Date: February 5, 1939

Prayer for the Heavenward Vision

O Thou who hast said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” Christ, our risen Redeemer:

Surrounded on all sides by decay and death, we implore Thee: Help us by Thy Spirit to triumph over the fear of the grave by trusting in Thy blood-bought victory on the cross. Show us daily that, though the wages of sin are death and eternal exclusion from heaven, in endless mercy Thou didst give Thyself unto death that not one of us, our sins forgiven, our trust centered on Thee, should die eternally but be blessed by the pledge of heaven. Enlighten our hearts with divine wisdom and keep us always prepared to meet Thee, since the hour of departure is known to none of us. Because we have Thy Savior love and in the fullness of this mercy a heavenly guarantee against eternal death, let our souls not sorrow too deeply in the dark hours of bereavement, as though we were without hope, but direct our vision heavenward! Help all to trust Thee and so to live that we rejoice in sincere gladness over the sacred promise of seeing Thee, blessed Savior, with Thy merciful Father and purifying Spirit, face to face in the endless glories of heaven. Thou hast promised that, if we believe in Thee, we shall pass from death to life. Lord, we believe; keep that promise mightily in our lives and help us find in Thy resurrection the proof for our eternal life. We ask this confidently because Thou hast instructed us to pray in Thy blessed name! Amen.

This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.1 John 2:25

WHAT, do you suppose, is the most destructive fear that grips human hearts today? Some of you, we may be sure, will answer that the shadow which darkens your life is the worry over money, these sinister question­marks in your pathway to happiness: “Will I keep my work? Will I have the means to provide for my family?” Labor leaders tell us that despite the commendable and costly efforts of our Government to decrease the regiments of the unemployed, we now have more men and women out of work than a year ago. These experts frankly predict that, unless a radical change comes,—for which they can find no evidence,—we shall continue to have ten million unemployed, with many of them actually suffering hunger. In the richest country of the world, which could offer constructive work for every employable citizen, there is indeed reason for deep-rooted fear when we behold the growing impoverishment of the many poor and the heaping wealth of the few rich or read of a $50,000 “high-society” party a few miles from the slums.

Others among you who are not so hard pressed by financial worries, will say that the most haunting fear in your lives is the dread of war. It is a ghastly spectacle, this present picture of highly civilized nations provoking one another to conflict instead of working for cooperation, with irresponsible, saber-rattling statesmen thundering defiance instead of pleading for reconciliation. When we realize that paid agents are systematically at work in a satanic attempt to hurl our country into another war for profit, it fairly makes one scream in protest to know that, unless God Almighty intervenes, thousands of young men from coast to coast will have their bodies drafted to stop bullets in European trenches. Only a little more of this poisonous propaganda, the blare of bands, the waving of fflags, the inflaming of mob hysteria, the harangues of hatred from the same preachers who twenty years ago helped to involve us in Europe’s war,—only a little more of all this, and blinded millions will be ready to line our city streets and cheer their own sons as they march into an aggressive war, with its disease, degeneracy, and destruction. The dread that all this may be closer to us than we realize is indeed one of the most terrifying of all fears.

Some people, however, remain unconcerned by these national issues. Their worries are personal. They are afraid of cancer or consumption. They are terrified by the thought that their husbands or their wives may prove unfaithful, their children ungrateful and they, deserted, may have to face life alone. They are plagued by the terror­filled thought that their mental power is weakening, that it may be lost completely.

Yet you can take all these fears and phobias, add to them any other sorrows that life can invent, and their sum total, as appalling as it may be, is exceeded by the deepest terror men know—the fear of death!

You may think that this is an alarmist point of view; but even those who have little regard for God and the Christ whom I preach have admitted this fact. A few months ago, in Switzerland, one of the world’s most noted psychologists, Dr. C. J. Jung, declared shortly before his death: “The world is mad because modern men and women are afraid to die.” Our age has lost its sense of true religious values, and confusion reigns because men have discarded religion and robbed themselves of every assurance concerning the hereafter. Middle-aged people especially, thwarted in their ambitions, constantly ask themselves: “What comes after this life? What happens to my body when the earth closes above it? Can I expect to live again, to meet those whom I have loved on earth? Is there a new world to come, with a punishment for all my sins? Or does death consign this body to decay and end all?” Because with all our culture men have lost Christ and with Him their moral balance, this fear of the hereafter has made ours an age of unparalleled nervous breakdowns, violent insanity, and frequent suicide.

As a protest against this despair and as sustaining guidance for the age-old mystery of death I bring you the message of

ETERNAL LIFE—THE PLEDGE OF DIVINE PROMISE

basing this blessed assurance on the infallible Word of Truth, Saint John’s First Epistle, chapter two, verse twenty-five: “This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.”

I

ETERNAL LIFE PROMISED BY CHRIST AND HIS WORD

At the outset let us come to an agreement on one basic fact: this “promise” of “eternal life” is not simply a pious wish, a comforting theory. It is rather the positive truth, a fact verified by the most exalted source, the almighty God Himself. I do not want to leave your hopes dangling on a vague “if,” “perhaps,” “maybe.” When our soul and body are involved, we need more than theory or any uncertain “It seems so” or “It may well be.” When we think of death, the grave, its decay, and know that all this ends every earthly hope, we need an unquestionable, inviolable truth; and—praise be to the love and power of God!—we have this in “the promise that He hath promised us.”

God keeps His promises. Politicians glibly pledge themselves to a course of action and then quickly forget their obligations. Hundreds of millions of dollars in stocks and bonds, signed and sealed by American business and industry, will never be repaid. Thoughtless young people commit themselves to unbroken love as they begin married life; but the courts reveal that one of every six of these wedding vows is broken, and only God knows how many more are shattered without the formality of divorce. But here, assured by the blood of Jesus, is our heavenly Father’s promise that will never be broken because it can never be broken. “The heavens shall vanish away like smoke,” He tells us, “and the earth shall wax old like a garment; . . . but My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished.” We are not now debating whether there is an existence beyond the grave. We are not conducting a laboratory investigation of the soul’s immortality nor searching for a testing-ground on which the promises of our text may be tried and examined; we are speaking of the divine truth, the immovable assurance, that there is an eternal life promised by Christ Himself, pledged in hundreds of passages of that blessed Word which will not pass away, though “heaven and earth shall pass away.”

Someone objects: “How about the scientists who emphatically deny the life to come or at best shrug their shoulders to say: ‘We can never know what happens after death’?” For every man of learning who contradicts the resurrection of the body I can show you distinguished scientists in the same field who have gratefully accepted the whole truth of the Savior’s repeated promises. We witness altogether too much exalting of reason and of scoffing at revelation, a folly that has always misguided men and misplaced their hopes. During the terrors of the French Revolution blasphemous unbelief sought to dethrone God by placing a harlot on the altar of the Parisian cathedral as the goddess of reason in her triumph over Christ. But a few years later, when a policeman was making his rounds in a disreputable section of Paris and was summoned to a filthy garret, he saw there, under indescribable conditions, a haggard, half-starved, half­frozen woman lying beneath a pile of rags. When he poked his stick at her and asked her name, that wretched creature croaked: “I am the goddess of reason.” A similar misplacement of hope marks all who accept human wisdom but reject the divine; who actually swear by man’s word but at God’s. They are following the same delusion today as the Parisian atheists who bowed their knees before a painted hag.

Some of the outstanding public enemies of Jesus Christ have learned their lesson in the eleventh hour. For instance, John Stuart Mill, one of England’s widely discussed unbelievers, who in his own words had only a “probable God,” for whom the Bible with its promise of eternity was but an outworn superstition, lived much of his life against the will of the Almighty. Despite vanity and unbelief, when his last hour came, John Stuart Mill turned to the Christian faith, as the physician who attended him in his last illness clearly testifies. And may the Spirit of God somehow seize and similarly cleanse the hearts of many in this audience who do not yet know God nor the promise of the resurrection!

Again, someone objects: “Well, if eternal life is so sure, how does it happen that many preachers, particularly those acclaimed as outstanding religious leaders of America, have torn from the Apostles’ Creed its last statements: ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.’?” It is a lamentable fact that liberal, Scripture-questioning Protestantism, instead of acknowledging the life to come as Jesus describes it, teaches a vague, indefinable, nondescript survival of personality. Have you noticed how this whole subject of heaven and hell, eternal life and everlasting death, is hushed in the modern pulpit? When did any of you ever hear a radio sermon on the resurrection of the body delivered by one of the New York preachers who week after week are given the free use of a vast broadcasting system? They do not like to talk about the grave, for this is an unpopular subject, and—why not be popular? “Don’t worry about death,” one of them says; “think of this life.” Because they have exiled Christ’s glorious comfort from their pulpits, they preach futile sermons on political and international subjects that leave hearts untouched. Today, in the city of Saint Louis, themes such as these are being discussed in local churches: “Trends of the British Empire,” “Calling Hard Names,” “How to Read a Newspaper,” “Life Is No Picnic,” “The Life that Precedes the Literature,” “Hitler’s Last Address.” With many modern pulpits featuring a thousand other subjects, they leave unanswered the most persistent, fear­provoking question that confronts the entire race, the issue of life after death. All normal human beings want this answer. Their conscience reminds them of eternity; every funeral recalls it; and though they like to dismiss this unpleasant thought from their minds, they know deep in their hearts that every day brings them closer to the grave and the inevitable reckoning.  Why, in the face of impending death, do men turn to prayer? Why was it, a few days ago, that, when the Italian liner Vulcania was struck by a furious storm off the Azores, its 360 passengers were thrown into such terror that one of them testified: “We did not expect to live through it. There was a general hysteria. Women fainted and screamed. Everybody was praying”? Why was it that, when the Cavalier, palatial air-liner, fell on the Atlantic in the darkest terror of the night, the surviving passengers and crew, rising and falling with each swell and drop of the sea, did what most of the papers neglected to report—spoke and sang prayers to the Almighty? Why, when scoffers come face to face with death, do they often shudder before the yawning uncertainties of the hereafter? I think of John Addington Symonds, who declared that he could find no trace of God as much as he searched for Him. Yet on his deathbed he clutched—what?—his mother’s book of prayers. Is not all this to be explained by the fact that, when men stand before eternity, the question demanding an answer is not this: “Is there a hereafter?” but rather: “How can I prepare for the hereafter?” Then men feel their sins in contrast to the holiness of God. They review their past life, and they wonder where they can find the assurance of heavenly love. A few years ago a young explorer died alone in an isolated hut at Long Rapids, Alberta. When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police broke their way into the cabin, they found him in a sitting posture, his skeletal hand still clutching a letter with these words: “The sun is shining, Mother, but I feel so cold. I can still walk a little, but that’s about all. There is no blood in me because I haven’t eaten for so long. . . . But . . . the only thing I worry about now is if God will forgive me my sins.” So, for every one of us—and I mean everyone, with no exception or exemption—the question is not: “Is the creed of the Church right when it says: ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,’” but: “Will the Almighty forgive me my sins, so that, cleansed, I can see God and, reconciled with my Father, may be resurrected unto life eternal?”

II

ETERNAL LIFE PROMISED THROUGH CHRIST AND HIS MERCY

Only Christ, our blessed Lord, our merciful Savior, can solve the problems of my sin and yours. For the one assurance of eternity that God has given all men for all sins we must look to Jesus and with the disciples say: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life!” For our text speaks in everlasting truth when it says: “This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.”

If you ask: “How can Christ, who lived and died nineteen hundred years ago in a foreign land, save me from sin and rescue me from death?” I answer by pointing you to the final source of our Christian strength, the heavenly assurance that Jesus, by the will and mercy of His heavenly Father, loved every one of us despite our sins, our screaming ingratitude, our open rebellion against purity, loved us with such divine outpouring of His compassion that He undertook the task—impossible for men and angels combined—of freeing us from our sins and preserving us for heaven. He paid the debt our transgressions incurred. He gave the ransom for our freedom. He quenched the fires of divine wrath, removed the deep, dark stains on our souls, fulfilled the laws we had broken, satisfied the righteousness of God, and paid the penalty for our inborn wickedness and multiplied sins.

If Christ had brought this deliverance to a select few and granted heaven only to the most self-sacrificing workers in His kingdom, even to them this would be undeserved mercy. But His pardon of eternal life is offered to all Jesus becomes the Attorney who at the bar of divine justice, in the case of the holy God versus your sinful soul, pleads before the Judge of eternity: “Father, I carried his sins; on the cross I was wounded for his transgressions; My hands and feet were bruised and bored through for his iniquities; Father, forgive him!” Answering this plea, the heavenly Judge promises all who accept Christ with unquestioning faith: “Your sins are forgiven. You have everlasting life!”

If God had said: “I will make a way to heaven and eternity, but you must travel far, seek restlessly, to find this way,” we should still praise His holy name and search by day and night. Yet in His boundless mercy the Savior’s promise of forgiveness and heavenly glory is so near that it is never removed from us, so clear that a little child can understand it, so direct that, if we know the full meaning of only these four short words “Christ died for me!” and sincerely believe their truth, this faith has saved us.

Once more, if the almighty God had told us: “I may forgive your sins; I may provide a life to come,” we would thank His mercy for not casting us off altogether, and with all our strength we would try to meet any demand His goodness might impose. But—“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”—His love could not leave us in uncertainty. Instead, He gave us a positive, definite faith by which, all questions removed, we can exult: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day,” the great day of eternal Judgment.

My fellow-worshipers, is this Christ, the complete, true Savior, both God and Man, once crucified, but now glorified, the Christ who gave all for you,—is He, the divine Redeemer, welcomed into your heart? As this question is mysteriously hurled through hundreds and thousands of miles of the ether to put you squarely before the supreme issue in your life, will you not believe that the great God in heaven above now directs this question pointedly to you? What will be your answer, the response that decides your destiny for ageless eternity? You either take Christ and with Him His gift of eternal life, or you reject Him and by that unbelief sign your own death-warrant. It is either heaven or hell. There is no second chance after this life, no third or intermediary stage. If the blood of Jesus Christ does not save you, nothing else in this world or the next can. How all-decisive is this question: Do you trust and follow Christ, who alone promises never-ending blessedness and without whom “no man cometh unto the Father”?

Try to picture to yourself as best you can the glories of heaven. Some of you will think in first instance of this unspeakable blessing that in the eternal homeland we shall be free from anguish and suffering. How blessed, of course, to be able to say to you: “Are you sick and weary now? With Christ, in the eternal mansions, you will never be pain-racked and sorrow-ridden. Is your family torn by discord here? Nothing can mar the perfect peace there. Are you lonely and forsaken in this life? You can never be neglected and cast aside in Christ’s eternal life. Have you seen your hopes crumble as unexpected sorrows have added affliction to agony? In heaven there are no disappointments, no cares, no griefs,—nothing but joy, gladness, peace, beauty, holiness.” These are all strengthening promises; but the greatest joy of heaven, for which we should pray daily, fervently, to our God is that supreme happiness, the most radiant of all glories, that of beholding Jesus face to face, living in the celestial realm where He is King. Again, it is a comforting realization to know that our bodies, though they be marked and pitted by the ravages of disease, maimed and broken by the cruelty of accident, worn and weakened by the advance of old age, in the resurrection will be transformed into the glories of a new perfection. Yet, incomparably more glorious will be the unending life with Jesus, worship before His throne, the blending of our voices with the heavenly chorus of the redeemed, living together with the mighty heroes of faith, the self-sacrificing parents who first showed us the way to salvation, the self-denying pastors and teachers who furthered our Christian knowledge, the friend who helped bring us to Christ or whom we helped by God’s grace to accept the Savior. Because I want to share all these blessings with you, I repeat: “Is there anything I can do to bring you this Christ and His promise of eternal life?” Last Sunday in Minneapolis, at the close of our message, a father, not a church-member, living in a spiritually indifferent home, was moved by the Spirit of God to call a pastor of that city to his home, with the result that an entire family, father, mother, and children, were won for Christ and for instruction in the Christian faith. In the name of Jesus I ask you to call, write, or visit one of the thousands of pastors working together with me, so that you, too, and by the grace of God your whole family may have the blessings of eternal life.

Don’t delay! Thousands of you are seventy, seventy-five, eighty years old and older. Cold arithmetic tells you that your hour may come quickly. Have you set your house in order? Are you ready to meet your God? Have you put your hand into the hand of Jesus for His guidance into eternity? You young folks and you in the height of achieving lives, you know how suddenly your last day may dawn and your last hour break. I beg of you as I speak in the name of Christ, and of those who, now in eternity, would have me speak warning and comfort to your soul: Take time for Jesus! Take time for your soul! Take time for membership in a true Church of Christ! Take time now for eternity!

Only with faith can you triumph over the cold sorrow of death in your family. From Pennsylvania a distracted husband writes: “I lost my wife about two years ago, and I am in agony and despair. I can’t overcome my loss. I sometimes feel like a shipwrecked sailor, with no hope of ever reaching the shore.” From Indiana a sorrow­crushed wife sends these grief-weighted words: “I am in great need of help. My husband passed away two weeks ago. We were married only four years and had the most perfect married life of which I know. We were buying our home, owned all our furniture, and had a prosperous business. Now I cannot understand why everything that truly matters had to be taken away and I have nothing.” I know those tears and that numb heartache death causes every time it enters our homes, even when it takes a world­weary grandfather or a time-tried grandmother. But dry those tears! Stop that heartache! Look to Christ! If you say, “Jesus, Savior, pilot me,” you cannot be a shipwrecked sailor, for His grace promises: “Fear not, I will pilot thee!” If you have Jesus, you cannot say: “I have nothing!” but you will rejoice: “I have everything,” for with this Savior yours will be the blessed assurance that, though His way is not your way, it is always the best way, the blessed way, the way to heaven. While the severing of earthly bonds may have left a bleeding wound, you know that those who die in the Lord are blessed forever, that they are removed from all the trials and agony of life, its dark and bitter moments, its sin and suffering, its anguish of heart and pain of body. Would you call them back from the blessed presence of Jesus?

Oh, cling more closely to Christ! For without Him every funeral is a mark of human futility, every burial the curse of human frailty. George Jacob Holyoake, an applauded British agnostic who ridiculed the Bible, suffered the tragedy that his small son Max was run over by a cab and killed. When the unbelieving father stood beside the casket, a few moments before the form and features of the child were to be taken away forever, he put the lad’s favorite toys and handbrush into the coffin. Why? He suddenly remembered that the ancient Aztecs in Peru often placed some objects into the hands of their corpses, and in his own words he declared: “We buried the poor fellow like a little Peruvian.” That agnostic father seemed to snatch a few crumbs of strength in some vague hope of the Aztecs. “And so we buried him like a little Peruvian.”—I want you to bury your children like little Christians. See how Martin Luther faced a similar bereavement! For fourteen days his daughter Magdalene, to whom he was especially attached, hovered between life and death. As that sorrowing father kept his vigil beside little Magdalene’s bed, someone heard him pray: “Father, I love her very dearly and should like to keep her if Thou, Lord God, wouldst leave her with me. But if it is Thy will, dear Lord, to take her to Thyself, then I shall rejoice that she is with Thee.” Someone else heard him ask the sick girl: “Magdalene, my child, my precious daughter, you would like to remain here with your father, but you would willingly go to the Father above, would you not?” to which the brave sick girl replied: “Yes, dear, darling father, as God wills.” And when Magdalene was taken by the angels to her heavenly home, the Great Reformer, returning from the cemetery, said: “We Christians have no cause for sadness. . . . We are most certainly assured of life eternal; for God, who cannot lie, has promised this through, and for the sake of His dear Son.” Is not this the trust you need, the soul-deep conviction that God cannot lie, that, when our text says: “This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life,” God Himself cannot change this everlasting truth?

For the salvation of your soul, for strength in your last hour, for light in the darkness of family bereavement, for the assurance that heaven offers a blessed compensation for the injustice of this earth and that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” I leave with you the question asked before, which, I hope, has battered its way through all sin and self-righteousness into your innermost heart. In the name of God the Father, who created you for eternity, God the Son, who saved you for eternity, God the Holy Spirit, who can preserve you for eternity, I ask you, as though in this moment there were only two people in all the world, you and I: “What can I do to help bring you to Christ and to faith in the promise of endless life?” God grant that your Spirit-filled heart will respond so that even now, looking to Jesus, you may say: “This is the promise” Thou hast “promised us, even eternal life!” Amen.

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

Date: January 29, 1939

Prayer for Christ in the Home

Blessed Savior, who didst enter the homes of Thy country-men to bring pardon, peace, and life:

Come into our family circles with Thy strengthening Spirit and abide with us!  We need Thy presence; for we are selfish, our thoughts often misdirected, our lives sin-bound. Do Thou therefore uphold us with the renewed promise of forgiveness through faith in the power of Thy shed blood; and let the Holy Spirit purify our daily walk, so that by the sincerity of faith and the uprightness of life we may make our homes havens of true happiness, churches of the living God, foregleams of the heavenly mansions. Thy guidance is necessary if we are to maintain the blessed custom of family prayer and Scripture­reading; for only too readily do we find excuses for neglecting this daily communion with Thee, and too willingly do we permit other demands on our time to leave us without sacred moments for Thee. O Thou Christ of heavenly compassion,—do not cast us away because of ingratitude nor punish us for indifference but pardon these denials of faith for the sake of Thy perfect merits and direct us to better discipleship! Grant us, if it be for our spiritual advantage, some of earthly prosperity; yet, above this, we pray Thee, bless our family relations, strengthen the mutual devotion between husband and wife, parents and children, and preserve us all through faith in Thee for “the whole family in heaven.” We ask this, blessed Savior, because Thou hast instructed us to bring our petition in Thy name and hast promised to answer us! Amen.

When she was baptized and her household she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there.Acts 16:15

TERRIFYING news of destruction has again shocked the civilized world. Entire cities have been wiped out in Chile by the tremors of a quaking earth. You may not have realized the extent of death and devastation, for Chile is many thousands of miles distant, and the newspapers, accustomed to death on a large scale, quickly took the reports of this South American tragedy off the first page. But make this comparison: The most disastrous of similar catastrophes the United States has known was the San Francisco earthquake with 700 deaths. In Chile, according to local estimates, 30,000 lives were taken, with 50,000 seriously injured. Last Sunday the afflicted cities were happy and undisturbed; this Sunday they are heaps of blackened ruins, with ten thousands of homes destroyed and as many families bereaved by sudden death.

Only one domestic tragedy can be worse than this destruction of property and lives—the disaster of inner upheaval, which leaves the brick and lumber of the house untouched but shakes the moral and spiritual foundations of the home, the tremors of family tragedy capable of destroying all happiness.

More homes in our country than we probably realize are suffering from this blighting of every joy that makes life really worth living. America’s greatest sorrow today is its family sorrow. True, our architects build homes more attractively than ever before; our domestic experts show us new answers to old family problems; our Government, with unparalleled generosity, enables the working-man to purchase his home; our legislation endeavors to establish premarital health requirements; our child psychologists direct their efforts toward a better American youth; our colleges have featured more courses in domestic problems within the last ten years than otherwise within the last hundred years; yet in the face of all this we find more unhappiness in modern family life, more discord in the home, more dissatisfaction with marriage, than in any previous age.

As your own letters prove,—on no subject do you write me more frequently than on marriage problems,—out of these unhappy family situations, where hate often rules instead of love, unfaithfulness in place of loyalty, shattered hopes rather than fulfilled dreams,—out of this deep distress comes the insistent plea: “Where can we find blessing for our homes?” “How can we build a foundation for our family life that will not be destroyed by the tremors of sin or the quakes of sorrow?” It is my conviction, in answer, that the only home which can withstand the reverberating force of wealth or poverty, health or sickness, honor or dishonor, the only family life strong enough to guarantee help against the ravages of sin and human selfishness, is the home and the family blessed by the abiding presence of Jesus Christ. And this is more than merely my opinion; for the Savior Himself assures us: “Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.”

In this spirit I want to speak to you on

FAITH-BLESSED FAMILY LIFE

as we find it illustrated in the words of Acts 16, verse 15: “When she” (Lydia) “was baptized and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there.”

