’s house on the shores of Galilee, touched and cured the disciple’s mother-in-law, and remember that, if it be the will of God, even though the doctors shake their heads and say, “No,” Jesus can say, “Yes!” And if it is not His will, then His love has already prepared a greater blessing. Is your home troubled with religious doubts? Some students of the New Testament believe that this unmarked upper room may well have been the place where, after the three hardest days in their lives, the disciples first beheld their risen Savior; that it was here, too, after fifty anxious days, the Pentecost flames of fire descended upon the apostles’ heads. In the same way the risen Savior, once He becomes the permanent Guest in your home, will remove all the questions and give you the faith by which you exult, “I know whom I have believed.” Are you face to face with financial difficulties and problems of the home? Our royal Guest was born in a stable, His parents were poor. He never had a bank account, but He told Martha, busily engaged with her household problems, “One thing is needful.” If you have in Christ that one essential blessing: firm, sure faith, you can conquer all restrictions. Do you live in one of the five thousand homes on which death placed its mark this week? Then look to Jesus with enlarged trust and say, “Come now, Lord Jesus, and abide with us amid all human sorrow and the grief of this departure!” He who entered the house of Jairus to take the cold, lifeless hand of a girl and say, “Maid, arise,” will give you the assurance that He has spoken this command for the new life to the souls of your departed beloved fallen asleep in the faith.

The great and all-surpassing blessing which comes when Christ abides with us is not this, that He would call the departed back to earthly life, but that in the indescribable magnificence of the next world fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, may be united in heavenly reunion and live forever with those saved by His grace. What a blessed hope to know that on the great day of the resurrection Jesus will say, “Come into the many mansions of My Father’s heavenly house,” and we shall answer, “Yea, Lord Jesus, thanks be to Thee, we come!”

Have you answered the question of Jesus “Where is the guest-chamber?” with the joyous “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest”? I could show you that Christ in the home presents a simple, effective, and assured plan for national recovery and stability. Put the Savior in every American home (and that means, introduce Bible-reading and prayer into every family circle), bring up American children with Christian training and ideals, and the rampant forces of unbelief responsible for the present debacle will be checked. I could show you that Christ, fully welcomed and completely enthroned in every home connected with the Christian churches of America, would bring the most stupendous revival of Christian forces that American history knows, and that for this reason the effort of the churches should be directed to a more systematic study of the spiritual problems of family life. Above all I want to promise you in the Savior’s name that, as long as you take Christ into your home, begin and dose the day with family prayer, find time for Scripture-reading; as long as you sit down to your meals and join in the prayer that millions raise to God three times every day: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest and let these gifts to us be blessed”; as long as you have Jesus in your heart and resolve, as I hope many of you have done, “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener to every conversation,” yours will be one of the dearest previsions of heaven that we can ever enjoy on earth.

Listen, then, once more to Jesus, only a few hours before the agony of the Garden and the torture of the cross, as He sends this message to you: “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber?” and may God grant that young and old in every home within range of this broadcast will repeat aloud this invitation and assurance of faith: “O blessed Lord Jesus, come, abide with us!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 27, 1938

A Lenten Prayer

O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world:

Have mercy upon us! Grant us Thy peace! As we again approach the Lenten season and the meditation of Thy sin-destroying anguish and death, open our eyes so that we may see ourselves as we are without Thee, helpless, lost in our sins; and then in Thy mercy give us that vision of faith by which we can behold ourselves as we are with Thee, assured of Thine everlasting blessings. O Thou Christ of all compassion, draw us to Thee so that in Thy cross, Thy bleeding and dying, we may, wherever we are and, O Christ, whatever we are, find all that our souls need for the sorrows of this world and the glories of the next. As Thou didst love us unto that bitter, pain-ridden end, help us remain faithful to Thee unto our last hour, continually to fight sin, and with our devotion focused on Thy self-giving compassion to follow in Thy footsteps along paths of service to our needy fellow-men. Bless the contemplation of the Lenten love in many hearts, so that multitudes may come to Thee, repenting of their sins, trusting in Thy blood-bought mercies, and receiving the power to live forever. We ask this by the pledge of the cross and the power of Thy saving blood. Amen.

Jesus stood, . . . saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.Luke 18:40-42

THROUGHOUT the Christian world this week the appeal for the soul’s pilgrimage to the cross of Christ resounds in the annual call of Lent. In thousands of churches, towering structures of granite and marble, small frame buildings, and unnoticed mission-stations, in the secret assemblies of Soviet Russia, where atheism despite its boasting has not been able to stamp out the Gospel; beneath exploding bombs in China, in loyalist and rebel Spain, in confident Germany, England, disturbed by cabinet changes, France, overshadowed by communistic menace, in African kraals and India’s palm-thatched chapels, on the coral reefs of the blue Pacific and in the jubilee of Australia, on the northern frontiers of Greenland, and in Alaska, where Eskimos have just erected a heroic statue of Christ,—Christians of every color and clime, however else they may be divided, on Wednesday of this week enter those forty reverent days commemorating our Savior’s suffering and death.

On the threshold of Lent and in preparation for its blessings we invoke the power of God’s Holy Spirit and humbly ask that divine grace may bring many to the cross, there to witness the love of Jesus and in the courage of that new vision to follow Him in contrite faith. Because the souls of men are at stake and our eternity is involved, pray with us and for us that God would remove that blindness which prevents many from seeing themselves as they are and from beholding Christ as He loved us to that sin-cursed, God-forsaken end on the cross—the beginning and the foundation of our assurance of heaven. Come with us to the Throne of Mercy praying in Jesus’ name that this Lenten season may cause great rejoicing among the holy angels of God, as sinners brought to Christ gain a new vision of the thorny crown, the gory cross, the cleansing blood, the atoning death,—and their eternal promise. To this end let us make this our prayer of pre­Lenten preparation:

LORD, GRANT US A NEW VISION!

That was the entreaty directed to Christ Himself in His last days as He hurried to Jerusalem and the ordeal of death; for in Saint Luke (chapter eighteen, verses forty to forty-two) we read: “Jesus stood, . . . saying: What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee.”

I

WE ALL NEED A NEW VISION IN CHRIST

The Savior is near Jericho, on that final, momentous journey from low Jordan to high Jerusalem. An electrifying tenseness has charged the entire atmosphere; for Jesus is engrossed with that sorrow of sorrows which, before another week closes, will rivet Him to the cross, His holy hands, always raised in healing and helping, His holy feet, always directed on missions of mercy, crushed, broken, bleeding, nailed to that tree of death. We often make the mistake of limiting the suffering of Jesus to the few hours that intervened between the agony of the Garden and the death gasp at Calvary; but the very thought of that ordeal, the bearing of all men’s sins, the suffering for all human iniquity, the dying of all human deaths, was so terrifying that long before these death-marked days Jesus had cried out: “How am I straitened till it be accomplished!” It is a different Christ whom the disciples now behold when they see His face resolutely fixed toward Jerusalem. Bewildered and afraid, they follow Him at an unusual distance, seeking to remove every disturbance and distraction. And well might we conclude that, as the Savior steeled Himself for the battle which no man, no legion, no army, has ever fought, the struggle against sin and death and hell, that He would be so gripped by the terror of His own black, abysmal suffering, bleeding, dying, that He would have neither thought nor word for any one on that last hard uphill climb to Jerusalem—and the end.

Yet on that Jericho road, on the last miles of His final pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jesus hears a voice, piteous, pleading, and He halts. Not all the regiments of Rome, the battalions of hell, or the treasures of a million worlds could have stopped Jesus on that march to the cross; but, all­merciful Savior that He is, He pauses for a soul in distress. Try to see any of our prominent bankers or presidents of large corporations, our acclaimed leaders, and you will learn that today the average man can hardly gain audience with the high and mighty. Yet here is Jesus, “God manifest in the flesh,” burdened with the terror of His impending death, and He stops at this insistent plea of human anguish. In our own selfish way we often say: “I have had so much trouble myself that I cannot possibly think of any one else’s suffering.” We often excuse ourselves by explaining: “I want to do something for my afflicted fellow-men, but I have lost so much in recent years that I must look out for myself first.” Yet here we see Jesus, with only seven days to live, with that most agonizing death of all history to die, and He halts on that Jericho road to give every one of us in this self-engrossed, every-man-for-himself age the example of love which our world needs.

Is it not this Christ, this Lord and God, whom you want, the Savior who is never too preoccupied to hear a single voice raised to Him in trusting faith? A hundred other sounds on that eventful day reached His ears amid the drone of voices, the cry of clamor as the crowd marched to the Passover celebration at Jerusalem; yet just as clearly as though there were no other voice in all the world, that Christ of all mercy heard the distracted plea, and though His thoughts were blazing a straight trail to Calvary, He stopped.

Who made Jesus pause on that last march? If you have any mental picture of Christ showing favoritism to a Roman governor, the first citizens of Jericho, the social or political leaders of that day, you do not know Jesus. He stopped for a beggar, a dirty, unkempt wretch in rags, a blind beggar, whose life was wrapped in total darkness. Pushed to the edge of the road, that sightless sufferer hears the astonishing news “Jesus of Nazareth passeth by,” and unable even to approach Him whom the whole countryside had acclaimed the mighty Prophet, the Miracle-worker, the Preacher without parallel, blind Bartimaeus, fearful that Jesus might pass without noticing him, cries, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” Angry voices try to silence him. Passover pilgrims seek to restrain him, but with a faith that cannot be suppressed his cry turns into a scream: “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” And then it is that Jesus stops to answer the blind beggar.

What amazing comfort this incident reveals to us! The same Christ is even now traversing the road of your life, ready to hear you. You cannot be too poor and too unsightly, too miserable and helpless, pushed too far behind the fringes of the crowd, to escape His attention. Men may shove you to the side; they may threaten and rebuke you; they may turn a deaf ear to your entreaty; but if you come to the Savior and pray, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me,” then the Christ of glory, who rules the world, directs the nations, weaves the tapestry of history, upholds “all things by the word of His power,” will stop to hear your plea.

Let some of our churches learn a much-needed lesson from this picture of Christ, comforting a miserable, sightless beggar. Because European churches sometimes forgot the suffering masses, Communism and atheism found fertile soil for their seeds of discontent in the hearts of these neglected millions. And because some of our churches are side-stepping the humble services to the souls of all men; because church-buildings, we are told, must be so magnificent they create the impression that Christianity is for the rich and the near rich, for the comfortable suburbanites, but not for the slums and the decaying neighborhoods; because preachers are expected to be social leaders, who can hobnob with bankers and politicians, college professors, and men of public affairs, but who have only a few condescending moments for the distressed and discontented multitudes, me of the churches in this country are helping to prepare this age for a social revolution, with desperate men storming the churches that have failed to follow the Christ who pauses to hear a beggar’s plea. May God give us in this crisis true Gospel-preachers, who have more time for the many poor than for the few rich, more interest in the tenements than in town houses, more prayers for the destitute than for the families with the highest-bracket income taxes, more service of love for the groping souls of men than for the frills and luxuries of life,—true prophets of God who will wear themselves out for Jesus and the underprivileged masses, preachers after the mold of Christ, who had little time for the self-righteousness of the moneyed, titled, and applauded of His day, but who, even when overshadowed by His own approaching doom, stopped at the plea of a blind beggar.

When Christ asked the sightless sufferer, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” there was only one, all­consuming desire for a man who lived in darkness, who never opened his eyes to the radiance of a sunset nor beheld the divine craftsmanship concealed in every flower. Bartimaeus gave the answer that Jesus knew in advance: “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” That prayer is the plea uttered by many in this audience who live in perpetual night. There are 100,000 totally blind in the United States; yet, thank God, many of these see Jesus with the eye of faith even more dearly than some whose eyesight is unimpaired. God strengthen you, my sightless friends, and continue to show you the never-failing Light of the world! If you are without church connections, let us send you some of our literature for the blind. Write us in Braille or have a friend write for you, and we shall be happy to help you in Christ’s name.

Men know a blindness far more disastrous than any loss of physical sight, the blindness that makes men dose their eyes to the light of Christ’s salvation and seal their souls against the illuminating power of His Spirit. It is the darkness of unrepented, unforgiven wrong, the sightless sorrow of living in doubt and distrust, of groping for the road to happiness here and salvation hereafter; the night that keeps men from discovering “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” that are in Jesus, from seeing themselves as they are in the sight of God, lost and condemned in their transgressions.

Ours is an age cursed with much spiritual sightlessness. Blind hatreds are preparing this generation for terrifying calamities, and nations race to make deadlier instruments of warfare when, with men’s vision centered on Christ, this could be a happy and blessed world with room and opportunity for everybody. We have blind programs in the direction of the nations, with otherwise intelligent men claiming that we can restore international prosperity by the planned destruction of foodstuffs. The new government in Brazil has reverted to this visionless folly, and last week we heard, as though in irony, that of the coffee which in millions of tons had been dumped into the sea much floated to the shore and was quickly gathered and sold again. We have blindness in present-day cultural and educational trends, trying, as men do, to build character on a brain basis rather than on a heart basis, endeavoring to teach morality and at the same time to ignore the Christ who makes all things new. In consequence the age that has given us the most schools has burdened us with the most criminals. There are blind women, running away from their homes, from the blessing of motherhood, the sacrifice and devotion for their husband and their children, clamoring for equal rights instead of praying for the highest privileges. We have our spiritually blind men who think they are enlightened when they profane the holy name of God Almighty, who make swine of themselves in their drunken stupor, who break their marriage vows and then boast that they are he-men, when, could they but see the truth, they would begin to shudder even now at the terrors of hell. We see blind young people who think that Christ and His Gospel, His program of purity and premarital chastity, are relics of a backward age, who repeat the first lie of all history, claiming that by eating the forbidden fruit their eyes have been truly opened, when in truth they have lost all vision of the pure, the beautiful, the best in life.

If there is one group of men and women that, under God, should help to restore sight to this undiscerning world, it is the great multitude who call themselves Christians in the churches that bear Christ’s name. Yet here we often stand aghast before the starkest blindness. Many American churches have lost that Christ-centered vision and endorsed the Monte Carlo tactics of gambling, defying the law of the land and the Word of God. Twenty-one out of fifty pastors in a Protestant denomination in a Midwestern city recently acknowledged that they condoned games of chance in their churches “for the sake of zest and income.” Such worldliness helps to bring reproach upon the Church and to diminish the respect of the world for the Gospel. One half of America is outside of the Church today because the other half has never made the Christian message vital and attractive, because thousands upon thousands of churches are cultivating only a vague, dim-sighted religion, which questions or discredits the Bible, minimizes or denies the message of Christ’s mercy. With more churches in America than in any other nation, we still have millions in this vast American mission-field who are endeavoring to earn their own salvation, blindly groping for a path to heaven, when the suffering and death of Jesus has blazed the only way.

As the day of this world hastens to its darkening night, let us ask a new vision for our souls, a new and heroic emphasis in American pulpits on the light radiating from the cross of Christ. Let us, even those who are Christ’s, continue to raise this plea: “Lord, that I may receive my sight!” because sometimes the vision of our soul is impaired and we look at the world in distorted glance. We become short-sighted, unable to discern that which lies at a distance. Many turn their eyes away from the cross and see only their personal problems, their own weaknesses; and this short-sighted faith prevents them from training their eyes on the hills of God, particularly the mound of mercy, Calvary, whence cometh our help. Adversity overtakes them, and their dwarfed vision, seeking but not finding a solution in their own reason, makes them repeat the disconsolate and distracted “Why?” “Why did I lose my money?” “Why must I suffer?” “Why did my husband die?” “Why did God permit my child to be snatched away?” —instead of being guided by the clear vision that can look beyond their suffering to the remedial purposes of God as they unfold themselves under His pledge, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Or again, Christians are troubled with spiritual farsightedness; their vision is so perverted that they can see only distant worries, distant disaster, but they never discern the Christ close at hand, who promised, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Thus there is a long catalog of defects, even in the Christian’s vision; for the great apostle’s verdict is still true, “Now we see through a glass, darkly.” With the promise that the blessed day is coming when we shall see face to face, we have the further confidence that no spiritual blindness is so intense that it cannot be removed by the Healer of defective soul vision. If medical science has advanced to the remarkable point where eye specialists can effect remarkable cures; if surgery has progressed so marvelously that it can perform the most delicate operations even on the eyeball, surely He whose blessing has made these wonders possible can hear a prayer for spiritual insight, in the words of Bartimaeus, “Lord, that I may receive my sight,” and grant us that new vision.

II

CHRIST CAN BLESS US WITH THIS NEW VISION

Hardly had that blind petitioner voiced his prayer when the compassionate Christ responded, “Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee.” And even as He spoke these words, the lost vision returned, and the sightless eyes looked on a world of wonder and beauty.

The same Christ, now exalted in eternal majesty, can answer our pleadings for a new and better vision with the same power of love. In an age when men like to quibble over the value of prayer (and when even those who call themselves Christians often have not because they ask not), we must cling with unshaken confidence to this conviction, that, “if we ask anything, according to His will, He heareth us.” Christ may not answer our prayers immediately. Bartimaeus was not heard the first time, and very often you and I must continue in repeated prayer before deliverance dawns. Christ will not answer half-doubting, half-awake-half-asleep, try-it-and-see-what-happens prayers; this sightless suppliant had to scream before Christ stopped. He will answer every fervent, soul-deep plea. A hundred forces may combine to keep your prayer from reaching the Throne of Mercy, just as the turmoil and the shouting on the Jericho road seemed to stifle that piteous cry. Some of you write me that the voice of your conscience accusing you of scarlet sins is so loud that you can no longer pray to God; some of you tell of a brute husband, who strikes you when you set the dial to this message, or of a mean, shiftless, know-it-all husband who repeats the old threadbare alibi that he does not go to church because there are too many hypocrites there, but who interrupts you every time he finds you in prayer; yet the Savior in His own way, in His better time, in His accepted place, will hear even the prayer of your heart, though it must remain unspoken by your lips. Everything else in life may change; the foundations upon which we have built our government and our social life may all be overthrown; yet neither time nor the uprising of a world against God can change this promise: “He heareth us,” provided we pray to Christ in the same faith which gave vision to this sightless pauper.

Listen to him as he prays, “Jesus, Thou Son of David,” and shows that he has found in Christ the Messiah of ageless and limitless mercy, the long-expected Sacrifice for all human sin! Listen to Jesus as He answers, “Thy faith hath saved thee,” and find in your own persona living, trusting faith the assurance of the same power which will make the blessed Savior halt to hear your needs. And when you, who can know more of Jesus than that blind Judean did, because you can see Christ captured, persecuted, beaten, crucified, dying, dead, and then,—thanks be to God!—resurrected for your salvation,—when you cry out: “O Jesus, Thou Son of David, my own Savior from sin, I come before Thee sightless, unable to find my way through life, doubly blind to the one pathway from sin to salvation, from the burdens of this earth to the glories of heaven. Yet I believe with all my soul that Thou canst remove my blindness; open my eyes to Thy full mercies; keep my faith centered on Thy cross, my vision always directed heavenward to Thee.” When you can pray this prayer, a heavenly vision will remove all earth’s gloom and darkness.

No sin of yours, however serious, can intervene between Christ’s mercy and your faith to exclude you from the Savior’s love. Even if you have blasphemed His holy name, if you have blackened your soul with the ugliest vices, Christ can give you the eyes of faith. The scales fell from the eyes of Saul as he hurried on an errand of hell to persecute the Christians, and ever since Christ’s greatest glory has been revealed in the depths of human sin.

