Date: November 13, 1930

Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that ye through His poverty might be rich.2 Corinthians 8:9

WHAT is the most beautiful, the most wonderful the most magnificent thing in this world? Can it be sought and found in the entrancing splendor of nature, in the rugged grandeur of rock-bound, snow-capped mountains that etch their majestic peaks against the evening background of the flaming skies; or in the sylvan silence of cathedral-like forests, where stately sentinels of leafy green lift men’s gaze from earth to heaven? No; there is something infinitely more beautiful, more wonderful, more magnificent than all this; for the earth and all that is in it is but the footstool of One whose divine power has given us a far nobler and more exalted height of wondrous beauty and magnificence.

We ask again, then: Is this to be sought and found among men, in the exquisite forms of physical beauty, or in the deeper treasures of the inner life? Many there are who would answer, “Yes,” and point us to the charm of blemishless beauty or to the deep and powerful emotion of love, the love of husband and wife, the love of parents and children, the love of friendship, the love of patriotism, love in its purest and noblest human forms. But again comes the echo: There is something more beautiful, far more wonderful, inexpressibly more magnificent, than all this. We read in the Record of Truth of One who is “fairer than the children of men.” We hear of a greater love, that of laying down one’s life for one’s friends. And He who told us of this love Himself laid down His life, not only for His friends, but for His enemies, to reveal to us by that very self-sacrifice the unparalleled height of immeasurable magnificence, the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Unparalleled and immeasurable, I say, because the human intellect, even with its most advanced achievements, lacks every capacity to understand adequately the depth and the meaning of that love which the great apostle describes when he tells us: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that ye through His poverty might be rich.”

THE MAGNIFICENT RICHES OF CHRIST.

Note how clearly these words point to the magnificent riches of Jesus Christ in these opening words, “though He was rich.” And oh, that it were possible to picture to you the limitless munificence of your Savior! The national wealth of these United States is estimated at about four hundred billion dollars. The wealth of all the nations of the whole earth and of all ages would aggregate staggering totals of inconceivable billions. But if we could take the sum total of all the wealth of which men have ever known and multiply it a thousandfold, all this would be a mere bagatelle compared with the depth of the riches over which our Lord, as the eternal God, held undisputed sway. He was rich, rich in the resources and wealth of the entire universe that is His; rich in the exercise of all power in heaven and in earth, in the control of the myriads of constellations beyond the searching gaze of the most penetrating telescope; rich in the direction of the shifting tides of the oceans, in the shaping of human affairs as they are molded into history. He was rich in the majestic adoration of the heavenly legions that encircle the throne of His divinity; rich in the glory and purity of His divine sinlessness; rich in truth, in wisdom, and in justice. But—endless praise to His holy name!—He was rich in love, in mercy, in grace, toward a corroding and decaying world that had spurned the guidance of God,—so rich that, as unfathomable as it may be to our human reason, He showed the depth of His divine compassion for human souls by the magnificence of that tremendous sacrifice of which our text continues to speak when it adds, “Yet for your sakes He became poor.”

THE MAGNIFICENT SACRIFICE OF CHRIST.

I sometimes wonder how many there are who can adequately measure the abject poverty of our Lord in the depths of His humiliation when He humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross. It is true, we speak of His holy cross with reverence and love. We mold it into symbols of gold and precious metals; we place it high upon the spires of our churches, above all the noise and grime of our earth-bound, daily existence; we have made the cross the greatest of all human symbols. Yet how little we sometimes comprehend the love of Him who so inexpressibly impoverished Himself and finally died upon the accursed tree!

And what a death it was! No matter under what circumstances the Grim Reaper may come, there is always a crushing pain and the sorrow of anguish which arises from grief-torn hearts when our loved ones are called home by God. Even if we surround them with all the comforts that money and medical science can offer, even if we give them every possible attention, sit by their death-beds to wipe their fevered brow and pray with all the fervor of which the human heart is capable, even then there is that numb pain, that depressing sorrow, that indescribable grief which always comes with death.