I

THE FAITH THAT BLESSES THE FAMILY

This incident is taken from the beginning of Saint Paul’s missionary activity in Macedonia. Answering the vision that had appealed: “Come over . . . and help us,” the great Apostle left Asia and began to preach the crucified Savior in Northern Greece. His first congregation in Europe—think of it!—was a group of God­fearing women who used to meet at the riverside in the city of Philippi. The first European convert recorded as won for the Savior was this woman Lydia. The very start of Paul’s missionary work in Europe was marked by a notable truth which we witness continually—the fact that women are always in the front ranks of those who come to the Cross. Ask our home missionaries upon which groups in their congregations they can always depend for work and help in any way, and they will point you to the women of their charges.

Lydia was an unusual woman, even among the first Christian workers. She was wealthy, yet her money did not prevent her from confessing Christ at a time when allegiance to the Savior involved the danger of persecution. If only there were more of Lydia’s loyalty among men and women of means! Magnificent opportunities confront the Church; at the same time it faces organized and powerful opposition. Yet many of those blessed with more money than they need or can decently use for themselves do little for Christ’s kingdom, so that new missionary fields remain untouched, retrenchment marks the work in older mission­fields, pastors remain underpaid, and young theological graduates wait years before they can begin their soul-saving work. May God’s Spirit give all of you the grace to use your money, whether much or little, for life’s highest purpose, the extension of Christ’s dominion, before your money, as it repeatedly has, puts a curse on your family and a blight on your life!

Lydia was wealthy; she had built up a thriving business in Philippi. She sold purple garments. Frequently women engaged in business, with such responsibilities, find little time and show small interest for Christ. The change in the industrial system, particularly of this generation, that has given millions of wives work away from their homes has not been a blessing either to the Church or the home. For—and now I will say something many of you will not like—in spite of high and imposing pronouncements to the contrary, a woman’s place and a wife’s greatest happiness is in the family circle. No woman can have a higher human objective than that she love her husband dearly, that she try to make a good, clean, comfortable home for him, that she recognize the deep-rooted blessing of motherhood, bring children into the world, help to lead them to God, and make them loyal citizens, useful members of society. Nothing that working wives gain in the business world can begin to compare with the rich privileges of a God-fearing mother. I know of course that many mothers have to work because their husbands—sick, crippled, or otherwise incapacitated—cannot earn enough to support the family. When a Christian wife faces this emergency, she will gladly try to find employment; and as she strives to keep the household together, God will give her strength. I know, on the other hand, however, that many wives who need not, continue to work in the factory, the shop, or office after their marriage instead of living on a simpler standard of life within the husband’s salary. Too often, as experience shows, they lose in the end. Many never know the unspeakable pleasure of nestling a child of their own on their bosoms. They often destroy the husband’s sense of responsibility, and conditions in the neglected home frequently lead to separation or divorce. Besides, is it fair that hundreds of thousands of fathers with growing children are kept in disheartening idleness while in families without children two salary checks are cashed every week? Exceptions occur, of course, and to show us that we are not to judge with sweeping statements, the Scripture portrays this business woman at Philippi, who could combine, without conflict, her faith, her home duties, and the demands of her business. But you average, typical women of America, try to concentrate your intelligence and devotion on the blessings that will last when you are too old to work, the unequaled pleasure of building your home, seeing your children grow up into achieving manhood and womanhood!

Lydia’s faith was strong enough to withstand the business strain under which too many others might have forgotten God. When the apostle came to the riverside on the first Sabbath after his arrival in Philippi and preached the message of Jesus Christ, Lydia believed. She recognized Jesus as the Messiah, long promised to God’s people. She knew, according to the Scriptures, that God would send His Son “to redeem them that were under the Law.” She understood, with a mind enlightened by the Holy Spirit, that the coming Deliverer would be the Sin-bearer, Sin-conqueror, Sin-remover. With eyes clarified by that same Spirit, she saw Him, in the prophecies of Isaiah, “despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” She remembered the prediction of David that Christ’s enemies would bore through His hands and His feet. And when Saint Paul came to preach what every ambassador of Christ should proclaim, the subject that no minister of the Gospel can ever exhaust, “Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified,” she found in Jesus on the cross her Savior and her Lord. From that moment her entire life was changed.

Because this is the faith that we all need, I ask you, “Have you ever bowed down ‘in spirit and in truth’ to acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Savior?” “You husbands and wives throughout the length and breadth of the land, sitting together before your radio and hearing this appeal, can you both say: ‘Jesus is mine’?” Or, with all the closeness and intimacy of your lives, is one of you living in unbelief, in a spiritual coma, drugged by fatal indifference toward the welfare of your souls? If Abraham Lincoln deplored a house “divided against itself” as a national calamity, what cutting tragedy in the home divided along the lines of faith and unbelief, with husband and wife completely united except in the most vital unity, the common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! I have seen so much resultant sorrow that whenever young people write to ask whether they, as church-members, should marry someone who professes to love them but who is not a Christian, refuses to consider church-membership, and makes only vague promises for the future, I always answer with an unqualified “No!” If these young men or young women are not ready to accept Christ with all conviction—not as a favor to you—now, before marriage, they probably will never accept Him after marriage. Are you prepared to attend service Sunday after Sunday alone? Do you want to come home from church, only to be greeted by a condescending smile for your loyalty to Jesus? Can you be happy if always you have to say your prayers without your beloved at your side? Are you ready to face the prospect of knowing that the one whom you cherish most dearly is daily living without God in a life directed toward hell?  Besides, intermarriages between Christians and unbelievers only too frequently result in religious indifference even on the part of the believing husband or wife. I am also against marriages between Catholics and Protestants, and this is one point on which Roman Catholic authorities agree heartily with us. In our Church we tell our young people to marry one of their own faith, since we have statistical evidence that for Christians marriage by their own pastor—not by a justice of the peace—and the active participation of both husband and wife in the same true Church of Christ is the fundamental guarantee of marital happiness. Lydia was right when she, with the help of God, saw to it that her household heard Paul and when she encouraged them to come to the Christ whom she had accepted as her Savior. God grant all of you this same unity of faith! And if this means that some of you wives must continue to work and pray as you have for the conversion of an unbelieving husband, then keep on in the name of Christ; it may be that by the power of your entreaty, your testimony, the example of your Christian life, your husband will be brought to the faith. It may require sickness and reverses to shake him out of his conceit and stolid unbelief, but I say: Blessed loss if only he gains Christ!

Lydia’s faith was not a vague, emotional experience. She did not say: “Yes, I believe what Paul of Tarsus preaches,” and then let everything stop there. She heard the apostle require Baptism, so she was baptized; perhaps at the same river bank where she had first heard Paul she and all her household, young and old, received this blessed “washing of regeneration.” I ask you fathers and mothers a pointed and personal question: Are you baptized? Are your children baptized? If not, listen with all your hearts and minds to this rich grace which the Word of God itself promises. Saint Paul says: “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” “Be baptized and wash away thy sins.” “Baptism doth also now save us.” Modern Protestantism, of course, has often belittled this Sacrament, but the Bible exalts it. Jesus Himself says: “Preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” In His name I offer these baptismal blessings to all of you, old and young. Yes, old and young; for the whole household of Lydia was baptized. Who will deny that there were children in a large mercantile establishment like Lydia’s? Significantly the Book of Acts, three times in this chapter and the next, speaks of “households” coming to Christ. Now, they would not all be childless; yet all were baptized, by the promise which, God assures us, is “unto your children.”

When all in Lydia’s home had followed the apostle’s invitation to receive Baptism, the faith of this remarkable woman sought practical expression in her own family circle. With a humility that stands out in pleasant relief against the brazen boldness of many women in her day and ours, she approached Paul and those who were with him, with the request: “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there.” She wanted to hear more of Christ, to extend hospitality to His servants, to have her home blessed by their presence and preaching. Because there was a holy urgency in her invitation, the apostle accepted, and from that time on, throughout the many days that Paul and his assistants spent in Philipp Lydia’s home was the local church, the assembling place of the Greek Christians in that vicinity. It is my prayer and appeal that you, too, as did Lydia, will say to Christ: “Come into my house and abide there!” Make your home a church of Christ! Let the world know that in your family circle from this day on He will reign completely. Remember, Jesus spurns no home, however poor; for He Himself was reared in poverty. How sympathetically He would step across the threshold of dwellings saddened by sickness, afflicted by grief, heavily burdened by death! How gladly He accepted the invitations of sinners and social outcasts to come under their roof and sit at table with them! How earnestly He sought to enter the homes of the proud and self-righteous! How eagerly He retired to Bethany, there in the quiet abode of His followers to enjoy rest and peace! But believe especially in this moment that Christ calls you, your family, your home, that He is ready to speak grace and offer rich mercies to you and your whole household.

II

THE BLESSINGS WITH WHICH FAITH ENRICHES THE FAMILY

Lydia richly experienced the blessing of having the Word of God in her household through the presence of Paul, the servant of Christ. For every time Jesus crosses the threshold and His Word is enthroned in the family circle, this is the beginning of indescribable spiritual happiness.

This joy comes, first of all, through the assurance that by confident, childlike faith in Jesus we can appropriate the redemption from our sins and their punishment, to render praise and service. Those who have this faith—and I pray God it will be yours—are enriched by the highest gladness God Himself can give sinful men. Once more listen closely as I ask you directly, you individually, you too greatly preoccupied to answer Christ’s claims on your soul, too much engrossed in pleasure-seeking; will you not, now, in this “acceptable time,” ask Jesus to come into your hearts as into your homes and in these last days repeat the disciples’ prayer: “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”? Remember, you, the deeply fallen but penitent, He is an all-merciful Savior; His loving patience is ready to restore us though in our weakness we frequently fall; for His mercies are “new every morning.” Regardless of the past, no matter how scarlet your sins and how crimson their consequences, Jesus loves you, dejected as you are, with such a surpassing devotion that He has taken all your sins from you, suffered their soul-crushing penalty, and now only asks you to believe. Try to picture yourself standing before God and ask yourself whether you can honestly think of one reason for rejecting Christ; whether, rather, there are not endless myriads of reasons for accepting Christ, one for every sin, one for every blessed hope.

Lydia’s home was remarkably enriched by that faith. She continued in grace, supporting the apostle’s missionary work. Years afterward Saint Paul sent her church a warm greeting of thanks, and his letter to the congregation of the Philippians, often called “The Epistle of Joy,” doubtless reflected the happiness that Lydia, as its most prominent member, experienced in her own home. With Christ you, too, can enjoy the same full measure of inner happiness; for when Jesus is enthroned in your hearts, you are born again. The old things of life, hatred, self­seeking, lust, all these enemies of the soul that help to destroy peace and make others suffer, are defeated. The fundamental problem in life today is the conquest of selfishness, the development of love and sacrifice. Domestic experts may have a dozen prescriptions for family troubles, but not until men have seen Christ on the cross and learned the power of true love, can the ravages of self-mindedness be stopped. Wealth can separate a father from his children; too much learning, especially the wrong kind, can make children ashamed of their parents; but faith in Jesus will tame the brute passions of men, make them forget self, and teach them the glory of Christlike devotion to others.

As I transpose this promise into the everyday scenes of your home, let me say that some of you husbands and wives who on the day of your marriage seemed to face life with the roseate glow of high hopes have now turned bitter, lost respect for each other. If you only would kneel before Christ, ask Him for forgiveness, strength, new love, your faith in Him would mightily help you. If some of you who are contemplating divorce, which always starts from self-indulgence, self-centered pleasure-seeking, would turn to Christ in the sincerity of a full, repentant, trusting faith, you could start again and live your married lives with His peace and blessing. Some of you have been guilty of unfaithfulness, which despite its momentary lustful pleasure will never give you rest as long as you have a conscience. Bear this in mind: If these scarlet sins are unforgiven and continue, they will help to destroy “both soul and body in hell.” But believe that, as Jesus offered peace to the soul of an adulteress, refusing to cast a stone upon her, you, too, through faith can be pardoned, learn to sin no more in this destructive way, and steadfastly “grow in grace.”

Besides removing the sins that mar our lives and checking the selfishness that turns men to beasts even in their family circles, the victorious faith in Christ gives us the power to meet temptations and repel lust. How many homes are broken by drunkenness; yet they could be spared this tragedy if only the love of Jesus were the constraining force and the influence that would help break the stranglehold of alcohol! Far too frequently a wife’s indifference paves the way for marital disaster; yet that sorrow could likewise be averted if only the uplifting power of the Holy Spirit were at work in the hearts of these women! Children often disgrace their parents, causing endless worry, withholding the love and support that God and man demand of them; but if these children would behold Christ, obedient to His parents at Nazareth, considerate of His mother even on the cross, they could find through the Spirit the power that creates and sustains unselfish devotion to parents!

This faith, by which a family looks only to Christ, shows its rich reward particularly in darker days, when the home is overshadowed by sorrows multiplied in an age like ours. Soon after Lydia turned her abode into a church, a persecution broke out, and Paul and Silas were thrown into jail at Philippi; but God was with Lydia’s household during those trying days, and He will be with your household during similar times of affliction, provided you repeat Lydia’s invitation: “Come into my house and abide there.” With multitudes in this country absolutely homeless; with millions unemployed and undernourished, we need the Christ who is particularly concerned with the lowly, the poor, the oppressed. While Jesus never lured any one through the promise of financial gain and earthly profit, He plainly assures those who are His of His Good­Shepherd guidance, so that they will not want. Richly and daily, He guarantees us, will His Father provide for our needs. Sometimes He changes poverty into plenty overnight or, as many can testify, He supports and improves a Christian business; but always, and without condition, He gives a faith-crowned home that which is beyond purchase, the riches of His grace. Take courage in this, you fathers who worry over your inability to support the family! Bring these troubles to the Lord in prayer! Trust Him to keep His word, and you will find your problems solved! Surveying His ways, often beyond your understanding, you will confess, “He leadeth me!”

We need Christ for homes disquieted by sickness, where parents spend sleepless, fear-darkened nights at the bedside of a loved one and can find no sustaining guidance if not in Him who “sticketh closer than a brother.” We offer Christ for the distracted home, where sudden accident has left a crippled body, a paralyzed limb, a hopeless invalid. Nothing but faith in Jesus can bestow the surpassing assurance that for the Christian these things are not blind accidents but have been permitted by God for some ennobling purpose, an end so exalted that it is worth a thousand times more than all the suffering that precedes it. Christ can bring His radiant comfort especially into those homes through which the deepest sorrow has cut its path, where the last enemy, death, has crossed the threshold. In the agony of death, for which all human learning and resources cannot suggest a word of real soul-strengthening, we must have—and, thank God! we can have—the abiding presence of Christ. He can strengthen all for whom the wounds of bereavement still fresh with the glorious consolation that for those who die in this blessed faith there can be no lasting night of death, instead, only the momentary decay of the body and then the unspeakable power and beauty of the resurrection.

Even homes that have escaped these sorrows should enjoy the blessed companionship of Jesus; for His Word, His Spirit, His code of divine truth, can strengthen happy, carefree families for the vital help which they must contribute in crisis years like these. Our nation will be saved and its liberties safeguarded, not so much by legislation at Washington as by the training of the youth in Christian homes and the shaping of their ideals by Christian parents. A hundred years ago the pioneers of my Church, Saxon pilgrim fathers, came to this country in order to serve God according to the freedom of worship that our country guaranteed them. After a hundred years we realize that, if these ideals and the other national preeminences are to be preserved for us, we must have homes, under God, which teach love for our country and not for Communism, respect for parents rather than disregard, a hatred of crime in place of applause for evil, patriotism and no anti-Scriptural pacifism, honesty before expediency, true wisdom rather than shrewdness.

We need these homes for the progress of the Church, since without the support of the family the cause of Christianity would, humanly speaking, suffer severe restrictions. We must have these Christian homes for countless other reasons; but since the Church must work first of all for the next world, I appeal for Christian family life that helps prepare for our heavenly home. Lydia’s household has been commemorated for all ages in its record emblazoned on the New Testament pages. My fellow­worshipers, does your home likewise glorify God? Does it exalt the love of Christ? Is it a church of that Savior? If your family does not serve God, in final analysis it serves His enemies. May you now be ready to make yours a Christ-marked dwelling, to enthrone that Savior in your family circle with the pledge “Christ is the Head of this home.” As you repeat the daily prayer: “O Jesus, ‘come into my house and abide there,’” this blessed Lord of all, whose Word has never been broken, will come and abide with you. May His power, His love, His radiant promise of life everlasting in the Father’s house above, make your home, through faith, a foregleam and promise of these eternal mansions, prepared for you and your entire household, through Jesus Christ! Amen.

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

Date: January 22, 1939

Praise for Our Creator

God Almighty, whose power has created us:

Bless every message of Thy divine truth which tells men they are more than beasts, far more than human accidents in a chance world. Help us rather to believe that Thou hast created man as the masterpiece of Thy love and omnipotence. Show us with ever-increasing clarity that, when sin entered into the world to destroy the creatures of Thy hand, their souls were so precious in Thy sight that Thou didst send Thy Son, our only Redeemer, to save them from sin and death.  Direct our vision toward Christ and the divine assurance that, if—far from sparing Thine own Son—Thou didst deliver Him up for us all, Thou wilt freely grant us for His sake also all we need for this life. May Thy Spirit take possession of our hearts, so that, trusting in Thy saving goodness, we may not be disturbed by worry but find comfort in the thought that Thou art with us. With Thee at our side, what can overwhelm us?  Give us a sense of deep repentance for any acts, known or unknown, which have offended Thee and betrayed our ingratitude for Thy manifold mercies. Bless our mission of the air, in which we press the miraculous powers of Thy nature into the service of the Gospel that throughout the land sinners may be brought to repentance, trust in Thy love, and reliance on Thine unfailing promise of heaven. Hear us, for we pray at the Savior’s request, with His promise and in His glorious name. Amen.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.Psalm 121:2

DO you know the real, basic trouble with our age and world? Ask the first ten people you meet on any street, “What do we need for a better life?” and at least nine will answer in three syllables, “More money!” Our trouble, however, lies much deeper than the financial surface. We have more money in the United States today than in any other decade; in fact, we have been obliged to build vast subterranean vaults for the protection of gold and silver bars, massively piled. We have so many superfluous funds that the unused savings accumulated in our banks form one of the most pressing problems before the average banker. With all these rich endowments of a country that could guarantee a happy, profitable existence to a population much larger than our present number, we have failed so abjectly in the management of our money that, when recently in Congress the proposal was made to drop 200,000 from our relief rolls, one Senator shouted in warning, “Only God knows what these people are going to do—unless they starve.” The specter of famine in the wealthiest land of the world!

Rooted far below these dollar difficulties is the fundamental failure of our entire age: heedless striving against God, the dark tragedy that the men who seek to run the world without God or against Him are making a ghastly mess of it. This exile of the Almighty controls much of modern thought. It starts with eliminating God as the Creator, a gloating over the claim that man is a creature of chance on an accidental planet that has no place for God. The world runs itself, we are told, and it is up to human genius and power to direct men’s affairs as best they can. Every man shapes his own destiny, it is claimed; for in this materialistic creed God—if there be a God—cannot regulate and guide individual lives. When the apostles of man’s chance-beginning see their fellow-men struck to the ground by the impact of uncontrollable adversities, they only shrug their shoulders and whisper something about the cruelty of fate.

Because this damnable doctrine excludes God as it teaches the triumph of the strongest and the success of the shrewdest, it has helped throw our age into the turmoil of worldwide suffering and the tyranny of selfish power. Statesmen, scientists, and men of public affairs not noted for religious zeal voice the need for a spiritual basis on which men can build better lives and the hope for a better age. On the Continent a celebrated Swiss psychologist, shortly before his death, cried out: “The world needs religion. It is the insanity of the white man that he has lost the religious order of life. Until he finds that, he will scarcely be healed of his troubles.” In England British statesmen have warned that, if religion fails, the foundation of our civilization must crumble. In Pittsburgh, a prison warden, watching the lengthening procession of criminals, asserts, “We need religion.” In New York a student of human problems writes a book that quickly becomes a best seller under the title The Return to Religion. However, the cry should be, not, “The world needs religion,” any kind of religion, any sort of creed, but, “It needs the religion of Jesus Christ.” Instead of a “return to religion” we want a return to the religion of Jesus Christ. For of all the knowledge ever gathered for our guidance, the Bible alone gives us divine assurance on the questions of human origin, the perplexities of life, and the ultimate hope of heaven.

In this spirit I ask you to behold in

THE GREAT GOD OUR CREATOR AND SUSTAINER

to find in Him the Author of our existence, the Protector of our lives, as the sacred writer in the One Hundred and Twenty-first Psalm (verse two) exults: “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

I

GOD THE CREATOR

When the unnamed psalmist, on his pilgrimage up to Jerusalem, looks to God and declares, He “made heaven and earth,” he uses the same language by which thousands of millions through centuries of peace and bloodshed have confessed their faith in the first article of the Apostolic Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” This morning on every continent, in hundreds of different languages, yet with an absolute unity of conviction, myriads repeated this acknowledgment of God’s creative power. That Creed is shared by all who are truly Christ’s, as every Christian, whether he be Catholic or Protestant, Lutheran, Episcopal, or Reformed, will subscribe to each syllable of Martin Luther’s remarkable statement, which, explaining the personal meaning of the words “Creator of heaven and earth,” declares: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses.” Here we who call ourselves Christians stand on common ground, whatever the differences may be that keep us apart otherwise; we look to God as the Author of our lives, the Originator of this universe. If anyone changes the first sentence of the Apostles’ Creed to read: “I do not believe in the God who is the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” no matter who he is,—he may be a scholar of notable learning, a doctor of divinity sponsored by multimillionaires,—one thing is certain: he is no Christian!

It is the unholy mark of our twentieth century that more than ever before men brazenly claim that this is an accidental world. We are told that ageless millions of years ago a wandering star by random chance happened to steer its course too close to the sun and in passing tore out a large segment of gaseous masses. After unnumbered ages these solar gases became solid, and through further transformations, each one haphazard and without divine forethought, the globe which we now call the world took its present form. Once more, by a fluke of fate, the first living cell (for which no anti-Biblical theorist has ever adequately accounted) found itself on our planet in those days of dizzy distance; and by thousands of chances, each one absolutely without God, this simple life-cell developed into the complex forms of plant and animal existence, until, after the roulette-wheel in this lottery of emerging life had spun frequently enough, the first men—half animals, half human—emerged and began the human race, which, we are assured with all seriousness, is on its way upward to a golden age,—all the achievement of chance.

That full-faced denial of God the Creator is being taught millions of American children. It has usurped a place in the liberal pulpit today, where Modernists tell their audiences that God, unknown and unknowable, is a distant force, unconcerned about the continuance, beginning, or ending of our lives; that man is but a superior animal, only a few notches above the more intelligent beast. This coronation of chance and campaign against God’s creation crystallizes a critical issue, in which those who would be Christ’s should take a decisive stand. We look either to God for our bodies and brains or to some gorilla­like creature. We accept either divine creation or an accidental origin.

Which will it be? Which can it be, I say, when the Word of God has spoken decisively? Not in one passage or dozens of passages but in more than one hundred distinct statements of Scripture, Old Testament and New, the Bible, as our psalmist, says that God “made heaven and earth.” Be dear on this one pivotal point: The attack on man’s divine origin is not only a questioning of the Old Testament verses; it is an attack upon the whole Scripture. You cannot reject Genesis without rejecting the Christ of whom Genesis testifies; you cannot accept Jesus as the infallible Son of God without accepting the creation which Jesus teaches. The Bible is not half right and half wrong. To be the Word of God, it must be entirely right! It must be—and again we publicly confess it to be—God’s holy, inerrant, infallible truth from the earthly Paradise in Genesis to the heavenly Paradise in Revelation.

We are against this claim of man’s ape ancestry and this banishing of God, not only because it is against the sacred Scriptures, but also because it contradicts human reason. The very thought that our bodies should be the result of chance, the haphazard combination of various life-cells and organisms is preposterous. For example, certain evolutionists actually teach that the eye originated in this way: some animal had a freckle on the side of its head, and when this creature happened to turn to the sun, the light agreeably affected the freckle. As successive generations did the same thing, by the sheerest chance, that freckle developed sensitiveness, and after countless years a nerve was produced, and from that nerve came the beginning of the eye—all without God! Now, what are the facts? The eye consists of nine major parts. Mathematicians will tell you that the mathematical possibility of these nine parts’ being made as they are and their combining to form the eye by mere chance is one out of one hundred quintillion.