Few lives have been filled with more depravity than the days of John Newton. By reading infidel books, he became a confirmed scoffer, hardened to a life of debauch and vice. He sank so low that he became the servant of a slave-trader in Africa where, half naked, half starved, half dead, he eked out his scum-of-the-earth existence. Through his father’s efforts he was released; and on the way back to England, when a terrifying storm arose and it seemed that the ship would sink, he turned to prayer. The ship was saved, only to have starvation threaten to destroy those whom the sea had spared. Then it was that John Newton, reading the New Testament, found—in his own words—“the pardon of my sins on account of the obedience and the sufferings of Jesus Christ.” Later, after he had become a powerful preacher of the saving Word and the author of many beloved hymns, he summarized the miracle of his conversion, the opening of his inner eyes, in the verse:

Amazing grace (how sweet the sound!)

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

One hundred years ago, far away in Burma, Adoniram Judson, missionary of Jesus Christ, bought the freedom and release of a fifty-year-old slave, Kho-Thah-Byu, a cold, vicious murderer, who had killed thirty men with his own hand. Judson took Kho-Thah-Byu into his home, taught him the same message of pardon, peace, and life through the blood of Jesus Christ that I try to bring you every week, and before long the blindness and darkness of sin were removed by the Gospel light. Kho-Thah-Byu was baptized; he became a torch-bearer for Christ in the black hinterland of Burma; and the fact that today there are 40,000 native Christians in this territory is to be ascribed almost wholly to the preaching of this converted killer, whose eyes were opened by Jesus.

No matter who you are, whether you are one of the army of those restrained in American prisons, whose letters have been particularly welcome to us, or whether you represent the intelligence and the genius of the nation, Christ is ready to endow you with this new vision of His divine redemption and the radiant life which it offers. Theodore Roosevelt says in his Autobiography that before his thirteenth year he had no idea how beautiful the world was, until his father provided glasses for him. In a much higher manner, once the defects of our spiritual sight are corrected, we receive a glorified vision, which changes everything. That light of faith far excels the penetrating power of the X-ray. It enables the redeemed of Christ to peer beneath the afflictions of life and discover loving grace. This week you told me about your baby that, the doctors say, will grow up with a sound body, but with a mind that can never pass the intelligence of a six-month infant; you wrote of a Christian father who after a series of reverses now faces the possibility of amputation; of a young mother who had nineteen operations in less than two years; of a convicted criminal doomed to the electric chair tomorrow. With the vision of faith that takes God at His word, you can pierce these and all other sufferings to find divine blessings, the marvelous ways of Him who “hath done all things well.” That new vision of faith can give you a clearer understanding of the minute and atomic factors in your life than any high-powered microscope; for in the smallest of all the unseen influences that surround your soul you can discover the direction of God. Eyes opened by faith will enable you to see farther than the projected supertelescope with its two-hundred-inch lens; for those eyes—even when they break in the last hour—can see what the martyr Stephen saw, far beyond the heavenly constellations: the open heavens and the Son of Man, the Savior, standing at the right hand of God.

“Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.” That was the herald cry which brought that blind and helpless sufferer to Christ. “Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.” May this be the summons of divine love that has drawn some of you, seemingly by chance, in blessed reality by the inscrutable guidance of God, to your radio and to this station and this message in this very moment!—Just as surely as Jesus moved resolutely along that Jericho road, He is now passing your soul. Who knows, if you pass Him by now, whether, with all this uncertainty of life, you will ever have Him so close again? Before He disappears, as this broadcast closes, will you not with all your heart cry out even before a world that may contradict or seek to restrain you: “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Pass me not, O gentle Savior; hear my humble cry!”? If that is your prayer, then, in the name of Jesus, it is my privilege to promise you that that self-giving Son of God will stop, as He once did on the Jericho road, look to you, and repeat the greatest blessings that men can ever know: “Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee.” O God, give us all this saving vision for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 20, 1938

Petition for a Blessed Eternity

God, our Father:

Thou art the Author, Preserver, Restorer of all life both on earth and in heaven. Humbly and contritely do we therefore pray Thee by the atoning merits of Jesus Christ, our Savior, that Thy Holy Spirit may help us detach our hopes and desires from this world, which must pass away, from this life, which must end, and take reverent time to consider our immortal souls, to prepare for a blessed eternity. Amid all the uncertainties of life nothing is more certain than this, that we all must die; but amid all promises of Thy mercy none is more positive than the pledge of Thy Son “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” So instruct us in Thy truth that we know the escape from death, the wages of sin, to eternal life, the glorious consequence of Christ’s sin-removing salvation. Bring us to that living Savior; keep us faithful to Him throughout all our journey here on earth, and in Thy good time, O gracious Father, take us, every one of us, home to Thee, to the mansions of hallowed joy prepared for us by the Savior, who died that we might have eternal life. Enlighten us all, so that we not only number our days and seek to strengthen our faith, but that we joyfully anticipate an eternity of bliss and glory with Thee, the Savior and the Spirit. Hear us, and help us live forever, for Thy name’s sake! Amen.

This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.John 17:3

GRATEFUL friends once planned to present Andrew Jackson with an imposing memorial. From the distant shores of the Old World they carefully brought a huge marble coffin that centuries before had held the remains of a mighty emperor; and it was their expressed intention that after President Jackson’s death his body should be laid to rest in that imperial sepulcher. In declining this impressive tribute, Andrew Jackson wrote: “I have prepared a humble depository for my mortal body beside that where lies my beloved wife, where, without pomp or parade, I have requested, when my God calls me to sleep with my fathers, to be laid, for both of us there to remain until the last trumpet sounds to call the dead to Judgment, when we, I hope, shall rise together, clothed with that heavenly body promised to all who believe in our glorious Redeemer, who died for us that we might live and by whose atonement I hope for a blessed immortality.”

Was Andrew Jackson right? Did Christ die that he might live? Will that “blessed immortality” await him and his wife, though their moldering remains lie humbly buried in that quiet Southern garden at the Hermitage? Or are those right who scoff at every mention of an existence beyond the grave, who have words of taunt chiseled into their tombstones, whose ashes are strewn over land or lake to ridicule the possibility of bodily resurrection? Are those preachers in the Christless, creedless churches right who, instead of speaking a word of assurance to lives overshadowed by death, offer only cold, cheerless question-marks or at best refer vaguely to a survival of our personality, whatever and however that may be? Do those instructors of our American youth speak the truth who deny all real, personal existence after the decay of the body? Forty-five years ago Harvard University was bequeathed $5,000 to pay for regular lectures on the immortality of man; but most of the speakers, well paid for their dissent, have seriously questioned or deliberately denied the life to come. So I repeat: Is there an eternity, or do men die like dogs?

We must recognize in the conflict of this alternative the supreme question of all destiny. We have only one life to live, and how short, shallow, disappointing, it often proves to be! Only a few years with their clouds and sunshine, their sins and sorrows, their faltering and failure, and then—often without any warning—the last, the fatal moment, when you and I, our eyes closed forever to this earth, our lips sealed, our hearts stopped, our breath vanished, are left in the motionless silence of death! And what then? Is the grave our gloomy goal and decay our inescapable destiny?

Some of you may find this subject unpleasant, for we dislike to think of death. It is mentioned as a vague uncertainty; yet nothing is more definite and certain for every one of us! We regard our last hour as immeasurably distant, when, in this very moment, it may overshadow some in this audience, and all of us today are a week closer to our end than when I last spoke to you.

Too often we have little interest in eternity. Many are totally unprepared to face death. We have elaborate finishing-schools, teaching the grace and the charm of life, expensive technical schools dedicated to the increase of comforts, highly endowed cultural schools, that emphasize the intellectual treasures of life; but where outside the Church and in moments of overpowering peril is any serious thought accorded the question of eternity? We try to learn how to live with ease and security, comfort and profit, enjoyment and satisfaction; but how many take time to prepare themselves for death, to learn how to die in peace and joy? Consequently grasping materialism, the eat-drink-and-be-merry delusion has seized millions; for if the grave ends all, if there is no Judgment in the next life for the earthly wrongs, no compensations for present sufferings, then away with restraint! Banish all decency! Choke off all purity! Destroy all sympathy! Live dangerously and deliriously, selfishly, sensually!—That delusion was never so prevalent in America as in this hour.

Let us raise a mighty protest dear across the continent as ten thousands of you join me in asserting our faith in these last words of the Apostles’ Creed:

“I BELIEVE IN . . . THE LIFE EVERLASTING”

We find the basis of this faith, the assurance of eternity, in the promise of our glorious Savior Himself (Saint John 17:3): “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

I

ETERNITY ASSURED BY CHRIST’S PROMISE

It was a sacred moment when Jesus spoke these words. His hour, the deliverance for which the past centuries had dawned, was at hand! Before the sun set on another day, He would be nailed to the cross, His holy head would drop into death. During this last night of His earthly life, in preparation for that ordeal, He strengthens Himself and His disciples through the sacred, heart-revealing, high­priestly intercession, preserved in this seventeenth chapter of Saint John; and the first divine promise in His valedictory prayer is this guarantee of a glorious eternity: “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

Today, too, if you would have a practical answer to this age-old question, “What lies beyond the grave?” you must go—not to the scientist; for the most painstaking biologist can neither prove nor disprove the resurrection of the body. You must ask—not the philosophers, who can offer only conflicting theories, that leave the soul bewildered. You must consult—not the Spiritists, the frauds and charlatans who have caused so much heartache that I appeal to all of you as citizens to see that the laws in your community regarding fortune-telling, mediums, and Spiritists’ seances are strictly enforced. For the one true answer to this universal question, “After death, what?” you need more than the naturalists’ pretty pictures of the seed that decays in the ground only to sprout forth in new life, of the lily bulb that is buried in the dark ooze of the pond only to push its way into the light of new life and beauty, of the warm, pulsating spring that comes after the cold death of winter; for when life flickers in its last fitful flames, you need more than pictures and symbols. You must have immovable assurance!

For that confidence, let there be no doubt or misunderstanding; we must approach Christ and declare, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life!” It has been well said that history has seen many religious teachers but only one who has said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I carry that thought farther and say that there are many religious creeds but only one which can offer eternity—our faith in Christ.

When Christ tells us today: “This is life eternal,” no question-marks lurk behind these promises. His pledge is no guess or wish-thinking. You can trust Jesus and build on His Word. Every year I ask whether Christ’s blessed promises have ever failed in the life of any one within the range of this broadcast; and though many have poisoned their minds toward the Lord Jesus, I have never received a single genuine statement declaring that Christ has not kept His word. When Jesus says, “This is life eternal,” believe it, trust it, and rejoice in it. You may doubt the promises of statesmen as you continue to witness war and class hatred, unemployment and poverty, suffering throughout the world; you may question the pronouncements of scientists as new findings prepare to overthrow previously accepted teachings. Some of you may doubt the words of your fellow-men, your friends, or, in the deepest depths of human unfaithfulness, the sincerity of those to whom you are pledged for life, as infidelity and broken promises drop to new depths; but in Christ you have God’s own assurance, His word, “This is life eternal,” which shall endure though heaven and earth pass away, to give us the inner conviction that, though we die, yet in Christ we shall live again, that you and I are more than highly developed animals, our lives more than series of accidents, our bodies more than the toys of a whimsical fate, our hopes more than bubbles on the froth of life, our destiny more than eternal discard on the rubbish heaps of time, that through Christ, though we die, yet shall we live.

Should there be any reasonable doubt that the omnipotence of Almighty God can prepare this “life eternal” for us? Do not the marvels of His creation suggest the power to recreate us in a new and blessed existence? Cannot He who made the unmeasured heavens with the gleam of billions of stars, whose word of divine command brought forth the mysterious planets with their vast distances,—Mars 141,701,000 miles from the sun and Neptune more than 2,700,000,000 miles? Cannot that omnipotent Ruler of a universe in which all these heavenly bodies around our earth include but a fraction of the sweep of all space resurrect our bodies into the glories of that heavenly life which Christ promises us?

More vital even than our heavenly Father’s power to revive and restore is the assurance of His divine love for all men, ungrateful, insincere, selfish, and sinful as they are. Distrusting minds demand proof that the Almighty wants to quicken dead bodies and enrich men with eternity. That proof is granted us only, but completely, by Jesus Christ. Why did that royal Redeemer of the race take upon Himself the form of a man, humble Himself to the death on the cross? Merely to show us how to overcome our difficulties, to leave an example of self-sacrifice, in the first instance to make this world a better place in which to live, to help promote international, interclass, intercreed peace? Did Jesus come to prove Himself a Reformer or Superstatesman,—only to give us the Golden Rule or a new code of lofty principles? Infinitely higher than all this is the one paramount objective of His Savior-love, our redemption from sin and death for everlasting life. Why did Jesus hang on the cross at Calvary? Keep this golden climax truth safely enshrined in your faith as you repeat with me that simple but blessed summary of the Gospel: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE”! He came to atone for sins and, with sin forgiven, to break the power of death. Why was Jesus resurrected from His rock-hewn grave on the third day, and why, after this mighty Easter miracle, did He appear in His resurrection body to various witnesses, as many as five hundred in one group? Was it not to speak this radiant promise into our fearsome souls, “Because I live, ye shall live also”?

How can we express the brilliance and splendor of this “life eternal”? No words in any language, no rhetoric of any oratory, no powers of imagery in any art, can do justice to the heavenly homeland. Eternity is beyond the scope of our understanding, just as it exceeds our powers of description. Yet if we study carefully those Scripture pictures of our “Father’s house,” in the “better country,” we are impressed by the fact that the sacred writers, exhausting the resources of language, employ the imagery of earthly beauty: gold, crystal, sapphire, amethyst, pearls, to picture heaven as the Kingdom of Glory, that “eye hath not seen nor ear heard,” where “we shall see Him,” no longer bleeding and buffeted, crucified and killed, but enthroned at the right hand of the Father forever in majesty and glory. Heaven, with no sinful thoughts and impulses; heaven with no tears nor trials, no sickness nor sorrow; no hunger nor thirst; no pain nor sleeplessness; no weary bodies, weary hearts, weary minds, weary souls, no worries nor cares, no partings nor farewells, no death nor burial; heaven, with joy forever and not a trace of disappointment, with everlasting peace and not an enemy to oppose us, with never-failing light and not a moment of the deep shadows and darkness that have fallen over many lives; heaven, with “a great multitude . . . of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues . . . before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands,” crying: “Salvation to our God . . . and unto the Lamb”; heaven, with the hosts of saints and blood-washed sinners, the great company of Christian martyrs, our godly fathers and mothers who may have gone before us and our children who may come after us; heaven, where above all we shall be with God the Father, who created us, His Son, who redeemed us, the Holy Spirit, who sanctified and preserved us;—that eternal life in heaven Jesus offers you!

Listen to these words again: “This IS life eternal.” The Savior does not say: “This will be life eternal.” He does not promise: “I am going to be the Resurrection and the Life.” His clear “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” tells us that, once we are His, from the first moment of our faith, we have “life eternal.” Jesus means exactly what He says when He promises, “If any man keep My saying, He shall never see death.” With Christ you live in eternity now, and when your frail, disease-ridden, torn, mangled body is paralyzed into motionless silence, your soul lives on. What men fear as death to the Christian becomes simply the instantaneous transition from one phase of existence into another, inexpressibly happier life. Contrast the dying hours of scoffers and of Christians; you will see that, while the last moments of unbelievers are often marked by groaning, shrieking, cursing, as proud scoffers chatter in fear and toss violently on their deathbeds under the whip of their consciences, recoiling in terror from the torture of hell, on the other hand, Christian martyrs, young and old, have marched into death with a prayer of thanksgiving in their hearts and a doxology on their lips; Christian leaders in their last hours have comforted and sustained those around them and declared in the words of an English author: “See how easy it is for a Christian to die!” Nor is this peace and calm serenity restricted to the age of martyrs and the bygone days of a simpler life. I have seen it myself, on that unforgettable day when we knelt at the bedside of my own father; having spoken his final blessing and prayed his last prayer for pardon through the cleansing blood of Christ and for faithfulness to the end, he closed his eyes with a glorified smile and the impress of heavenly joy. From the tuberculosis sanitarium erected at Wheat Ridge, Colorado, by the young people of my Church for the healing of body and soul, a young patient has just written me: “My next door neighbor is slowly slipping away from us. But how beautiful is her leave-taking! She wants to hear just Jesus’ words. ‘Please read me Jesus’ words,’ she asks the pastor. She lies there patiently, talking to her Savior, willing and eager to take His hand for that last pilgrimage. Formerly she was restless and afraid; she could not understand why she should have to suffer. Now—with Christ—all is peaceful. She is happy, and all her fears are calmed. She hopes that she will live to hear your next broadcast,” the message of today. If out there on that Colorado plateau the soul of this sufferer clinging to Christ still lingers on earth, I point her as well as all of you who write me that your days likewise are numbered to the blessed words of Jesus, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”[1]

In this way we can find an intensely practical, everyday comfort and strength in the Christian creed: “I believe in . . . the life everlasting.” Under the light of that conviction we cannot view the barriers of the sharp and repeated adversities as obstacles that bar all happiness in life. With our eyes trained beyond the haze of this world to the clear light of heavenly homeland, these disappointments fade into nothingness, and we understand why Saint Paul, beaten, stoned, man-hunted, shipwrecked, opposed, ridiculed, imprisoned, could survey all the sorrows of life, the hatred of men turned to brutes, the unfairness and injustice that roared down upon his defenseless life, and still exult: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

I never knew how widespread the anguish of life was until I could speak to you from coast to coast, and your letters poured in, with thousands of you, each in different shades and lines, drawing the picture of your sorrow, your bereavement, the pain that crushes the peace out of your hearts. Our age is weighted heavily with many sorrows; and I appeal to every true minister of the full Gospel of Jesus Christ who may hear these words to realize fully that the Church’s great commission is found in God’s command: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people,” through the Gospel promise of eternal life—and not through any of the catch-the-people, arouse-the-mob, entertain-the-masses programs in the political, social, materially minded, Christ­denying, Bible-ridiculing pulpits of the day. Before us loom sinister warnings. Newspaper editors now comment on the next war as a foregone conclusion. The rich are still becoming richer and the poor poorer in our diseased social structure and fatal concentration of wealth. The forgetting of God, the neglect of His Word, the blaspheming of His sacred name, the constant fracture of all His holy Ten Commandments, the apostasy in American pulpits, and the far greater masses without the churches than within them,—surely these are all symptoms of disaster, unless the almighty God mercifully intervenes to save us from ourselves. Where can we find unquestioned assurance? Where indeed if not in the faith which teaches us that, no matter what the turns of time may bring, this life,—fill it to the overflowing with sin and sorrow, suffering and disease, poverty and failure,—through Christ, and through Him alone, can become merely the short span of preparation for a glorious eternity, only the narrow corridor by which we pass into the majesty of heaven, the scaffolding that death removes to reveal the glory of eternal life.

II

ETERNITY ATTAINED THROUGH CHRIST’S GRACE

Now comes the most magnificent part of God’s mercy, the grace by which you and I, every one of us, can reach eternal life. If in His wisdom God had decreed that to enter heaven we should have to relinquish every penny that is ours, work with all the power within us, endure the deepest hardships and the most cutting denials, this would be a small price to pay for forgiveness and eternity with Jesus. If the God of all justice had decreed that we should suffer for every sinful thought, every wicked word, every unholy act, that mars our lives, we could not complain, and we would be ready to suffer if only beyond the pangs of punishment we could discern the gleams of everlasting life. Yet—praise and glory be to His endless mercies!—the eternity which we cannot buy or earn, the heaven which no man can secure for us, the everlasting life from which our sins bar us, is granted to every one by the sin-removing Savior’s promise “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

“What a narrow creed!” some of you say when these words plainly imply that the life everlasting is granted only by the God of the Bible and not by any of these vague, supposedly modern, yet actually ancient pictures of God as a Power or an Influence, as a distant Deity who smiles benignly upon the human race in its sins. “What a narrow creed!” some of you repeat when the words of the Savior state that we can know the Father only through the one Messenger of Love whom He has sent, Jesus Christ. “Let it be narrow,” we answer; “for it is the teaching of the Lord that ‘no man cometh unto the Father but by Me’; ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’” But how all­comprehensive, how worldwide, how ageless, this blessing becomes when you contemplate it with the eye of faith and understand that Jesus offers to all men in all ages and in all places, white men and black, red men and yellow, the full blessings of eternity in this life and the next, and that this glorious promise of complete grace requires only that we know God in Christ! In comparison with this truth every human, earth-bound creed shrivels in its own narrowness.