But how immeasurably more intense was our Savior’s crucifixion!—a mode of capital punishment so horrible that it was not recognized by the Church of the Old Testament, so degrading that, as a Latin author tells us, it was a punishment inflicted upon slaves, so painful that it has universally been considered one of the most excruciating modes of torture ever known.

But this does not explain even partially the fulness of the infinite grace of Christ and the appalling depths of His self-assumed poverty. There have been men who have suffered long and intensely and who have died for others, noble and heroic martyrs to the cause of their country. We think, for example of Arnold von Winkelried, who gathered the long spears of the Austrian phalanx and plunged them into the warm life-blood of his heart to make way for his Tyrolian fatherland. With the message of Armistice Day still lingering with us, we think of unnamed and unknown heroes who have suffered and bled and died in order to insure religious and political freedom to us and to our posterity. We think of the noblest examples of such heroic sacrifice; but when we compare all this with the self-sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, it dwindles into less than obscurity. For on the cross, deserted by God and by men, is One who in His marred and tortured body bears the crushing weight of all the sins that have ever been committed throughout the long annals of history. Here, in the poverty of Christ, is the greatest spectacle of love which men have ever beheld or ever will behold—“not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Here, with His divine arms outstretched as though He would embrace sinful humanity in its overwhelming totality, is God’s answer to the plea of mankind for the forgiveness of sins, for the power to counteract evil, for the ability to rise up over the enshrouding gloom of death. Here, in the abysmal poverty of Christ, is the magnificence of grace, pure, saving, sanctifying grace.

THE MAGNIFICENT BLESSING OF CHRIST.

Then think of the universality of grace that is embraced in these three words, “for your sakes.” We have become more internationally minded than any previous generation; yet in spite of all the activities of our various world congresses and leagues no human plan or arrangement has ever begun to make the approach to that universal appeal that comes with the Gospel-message of grace. We know that President Chiang Kai-shek recently followed the example of three million Chinese by embracing Christianity; but can you conceive of a President of the United States accepting Confucianism? We know that four million of Mother India’s children have accepted the Christ as their Savior; but the isolated Westerners who have adopted Buddhism or Brahmanism are only the abnormal exceptions. Is there any one in my audience from coast to coast tonight who can name a half dozen normal, healthy-minded Americans who believe in Mohammed’s Koran, with its background of Oriental passion and voluptuousness and its heaven of sensual attractions? But hundreds of thousands of Mohammedans have been brought to Christ. Why all this? Is it not because the message of the great humiliation of Christ “for your sakes” is the promise which holds out hope to every child of the human race regardless of racial, national, or geographical distinctions? The magnificence of the grace of Christ is seen just in this, that, whenever a man looks up to that cross and beholds those arms outstretched to receive him, it does not matter where that man comes from or what his education is, whether he is an illiterate or an intellectual leader; it does not matter what his social standing is, be it that of a criminal behind penitentiary bars or that of one who has ascended to the pinnacle of preeminence in the affairs of the world; it does not matter what his financial status is, whether he be one of the large army of the unemployed who live on from day to day in dread anticipation of the rigors of the coming winter, or whether he be one whose Midas touch has heaped up a fabulous reserve of golden treasures; it does not matter what a man’s color, or his culture, or his reputation, or his age, or his influence may be,—when he comes to that cross and acknowledges that Christ as his Savior, his Lord and his God, he finds in Him all that he needs to answer the pressing question of sin and salvation, of life and death.

No one is excluded from this all-embracing “for your sakes.” While extreme modern philosophy teaches the survival of the fittest and insists that the sick and the weak and the unproductive members of society be removed from the land of the living, here are the riches of Christ’s invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” While India says of its baby girls, “Drown them!” and China echoes, “Sell them!” Jesus places His benediction upon childhood and says, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.” While Africa repudiates its aged and infirm and calls out, “Drag them out into the jungle!” and our modern system answers, “Over the hills to the poor­house!” the riches of God’s Word say, “And even to your old age I am He, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you.” In short, never has man known any program which so completely obliterates every mark of human distinction as Christ’s self-impoverization “for your sakes,” that is, for the redemption of the world, in its absolute entirety.

THE MAGNIFICENT MESSAGE TO YOU.