Or take the ear, which, by the claims of those who deny God’s creation, likewise owes its existence to a hit­and-miss process. The ear consists of twenty major parts; I am not even considering the smaller parts and the basic units. Mathematically the possibility that the ear developed accidentally is one chance in a number so large that it must be written with the figure one followed by forty-one zeros. How much wiser the sage of the Old Testament was when he declared: “The hearing ear, the seeing eye, . . . the Lord hath made both of them.”

Remember, too, that the ear and the eye are only two parts of a mechanism. If you take the other complex parts of our organism and then ask what is the mathematical possibility that the human body would acquire its present form by chance, we read the conclusion that the human body has “less than one chance out of one decillion times one decillion times one decillion times one decillion times one octillion to originate by mere accident.” And that figure, I believe, is far too small. I ask you, without recourse to the Word of God, Is it not more reasonable to assume that the human body was created than that it developed at random?

Besides, this theory of chance is directed toward the destruction of all morality. If we are but the advanced brood of the beast; if, as a popular university lecturer tells our academic youth “animals we are, and animals we remain,” then trample down the Ten Commandments! Live the one life that we have to the fullest before we return to the endless silence of the grave! If we have only refined animal blood coursing through our veins; if our heart is essentially the heart of a chimpanzee; if our brain differs, in general, only in quantity from the brain of an orangutan, forgetting God and the superstition of religion, why not live for ourselves, as the beast lives? Down with right! Let might rule!—These are the logical extremes to which the dethroning of God must lead. A hundred thousand Chinese killed and wounded in 3,500 air raids! Almost two million Russians murdered by Soviet executioners in the first five years of the Red terror! That is the kind of world this rejection of God always wants and always makes. It has no room or compassion for invalids, aged, and non-productive; instead, as radical evolutionists have expressly demanded in their writings, the anti-God campaign is ready to kill off the helpless, crippled members of society. This blasphemous, atheistic exaltation of the animal is dangerous to the state, since its closest ally is Communism. It is destructive to Christian marriage and Christian home-life; for once God is removed as the Creator, His holy ordinances are likewise set aside and the unbridled fulfillment of every lust, even the most perverted, is licensed.

Will you not agree fully with me when I insist the churches must be aroused to defend this sacred truth that God is the Author of life? The churches must be instilled with a holy aggressiveness! Particularly in our large cities, we should throw open at least parts of our large church­buildings, otherwise closed for six days of the week, so that people can daily commune there with God! Open reading-rooms in our churches would help us lay the claims of Christianity before the American public. More courage in truth-loving congregations would expel from the pulpit any preacher who violates his trust by denying the creative miracles of God! Give us more Christian citizens who will protest at school-board sessions and public meetings whenever Christian children are subjected to spiritual poison, God-fearing men and women who will say, “You can teach this thing as a theory if you insist, but in the name of God and the Constitution of the United States, you cannot deliberately tear the truth of the Bible out of our children’s hearts.” Let us offer more money, more support, more students, for those church-schools and colleges where the faith of our young people will not be assailed. Support us with more prayer for the extension of this radio hookup, so that we can put the issue before the people throughout America by the quickest means that God has given us, the radio (remembering that, while evolutionists broadcast their denial of God free of all charge, for almost six years we have paid for every moment of every regular broadcast). Before it is too late, the Christian churches of America must set their houses in order and prepare to testify and tell the world: “We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

Don’t be dismayed by the fact that the general scientific trend seems to be against the Bible’s acknowledgment of God as Creator; for even if intellectual circles continue largely to oppose God’s Word, this would not be the first time in history that the Scriptures have emerged victoriously from the conflict with Christless culture. Even now, however, unmistakable signs are evident that many scientific leaders—and I mean leaders—are questioning the claims of man’s animal ancestry and are protesting in unmistakable terms against the atheistic doctrine of chance. While armchair authorities and high-school experts continue to accept the wildest assertions as facts, the real scholar is content with labeling the teaching of man’s rise from the animals as only a theory, unproved and filled with many difficulties.

The Christian, however, surrounded with this cutthroat assault on the first truth of the Scriptures, has the mind of the Psalmist as he directs his eyes to God, who “made heaven and earth.” He looks up to the night skies, where, the astronomer tells him, there may be 30,000,000,000 shining stars; he beholds the earth, only a small part of this universe, and he exclaims, “What an almighty Creator my heavenly Father is!” He studies the human body, with the marvels of the brain, the wonders of his heart and lungs, the miracles of the senses, the many mysteries of the human body, not a single one of which can be reproduced in any laboratory, and he says: “What an all­understanding Creator my heavenly Father is!” He contemplates man’s position on earth, with a world of resources about him every day, with lavish supplies for food and shelter, with unlimited prospects for delight in the surpassing beauties of nature, or the constant opportunities of life, and he exclaims: “What a generous Creator and Sustainer my heavenly Father is!”

II

GOD THE SUSTAINER

The Christian not only acknowledges God as the Originator of the world, with everything in it; he also gives Him glory for the omnipotence, love, and wisdom which combine to protect and preserve His children. With the psalmist of our text we, too, must say, “My help cometh from the Lord.”

As a potter discards a marred, misshapen vessel, so the Father who created us might have rejected our entire race when we rebelled against Him and lost the image of His holiness. He might say to you and me: “You had your chance. You have broken My Law instead of keeping it. Now bear the consequences! Don’t look to Me for help.” But that could not be our God. He who loved man as the masterpiece of His creation, loved him even when he was “dead in trespasses and sins” and showed His mercy by sending His Son to take away our sins, restore us to God, break the stranglehold of death and hell over our lives, and preserve us until we are brought—after this life—into the glories of an indescribably blessed eternity. If you have never been truly touched by the marvel of Christ’s love for your soul, try to learn how wondrously God’s sustaining love in Christ speaks to your soul! God might have made the road of reconciliation hard by imposing many difficult demands; but in the grace of His Father­heart of love He left the way of salvation accessible to every one of us when He says: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” He asks of you not the tiring labor of your hands and muscles, the dripping sweat of your brow, the exhausting struggle of all your energies; He only says, “Believe!” God might have completed part of the plan of salvation and left the rest to us. He might have said: “I have done My share; now finish what I have started.” But in His all-surpassing mercy He did not leave us in doubt, with our salvation incomplete. When Jesus, broken under the weight of all human sin, nailed to the cross in punishment of all mankind’s iniquity, dying at Golgotha in the sinners’ stead, gasped in His last moments, “It is finished!” the task of redeeming a world from its sins was completed forever and for all men. God might have looked from His high heavens to select the best, most virtuous, most deserving, most considerate among men. But He did not. His love was not for a choice few, but for the world; and only those are barred who bar themselves through their rejection of Christ.

So as the writer of our psalm sings: “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord,” my fellow-ransomed, you, too, can lift up your “eyes to the hills,” especially that climax hill of history, Calvary, and, pointing to Jesus, say, “‘My help’ for the needs of my sin-stained soul; ‘my help’ for a purer heart, for the twice-born life without which no man can see God,—‘my help’ cometh from this Lord, languishing here on the cross.” Let nothing keep you from Christ’s sustaining love! Sometimes when I broadcast, unable to see you, as I urge you to accept Jesus, I feel hemmed in and restricted. But I know that the Spirit of God can touch your hearts; and I pray, as thousands of others in our assembly of the air also intercede with God, that many from the East to the West, in Canada, in our own country, in Mexico, by that Spirit may be brought to the Savior and to the glorious assurance of His sustaining love. Will you not believe, then, that the God who regarded your soul as so precious that it could be saved only through the atonement of His Son wants you to acclaim your Redeemer, to bring your sins now in spirit before His cross, to point to the Crucified and say, “‘My help cometh from the Lord,’ the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners”?

With that blood-bought protection for your soul and that blood-sealed title to heaven you are granted the assurance of God’s sustenance for your body, the promise of His guidance for this life. If God did the greater thing and through Christ saved your soul, will He not do the lesser and by His mercy protect your life? Or, as the apostle puts it: “He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” Believing Jesus, you have the deep-rooted conviction that there is no chance, no good luck or bad, in your life, but that every day you toil and every night you rest is marked by the guardian protection of your heavenly Father Himself. By faith you believe that despite encircling dangers your life is more than a series of accidents and you yourself far more than a haphazard atom of humanity to be crushed by the avalanche of fate. You know that your life is precious in the sight of God and that in the hour of trial, looking to Christ, you can say, “My help cometh from the Lord.”

Expressed in terms of practical, everyday life, this means that the Lord whose wisdom created you, whose love redeemed you, will in Christ sustain you, if necessary through His almighty power. Many, I know, can show how God fulfilled the promise of His Word “He shall give His angels charge concerning thee” and in His miraculous way protected you from destruction. There is a close example of that in my own father’s life. Once while traveling in the mountains of Switzerland, he lost his way and was overtaken by nightfall far away from his destination. He pushed on in the darkness as best he could, until an inner voice suddenly urged him to stop. He obeyed that impulse and slept under the dark cover of a starless Alpine sky. Can you picture his horror, and above that his gratitude to God, when, awaking with the early sunlight, he found that he had slept through the night on a cliff within only a few feet of the edge that overhung a deep ravine? The fact that he was spared and that as one of many consequences I was granted life and being is not the result of blind chance nor a stroke of fortune, good or bad. Like many similar instances it is the fulfillment of hundreds of passages in which the God who redeems our “life from destruction” pledges, “I am continually with thee.”

This sustaining love is shown not only when God averts danger but also when He richly and daily provides those who are His, not with all they want but with all they need. We should try fully to believe this truth and stop the worries embittering our lives in these problematical years! If only we would trust the God whose ancient prophet kept oil in the widow’s cruse; the Christ who multiplied the loaves and fishes and who can and will perform the same miracles today! If only when we pray: “Give us this day our daily bread,” we would know that God, were it necessary, would rain bread from heaven as He did for Israel in the wilderness!

His protecting love is so pure and perfect that it can turn sorrows into rejoicing, money losses into spiritual gain, retreats into progress. God loves us unswervingly and surrounds our souls with complete protection. Rather than permit success, applause, health, to take us away from Him, He is ready—and this is the real test of love—to let us suffer so that we may be purified and after the collapse of our ambitions to build a better foundation on humble faith.

Is not this the faith you need? Is not this loving Father, this redeeming Savior, this purifying Spirit, the God you must have if you are to face life confidently and death victoriously? What else do you need besides the assurance that once you are Christ’s, everything in life comes from God’s love and is directed by His wisdom toward your welfare? What other religions of which men have ever heard throughout the aging centuries could give man what Christ gives to those who believe in Him, when His Word says: “All things work together for good to them that love God,” the sacred pledge that we are not the playthings of fate but the objects of Christ’s devotion and of His transforming power by which liabilities in our life may become assets, reduced income lead to increased trust, physical pain result in spiritual pleasure, loneliness bring a blessed companionship with Jesus!

May God’s Spirit give you all, above all else for which hearts of flesh and blood may crave, this peace in a war­racked world! May He bring us with the dawn of every new day closer to the personal realization that God is our Creator and Sustainer, our Redemption and Resurrection, our glory in earth and in heaven! With that faith we can push our way through all fear, worry, affliction, opposition, and with Christ at our side exult: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord!”

Men and women of America, young men and young women, boys and girls, fathers and mothers, and you, my aged hearers, who have traveled far into the night of life: with eyes directed to the Christ of the cross repeat as the expression of your faith in God, the Creator and Sustainer, the conviction of the psalmist: “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth,” and by that confidence in Christ be blessed, now and forever! Amen.

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

Date: January 15, 1939

Supplication for the Spirit’s Cleansing

God, our Father in heaven:

Send us Thy purifying, strengthening Spirit that ours may be a triumphant faith in Thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, and a clean, Christian life through the Spirit’s indwelling. We confess that our hearts are crowded with unclean, selfish, hateful thoughts and our lives repeatedly marked by the impress of sin. We know, too, that, if we rely on human strength, we must surrender to the temptations of the flesh. Yet we believe that the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from all sin, and with unwavering certainty we know that, our transgressions removed, the Holy Spirit can strengthen and sanctify us. Send us this Comforter now to create within us clean hearts that love Thee, hate sin, and cherish every opportunity humbly to serve suffering humanity. “Ye must be born again” is the Savior’s earnest word to those who would enter the kingdom of God. Thou knowest, Lord, that above all else we would come to Thee. So grant, we beseech Thee, to all laboring under sin the faith that brings a regenerated heart and sanctified life. Then, in truth, shall we be new creatures in Christ, with old things passed away forever. We ask it in the name of Him who promised us this cleansing grace, even Jesus, the Savior of all men. Amen.

A new heart . . . will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.Ezekiel 36:26

IN California a State university teacher makes an astonishing prediction. He promises that within a hundred years science will completely conquer crime and establish a viceless, warless world. And how is this new race of supermen to be created? The Pacific Coast scientist answers in effect: “By chemistry!” by prescription of potassium, magnesium, sodium, and other elements in different combinations and proportions!

As absurd as is this plan for perfection through chemical formulas and laboratory test tubes, many equally impossible programs are advanced by which men would banish wickedness and achieve goodness. They tell us that for a better race and a happier world we must have physically perfect parents; that weaklings and criminals must be sterilized; that members of different racial groups must be prohibited from intermarriage. Yet a sound body does not always house a sound mind. Beauty-contest winners are often conspicuous for their immorality. Does anyone besides a fanatic seriously hold that a racially pure nation will be morally pure?

Again we are told—and now I summarize the opinion of a Cornell University professor, which many share—that the impoverished working classes, the families on relief, must have fewer children,—as though this race suicide, with its contradiction of God’s Word, could ever bring a blessing upon any people! Think what would have happened if the poor had thus been penalized and their parenthood restricted in the past! Our nation would have had no Abraham Lincoln, no Henry Clay, no James Garfield, no Thomas Edison, none of a host of other illustrious leaders!

Still others approach this search for a happy, crime-free generation by insisting: “Down with the slums!” “Away with dark, dismal tenements!” With all our hearts we echo: “Down with the slums!” “Give the working-man sunlight and green grass on which his children can romp!” Do not think, however, that a man’s moral life is measured by the neighborhood in which he lives. One often sees more contentment within the cramped quarters of a poor family in a depression district than in the drawing-rooms of some millionaires, who, with all their wealth, do not know the joy of having the love and respect of their own children.

The Communists—and there are more in the United States today than there were in Russia when that country turned Red—tell the unemployed and the disgruntled worker that the world will never be better until capitalism is destroyed and all possessions, as all families, have become common property. Yet, if you look at the crimson chaos in Russia, you will conclude that atheistic Communism must come from the same hell to which it leads.

Because these programs for the joy-filled existence have failed, the cry has become: “Give us more laws, wider, stronger laws, and make men bow before them!” We tried this when the nation appended the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution and stated in effect: “We will legislate drunkenness out of existence; we will make the people temperate and sober by law.” You know what happened! A reign of crime ensued which made millions calculated lawbreakers and helped to produce deeper disrespect for governmental authority.

So we fall back on a last-line trench and try to educate the minds of men for goodness. Again bitter experience teaches us that we need more than a trained mind for honesty, decency, and truth; that a brilliant brain will not necessarily help to produce a morally blameless life. In this age, when we have more and better-equipped schools than ever before, we also have more and better-equipped prisons.

No matter how we try to strengthen men’s bodies, improve their environment, appeal to their mind, surround them by laws and lofty principles, all this is not enough, because it does not touch the human heart. That fountainhead and source must be cleansed; and because only the Spirit of God can touch your heart and mind in that way, let us turn to our heavenly Father and pray:

“GOD, GIVE US A NEW HEART!”

and then be strengthened by the assuring answer which Ezekiel (chapter thirty-six, verse twenty-six) directs to every one of you: “A new heart . . . will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”

I

WE NEED NEW HEARTS

When God promises “a new heart and . . . a new spirit,” He goes straight to the beginning of all human sin and sorrow and suffering. Unless the heart of man can be changed so that he loves good and hates evil, all other remedies will prove hopeless. The failure of many modern character-building plans must be traced to the fact that they work for outer change instead of inner regeneration. One cannot save a collapsing building by painting its rotten timbers. One cannot expect to repair the broken mainspring of a watch simply by polishing its case. To a much higher degree we must have—as sadly as this element is missing in our educational planning and our social work—a spiritual approach—we must change the heart! We must lift and liberate the souls of men!

How the tragedies of our day make us yearn for a refining, strengthening, purifying power that can give us “a new heart . . . and a new spirit”! Though our age has been blessed with many advantages, the human heart has not advanced a fraction of an inch to improve the distressing condition described by the sacred writer in this indictment, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Today especially when the advance of hatred has far outstripped all cultural and scientific progress, we should pause to survey the horrifying spectacle of men who ought to love each other, fiendishly trying to kill each other; of nations that should cooperate, trying to intimidate; of a civilization that ought to strive for peace, frantically preparing for hideous war; of agencies that should spread good will and international understanding, sowing the seeds of bad will and misunderstanding. People do not like to hear of the perverted human heart and the hate-swollen spirit of man; instead, the sugary delusion that the race is constantly improving, that men are always lifting themselves up to the higher and better things of life,—this fatal delusion preached from many modern pulpits, taught in many Christless schools, is sure to provoke the applause of human pride. But I ask you candidly: “Has any age witnessed a more convincing demonstration of the power of evil and the destructive desires in the hate-filled human heart than these days in which our lives are lived?”

A greedy heart and an envious spirit move man today when the love of gold and the longing for power has blackened the land with more crime, more dishonesty in American courts, more corruption in American governments, more fraud in American business than the worst days of any preceding generation ever saw. It is a lustful, lecherous heart that seeks to control man; it despises purity, tramples on decency, wallows in sex perversions, and gloats over everything filthy. It is a boastful spirit,—this pride that makes men worship human greatness instead of God, misleads them into believing that by their own strength and brains, without God or even against Him, they can carve the course of their own destiny. But it is a fearsome heart. When God’s retributive justice clutches men; when disease crushes them; when reverses paralyze them; when death confronts them, how quickly some of the bravest turn pale and cringe as cowards before the approach of God!

I hope you will not say: “Well, that isn’t the picture of my heart. He must be trying to describe someone else. Perhaps he refers to conditions in Europe.” How easy it is to assume this holier-than-thou attitude! We become indignant over atheism in Russia, but we forget the growing hatred of God and the increasing denial of His very existence in our own country. We hold mass­meetings to protest against Germany’s racial hatred, but we forget our semiextermination of the American Indian and our discrimination against the Negro. The wickedness of the human heart has no geographical boundaries. When I describe men’s hearts as hate-filled, lustful, dishonest, cringing, I show the unchanging human heart as, through the centuries, it has helped to produce disaster. This pictures my heart, your heart, every human heart; and if in this moment you see God with His penetrating eye and all-knowing wisdom searching your heart, far from excusing yourself or ignoring your sins, far from disguising your hearts, repeat David’s ancient prayer “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!”

We must have that “new heart . . . and . . . new spirit”; for unless there is a drastic change and a decided improvement, we are headed for disaster. How long, do you suppose, can a nation expect God’s blessing when it has an army of more than four million criminals and an annual catalog of a million and a third major crimes, as we have? How long can the unparalleled divine favor continue to rest on us when every forty minutes a human life is taken by murder or manslaughter; when the average murderer spends only fifty-four months in prison; when more automobiles are stolen each year than one of the largest factories and assembly plants in Detroit produces? How long can our nation grow when immorality has spread to such an extent that Australia bars from entrance seventy-six lustful American magazines which your children can buy at any larger magazine stand; when a writer, banished from Europe, is welcomed to this country and advertised as the author of “one of the greatest creative works of the twentieth century,” a book which draws its description of Joseph’s temptation in Egypt (only a few short verses in the Book of Genesis) over more than 250 pages? Unless we become a morally cleaner nation; unless the heart of the American nation is turned from the reproach of destructive sin to the exalting righteousness, not all the brains, not all the power and the money m this country can guarantee the continued favor of God. To my mind one of the reasons the United States is still groaning under unemployment, uncertain business prospects, labor troubles, and other disheartening sorrows is this: we have not penitently acknowledged the chastisement of God nor humbled ourselves and corrected our ways.

More personal, however, than the welfare of our country is the welfare of your soul. For its eternal salvation you need “a new heart . . . and a new spirit.” No man can ever hope to have the promise of Heaven unless his spirit is changed. If we remain in sin, and let our heart continue to beat against God and our fellow-men, even against our better selves; if this corrupt human nature remains unchanged, then no man, no angel, not even our Lord Himself will save us from the consequences of our sins, and that means hell, everlasting death, eternal separation from God.

Because we must have this “new heart . . . and . . . new spirit” Jesus Himself, in the quiet of a Palestinian night, once told a man of wealth and learning, as He tells every one of us: “Ye must be born again.” The old, sinful, fleshly spirit, the heart of stone, must die, and in its place there must come forth a new spirit, a new heart, a new life. Jesus does not say: To enter the kingdom of God you need this form of ritual or that; but He says: “Ye must be born again!” He is not satisfied merely with a model outward appearance; He demands: “Ye must be born again!” Jesus wants more than church-membership or an imposing place in the pews; He requires far more than an interest in the Kingdom which centers in the social life of the Church; He will not be content with hand­service and lip-worship, not even with brain Christianity; more than all this He asks, as we hear His insistent voice tell Nicodemus: “Ye must be born again!” God-fearing parents, generous charities, offices in the Church, societies, participation in the choir, the reciting of the Apostles’ Creed, the praying of many petitions, the frequent attendance at the Lord’s Supper, tithes, and—with the liberty of the New Testament—even greater proportionate giving,—these are blessings that should not be minimized. First of all, however, Jesus says: “Ye must be born again!” Unless these assets and activities flow from a twice-born soul, they are but as “sounding brass” or a “tinkling cymbal.” Few tendencies are more dangerous and destructive in modernist churches than the program of coaxing people into the church without insisting upon a real change in their being, of keeping people in the churches, especially those who pay well, even though their glaringly sin-marked lives show that they have never known the rebirth without which no man can see God.

The absorbing issue before our lives must therefore be the question: “How can I receive this ‘new heart . . . and new spirit’? How can I be born again, so that my soul will be changed and my entire life created anew?” That must come not from ourselves but from God Almighty! We can change many things. Plastic surgery can alter the features of a man so that his own mother would hardly recognize him; but no plastic remolding can remake the inner man. Even fingerprints, we are told, regarded as a certain guide to human identity, can now be modified; but no process can disguise the sinner in sight of God. Heart specialists can cure cardiac conditions which a generation ago were diagnosed as fatal. Surgeons of infinite skill can operate successfully on that pulsating organ which sends the blood in vital circulation through the body; but no medical or surgical skill has been able to cure the wicked heart nor cut away its evil. A man can take a new name and transform himself from a criminal to a capitalist; but changed names do not make changed hearts. In short, you can change your address, your business, your nationality; you can change your opinion; in our neopaganism you can even change your wives and your families; but here is the immovable truth: “You yourself cannot change your old sinful heart, your old selfish spirit, your old sin-marked soul!”

II

GOD PROMISES US NEW HEARTS IN CHRIST

Praise be to His mercies and might!—God, our Father, Himself promises us: “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” The change of heart that human ingenuity can never accomplish, that new birth before which our stolid mind can only stammer: “How can these things be?” “How can a man be born again?”—that new birth and life is given us by the endless love of our heavenly Father in Christ, through His Holy Spirit.

It is the glory of our Christian faith that Jesus Christ, true God, Son of the Father, and true man, Son of the Virgin Mary, came to this earth so that He could suffer the indescribable tortures of body and especially of soul that we should have suffered, die in the agony of His crucifixion the eternal death that we should have died, so that we, being “dead in trespasses and sins,” might have new life in Him. Because “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” once we become His through repentant faith, our heart is washed and purified by the precious blood of the cross. Once we are baptized and have faith in the promise of our Lord concerning this blessed washing of regeneration, our sins are carried away forever. Once the Spirit of God directs our vision to the cross and there we recognize “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” but especially our sin; the “Advocate” who pleads before God for every penitent sinner but particularly for us; the “Ransom” that paid the humanly prohibitive price of His own body for our freedom from sin and its destruction, the almighty, all­changing Spirit of God sanctifies us, and by the new birth we who were “children of wrath” become children of God. What surgery and science can never do; what sociologists, economists, and psychologists can never even begin to attain; what legislators and educators hope to achieve but never accomplish, this rebirth of the human heart, this complete change of existence, my fellow-sinners and fellow­redeemed, is produced in us through the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ as our ever-sufficient Savior!