To know God in Christ, to believe the love of our heavenly Father and the self-giving devotion of Jesus on Calvary, bearing sins that we could not bear, suffering the punishment and the pain that were ours; to know God in Christ, to accept all this mercy, to raise the eyes of faith to Jesus and pray: “‘Lord, I believe,’ that Thou art my God, my Savior, the Sovereign of my soul; to know God in Christ and to trust that Savior through all the dark and cloudy days, to build your hope resolutely on that promise of His merciful direction of your lives even though you cannot understand the divine ways,—that knowledge of God in Christ, that acceptance of God in Christ, that trust of God in Christ, is Heaven’s own seal of assurance upon your promise of eternal life.

I plead with you not to thrust this promise of mercy aside and think that death will await your readiness. How old are you? Twenty years? Have you ever read the telltale figures which reveal the startling number of accidents and the sudden end which overtakes particularly young people, causing more deaths annually in the one State of Illinois, for example, than the total losses of the Union and Confederate armies in the great battle of the Civil War? How old are you? Fifty years? Remember that with all the exaggerated claims for the lengthened span of life you have attained the average number of years. How old are you? Eighty? You have already exceeded by a decade the threescore-and-ten mark, and your life is ebbing fast away. Now is the time to make your peace with your heavenly Father, to prepare for eternity, to tell the world, “I know God, ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ,’ whom He has sent.”

When in the great day of our Lord’s appearing, His second coming to judge the quick and the dead, we stand before the throne of the Lamb, my friends, I want to find all of you, the thousands whom I will probably never meet here on earth, now spread across tens of thousands of cities, towns, villages, and isolated outposts across the continent,—there in that eternal rejoicing. What can we do to help bring you to the Christ of eternal life? Write us if you are without Christ and without the Church, so that we can pray for you, plead personally with you, or send one of the great army of pastors and missionaries who preach the same God and the same Christ, the same hope of everlasting life, that I try to bring you. Let us send you literature with this promise of everlasting life, so that in the most important study you have ever given to any subject you can read it yourself, read it to your children, read it to some near relative or friend who through unbelief or rejection of Christ may be excluding himself from these unspeakable blessings.

If you know of any opportunity for missionary work, any unchurched areas that ought to have regular Gospel­preaching, any empty churches to be rededicated to this living, glorious Gospel, any group of believers that yearns for the dear, uncompromising preaching of the crucified Savior, any hospitals or institutions that want the services of a Christian pastor, any groping souls that have no spiritual guidance and that need Christian help, please give us the privilege of helping in this joyous work that causes rejoicing even among the holy angels. God has been gracious to us in the past, so that we have definite records of several hundreds who have been brought to their Savior through these broadcasts. Will you not help in the various ways at your disposal to spread Christ’s invitation of grace?

May God strengthen us to work with increased vigor and blessings, so that we may all in His good time, by the grace of His Son, stand with the white-robed throng in eternity and declare not only: “I believe in . . . the life everlasting,” but, clinging to Jesus, say: “I have the life everlasting.” O God, grant this to us for the sake of Him who is our Resurrection and our Life, even Jesus, our ever-living Lord! Amen.


[1] This radiant sufferer went home to her Savior in the early morning hours before the broadcast.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 13, 1938

Prayer for Pardon and Strength

God of all comfort and compassion:

Our faith looks confidently to Thee, beseeching Thy goodness in the name of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Savior, not for creature comforts, wealth, and a frictionless life, not even for the removal of adversities if they, stifling our pride, help to keep us close to Thee. Instead, we implore Thee, dear Lord, by the promise of Thy merciful Son: Enter not into judgment with Thy servants, but grant us pardon through the all-sufficient grace of the Lord Jesus. We remember with sadness that we have repeatedly yielded to degrading impulses; that instead of overcoming sin, we have been overcome by its seduction; that we have often chosen selfish ease and preferred unholy ambitions. In the misery of our guilt we turn to Thee and plead: O Father, pity us! Forgive us for Jesus’ sake! Create clean hearts and renew a right spirit within us. Deliver our souls from the bondage of unchaste desires, turn our thoughts from the sinful pleasures that war against our happiness, remove all insincerity and doubleness of heart! Thus strengthened by Thy Spirit, supported by Thy guiding Word and Sacraments, reinforced by answered prayers, let us live in self-forgetting service to Thee and our neighbors, building every hope on the immovable foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we have come before Thee! Amen.

My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.2 Corinthians 12:9

LAST week a Pennsylvania listener wrote an unsigned letter of protest. “Why don’t you forget the bleeding Christ?” he demanded. “It’s always the blood, the blood, the blood. Give us something besides your childish faith and hopeless superstition to meet practical needs.”

Ordinarily we pay no attention to unsigned letters; for the man who hides behind anonymity has a rodent mind. Like the rat he works in the dark and flees the light. This nameless letter, like most of its kind, bristled with vulgarities; for the farther people turn from Christ, the more nasty their thoughts and repulsive their words. However, since this unnamed Pennsylvanian, in denying that Christ offers help for the needs of our disquieted day, speaks the mind of sixty, seventy, eighty million people in this country who are without Christ or against Christ, I want to answer these charges.

Now, we could challenge those who sneer at Jesus by demanding: “Where can you find any practical help without Christ or against His Word?” We might ask these self-confident individuals who think that they know much more than the ageless, deathless truth of Scripture to produce a single ray of promise for the murk and fog in which millions are groping. The years that have witnessed the most notable social and scientific advance in our history see more broken hearts, wrecked lives, souls in turmoil and anguish than any other age.

Instead of issuing these counter-challenges, we formally serve notice that this broadcast will continue to proclaim Christ, and Him crucified. With this resolution we stand in good company. We are shoulder to shoulder with Paul of Tarsus, who answered the unbelief of his day by saying: “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” We stand side by side with Martin Luther, who never began nor concluded a day in his life, a sermon in his pulpit, a page in his voluminous writings, without committing himself to Christ and without testifying to the cross and the blood. We march together abreast with thousands of Christian preachers in this country to whom we express our deep-seated gratitude for their ringing testimony to the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.

With the apostle we repeat the pledge, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Before that message of the redeeming blood and the atoning death is hushed, compromised, side-tracked, let the towers high above this campus be pulled down, let this station be destroyed, let our lips be sealed forever. Only in loyalty to Christ—and I mean the true, Scriptural Christ, the Savior of the cleansing blood and the life-giving death—can we find any satisfying answer to the perplexities that today rush in to overpower us. While the blessings of Christ center in the eternity of heaven; while Christ is first of all concerned about our souls and their salvation, He also brings the practical, everyday help which many of you have vainly sought elsewhere. Speaking to those who ask: “What can your Christ give us for our discouragement and distress?” I answer:

“PLENTEOUS GRACE”

We find that promise in these words of the Savior to Saint Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9): “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

I

THE BLESSINGS OF CHRIST’S PLENTEOUS GRACE

This promise was given in a moment of great anguish, when the distracted apostle suffered in soul and in body from the thorn in his flesh. Whatever the much-discussed affliction was, malaria, as it seems to me, or eye trouble, epilepsy, or even more devastating diseases, as others have concluded, Saint Paul turned to Christ, beseeching Him that this thorn, ripping and tearing his peace, might be removed. Three times he besought his Lord, just as the Savior Himself had prayed thrice in the Garden: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Yet as Christ was to drink the cup of His suffering to the dregs of death, so Saint Paul’s affliction was to continue; the thorn was not to be removed; he was to live in perpetual pain.

In this continuance of His suffering we find what often seems the hardest part of Christianity. It does not do just what people want, when they want it, and in the way they want it. That is the trouble with prayer, we are told. You need God’s help, you beseech Him on bended knees; but the thorn in your flesh remains. That is the trouble with Christ, they tell us. You expect Him to say “Yes,” and He says “No.” You ask for light, but you are kept in darkness. You go to Christ for money, and you sometimes lose even the little you have.

Many of you are torn by a thorn in your flesh. It need not be the cutting spines of sickness, although there is plenty of that in our homes, with patients bedfast thirty­five, forty, forty-five years, with sufferers who have undergone twenty-three operations, with broken limbs that refuse to mend, raging fevers that will not subside, greedy diseases that consume your flesh and bones. Your thorn in the flesh may be a bleeding mind, torn by quarrel and hatred, broken peace in your home, blasted ambitions in your life. Your thorn in the flesh may be the suffering that in this day of controlled production and lavish overproduction keeps 40,000,000 of our fellow-countrymen perilously poised over the chasm of complete poverty and destitution, without enough to live properly, to clothe themselves adequately, to eat the right kind of food, and to sleep in the right kind of houses. And now comes the factor in our faith that short-sighted human vision cannot see nor our limited intellect understand. Sometimes when you approach God with your sorrows it seems as though Jesus never hears your prayer and that the thorn pierces even more deeply.

It would be much easier and certainly more attractive for this broadcast to join the imposing parade of those who in the name of religion promise everything but give nothing. I have before me the prospectus of a new cult in California. It offers to answer your dreams and ambitions for health, more poise and culture, success in your work, relief from the afflictions of life. All that one must do is check the items in this catalog of your wishes, and when you pay the prescribed fee, this new cult will tell you how your dreams may be fulfilled. In the same way widely applauded churchmen, forsaking their spiritual calling, furnishing financial graphs to their listeners instead of the Bible, the one chart of our faith and life, again promise to save us and our country by regulating money, controlling dollars, altering the Federal Reserve System, and financing us into new happiness. It is all a hopeless, dangerous delusion. When these schemes fail, as they always have and always will, a mass of discouraged men and women is left who have been robbed of their trust in God, since these promises were made in the name of Christ’s religion. Even if the glib, eloquent, enticing apostles of rosy optimism could carry through their program, how would the sorrows of a sick body, wounded heart, distressed soul, be removed by changes in our money standards or cured by legislative programs? I cannot sufficiently emphasize this foundation truth of Christian faith: Jesus Christ never issued, or authorized His followers to issue, any manifesto promising that He will remove the thorn in our flesh. Since the sharp crowns of death cut into His own “bleeding head and wounded”; since He told us that “the disciple is not above his Master”; “if they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”; since the summons into His kingdom is still accompanied by the demand “Take up thy cross and follow Me”; since His words before Pilate still ring clear after nineteen centuries: “My kingdom is not of this world,” how can we, without becoming disloyal to every principle of Christ’s faith, use this network to tantalize and betray the sufferers in this age of thorn-bearing by promising that Christ will painlessly extract the thorns scratching through their flesh and to their very souls?

While the thorns remain, Christ, great and good God that He is, does so much more than remove these sorrows that I never feel my own inadequacy as keenly as when I stand here and try to describe the healing, life-giving, hope-restoring, joy-sustaining power that comes with faith in Jesus. That Savior told the Apostle in effect: “Paul, don’t worry about the thorn; don’t be distracted by the pain that prods you incessantly. For I have something so glorious that you can forget your bleeding heart and body. I give you My grace, and ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ If you have My grace, nothing else is decisive in life; all problems are solved; all burdens lightened.”

How we thank God that it is given to us to repeat for questioning, discouraged men and women across the broad reaches of America this saving pronouncement of Christ: “My grace is sufficient” for you, for every one who comes to that Christ for forgiveness. As we ask the Holy Spirit of God to implant this pledge from Jesus’ own lips on your heart, stop to think of the indescribable riches involved in the short, much-used but often misunderstood word “grace.” You can find fifteen definitions for this word in your dictionaries, but when you speak of Jesus Christ and His grace, only one all-inclusive meaning remains: the unmerited love of that Savior for us despite our sinful hearts and lives; the unending devotion that existed before the foundation of the world and that will exist undiminished after this earth crumbles to pieces; the immeasurable compassion which brought Jesus from the realms of glory and the adoration of the angels to this vice-bound earth so that He might take my place and yours and, bearing our sins in His holy and sinless body, bring us back to God and bless us with the sure seal of our salvation. This grace of Christ is not a friendly interest, a condescending smile, a tolerant overlooking of human faults and frailties; it is the mightiest power in heaven and earth—the grace of His human birth, the grace of His life of love and service, the grace of His suffering, wounding, bleeding, dying, the grace that promises our souls everything, yet for our salvation demands nothing, that is all Christ’s and in no part ours.

Once you have this mercy, you know that the God who loved you and who spared not His own Son will watch over your life every minute that you live, always directing your destiny to high and holy ends. His mercy may permit that thorn to remain in your flesh,—for just as the apostle was not relieved of suffering so that he might be kept humble and untainted by self-glory and the delusion of his own importance, so God lets some of us stagger along the road of suffering to make us retain the sense of our own weakness and our dependence upon Him, to help us turn a stern face from self-applause and all thoughts of our own righteousness.

For a dozen other reasons the painful thorn may continue to lacerate you. How many have not found Christ while on their sickbeds! On New Year’s Day of this year, in the leper colony of Culion, Philippine Islands, a victim of that most loathsome disease rose to say: “I thank God Almighty for having made me a leper because in this place I found my Lord and my Redeemer. I have tried to find joy, peace, and contentment from what the world has to offer, but all ended in bitter disappointment. In Jesus I have found my salvation and real contentment.” How many there are in this audience who, when they had money and friends in the warm and reassuring days of prosperity thought that they did not need Christ, but who learned to bow before Him in the dark and bitter days! How many who, had their prayers for material gain been answered, would have joined the army of scoffers, boasting as David once did, “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.”

Repeat this verse with me now: “My grace is sufficient for thee,” and believe, in spite of all unholy denials, that this blood-sealed grace is sufficient for all of us with all our sins, with all our sorrows. If you have nothing else in life; if you are destitute, sick, friendless, once Christ is yours in contrite, trusting, victorious faith, His grace is so penetrating, His companionship so unmistakable, that you will never be alone. With Him at your side who promised, “I am with you alway,” you can forget the numb, aching pain that besieges your heart and overshadows your life. If you need comfort when the doctor shakes his head, turn to the heavenly Physician! He may or He may not heal your disease-ridden body; but His all-sufficient grace will restore your soul. If you in the dust-bowl of our great Southwest, seeing the topsoil blown away from your farmlands, are filled with dread foreboding that you may be entering another year of drought, crop failure, and dust-storms, let Christ say to your hearts, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” and know that Jesus may or may not (whichever is better for you) give you a bounteous harvest this year, but that above all uncertainty His glorious grace will guard your precious soul,—the priceless treasure which will live in endless eternity after this body falls victim to the gruesomeness of the grave.

Particularly if you are troubled by sin,—and I mean the personal and private wrongs that disturb and distress you daily as they continually lash your conscience,—remember the promise of plenteous grace. No sin is ever so degrading and repulsive that it cannot be removed by the mercy of God in Jesus. Christ forgave the disloyalty of Peter when that unfaithful disciple cursed and denied Him; and today He will forgive those of you who once were His but who turned away in unbelief and ingratitude. That boundless grace pleaded on the cross, “Father, forgive them,” just as Jesus, our High Priest, will plead before the throne of eternal justice for you who by your sins and godlessness are crucifying Him anew, if only, as you hear Him call, you will come to Him in faith. That limitless love would have forgiven Judas had he sought pardon in repentance and faith. Oh, may none of you think that you are excluded, that you have sinned too often and too much, too grievously and too blasphemously, to be blessed through contrite trust in Christ. There are millions of acres beneath our feet on which all the sons of men can live and move. Our shores are washed by mighty oceans with endless seas and unplumbed depths. Above us are the vast reservoirs of the atmosphere, with air in overabundance for man and beast. Yet in comparison with the grace of Christ these pictures of land and sea and air, as limitless as they seem to us, pale into microscopic puniness. Greater than the sun or the superstars in our heaven, wider than the immeasurable reaches of the universe, with its uncounted galaxies, more inexhaustible even than endless eternity, is the mercy of Christ, assuring those who are His that for the problems of this life and especially the next “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

II

THE STRENGTH OF THIS PLENTEOUS GRACE

That grace shows its power in strengthening lives that are built on Christ. Jesus gave Saint Paul the added assurance, “My strength is made perfect in weakness”; and with that pledge the apostle, still bearing the thorn in his flesh, exulted, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

To the human mind all this is a hopeless contradiction. In a day when, it seems, almost every week brings us a new dictator; when the hue and cry is for more military sea and air power, American churches must pay more attention to spiritual unpreparedness than to naval ratios, for millions of Americans are not ready for suffering. Lacking all religious foundation, they could never endure the rigors and privations that have engulfed European nations.

There may be dread days before us in which our country will be tried as never previously. This is not pessimism; for conservative statesmen have expressed this fear. If the world must pay for its sin, must we not pay our part? Is there any reason this nation should be exempted from the suffering and trials that others have experienced? Is America morally better than other nations today? In a superior court of the Chicago district a chief justice recently announced, after dropping hundreds of inactive divorce cases, that his court would have to hear 150 cases a day on a docket that ultimately would reach 15,000 trials for that area alone, a figure paralleled only by atheistic Russia. Is the crime record of the United States any better than that of other civilized nations? Our Department of Justice in Washington admits that we have proportionately twice as many murders as Great Britain. Who can face these facts without realizing that bitter, bleeding days may come upon us?

Even if all these calamities are averted; if our statesmen could plan and control the yield of our farms and orchards; if they could secure for us an ever normal supply of food and a permanently profitable price for our commodities; if capital and labor could join hands in cooperation instead of competition, all this could never answer the soul problems of our lives and solve those difficulties for which there is no human solution—the discouragement of sin, the distress of adversity. It is the glory of the Christian creed, on the other hand, that, while it does not offer ease, wealth, comfort, success, popularity, culture, exemption from life’s paralyzing hardships, Christ’s strength, made perfect in weakness, grants us the power to meet and defeat adversities, to find spiritual advantage in affliction.

Once you are Christ’s, your weakness, your disavowal of all power or ability in yourself, and your complete trust in Jesus proves to you how unlimited is God’s power. When we are nothing, when we empty ourselves of our pride and pretenses, then, through faith, Christ becomes everything and fills us with His grace, His glory, and the strength that can overcome all opposition as completely as a glacier pushes a pebble in its path.

On the campus of our Seminary the students have helped build a replica of the log-cabin seminary erected one hundred years ago by the Saxon pilgrim fathers of my Church. Exiling themselves from their homeland to worship God according to His Word and their Christian conscience in the New World, they were warned that there was no room on the North American Continent for the Christ and the Cross they preached; but God mightily proved His promise “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” That humble log cabin, a symbol of human weakness, developed, under God, into our present theological seminary, one of the largest of any denomination in the United States. It has a teaching staff of men who believe in the same Christ that I bring to you, with thousands of graduates throughout the United States living and working for the same Savior, all ready to help you come closer to that Jesus who works mightily in our weakness. Should not this graphic demonstration of divine power be a mighty challenge for all you messengers of the Word to preach Christ and the fulness of His grace? Even though you work in weakness, in small, unnoticed buildings, off the main street, with unapplauded loyalty, Christ can mightily bless your testimony.

Four hundred years ago, under the reign of Bloody Mary, John Hooper, bishop of Gloucester, England, was led to the stake because he had adhered loyally to Christ. When he mounted the faggots, his executioners brought iron chains and would have fastened him to the stake to prevent his running away when the flames would leap high to blacken his body. With heavenly heroism John Hooper told the soldiers, “God will give me power and strength to remain in the midst of the flames without these iron fetters. For although I am only weak and human, I trust in the Savior, who told me, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” If you have burned a finger, a hand, or an arm, think of that martyr for Christ, standing unshaken in the midst of those excruciating flames, strengthened in his weakness by the powerful grace of Christ, and praying confidently, “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me.” Think by contrast of the cowardice and suicide that makes a man of wealth destroy his life because a popcorn machine refuses to function. You want the faith of Bishop Hooper, do you not, the faith that leads us with all our weakness to the Christ of heavenly strength?