So tonight I invite you to come and to accept this magnificent promise of our text, “that ye through His poverty might be rich.” I appeal directly and especially to those who have come from Christian homes and who have become untrue to the trust of God-fearing parents; to those who may have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ, but who permitted either the cares or the joys of this life to crowd out the feeling of their duties and responsibilities toward God; to those who may regard themselves beyond the pale of grace, who may feel that because of particular, repeated, and grievous sins in their own lives the grace and mercy of God does not extend to them. To all such He, the unfailing Friend of sinners, has promised the inestimable riches which offer to the world today a happiness, a contentment, and a peace that passes all understanding. Have you been confronted by disillusionment and disappointment? Here in Christ’s riches is the hope of the hopeless, the rock which stands firm and steadfast amid the flow and ebb of man’s changing favors. Do you find yourself in the midst of inner struggles, in a surging conflict for which human resources grant no help? Here, in Christ’s riches, you have Him who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Does your heart ache under the crushing pain of recent bereavement and the hurt that lies too deep to be probed by a physician’s skill? Here, in Christ’s riches, is the balm that soothes your sorrow and the radiance that guides you through the lowering darkness to the beacon of happiness, to Him that “doeth all things well.” Are you anxiously striving to learn how to grow in sanctification, how to obtain the crown of life, how to gain the assurance of the blessed companionship with the Lord when life ends? Here is the goal of your search; for here is Christ, who reaches out to you tonight to bestow upon all who will receive it the most magnificent gift in the world, His never-failing, never­ending grace.

Now, if there is some groping, questioning soul that interrupts, “How can I come?” “What does it cost?” “What must I do?”—what an unparalleled privilege is mine to be able to tell such souls tonight, not the opinion of human speculation, but the positive truth of God’s revelation to man: “We are justified FREELY, by His grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, His Son”! Christianity is the only free religion on the face of the earth. It must be free because there is not enough money in the world to compensate the price that the Lord Jesus paid for salvation. I read the other day of a manuscript of a child’s story that was purchased for almost $150,000. Not long ago an automobile factory was sold for $146,000,000. Now, if men place such values upon the material things of life, what figures must be placed on the imperishable and everlasting grace of God? And yet, wonder of wonders, it is free! Not only need we pay nothing, but we need do nothing; for a lifetime of the most strenuous effort, intensify it as we may, could never accomplish the humanly impossible task of bringing men from earth to heaven.

Come, then, and take the vast resources of divine love that Christ holds out to you. Led on by rumors of fabulous wealth, men have strained every effort to uncover hidden treasures and to bring to light the unsealed riches of past ages. But here, in the time-defying, decay-challenging riches of the soul that Jesus offers through His abysmal poverty and limitless self-giving, your treasure of treasures is close at hand. Will you not come, then, tonight and take into grateful hearts the outpouring of this most magnificent gift that Heaven has given to men? Will you not through trusting, childlike, implicit faith appropriate this unsearchable wealth of spirit for the enriching of your soul? Come, I beseech you, from sin to grace, from darkness to light, from poverty to riches, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

Date: November 6, 1930?

Fools make a mock at sin, but among the righteous there is favor.Proverbs 14:9

ON a certain Monday morning, not so long ago, the four morning newspapers of New York City devoted an aggregate of 16,000 words to present summaries of forty­one sermons that had been preached on the preceding day from the pulpits of that metropolis. A close examination of these sermon summaries reveals the astounding fact that with but one exception the word sin was used neither directly nor indirectly. A visitor from Mars, reading these newspaper items, listening to the many “inspirational” sermons of our day, or taking the current issue of a well­ known magazine and finding in the index an article on “The Vanishing Sinner” would doubtless come to the conclusion that here on this North American continent and in our large metropolitan areas the Utopia of the golden age had been found in which sin was outlawed and crime tabu.