Now, forget that I am addressing vast numbers! Try to think that my words are directed particularly to your home and to you individually as I ask: “Have you been born again? Do you have this ‘new heart and . . . new spirit’?” Don’t say: “I hold membership in a church”; for I have shown you that many churches today are not concerned with changing men’s hearts. Jesus Himself warns that “not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Don’t say: “I try to be good. I try to do good.” You need more than that to stand before God. Don’t say: “I never smoke, drink, play cards, use profanity.” Millions of white, black, and yellow heathen could say the same thing, and you are as far from heaven as they if you build your hopes for eternity on such a flimsy foundation. Rather say that you are a sinner, that you hardly dare raise your eyes to the almighty God, because you know how securely evil can grip the human heart! Rather come to Christ with all the smirches and stains of sin! Come to faith in His love, to confidence in the cleansing power of Baptism, to conviction in the strength of God’s holy Word and the might of His Holy Spirit! Then that Savior who never refused to bless any penitent and believing soul will speak peace to you, and as He exults, “Behold, I make all things new,” and His Word triumphantly pledges, “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature”; “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” that Savior will breathe this benediction upon you: “A new heart . . . will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”

How unspeakable is the beauty of this new life in Christ! Instead of hearts of hatred you can have new hearts of love. If you are living in enmity, perhaps even with those who should be dearest to you, remember Stephen, crushed by heavy rocks, as he prayed God not to count this sin against his persecutors; and with the new spirit you can forgive and forget; you can love those who hurt you, even as Christ loved those who crucified Him. Instead of hearts of falsehood you can have new hearts of truth! Some of you have been living lies, cheating your God as did Ananias and Sapphira, deceiving your fellow-men, and especially misdirecting your own soul; you should recall that, as John Stewart Mills, the applauded British philosopher, who taught falsely and lived falsely, still came to Christ on his deathbed, so the Savior is ready at all times, even in the last moments, to give you a heart of Spirit-filled honesty. Instead of souls filled with animal craving, you can have clean hearts. When, after his adultery, David prayed the Fifty-first Psalm, essentially our prayer for today, God gave him “a clean heart and” renewed “a right spirit within” him. He will do the same for you. No matter how scarlet and crimson your sins are, through faith in His forgiving love they can become white as the new-fallen snow, stainless as the fleecy wool. With His pardon you can begin life anew. Instead of affrighted hearts you can have a brave spirit. When Alan Gardner left home, separated from the influence of the Church and his godly mother, his faith ebbed so low that, when he went to buy a Bible, he waited until no customer was in the bookstore and then hurriedly made his purchase,—so ashamed was he of being identified with the Word of God. When the Spirit of God took hold of his life, he changed completely, and he could not do enough or say enough or give enough for Christ! He became an outstanding missionary, “faithful unto death” in barren Patagonia, where he laid down his life for the Savior. In the same way you, the timid, who hesitate to acknowledge Christ, can be changed as Peter was in less than two months, from a cringing denier to an outspoken disciple. Instead of having hearts filled with cares, numbed by pain, you can have cheerful souls that are exultant even in the midst of affliction. Do you think you have suffered as much, with all the sorrows that your letters describe, as Saint Paul? Yet on the Damascus road Christ gave him a new heart, and he could thank God for his infirmities. While faith in Jesus Christ may not remove the thorn from your flesh, either, as you, too, may learn that the road to the crown leads past the cross, with that new, twice-born life you likewise can count your adversities one by one as they multiply with every new day and yet thank God for these visitations of His love by which He protects your precious blood-bought souls.

Do you want this “new heart” and this “new spirit”? You can take God at every syllable of His promise. You can look to the cross of Christ, pray for the “clean heart,” the “right spirit,” the reborn life; and the love that has never led to false hopes will bring God’s own assurance to your soul, “A new heart . . . will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” Every page in history proves the fulfillment of Christ’s redeeming love and of the Holy Spirit’s transforming power. Nor is this only ancient history. In my Church’s mission in Nigeria, Africa, people who have been devil-worshipers and whose parents have been cannibals are leaving their sin-blackened ways. In our own work among the Maoris in New Zealand a man whose grandmother ate the flesh and drank the blood of her enemies is preaching the eternal message of Christ’s reconciliation. In India members of the robber caste come to Christ and steal no more. In war-torn China devotees of hideous idols learn to bow before Christ and in Him find peace and new life. In our own country multitudes annually receive this “new heart” and this “new spirit” by the miracle of conversion. It has been our great happiness in this mission of the air that hundreds in various parts of the nation who have never seen or met us have been born again in Christ, and they write us that their homes, their attitudes, their habits, have all been changed by the Spirit of God. It is only for the wide emphasis on this message “Ye must be born again!” that we maintain this Gospel network, that we recently added three new stations and are continually seeking to enlarge our broadcast. It is only to help give men this “new heart” and “new spirit” that we ask the support of your prayers, your interest, your testimony, your contributions for the enlargement of our work. If many can be attracted to Christ through the broadcast Word and with all the limitations of the radio, how many more can be won through direct contact with a Christian pastor!

Preaching the same Christ that I proclaim to you; holding out the same hope of salvation, not by works but through faith and faith alone; laboring shoulder to shoulder with me for the same Christ, are thousands of fellow-pastors and many hundreds of thousands of Christians who will be glad to help you and your family, your community, come closer to the loving Father, the redeeming Savior, the renewing, sanctifying Spirit. Will you not write to us or speak to the pastor of a cooperating Church in your vicinity so that your heart and spirit may be made new in Christ? A mighty demonstration and a long procession were held in San Francisco when a man who had been convicted, it is claimed, on contradictory and false testimony, was freed from life imprisonment by the pardon warrant of California’s governor. Let me tell you that God offers your immortal soul release from its eternal punishment, forgiveness sealed by the suffering and the dying of Jesus; and He extends this grace to you without the lengthy and expensive agitation that marked the liberation of that prisoner after twenty-two years. And when that remission is yours, not an earthly city, but the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, reechoes with the praise of God’s holy angels, who rejoice every time a sinner comes to repentance and to Christ. God grant that there will be rejoicing in heaven today when many of you to whom I am speaking come to Christ to be blessed with “a new heart,” “a new spirit,” a new life!

May the God of all grace enrich you with the gift of that faith! Amen.

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

Date: January 8, 1939

Prayer for Christian Education

Our all-knowing God, in whom abides the highest wisdom:

We come before the throne of Thy mercy in behalf of our country’s youth, especially for the solution of the manifold problems involved in their education. Earnestly do we ask Thee to awaken within parents a sense of sacred responsibility toward their children, so that the power of home-training may not be lost. Send Thy Spirit also into the hearts of America’s boys and girls and show them the heavenly knowledge that begins with Thee through faith in Jesus, the Savior from sin and its destruction. Particularly do we bring before the throne of mercy the spiritual needs of the young men and women at institutions of higher learning who, often away from the protecting influences of their homes and surrounded by multiplied forces of unbelief, need Thy guidance to keep them faithful amid the daily temptations to disavow their spiritual loyalties. Prosper every school that reveres Thy Word; protect all teachers who love Thy testimonies; let a double measure of grace rest upon those nurseries of Christian knowledge which our churches maintain for the Christ-centered instruction of our children! All this, heavenly Father, we ask that our youth may be kept firm in the faith, and the message of Christ, our Savior, be proclaimed with increasing power throughout the world. Hear us, as Jesus has promised us Thou wouldst answer! Amen.

Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called.1 Timothy 6:20

THE average American child, even in Sunday-school, receives less training in the Christian religion than the typical Russian boy or girl does in atheistic Communism. More time and daily energy are spent in impressing 25,000,000 Soviet children with the delusion that God does not exist and Christianity is a fraud than we in the United States devote to teaching our sons and daughters that there is a God, that His Word and work are unmistakably revealed in the truth of Scripture. If it is a fact, as educational experts assure us, that 80 per cent of the nation’s youth are not properly prepared by our schools to assume their responsibilities in life, then more than 90 per cent of the young people in American churches are not adequately trained in spiritual matters, for the life beyond the grave.

To my mind this ignorance regarding the soul that results in dethroning the Almighty and making demigods of puny men is the most disastrous menace both to the future of our country and the eternal welfare of its millions. By ignoring Christ or denying His mercy, by ridiculing His Gospel or blaspheming His holy name, masses in this nation have already gone far on the road to ruin. We are reaping the heavy harvest of disaster sown with the seeds of unbelief. As never before we have—with all our splendid Christian young men and young women—a widespread youth movement away from Christ. Our penitentiaries and corrective institutions are overcrowded with teenage prisoners. We have more illegitimate births and abortions, more support for Communism among our young people, more youthful recruits for atheism and its offensive against our Christian faith, than the United States has ever known.

If we lose the rising generation for Christ, it can hardly be won for morality and the righteousness that exalts a nation. A prime purpose of all American Christians must therefore be to spread the Savior’s Gospel, particularly to win youth for Christ. Our legislators and executives are endeavoring to make this an $80,000,000,000 nation; our armies, navies, air forces, protect us from invasion; our scientists dedicate their efforts to produce a safe, comfortable, productive country with a high standard of living; our teachers and the schools labor to advance our intelligence; but God looks to the churches for intensified youth-training along spiritual lines. Unless an inner reawakening shows itself in an energetic, testifying clergy and laity concerned with bringing our youth to Jesus; unless modernist, Christ-denying preachers are removed from leadership in Protestantism and fanatical Jew-baiters, heralds of hate, learn to preach the Savior’s pardoning love; unless you men and women who occupy the pews are ready to stand up for Jesus, without fear or hesitation to proclaim the message of His cross and loyally adhere to the requirements of discipleship, the days of the Church’s influence may be numbered, and we may face persecution and the confiscation that has uprooted thousands of churches or invited government control of religion. As I speak to you on one of the crisis issues of this present day, I appeal:

KEEP THE TRUST OF FAITH!

Fight error! Promote the blessings of Christian education in conformity with this counsel of Saint Paul at the conclusion of his First Letter to Timothy (chapter 6, verse 20): “Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called.”

I

KEEP THE FAITH DESPITE WIDESPREAD OPPOSITION!

Many of you will recall that these words were addressed to a young man who had consecrated his life to Christ. With fatherly interest and the experience based on many years of suffering for the Savior’s sake Saint Paul reminds Timothy, his young co-laborer in the Kingdom, that he must avoid “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called.” His faith, the apostle says, will not remain unchallenged but will be attacked by men who speak volubly against Christ, lay claim to imposing learning and advance the theories of science in their opposition to God’s Word. The repeated voice of unbelief will tell Timothy: “You cannot believe what Paul of Tarsus taught you. Why, his preaching of sin, which says that ‘all have . . . come short of the glory of God,’ which damns all sinners with one sweeping condemnation: ‘The wages of sin is death,’ especially his message that Jesus of Nazareth, whom His own countrymen crucified, can cleanse us from our sins; Paul’s hope of heaven and the promise of eternity in that Christ,—all this,” the unbelieving world would continually remind Timothy, “is contradicted by the claims of our best minds and the teachings of our learned schools.”

If this opposition to our Lord’s atoning love flourished in the Apostolic Age, today young disciples of Jesus are much more completely surrounded by insistent, challenging unbelief. It starts in our public-school system, where frequently despite the basic American principles framed to prevent any public interference with our religious life, children from Christian homes are deliberately taught antichristian doctrines. This hostility to God continues and grows in some of our high schools, with the result that during these formative years plastic minds are being molded for life by teachers themselves so filled with hatred of the saving Gospel that they go out of the way to impress pupils with a contempt of Christ and His Word. In many colleges and universities, including some of the oldest and best established by the churches, in others among the largest and wealthiest, supported by taxpayers’ money, in not a few even that are under Church control, the movement against God and His Christ climbs to its destructive climax.

The modern philosophy of education from beginning to end is often based on a code which flatly contradicts the Bible. According to this creed man is not a fallen being, lost in trespasses and sins, but an advancing, improving creature, constantly rising to new heights of moral achievement. They tell us that the Bible is just another book, which may be viewed in part as good literature but which must be denied all authority, since it is saturated with superstition and error, leaving only those parts to be retained which can be endorsed by modern science. This philosophy holds that religion, after all, is nothing more than an issue of personal opinion. It matters not what a man believes as long as he is true to that conviction, since we are all traveling toward the same goal, only along different ways. Of the regenerating power of God’s Word, the necessity of rebirth by the Spirit, and the character-building power of Christianity this unbelief knows nothing. Because the very foundations of the Christian faith are thus rejected, above all, the Christ of endless mercy ignored as on the cross He bears the sins of all mankind; because modern pedagogy has openly declared war on the atoning power of Jesus’ holy, precious blood, we see that many schools are deliberately engaged in destroying the Christian hope of our boys and girls.

In church and Sunday-school our children hear that man is the masterpiece of God’s creative love; but during the five days of the ensuing week their teachers often picture him as a close cousin of the chimpanzee. During high-school age this youth is taught in Bible classes that the Scriptures come from God, that the Christian religion is the revelation of His love; but in the freshmen classes of many high schools all this is opposed as textbooks confidently describe Christianity as only another religion, which happened to grow together from Jewish, Greek, and Persian sources. These young people leave home for college, and many of them are obliged to take courses on religion in which the instructor deliberately reduces Christ to a human level common to all religious teachers. And the result? As some of you parents know from heart­ breaking experiences, these “profane and vain babblings” and these “oppositions of science falsely so called” have too often made skeptics of sincere Christian young people, doubters of disciples, Christ’s enemies of those who most solemnly pledged Him their allegiance. With tears and trembling many fathers and mothers have cursed the day in which their child came under these destructive influences.

This Christless culture is not only anti-Biblical; in a day when we need every ounce of patriotic support for the inner progress of our nation we realize that this academic uprising against God is also anti-American, that our colleges and universities have sometimes become recruiting-stations for leaders in the social and political revolution with which this country is threatened. It was a recognized figure in American cultural circles who declared that there are enough ardent Communists on every college faculty to emphasize the radical point of view to the students. A Negro poet, reputedly an atheist and a self-acknowledged Communist, spoke at the University of Minnesota convocation exercises, so that the students in a State where Lutheranism is deep-rooted and widespread were invited to hear a man whose poems are not only blasphemous but ultra-Red. In the same way undergraduates at Columbia University in New York attended a course of which one of the Communists enrolled reported that half of the time was devoted to the industrial revolution. While the course lasted, he said, “most of the students, regardless of their social origin, professed to be Socialists, anarchists, or syndicalists.” Examples of this kind could be multiplied at much length to show that not only our colleges but even our high schools have been contaminated. In Oklahoma City police authorities uncovered a radical organization which had enrolled high-school boys and girls for a program along definitely communistic lines. In New York City the assistant superintendent of schools is openly quoted in the newspapers as declaring that he would do nothing to prevent the organization of communistic groups in the high schools of the nation’s largest city. Almost twenty years ago a Boston teacher declared: “Give us a generation of small children to train to manhood, and we will set up in America the Bolshevist form of Soviet government.” That Communism in this country is working overtime thus to gain the rising generation for loyalty to the hammer and the sickle of the Red flag is a fact with which we must seriously reckon today. If the younger minds of the nation are won for atheism, that means the overthrow of the Church’s work, the confiscation of its property, the closing of its buildings, the martyrdom of its pastors,—the financial, social, moral bankruptcy of the nation.

These “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called” are not only anti-Biblical and anti-American; to a much higher extent they are also antimoral. Do you know that one of the most destructive influences directed against Christian marriage and the home arises from certain sectors of the educational system? Indignant parents have repeatedly protested against specified teachings on questions of sex and family life. The attitude openly endorsed by some university lecturers and textbooks amounts to free and easy love, promotes impurity in the hearts and lives of the students, and systematically contradicts the Bible’s pronouncements on the holiness of marriage, its indissolubility, its blessings in childhood and parenthood. This tendency which ridicules Christianity and excludes Jesus Christ from the classroom has helped to produce cleverness instead of virtue; trained the mind but not the heart; imparted knowledge but not wisdom; glorified the body but neglected the soul. Think for a moment of the major criminal events of the year. The most notorious perjurer and blackmailer of 1938 was a graduate of North Carolina University. The Number One thief and forger was a Harvard A. B. The master mind in one of the biggest rackets attended two of our large colleges.

Now, I hope you will not think that perhaps the Bible may be wrong, after all, with so many voices raised against it. It is a sad fact but true that often the cultural trend has been markedly anti-Biblical. When Voltaire, the destructive infidel, rode into Paris after having written repeated attacks on Christian faith, the scientists of his day celebrated his return with a glamorous festival. As he proceeded to the theater where he was to be feted, fanaticism was so widespread that the people kissed the horses that pulled his coach. They fought to touch his clothing, to tear a few hairs from his fur coat, which were to be preserved as a relic of humanity’s greatest genius. People even fell down to kiss Voltaire’s feet; but in the same year that arch-scoffer died, shrieking: “I am deserted by God and man!” Who gives a complimentary thought to Voltaire today? No matter how widely these babblers and scientists “falsely so called” are hailed as public idols, even though they be exalted to the highest positions, like a former premier of France, who has written a dirty book endorsing promiscuous relations and even filthier proposals, the hour of reckoning will inevitably come to every one of them.

Neither should you refuse to accept the Christian faith because someone tells you that practically all scientists are on record against it. Exactly the opposite is true. Many of the most devout minds in all centuries since Christ, leaders in various branches of scientific research, have been humble followers of Jesus. The situation is not this, that here and there, at rare intervals, a Christian mind has loomed high on the scientific horizon. On the contrary, the most eminent scientists have been Christians.

Rather than being charged with presenting a hand­picked list of geniuses noted for their faith, I will concentrate my remarks on only one section of scientific activity, the field of light and vision. Not a religious organization but the Better Vision Institute of New York City has published a list of about twenty-five men who have helped to preserve and improve the eyesight of the world. For some of these scientists the particulars of their religious life are not now available. Two of the twenty-five, as far as we know, never accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Five others are simply listed as members of Christian churches. But here come the rest, an impressive procession of believing, Christ-revering scientists in this single field and its related branches: William Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, ranked with the supreme masters of medical science, who wrote: “I do most humbly render my soul to Him who gave it and to my most blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”; Sir David Brewster, titled expert in optics, inventor of the scientific stereoscope, often used in correcting defects of the eye, principal of Edinburgh University, a valiant defender of Christianity, who repeatedly asserted that there could be no conflict between true Christianity and true science; Gregory Mendel, who helped to formulate the basic laws of heredity, an Augustinian monk, who gave all glory to God; Thomas Young, the first to suggest definitely the cause and cure of astigmatism of the eyes, the man to whom millions with improved eyesight are directly indebted, a sincere Christian, who was acquainted with the original Greek and Hebrew of the Bible; John Kepler, genius in the field of vision, responsible for epochal discoveries in lenses, an astronomer of over-towering proportions, who with faith in his Savior spoke to God in these words: “Creator of all, how I thank Thee that Thou didst choose me, a miserable worm, to proclaim Thine exalted praise”; John Dalton, teacher, chemist, and physicist, whose studies in color blindness have proved of the highest practical importance, a trusting Christian, who regularly attended the services of his church; Sir Isaac Newton, acclaimed the greatest of all scientists, who not only observed the apple fall but who asked himself: “Why should the apple be rosy red?” and who found the answer by means of the prism, which split the rays of the sun into many different colors; Newton, who confesses: “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus, by whom were all things and we by Him”; Louis Pasteur, world-famous bacteriologist, whose studies have helped to cure eye infections, the unassuming disciple of Christ, who asserted: “I pray constantly while at work in the laboratory”; Galileo, constructor of what is virtually the first telescope, whose testimony to the Bible rings clear in this confession: “The sacred Scriptures and nature both come from the divine Word”; Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most celebrated painters, the discoverer of basic facts concerning light and shade, who exclaimed: “How wondrous, O Creator, is Thy wisdom!” and who gave the most telling testimony to his faith in the artistry that immortalized the Savior; Roger Bacon, the first, it seems, to describe what we call a reading-glass, the greatest mind of his age, an uncompromising disciple of Christ, who wrote a famous treatise, In Praise of Holy Scripture. Here, in short, in one specialized field, the overwhelming preponderance of scientific leaders is notably Christian!

While I know that, if a religious census of college and university professors could be taken in our country today, it would reveal surprising inroads of atheism and unbelief, we have more scientists of humble, Christian faith than many believe. For the Church of Jesus Christ is not against true science, and true science is not against the Church. Only when men babble instead of speaking the truth, when they advance claims, not of actual science but of science “falsely so called,” can there be any dispute or disharmony.

II

KEEP THE FAITH AS A SACRED TRUST!

Now, when the apostle reminds young Timothy: “Keep that which is committed to thy trust,” he also tells us that the glories of our Christian faith are a sacred trust, a most precious possession, a blessing incomparably greater than wealth, learning, social position, and the pleasures of life. The divine hope I offer you every Sunday on this broadcast “is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” While admitting that without Christ we are lost forever,—with nothing we can do or say able to save us from the cruelty of life and especially from eternal death,—our hope in Christ nevertheless takes our heavenly Father at His word and, beholding “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” finds forgiveness, salvation, eternity.—That blessed hope, which is yours through the free mercies of God, must be guarded as our sacred trust after nineteen centuries of persecution, pain and blood. We can lose everything else in life and still be blessed forever; but if we lose that Christ, not all the wealth of this entire world can compensate for that terrifying loss. To be saved, to be assured of Christ’s immeasurable blessings now—and make no mistake about it, this rich fullness of the Christian life starts on earth and even here gives you peace, comfort, strength for the trying times through which many of you must pass; to be numbered among the vast, white-robed host of those who will find their eternal home in heaven, accept Christ now, lay hold of this trust prepared for you before the foundation of the world and guaranteed by the strongest surety man can ever know, the redemptive suffering and death of God made man.

To have faith and “keep that which is committed to” our “trust,” is Saint Paul’s appeal today. For this we need a much more penetrating program of Christian training and education. This, like many other blessings, must start in the home. Give us more love and interest in our family circles to train our children as Timothy was trained by his God-fearing mother and his devout grandmother! God, raise up fathers who, blessed with time and intelligence, will strike some items of business or pleasure from their daily calendar and speak to their own children on the eternal questions of their soul! If only you mothers, whose faith or lack of faith, to a degree greater than you realize, may help to show your own flesh and blood the way to heaven or to hell, would drop some of the pastimes and interests that take you away from your children and, instead, learn to bring them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”! In Old Testament times the father who was confronted by a conflict between the time of eating and of teaching his household the Law of God, was urged to sacrifice his meals. The mother who began to teach the child on her breast the Law of the Lord was praised with the highest recognition. Parents who refused to meet their obligations were called the scum of the earth. We have drifted far from this strenuous zeal in behalf of home training; but may God lead every one of you parents, if necessary through reverses and losses, to know the Savior in an intimate, personal, trusting way and then to keep this trust for the next generation by giving it to your children.

We need Jesus in the education of our children outside the home. If we stop to realize that often they are growing up in this treacherous age without spiritual strength and direction, the raw human material for every anti-God and antimoral movement that the next years may bring, will you not agree that, if you really love your child, you will encourage it to attend a true Sunday­school of God regularly and see that it enjoys every possible additional training in God’s truth? It is a great source of pleasure to me personally that the Church which I represent, the only Protestant Church that has assumed this privilege on a large scale, maintains many hundreds of Christian day-schools where children receive not only an accredited training in the branches taught by the public school, but also in the Christian religion, the study of the Bible, the treasury of Christian hymns. These schools are open without restriction to all American children, and those of you who want your children daily to learn more about their Savior and His Word are invited to write me, so that I can direct you to the nearest of our church­schools and thereby to greater happiness for your children.

We must have institutions of higher learning in which Christian leaders can be developed, where nothing that will warp the mind or injure the soul is taught in the classroom or illustrated in the lives of the teachers, high schools and colleges to which parents can send their children without the gnawing fear that they will enter as Christians and leave as infidels. Again I am happy to state, even though some of you mothers write me that your children lost their faith in a denominational school, there are still splendid, fully accredited colleges where Christ and His faith reign unchallenged. I think particularly of one school with which I am personally connected, and that represents the type of Christianity which God permits me to bring you, Valparaiso University, in Indiana, a college that I can recommend to all parents who know that their children are not profited if they gain distinctions in the Christless academic world but lose their own souls. Let me send you particulars concerning this and the dozen other of our definitely Christian schools and colleges throughout the country now open to your sons and daughters.