Because our young people especially face this problematic future, in which the greatest need is not human strength but Christ’s power “made perfect in weakness,” I appeal to the youth of the land, especially our Christian college students, who have unusual opportunities, under God, to exert a far greater influence than they may believe. At the beginning of the last century, as a consequence of fashionable unbelief in American intellectual life, only five students at Yale professed to be Christians; the rest glorified atheism and unbelief, calling each other “Voltaire,” “Rousseau,” and by other names of brazen infidels. Two years later, in 1802, a revival swept over Yale, and one third of the students were converted to Christ and one half of this group entered the ministry. Similar occurrences shook other schools, and the awakening spread from the colleges throughout the countryside. If only in these critical years the spirit of God will awaken in our universities leaders and trained minds that know and accept the message of the cleansing blood with its mighty power perfected in human weakness! If only we would take God at His word and all of us find in His grace the all-sufficient answer to our questions, the solution to our difficulties!

Yesterday’s anniversary reminded us that Abraham Lincoln, splitting rails in the backwoods of Illinois, is human weakness; but Abraham Lincoln as the President of the United States, molding the history of human freedom, declaring: “I am right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God,” is Christ’s strength perfected in that weakness. That power can be operative in your heart and life, so that without money, without great educational advantages, without far-reaching influence, you may be used mightily for the high purposes of our heavenly Father.

May God turn our hearts day by day in increasing love to the comfort, strength, peace, and usefulness that is ours when, kneeling in faith before Christ, He pledges us, as He now promises every one of you who come to Him: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” God grant it for the Savior’s sake! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 6, 1938

Prayer for Closeness to Christ

O Christ, our royal Redeemer:

We must have Thee close to us, enthroned in the shrine of our souls, so that we may be cleansed from our sins, absolved from our iniquities, filled with an abhorrence of evil, strengthened for the true Christian walk of life. Thou art not a God who is afar off, for Thou art near us in Word and Sacrament. Help us so that we may know how eagerly Thou wouldst take our hands and guide us over life’s rough ways. We have no hope without Thee, no comfort beside Thee; yet trusting the purifying power of Thy blood, we are unspeakably blessed. As we behold Thy cross, may Thy Spirit enrich our hearts with the conviction that our blood-sealed salvation is assured eternally; that, as Thy redeemed, we are under Thy protection every moment we live; that Thy gracious will toward us is always for our best, even though in our obstructed vision we cannot discern Thy higher ways and holy thoughts. Bring many throughout this land and beyond its confines close to Thee. Brighten dark hearts, strengthen weary lives, heal bruised spirits, cheer lonely souls, by removing sins and then showing Thyself the Companion who art closer than a brother. O Thou who with the Father and the Spirit livest and reignest eternally, reign now within our hearts and hear us, as Thou hast promised! Amen.

The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.1 John 1:7

THE text for this afternoon is one of the brightest of all the gleaming, golden promises in the eternal Book of God, a pledge that has miraculously changed many lives. John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, printed in more copies than any other book except the Bible, prayed this precious truth as he walked along an English lane, his soul burdened by his sins; and hardly had this blessed assurance flashed through his soul when he realized that all his sins and sorrows, in comparison with the saving grace of Jesus Christ, were but as a pebble to the vast sweep of the wide meadows before him. God grant that, when this message of love is broadcast to you, many staggering down the highways of life, distracted by soul-tearing sorrows, unable to fight off temptation, will take heart and find strength in the same ageless, limitless mercy!

James Chalmers, a young man in Inveraray, Scotland, living without Christ, restless in his conscience and confused in his hopes, saw the radiant light of this mercy, and later became the heroic missionary to the South Sea Islands. As these sacred words of promise—only twelve altogether—soon wing their way from coast to coast, I pray the Spirit to accompany them, so that many Christless lives may be brought to Jesus and be born again in newness of life.

Frances Ridley Havergal, talented hymn-writer, who memorized not only a few selected passages of the Scriptures, but entire books, posted this passage of wondrous grace at the foot of her sickbed, so that she could find confidence with every glance. It was her earnest request that the pledge of this mercy be engraved on her casket and carved on her tombstone. May many of you who, like Miss Havergal, experienced long years of sickness, today resolve to take strength for your soul and life from this most blessed of all promises!

A missionary in North India came upon an aged native, deserted by his caravan, dying peacefully as he prayed this truth and clutched a single leaf of an Indian Bible, the page with this guarantee of Heaven’s grace. A great general who had also fought the fight of good faith reviewed his entire career on his deathbed and chose this assurance as the text for his funeral sermon. Yet these twelve words must not be restricted to the devotion of dying hours and to the crises of sorrow; they are strength for the living. Young men and young women repeat them in their earnest plea for the sustaining comradeship of Jesus. In the midst of busy, achieving careers, men of affairs enrich themselves with their spiritual courage. God­fearing parents place this promise on the walls of their homes to dedicate themselves and their families to the Christ of all compassion.

What are these words, revered alike by high and low, rich and poor, strong and invalid, by men of science and men of humble learning, by American and Canadian Christians as well as by their brothers of all races and colors across the seven seas? As I picture to you this afternoon

THE CLEANSING CHRIST

I thank God for the blessed privilege of giving you this heavenly message by which millions have lived and died, the words by which all of you, once you believe them, can enter into the full radiance of joy and happiness even here on earth. Here they are, the words of God’s own truth from Saint John’s first letter (chapter one, verse seven): “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

I

BOUNTIFUL BLESSINGS IN THE CLEANSING CHRIST

The poverty of human thought and our limited powers of speech are never felt more keenly and personally than when we are confronted with the opportunity of proclaiming the blood-bought mercies of Christ and showing men the pathway to heaven. What a wonderful Savior Jesus is! Yet how weak and stammering the most glowing tributes of the human mind to His grace! Artists catch the majestic beauty of the blue Pacific as it roars against the coasts of California. Photographers copy the sentinel-like stateliness of the mighty snow-crowned mountains in the Northwest. Travelers speak in vivid pictures of the murmuring hemlock forests in Northern New England and Nova Scotia’s Arcadia. Modern invention reproduces the prisms of color and the symphony of nature’s sounds when the splendor of a tropical sun in its roseate setting tinges the Florida Keys. But who can delineate the free mercies of Christ?

As the old masters used their deepest blacks to emphasize the radiance of dazzling white, so we can picture Christ in His brightest mercy when we behold Him against the ugly background of sin. This is the viewpoint of our text when it emphasizes that Christ cleanses “us from all sin.” Saint John, as all the inspired penmen of the Bible, has no sympathy for the modern, easy trends that rule out sin, restrict it to slums and penitentiaries, harlots and highwaymen, maniacs and murderers. This prophet of Patmos would not long be tolerated in hundreds of our pulpits where the subject of sin is avoided as studiously as the promise of the Blood is banished. The great apostle would be told: “Speak of the sins of the Japanese in bombing unprotected civilians or the sins of the Nazis in persecuting the Jews or the sins of the Soviet officials in their purgings and wholesale murders! Speak of crude sins, child-labor and sweat-shop sins, prison and electric chair sins; but don’t come with that threadbare, time-worn claim that all men are sinners!” Yet just that and nothing less is the apostle’s claim in the words immediately following our text, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This sweeping verdict warns our age against the folly of laughing away sin instead of acknowledging it as the doom of death, which, as sure as God’s Word is infallible, will send the unrepentant sinner to hell.

How sorely we need an iron-clad insistence upon this hard, unwelcome truth of the Bible that we are unclean, every one of us, through our inherited and acquired sin! We have witnessed the stark tragedy and the fearful folly of iniquity’s being glorified even in churches. Last week I read a letter from a clergyman who deplored that many in his denomination “openly sponsored birth control and opened the parish-houses to such meetings and addresses by leaders of the movement”; almost at the same time I came across a statement of a recognized economist, who warns that because much of America’s future depends upon its birth-rate and because Protestant leaders are officially endorsing the practice of birth control, we face a problem far more serious than destruction by bombing planes. We must have from American pulpits, the radio, and the press the cold analysis of our moral liabilities, of dishonesty in business and family relations, impurities in soul and body, cruelties to ourselves and our fellow-men, disregard of God’s Law and of man’s. The cry that arises from our souls must not be, “I am a college graduate. I am a success in business! I don’t smoke or drink. I don’t use profanity or tell dirty stories. I am a church officer. My father was a deacon. My motto is to live right and do right. I follow the Golden Rule. I tithe. I attend church.” One other statement is incomparably more necessary, which must underlie all this. You do not like to hear it, and it would be far easier for me to tell you a hundred other facts; but here it is: “You and I must first of all learn to kneel before God and pray with the prodigal: ‘I have sinned against Heaven and in Thy sight.’”

If you are unwilling to come before God with this contrite confession of your own sins; if you shout back into your radio that whatever other people may be, you are not a sinner, this message and the Christ it preaches is not for you. “They that be whole,” Jesus says, “need not a physician.” Unless you are willing to admit what your conscience tells you even now that you, like every child of man, are tainted with evil and often gripped with sin in your desires, your utterances, your actions; if you deny the horror of everlasting death as the punishment of unforgiven sin, you may just as well turn your dial to enjoy the symphonic music now being broadcast over other stations.

When we study the love of Christ against this black background of our sin, how His grace dazzles us with the promise of forgiveness through Christ’s blood! Not the blood of lambs and calves slain on all the sacrificial altars of the aging centuries; not the rivers of patriots’ blood that flow through history; not the blood of Christian saints and martyrs! The cleansing, purifying blood is the royal blood of God’s own Son; the blood that dripped from His body, when in Gethsemane He began that soul­sorrowing, heart-breaking substitution for all sinners; the blood that coursed down His back under the lash when we were healed by His stripes; the blood that stained His wounded head and whitened face under that cruel diadem which assures us our crown of life; the blood that dripped from the nail wounds in His holy hands and feet, that streamed from His side when the thrust of a Roman spear established His sin-atoning, substitutionary death,—that holy blood, and that alone, “cleanseth us from all sin.”

You must be cleansed by Christ, or you will not be cleansed at all. Though men spend millions in the search, though they speed to the ends of the earth and uncover the hidden mysteries and the wisdom of the ages, they can never discover any human power to cleanse the “soul of one dark spot.” How dismal is our defeat in the human battle against sin! We try to educate people against sin; but the president of one of our greatest universities only a few days ago publicly declared that the American university is no place to build drooping morals. Our age likes to legislate against sin; but do you know that within the last ten years the criminal population in our Federal penitentiaries has more than doubled? Social measures against sin are instituted, and millions are spent for this program; yet we have more illegitimate children in the United States than ever before. We ought to realize, with failure confronting us on all sides, that we must purge the human heart to filter the headspring which produces the poison. In all the world, as among all ages and races, one power can remove sin, cleanse the soul, create a clean heart, and “renew a right spirit within” me, and that,—I cannot repeat this truth too often,—that blessed cleansing is in the blood of our Savior!

Think of the absolute certainty of this purifying grace. Saint John does not say, “The blood of Jesus Christ may cleanse us.” He does not preface his promise by asserting, “I think that Christ will purify you; I believe that He will; I hope that He will; I expect that He will.” He does not offer a try-it-and-see suggestion. Here, raised above all doubt and hesitation, is the immovable assurance of Heaven itself: “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” My friend, trust God’s Word! Build on His sure and unchanging grace!

Pause reverently before the all-embracing sweep of this promise: “Jesus Christ . . . cleanseth US,” every one of us. Our text knows nothing of a selected few chosen for this cleansing. Christ is every man’s Savior. You may be barred from approaching the high and mighty in this life; but nothing can keep you away from Christ except your own unbelief. You may be deprived of many earthly comforts and robbed of your money and your happiness by the cruelty of your fellow-men or the tyranny of your sin; but even the legions of hell cannot deprive you of the blood-bought mercies of your Savior when with penitent faith in your hearts Christ lives within you. You may be one of those unfortunates suffering from privation in this unbalanced age that has so much to say of overproduction and so much to see of underprivileged suffering; you may have lived under social and educational handicaps; but by the truth of God itself no one has any more right to a title in the prepared mansions than you once you are cleansed by the purifying blood.

Nor should we pass too lightly over this “cleanseth us from ALL sin.” Christ removes not only the petty jealousies, the personal greed, the concealed hatred, the pinkish private sins, but especially the scarlet, shrieking sins that destroy your peace of mind and make you write desperate letters, anxiously inquiring whether there can be pardon and cleansing for you. Many in this audience, were they given the chance, would gladly relinquish everything they own in life if by that sacrifice they could retrace just one false step or correct one mad moment in the past! I know, through your letters, that some of you mothers and fathers are terrified by the specter of an unholy act in the distant past and that even the flow of twenty, thirty, forty years’ time has not given you peace and rest. Some of you are lashed by the scourge of terror that you may have committed the unpardonable sin and are bringing yourselves to an early grave by the fear that you are doomed for this life and for the next. To all of you the blessed Word of God, which has never made a careless or an unconsidered promise, declares: “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from ALL sin,” from the most loathsome, repulsive, disease-breeding vice, from adulteries, thefts, murders, from the despair of your mind and the terror of your souls, to the fine forms of envy and covetousness, greed and desire, lust and longing, that combine to disfigure our lives.

Many of you have been asking: “Well, what do I get from this promise of the cleansing blood of Christ? How will it help me to solve my problems?” It may be that some of you can see nothing practical, nothing of everyday advantage in being cleansed from sin. Other desires claim priority in your heart; but unless Christ comes first and with Him the calm and the peace of forgiven sin, everything else will turn to dust. Our text writes only the initial chapter in the blessings that flow from the Savior’s blood; for by cleansing us from all sin, the iniquities that separate us from God and doom us to living death are forgiven, removed, canceled forever. Confidently Saint Paul promises: “Being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath,” saved from hell and saved for heaven. The assurance of that blood-bought salvation brings what all of us need: peace with God, peace with our consciences, peace with our fellow-men. If only thousands of those grimly fighting a losing battle, hardened, hateful, suspicious of every one, afraid of life and terrorized by death, would accept what God Almighty offers—“peace through the blood of His cross”! If only thousands who have never emerged from the fog and the haze of sin and sorrow into the clear light of this joy would in this acceptable hour, before it is too late, follow the fulfilled promise of prophecy from the first pages of the Bible to the upper room where the Savior, a few hours before the ordeal of His agonies, breaks the solemn silence to leave as His last will to the world the promise of His Sacrament: “This is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”!

Put the faith in that pardoning blood into your homes, and as the angel of death in ancient Egypt passed over the Israelite homes marked by the blood of the Passover lamb, so the families that exalt the blood of Christ, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” will experience divine protection and providence. I cannot promise you of course that the blood of Christ will keep affliction, disaster, and death from your doors; but I can assure you that, once the members of your family kneel before Christ and confess, “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood,” you will find God’s love in the hardest trials, Christ’s help for the heaviest burdens, Jesus, the Light of the world, for the darkest paths. Then you and yours “are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” close to Christ, close to grace, close to power, close to blessing!

When some of you ask that life-and-death question, “How can I be cleansed?” when you object: “I have never seen the blood of Jesus Christ! I cannot stand under that lonely cross outside Jerusalem! The cross and the blood of agony have disappeared!” I answer: You can believe in the atoning love of Christ; you can kneel in contrite spirit even now in your home, and by the purest grace that Heaven itself can offer your sins will be removed by this faith. The promise offers free, absolute, unconditioned grace. It does not read: “‘The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin’ provided we meet these requirements or fulfil that condition.” No syllable demands payment of any kind. As though we could purchase this cleansing power! As though our redemption were the just and due reward of our efforts! You can read these twelve words a hundred times, and you will find that they are altogether silent on the matter of ceremony and rituals. They make no mention of emotional experiences. They pass over entirely the subject of food, drink, and clothing, to tear from our hearts the pagan idea that by eating or fasting, by wearing a special cut or kind of clothing, we ourselves can demand entrance at the gates of God’s kingdom. This cleansing-praise to the magnificent mercy of God!—is all Christ’s, all of mercy and none of merit, all of divine grace, and none of human glory!

II

THE PERSONAL APPEAL OF THE CLEANSING CHRIST

This appeal of the cleansing Christ comes to you as the hands on the clock of history begin to point to the midnight hour and, as our Savior predicted, His atonement is blasphemously attacked. They tell us that the Gospel of the blood is too old-fashioned to fit into our racy, streamlined age. Yet the sun in the heavens above is old-fashioned; it is still the same fiery ball that the great Creator called into being. How men welcome it when it unfailingly lights our paths and warms our days! The water we drink, the air we breathe, are old-fashioned, too. Especially is the human heart old-fashioned and unchanged. How we ought to thank God that for the perpetual passions and the unending sin of the race we have Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday and today and forever!” How terrifying if we had to put our trust in a creed that would alter with the ages! In open contradiction to those who demand a modernized Christ, a twentieth-century Christianity, an up-to-the-minute creed, I tell you that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a moth-eaten, threadbare relic of the distant past. True, the clamor of the hour is for new Bible translations, new and radical ideas in the pulpit, new international songs in the hymn-book, new architecture and new equipment, new games and shows in the parish-house, new social projects for the congregational guilds; yet the cry that arises from perishing souls, unhappy homes, and neglected churches appeals for the old Gospel, the old, rugged cross, the changeless Christ. Every modern attack on Christianity is simply a restatement of the hoary, time-grooved error and first-century heresy. The alarming difference between the antichristian offensives of yesterday and today and the various attempts to exalt a bloodless Christ instead of a bleeding Redeemer is that, while in past centuries the attacks upon the doctrine of divine, atoning love originated without the Church, today the most destructive leaders are churchmen, showered with coveted ecclesiastical distinctions.

Dark, ugly unbelief calls the doctrine of the saving, cleansing blood a “slaughter-house religion,” a “bloody Gospel,” an “insult to our intelligence.” No first-rate minds, we are told, subscribe to what John says in our text. I beg you not to let that vicious lie disturb you; for some of our keenest minds have humbled themselves before the bleeding Christ. Sir Isaac Newton, called “the most sublime genius in a thousand years,” acclaimed Christ as “the Lamb of God who was slain and who hath redeemed us with His blood.” Virchow, the internationally acclaimed pathologist, died praying his gratitude to God for the cleansing blood of Christ. Howard Kelly, renowned Johns Hopkins scientist, calls “the outpouring of the blood from Christ’s wounds and from His side” “the evidence that the transaction [of my redemption] is completed.” From the days of Paul, great intellectual giant that he was, to the present moment men of distinction in the arts and sciences have sung in effect:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

What have brilliant infidels given us in place of Christ? When the traitorous pulpits of our country can preach a better Christ than the eternal Savior; when skeptical investigators can produce a more comforting Gospel than the record of the New Testament and suggest a more powerful heart-cleansing symbol than Calvary’s cross, a more penetrating and purifying power than the blood of Christ; when unbelief can pledge us a higher hope and a deeper blessing than Christ’s blood-sealed promise of our resurrection, then, and then only, are they entitled to demand public attention,—and that day will never come.

I pray to God in the face of these ceaseless attacks on the cleansing Christ that you preachers of God’s Word will show a holy fortitude of faith, that you will proclaim the Crucified regardless of consequences, indifferent to any official, higher-up displeasure. I hope that you who sit in the pew will cling to Christ, testify to Christ, proclaim Christ, and insist on Christ in the sermons of your church. Particularly do we need young men and young women cleansed by Christ who are ready to reveal their faith to a contradicting world.