Indeed, sin is the most unpopular of all subjects for discussion today, when people love to dwell lingeringly on the inherent goodness of man or try to disguise the hideousness of sin, sugar-coat its bitterness, and explain away its vicious nature under the masquerade of dishonest phraseology. Thus today psychological theories are often substituted for the Ten Commandments. In our current vocabulary a man who uses profanity and abuses the high and holy name of God is said to show “bad taste.” A “racketeer” whose ruthless machine gun sweeps down an innocent pedestrian suffers under a series of “complexes.” A child that refuses to obey its parents is coddled as a “self-expressionist.” Young people who disregard the requirement of premarital chastity claim to enjoy the “new freedom of our new age,” while those who do observe this chastity are said to suffer from “inhibitions.” It’s Not Our Fault, a recent book, is one of the latest literary attacks on the stark reality of personal sin. “Priests Discover Sin, and Theologians Give It Names” is the title of one of the chapters; and the burden of this “handbook for the militantly intelligent” is that there is no absolute basis on which any specific act can be labeled “sin.” It is, the reader is assured, the animal inheritance of animal origin. And behind all of these new and sometimes formidable theories and expressions by which sin often appears “as an angel of light,” to use the words of St. Paul, lies the unwillingness to accept the plain, unswerving statements of the Bible.

Our text tonight speaks out in sharp protest against this palpable perversion and tells us in the inspired wisdom of Proverbs, “Fools make a mock at sin.” And truly, the denial or the ridicule of sin is one of the supreme follies of that farcical philosophy of unbelief that disfigures our modem existence. For the Scriptures, the highest of all high authorities, indeed the only authority in matters of doctrine and morals, employ the most clear and definite tones in rejecting this damnable delusion that there is no sin, or that, if there is, it is not of very great consequence.

THE STARK REALITY OF DAMNING SIN.

Looking to the Bible, we find that in the pages of the Old Testament alone there are more than a dozen different terms that describe sin and wrong, that these words altogether occur more than 2,000 times in the Hebrew sacred writings, and that in the New Testament there is a long array of words in frequent occurrence which similarly express sin. Now, if we remind ourselves that the Bible in thousands of passages thus definitely refers to sin in its various forms as to a hideous reality, who is there that can rise up to shake his puny little fist against this mountain of truth and insist that there is no sin? Who is there that can raise his quavering voice against the reverberating thunder of these words of Scripture to prove that man is naturally good and noble and pure? Our text answers, Only a fool can thus “make a mock at sin”; only one who stubbornly contradicts the truth and to whom, because of this wilful contradiction, the denunciation of St. John applies, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

How thoroughly do our everyday experiences illustrate this Biblical truth, that men are “the servants of sin”! The strange irony in this denial and belittling of sin is seen in the glaring contradiction that just at the time when men have ruled sin out of existence, we find such flooding crime waves, such wide-spread lawlessness, such increasing disregard of authority, that for the first time in our national history a President of the United States has officially called into being a national crime commission. More divorces, more robberies, more murders, more deeds of impurity, more small and large thievery—more sin than ever before in the glittering, golden age in which we live! Again, only a fool can mock at the rushing, sweeping force of such compelling evidence.

But many people readily admit the existence of sin and yet mock at it by following the Pharisee into the temple of their own self-sufficiency and arrogantly thanking God that they are not “as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers”; by engaging in that wide-spread pastime of patting themselves on their shoulders, asking themselves, “What is the matter with me?” and answering with cool complacency and smug self-satisfaction, “I am all right.” But, again, what does the Bible say? Listen to this: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”; “They have all gone aside, they have all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” There you have the Biblical statements, penned in the strongest and most direct language in which human thought may be clothed, statements that leave no room for exemption or exception, but which include every man, woman, and child that ever lived or that ever will live upon the face of this wide earth. Indeed, the Scriptures tell each one of us directly and unhesitatingly that we are burdened by a twofold kind of sin: first, the original and hereditary sin, of which our Lord speaks when He declares, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,”—that is, the consequence of the sin committed by our first parents, who disobediently rose up against God; and then, the sins that men commit of themselves, which the great apostle enumerates in his long catalog under the heading, “The Works of the Flesh” and which he describes as “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like.”