Far-reaching issues are involved in this appeal to accept Christ and to keep the trust of that faith for ourselves and our children. In these coming years, when, beyond all doubt, Communism, atheism, movements to restrict Christian rights and liberties, Fascist agitation for government control of all education, will sweep over our country with greater force than ever before as the backwash from European tides of Sovietism and state absolutism, the churches may have to fight for their very existence. We must learn the duty of protest and strenuously repel every attempt to curtail our privilege of maintaining Christian schools. We have two powerful forces on our side, God and the Constitution of the United States. Let us strengthen our defenses even now by more courageous confession of Christ, by prayer for deeper faith, greater zeal, more unselfish service, more generous offerings for the purposes of the eternal Kingdom. Led by the Holy Spirit, we must learn to appreciate our sacred trust in the full and free Gospel of a Savior slain for the sins of an evil world. With all that we have and are, let us resolve to keep Christ first, last, forever, uppermost in our homes, in our churches, in the hearts of millions whom we must help bring to Jesus. With this resolution: Christ only, always, everywhere, Christ for every sin and every sinner, Christ for every conflict and crisis, Christ for life and death itself, let us keep “that which is committed to” our “trust” through Him whose Word now assures us: “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” God grant it, by His promise! Amen.

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

Date: January 1, 1939

Petition for New Year’s Day

O God, our Help in ages past, our Hope for years to come:

As the New Year begins to draw its unseen boundaries on the first of its 365 days, to whom can we flee for guidance and strength if not to Thee, our Father, who changest not? We have never gone this way before, and with all the uncertainties of life surrounding us, we know not whether we shall reach the end of this annual chapter in our lives. One blessed truth we do know, however: If we have Christ, Thy Son, our newborn Savior, and worship Him in the sincerity of humble faith, then the worst with which an entire year of suffering may blight our hopes cannot tear us from Thee. If it were not for this Heaven­sent assurance of the love that gave Thine only-begotten Son as the Source of eternal life for all who believe, we could not greet the dawn of any new day except with fear. But praise be to Thine unlimited grace, we have Thee, our loving Father, our divine Redeemer, our purifying Spirit. Help us, then, so that each day of the new year may bring us closer to Thee, each week record an advance in our Christian knowledge, each month witness a growth in self-sacrificing love for our fellow-men. In this way, Father, if it be Thy will that we live until the year ends, we pledge Thee daily thanks for Thy bestowal of mercies renewed every morning. Hear us and bless all Thy children through Christ! Amen.

Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.Isaiah 43:1

WILL 1939 bring progress or reverses, health or sickness, happiness or disaster? Will it be a better year for us financially, with more work, higher pay, and decreased expenses? How will the next twelve months affect our world, our country, our families, and each one of us personally?

These insistent questions that millions are asking today cannot be answered by multitudes of fortune-tellers. Their predictions for 1938, made a year ago today, have proved either false or absurd. If spiritist mediums and star gazers are unable to foretell even the temperature with accuracy only a day or two in advance, how can they foresee the hot passions and the cold greed by which individuals or nations may quickly be overthrown? It is one of the unexplained mysteries of human perversity that men and women, including, as we are assured, even officials in high governmental and financial circles, pay millions to consult these charlatans but refuse to be guided by the Word of God, which in multiplied instances has marvelously proved its divine power.

Nor is there any positive assurance for 1939 in the promises of business leaders and economic experts. A year ago today the editor of a Saint Louis newspaper in a boldface front-page article confidently asserted: “The disorder of the times cannot last. The tide is bound to turn. . . . It may well be that 1938 will be . . . the rising of the sun upon a new and better epoch. . . . We are justified in looking forward to better conditions.” At the same time the president of a large stock exchange saw the nation “back on the main road of prosperity during 1938.” The chairman of a large steel-corporation board envisioned for the year just past “work, wages, comfort, and happiness.” A well-known financial statistician counseled his clients that 1938 would be a year of recovery and expansion. As we survey this period in review, we ask: Where is the better age, the recovery, “the main road of prosperity,” the work and wages for the masses? Have our unemployment rolls been greatly reduced in size, our expenditures for relief notably decreased, our national indebtedness diminished? For ten years we have read on each New Year’s Day roseate outpourings of optimism, but with unbroken regularity many of them have proved false; and in some respects the situation has become worse.

Nor can we find confidence for the untrodden path of 1939 in ourselves; for the 365 days of the new year constitute a long period, with much time for harrowing disasters. It often requires only a split second for accident to bring death or lifelong injury. It may take only a few days for nations to mobilize their troops and rush regiments to frontiers, as the dangerous days of last September recall. It entails only a few weeks’ investigation to reduce a New York socialite, Harvard graduate, and financial leader to a mere number at Sing Sing, a criminal convicted of fraud, forgery, theft; and only a short week to reveal the head of an $86,000,000 drug concern as an ex-convict, a criminal, a suicide. It may be only a passing, momentary contact that puts the poison of typhoid, streptococcus, or meningitis in our systems. The few seconds required for that other glass of whisky may turn men into drunken brutes whose cruelties spell disaster for themselves and their loved ones. In a few wild, Christless moments of passion young people may incur such terrifying sorrow that no lifetime of remorse can completely remove its scars.

With disaster so sudden and close at hand, we need more than the financial and social security that many regard as the assurance of life’s greatest happiness; we must have the one trustworthy security—the strengthening influence of personal faith in Jesus Christ. In His name on this New Year’s Day, disturbed as many are by the painful turns that any moment may unexpectedly take, I give you all this God-granted promise:

NO FEAR FOR THE NEW YEAR!

the divine pledge found in our first Scripture text for the New Year (Isaiah, chapter 43, verse 1): “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.”

I

“I HAVE REDEEMED THEE”

It is a welcome assurance that our heavenly Father grants us on January 1, when we hear these comforting words of courage, once spoken to the redeemed in Israel but now directed to every believer: “Fear not!” In more than sixty passages of Scripture, for times of danger and peril, for days of weakness and trial, for the multiplied sorrows of this life and the questions of the next, God’s Word seeks to instill trust into our hearts through this serene and strengthening “Fear not!” How continually we need this encouragement! Ours is a dangerous age. 20,000 of our college students are annually to be trained as air pilots because almost 100,000 young men are being prepared for this purpose in Europe, where the airplane is regarded as the chief factor for the next war. Those who know what widespread destruction a single new-type aerial bomb can spread, who understand that a large squadron of enemy planes could destroy New York City in a short time, rightly become terrorized when they think of thousands of these planes pouring death upon cities and towns throughout the land. Despite all agitation for peace and all international agreements, people know that treaties are still scraps of paper and that our age with its unprecedented armaments will not permit its regiments to remain idle, its long-range cannon unused, its superdreadnaughts unemployed, its air squadrons restricted to trial flights and sky maneuvers, but is even now preparing for the most terrifying war in all history. And when men and women picture these horrors or when they shrink back, as all Christians must, from the bloody scourge of Communistic atheism and its satanic fury that spares neither age nor sex in its massacres, how comforting to hear God Himself declare: “Fear not!”

Or again, when hearts are burdened by cares for which there seems to be no earthly help; when some of you fathers and mothers without money and regular income face mounting indebtedness and the grim hopelessness of keeping your rooms warm, clothing your children properly, giving your family a chance in life; or when you parents on the other side of our social system have so much money that it has brought dissension into the family, estranged your children and perhaps provoked lawsuits indicating even greater sorrows,—how reassuring to hear, not from men but from God Himself, this sustaining “Fear not!” When sickness calls a halt to your hopes; when a cruel accident has deprived you of the use of your members or your senses; when despite the fact that everything possible has been done and deep in your own heart you know that your days are not only numbered but that their number is small,—can there be a greater blessing, my friends among the hopelessly ill, the aged, for whom this year may represent the last, steep climb, than to have God Himself speak into your soul these two short words “Fear not!” with their unmeasured depth of comfort? Or once more, if you begin the year with the books of your life unbalanced, your soul and conscience and mind disturbed by the specters of sins that haunt you, by the distressing doubts as to whether you are saved; with the gnawing uncertainty that asks: “Have I fallen completely from grace?” “Is there no chance, no pardon, with God for me?”—in these moments when, despite the smooth, modem theological arguments against it, you realize the terror of hell; when you face this horror alone and, though surrounded by friends and acquaintances, live much of your life in disquiet and distrust,—how indescribably reassuring to hear God, as though in all the world He were speaking directly to you, say: “Fear not!”

That peace-bestowing, strength-imparting “Fear not!” by which these twelve months can be a blessed year for every one of us is more than an expression of casual comfort; it is the pivotal promise of God’s grace, assured us by nothing less than the blood of Jesus Christ. Our text says: “Fear not; for I have redeemed thee!” And we are too close to Christmas not to understand immediately that this promise of redemption is the pledge that begins its fulfilment in the manger at Bethlehem and ends on the cross at Calvary. The name given to the Christ-child in the Temple a week after His birth and then written in the superscription on the cross, that holy name of reconciliation “Jesus,” means salvation. That Christ-child came, not to reorganize society, reform the world, reshape the course of nations, remake history, but to redeem! He came, not in first instance to redeem us from one-time ignorance, the oppression of life, the crookedness of politics and the unfairness of men toward their fellow-men; He came, blessed Child of Bethlehem, as the angel announced, to redeem us from our sins; as He Himself told us, to liberate us from Satan’s control of our lives; to free us from the cold and blighting fear of eternal death! He came to redeem us, not by His example, not simply by ordering our sins erased or forgotten; rather did Jesus love us with such divine intensity that He came to take our place, suffer for our sins, shed His cleansing, purifying blood for us, to die in His own holy body the death of every sinner. He came to redeem us, because only He could pay the price of our redemption. Last week five New York mothers asked to give their lives in the place of their sons found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. But if the law cannot accept even a mother’s self-sacrifice for her son, how much less can we be redeemed before God by the most unselfish acts of our beloved ones! Only Christ can suffer for our sins and die for our death!

Because there is salvation in none other and no other way to escape the slavery of fear than by believing in Christ when He says: “I have redeemed thee,” I once more dedicate the facilities of this large Gospel hookup with its sixty-six stations to the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. It becomes the more necessary to use the channels of the air for the uncompromising testimony to the free grace of Christ because much of the religious broadcasting excludes Jesus as the Redeemer and seeks to make every man his own savior. A few weeks ago, in the city of Buffalo, the men who broadcast the religious programs over another network met to celebrate the anniversary of the radio in the service of religion. The proceedings at their banquet have been published, and they reveal that of a dozen Protestant preachers featured on the air week after week only one that night even mentioned Jesus Christ, and that incidentally, without referring to His redemption. Are they afraid that the higher-ups in radio do not like that blessed name “which is above every name”? Or is it because these preachers, who represent Protestant Christianity, are ashamed of Jesus and want to push Him into the background, permitting Him to emerge only occasionally as one of many human teachers? That is the Christ whom apostate Protestantism preaches today; and for this reason, at the beginning of this new year of grace, I promise that the divine crucified, atoning Christ will be the dominant note, the great objective, of our entire broadcasting during the new year, the Gospel of Jesus the only means of banishing fear!

May the Spirit of God open your hearts to the wonders of our Lord’s redeeming love! If we review the past year and realize how little we have loved Him “who first loved us”; if we measure the lukewarmness and listlessness that has often seized our hearts; if we think of the complacency with which men and women during the last year pushed aside the open arms of Jesus, must we not exclaim: “If Thou shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?” But as we think of our heavenly Father’s protecting love by which we have been permitted to reach the threshold of a new year, we must confess: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”

Today, then, as we begin to write a new volume in life, may you be ready to dedicate the first page and all its 365 pages to Him who says: “Fear not; for I have redeemed thee!” The fearful flight of time that each new year emphasizes is a constant call to Christ. Our electric clocks have removed the steady “tick, tick, tick” that preached an unmistakable sermon on the swiftness with which the tale of our life is told. Each year we move along more quickly under the speed-it-up mania of our generation. Who knows whether you and I will live for another year? Amid all the change and decay around us, let us cling the closer to “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.” As He speaks peace into our hearts with the promise “Fear not; for I have redeemed thee,” may God give us the faith, the humility, the love, always to believe, ever to trust in, this redemption!

II

“I HAVE CALLED THEE BY THY NAME”

That atoning mercy can bless every one of us along our unmarked paths. By the overflowing love of God we have not only a general promise of redemption,—you and I have also an individual and personal guarantee of our salvation. God tells us today: “I have called thee by thy name,” and by this remarkable pledge we know that the Savior not only loved humanity as a whole, but each one of us in particular. With this faith we can take any passage of grace and read our name into its love; for it is Christ Himself who underlined this assurance when He told His disciples and still tells His followers: “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  It is His apostle who comforts his fellow-laborers with the assurance that their “names are in the Book of Life.” And by the faithfulness of the same Savior it is my privilege to strengthen all who take Jesus into their hearts and lives as their Redeemer, with the promise that God knows His own individually, that their name has been inscribed in heaven’s Book of Eternity, that their Savior, who in spirit is blessing these words and this broadcast, now says to them: “Fear not; for . . . I have called thee by thy name.” You may be only a number in some public institution or in the necessary system of relief and security, but if you are Christ’s, He calls you by your name. You may have made your own name a reproach to yourself and others, but the Christ whose grace abounds the more where sin abounds, will never be ashamed to take your name upon His holy lips.

Can you measure on this New Year’s Day the blessing of knowing that, if you have Christ, your name is recorded in the Book of Life? If doubt threatens to overcome you; if temptations loom alluring, the grind of life disheartening, the daily disappointments overwhelming, the ease of life distracting, the demands of business and pleasure all­engrossing, then banish these fears as in the strength of your faith you hear Jesus, not simply calling, but Jesus designating you, promising everyone who loves His precious name the redemption, peace, which “Jesus” signifies!

III

“THOU ART MINE”

All this does not exhaust the mercy, the comfort, and the strength that Christ offers you for this year of uncertainty. In His pledge for today God concludes: “Thou art Mine!” What riches of divine grace in this truth, that God has not completely cast us off but that through faith in Christ He becomes our heavenly Father, we His children and, as Saint Paul exults, “if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ!” Because we are not human animals, playthings of fate, creatures controlled by the lusts of the flesh and soon doomed to decay; because through Christ, God points to all who accept the eternal message of that Savior’s forgiving love and says: “Thou art Mine!” we have Heaven’s own pledge that for all who are His the new year will bring days of blessing. Even if the indescribable horrors of war should engulf our nation; even though the pathway of the next twelve months takes us through the desert of want and the valleys of suffering, we can still hear the voice of God say to us: “Thou art Mine!” and be assured of divine protection.

How little we understand the vigilant care of our Father and His angels in our lives! A railroad official, surveying a recent train crash which could have resulted in the loss of several hundred lives, declared that an act of God helped to prevent a terrible tragedy. He had the proper understanding of God’s miraculous protection. A school-teacher at Joplin, Missouri, oppressed with the feeling that “something was going to happen,” asked her children quickly to file out of the room and saw, only a few seconds after the last of the thirty-four tots had left the place, the entire ceiling with its tons of plaster and metal lathing crash upon the floor and splinter the desks. She was correct in calling that remarkable premonition an act of God. And if we could rightly review the events of the past year, we would know that in repeated instances our heavenly Father has averted disaster even without our knowledge because in Christ we are His. As you stand before this year, which may be filled with difficulties, not knowing what may befall you on the untrodden pathway, you have God’s own promise that, if you begin and end each day in the name of Christ, He “shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” His New Year covenant with His own declares: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Trust Christ to protect, to provide, to prolong your days!

Now, precisely because your heavenly Father regards your precious, blood-bought soul with a love deeper than the most self-sacrificing devotion that any father ever offered his children, His all-knowing love may permit 1939 to become a year of hardship, pain, and cross. For some of you the coming weeks may bring a hurricane of swift disaster, with sickness, injury, bankruptcy, shattered hopes, or even death itself. If you are without Christ; if God has never pointed to you and said: “Thou art Mine!” there can be no divine help for you; and in their terrifying despair men and women have made this temporal punishment of unbelief eternal by jumping in front of locomotives or taking a calculated overdose of sleeping­powder. But if you are Christ’s,—my friends in this country and in Canada, I ask you to listen closely now,—if you have said to the Savior: “Thou art mine!” and God, pointing to you, has answered: “Thou art Mine,” the most crushing burden and excruciating pain you may be called upon to endure will come from the mercy of God, our Father, to purify your faith, strengthen your reliance on Christ, bring you closer to God, increase your longing for heaven, and make you more sympathetic toward the sufferings of others. I know that some leaders today offer you even in the name of Christ an easier, richer, better, fuller life here on earth; but it is an unholy delusion to employ religion for political ends, to deny that the Christian life may be beset by difficulties and that the cross of suffering will mark the Church of the last days. Rather does the Word of God instruct us to call men to Christ, have them bow humbly before God’s good and gracious will, whatever that will may be.

It was the winter of 1918, in the city of Riga, Russia, and the Red beasts had dragged Lutheran pastors as well as men and women from their congregations into dungeons, there to await execution. Thousands literally were shot down. For those who remained alive only the tense question persisted: “Do we die today or tomorrow?” Among the women prisoners a girl twenty-one years old, a concert singer, awaited her end; and though the Communists could imprison her body, they could not fetter her soul. Day after day she sang only one song, a hymn with this meaningful title:

Though I know not the way,

Thou knowest well.

Finally her hour came; the prison doors were opened, her name was called. “Don’t falter now,” she encouraged herself, and then, strong in the faith, she marched to death with this confidence:

Thou knowest the way for me;

It is enough.

If on this first day of the new year you can say with all your heart: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own,” then the God who answers: “Thou art Mine!” will daily bring you closer to Him, nearer to our Father’s house.

What, then, is your pledge for the God who has redeemed you, called you by your name, and said: “Thou art Mine!”? When Robert Bums, the Scotch poet, surveyed his years with all their lapses and follies, he confessed to a friend: “My life reminded me of a ruined temple; what strength, what proportion, in some parts! What unsightly gaps, what prostrate ruin in others! I knelt down before the Father of mercies and said: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Thy sight and am no more worthy to be called Thy son.’” May God give all of you who have continued in unforgiven sin the grace to hear Jesus appealing for your return to the Father! May you come, just as you are, to Him, just as He is, in His immeasurable grace, for forgiveness, life, and heaven itself!

Will you not all join with me in a vast transcontinental confession of Christ,—you in Canada, you in Mexico who can understand my words, and you throughout my own land? I cannot see your devotion, but the almighty God, who can penetrate your hearts, beholds you in this moment. Stand before your radio, fold your hands, and repeat after me this New Year’s resolution: “O God, the Help for my past, the Hope for my future, I come before Thee now on this first day of the new year of grace, in the name of Jesus Christ, my own Savior, who on the cross redeemed me, to declare my faith in Thy blessed Son, my thanks for His love. With the help of Thy Holy Spirit I resolve to support the Church of Thy true Word, to study regularly the promises of Scripture, to follow Thy sacred ordinances, daily and repeatedly to come before the throne of mercy in prayer, with Thy guidance to live this faith in my own life and in relation to my fellow-men, and, if this be the last year of my life or of this world, to depart in the name and by the grace of Jesus Christ! So help me, God! Amen.”

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

Date: December 25, 1938

Prayer for Christmas Day

Thou blessed Babe of Bethlehem, long-promised Redeemer of the race:

Our hearts are exalted in festive joy because on this sacred day we realize, as far as human understanding can grasp this mystery of the ages, that Thou didst leave heaven’s glories and become incarnate to make us eternally rich through Thy poverty. If on this anniversary of Thy birth we have but Thee, ours is indeed an immeasurable wealth of comfort. By Thy Christmas benediction we can be happy in the midst of sorrows, confident though surrounded by fears. All other holiday gifts are doomed to decay. Even the devotion that binds us most closely to our dear ones will come to an end; but the mercy which brought Thee to the lowliness of Bethlehem’s manger to grant us through faith the promise of the heavenly homeland,—that radiant love can never change. How can we ever thank Thee for the tidings of great joy that every festival of Thy nativity emphasizes? Help us give our hearts to Thee in living gratitude for the grace of Christmas. Enlighten us with the personal understanding that this day of Thy birth appeals to men in all conditions of life, particularly those afflicted by the manifold distresses and sorrows to which our age is heir. Let not these happy hours draw to a close without shedding rich blessing upon many lives. Hear us and fill our hearts with holy Christmas joy for Thy truth’s sake! Amen.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.Luke 2:20

HOW easy it is to misunderstand Christmas! It took the Puritans, despite their deeply religious life, half a century before they permitted the observance of this blessed day; and when the first Nativity celebration was held in Boston, 250 years ago, armed guards protected the worshipers against personal assault. Christmas is still misinterpreted and opposed, particularly in countries where Christian liberty is violently threatened by governmental interference, where masses of the youth have been mobilized sarcastically to belittle the reverence for the newborn Savior, the Son of God and Son of Man.

Even in our own nation the message of the Infant Jesus is sometimes misconstrued. In 1918 Christmas was of unusual significance to me personally. While attending the university, I devoted my leisure time to the spiritual care of several hundred enemy aliens and prisoners of war then confined in concentration camps. To me the Savior’s command “Love your enemies” and “I was in prison, and ye came unto Me” were a challenge to bring His Gospel to men who through no fault of their own were deprived of the privilege of worshiping their Savior and ours. Since it was impossible for me to visit all barracks on that Christmas after the Armistice, I wrote a lengthy telegram to the North Carolina camp, conveying the comfort of faith in the Christ-child to these interned sailors, separated for more than four years from their loved ones. To economize, I did not write out in full the various Scripture passages but referred to them, as is customary, simply by mentioning book, chapter, and verse. For example, rather than write each word, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,” I cited: “Isaiah 9, verse 6.” That telegram of Christian hope was never delivered. Instead, I was summoned before a board of investigators to face the charge of using a code to communicate with an enemy interned. It seemed impossible that such complete ignorance of Scripture could exist concerning the greatest event of all history, the birth of Jesus Christ; and I quickly explained that these abbreviations and figures, far from being sinister code messages, were simply Bible references to the holiest and happiest story ever told. A glance at the passage immediately proved my assertions, and within a few moments I was bowed out the room with profuse apologies.

I recall this incident to voice the plea that Christmas, its purpose and blessing, often misconceived, should certainly be understood aright by us today. We do not celebrate a day; for who can certify that Jesus was born on December 25? Older investigators recorded over a hundred different dates suggested as the birthday of our Savior and King. Christmas should also be more than a time of hazy, roseate good will toward men, more than a momentary peace that brings soldiers out the trenches for only a few hours’ truce, more than the excited hurry of a holiday with its gifts, its convivial eating, drinking, and merrymaking. To be a God-pleasing Christmas, it must be, and I pray God that in your heart it will be, above all the outward festivities, the day of all days, on which our souls sing

GLORY TO GOD FOR THE CHRIST-CHILD!

We must have the same desire to glorify our heavenly Father which filled the hearts of those who first beheld Bethlehem’s Babe and of whom it is written (Saint Luke, chapter two, verse twenty): “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.”

I

GLORY TO GOD THROUGH OUR CHRIST-CENTERED FAITH

No misunderstanding of the first Christmas disturbed the hearts of these shepherds. They had heard, not from the lips of fallible men but in Heaven’s message of the angel this glorious summary of Christmas truth: “Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” They had seen with their own eyes the mystery of the Incarnation, and they believed that in the cradled Child, God and man were united, heaven had stooped to earth, the Creator had become a creature, Deity had taken the form of humanity. Before that truth they bowed without doubt or debate. They refused to object: “How shall this be?” They made no attempt to analyze the glorious mystery of Christ’s becoming man, to interpret the hidden mysteries of the manger. With all their hearts they recognized in Christ their God; they believed Him, they trusted Him.

If on the birthday of Christ you demand proof that this Child is the Lord of lords, then ask yourself this question: If even the Bible insists: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh!” how can you, with the restricted powers of human reason, hope to understand what the inspired penmen of God could not explain? If in the small circles of your experience you cannot account for a hundred marvelous chemical, physical, psychical forces at work in your body and mind, how can you hope to disclose the veiled truths of God? And if you cannot make human ingenuity answer a thousand questions in your daily life, why do you demand proof for the basic fact of Christmas, when God Himself has given you the immovable assurance that His Word is truth?