Let us thank God that in the radio He has given us a mighty opportunity for proclaiming His Son’s pardoning grace! With another powerful station added to our national hook-up today, this message is being proclaimed over sixty different broadcasting stations in the greatest network ever devoted exclusively to the Gospel of the eternal Christ and paid by free-will offerings. It has been a hard, an uphill battle, this effort to keep the cross of the Crucified on the radio firmament of America. Nevertheless the blood-sealed promises of Christ have prevailed! From year to year our almighty God, for Jesus’ sake, has given us astonishing increase. As thousands every week urge us to go forward in the name of the Crucified; as the warning rings in our ears: “Without shedding of blood is no remission”; as the promise of our text warms our hearts and strengthens our souls, we resolve that we must go on with the help of your prayers, your gifts, your interest, your testimony. God continuing His guidance, we shall increase this message of the pardoning, cleansing, purifying blood until it reaches every city and hamlet, every remote and isolated soul in this nation, and—may God speed the day!—until the Savior’s invitation of mercy is carried to the most distant comers of the earth.

You have heard what the cleansing Christ has done for you. What will you do for Him? God grant that you will believe in Him, come to Him, trust in Him, glorify Him; that you will share the treasures of His rich grace with others; that in your joys and sorrows this cleansing Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Beginning and End of our hope, will reign secure, and reign alone,—the heavenly Sovereign of your soul, your King of eternal glory! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: January 30, 1938

A Petition for Deeper Prayer Life

God our Father, all-wise, all-powerful, all-merciful:

How can we thank Thee sufficiently that through the self-sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, we have been made Thy children and dare approach Thee with our petitions as trustful sons and daughters entreat their loving father? Yet if in our human weakness we cannot offer Thee full gratitude for the privilege of prayer, bestow on us the confidence of faith that in Thy heavenly mercy Thou canst give us all we may require for soul and body. Strengthen us to trust Thy higher wisdom, which grants only those requests that serve to bring us closer to the Christ and His assured salvation. Teach us to pray constantly, to bow before Thee with contrite hearts that concede, “Thy will be done.” Show us the triumphant faith which always speaks its petitions in Jesus’ name, the patient assurance which leaves to Thy heavenly knowledge and goodness the time and the manner of Thine answer. As Thou dost forgive for Jesus’ sake our stark indifference toward the blessing of prayer and our neglect of its power, subdue the waywardness of our hearts, send us Thine enlightening, sanctifying Spirit, that our thoughts and longings, directed heavenward, may come before Thee as the perpetual supplication for grace and the prayer of our thanksgiving. O Thou who hearest prayer, hear us now for our Savior’s sake! Amen.

This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.1 John 5:14

A FEW days ago a member of this radio audience, broken by the burdens of life, wrote from Detroit to insist bitterly that God does not answer prayer. This man, a graduate of Cornell and a lifelong church-member, was connected in responsible capacity with a large corporation when the crash came. Through no fault of his he lost his high position. Although only in his forties, he found that his age counted against him. For more than a year and a half he vainly sought employment of any kind; fighting and praying all the while at least to salvage his home from the wreckage. Now that disillusioned friend writes these lines of protest: “In spite of all our prayers, those of my wife, my son and myself, prayers which we have been praying for weeks, months, yes, years, we have lost our home. . . . The more we prayed, the more hardships we had visited upon us. We had hoped when the eleventh hour came that perhaps our heavenly Father would help us in some way; but we have learned that He deserts you in the same way as your earthly friends, and so we have lost faith and realize how useless it is to pray.”

In all parts of the country forsaken men and women, defeated in their struggle for happiness, are similarly raising their voices to question or deny the power of prayer. From Southern Oklahoma comes this sorrowful prospect: “We have had no rain this fall and winter and only two light, one-inch snows. Unless the Lord sends an abundance of rain and snow soon, we shall be entering our seventh consecutive year of dust, drought, and probably crop failure.” And we can picture to ourselves the unrelieved tragedy overshadowing many of these dust-gray homesteads in the Southwest where farmers and cattlemen have raised their hands and hearts to God for six lean, limp years, beseeching Him to send life-sustaining moisture, only to watch the topsoil of their farms blow away, their grain scorch and wither, their cattle bleat helplessly for water. In Saskatchewan, where poverty has brought unbelievable destitution into thousands of frontier homes, parents with no shoes, insufficient clothing, and improper food for their children are wondering why God does not finally send help after they have prayed and prayed and prayed, only to realize that their plight daily becomes more disastrous. And in the same way many in this great radio congregation who have fallen on their knees before God, beseeching Him for health, still lie helpless on sickbeds. Thousands who have begged their heavenly Father for happiness in their homes still find their families tom by quarrel, anger, cursing. Unnumbered men and women plead for business success, only to meet failure; for peace of mind, only to be confronted by new worries. Some who have sobbed their heartaches to the Lord of life during a night of foreboding grief found in the gray hush of morning a corpse as the cold answer to their pleas. All these, pointing to God, repeat Job’s ancient demand: “What profit . . . if we pray unto Him?”

That is the question I shall try to answer this afternoon; and I ask the God of all power to bless these words in your hearts as I show you the

PRAYER WITH PROMISE

which Saint John (First Epistle 5:14) pledges: “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.”

I

IT MUST BE THE PRAYER OF SUBMISSIVE FAITH

The first requirement for spiritual profit in prayer is faith in Jesus Christ, the personal acceptance of His blood­bought pardon. Our text implies this when it says: “This is the confidence that we have in Him” (in Christ, the Son of God, as the preceding verses emphatically show), “that, if we ask anything according to His” (Christ’s) “will, He” (Christ) “heareth us.”

You can pray without Christ or against Christ; but if your petitions are even longer than the Senate filibuster; if you pray louder than the shrieking dervishes in Arabia; if you develop more oratory than Demosthenes or Cicero, your Christless prayers would be answered just as little as the rag prayers that Syrian Moslems tie on trees or the petitions that Tibetan monks multiply on their creaking prayer-wheels or that the Zulus chant as they toss another stone on their prayer heap.

Before we go any farther, let me ask God to impress your soul with this truth: The prayer that has promise is the prayer which trusts in Christ. That means more than a loosely appended “We ask this in Jesus’ name,”—although I see that in a prayer-book issued for Christian young men by an association founded for the furtherance of faith in the deity of Jesus Christ, even these words of conclusion, “in Jesus’ name,” are often omitted, just as many organizations and fraternities to which you business men belong insist on prayer, but ban the name of Jesus because the words “in Jesus’ name” may offend some one.

The prayer with promise is born of faith in the Savior, filled with loyalty to Christ, dedicated to His glorious name. That prayer accepts Christ as more than a man, more than a master, more than morality’s masterpiece. It brings us to our knees before Jesus as our Lord and God, before the cross as the eternal monument of God’s love for a sin-torn world. If you have that faith (and in Christ’s name I beseech all of you who are stubbornly placing yourselves outside the pale of His Church, opposing the work of the Spirit, causing tears and heartache in your own families, to approach this Christ of heavenly compassion now, just as you are, with all your sins, and in His plenteous pardon and glorious grace to find mercy, forgiveness, peace, and rest), if you have that Christ and pray in His name, you have prayer with promise and profit.

When our text, building on this foundation, promises that Christ hears us when we pray “according to His will,” it warns us that not every prayer directed to God in Christ will be heard. What a cruel and conflicting world ours would be if God would grant all petitions! How we ought to thank Him daily that only those prayers are answered which harmonize with His divine will! Now, because God’s will is directed against sin and many prayers are burdened with unconfessed, unrepented, unforgiven sins, they remain entirely unanswered. Too many think of prayer as a magic button that rings the bell of heaven to summon God, just as you ring for a porter on a train. And when the Lord does not leap into instantaneous action, these people, who see no relation between their sin and their unanswered prayers, charge God with cruelty or sneer that He cannot help. To them after twenty-six centuries comes the ageless warning of Isaiah: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you that He will not hear.” Those who are growing rich through dishonesty, thriving on the underpaid and overworked labor of their employees; those whose gain brings others loss; those who are making capital of human lusts, shattering purity, breaking hearts, wrecking lives,—all who in any way serve sin and oppress their fellow-men, might just as well save themselves the time and the exertion spent in prayer. To them God says: “When ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.” No matter how prominent they may be in religious circles; how unctiously they may sing hymns and repeat prayers, the hands of secure sinners, however stylishly gloved and well manicured, in the sight of God are stained with the marks of sin.

To answer prayer, God wants the petitions of “a broken and a contrite heart.” It is the “fervent prayer of a righteous man” (one justified before God in Christ) that “availeth much.” Can you not see therefore why this broadcast always centers in Christ, why, whatever the subject of discussion may be, our message always revolves around Jesus? If you want to approach the Throne of Mercy and have your petitions granted, you must come, not in your name, not in your godly mother’s name, not in your Christian wife’s name, not in any man’s, saint’s, or angel’s name; you must approach in the name of Jesus Christ, in heart-deep sorrow over your sin, in firm reliance on His atoning death.

Many of your prayers are out of harmony with Christ’s will and are unanswered because they arise from hate-filled hearts, which seek forgiveness from God, yet withhold forgiveness from their fellow-men. Don’t think that you can bow yourself before the high God, cry, “Lord, Lord,” and expect your requests to be granted if you refuse to repeat the Savior’s merciful words, “Father, forgive them,” or dose your narrow heart to the bitter sufferings of your fellow-men! You fathers who have driven your own children from your homes and screamed that you never wanted to see them again; you husbands and wives who above all others should live for each other’s love, yet who spend your days in constant quarrel and strife; you business men, working-men, professional men, with your merciless prejudices, haughty pride, unforgiving, unbending stiffness;—if you have not the self-denying Spirit of Jesus, if you cannot pray “according to His will,” by showing the reflection of His all-pardoning love, your prayers will never be answered. Though you could “speak with the tongues of men and of angels,” your petitions, saturated with hatred, mean less to God than the moan of a passing wind.

Is there not enough cruelty and bleeding discord in our strife-torn world today, with surging class hatred between big business and the working-man, between the two camps in American labor, between Protestants and Catholics, Jews and Gentiles, whites and blacks, rich and poor? We are hating ourselves into disaster, while Jesus, contemptuously opposed by diplomats, international bankers, propaganda merchants, tells His disciples that they must forgive those who have sinned against them not once, not twice, not seven times, but seventy times seven times! Will you not throw off your false pride, humble yourselves before God, remove the cold, sinful hatred that paralyzes our petitions, and penitently pray: “O God, our Father, for Jesus’ sake ‘forgive us our trespasses,’—and they are countless,—‘as we’ now, with all our hearts, ‘forgive those who trespass against us’”? Only Christ can help you supplant hatred with love. Booker T. Washington, gifted leader of American Negroes, was embittered when he beheld the cutting insults and injuries hurled against his race. He writes: “I grew to hate white men. I hated them until my soul dried up. . . . Then I carried my hate to Jesus Christ, and He delivered me from it. He took it out of my heart. . . . He showed me how to love white men.” So may Jesus cleanse your heart of hatred!

Again, our prayers are not in accordance with Christ’s will and remain unanswered when they involve spiritual danger and injury. Pointedly does Saint James declare: “Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” If you pray for money so that you may live in luxury, gluttony, debauch; if you ask God for brains so that you can live by cunning and exploit your fellow-men; if you want success because your vanity demands applause; if you women pray for beauty and attractive personality so that you can make yourselves alluring and seductive, do you think for a moment that the holy God, who can penetrate all devout disguises, will prove Himself a partner to your crime by answering your prayer?

Even if our intentions are the best, like the desire of Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, we often know not what we ask. In our earth-bound vision we often voice requests which, were they granted, would ruin our happiness. A Christian young woman who thinks herself madly in love with an unbelieving young man asks God’s blessing so that they may be married; but God closes His ear; for if that entreaty were granted, it would mean misery and lifelong suffering. A father prays for promotion in his business; but God withholds this because He knows that advancement would bring alienation from Christ. We all seek escape from hardship; but God wants our faith to be strengthened by adversity and permits us to lose our homes, work, health, so that, when these human props give way, we may acquire a firmer reliance on Him.

People often complain about the will of God as though it were a harsh tyranny; but once you grasp Christ in faith, the divine will becomes the stabilizing element in your hope. Then you know that the God who willed your redemption, whose love for you spared not His beloved Son, has only thoughts of compassion for His children. The more deeply a human father loves his child, the more conscientiously he denies all requests that might injure that child, destroy its happiness, and assail its faith. In a much higher way our heavenly Father often says no to our impetuous pleading so that He can save us from ourselves.

God’s will often crosses the grain of our will. At the first glance of our hot, quick-tempered displeasure He may appear to us cruel and cold. Sometimes misguided sufferers, feeling themselves thwarted on all sides as their most cherished hopes collapse in a terror-laden moment, rise in rebellion against God. If you have ever harbored such thoughts, turn to your Savior in the Garden, where, with the sins of all the ages crushing Him and the terror of all deaths agonizing His soul of sorrows, He prayed, “Not My will but Thine be done.” In that submission preface every prayer for your body and this life with the same “If Thou be willing.” But the prayers for your soul, the life to come, the glories of heaven, are so completely the holy will of God Himself that no condition ever attaches to them. When your growth in grace and your eternal salvation are at stake, in the name of Christ you can step boldly before the Throne of Grace; you can take God at His word; you can insist on the promise of our text: “He heareth us.”

II

IT MUST BE THE PRAYER OF CONFIDENT TRUST

For every prayer in harmony with God’s holy will must be heard. The way to answered prayer is not the laboratory way, the idea of investigating prayer just as a biology student dissects squids and frogs; not the gambler’s way, the you-have-everything-to-gain theory, which holds, “Your prayer may be answered, and then again it may not. In either case you have little to lose” (and, incidentally, I rubbed my eyes the other day to see if I was reading aright when I saw that one of the overlords of modern unbelief called Jesus a gambler and claimed that He staked His life at Calvary). It is not, this privilege of prevailing prayer, to be found in the indifferent, formal reciting of words, words, words; not the hurried way, the grudging, get-it-over-as-quickly-as-you-can idea. No, the asking which will be answered more assuredly than the fact that the day with its light follows the night with its darkness is the prayer saturated with the certainty of the divine answer. Saint John says, “This is the CONFIDENCE that we have,” and I want you to have that confident faith in the answering of every God-pleasing prayer.

In the light of God’s Word and our multiplied experiences it is all so clear, this pledge: “He heareth us.” In His omnipotence, by which the stars in their billions are but dust, all space a bubble, all oceans a tiny drop, all time a moment, all men in their sinful hatred of God the grass which is quickly mowed down, that almighty God, with whom “all things are possible,” can press the resources of heaven, the legions of His angels and His own omnipotence into the service of answering every true prayer of His children. No age should be more ready to accept the proved power of intercession and believe that God can and does answer all prayer harmonious with His divine requirements than our own generation, which has the radio as well as the introduction of television. Last week a New Jersey transport plane was blown from its course. For seven hours the battered craft circled through darkness and downpour. The gasoline gauge dropped ominously, and the passengers, believing their end unavoidable, wrote farewell messages to their families. Yet, under God, destruction was averted, and the plane safely landed in a distant Connecticut airport. How? During those hours of blind flying the pilot had been in touch with headquarters, which broadcast directional guidance and answers to his inquiries. Can you doubt that our great God, who created human ingenuity and blessed it with the power to employ the channels of the airwaves, can send guiding direction from His holy heaven to souls communicating with Him in prayer that have lost their way in the storm and darkness of life?

In scores of gold-lettered pledges God has promised that He will answer our prayers. Long after you and I have disappeared, long after all the ages of history have run their course, the divine “Ask, and it shall be given you” and the multiplied passages promising the same assurance will gleam undimmed in the burnished brightness of their fulfilment. To strengthen us with this assurance, God has answered prayer and kept His word. Nobody knows how many hundreds of millions of petitions have been heard at the mercy-seat. The Scriptures alone offer scores of outstanding instances in which God has remarkably intervened at the prayerful request of His children; and today, centuries after the last word of divine revelation has been penned, few facts of personal experience are more strongly attested and more widely endorsed than the truth that God answers prayer. Every year hundreds write to testify from their grateful, joyful experience to the power of prayer in Christ’s name. “He heareth us,” the apostle declares, and from coast to coast a great and swelling “Amen!” now reechoes that promise.

God’s answer may be delayed, as His higher purpose seeks to mellow our trust in Him. Abraham waited weary decades till the son of promise was born; and then the world waited many slow-moving centuries until Christ came in “the fulness of time.” If God delayed in granting that worldwide, ageless grace, may He not delay also in the smaller issues of your life and mine? Let us not dictate to God the hour and the minute in which He is to answer our prayer; for postponement sometimes conceals a blessing. You have heard how travelers have missed their trains or lost their ship and then chafed under the delay until they learned that the train or vessel for which they were scheduled was wrecked with the loss of many lives. So in our own destinies, once we are Christ’s, God’s delays often prevent disaster. Sometimes surgeons cannot operate immediately; they must wait lest their incisions prove fatal; similarly the divine Physician does not always apply His remedy until after weary hours of our soul­sickness, when He restores us to greater joy and deeper peace than we ever believed possible.

Often God gives us far in excess of what we ask or think. Almost a year ago on this very Sunday, when a devastating frost had blackened the orchards in wide areas of California, I told you in those fruit belts that God could give you much more than you had lost. Some of you doubted, but God proved His power. Now you write that your crop of avocado pears, for example, has yielded so unexpectedly bountiful harvests that you have sent the proceeds from the first ingatherings as your grateful contribution to our radio work. We often timidly ask God for the molehills of grace, and He places us upon the mountains of His munificence.

If only the unused power and the unaccepted privilege of prayer would exert its transforming and uplifting power in many more souls and lives! Our age suffers from a prejudice against prayer. There are fewer and shorter petitions in many churches, a decline of family devotions in many homes, even an organized antiprayer program in certain circles of our intelligentsia that seek to discredit prayer as superstitious and destructive to self-reliance; but in the name of the ten thousands who can prove what I am saying I want to witness to you younger folks, who should be concerned about a deeper faith in Christ and a closer walk with the Savior, that daily prayer is worth more than a postgraduate university course in applied ethics and furnishes a greater stimulus to family happiness than a doctor’s degree. Churchmen of America, remember that only a praying Church can be a prevailing Church, that one of the great and neglected tasks before American church­bodies is to meet the divine requirement “My house shall be called the house of prayer” and to teach people how to pray fervent, personal, Christ-blessed petitions. Parents of the land, molders of this country’s future, learn that a nation on its knees can do more than a nation on the battlefield of victory, that Christ in the home means Christ in the heart; that Christ in the heart means not only Christ in this life but inexpressibly more blessed—Christ forever in the next life!

Above all, I ask those who may have neglected or hated prayer or raised selfish, sinful petitions to God, who may have prayed, but not in the name “which is above every name”: kneel with me in spirit before your Savior to plead: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Learn to pray of the Savior! Pray for your family, your neighbors, your friends, your enemies! Pray for every true minister of the Gospel, for this broadcast, for my fellow-workers and me, so that this mission of the air may continue and increase! Pray for yourself; and if you come to Christ in contrite prayer, Christ comes to you with His constantly renewed, inexhaustible mercies to enlist you in the great Christian army of those who can say with the apostle: “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” God grant you that faith in the promise and eternal profit of prayer for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: January 23, 1938

A Plea for the Vision of the Transfigured Christ

O Jesus, our divine Redeemer:

Only in Thee can we find pardon for our sins, soothing for our sorrows, desire and strength for a God-pleasing life. Be with us, then, and forsake us not, despite our frequent thanklessness, stubbornness, and blindness. Keep us close to Thee, even though Thy blessed comradeship lead us along unlighted and unpromising paths. Remove every influence or factor that keeps us from acknowledging Thee, our glorious Savior, from worshiping Thee in true devotion. Teach us by Thy Holy Spirit to accept without protest each turn of Thy divine direction through which Thou, our Good Shepherd, dost lead Thine own through trial to triumph. As Thou once didst glorify Thyself on a far-off Palestinian mountain top, display Thy splendor and power and grace again to us now that we may look with longing to the cross and beyond to the unspeakable radiance of the open heaven. Beholding Thy transfigured majesty, may we be blessed forever with a holy vision, directed not to men and their word, but to Thee and Thy never-failing promises. Hear us, O Christ, and reveal Thyself to us daily; for on Thee only do we rest our hopes, the Seal and Surety of our salvation! Supply all that we need according to the riches of Thy grace in glory; for we ask all this in Thy name! Amen.