To emphasize the truth of the Scriptures when they call you and me and all our fellow-men sinners, there is that unmistakable voice of conscience that heaps up before our mind’s eye all the sins of omission and commission which abound in every human existence. One day they brought to our Lord a woman taken in the act of adultery. But when Jesus challenged her self-righteous accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” we read that the hard-hearted, stiff-necked Pharisees were “convicted by their own conscience” and left without hurling their stones. And today the conscience, that restless, assertive monitor, is both direct and personal testimony to the folly of mocking at sin.

But very often there is only a vague and hazy idea as to what sin is. People will readily grant that deeds of violence, highway robbery, murder, and sexual perversions are sinful; but they often overlook the finer and less violent forms of wrong-doing, particularly the thoughts and words that spring from impure and sinful motives. This is one of the most popular of all modern mockeries, which leads men to parade themselves as paragons of virtue, because, not being severely tempted to despicable acts of sin, they have refrained from indulging in overt and scandalous fractures of the moral code. But once again the Bible leaves no doubt as to the fact that even desires and impulses may be, and often are, sinful and wrong. The definition of sin in the Catechism, “Sin is every transgression of the divine Law in desires, thoughts, words, and deeds,” is entirely Scriptural; for Jesus uses a large part of the Sermon on the Mount to tell those who regard only the consummate act of murder and adultery as sin that even the thought of hate or impurity, even a glance of anger or lust, is a direct and complete fracture of the Law, so that anything that directly or indirectly militates against the holiness of God, anything that is destructive of our neighbor’s or of our own welfare, either in the expression of word or in the impulse of thought,—all this is sin, disgraceful, degenerating, damning sin.

I consciously say damning sin; for if men have been guilty of the folly of endeavoring to rule sin out of existence, they naturally have not shrunk back from the parallel mockery of attempting to eradicate the punishment of sin. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked,” is a text that fits very appropriately into the modern tendency to laugh away the specter of the punishment of sin. But there is not a more demonstrable fact than the stern reality of the terrifying devastation of sin. I could stand before this microphone for hours and cite to you cold and impartial figures which would show the terrific ravages of sin; I could quote the professional verdicts of physicians in regard to the fearful consequences of the sins of impurity; I could show you that sin robs a man of his self-respect, that it has shortened the life and blasted away the happiness of millions, that it has destroyed kingdoms and nations. The most blatant mockery cannot laugh away such evidence.

Yet all this, even in its most intense and horrifying form, shrinks into the infinitesimal when compared with the final disaster that always follows in the wake of unforgiven sin, and that is death,—not merely the inevitable end of life that awaits every one of us, but particularly the state of spiritual death in the hell that modern enlightenment frantically tries to destroy. What, then, is the result of sin? The Bible warns us, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” And again, “The wages of sin is death.” There, in plain and unmistakable terms, you have a direct expression of the appalling extreme to which sin, as a violation of the will and Law of a just and holy God, can lead—first of all, to a separation from God, then to punishment in the form of affliction and death, and finally to the despair of an endless, hopeless eternity of darkness. Who is there that can make a mock at such terrifying realities? Our text echoes, “Only a fool.”

THE FATHOMLESS FAVOR OF GOD.

We can understand, then, that men have sought both for the forgiveness of sins and for the power to counteract sin. And it is a wonderful and comforting message that we read in the second statement of our text, “Among the righteous there is favor.” Yes, as we know, not from man’s reason, but from the revelation of a gracious God in His Word, there is divine favor, there is forgiveness of our sins, there is the immeasurable love of God, that prompted Him to send the “one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus,” who “gave Himself as a ransom for all.” There, in that wondrous Gospel­message, that “He became sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteoumess of God in Him,” in the record of that world-moving transaction, “He hath purchased us with His own blood,” in that promise of purification, that this blood, “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” is the invitation that goes out tonight, addressed to all who may hear these words, to turn away from sin and to come to Christ, not in reliance upon your own accomplishments (for after all, how few and small and unworthy they are!), but trusting solely in the merit of Jesus’ blood and righteousness, in the fathomless favor of God.