Don’t raise the objection that the shepherds were uncultured folk, ready to believe everything, with no scientific approach to the question of the first Christmas. I recall these words of John Gladstone, one of England’s foremost scientists, formerly president of the Physical Society, then president of the Chemical Society, the man who created an entirely new department which our universities now call Physical Chemistry: “We begin with Christ at Bethlehem. The first men who came to Him were poor peasants; but the next were the scientific men of the age.” Since the days of the Magi, leaders in various phases of human thought have humbly proclaimed their faith in the Incarnation. Jean Andre Deluc, inventor of the hydrometer, the scientist who first applied the barometer to measuring altitude, exclaimed: “The Son of God, the Lord of life, had to assume human nature and a mortal body as we have it. . . . I firmly believe that this is the truth because the Bible teaches me this. I say with Saint Paul, who directly called religion a secret, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!’”—Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, called “a prince in the world of science, one of the greatest physicists,” exults: “That the power and the love of God are brought into relation with the weakness and the sinfulness of man in the Lord Jesus Christ—of these great truths I have no doubt. . . . Upon Jesus Christ as the One who, for God, affiliated Himself with man, upon Him I rest my faith and hope.”

Take time to read the Cambridge Memorial, a declaration signed by ninety university professors of theology, history, law, and science, who in their own words “fully recognize the value of the statement of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.” These and a host of other noteworthy intellects have joined in the faith of Sir James Simpson, one of England’s outstanding physicians, who, with the trust based on an intimate, cover-to-cover knowledge of the Bible, confidently asserted: “I have unshaken faith in Jesus only. . . . I have heard men of science and philosophy raise doubts and objections to the Gospel of Christianity, but I never for one moment had a doubt myself.”

Geniuses in the arts of all ages have also dedicated their talents to the glory of Christ. The choicest poetry, the masterpieces of sculpture, the world’s costliest canvases, some of the sublimest compositions of all music, they laid at the feet of the Christ-child with a living faith in His divine power. To many the most majestic of all Christmas music is the incomparable oratorio of Handel The Messiah. Crowned royalty rises when its sublime “Hallelujah Chorus” is sung, and few commoners can hear its exalted strains without a deep inner thrill. George Frederick Handel glorified God not only in music but first of all by a firm trust in his Savior. His mother, the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman, regarded the spiritual training of her son among her most sacred duties; and through her influence Handel’s faith was so strengthened that, though Rome and London asked him to join fashionable churches and popular creeds, he steadfastly replied that “he was resolved to die a member of the communion in which he was born and bred.” If we look for the heart of the Messiah, we must discover that intensely personal conviction by which Handel’s tears mingled with the ink as he penned its scores. In his own words he tells us that during the two or three weeks of composing The Messiah, “I did see the heavens open before me and the great God Himself.” As you see these heaped tributes to Christ as our God, don’t doubt! Don’t question! Don’t hesitate!—Believe! Accept! Trust! Acknowledge Jesus as your Lord, not because these gifted intellects have, but because the sacred Scriptures themselves, in scores of passages, proclaim Him God and King!

If now you ask,—and what question suggests itself more appropriately today?—“Why was Jesus born? Why did the Son of God become the Son of Man?” you are not left in any quandary. Jesus came, the Scriptures tell us, to reveal the Father, to show men that the God of grace and love seeks to win His disobedient, disgraced, deceitful children back to the blessings of eternal glory. Jesus came to take away forever all human iniquity, to remove from our stained souls the sin with which we daily offend God and increase our eternal punishment, to bear these transgressions on the cross, the high altar of all humanity, and there to sacrifice Himself, so that His holy, precious blood could completely cleanse us. Jesus came to destroy the hate-filled plans of hell that hold the world in their destructive spell, provoke misery in homes, churches, nations, blight your life and mine. This tyranny over men’s souls was broken through the first coming of Christ and will be broken forever in His second coming with power and glory. Jesus came—and this is the climax of His advent into the flesh—to destroy death, to bless you, me, and all believers with this promise, “I am come that they might have life.”

Pause before this Christmas Day all too quickly hastens to its end and ask yourselves whether you have ever realized how insignificant and puny and worthless you and I are under the appraisal of men today, yet how priceless everyone is in the loving esteem of our blessed Jesus. To the chemist, man is often a remarkable combination of various substances that ultimately decay and return to the dust. To the physicist he is only a mechanism moved by various forces that refuse to be controlled but that must finally stop and leave him lifeless. To the biologist we are accidental creatures that trace our ascent through a series of chance changes up from the primitive brute. To the astronomer we are infinitesimally small beings that cling to a world not much larger than a dot in the universe, a sphere that will be destroyed with everything in and on it. To the modern psychologist men and women are helpless things, swayed by emotions and the dictates of an unconscious mind that few can even partially conquer. To the sociologist man is simply the victim of his environment, with a hundred forces mercilessly hammering his life so that it fits into its surroundings. But to Christ—O blessed comfort of Christmas!—you and I are of such inestimable value and our souls such a priceless heritage of our heavenly Father that Jesus left the indescribable grandeur of eternity to come down to the poverty, the anguish, the vice, the death, of this sin-choked world to restore us to His Father’s love.

Without that faith in the Redeemer, Christmas is just another holiday, tinted with a vague cloud of good will but void of any tangible hope for anguished souls; but to hearts that adore the cradled Babe as the Savior of the race the birthday of Jesus is the climax of the year. Whatever else this day may have brought you, may the Spirit of God now bring into your hearts a resolution to glorify God through a personal faith, confident that Jesus came for all men, with endless mercy, with sure promises. Since He came with the only salvation that Heaven knows and on which we can build our hopes, I beseech you in that name above every name not to let night close this blessed day without receiving Christ’s Christmas-gift of Himself. The door to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is only five feet high, so that those who enter must bow down; and in a more personal way a Christmas pilgrimage to the manger of Christ means that you humble yourselves, that as the shepherds left their sheep to worship the Christ-child, so you must forsake all earthly cares, kneel in spirit before the Prince of Peace, the Savior of your souls, the Christ upon whose shoulders all government rests, the eternal Immanuel, the God-with-us in the flesh, and glorify God with a childlike unquestioning faith in the Babe of Bethlehem, as your Lord, your God, your Savior.

II

GLORY TO GOD THROUGH CHRIST-DIRECTED LIVES

When the shepherds left the manger and hurried back to their flocks through the hush of that sacred night, they carried the impress of the Child indelibly stamped on their lives. They had seen the Christ, and as the countenance of Moses, who beheld God in His majesty on Mount Sinai, gleamed with reflected glory, so the shepherds, who had seen God in His mercy, glowed with that Savior’s holiness. They kept on “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” You, too, cannot see Christ through the eyes of faith without being made purer and more courageous; unless you church-members radiate Christ so that on this Christmas Day and every day people in the circle of your influence are able to recognize you as a follower of Jesus, something radically wrong is weakening your Christianity.

As these herdsmen of Bethlehem hearkened to the angels’ proclamation “Fear not,” so may you praise God in banishing the battalions of fear that surround many lives—the dread of sin, the horror of disaster, the fright of sickness, the terror of poverty, the specters that relentlessly haunt some of you, rob you of peace, tear down the tissues of your body, and hold you in a slavery more terrifying than any human bondage. Today God sends you the promise from Heaven, signed in the name of Christ and sealed in His precious blood, “Fear not!” Bring your cares and your worries to Christ the “Counselor” and believe in Him! Deep Christian faith has always found high courage in every fear-gripped moment. When the Vandals swooped down on North Africa, they persecuted the Christian Church with appalling cruelty. In one of the chapters of this martyrdom we read that they dragged seven confessors of Christ before their inquisition. When these witnesses remained loyal to Jesus despite threats and promises, they were sentenced to death; but they marched the streets to the place of their execution with a song on their lips. “What song?” you ask. None other than the Christmas chorus “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men!” To the people who lined the streets they cried out, “Fear no threats and no terrors, but let us rather die for Christ as He died for us!” With this joy they strode into horrifying death.—You, too, can have the same triumphant trust for the smaller fears of your life if only your Savior becomes all in all to you and your faith, more than lip-worship, springs from a soul alive in Jesus!

Those shepherds, who earned but a few pennies a day, could return “glorifying and praising God” in the face of deep poverty. I hope that none of you, as undeniably hard as the yoke of money troubles may be, will permit the struggle against unemployment and mounting debts to destroy your Christmas joy or open your hearts to the radical agitators who promise everything but deliver nothing except delusion. Even though you can afford no Christmas­tree and not a single gift for your children, with Christ you have heavenly light for a future in which human vision cannot discern one assuring ray. If you recognize the meaning of His poverty, His exclusion from the overcrowded inn, His homelessness in a world that was His own, His death, which left, as human possessions are reckoned, only a crown of thorns and a few blood-stained pieces of clothing; if you know all this happened that through faith in Him and “through His poverty” you “might be rich,” Christmas can still be a day of immeasurable soul wealth.

During these trying times that border on destitution, God may be leading some of His children on blessed ways. Two days before the Christmas of 1857 Ulysses S. Grant came to Saint Louis to pawn his watch so that he could buy a few gifts for his children. He was bankrupt, a misfit, in whom nobody placed any faith; but the Savior whom Grant was later to confess and in whose name he was baptized on his deathbed was guiding Grant through the dark valley of discouragement. Within seven short years the “misfit” was the military leader of the nation and soon thereafter its President. In much the same way the God of unlimited grace can change your outlook on life within a short span of time if it be His will. If not, if in His divine wisdom He knows that your soul will be imperiled by wealth and your reliance on God broken by luxury, through Christ your hearts can beat in tune with God’s love and thrill with greater joy even in straitened circumstances than many who with their millions are still without God.

Again, if we with the shepherds have heard the angels sing, “Peace on earth,” we must be prepared to praise God by reechoing the spirit of that harmony and extending help to our fellow-men. God alone knows how our broken and bleeding age longs for that peace when class hatred, creed hatred, race hatred, and, in the smaller circles of life, family hatred make life unbearable for millions; when men persecute each other because they happen to be Christians, Jews, Negroes. What a protest the reconciling loft of Christ is to all the inhumanity we witness, not only in Europe, but with increasing force—sometimes with the support of the demagogues—in our own land! The very country in which Jesus lived is torn by disastrous warfare. The site of His birth is guarded day and night by two armed policemen. Yet we could well adopt one custom of century-old usage among the Christian Arabs of Palestine. When one tribe has committed a serious crime against another, the chiefs of the opposing parties, together with representatives of the involved families, gather—not in a courtroom—but in Bethlehem, in the grotto of the Church of the Nativity. There, before the huge silver star which marks the traditional place of Jesus’ birth, every effort is made to reconcile the opposing parties through an oath of peace. In the same spirit we ought to set aside the days of the Christmas week as a sacred period for the removal of strife in family circles and larger human relationships.

Fellow-pilgrims to the manger of the Christ-child, is your heart at peace, or has estrangement entered the doors of your homes? Husbands and wives, who ought to be welded together by a flame of love, has that devotion changed to cruel hatred? Children and parents, whom affection should bind together with strong ties of blood kinship, have you become separated through selfishness? I spoke the other night to a group of 400 destitute, homeless men, tossed about as they are by the cross-currents of life, without any haven or anchorage, and heard some of their tragic experiences. Even deeper than the tragedy of having no home is the sorrow of having a home, yet being exiled from it by hatred, as some of you are on this Christmas Day. Husbands, who know that you ought now to be with your wives; children who stubbornly refuse to write even your parents; fathers who with cutting cruelty have banished your sons and daughters, your flesh and blood, from your homes,—think on this Christmas Day of the Christ-child’s love, and may God give you the strength to magnify His name by returning to your dear ones and seeking reconciliation! Do not let this holy day draw to its close without stifling all pride and finding the peace brought earthward through the Christ-child!

The shepherds also glorified God by making “known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” They were the first missionaries of Jesus Christ. When your heart has been moved by the magnificent grace of Jesus Christ, will you not glorify God by telling others of the Savior? One of the best-beloved of all Christmas carols is Luther’s “From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come.” Tradition tells us that on Christmas Eve in 1534, while Katherine Luther was busily engaged in the holiday preparations, she knocked at her husband’s study and asked the Reformer to rock their baby Paul so that she might finish her household duties. As the cradle moved to and fro, Luther peered at the face of the child. The memories of the first Christmas Eve were revived in his heart, and he thought of the Babe cradled in the manger. The rhythm of the rocking suggested the melody of an old folk-song, and soon he had written the words of the hymn which millions have sung since his day. We, likewise, must behold our children in the light of the Christ-child. While Christmas, through the hundreds of Madonna canvases emphasizes the Virgin Mary and has rightly been regarded as the day that exalts motherhood, I ask you fathers to reflect Christ, as Luther did, by becoming priests of God in your own families. All of you who know the grace of Christmas I beg to go beyond your home and break the deadly silence that keeps millions in ignorance of Jesus. Shout the glad tidings! Proclaim Christ, and the God whom you honor by your testimony will in turn honor you by His power!

Within a few hours another Christmas will have escaped into the irrevocable past. As years add to years, these blessed days seem to slip away more quickly. How we would cling to Christmas and keep it with us forever! In the fifth century Jerome, translator of the Bible and teacher of its truth, who had moved to Bethlehem to live at the spot where the shepherds worshiped Jesus, was offered a high position in a church far away from the city of the Savior’s birth. He pleaded: “Take me not away from the manger of Christ. . . . Here in this very spot where God gave His Son from heaven will I return my soul to Him above.” With love and zeal for Christ like Jerome’s, may God give us, in youth and in old age, in adversity and prosperity, in sickness and in health, in war and in peace, always and ever, the grace to live in faith and hope and love with the Christ-child, our God and Lord of endless mercy!

Our Father, grant us the glorious Christmas gift of this faith for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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

Date: December 18, 1938

A Pre-Christmas Petition

O Christ, our Savior, who didst come and who wilt come:

Send us Thy Holy Spirit, so that throughout the land great multitudes may prepare their hearts to receive Thee, their Redeemer and their King. As Thou dost now knock at the door of our hearts and seek entrance into our lives, help us overcome the sin that separates us from Thee, the indifference that makes us cold toward the radiant promises of Christmas. Come into our souls today and during this busy week, so that Thy presence may banish all fear, all despair over our sins, all overconcern with externals. As each hour brings us closer to the anniversary of that blessed day toward which the faithful through long centuries of prophecy had hopefully gazed, help us attune our hearts to a spirit of heavenly joy and, amid all distractions of this season, direct our hearts to Bethlehem, so that we may find hallowed time and loving thought for Thee, for the mercy of Thy birth, the compassion of Thy life, the atonement of Thy death, the eternity through Thy resurrection, and the comfort in Thy second coming. Instruct us in Thy truth, so that we may eagerly await the unknown hour of Thy return for the judgment of this world and for the glorious homecoming of Thy saints. To this end hear us and help us make our hearts ready for Christmas, so that above all Thou mayest enter and be born in us again. We ask it according to Thy promise! Amen.

Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him. . . . She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.John 11:20, 27

“THE king is coming!” That cry is the summons to feverish activity throughout Canada and the United States, as two great nations even now are making extensive preparations for the visit of King George, monarch of the British Empire, to the North American continent next spring. To salute that earthly ruler with proper greeting and assure him a safe, comfortable journey, to arrange for public appearances, where millions will welcome the British ruler,—far-reaching and minutely detailed plans, involving unbelievably large staffs of officials, craftsmen, soldiers, police, are being shaped months in advance.

“Behold, thy King cometh!” is the Advent cry by which all men are asked to prepare their hearts and homes to receive another sovereign, that King of kings and Lord of lords before whom King George humbly bowed at his coronation. And how will Jesus, the Prince of Perfect Peace, be received when in seven short days the churches commemorate His coming to save us from our sins? This week before Christmas, which should be the most carefree and unencumbered, for millions is the most preoccupied week in the year, with overcrowded shops, overworked salespeople, overwrought parents, all suffering under the cunning profit-seeking through the Nativity season. Too often decorated homes but unadorned hearts mark the birthday of the King. We ought to have at least two Christmas days, one devoted to festivities, the exchange of gifts, the holiday spirit in general, and the other a sacred day in which the hearts of men, detached from the glitter of commercialism, could reverently worship Christ, the newborn Savior!

“Behold, thy King cometh!” is the appeal that would speak peace into your heart, no matter how discouraged you may be in this holiday season, no matter how bewildered this Christmas rush may find you. Because everything worthwhile in this life and every hope of eternal blessedness depend on your love for Christ and your readiness to meet Him, the sin-destroying Savior of your soul; because you either welcome Christ and hear Him promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” or reject Him and hear Him warn, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,” I ask every one of you, however hard or happy life may seem, however rich and full or thin and threadbare the approach of Christmas may appear, however empty and lonesome or vibrant and overfilled these holidays may come upon you, to resolve now that during this week before Christmas you will find time or make it in which to lay aside every earthly care and humbly, joyfully,

PREPARE TO MEET JESUS

That is the lesson of Saint John, chapter eleven, verses twenty and twenty-seven, where we read: “Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him. . . . She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” May God mightily bless these words in our hearts and help us prepare to meet our Savior, not only in His Christmas advent but also at His second coming in power and glory!

I

PREPARE TO MEET THE CHRIST WHO CAME IN HUMILITY

It is a remarkable chapter in our Savior’s life from which the incident of our text has been chosen. Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, lay on his sickbed, face to face with death. His sisters, Mary and Martha, dispatched a messenger, beseeching Jesus to come and stop the ravaging illness. Before Jesus began the trip, Lazarus died. Only when to human vision it appeared that Jesus had arrived too late, did He approach Bethany. Messengers ran to inform the bereaved household of His coming; and it was Martha who, in the words of our text, “as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him.” She could not wait until He would deign to enter her home; she must see Christ and welcome Him at the first moment possible.

What a blessed example American women should find in this record of their Palestinian sister, nineteen centuries ago, hastening to meet Jesus! To a far greater extent than we realize, Christian womanhood today is one of the most decisive human factors in our country’s destiny; for their morality and ideals have always been a gauge of national health. Whenever women, accepting those sacred responsibilities with which God has entrusted them, are personally concerned about welcoming Christ, their Savior; wherever Christian women, under the influence of that faith, seek to maintain their Lord’s standard of purity and are vitally interested in the home, appreciative of the privileges of motherhood, conscientious in the training of their children, above all, sincere in their loyalty to Jesus Christ, they help create a strong moral foundation for their country, their Church, their homes, their own lives. On the other hand, more perilous than the grave economic problems before the nation are the disturbing evidences of growing drunkenness among American women, stolid indifference in many circles to the sacredness of the marriage vow, a selfish spurning of motherhood, a spirit of worldliness and of opposition to Christ. You wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, who can make or break much of the happiness in your homes, take time for Christ! Martha had been one of those women who are preoccupied with the cares of this life; but when Jesus had told her of the one thing needful, a trusting faith in His Gospel promises, she changed completely. By contrast I think of the wasted efforts of many modern women, sometimes even in the churches, who are so engrossed with social obligations and a hundred different efforts that their hearts have as little room for Christ today as that overcrowded Bethlehem inn had for the Savior on the day of His birth. Martha was a woman of the upper class in Bethany; yet she did not hesitate to leave her friends and hasten to Jesus. If only the interest exerted by American women could be enlisted in behalf of Christ’s cross and the spreading of His Gospel instead of being directed, as often, toward cocktail parties and bridge tournaments! If only American mothers could realize how inestimably more important it is to rear well-trained children than to be the president of any woman’s club, how much more blessed to know Christ, to help others know Him, than to lead any community enterprise!

Martha ran to Christ, though crushed by the loss of her brother. She had the deep-rooted conviction that Jesus in some undefined way could prove Himself the divine Helper, even after death had taken its toll. May God give every one of you that same ever-trusting faith! Some of the homes which this message reaches are suffering under one or more of those staggering blows which at Christmas seem doubly distressing. Even those families that have escaped every reverse and prospered even during depression and recession without feeling the pinch of poverty, the black numbness of disaster, the cold blight of death, must be prepared for the fact that sooner or later, by the inevitable law of all human experience, suffering will knock at their doors, affliction will enter their homes. How blessed to meet Jesus in faith and find in Him the Christ for every crisis, the Savior for every sin, the Redeemer for every wrong, the Atonement for every agony of the soul, the Guide for every gloomy path, the Friend for every friendless hour! For many of you the approach of Christmas is beclouded with worries, overshadowed with grief, embittered by losses, darkened by a restless conscience; but I can promise you this in the “name which is above every name” that, if you will lay aside these heavy encumbrances which are dragging you down to the dust, prepare to meet your Christ and welcome Him as your Savior of endless mercy and your God of endless power, you will make this discovery for yourself: those who receive Christ receive strength to triumph over every weakness, light to brighten any darkness, blessings that will outlive death itself.

Martha found in Christ the Friend who “will not fail.” When she spoke to Jesus of her brother’s death, the blessed Savior did not answer in terms of vain regret or in the high-sounding but empty phrases with which men often seek to shed some ray of comfort on death-darkened lives. Instead, Christ offers her the startling promise which has dispelled the gloom at countless funerals: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die,”—glorious words to be demonstrated within a few moments when Lazarus, on whose lifeless body the forces of decay had already started, was resurrected from the grave. When Jesus directed the pointed inquiry to Martha, “Believest thou this?” she faced her Lord with that radiant confession, the highest and most blessed of all truths, “Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

To you in this mission of the air, young and old, rich and poor, learned and simple, powerful and powerless, church-members and unchurched, native-born and foreign­born, white and black, yellow and red, capitalists and workers, employed and unemployed, I repeat the question of Jesus, “Believest thou this?” Pointing one short week hence to the birth of our Savior and King, I ask for the same confession by which you acknowledge Christ not merely an exalted man but the almighty God; not only your Example but above all your Savior; not one who was to be born into the world by ordinary processes but He who, as prophesied of old, was the Virgin’s Son; not one who came to lead men to an easier life here on earth but a heavenly Guide, who would first of all bring men to the best life in eternity; not Christ as a generous, noble, unselfish character and nothing more, but Christ as the absolute, sinless, stainless Son of God; not a Christ whose suffering and death are the proof of only His heroism and idealism, but the Christ whose agonized end on the cross is the only purifying, sin-removing, death-destroying, life­bestowing power that earth and heaven itself knows; not the Christ whose body has remained in a Palestinian grave, but the Christ who, as “the Resurrection and the Life,” promises us heaven and its everlasting blessing.

If it were within my power during the next few days to send each one of you in this far-flung congregation of the air a Christmas-gift that would answer the supreme need in every life, it would be the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which you would hasten to meet Christ, the new-born King, kneel before His manger, and repeat the confession of Martha, “Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” For with that sincere confession all sins are removed from our lives, blemishes cleansed from our souls, indictments lifted from our consciences, doubts of our salvation removed from our hearts, every pledge of Heaven reinforced, every truth of the Scriptures underscored.

Can anything be more vital than the appeal in Jesus’ name: Prepare to meet your new-born King! Meet Him in the faith which refuses to question or doubt, to argue or contradict! Meet Him in His Word as you spend some moments of each of these seven happy days that intervene before the anniversary of His birth in reading and appropriating His promise to yourselves, your family, and your friends! Meet Him in prayer, as you come before Him to share your life’s joys and sorrows, to find the answer for your problems and the guidance for your paths! Meet Him in your love as in His spirit during these remaining days you, endowed by the generosity of God, remember the poor, the afflicted, the sick, the lonely, the aged, the orphans, and by your private charities, your support of the Church’s work of mercy, your checks for the national relief funds, show men how Christ is radiated from your lives! Be ready especially to meet Jesus in a true church of God on the anniversary of His birth, and Sunday after Sunday, with insistent regularity to hear the Word of God and be built up by its constructive power. Come, then, let us hasten with Martha and approach Him with all our sins, just as we are, so that we, too, may walk with Him as new creatures, twice-born, in the holiness of faith and hope and love!