When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man save Jesus only.Matthew 17:8

NO anti-Biblical program has ever been permanently successful. Our skeptical age chisels tombstones to mark the grave of Christianity, publishes death notices to announce the demise of Christ’s Church; but it is the verdict of history that these prophets of ruin will charge into their own defeat. Godlessness tried to triumph over Jesus Christ in Russia, where some of the filthiest caricatures of the Savior that diseased minds have ever produced were flaunted before the masses. Yet in the new constitution of Soviet Russia, Article XII, with telltale irony, bases its exaltation of labor on a passage of the New Testament. The very men who boasted that they had driven Christ from all Russia unconsciously paid Him tribute when they embodied His word in their new constitution. Some day, soon, crosses will be lifted from Russian gutters to the spires of Russian churches that have been purified through the fires of atheistic affliction. For Christ, almighty, all-powerful, all-pervading God that He is, has a way of breaking the bonds by which puny minds try to banish Him from their affairs.

When a university teacher, writing in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, warns that, “if the Christian Church cannot adjust,” if it cannot change its doctrines to meet the spirit of this new age, “it is doomed”; when he insists that it is more than possible that the Christian faith will be completely wiped off the face of the earth, he knows neither history, the power of Jesus Christ, nor the permanence of the Savior’s creed. Wherever any Church, no matter how small and insignificant and unimportant it appears, builds its faith on Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, the human Son of Mary, the ever valid Ransom and the all-atoning Redeemer of our entire race; wherever any Church bases its doctrine and practice, its hope and conviction, on the one foundation of that blessed Savior and His wondrous Word of perfect truth, there men and devils combined cannot invent the diabolical dynamite required to blast that Church out of existence. They may resort to the tyranny of dictatorships and the reign of crimson terror in the attempt to destroy Christ; they may line preachers of our glorious Gospel before machine-gun squads for wholesale massacre; they may boast that they can hear the death-rattle of Christianity; but the cause of Christ, which in its earliest and weakest days triumphed over the worldwide assault on its defenseless followers, will today survive the most savage onslaughts, provided—and this is the decisive requirement—the churches place their faith, their hope, their trust, in “Jesus only.” As soon as the word of man is substituted for the Word of Christ, one link in the chain which holds the anchor of faith is made of straw, and the slightest storm on the sea of life can tear the ship of our hope from its safe moorings.

How necessary and blessed the supremacy of “Jesus only” must be in your life! Large numbers of you have been groping for a conviction that will lead you through gloom and black doubt. You want some truth to which you can cling when all human help collapses. You search disquietedly for a life motto and a perpetual guarantee that will pledge unfailing guidance. Search no longer! Here in the two words

“JESUS ONLY”

is your pledge of power. Inscribe these words on the walls of your home! Engrave their truth indelibly on your innermost heart! Take from them the comfort for your sins, weaknesses, sorrows, granted to all of whom it may be said as of the three disciples in Saint Matthew 17:8: “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man save Jesus only.”

I

JESUS ONLY FOR THE PARDONED LIFE

Our text takes us to the close of a day, when Jesus, in the company of three disciples, Peter, James, and John, ascended an unnamed mountain, perhaps Mount Hermon in the far north of Palestine. It was customary for the Savior thus to retire from the busy world about Him; often He spent the entire night in prayer to His Father. As darkness descended over the Galilean hills and vales, the three disciples, fatigued by the day’s toil and labor, fell into heavy sleep. How long they slept none of the Gospel accounts reveals; but suddenly the three were awakened by a display of glory and majesty such as they had never witnessed before and were never to behold again on this earth. There was Jesus, no longer garbed in His coarse clothes, no longer weary and worn as His followers had often beheld Him after endless hours of healing and helping, not terror-stricken as they were to see Him when the agony of the cross and the ordeal of suffering for the sins of the world would torture His soul. Now their Lord appears transfigured, glorified. His clothing was “white and glistering,” Luke tells us; Mark reports that His garments “became shining, exceeding white as snow,” and His countenance beamed with heavenly glory that outshone the sun.

It was a new Jesus whom they beheld—as they now saw their heavenly King in His celestial beauty; and before they fully grasped this startling revelation, they discerned two saintly figures, Moses, the lawgiver, and Elijah; the prophet, conversing with their Savior. As the bewildered disciples listened, they overheard the subject of that celestial conversation, the impending crucifixion, in which Jesus should suffer as no man had ever suffered and then die the agonies of all deaths. While Peter, perhaps in the short-sighted desire to spare his Lord these agonies, proposes, “not knowing what he said,” that they should all abide on that mountain top, bathed in this radiant glory, the voice of the Father, the heavenly Authority that removed any lingering doubts as to Christ’s deity, spoke this benediction, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then fear overcame the three disciples. They had seen Christ in heavenly majesty and other-worldly beauty; the reverberating voice of God had shaken their souls; and filled with terror over their own sinfulness, they pressed their faces into the mountainside, not daring to raise their eyes and again behold that celestial company. There they remained prostrate until the Savior touched them, speaking peace to their souls with the calm assurance, “Be not afraid”; and when they cast their first timid glance to the spot where they had been privileged to see that glorious transfiguration, we read, “They saw no man save Jesus only.” Moses and Elijah had disappeared; the Old Testament Ceremonial Law was gone forever. The Old Testament prophecy was being fulfilled in Christ. As the wondrous gaze of the disciples focused on Christ, and on Him alone, heavenly calm, divine strengthening, banished fear from their souls.

In our neurotic decades we need this focus on “Jesus only.” The most formidable army in the world is not to be found in the battalions, ships and submarines, air squadrons, of any nation or group of nations; it is to be sought in the multiplied fears that surround human existence: the fear and worry over your money, your work, your health, your home; the dread of failure and loss; the worry that some dark chapter in your life which conceals a past misstep will be exposed and you will find yourself disgraced since “your sin will find you out”; the apprehension that you are losing the love of husband or wife; the anxiety over your children’s turning from God and swelling the ranks of infidels; beneath all this the basic fear that you are not at peace with your God, that you must stumble along the hard way of the transgressor.

Few of us are able to measure the terrifying tribute that this tyranny of fear exacts. The American College of Physicians at Chicago was told that more than one third of all patients who seek medical help are entirely or partially suffering from emotional disorders caused by fear or worry. Brain specialists will point you to the growing increase in mental cases which this generation has brought to overcrowded asylums as thousands of our fellow­countrymen worry themselves into nervous breakdown and insanity. Fear reduces and wastes the energies and powers of the body. It magnifies the dangers that threaten our lives and minimizes the help that is ours. It banishes peace and throws us into continual warfare with the specters and phantoms lurking about us. Fear is the deadly destroyer of men’s hopes and happiness, the greatest single factor in all the misery, failure, and suicide that the world knows.

Now, when we have “Jesus only”; when with the great, apostle we are determined to know “nothing . . . save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” and repeat his declaration: “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” we have the heavenly cure for all earthly fears. It is not accidental that this “Fear not,” this protest against human fright and terror, marked our Savior’s earthly life from His earliest until His last days. Nor is it accidental that Jesus in multiplied passages spoke of peace. Once you look to Jesus and see Him who walked humbly as a man among men, transfigured, in His divine glory, as the Son of God in the radiance of His dazzling splendor; once you read of His death in Moses and the prophets with their predictions of the atoning, ransoming, justifying, substituting love by which, as Isaiah of old foretold eleven times in eight verses, He was to be “wounded for our transgressions” and to be “bruised for our iniquities”; once, like the same three disciples who witnessed His glory only to see Him later in the agony of the Garden, you behold Jesus with the sweat of anguish dropping from His pallid countenance, as He prepares to suffer in His own body the punishment and the consequences of my sins, your sins, all sins; once you approach Calvary and its central cross and see Jesus, not glorified, but “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and with all your heart you acclaim Him your Savior, His precious blood the cleansing of your sin, His death your life, His grace your assurance of heaven,—then the forces of fear have been completely routed because your sins are forgiven. As you clasp that cross with faith-filled eyes, let the world pass into the murky shadows of insignificance; beholding “Jesus only,” the Savior’s calming, comforting, quickening “Fear not” becomes your guarantee of sustaining grace.

Our faith is not a mixture of the human and divine. It is not in one part the Word of Christ and in the other part the fabrication of man. It is not Christ as one of many ways and truths, but “Jesus only.” It is not Jesus Christ, together with a select list of humanity’s leaders, who, pagan and Christian, believing and unbelieving, reverent and atheist, adorn public buildings and sometimes even churches; for our redemption and our victory it is “Jesus only,” as Peter reminds us, “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” It is not—this high and holy faith—the Gospel of Christ completed by some human authority; not Christ in addition to the advance of our twentieth century; not Christ supplemented by our own supposedly shining virtues; it is “Jesus only,” His suffering, His blood, His cross, His death, His resurrection, His power and glory, that gives us the conquest over sin and hell.

Will you not—and I am now addressing those who have never seen the Savior in His glory or in the depth of His suffering love—meet that Jesus face to face on the pages of His holy Word and in the pure preaching and teaching of His Gospel? You are barraged by a hundred appeals in this day of restless activity; yet nothing that you can ever hear has the same holy, imperative, personal appeal to your soul as this plea to meet Christ, accept Him, make Him yours, and repeat as the pledge of your faith: “Jesus only!”

How much of this focus on Christ those need who call themselves Christians! There is too much of compromise within the churches, too much of one hour each week with God and 167 hours away from Jesus; too much of that smug, mistaken notion that, when your name is written on the church roster, it is also inscribed in the Boole of Life. Instead of “Jesus only” the practical program of many lives demands: “First my business and social obligations, my food and drink, my luxuries and pleasures, my plans and ambitions,—and then Jesus.” Fragments of time, scraps of interest, pennies of support, crumbs of love for Christ, instead of all for Jesus, “Jesus only”! No wonder that the clumsy hands and blundering brains of men, permitting reason to triumph over revelation, have made such a chaotic confusion of His holy Church, splintering it into a hundred sects instead of seeing “no man save Jesus only”! No wonder some churches fail when, instead of seeing “no man save Jesus only,” they become attracted to human teachers and are led away from God and His Word! No wonder atheists point their scorn­tipped fingers at the churches where proud, self-satisfied members place one hand on the altar of Christ and the other on the shrine of mammon! Rather than see “no man save Jesus only,” they are swayed by the fears and favors of men and never raise their voices to testify publicly to Jesus; they are never so thoroughly saturated with the conviction of “Jesus only” that they bring real financial sacrifices for the kingdom of Jesus.

In protest against this spirit a business man, a leader in several large national enterprises, wrote me that he had arranged last Sunday to have our program made available through the radio connections to all the guests in the 1,300 rooms of a large hotel in Boston. (May I incidentally take this moment to encourage all of you to see that our radio exaltation of “Jesus only” is made available to the hotels, hospitals, institutions, prisons, of your community?) That preoccupied man concluded: “I know of no greater happiness than witnessing for Christ; but I must confess that, when I lay my head down at night, I am ashamed of no one more than myself. What a comfort to have a God of love, who sent His Son into the world, knowing the weakness of His children!” I am holding out this spirit of “Jesus only” in the life not only of this man of affairs but also in the faith of many traveling the humbler roads of life, as the pledge of divine power for yourselves and the kingdom of Christ. What glorious triumphs could be ours if, turning from error and bowing before the complete authority of God’s Word, every disciple of Christ would penitently look to the transfigured Christ, the crucified Christ, the resurrected and gloriously triumphant Christ, and see “no man save Jesus only”!

II

“JESUS ONLY” FOR THE CONSECRATED LIFE!

The three privileged disciples could never forget the glorious revelation of their Savior’s holiness and glory. That radiance, more dazzling than the purest white, was to help ennoble their lives. Moments of unfaithfulness, disloyalty, weakness, and sin were still to overshadow them as Peter traitorously denied his captive Lord, John’s bigotry sought fire from heaven to destroy the opponents of Christ’s message, or when he, like James, deserted the Savior in the depth of cruel suffering and ventured to return only when Christ was nailed to the cross. Supported by the Spirit, however, these disciples focused their faith on “Jesus only”; through that second birth they became new disciples, reflecting the purity and power they had beheld on the mountain.

What was it that made Peter, James, and John men of outstanding honor, truth, cleanness, loyalty, courage and enriched their lives with those sterling qualities for which many of you are searching? How could they overcome temptation? How could they repulse the legions of lust and selfishness? It was not merely by the strength of their good resolutions; for how often do not you and I resolve with intense determination to fight our favorite weaknesses, only to find that because of broken resistance we are doomed to surrender! How repeatedly must we not exclaim with Paul, “The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do”! These three disciples walked in the truth and the light, not because of university courses and cultural advantages; for education affects the mind without cleansing the heart. Recently President Hutchins of Chicago University told the parents of America not to send their children to American colleges if their character needs to be improved. He realizes that the master minds in crime often have been honor students. The moral strength in these three followers of Christ, their ability to follow in the footsteps of the Savior, came to them because “Jesus only” was the incentive and power to the purer life.

“Jesus only” must be the elevating, cleansing, exalting power if you, too, want to break the tyranny of sin and make yours a God-pleasing, consecrated life. Thousands of you are asking, “How can I lead a truer, better, cleaner life?” You have your individual weaknesses, and the Prince of this world directs his insidious and persistent attacks upon these vulnerable points. Some are troubled by tendencies toward dishonesty or untruthfulness; for others the fires of anger and hatred, envy and greed, flare up quickly. Here are those obsessed by the craze for gambling, the sinful, senseless wasting of money, followed by suffering, heartache, and tears; and there are others who must fight drunkenness and debauch. Many—and how few do not feel the rising, surging, coaxing persuasion of these sins?—are beset by the lust of the eye and the flesh, which threaten to ruin genuine happiness. Now you want to push all this aside. You want to shake yourself forever free from the dragging weight of these sins. You want to resist evil, choke off sensuous appeals, and stifle the suggestions of Satan. To you we offer no academic course in character-building; no rigid course of self­discipline; no scientific textbook on mental hygiene; no promises of psychoanalysis; no program of physical improvement which hints that a sound body will contain a sound mind; no creed of any Christless religion (it is noteworthy that the pagan beliefs are often full of sensuous appeal and the gratification of the lusts, just as modern, Christ-denying cults all tend to support loose morality and destructive laxity). Instead of all this, in the name and by the command of the Savior, we give the Christ of all grace, “Jesus only,” as the sustaining power for the sanctified life. When Christ lives in us and we in Him, ours are the resources of Heaven itself for combating evil, defeating temptations, and walking in the path of His truth and light. Once the seal of His blood-bought redemption is pressed upon our souls, the promise of His Word proves itself, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” For the noblest things in life, truth, honesty, purity, decency, it is “Jesus only,” the same Jesus who transformed the hell-holes of the heathen world in darkest Africa or lust-ridden Asia or any stronghold of heathendom where His Word has been effectively preached.

Let me ask, then, Are you purified by this cleansing power of Jesus? Can you direct your vision so that beyond the alluring power of sin you can see Jesus, and “Jesus only”? Can you concentrate your hearing so that the din and clamor of the world as well as the seductive, teasing melodies of sensuous pleasure drop into the unnoticed background when you hear the voice of Jesus say, “Come, follow Me”? Do you read your Bible, the Word of His grace, “which is able to build you up,” the holy Truth whereby the Spirit sanctifies us? Do you know the washing of regeneration, the blessings of Baptism? Have you ever studied the Scriptural meaning and the full import of the Lord’s Supper in which Christ’s body and blood, given for the remission of our sins, also helps to strengthen our inner life? Fathers and mothers of this nation, is Christ in your homes to extend His building, helpful powers? Our houses are inspected and approved from almost every other point of view. They are subjected to rigid inspection for construction, water-supply, wiring, fire hazards. Traveling across the country, we see homes certified for their cleanliness and comfort. If only we had homes inspected and endorsed as to their Christian faith, purified by the presence of Jesus,—with the family faith and hope summarized in the two words of this message, “Jesus only”! Show me a home with a father and mother to whom parenthood is a sacred responsibility; a home in which children love, honor, obey, and support their parents and their grandparents; where peace and happiness reign even during the trying hours of reverses and distresses; where patriotism and civic virtues, honesty, frugality, industry, are demonstrated; in short, show me the type of home that our nation needs imperatively, and in the vast majority of instances I will show you a home in which “Jesus only” is the prompting power, the energizing force, the renewing, uplifting blessing from God.

III

“JESUS ONLY” FOR THE VICTORIOUS LIFE

The three enthralled disciples were to discover that the Christ of glory often led those who were His along hard ways, too inscrutable for human understanding. They were to know that, as Jesus suffered, so the life path of the disciples is often the road of sorrows. Centering their faith on “Jesus only,” they were to experience in their own destiny that the life of Christ is always the victorious life. Hardly ten years elapsed when James, sentenced to death by Herod Agrippa, became the first of the Twelve to seal his discipleship with blood. Peter, according to the best tradition, lived longer, but his career for Christ was crowded with persecution and sorrow until, about the same time as Paul was beheaded, Simon, the rock-disciple, was crucified on an inverted cross. Only John, of these three distinguished disciples, seems to have died a natural death, and even his testimony for Christ involved ache and pain in soul and body, banishment to lonely Patmos, hatred, and oppression. With “Jesus only” as the sacred climax of faith and hope, these three witnesses learned the blessings of adversity. Listen to Peter as he tells you today, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, . . . but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering.” Listen to James as he cries, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” Listen to John as he sees the heavens open and hears God say: “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten,” and then turn to “Jesus only” for the solution to your sorrows.

Every Sunday afternoon as I cross our Seminary campus to speak to you, I wonder what new sorrows have befallen the multitude from coast to coast that worships Christ with us. I try to visualize your homes with their hopes and fears. Some of you, I say to myself, lost your work yesterday. Some of you during the last week heard the verdict of a specialist that you must undergo a serious operation. Some of you have incurred large and sudden expense and suffered painful injury. Others have spent a harrowing, peace-robbed week haunted by the sin which, once attractive and alluring, now demands its fearful price and threatens exposure. In some homes a husband this week deserted his family; a mother hurled disgrace upon her children; and a heedless son brought tears to the eyes and numb pain to the hearts of his parents. Among the thirty thousand deaths recorded in our country in the past week, some of you mourned the departure of a loved one as the deepest of all sorrows overshadowed you and your home.

What is it that I must place before you as the Word of God rings in my ears “Comfort, comfort ye, My people”? If you want to rise from the depths where you cry for help, then ascend in spirit that Mount of Transfiguration which you can find on every page of Christ’s promises and, looking beyond the pitiful consolation that men of themselves can offer, see “no man save Jesus only.” He was afflicted and knows the weight of sorrows that may burden you. He was made “perfect by suffering,” the world’s salvation demanding the agonies of the cross; and you, too, will be refined by the test of trial. He promised, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” In His name I promise you, the world-weary, pain-ridden, heart-crushed, destitute, and all who seem to have come to the utter end of human help, that, if you raise your eyes contritely to the Christ of your souls and say, “‘Jesus only’ for my pardon and my peace, ‘Jesus only’ for my comfort and strength, for my trials and triumphs!” you will share the radiance of the transfigured Christ every day that you live; your last and darkest hour will be the happiest and brightest as you pray:

Hold Thou Thy cross before my dosing eyes,

Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: January 16, 1938

Praise for the Deity of Christ

Christ, our Lord and Savior:

We need Thee as our God in these days when unholy forces are mobilized to attack Thy deity and destroy the message of Thine atoning cross. Help us approach this generation with a new conviction of Thy divinity and prove Thyself mightily our God, the only Way, Truth, and Life. Sustain within our hearts the glorious conviction that above all power of human comprehension Thou art “very God of very God.” Reveal Thy power to all those, whoever and wherever they may be, who will not acknowledge Thee with the Father and the Spirit as our one, eternal, and ever-blessed Trinity. Show Thy heavenly comfort to all the distressed who vainly seek refuge in human resources or who turn to others for answer to the yearnings of their troubled hearts, only to sink into deeper disillusion through their failure to help. Bless us, Christ, our God, with renewed assurance that in Thy divine love we have forgiveness for every sin and perfect pardon for every wrong. Teach us to believe that by accepting Thy grace we can find a glorious newness of life, that in Thy divine protection we have the assurance of surpassing peace of soul and mind. Thine we are, O Jesus; for Thou hast bought us unto Thyself with Thy blood. Help us all to recognize this sacred kinship and keep us with Thee by the holy promise of Thy Word, O Christ, our eternal God and Lord! Amen.