It is in His Word that we find further favor—the power to check and restrain sin, that power for which anxious men have sought so long and so vainly. They look about them in this world of vice and crime; they read of the appalling increase in the penal population of our country and of the disastrous losses that follow in the wake of sin; and they ask, “How can we check sin? How can we limit and restrict its frequent and destructive occurrence?” One expert tells us that we need more laws; but the experience of the past years has shown that the more laws there are, the more there are broken. Another expert says we need more education; but experience again tells us that a college degree is no diploma for morality. An uneducated thief will go down to the freight-yard and steal a ride, but an educated thief will steal the whole railway system. Another tells us that we need gland operations and similar services of surgeons; but everybody knows that some of the most brutal criminals have been of almost perfect physique. No, something else is necessary if there is to be a really effective restraint of sin. The Bible tells us what that something else is: the favor of God, which offers the regenerating, reconstructing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this dynamic, indescribable, miraculous power of which the great apostle speaks when he assures us, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Thus, while sin has led us to behold the ugliest thing on earth, that which has engulfed human existence in immeasurable woes and made men suffer horror, misery, and anguish beyond computation, we have also been privileged to hold out to the world tonight the favor of God, the most sublime message that human ears can ever hear, the promise that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” the message of that all-embracing, never-failing, everlasting, and universal love of God in Jesus Christ. This is God’s gift, as our text puts it, to the “righteous,” to those who, coming to Jesus just as they are, find in His blood and righteousness their beauty and their glorious dress and thus are adjudged righteous by God. They are those who, spurning every claim to their own righteousness or to the righteousness of others, but believing, trusting, in Him whose promises never fail, pray with patient confidence: —

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee!

Let the water and the blood

From Thy riven side which flowed

Be of sin the double cure,

Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Can you pray that prayer? Are you hidden in the cleft Rock of Ages? Are you cleansed from the guilt and power of sin? God grant it for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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

Date: October 30, 1930

What must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.Acts 16:30-31

TOMORROW, on the thirty-first of October, Christians throughout the world will pause to pay their tribute to the greatest event in the affairs of men since the days of our Lord and His apostles—the beginning of that tremendous and far-reaching upheaval which history calls the Reformation. Yet, while the new and happy order which this movement inaugurated has led recognized historians of all subsequent centuries to acknowledge in the most striking terms the civil, cultural, and social blessings which Luther helped to restore to the world; while we, as Americans, should gratefully concur in the words of an eminent modern authority in political science: “The idea of legally establishing inalienable, inherent, and sacred rights of the individual is . . . in reality the fruit of the Reformation and its struggle,” we pause tonight to remind ourselves that the real and fundamental contribution of the Reformation, which completely overshadows every other issue, the one power from which all of its political and temporal blessings have come, is this, that the work of Martin Luther reemphasized the one and only correct answer to life’s great question, “What must I do to be saved?”

It was a startling incident that provoked this question of our text. Paul and Silas, the intrepid preachers of their crucified Lord, were on the threshold of their conquest of Europe, at the very beginning of their incursion into the selfish philosophies and the destructive vices that marked the decaying paganism of Greece. At Philippi, the frontier city of Macedonia, their campaign for Christ made its inauspicious start. Attacking the superstitious and selfish practises of that city, their preaching excited a riot of such proportions that they were beaten, and, bleeding and exhausted, thrown into the public prison. In the silence of that midnight, while Paul and Silas, locked in the inner prison, their feet clamped into stocks, prayed and in the pain of that hour sang praises to God, a reverberating earthquake shook the very foundations of the prison with such force that the doors were opened and their bands loosened. The bewildered jailer, concerned about the punishment that would follow upon the escape of the prisoners, saw no other release from this catastrophe than suicide. In the crisis of that moment the two prisoners suddenly appeared before him to dissuade him from his course of self-annihilation. And then it was that the question of our text was spoken; for, overcome by this exhibition of divine power, all a-tremble at this startling phenomenon, that prison warden cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

THE ANXIOUS INQUIRY OF THE AGES.