II

PREPARE TO MEET THE CHRIST WHO WILL COME IN GLORY

We must be prepared to meet Him, for the same Jesus whom Martha hastened to meet at Bethany in that dreary, sorrow-weighted hour after her brother’s death will come again in His second advent,—no longer rejected and crucified, but eternally triumphant in His majesty as the almighty God. Remove all doubt from your minds on this one point—our world will not go on endlessly! As hopeless as is the effort to create perpetual motion in the laboratory, just so impossible it is that this earth should continue forever under the dominion of sin, with men living their fleeting lives, momentarily happy, sometimes, but often crushed and always doomed to death. If this world had a beginning, as we know that it did, then it must have an end. Reason and scientific fact combine to warn us that this finale must come.

Even more decisive is the truth that the Bible directly connects the destruction of this earthly sphere with the second coming of Jesus, not to establish an earthly kingdom of peace and power on the ruins of the present social order but to pronounce the last judgment. Christians may unfortunately be divided into many conflicting groups; but some basic truths are accepted by all, especially the truths emphasized in the oldest universal confession, the Apostles’ Creed. No matter to which branch of the Catholic churches you may belong; no matter which subdivision of Protestantism you may support, if you are Christ’s and bow before the authority of His Word, you confess with the Church of all Christian centuries: “I believe that Jesus Christ,” after His death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection, “ascended into heaven” and now “sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” As frequently as this sacred truth is neglected, the return of Jesus is emphasized in the Bible to a degree exceeded only by the stress which the holy writers lay on the atoning death of our Lord and the saving power of His blood. Think of it—three hundred passages in the New Testament alone speak of the Second Coming! If we had only one of these promises; if three hundred others had never been penned by inspiration and we had only the assurance of the angels at the Ascension: “The same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven,” we would have decisive proof of the truth that at the appointed hour Jesus will return in the splendor of His second advent. Besides this angelic assurance the blessed Savior Himself draws clear, prophetic lines to tell us how He, the Son of Man, will come. The epistles intensify this promise, and as the blessing of inspiration draws to its absolute close, the last book of the New Testament, in its final chapter, declares: “Behold, I come quickly!” and again: “Behold, I come quickly!” and for the third time: “Surely I come quickly!” You see, a holy eagerness fairly leaps from the pages of the Scriptures to convince us that we ought to stand with our backs toward the world, but with our faces looking toward “the appearing of Jesus Christ,” which, as blessed as it will be for God’s children, will be terrifying to those who reject Christ.

That second coming will not long be delayed, for this generation is witnessing some of the signs of the times that unmistakably mark the beginning of the end. Jesus Himself pointed out that preceding this end there would be “wars and rumors of wars.” Past chapters of history have recorded brutal battles, but no pages of the human record have been blotched with as much blood as the annals of the past twenty-five years, when with civilization at its zenith, men, turned beasts, killed eight and a half million of their fellow-men in a war that every day proves more futile and destructive. What about the “wars and rumors of wars” in the present moment, with one fourth of this world’s population involved in hideous warfare, with our stubborn, haughty age systematically preparing for more diabolical slaughter than the world has ever known?

Other signs by which we are to know that the hands in God’s clock are approaching the midnight hour are the “fear,” the “tribulation,” the “distress,” that the Scriptures list as symptoms of the last days. In our own country growing anxiety clutches us. The figures of our national debt have become so staggering that in their immensity they are meaningless to us unless we know, for example, that, if every one of the 7,000,000 farms in the United States, together with their buildings, live stock, equipment, were all sold at assessed values, the return would not be enough to pay this indebtedness. Nor are there definite signs of improvement. On the contrary, the international horizon is marked with the flares of many disastrous fires. The inroads that atheistic Communism has increasingly made into our country during the last two decades are incredible. Not only hundreds of thousands of our fellow­Americans but tens of millions face a future which is characterized by the three terrors which the New Testament says mark the final chapter of all history: “tribulation,” “distress,” “fear.”

At the same time the Scriptures, in drawing the prophetic picture of the final act in the tragedy of life, solemnly warn that the rich “have heaped treasure together for the last days,” that, while they live in wanton pleasures, they systematically defraud the poor and the workers. The World War made 10,000 millionaires in the United States, we are told, and though the last years have reduced the incomes of the superwealthy in this country, we still behold a perilous inequality in the distribution of money; senseless, extravagant display by some of the stupid rich, with hunger, cold, and destitution mounting problems for millions of the victimized poor; with American society in this pre-Christmas week purchasing chinchilla wraps, custom-built limousines, diamond brooches, often securing money by concealed dishonesty, oppression of the poor and gangster methods in business. The contrast between increasing wealth and deepening poverty—mark this well!—is not only an unhealthy economic condition that in other countries has paved the way for the overthrow of the existing government, but in its present and future proportions it signalizes the approach of the last days.

Another unmistakable sign of the Savior’s return is the fulfilled prediction that “iniquity shall abound.” For the sordid details read Second Timothy 3 with its twenty-one marks of the wickedness in the last days. In all candor I ask you whether this is not the picture of the present day, with its selfishness, lusts, overbearing pride, blaspheming scoffers, disobedient children, ungrateful materialism, immorality, sex perversions, broken promises, perjury, drunkenness, brutality, disregard of decency, disloyalty, and resistance to God’s truth.

Even the Scriptural picture of the churches in these latter days is reproduced in our present religious life. Christians will be persecuted in the days immediately preceding Christ’s coming, the Bible testifies, and the torture and murder of believers, particularly under the onslaught of the Red antireligious regime the last twenty years, has exceeded many of the terrors in the days of the early Church. False prophets and false Christs will arise, we read; and when has the multiplying of anti-Scriptural cults been more startling, the appearance of false Messiahs more repeated, the denial of Biblical truth bolder? “The love of many shall wax cold,” we are warned, as empty, formal religion supplants the worship of God in spirit and in truth. In these crisis years the zeal and ardor of many Christians have unmistakably cooled. Instead of overcoming the world through extended missionary efforts and unselfish sacrifices for the furtherance of the Kingdom, many churches are neither hot nor cold and are more interested in social life than in spiritual life, more concerned about outward reform than inner regeneration, more eager to raise money than to give money, more preoccupied with fairs and plays than with prayers and praise.

On the other hand, one of the conditions that must be fulfilled before the end comes is this, that Christ’s “Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Do you not recognize in the radio one of the means through which this wide spread of the Gospel is to be attained? By the marvels of this incredible invention our appeal for Christ reaches multitudes who have never been inside a church, who live far beyond the ministrations of any religious group. By the miracle of the radio this message of the crucified Savior leaps over the highest mountains and flashes across the broadest plains, penetrates to vessels on the deepest seas; and if you, my friends, will continue to stand with me, as you have for almost six years, so that we can keep on enlarging the hookup and use the opportunities of shortwave broadcasting, we shall, under God’s benign blessing, record even greater triumphs for His truth than the amazing results of the past.

No one, of course, can tell the hour in which Jesus will hold His victorious return. However, the day of His second coming is 1900 years closer than when the Apostle declared: “The Lord is at hand.” All we can do is to follow the Savior’s injunction: “Watch and pray.” Christ will come suddenly, unheralded, “as a thief in the night.” What terror it will bring to those who have lived without the Savior and against Him! The horror experienced during the unfortunate broadcast when many people actually believed that an invasion of supercreatures from Mars was destroying our country and helping to usher in the end of all life on this planet, will be as nothing compared with Christ’s return, when the voice of man’s conscience assures him with deadly conviction that this is no make-believe, no stage-play, but that the hour of Judgment has struck.

Can you not see, therefore, you, the careless, the confident, the skeptic, the unbelievers, living lives that are crowded with pleasure and pain, yet empty of all hope in Christ, that I must first, last, and always ask men to get right with God through faith in their Savior, to prepare their hearts during this pre-Christmas week to receive Him who came as a babe so that we might become children of God, who lived in lowliness and humility so that we might have the exalted “riches of His grace”? When that great day of His reappearance on earth breaks and humanity’s millions are assembled before His throne, my fellow-redeemed, I want to stand with you on the right side. If you have never heard of Christ’s second advent in heavenly power, you have heard it now, and the question which should spring from your searching soul will ask, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Come to Him now, in the same eagerness with which Martha hastened to her Lord! May we help you come? Working shoulder to shoulder with me for the advance of Christ’s kingdom are thousands of Christian pastors in the United States and Canada, and one of these nearest you will be glad to call at your home, hotel or hospital, institution or prison, in which you now hear this message to help you prepare yourselves for Christ’s return to earth or for the time when your soul wings its way to heaven. Will you not give us the privilege of helping you make this Christmas a glorious day in your life through the message of the Christ-child, the most comforting and sustaining of all truths?

God strengthen every one of us through Christ that we may all look forward to the Savior’s return, not with fear but with deep faith, and pray for His speedy appearance. To know that Jesus will come again, defeat all opposition, and forever silence all unbelief; to have the assurance that the darkness of this present moment cannot continue indefinitely, since the radiance of the coming Christ will bring light for our gloomy problems; to believe that at Jesus’ return those who are His will see Him face to face; to realize that He comes to end all sorrow for His own and bring us into the glorious rest of heaven; to understand that the doctrine of the Second Coming is the truth which will help us solve the multiplied evils of this life and quiet grief-burdened hearts,—that is the faith which, turning to the last page of the Bible, hears Jesus say: “Behold, I come quickly,” and which answers, as I pray God I may answer for millions from coast to coast, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

God grant every one of us a loving, trusting, confident faith in that glorious return of our only Savior! Amen.

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

Date: December 11, 1938

Plea for Persevering Faith

O Christ, Savior of our souls, Sovereign of our lives:

There is one surpassing, all-absorbing prayer, into which all our other petitions would blend, one plea which this vast assembly, worshiping across wide areas, now directs to Thy grace, and that is the entreaty: Keep us in the faith! Bring us to heaven! Save us for eternity! Thou hast promised that, if we are faithful unto death, we shall receive the crown of life; and this eternal diadem we beseech of Thee above all else that we know or can ask. If at times we lose sight of life everlasting and rivet our attention on the unworthy things of this earth, forgive us and grant us a better, purer vision.  If we despair of eternal glory, show us that faith in the power of Thy blood can cleanse and save eternally. If in doubt or unbelief we question the reality of heaven and hell, or if we hesitate to accept Thy rich promises of never-ending blessing face to face with Thee, speak to us with Thy Spirit and show us that we can attain to the heights of highest joy when with childlike trust and implicit confidence we believe, even though we cannot see Thee with our natural eyes or comprehend Thee with the human mind. In order that our souls may be saved for the heavenly homeland, remove our doubt, banish our pride, bring us penitently on our knees before Thee; but always, O Christ of grace and truth, keep us in the faith that will lead us heavenward, homeward to Thee, for Thy glory’s sake! Amen.

Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.1 Corinthians 13:12

WHEN Samuel Finley Morse retired from active leadership in the worldwide industry that his invention, the telegraph, had created, he devoted his time to serious study of his Christian faith. The genius whose first message, ticked over the wires, was a triumphant telegram of praise for divine help, did not permit the honors heaped upon him by practically every civilized nation to lure him from his loyalty to Christ. In the quiet of well­earned rest Samuel Morse read his Bible continually, rejoicing especially in the glorious prospect of heaven. He used to tell friends: “I like to study the Guidebook to the country to which I am going. I wish to know more and more about it.” When his pastor emphasized the extraordinary goodness that God had shown him, Morse replied: “So good, so good; but the best part of all is yet to come.”

If that genius to whom the far ends of the earth had paid their grateful tribute and who had received more decorations and awards than any other man in his age of whom I know, could brush all these heaped honors aside and, looking to heaven, say: “The best part of all is yet to come,” how much more intently should our thoughts be riveted on the many mansions in our Father’s house! How much more eagerly should those who, far from receiving recognition, have met endless heartaches and reverses train their eyes on the heavenly homeland with the confidence that through Christ “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”!

Yet we think so little and lightly of heaven! Our public libraries have imposing shelves of books on how to live long, live happily, live alone, live with others, live in a flat, live on a pension, live in England, live twenty-four hours a day, live on $2,000 a year; but more than this our age needs faith in the one Book that teaches men how to live for heaven and its blessings.

This promise of an all-glorious eternity through faith in Jesus Christ must be the absorbing issue especially for all those who have traveled far and long on the pathway of life. Today the United States has 8,000,000 men and women who are sixty-five years old or over, a group almost as large as the total population of Norway and of Sweden. Within the next ten or fifteen years almost all these will stand before the bar of eternity. We have generous pension plans and, more than any other nation, well-equipped old folks’ homes for those whom American industry, often with cruel short-sightedness, brands “too old.” Of inestimably greater importance, however, is the question: Are those approaching the threescore and ten milestone properly and personally impressed with the necessity of preparing for the better land, where there are no disabilities and disappointments for old age? Let the Government provide ample help for the aged; but let the churches with their spiritual calling approach the masses of our elderly men and women with a heaven-directed message of glory in the Eternal City, not built by men’s hands, without any disease or weakness, where Christ is King and His holy angels welcome every world-weary child of God.

The unspeakable glory of Christ’s heaven must be proclaimed to all ages. Children cherish the story of that happy land, and many times these sweet unblossomed buds in God’s garden have gone home to their Savior with unmistakable rejoicing. This childlike faith should live in every one of us, including our young people and those in the prime of life. With all the uncertainties of our existence that seem to multiply with every modern advance in civilization; with all the new diseases that take the deadly place of controlled sickness, the thought of heaven must be, though this blessing is often ignored, misunderstood, and denied, the magnet that attracts our soul’s affection more closely to Christ.

For this reason I ask you to stand in spirit with me

FACE TO FACE WITH JESUS

as we study the pledge of God’s sacred promise concerning heaven (1 Corinthians 13:12): “Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

I

THE GLORY OF SEEING CHRIST FACE TO FACE

I shall not argue the question whether there is an eternity. If the Spirit of God does not convince your hearts, nothing that I can say will induce you to believe in a heaven opened by the grace of Jesus Christ. Skeptical scientists shrug their shoulders and call the statement of the Apostles’ Creed “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” an unproved theory. Are not some of the fundamental facts of our existence unproved, though accepted by normal minds? Prominent unbelievers heap ridicule on the Bible truth that these bodies, though decayed, will be recreated through Christ into a newness of eternal life; but with Jesus we breathe a prayer of thanks that, while these unfathomable mysteries are often concealed from “the wise and prudent,” they have been “revealed . . . unto babes,” to those of childlike faith. A leading Modernist unblushingly confesses: “I do not believe in the resurrection of the body,” and preachers in many prominent churches who answered a questionnaire on heaven issued similar denials. But if men deliberately want to pull the crutch from beneath a crippled world and, against the dear testimony of Jesus Himself, bring disaster on their own heads by maintaining that the grave ends all; if some of you are drugging your consciences as you boast that the message of Judgment Day is an outworn superstition by which the Church selfishly seeks to put fear into men’s hearts, I cannot stop the horror of such unbelief, nor subject this promise of eternity to a microscope or telescope test. For me God has spoken, and that is sufficient. Deny the life to come, and you have destroyed the highest hope of the life that now is. For the injustice, sorrow, falsehood, of this earth we need the justice, truth, blessings, of heaven. If there is no hereafter, why blame those disconsolate souls, beaten down again and again by adversity, who raise themselves from the gutters to scream: “Life is useless!” “Life is tyrannical!”? If all our hopes end with our last breath, why not follow the suggestion of the California suicide who proposed that lethal gas chambers, public facilities for self-destruction, be established in all our larger cities where the wearied of life can secure quick release from its burdens?

Thank God, however, we have divine assurance that there is a heaven, a blessed eternity, a radiant life to come! I propose to show you this from only one section of the errorless Word, the thrilling third chapter of Saint John’s gospel There we read the promise that neither time nor hatred nor ignorance can diminish or erase: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” In the same connection, only a few verses before, is that magnificent 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.” Here again we are assured that “the Son of Man must be lifted up that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” If one single chapter contains these repeated promises, how many more priceless pledges of heaven can we find between the covers of the entire Bible, each one an assurance in itself, but combined, a mighty, invincible defense of heaven! Friends and fellow-redeemed, believe this truth! Do not question or debate it! Do not think that you must be able to understand and explain it! Accept heaven in faith! Take God at His word!

That was the victorious trust of Saint Paul when in his matchless praise of Christian love he interrupts the trend of his thoughts to speak of heavenly bliss in this prophecy: “Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” On earth, the Apostle says, we see things dimly, as, in Paul’s day, people looking into the poor reflection of an ancient mirror, beheld the objects imaged only in vague, hazy form; but then, in the glory to come, he promises, all uncertainty and obscuring darkness will vanish. We shall see “face to face.” Here, he continues, we “know in part” only, but hereafter “we shall know” in the same fulness of blessing with which Christ knows us.

How reassuring this heavenly knowledge will be! Human learning in its most elaborate conquest is pathetically limited. Science at its best makes many mistakes. It repeatedly changes its front. With candor and honesty it confesses, “We do not know.” One celebrated scientist admits that “the question how things began is wholly beyond the ken and scope of science.” Another confesses, “We do not know, and probably are incapable of knowing, what matter is.” A third concedes: “As to the origin of life, I know nothing at all.” Recall this when some “expert” tells you that the assured results of modern science have classified man merely as a higher-grade animal. In the world to come, with its better knowledge, those who are Christ’s may understand some of these deep truths of creation. We may have a profound insight into a hundred questions now baffling the keenest minds. The human eye, through the sublime power with which God has endowed it, can even now distinguish more than two million different tints and shades; but when we stand before that rainbow-circled throne of eternity, the range of our vision will be indescribably enlarged. God has given us an intricate system of hearing; yet it is limited. The best ears cannot perceive sounds below 16 or above 20,000 vibrations a second. Yet there are sounds beyond these two boundaries. This message from our station in Saint Louis is broadcast on a radio wave with 550,000 vibrations, although you cannot hear them. How gloriously, though, will the heavenly hallelujahs for our salvation and the celestial hosannas for our redemption resound before the throne of the Lamb when we see what “eye hath not seen” and hear what ears have not heard, “the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

This promise of a higher knowledge answers the hopes of many bereaved who, lingering at the side of a grave, have asked, “Will we know our dear ones in the hereafter?” During a sad Christmas season when his wife lay apparently slowly dying, Charles Kingsley, preacher at Westminster Abbey, spoke “in the light of the cross of Christ of an eternal reunion, without parting or separation.” That thought brought lasting comfort. If any of you face death in the happy days of Christmas preparation, believe with all your hearts that, when you pass from this world trusting Christ who says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” you join the company of those who have preceded you in that Savior. Scripture accepts this truth of an eternal reunion; never denies or argues it; instead it presents a long list of testimonies, with much emphasis on the joy of that eternal recognition. The Savior Himself tells us that “many shall come from the East and West and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Does He not imply that in the hereafter the identity of these three patriarchs has been preserved? When the last book of the New Testament asks as it gazes upward to the new Jerusalem: “What are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they?” and the answer follows, “These are they which came out of great tribulation,” does not that identify these white-robed saints in glory as those who have suffered much for Christ? When Saint Paul tells the Christians at Thessalonica that they will be his “crown and glory” before the throne of the Lord Jesus, does not that infer that He will rejoice in eternity over his Thessalonian converts? No doubt can remain for the Christian who hears the promise of our text “I shall know even as also I am known.” He can look forward with an intensity that increases as the years multiply to that blessed heavenly reunion with his sainted father and mother, with the son or daughter snatched away in the joy of life; and through the strength of faith he confesses, “In Thy presence is fulness of joy.”

That fuller knowledge will also help us understand the mysteries of our faith. Now we “see in part.” We accept many teachings of our creed without being able to plumb their depths or understand their verity. We cannot analyze or dissect the truth of the Trinity or the mystery of Christ’s incarnation. Nor can we realize the full grace of God in Christ or explain why God eternally chose us to be His children. The divine working of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, is an impenetrable mystery to us now. But then, when we see “face to face” and “know even as also” we are “known,” we shall be able to delve more deeply in the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” Where the ten thousand times ten thousand worship with God in holiness, there will be no denominations and conflicting creeds; no Roman Catholics or Greek Catholics; no Calvinists or Reformed; no Missouri Synod Lutherans; no U.L.C. or A.L.C. Lutherans. In the glory of that heaven all who trusted in Christ and penitently came to His cross for forgiveness, in whatever Church they worshiped here on earth, in one united faith will sing His praise. Oh, that all churches were now outwardly and inwardly united, so that in conformity with Christ’s own words they could be one in advancing the cause of His kingdom!

Particularly comforting for us is the thought that through this sacred understanding in heaven our eyes will be fully opened to the merciful guidance of God and His ways, which on earth often seemed “unsearchable” and “past finding out.” In the glory of the Resurrection many of us, reviewing our lives on earth, will exclaim: “What profit came to me through earthly losses! What joy resulted from my tears! How I thank God that His will, and not mine, prevailed! How grateful am I that my heavenly Father did not answer those selfish prayers which I blindly put before Him!” There, in the heavenly light, you, the redeemed by Christ, will understand that your ambition did not materialize so that you could build your eternal hope on “nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” There you will penetrate the veil of earthly sorrow and see God’s high purpose in bringing you down on beds of sickness so that you might recapture spiritual health, in permitting you to lose an eye or a limb so that you might gain the kingdom of heaven. In that eternal radiance you, sorrowing parents, will know with perfect insight why God permitted your child, for whose life you pleaded with all your heart and soul, to be taken away in death. You will see that it may have been for the child’s sake, for your own sake, or for some marvelous purpose of God, and with the praise of faith you will acknowledge Him who “hath done all things well.” There, you bereaved husbands who have sent word that God unexpectedly called your beloved wives to Him, will see how blessed has been His will and how even these heart-breaking losses have been a part of the eternal harmony by which “all things work together for good to them that love God.” We ought to have much more of this trust for our lives! I appreciate the many letters that come day after day beseeching our prayers in your behalf, and I promise you that as God gives us strength, these requests will be answered. Even more than our intercession, those who face severe operations, who wonder whether tumors will develop into cancer, who seem to have suffered beyond the limit of a cold world’s cruelty, need the strength of faith, the personal assurance that whatever God permits us, as His children, to suffer; comes to us as a blessing in disguise, a fire that refines, a storm that restores. We ought to have more of Luther’s trust. When his beloved daughter Magdalena died, he knelt down to pray once more, and though the hot tears streamed down his heroic face, seamed as it was by sorrow and anguish, he raised his faltering voice to thank God for taking his child to glory.

Yet the most sacred of all joys in heaven, the surpassing glory, far above all these blessings of higher knowledge, is the indescribable and immeasurable bliss by which we shall see Jesus “face to face.” To live forever in the presence of Him by whom the world was created and humanity redeemed; to behold Him who is our Savior and our God, no longer weary and persecuted as He was, but now the Center of adoring faith; to see the hands and feet that once were nailed to the cross and to bow before that Christ in His Kingdom of Power and Glory; to contemplate the sacred head, once bleeding and wounded under the cutting crown of thorns, now glorified by the coronation of a heavenly diadem; to hear the lips of grace that once begged, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,” speak wonderful words of a love too blessed for our human ears; to sing the new song of the redeemed, the melody of heaven, to the eternal praise of Him who on this earth had heard the jeering cry “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”—that is the fountain fulness of a joy and peace that truly “passeth all . . . understanding.” When the confidence of Job is shared by us and we know that our “eyes shall see Him,” what dazzling light, what infinite purity, what overwhelming joy, what celestial love, shall we behold, “face to face” with Jesus! Freed from sin and selfishness, fear and terror; freed from hate and envy, lust and evil desire; freed from pain and disease, suffering and anguish; freed from remorse and regrets, from disappointments and despair; freed from loneliness and darkness, from distrust and suspicion, we can—and this is the most glorious pledge of eternity—see Jesus “face to face.”

II

THE PROMISE OF SEEING CHRIST FACE TO FACE

If now you ask that supreme question for life and death, the pointed inquiry which, I pray God, has been asserting itself with restless insistence within your hearts, “How can I see Jesus ‘face to face’? How can I assure myself of the indescribable rapture of heaven?”—I lift my heart to God to thank Him for His grace in permitting me to send the answer from coast to coast. When the Apostle writes, “We shall know even as also we are known,” he bases the promise of this beholding Jesus “face to face” on the fact that Christ knows those who are His. The all-absorbing issue in life, therefore, must direct itself toward being known of Christ, having our names written in the Book of Life, hearing Jesus say, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My sheep,” and then becoming a member of His flock.