Christ . . . is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.Romans 9:5

ASTRONOMERS recently announced a discovery; their telescopes revealed the largest double star known, which, if the published measurements are correct, is three thousand times greater than the sun, nearly as large as the earth’s entire solar system. In its mysterious realm it has flashed and glowed throughout the centuries only to be hailed in our day, to impress us with the overpowering majesty of the Creator, and to teach our wise decades, with their pride in mortal greatness, how puny men are. In comparison with this new star mankind with all its energies, hopes, achievements, appears as a dewdrop beside the mighty ocean.

Human affairs will go on much the same as before the discovery of Epsilon Aurigae, as this colossus among the stars has been named. Our life-course will not be altered by that superstar sweeping the almost infinite, nor will its vastness increase human happiness. Men and women will continue to laugh and cry, hope and fear, live and die. Though this new wonder of the heavens glows with melting heat and radiates dazzling light, it cannot warm the chilled love and the icy indifference of many hearts; it cannot brighten our shadowed pathways.

To banish soul darkness, guide misdirected lives aright, make cold hearts glow with hope, we need the faith in Him who on the last page of our Bible declares: “I am . . . the bright and Morning Star,” whose radiance can shine into our souls with the light of pardoning love after each midnight of sin. We must have Jesus.

He it is whose omnipotent fingers made the sun, the moon, and the stars in their vastness, and who yet placed on your soul and mine a value exceeding a thousand universes crowded with luminaries like Epsilon Aurigae. He it is who rules above all heavenly constellations and, thank God, above all earthly tribulations. Christ is our almighty, all-knowing, all-loving God. Because nothing that any one can ever tell you is of more penetrating and eternal consequence than this truth, I will devote the far­reaching facilities of our Gospel network to proclaim:

JESUS CHRIST—OUR GOD OF GLORY

basing the proof for the Savior’s deity and the inexhaustible comfort given by this crown doctrine of our faith on the divinely inspired words of St. Paul (Romans 9:5): “Christ . . . is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

I

THE GLORIOUS ASSURANCE OF CHRIST’S DEITY

When Saint Paul deliberately calls Christ “God, blessed forever” (and I accept the interpretation of these words that the Christian Church has always adopted), he expresses the central truth of Christianity, the apex fact of all history. The one blessed conviction which distinguishes Christianity from all other creeds is its reverence for Jesus Christ as the God of glory. The one truth that has changed the course of human affairs and molded men’s destinies is the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord. By accepting or rejecting this foundation truth you and I are saved or lost forever; churches retain or forfeit their Scriptural right to existence; preachers prove themselves servants of God or of men.

Remember, the proof that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, the incarnate Son of God, is based on no fuzzy, hazy, wishful thinking. We see that Christ must be God when we turn to the Word of truth, because in those mysterious unfoldings of prophecy, written centuries before His coming, He is greeted as “the Mighty God,” “Jehovah, Our Righteousness,” “the Lord,” “the King of Glory,” the “God” of the eternal throne.

Christ must be God since His own Father, the Almighty, the All-truthful, twice broke the silence of heaven to proclaim: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Christ must be God since He Himself, who never swerved a hair’s breadth from the whole truth (and whom the false testimony of perjured witnesses from the day of His trial to the present has never convicted of a single exaggeration or untruth)—Jesus intentionally, repeatedly, unmistakably, calls Himself God. Listen to Him as in the foreboding hush of His last earthly night He answers Philip’s question “Lord, show us the Father” with the all­revealing statement “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” Hear Him as, without reservation or condition, He tells His listeners: “I and My Father are one.” Pay close attention to His reply when arraigned before His own countrymen, cross-examined by the high priests, confronted by this decisive question “Art Thou the Son of God?” He unwaveringly declares: “I am”; when calmly He claims omnipotence, asserting that “all power . . . in heaven and in earth” is His; when He speaks of His eternity and the glory which was His “before the world was”; when He foretells His universal rule and “the throne of His glory”; when He lays claim to the divine, all-revealing, perfect wisdom, which could read the secret thoughts of men’s hearts; when He ascribes heavenly, transforming energy to Himself and tells the Twelve: “Now are ye clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.” In these and a score of other amazing assertions Jesus deliberately claims that He is God manifest in the flesh, the Immanuel, the glorious God-with-us.

Christ must be God because those who lived with Hun and traversed the highroads of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee in His company saw and felt the revelation of His divinity. Here is Peter, rejoicing: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”; Nathanael, confessing: “Thou art the Son of God”; Thomas, touching the wounded hands and the riven side and gasping: “My Lord and my God!” Here, beyond the select circle of the Twelve, is Martha with her credo in Jesus’ deity: “I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God”; the centurion under the cross, the first convert after the death of Christ, and his stirring confession: “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

Christ must be God because those who wrote of His life and love, penning their pictures of Jesus by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, acclaim Him in the worshipful words of our text “God blessed forever.” See how this truth reverberates throughout the New Testament epistles. Repeatedly that mighty man of God Saint Paul calls his Savior “the Lord Jesus Christ,” “the great God and our Savior,” “God . . . manifest in the flesh.” Every page of John’s epistles abounds in the acclaim of Jesus as divine, as “the true God and eternal Life.” Jude ascribes “glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever,” to the “only wise God, our Savior.” And when the final gleams of inspiration flood the last verse of the Bible with their heavenly light, we find the prayer from Patmos asking that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

Christ must be God because of the verdict of history and the mighty works which He performed. When He healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and voice to the dumb; when He stilled the tempest, walked on the waters, and directed the miraculous draft; when He changed the water into wine and multiplied the few loaves and fishes to stop the hunger first of 5,000 and then of 4,000 in addition to their dependents; when He recalled from death and decay the widow’s son, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus, His friend; when He forgave sins and poured the balm of pardon on penitent hearts; above all, when He died on the cross only to rise again as the eternal Victor over death, He proved Himself to the millions in all subsequent ages the God of all glory.

This demonstration of His divinity did not stop. Christ must be God because He has changed the world and in the lives of His uncounted followers made “all things new.” What a madhouse of sin this world had become when Christ appeared! How terrifying the lust-ridden status of woman and how appalling the exposure of childhood! How hapless the lot of the laboring man and hopeless the sufferings of the masses enslaved by ruthless despotism! How degrading the ravages of superstition, ignorance, illiteracy! How dark with the blackness of despair the souls of men in their groping for pardon and light! Because Christ changed all this, I say that history proves He was God. These nineteen centuries should have ended all debate on Christ and convinced mankind that His deity is based on facts, not fables.

One deeper assurance remains that Christ was God. To save us and the swarming myriads of our fellow-men from the consequences of our sins, we need the seal of a divine redemption. No merely human leader—and I include the illustrious minds of our advanced century—can guide me to heaven. No legions of marching hosts can save my soul or give me the positive pledge of heaven. No man, not even the most self-effacing or self-sacrificing, can take my place before the bar of eternal Justice and remove the penalties of my transgressions. No scientific congress can say what will happen to my body and my soul when this heart stops beating and the rigor of death paralyzes this frame. No international bankers and financiers, even in these days when billions have become bagatelles, can help us pay the debt our iniquities have incurred on the ledgers of our heavenly Father. Not even an angel, with all of the power exercised by these heavenly creatures, can cleanse my heart, forgive my failures, and open the gates of heaven. Oh, praise be to eternal Mercy, what you and I cannot do with endless penance and a lifetime of regret, with all of our waking and sleeping hours directed toward achieving forgiveness and reward; what the total virtues and goodness accumulated by the saints of all generations can never earn; what all the legions of the cherubim and seraphim in their dazzling brilliance can never grant,—forgiveness, salvation, heaven,—all this is offered us by Christ, freely, with divine fulness and finality, because He is our true God, our gracious God, our glorious God; because in the richness of His divine mercy He became poor, destitute, despised, for our sakes, and amid the pain of the cross languished, bled to death, as the divine Substitute for every sinner, the heavenly Atonement for every sin.

The eternal value of the cross and the promise of shed blood are rooted in the deity of Jesus Christ. When the enemies of the Cross take away the divine Savior and substitute the human Christ, they have torn the heart from the hope of humanity. Is not this the ugliest scar on American church-life today? World literature now points to a revival of interest in Jesus, and more books have been written even in recent decades about the person and work of Christ than about any other figure of history. Yet the Christ who remains after the erasures of infidelity is not the Christ of the New Testament, but of new criticism. When falsifiers of the faith speak of Christ, they like to say patronizing things about Him; instead of acclaiming Him “God” and crowning “Him Lord of all,” they call Him “the Master,” “the Galilean,” “the Teacher,” “the Preacher,” “the Prophet,” “the Trail-blazer,” “the Superman,” “the Genius,” “the Revolutionist.” I have before me one of the books hailed as a classic of modern infidelity; and on its 175 pages, discussing the various aspects of Christ the Master, the author never once refers to Christ as God or as divine. Not once does he acclaim Jesus the Savior, the Redeemer, the Ransom; He is always referred to as “the Master,” just as the followers of Socrates or the disciples of Confucius named their teacher “Master.” When I look into the New Testament to see those who called Jesus “Master” and nothing else, I find a rich young man who turned away from Jesus because he loved luxury more than the Redeemer. I see Judas Iscariot, who never greeted Jesus as the Lord, but who in the Garden kissed Christ even as he hissed “Master.”

If I could make an appeal to a spirit of fair play, I would ask these modernist, Christ-denying preachers and teachers who occupy pulpits built by Christian money and seminary chairs still supported by Christian endowments, to come out into the open and tell the people that they are through with the Bible, the divinity of Jesus Christ, His cross. I would ask them to remove the word “Christian” from their churches, to admit publicly that they preach only a human power, characterized by human weakness, mistakes, and even sin. Instead of disguising their beliefs behind ambiguous words and double-meaning statements; instead of beclouding the issue and distracting the attention by pompous ritual, soft music, dimmed lights, incense, cathedral-like buildings, these men, who have closed their hearts and minds to Christ as the God of glory, ought to be honest enough to say, “I don’t believe what Jesus said of Himself. I don’t place any stock in what Saint Paul says of Christ. I am through with the New Testament. The Apostles’ Creed does not mean a thing to me.”

Many Baptists listen to this program, and I wonder what they think: when a New York preacher in their Church declares: “Jesus was divine, but He was not God.” Large numbers of Presbyterian friends are in this audience, and I ask myself whether their feelings are not outraged when one of their leaders openly states: “Man is . . . the apex of a long biological development,” and then asserts that Jesus of Nazareth is simply “the best man that has ever been produced.” Numerous groups of Methodists now hear these words. How can they be quiet when a theological professor of their denomination unblushingly tells the world: “Christ is essentially no more divine than we are or nature is. The meanest creature of the universe is, considered from that viewpoint, divine in the same sense.” Congregationalists repeatedly write to assure me that the divine Christ is all in all to them. I try to picture their reaction when a president of their theological seminary closes his book with the paragraph containing this crass contradiction of Bible-truth: “The moment we begin chanting ‘very God of very God,’ . . . Christ eludes us and is gone. And yet the moment we say: ‘He is only a man,’ Christ comes to us in some new beauty and compelling power.”

You who are Christ’s, cling to the assurance of the Savior’s deity, to which this radio mission is dedicated! With the help of the Almighty we must have many more who are willing to rally to the defense of this crown of our Christian creed, the divinity of our Lord Jesus. I am not asking you who believe in the divine Christ to join any organization; I am not glossing over the doctrinal difficulties that may unhappily exist between us; but in the name of the Savior I beg you to maintain this sovereign truth, that He who was born in the lowliness of Bethlehem, who died amidst the grief of Calvary, who rose again in the glories of that first Easter, is no mere man, no angel, but the almighty and merciful God Himself. With the power of the Spirit I ask you to pray, work, strive, give, sacrifice, fight, that this glorious assurance be preserved for us and posterity and its blessing spread into countless hearts. When Jesus declared: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace but a sword,” He gave us a prevision of the sacred obligation which loyalty to His cross demands: the duty of testimony, of protest, of being separate from those who lay their blasphemous hands on Christ, our God. Not until you preachers of the Word who write me that you are alarmed over the Christ-denying tendencies of your own denomination will speak and act with firmness in denouncing apostasy, even in high places, can you begin to help recapture some of the trenches of Satan that oppose the kingdom of God; not until some of you men and women who bemoan the fact that you go to church for spiritual instruction, only to hear a colorless discourse on the Lewis and Clark expedition, a political harangue on the war in China, a fusillade against Fascism, a dulcet discourse on one of Emerson’s essays, or a hundred other presentations that are as far from your faith, your fears, your spiritual needs, as the north pole is from the south pole; not until you raise your voices in stern protest against this desecration of Christ within church-buildings that bear His name; not until you who love Christ as your God are separated from those who persist in giving Him slim homage as a man, can you be loyal to Jesus, can there be any pledge of deeper spiritual power in American church-life. Only in a divine Christ can there be any sustaining power for America’s millions.

II

THE GLORIOUS BLESSING OF CHRIST’S DEITY

We are asked: “Isn’t all this just heavy theology? What difference does it make whether Christ is God, as you maintain, or whether He is just a man, as many of the preachers in these big, rich, important churches teach?” As long as people like to minimize differences in religion and claim that we are all, Jew and Gentile, Christian and heathen, marching on to the same goal; as long as men and women regard the cross of Christ as a totem pole, put the Bible into the same category as the Koran and the mis­called sacred books of the East, look at a church in the same light as a mosque, a synagogue, or a pagan temple, just so long the question will be repeated with growing insistence “What does it matter if Christ is human, not divine, mortal, not eternal, weak and fallible instead of almighty and all-knowing?”

Nothing that I can say will describe the hopelessness, the agony, the living death, that would enslave every one of us were Christ not divine. If Jesus had been held and swayed by sin, as you and I are; if He had been destined to defeat as the cold grip of death disproved and destroyed His promises, there would be nothing to hope for, nothing to live for, nothing to die for.

Heaven-guaranteed assurance, however, comes from the sacred Scriptures, which never misrepresent, exaggerate, mislead, or deceive and which in our text strengthen us with the promise that, because Jesus Christ is God, He is “over all, . . . blessed forever.” Our Savior, being God “over all,” is above all sin. We may be distracted by the wickedness in the world as we start with our own selfish cruelties and bloated prides and realize that we are inconsequential in the milling masses of humanity. In the house next door, along the entire street, are men and women, loaded down as we are, by the weight of their moral failures, embittered by the tragedy of their sins; yet all these can hardly be seen in the wider survey when we think of an entire village, a town, a city; when we stand atop a skyscraper in New York or climb a hill overlooking Los Angeles and try to measure all evil, hatred, dishonesty, greed, impurity, and uncleanness defacing hundreds of thousands within a metropolis. Besides the millions that crowd into these congested areas are the sweeps of our forty-eight States with the continuous dirge and lament that rise in the wake of sin. Beyond our borders lies the remainder of our western hemisphere with its scores of nations and its millions of peoples, all with the same inclination to sin and the same moral weakness marking every one of us. On the other side of our shores, across the oceans to the east and to the west, lie other continents, crowded with human beings, all burdened by sin.

How terrifying, we conclude, must be the daily catalog of human iniquity throughout the world, with its dishonesties, woundings, killings, lusts, and adulteries, its disrespect of parents and disobedience of authority, slanders and lies, profanity and cursing, plundering the poor and crushing the weak, hatred of God and hostility to His Word! How much more appalling the total depravity of an entire year, the sins of a century, of all the ages that have gone and those that may still dawn! These incomputable totals of human wretchedness, the veritable mountains of men’s vices,—enlarge them a thousand times if you will,—and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “over all,” has the heavenly power to forgive, cancel, erase, and destroy them all in their overwhelming aggregate. He is still “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” including especially our sins, the fear and fright that can destroy every happy hour in life. When the charge of sin is raised against you, when your conscience feverishly begs for peace, Jesus by His divine power and love is Lord over all your sins and can break their power forever. Once more I beseech those who have turned from Christ to come again to Him; those who have wandered away, trusting themselves, to approach with a penitent self­distrust to the ever open arms; those who are lashed and torn in soul because of sins, bruised and broken in their hearts because of the price that they are paying for their follies, to learn this one happy lesson of hope that Christ, being God, is stronger than the power of sin, stronger than Satan, stronger than hell itself. If you have never known Christ, seek His divine pardon now as He pleads with you, “Come unto Me,” and believe that, when contrite trust reigns in your heart, Christ can make His strength perfect in your weakness.

The divine Christ is “over all” things, including the most crushing pain and the endless agony of life. This week from Nebraska a deaconess writes me in the name of one of her patients, a hopeless cripple, who for forty-five years has been a helpless invalid, unable to move as much as a finger or to talk except by his eyes and by nodding assent or denial to the questions asked him. What is it that he wishes the deaconess to write me? His muscles rigid, his vocal cords paralyzed, but looking to Christ, he has a happy, radiant faith that dictates: “Jesus is my Joy and my Comfort; for we know that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God.’” What do you suppose that sufferer could find in the counterfeit of Christianity which denies the godhead of Jesus Christ? Is it not significant that many leaders who support the so-called mercy killings, the painless death of incurable invalids, are Christ-denying churchmen? While unbelief speaks of lethal gas or closes a compromising eye on the suicide of the helpless, that Christian brother in Nebraska, with a free and undaunted soul, rejoices in a radiant faith. He has his nurse write to me: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift,” Jesus Christ, our Savior. What unutterable joy will come to him when in the Resurrection his broken body, gloriously transformed, sees its Savior face to face and the lips, once sealed in silence, break forth to praise Christ who is “over all.” The same heavenly Christ is “over all” the aches and pains in the lives of His redeemed, over every loss of money and property, every business grief and financial worry, every heartache and domestic sorrow, every disappointment in love and collapse of hope for happiness. So completely does He control the destiny of His children that by divine compassion He can change sorrow to joy, afflictions to advantages, losses to gains, and lead His children through the valley of the shadow to the sun-bathed heights.

Since Christ is the God of glory, is there any message that you, His children, need more than His promise concerning our confessing Him before men and His caution against public or private denial? If the love for the Savior demands that we speak against denial of His divinity; if loyalty to Him means that you break the ties which bind you to one of these modern (but oh, how ancient!) churches where Christ is on the same common level with Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao-tse, Mohammed; if faithfulness to the Redeemer demands that some of you preachers, bothered by your consciences because you stand shoulder to shoulder with men who are rough with Christ and everything divine in the Bible, separate from them, then in the name of Jesus I tell you to cut yourself clear of every destructive force and cling closer to the divine Savior.