Probably there are some in the far-flung reaches of our country who have just heard the immortal inquiry of that jailer at Philippi and who cannot agree that it is the question of questions, the paramount issue of human life. Undoubtedly there are some who object that they do not need to be saved, some who follow a lavishly publicized sociologist in the eastern part of our country, who asserts that sin is out of date and that the preaching of the message of sin and salvation is but a relic of a superstitious age by which the Church wields a tyrannical control over the lives of its followers. With this convenient philosophy of life proclaimed with increasing insistence, we can understand why there has been a pronounced growth in the number of those who live on in smug self-satisfaction, so entirely engrossed in the pursuit of money and pleasure, so completely self-centered in their desires and ambitions, that they have little time and less interest to ask themselves what they must do to be saved, especially when they entertain the very definite conviction that they do not need to be saved.

But what does the Bible say? Here is just one of a long series of indictments which come, not from man and his faulty and inconsistent opinion, but from God and His holy, infallible Word, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” No exceptions, no limitations, in this sweeping, unreserved statement of human depravity!

How decisively, too, does the voice of human experience of all lands and ages rise up to show this naked, ugly, damning reality of sin! How does it happen when national disasters sweep over a country, leaving death and destruction in their paths, that people who have lived on day after day and year after year, utterly unconcerned about their moral and spiritual condition, at once begin to think of their souls, of the hereafter, and of the inevitable reckoning that, they know, awaits every one of us? Why is it that, when there is a catastrophe on the high seas, men and women whose whole lives may have been expressions of careless or studied indifference toward religion kneel down and pray to God for forgiveness and for His mercy? Why is it that proud infidels and blasphemous scoffers who have delighted in standing up before large audiences and challenging God to strike them down dead have ended in the most dismal sort of despair? Why all this, if not because, as St. Paul definitely emphasizes, there is within every one of us a conscience, that silent, yet relentless monitor, which heaps up before us all the long catalog of sins with which human life abounds, the sins of greed and envy, of impurity and lust, of hatred and brutality, of anger and pride,—the conscience that reechoes into man’s innermost soul the thunder of the judgment of God’s Word, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die!”? Let the apostles of this improved and advanced age of which we read and hear so much ridicule and reject the fact of sin; every honest person listening in tonight who probes deep down into the hidden recesses of his own heart will find so much of sin and wrong, so much that is impure and selfish, so much that is black and damning, that, instead of insisting upon the alleged moral greatness of the human race, he will cry out when faced by the stem and inexorable demands of a just and holy God: “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.”

DESTRUCTIVE ANSWERS OF DELUSION.

So throughout the ages if there has been one effort and one pursuit that has been shared by men of every century, color, and clime, from the very cradle days of humanity down to the stupendous wonders of the marvelous age in which we live, it has been the quest for a soul­ satisfying answer to tonight’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” You can cross the seas and join the excavators in Egypt and find in the lavish splendor and the sepulchral glory of Tutankhamen, amid all its gold and precious stones, traces of the puny, pathetic efforts of this monarch to save himself in the eternity for which his embalmed mummy was to prepare him, by the payment of the fare required to transport his soul to the other side. You can go over to Babylonia and Assyria, where archeologists are revealing the ruins of a dim and hoary past, and in the long list of sacrifices, in the prayers even to unknown gods and goddesses, in the penitential hymns, in their almost superhuman efforts to appease the wrath of their many and conflicting gods and spirits, you will see again how humanity has been led to adopt hopeless extremes in the effort to find a satisfying solution for this insistent question. You can cross over to Palestine and here, as a tragic climax, you can find in the ruins of the old Canaanite civilization brutal and bloody evidences of that most hideous of perversions, the slaughter of innocent children, sacrificed to Moloch, in the desperate effort to secure a release from sin and the assurance of forgiveness.

We sweep over the centuries tonight, and we see that in spite of all the remarkable and God-given advances that have made modern life so attractive and our existence so pleasant, humanity of itself still answers this question, “What must I do to be saved?” by dedicating its hopes and its efforts to the impossible, the delusion that it can and must earn its own salvation. To illustrate that, I need not direct your attention tonight to the misguided millions in India, who think that they can earn a blessed hereafter by holding up their right arm until it withers in its socket or by reposing on a bed of piercing nails or by crushing out their lives beneath the car of Juggernaut; I need not picture to you the anguish of China’s millions who hasten to temples of five hundred decaying gods, shoot off firecrackers, and ring bronze gongs, so that these sleeping idols may rouse themselves from their stupor long enough to tell the worshipers just what they must do, what penance they must perform, and what ceremonies they must undergo in order to secure the remission of their sins.