If we pursue this inquiry farther and ask, “Well, how can I be known of Christ?” “How can I have the confidence that He will acknowledge me in heaven?”—and once more I pray that thousands of you are repeating these questions,—then listen as our Lord Himself says, “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.” Read Saint Paul’s assurance “If any man love God, the same is known of Him.” As in every blessing with which Christ enriches us in time and in eternity, we must have faith in God’s mercies. Only with hearts and minds directed heavenward through Christ, can we find the new and rich happiness of life eternal. If God had demanded that, before we enter heaven, we must atone for every sin in the long inventory of wickedness that marks every life, we would recognize, even with our restricted understanding, the justice of this claim and thank God for that opportunity. If our heavenly Father had insisted that, to assure our peace in heaven, we should have to pay untold millions, on bended knees we would thank Him for the permission to spend part of eternity, were that possible, in earning the price demanded. But praised be this unfathomable love! God offers the blessings of heaven freely, immediately, as the gift of His lavish grace, to all who have been washed white and sinless by their faith in the cleansing blood and the atoning death of Jesus.

If you have that trust, nothing else matters in life. No one can keep you from seeing Jesus “face to face.” Lazarus was sore and hungry. Dogs were the only friends moved by his sores and wounds, and crumbs were the only food that sustained him; but by a blessed compensation he was transferred in moment from the poverty of earth to the riches of heaven. The thief on the cross, guilt-stained and blood-marked as he was, had the true confidence. He heard Jesus promise, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise,” and without any delay, without any purgatory for further cleansing and refining (the Scriptures know nothing of any such intermediary stage; it is always either heaven or hell), that saved sinner went from Golgotha to glory, from the pain of his penalty to the Paradise of Pardon. Stephen, the martyr, was stoned to a horrible death, but those jagged rocks could not crush the triumphant vision of faith by which in his last moments even here on earth he “looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” Paul suffered from a thorn in his flesh, but he was so strong that in spirit he was permitted to see the higher joys of heaven. John was exiled to lonely Patmos; but he had faith, and in the Book of Revelation he received the soul-lifting foretaste of that eternal bliss.

The same promise of triumph can eternally enrich you despite all your sins, if only—and remember there is no other promise—you have this faith in Jesus. As the wise merchant in the parable sold all that he had to secure the pearl of great price, will you not, my fellow-sinners and my fellow-redeemed, focus your souls on the Christ who comes to us particularly during these days of preparation for His advent into our flesh? Will you not, —in His name I beseech you,—with your eyes trained to the blessed hour of seeing no longer “as through a glass, darkly,” but beholding Him, your ever-loving, ever-forgiving, ever­compassionate Christ, “face to face,” now pledge Him the allegiance of your hearts if you have never known Him before or offer Him the increased devotion of your hearts if you are His?

O blessed Savior, we cannot fathom Thy love! And even with this knowledge in part, we could never sufficiently thank Thee if all our lifetime, day and night, waking and sleeping, were devoted to Thy praise. How shall we ever sufficiently praise Thy name? Bless us even with adversity and affliction if necessary; but we ask, by the blood that dripped from Thy wounds and by Thine atoning agonies and death, keep us for heaven with everlasting life, where we shall see Thee “face to face.” Amen.

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

Date: December 4, 1938

Prayer for the Savior’s Grace

O Christ, our Savior and our God:

Thou art holy, pure, all-compassionate, and we so unclean, selfish, and hate-ridden that we hardly dare approach Thee. But with that unfathomable love which brought Thee down from the heaven of high glory to live on earth with us, yet without sin, and to die for us, only to rise again, we hear Thee say: “Come unto Me.” And now, Lord, we come, just as we are, trusting in Thy love and power to save us to the uttermost. Receive us into the everlasting arms of strength and healing, comfort and shelter, and despite all our sins, worries, pains, losses, our broken hopes and shattered lives, bless us all now by holding Thine advent into our hearts and homes. We know that Thou who art one with the Father and the Spirit canst help us since all power is given unto Thee in heaven and in earth. Thy Word tells us that Thou delightest in strengthening those who put their trust in Thee. Thy promise proves to us that Thou art with all who call upon Thee, regardless of how small their human resources and how large the opposition arrayed against them. O Christ, our Lord, keep this living faith forever in our souls. For our own good, withhold from us whatever earthly blessings Thou wouldst. But come to us, Lord Jesus, as Thou hast promised, abide with us, and in every dark day as in every hour of happiness keep us all close to Thee! Amen.

God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ.Acts 2:36

NO matter how you had planned to spend the next quarter hour; wherever you are and whatever may now seek to claim your attention and take you from your radio, in the name of God I ask you to drop everything and listen closely. These coming moments will offer you the pledge of a blessed eternity and may prove a turning point in your life. The faith which the Spirit of God can now implant within your soul will lighten your burdens and help you sing songs of praise through the blackest night of sorrow. For this message will bring you the holiest of all promises, the most strengthening of all truths.

We go back to the Acts of the Apostles for this glorious blessing, and within this book of missionary triumph I have chosen my text from the first sermon after the Savior’s resurrection. Written 1900 years ago, its promise was never needed more than today. Proclaimed by an unlearned fisherman, its radiant grace has seized the hearts of intellectual geniuses. Spoken in Aramaic, which few in this audience understand, its heavenly assurance has been translated into many hundreds of languages, and millions of Christians throughout the five continents and on the seven seas have lingered lovingly over its mercies.

That first sermon was preached by the same Peter who, less than two short months before, had failed to watch with his Lord during the night of terror in the Garden,—the Peter who had denied, denounced, and deserted Christ but who now, with the new courage of a triumphant faith, had become a heroic defender of the risen Savior. The occasion of his brave testimony was the Pentecost Festival; and his epochal message was the plea for a humble faith in Jesus, concluding, as in a mighty climax, with the words selected for our discussion: “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36.)

When Peter ended this appeal, the question that leaped to many lips demanded: “What shall we do?” May the God of all grace awaken within our hearts the same searching inquiry and teach us to accept this truth, which continually gladdens even angels,—the faith by which we find in

JESUS CHRIST OUR SAVIOR AND OUR GOD

Three thousand of the men and women who first heard these words were converted to Christ; and I ask you to join me in the prayer that the Spirit who led them to Jesus may bring many now worshiping with us to the same Savior.

I

JESUS OUR SAVIOR

When Peter, facing the holiday throng, declares that the same Jesus whom they had crucified is the “Christ,” he deliberately and completely raises our Lord above all notable figures of history. Jesus is not merely another teacher, leader, friend of humanity. It is not enough that you exalt Him as a great mind, an uplifting moral influence, or even as the outstanding figure of all centuries, that you acclaim Him for the unselfishness of His teaching, the purity of His ideals, the power of His example. You must do more than pay Him lavish tributes for His Sermon on the Mount and for His unnumbered contributions to human welfare. If you want to know the true, historical, Biblical Jesus, you must with Peter find in Him first of all nothing less than the “Christ” of God, the long-prophesied Messiah, the Anointed One, for whom the ages shaped themselves.

In our short-sighted vision we cannot predict events a few months, weeks, or even hours in advance. Think of the mistakes made by men of affairs as they sought to describe the unformed horizon of tomorrow! In September, 1928, Henry Ford, the outstanding industrial genius of our age, drew this roseate picture of prosperity: “We are today nearer the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of the land. The poorhouse is vanishing from among us. We have not yet reached the goal, but given a chance to go forward with the policies for the next eight years, we shall come, with the help of God, within sight of the day when poverty will be banished from the nation.” A year and a month passed, and the nation was hurled into want, deeper than we have ever known, with poorhouses overcrowded and one third of the entire nation ill fed, ill clad, and ill housed. Similarly not tens, but hundreds, of predictions have been made by industrial wizards, Government officials, and financial experts, who, as they sought to forecast the trend of events, prophesied profits and prosperity only to see loss and adversity crowd into the swift-changing scene.

Triumphing over all these human errors is the glory and the power of our Christ. Centuries before Jesus was born the story of His life was predicted with such accuracy and detail that even unbelief must stop its mouth before this marvel of God’s omniscience. Let me outline for you the major prophecies concerning the events of only the last few days in the Savior’s life. The Old Testament record pictures Him in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It shows Him betrayed by His own familiar friend, sold for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a potter’s field. A thousand years before Jesus faced Herod and Pontius Pilate this ancient truth portrays Him accused by false witnesses, silent under their perjury, smitten and spat upon. Isaiah foresees Him snatched from judgment; David’s inner eye beholds His hands and His feet pierced at the crucifixion. Ten centuries in advance the sweet singer of Israel sees the gall and the vinegar. He hears the mockery of those who chant their taunting songs beneath the cross, wag their heads in derision, and challenge God to deliver the Crucified. Old Testament prophecy envisions Christ’s dying thirst and records the cry of agony long generations before Jesus moaned it from the cross: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” It beholds His side pierced, describes the soldiers dividing His garments but casting lots over His unseamed cloak; yet it knows that “a bone of Him shall not be broken.” It witnesses the burial of Jesus not in a criminal’s grave, but in Joseph’s new tomb. With such precision are the prophecies of the Old Testament Messiah fulfilled in Christ Jesus. You could search ceaselessly in all the libraries of the world and employ the most prodigious researches of the human mind, but you would never find anything even faintly approaching these prophecies and their fulfilment. If you demand proof for the truth of God’s Word, you have it here. One of the brilliant newspaper writers of the last generation was Thomas Jay Hudson, who began his literary life as a determined unbeliever. Reviewing that period, he admits: “I was a pronounced scoffer and a determined atheist. I was willing to believe nothing that was not tangible nor to accept as a fact anything that was not supported by scientific investigation. I had no confidence, of course, in any of the teachings of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, and the future life. My reason refused to allow me to believe them.” But one day a friend asked him to check some of the theories in his book against Christ with the facts in Jesus’ life and particularly to study the prophecies concerning our Lord. In his own words he testifies: “I immediately entered upon a careful study of the Bible and especially the life of Christ, with the result that . . . in the four books I have written since I tried my very best to atone for my former atheism by a scientific definition of the essential doctrines of the Christian religion.” In much the same way Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the immortal composer of sacred music; Neander, the defender of conservative Christianity in the days of rationalism; Carl Caspari, called “the teacher of all Scandinavia”; Edersheim, author of a scholarly life of Christ; Bishop Shaereshefsky, who sat for twenty years in an invalid’s chair as he translated the Bible into Chinese,—these and many other prominent Israelites who left the synagogue for the Church of Christ were converted because, turning to the indisputable evidence of prophecy and fulfilment, they were overcome by the conviction to which a member of the editorial staff of a Saint Louis newspaper, likewise a Jew, confessed. Joining our Church, he declared: “I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, sent by God the Father to redeem Israel, because He fulfilled all prophecies regarding Him to the letter and is still fulfilling them and, I believe, will fulfil them till the end of time.”

If only men would study Christ before they oppose Him! I think of the remarkable blessings which this study brought Paul Elmer More of Princeton, formerly editor of the Nation, who died last year. Called “one of the most profound scholars in the world,” he started with skepticism and unbelief; but, as his friend William Lyon Phelps of Yale assures us, before his death he came “from agnosticism into a passionate faith in the Christian religion and the incarnation” of Jesus Christ.

Far more vital and blessed, however, than this harmony between the Old Testament oracles and the New Testament reality is the eternal and unchangeable fact that Jesus, as the Christ, proved Himself the Savior of the race. Once more, it is not enough that we know Jesus as the great Ideal in whom these ancient predictions lived anew; that we exhaust the rich limits of our vocabulary in discovering new titles that do Him honor. All these eulogies are cold and false unless based on His redemptive love. Many modern religious books give Christ a dozen imposing epithets, but they shun the glorious word “Savior” and ban the comforting name “Redeemer,” because smiling unbelief, bold and confident in its present security, does not want a Savior, finds the cleansing blood repulsive, sullenly denies the necessity of the redemption, and cynically tells groping souls to find their salvation here on earth, without worrying about the problematical eternity.

This glossing over of sin is lulling thousands into a false sense of indifference toward Christ and their own desperate plight. Lecky, the famous historian, in his History of English Morals, says of the ancient Greek and Roman world in the days of its decline: “There was no sense of sin possessing men’s hearts. Penitent shame was impossible. The burden of guilt did not rest upon a criminal’s heart. Men looked upon deeds of infamy and were not shocked. The sin of the world and its moral corruption infected the air. . . . No sense of guilt assailed them.” Is not this the description of our day: No sense of sin, no sense of guilt, nothing to shock wicked hearts or disturb lustful lives? Is not this the drugged conscience of our age with its international murder and its bloody scourge of racial and religious prejudice? Is not this dwindling sense of sin the besetting evil in our own nation, when in governmental affairs, national, State, and local, we sometimes behold a saturation of iniquity, a connivance with the underworld, a shaking of hands with white slavers, gamblers, thugs, and at the same time a closing of the eyes as corrupted courts become agents of lawlessness? Above all, this muffling of the inner voice and this disregard of God make men boldly run the course of sin and laugh at its consequences, swing the dripping cup of pleasure, as if in challenge to the Almighty, before they gulp its contents. The fact that in this country of God’s choicest blessings we behold brazen tolerance of vice, encouragement of iniquity, open reward of indecency, must be traced to the alarming truth that sin has lost its terror, that masses, blindly driving themselves to hell, insist they need no Savior.

Oh, that present-day Christianity would throw off its timidity, its apologetic attitude, its hesitancy, and proclaim the whole counsel of God and the Saviorhood of Jesus Christ! The urgent plea of this hour, far more imperative for each one of you than any other issue in your lives, insists: Back to Christ, the Savior! Back to the cross of redemption! Back to the cleansing blood and the pardoning love! Christ, the Savior, the Purger from sin, the Deliverer from hell, the Redeemer from death; Christ, the Liberator from the gloom of our fears and the tyranny of despair; Christ, who saves us from our own blindness and from the brutality of others, that ever-blessed Jesus saves completely, with no sin too overpowering, too degrading, too often repeated. He saves. Remember this with the approach of Christmas if you do not yet know that the Child Jesus came to redeem “His people from their sins”; He saves forever, the handwriting against us completely blotted out by His blood. Believe that if you are tormented by the specters of youthful sins and you fear some black error in your life may be uncovered to public gaze and leave you disgraced! Christ saves with heavenly certainty, since every element of doubt is removed and each of the hundreds of gracious promises is sealed at the cross and doubly sealed at the open grave. Build your hope on that, you the peace-robbed, who love Christ and still write to ask whether you have committed the unpardonable sin! Know that, as long as you love Him, you are farther from that fatal transgression than the east is from the west! Christ saves freely, by pure grace, and the most self­effacing love that could move His Savior-heart. Keep this in mind if you are trying to pay for your redemption, while His love, which cannot be purchased with the heaped treasures of all planets, now offers you personally, directly, and above all, freely, the magnificence of His priceless mercy. Christ saves because He became a Substitute and paid the price that we could not pay. Seven long centuries before the angel chorus rang over Bethlehem’s field and before the darkened heavens were witnesses of the murder scene at Calvary, Isaiah, beholding Jesus as the Substitute, wrote on the scroll of his deathless prophecies: “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities”; and in the fulfilment of the New Testament we see that He who was the Light of the world, for us was enshrouded by darkness on the cross. He who was holy, separate from sinners, undefiled, for us became sin “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” He who was Life itself, for us died all death to grant us an eternity with Him.

If only men and women today could understand the wondrous love that led Jesus to sacrifice His own holy body for the sins of ungrateful men! An English school-teacher tells us that he was disturbed by an unruly pupil who broke every rule of the school, remained unmoved by any penalty, and was weakening the morale of the school. One day he summoned that incorrigible boy to his desk, explained that, while such misconduct must be punished, he loved his pupil too much to strike him and was ready to take the chastisement on himself. So he held out his ruler to the boy. At first he hesitated to take it, but when the demand was inflexibly repeated, the bewildered lad, struggling within himself, finally struck one blow, cast the ruler aside, and broke out in heavy sobbing. From that day on his resistance was broken, and a happier atmosphere pervaded the entire class. That English lad in the school of Bronson Alcott had seen the principles of our Savior’s substitution enacted on a small scale. If only in the school of life we would look to Jesus as our blessed Teacher, who, though we daily sin much, has borne our wrong, its guilt, its punishment! Then, too, tears of repentance would flow from our eyes.

My fellow-redeemed, I beseech you: look to Christ with this faith! Keep this imperishable truth of His Saviorhood ever enshrined in the sanctuary of your hearts! Let everything else slip away if you must, but keep that penitent trust! Safely guarded within the British Museum, written in pencil on the margin of a book, is this confession of the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “For a great part of my life I did not even know that I was poor and naked and blind and miserable. And even after I did know that, I did not feel it aright. But I thank God, I feel it now somewhat as it ought to be felt. Stand aside, my pride, and let me see that ugly sight—myself. I have been deceived all my life by sayings of philosophers, by scraps of poetry, but most of all by the pride of my own heart, into an opinion of self-power, which the Scriptures plainly tell me that I possess not. It is the design of the faith of Jesus Christ to change men’s views, their thoughts, their lives, and their very tempers. Yes, but how? By the superior excellence of its precepts? By the weight of its elegance, or the promise of its rewards? No, but by convincing men of their wretchedness and guilt and blindness and helplessness, by inculcating the necessity of the remission of sins and the necessity of supernatural life and assistance and by promising to the penitent sinner, and by actually conveying to him, these evangelical blessings.” This remarkable document voices the faith of hundreds of great leaders in human affairs; but I turn from all this to plead with you, bought as you are by the price of Christ’s blood: For the joy of heaven and the happiness of earth, acknowledge Him your own Savior!

II

JESUS OUR GOD

With this Heaven-sent revelation of Christ as our Redeemer we must combine that heart-and-soul doctrine, that life-and-blood hope of the Christian faith, the deity of our Savior, whereby we acknowledge, praise, and glorify Him as our God. When Peter told the festival worshipers that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was “both Lord and Christ,” he announced no new doctrine; for the utterances of the prophets were full of predictions which greeted the Messiah as God.

Today our faith in the deity of Jesus Christ rests on a basis even firmer than these Old Testament foregleams. In the light of the fuller manifestation by Jesus Himself we know that the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament repeatedly call Christ God. That closes the issue for us and cuts off all debate. Yet to strengthen our faith, we can page through the Gospels to see that Jesus proved Himself God in the unnumbered miracles which must come from God, who alone can suspend the force of His own laws. When we behold our Lord, after the completion of these wonders that blessed others, performing the supreme miracle in His own lifeless body as He arose on the third day, should we not cast aside all doubt and, kneeling, declare with Thomas: “My Lord and my God”?

But more: to strengthen our conviction, God has given us also the testimony of history. Only a divine Christ could leave His sacred imprint along the paths of the ages as He changed, uplifted, and exalted the lives of those who took up their cross and followed Him. Napoleon, pacing the sands of Saint Helena, told Count Montholon: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires, but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force! Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day multitudes would die for Him. . . . Jesus Christ was more than a man. I have inspired multitudes with such enthusiastic devotion that they would die for me; but to do this, it was necessary for me to be visibly present, with the electric influence of my looks, my words, my voice. . . . Across a chasm of 1800 years Jesus Christ makes a demand, which, beyond all others, it is difficult to satisfy. He asks for a human heart. . . . In defiance of time and space the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation of the empire of Christ. All who believe on Him experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish the sacred flames; time can neither exhaust its strength nor limit its range. This it is which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me convincingly the divinity of Jesus Christ.”—If only men today would look at history in the same light in which Bonaparte beheld the rolling centuries, they, too, would sweep aside their petty unbelief and acknowledge Jesus as their “Lord and Christ.”

I shall omit these customary proofs of the Savior’s Godhead, however, and tell you, with all the penetrating power that the Spirit gives me, that Jesus Christ must be God because, by the eternal decree of Heaven, no one, not even the best, the wisest, the truest among the faulty children of men, can ever atone for my sin and stand as my substitute on Judgment Day. No angels, even with their legions, can remove my iniquities. They weigh so heavily on the scales of Heaven’s justice that only the self­giving of God Himself can satisfy the unswerving demand of perfect righteousness.

Jesus must be God; for only divine intelligence can lead us through the confusing labyrinths of life. Disillusioned multitudes today need, not the frail and faulty theories of mortals, but the help of Heaven itself. The masses, repeatedly deceived by manmade promises, must have a God-granted decree of divine guidance. That pledge is offered only by clear-cut loyalty to a faith which reveres Christ as God. You can experience this truth and power if you bring your burdens and problems to Christ. Even though you see no way out of your difficulties and there actually is no human help, His divine, all-perceiving wisdom will find a way or make one for you.

Jesus must be God because we need the help of Heaven for the toil of earth. Don’t let anyone tell you that this is merely a theological issue, an abstract or unessential teaching, this question of His deity. On the contrary, it is the strongest comfort that can be yours. To know that Christ, God Himself, the All-powerful, is at your side; to have the deep-rooted conviction that He can mobilize even the resources of heaven in fulfilling His promises to you; to hear Him say: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth”; and to believe that, because He is your Lord, divine power will protect and defend you—this is the highest joy and the perfect peace. When you feel that you have been beaten down too many times in the conflict of life and you cannot endure the weight of sorrows for another hour; when no father or mother, no friend or relative, can help you, look to Jesus! Because He is God, you can exclaim with Martin Luther:

With might of ours can naught be done,

Soon were our loss effected;

But for us fights the Valiant One,

Whom God Himself elected. . . .

And there’s none other God,

He holds the field forever.

Jesus must be God because we need the hope of life that only the Lord of heaven can give us. Our generation has done much for you, the advanced in years. We have the most liberal plans for old-age pensions the nation has ever known; but all benevolence and human ingenuity cannot give you that promise of life for which you, my aged friends, plead with increasing fervor every day you live and the grave approaches more closely. Yet because your Christ is God; because He declares: “I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, . . . and I have the keys of hell and of death,” you can find heavenly strength in His word: “Where I am, there shall also My servant be.”

God, give our churches the grace to keep this truth holy and undefiled by unbelief at all costs, in the face of growing opposition! The loss of power in many denominations today is directly traceable to the tragedy that Christ-denying preachers are reviving the hoary heresies of early Christian centuries, which seek to exalt Christ as man but to dethrone Him as God. Too many leaders in organized Protestantism blandly reject the doctrine of the Trinity and deny that Jesus is, as the early Church worshiped Him, “very God of very God.”

Remove this keystone of our Christian faith, and the structure of our hope collapses. Deny the deity of Christ, and you have robbed the Church of its power. I challenge modern leaders, with all the money and power of organization at their disposal, to produce a single example of the heroic type of pioneer missionary that built the Church in the early hardships of our country. The spirit of service to mankind and of personal sacrifice in behalf of the suffering is always stunted when the divine element is overlooked and the mystery of Christ’s incarnation rejected.

With the approach of Christmas many of you are planning for the ceremonies and the externals of that day. Prepare your hearts to receive Jesus as your Savior and your God. Nothing more is needed to bless you now and eternally, and anything less will rob you of all blessing. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” we may challenge with the apostle. Certainly no fear of your own unworthiness, no claim that you cannot understand His deity or explain His redemption. Trust Jesus! Abide in Him with the same glorious faith that marked the life of Albrecht Haller. One of the most eminent physicians of past generations, called “Haller the Great,” he penned this confession: “I believe this joyfully, that Jesus was not a mere man nor a mere angel . . . but that the deity . . . in a manner beyond the comprehension of us mortal men united itself with the human soul of Jesus, . . . so that Jesus thought divinely, acted divinely, and permitted Himself to receive the divine honor and the divine name.” Eight days before he died, Haller wrote in his diary: “My days here on earth will be only few, and probably this is the last time that I grasp a pen. I cannot conceal the fact that the picture of the Judge, now so close to me, is terrifying. Oh, how will I stand before Him? . . . O Most Merciful One, I cast myself into Thine arms; Thou hast carried me through the course of my life with indescribable patience and forbearance. Oh, show me the same grace when I appear before the judgment-seat! O my Savior, be my Advocate, my Mediator, in that moment now so awful and awe-inspiring! Secure my pardon from Thy Father and mine! O grant me the help of Thy Spirit to lead me through the terror-filled valley of death, so that, when my lips falter in death, I may cry out, as Thou, my Redeemer, didst, triumphantly and full of faith: ‘It is finished.’ ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.’”

God grant you all that faith in Christ, your Savior and God! Amen.

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