O Christ, men speak so much of You, but how little do even Your most devoted disciples know the depth of Your love, Your power, Your blessing as our God! Give Yourself to us now, particularly to those who have never been brought to the throne of grace and compassion, so that with more devotion, increasing sincerity, and blessed assurance many in this audience may worship You as their Savior and in the face of a cold and gainsaying world acknowledge You their “Christ over all, God blessed forever.” Hear us and prove Your divine power now! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: January 9, 1938

Prayer for Comfort in Christ

Blessed Lord Jesus:

We thank Thee that at Thy birth and in Thine infancy Thou didst manifest Thyself both to the lowly shepherds and to the ancient searchers for salvation who followed Thy star from the distant East; for thus didst Thou show us from the first moments of Thy life that divine love and mercy recognizes no difference of person and position, race and rank, color and clime, caste or class, but that Thou art the Savior of all who call upon Thee for peace with their God and their conscience. Send Thy heavenly comfort into all hearts weighted by the burdens of sufferings for which we have no human balm. Say to us as Thou once didst comfort Thy disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Raise Thy divine arms once more to invite the weary and the soul-sick with the gracious promise, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” O Jesus, we all need Thee more than we can know and say; for we live in troubled times, our sins distress us, our sorrows distract us. Come to us, our contrite hearts implore Thee, in Thy mercy forgive us, by Thy Word and ordinances strengthen us, with Thy joy and comfort cheer us, by Thy wisdom and power preserve us. We ask this according to Thy divine will and never-failing promise, O Christ, our blessed Savior! Amen.

Why . . . is all this befallen us?Judges 6:13

THERE may be or there may not be sixty families that control the private wealth and direct the business of the United States, multimillionaires and billionaires who can spend only part of their income; but certainly six million families and more are hovering on the edge of destitution, stunned by repeated reverses, cringing under the fears of tomorrow with its insistent demands for rent and shelter, fuel and warmth, food and clothing. There may be a small, select circle of those whose lives seem armored against every sorrow. They have never been hungry or tired or soul-wearied; they have never shivered in the cold; their eyes have never filled with tears; not once have they lost their calm and confidence. Yet for every one of these self-possessed who meet life with unruffled poise I will show you legions in our human tangle who have been crushed by sorrows: the diseased in body and soul, the paralyzed in mind and will, the broken in heart and spirit, those racked by human wretchedness, beaten by poverty, chained by the tyranny of sin.

These afflictions of every shade seem to be the unhappy heritage particularly of our disquieted age; for if each step in our modern progress has brought increasing ease of life, it has also multiplied our sorrows. We witness the swift travel of airplanes and airships, but with that the quick death of air disasters. Our streamlined motorcars speed along smooth roads; but more graves have been dug beside these superhighways than when the pioneers’ covered wagons followed the roadless trails through hostile Indian country. We have more attractive homes but more broken homes; more gold stored in Government vaults but more poverty in the citizens’ homes; more schools but more suicide; more industrial genius but more unemployment. We conquer one disease only to see that another deadly malady takes its place. We see less tuberculosis but more heart disease; less smallpox but more cancer; less yellow fever but more nervous breakdowns. Our startling advances leave the problem of pain unrelieved. We lay television cables, but they will never enable us to see the dawn of a sorrowless future. We build towering skyscrapers, the tallest in the world, but from their dizzy heights we scan the horizon in vain for any radiant hope to brighten the dark hours. We build immense power dams in our canyons, but the millions of horsepower that they generate cannot move a single life from sorrow to security.

In this fear-fraught age with its heaped adversities we have, thank God,

THE DIVINE SOLUTION TO THE MYSTERY OF SORROW,

Christ’s answer to the problem of your pain; and it is this comfort that I would bring to you in Jesus’ name as I ask Gideon’s question (Judges 6:13): “Why . . . is all this befallen us?” and bring you the answer that God gave him and still gives us.

I

REASON CANNOT ANSWER THE “WHY” OF OUR SUFFERING

The sorrows that brought this question to Gideon’s lips were the same sufferings that make many of you repeat his question: “Why . . . is all this befallen us?” He lived in a distressed age, in which many of his fellow countrymen lost their homes, their little farms, their meager possessions, when the Midianite raiders swooped down to rob and destroy with fire and sword.—Many of you, within the quick flight of a few years or even a few months, have lost everything, your house, your property, and your few surplus dollars. As the Israelites of that day were driven into dens and caves in the remote hills, so thousands of you have been exiled from your home and happiness.

Gideon lived in a thwarted generation. He, like his fellow-Israelites, would secretly prepare a small plot of ground, plow it, hoe it, sow it with grain, rake it, and then guard it through watchful weeks, only to have the Midianite marauders suddenly descend when the heavy ripened stalks of golden wheat swayed in the harvest sunshine and take every kernel of the precious grain.—Some of you in the drought-stricken, plague-bitten, flood-smitten agricultural areas who hopefully sowed your seed last spring, only to meet another total crop failure after the summer months of labor; others from whom thieves and charlatans, accident and loss, have taken the little that you had, know these feelings of Gideon as there under the oak-tree at Ophrah the restrained tide of his emotions breaks its bounds and he cries: “Why . . . is all this befallen us?”

In Gideon’s own home there were deep-rooted troubles. His own father had erected an idol altar. His own family had broken faith with Israel’s Jehovah and was bowing before an ugly, sensuous Baal.—Too many of you understand the wrenching pain of that unfaithfulness. Christian wives, with heart-breaking anguish see their husbands sullenly turn their backs on Jesus; Christian fathers and mothers spend sleepless nights worrying about their wayward sons and daughters; Christian children are agonized by the terrifying thought of eternal separation from a father or mother who has suddenly become Christless. They can feel the pangs of grief which stirred Gideon’s soul when he cried: “Why . . . is all this befallen us?”

Indeed, the pressure of pain on your life may be greater than the weight of Gideon’s burdens.  You may say: “Well, Gideon at least had his health, and I have been stretched out on this bed for thirty years,” as one listener writes. You may say: “Gideon was sound of limb and body, sound of mind and senses, and here we are, crippled, disfigured, maimed for life; here we are with our sight, our hearing, our speech, gone forever. Here we are—may God have mercy upon us!—with our lucid, rational moments overwhelmed by complexes and phobias; our happiness blighted by fear of the unforgiven sin.” You may say: “Well, Gideon did not walk the way of sorrows whence I have come. No specter of death choked joy out of his life, as it has embittered my every moment, waking and sleeping, toiling and resting. Here we are, widows and widowers, our best-beloved ones snatched away from our beautiful home-life, in some cases after only a few months of the deepest human love we can know! Here we are, orphans, bereft of our parents’ devotion and direction, deprived of the love and warmth of a home. And here we are, bereaved parents who have just laid into the cold, hard earth the lifeless form of our only child, the joy of our hearts, the hope of our earthly happiness.” All of you in the vast, restless army of affliction,—with cross-marked lives and sorrow-burdened souls,—join in Gideon’s cry, the lament of all lands, the agony of all ages: “Why . . . is all this befallen us?”

May you follow Gideon in addressing this question to God; for no one else can solve the searing mysteries of sorrow! If you would have light in your darkness, strength in your weakness, turn to the same God that Gideon met under the oak-tree in the hills of Ophrah! What tangled confusion the human mind offers when it seeks to explain sorrow, to soften the bitterness and heartaches of life! Some of our new cults actually seek to explain away all suffering, sickness, and death, describing pain as an illusion of the mortal mind. What deep anguish is involved in convincing suggestible minds that they imagine the torture of trial—only to have these souls scream in protest as they are torn by torment. Contradict any of the clear-cut truths you will; say that I am not speaking to you in this moment; disagree with any of the truths of life; but don’t pour salt into bleeding wounds by questioning the reality of pain and death! Don’t thrust the dagger of distress any deeper by insisting, “Your heartaches are not real. They are imaginary, self-imposed phantoms!”

Nor need we turn to the scientific learning of our day to see whether in the remarkable achievements of this intellectual advance our greatest minds have solved the mystery of sorrow. Too often we find a fatalistic philosophy of life, which denies, ignores, or questions God, His existence and His power. If you and I are only creatures of chance that crawl helplessly on the crust of this accidental planet called the earth; if all existence on our sphere owes its beginning to a collision with a wandering star; if the impulses of life are only chemical reactions; if our emotions and personalities are controlled by glands and glandocrats; if mother love may be expressed in a chemical formula embracing manganese, calcium, and prolactin, there can be no sustaining, strengthening hope, no comfort for its multiplied problems; then life is a fluke, our destiny a toss-up. What anchor can any storm-tossed soul find in the raging torrents of sorrow if the world is but an accidental aggregate of human atoms? What comfort in the bragging delusion that makes godless men swim against floodtides and drown, challenge hurricanes and be swept away, try to move mountains with a shovel and wear themselves out in futility?

Is there any sustaining help for the sorrows of life in the Christ-denying churches which, instead of inquiring, “What does the Lord say?” demand, “What does the current trend of thought say? What do the latest theories say?” It is at the doors of these churches that we lay much of the blame for our spiritual and mental distress. Altogether too frequently their spokesmen lose their role as comforters through Christ and become interpreters of the news, disseminators of poorish philosophies, reviewers of questionable books. We have some churches in this nation that are neglecting the systematic ministration to the poverty-stricken while salaaming to the rich and kowtowing to the prominent. History demonstrates that, whenever the churches are allied with wealth to the neglect of the everlasting poor, they have sealed their own doom and often precipitated national upheaval. Because some churches are not feeling the pulse of the discontented, disturbed masses and are losing their vital contact with bleeding and broken lives, we see that as never before in American history churches are indicted as cold, calloused, capitalistic. How can the calm of courage quiet a troubled heart when there is no infallible Word of God on which to base that courage; when you cannot be sure about God Himself; when you discount His promises and discard His revelation, as unbelieving Protestantism does in our country today? Take a man who has lost everything, his home, his happiness, his health, his money, his self-respect, his friends; and does any one endowed with a normal quota of intelligence believe you can help his struggling soul with the assurance that suffering is worldwide and age-old? He is not interested in the history and geography of pain. He wants the answer to Gideon’s question, “Why . . . is all this befallen us?” If a woman sees the high castles of her hopes crumble into dust as disease, poverty, sin, reap their ruinous harvest on her field of pain, will it help her to say that we are coming “from chaos to cosmos,” that in the rise from the amoeba to man the human race was endowed with a network of nerves which the lower creatures never knew, so that we could feel pain and be uplifted by that contact? That woman, as perhaps many others, may not know what “chaos” and “cosmos” mean; and when the ashes turn cold on the hearth of her happiness, she is not concerned about the biology of suffering; she wants help, strength, and comfort!

Ask the man in the street Gideon’s question, “Why . . . is all this befallen us?” and because our skepticism has little room for the supernatural, he will try to evade the answer by telling you to grit your teeth, clench your fists, place your feet solidly on the rock of courage, and believe that time will bring a healing liniment. You cannot feed starving souls with the sawdust of optimism and the wind of wild exaggeration. Our age needs no narcotics to drug people into irresponsible hope. We must be brought to a consciousness of the menacing dangers surrounding us individually and nationally. We must be prepared, if it be the will of God, to face more adversity. The last four of Martin Luther’s immortal Ninety-five Theses were never more timely than today:

“92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace!

“93. Blessed be those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ‘The cross, the cross.’ . . .

“94. Christians should be exhorted to strive to follow Christ, their Head, through pains, death, and hells;

“95. And thus to enter heaven through many tribulations rather than in a security of peace.”

II

GOD CAN TURN OUR ADVERSITIES TO ADVANTAGES

When we thus turn to God, this mystery over which the ages have brooded, the question that Gideon raises in behalf of all suffering humanity, “Why . . . is all this befallen us?” is clearly answered. As these plaintive words rang over the stillness at Ophrah, Gideon showed that he had forgotten one of God’s two answers to this deathless question, “Why do we suffer?” In the verses immediately preceding our text we read that a prophet of the Almighty had been sent with the divine explanation that Israel was suffering for its sins. Because it had spurned the mercies of God’s love, forsaken the worship of Jehovah, and bowed at the shrines of the Canaanite Baals, it had invoked the wrath of God on its own head. Every time the pillaging Midianites had taken another farmer’s crop and led his cattle away; every time they threw firebrands into a Hebrew home, Israel was paying the penalty of its own sins; it was suffering the consequences of its unbelief and ingratitude.

Can you think of a more timely theme for our laboring, pain-racked world and the distress of our own country? Listen to the contradictory explanations for present-day conditions, which trace our adversities to causes ranging from the laws of supply and demand to the spots on the sun. Select your own favorite explanation for the nervous and hysterical tension of the hour and believe that it is due, as some insist, to governmental interference or, as others claim, to economic royalists. This afternoon I sweep all these interpretations aside, the good with the crude, to say that behind the sorrows which engulf our age and nation is the retributive hand of God raised in punishment upon those who are guilty of the same sin, thanklessness and idolatry, that marked Gideon’s day. Behind the masses unemployed or on relief, behind the mounting national indebtedness and the tremors or uncertainty in our business world, is the unavoidable factor of sin, the tragedy of selfishness, the abuse of privilege, the obsession of vanity and greed. Beneath the sorrows in every home or heart turned away from God lurk the sins of deception, dishonesty, unfaithfulness, hatred, grasping covetousness. If violation of the law of the land demands the payment of a legal penalty, how much more will the perfect justice of God, not moved by respect of person, swayed by bribery, nor changed by collusion, carry out the sentence which God has placed upon every transgression of His holy will!—Here, then, is the first answer to the mystery of sorrow: Men suffer because of their sins; they are punished because of their ingratitude.

The searching heart-question of all human existence thus centers in the appeal, “Where can we find power to forgive and check our sin? Where can we discover the assurance that our heavenly Father is a loving, merciful God instead of a punishing, retributive Judge?” As we turn to God for the answer, we stand once more on “holy ground,” under the cross at Calvary. There we are taught that we are saved from sin, not by character, culture, achievement, attainment, not by a mere forgiving or forgetting on the part of God, but by “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son.” When we learn to lament the wrong of our wayward hearts; when we renounce the greediness of our own blundering, sinful selves; when we come to the cross with the evil that lies red on our hands and black on our hearts; when our faith strives toward Christ, who for us and our sins was nailed there below the pall of a blackened sky and above the crime of a corroding world; when we fling ourselves prostrate before God and make the prodigal’s confession our own, “O Father, ‘I have sinned . . . and am no more worthy to be called Thy son,’”—then, when the calm of peace and pardon makes our soul sing, “Through this cross, through this blood, through this suffering, through this death, I have been restored, I have become a child of Thy grace, I have been brought from death to life, from wrath to righteousness, from hell to heaven,” then—oh, blessed assurance!—we have the Christ who can turn our afflictions to advantage, our sorrows to salvation, our grief to glory. You can join the psalmist in this apparent contradiction that only God’s elect can harmonize, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” You can say with Saint Paul, who, speaking of his bonds and his imprisonment, exulted: “This shall turn to my salvation.” You know that, if God loved you with that unfathomable love which “spared not His own Son”; if, being washed and cleansed, pardoned and purified, by your faith in that atoning, self-giving love of Christ, your Savior promises, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”; “I am with you always”; “Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand,” you can find God’s love in every sorrow, His protection in every adversity, His blessing in every affliction. Through Christ we understand that our lives are not the cobwebs of chance, but that we who are His, in the white race, the black race, the yellow race, the red race (and how I thank God that you of different races and colors worship with us in this broadcast!), all the redeemed, are the glorious creatures of divine grace, so precious in our Father’s sight that nothing but the bleeding and dying of God Himself in Christ could save us.

Gideon was soon to learn how God can turn affliction to advantage. Was it not the raiding and plundering by the Midianites that gave him the priceless privilege of seeing God and with his own ears hearing the divine truth? Many in this audience know that the God whom they neglected in prosperity came into their hearts with a deepening devotion in adversity. Many who were too busy for Christ, too preoccupied to hear His Word and study His counsel, were brought down on their backs in long sieges of sickness so that they could meet God. Blessed is that suffering and sorrow by which our heavenly Father rescues us from ourselves and saves us for Jesus in those darkened hours of wondering and searching when we ask, “Why . . . is all this befallen us?” and divine wisdom answers, “To bring Christ to you and you to Christ.”

Gideon also found an advantage in adversity when that Midianite oppression taught him God’s power and removed his doubts. With only three hundred men, and these armed not with bow and spear and sword but with pitchers and trumpets and torches, he was to defeat the vast host of the Midianites and to realize that God always keeps His word and proves His power. Has it not been in the fog of fear that the beacon of God’s power has loomed most brightly in your life? When all else gives way, human help founders and men’s words flit into thin air, God’s words are clearest and answer your question, “Why . . . is all this befallen us?” with the promise, “In order to reveal My power to you, deepen your faith, strengthen your conviction, and remove all your doubt.” Again I say, Blessed are the sorrows that show us the strength of God.

Gideon was to know that grief is often God’s way of helping and strengthening His children. The Midianite invasion brought him the command to cut down the idolatrous altars of his father. In this way the sufferings of those bitter years finally made Gideon’s home better and stronger, just as depression and recession have welded many a family more closely together and enriched their homes. In the wider circles of life the losses of sorrow become the gain of the spirit, through Christ. As trees must be cut and trimmed if they are to flower in full blossom and produce a heavy yield, so our lives must be pruned and purged of all wild branches and grafted into Christ. As the wet clay is whirled on the potter’s wheel and then baked in the oven before its new form is hardened, so God, the Potter of our mortal day, whirls us through the dizzy turns of life and thrusts us into the fires of affliction, that our new existence in Christ may be endowed with power and permanence. As the sword blades of Saracen steel could be bent to the hilt and then sing as they sprang back, so the souls that have been forged and reforged on the anvil of grief can bend under each new stress without breaking and sing as they bend. As two hundred tons of ore, almost half a million pounds, are worked to secure one small grain of radium, so in our lives the tons of earthly dross have to be refined and purified in order to preserve every grain of our faith.

Milton was blind and Dante was almost totally deprived of his eyesight, yet who among human poets have seen more dearly the vision of the Paradise above? Many of you have had the light of your vision disappear only that the brightness of faith might be enkindled and you in your blindness might see Christ more closely. Some who can hardly understand my words know that they have lost their hearing only that Christ could speak more distinctly into their soul and give them a closer understanding of His blessed promises. In many other lives, trials have paved the way to triumphs. It is said of Robert Louis Stevenson that the years of his most painful suffering were the most productive in his entire literary career. Charles Lamb wrote his incomparable essays after he had been rescued from insanity and while he was still under the shadow of melancholy restraint. Louis Pasteur rose to his most commanding height during the thirty years after a stroke of apoplexy had lamed his left side. In a much higher way it may be that you and I can do our best for Christ and build the temple of our faith highest and holiest under the purifying and strengthening power of adversity. With one or both of your limbs removed; with pain-racked days and sleepless nights; with the verdict of “incurable” spoken over your frail, disease-ridden body, you can come closer to the merciful Christ than many come who have perfect physique and unbroken health. With the loss of your money, work, friends, family, with the loss of life itself, you can draw nearer to Christ than some who are blessed by the overflowing abundance of all things. That is what Jesus meant when He said: “He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.” While I cannot promise that God gives any guarantee for frictionless ease and softness of life, I can repeat the Savior’s pledge, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy” and assure you that through the power and the love of Christ you can distill sweet blessings from the bitterness of life and after the ruin of each storm, through His Word build a new trellis on which the broken tendrils of your hope can climb higher and more closely.

To human eyes it is a strange message, this promise of the Scriptures: “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” Intellect rebels against it; yet no part in our faith is more positive than this promise of blessed guidance in faith, this pledge that Jesus, even though we must be led through affliction, will keep us in humility and saving grace. Here we see “through a glass, darkly”; but when Jesus, through faith in His atoning death and His life-giving resurrection, takes us beyond the portals of this world, we shall see “face to face.” Then, with no more pain or parting, no more tears or trials, no more waiting or weeping, no more sorrow and sickness, no more sin and suffering, no more despair and death, we shall look ever to Jesus, who “hath done all things well,” who Himself was made “perfect through suffering.” By His blessed grace we who have been “faithful unto death” will “receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” For “if we suffer” with Jesus and for Jesus, “we shall also reign with Him.” God grant this, for His mercy’s sake! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.