We can pass by all this and come to the more tragic, if ever so much more refined, situation of those in our own enlightened country and in this superintellectual age who still think that some effort on their part is necessary, that some sacrifice, some contribution, some ceremony, some form of what we call “good works,” is imperative to meet God’s demands and to quiet an insistent conscience. And so, avoiding the stupidity of heathendom and the brutality of their sacrifices, we find that today “salvation by character” is the suave, modern form of this age-old delusion; we find that for the blood of rams and bullocks people are substituting donations and bank checks; that for penances and self-inflicted punishments men offer an act of charity here and the support of some commendable enterprise there, so that the conscious or unconscious answer to our question, “What must I do to be saved?” is, “I must save myself.” Even church-members sometimes like to lull themselves into a false sense of security by thinking that their very acts of worship and their support of the Church’s activity is something which, as it were, is to be credited to their account in the ledger of the Book of Life. The result is that “Deeds, not creeds!” is the watchword of uncounted multitudes in our country today—multitudes that are destined to experience in their own lives that dark and dismal failure of every attempt to purchase heaven with human effort and accomplishment to which Micah of old testifies as he asks: “Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Micah leaves this series of questions unanswered, for they answer themselves and tell us with deadly finality that all that we can do and say, the most lofty sentiments that we can express, the most arduous tasks that we can perform, the most signal services that we can render humanity, all of these together, accompanied by a lifetime of remorse and penance and self-inflicted punishment, cannot atone for a single violation of the rigid rule of right. For in humanity at its best there is not only a tragic inability to win the recognition of God, but also is a natural inclination to sin and wrong.

THE SOVEREIGN ANSWER OF DIVINE TRUTH.

No wonder, then, that the Church will pause tomorrow to pay its tribute to Luther’s restoration of the one and only complete answer to this supreme question and to tell the world that today, after nineteen hundred years, it is only the immortal answer given to that conscience-stricken, light-seeking jailer at Philippi, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” that holds out to us the ever-satisfying, never­disappointing solution to the problem of sin and the terror of resultant death.

Remember, as Luther has repeatedly emphasized, God does not tell you who are troubled by your sins that your salvation depends upon anything that you of yourself can do or say, pledge or promise, pay or perform. He does not tell you to earn your salvation, to purchase its bounty, or to acquire its blessings by fastings and pilgrimages, by flagellations and self-inflicted tortures. He does not hold out heaven as a reward for the best that you can offer, as a compensation for the most austere and self-effacing penance to which you may subject yourself. But, thank God, in the highest and holiest love of which men have ever heard or can hear, Heaven’s answer to this universal plea, “What must I do to be saved?” is still the same free, unreserved, unconditional o:ffer of merciful compassion, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Accept Him as your full and complete Savior. Trust Him as the Friend of friends, who in that dark, dismal God-forsakenness of Golgotha laid down His divine life for you.

It was this assurance that dawned in the heart of the great Reformer when he read these words of golden truth: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law,”—the assurance that, if you and I today “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”; if you and I confidently rest our assurance for time and for eternity upon the all-sufficient atonement of our Savior, whereby He, the Holy One, “who knew no sin, became sin for us”; if we thus believe that He took upon Himself in His own holy body all the sins that have disfigured the lives of humanity’s billions,—then we have the assurance that we are saved and that, though our “sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” through the inestimable, immeasurable love of the Christ of God, who died that we might live and who rose again to seal unto us the assurance of this forgiveness.

Tonight, then, as these words are wafted out into the ether to all sections of our nation and as we hear this question, “What must I do to be saved?” may we answer:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

It is only this firm assurance that we are saved by grace, pure, free, unlimited, all-embracing grace, and not by any contribution on our part, be it ever so small and insignificant, that offers the secret of a happy and satisfying existence. If among those who hear these words tonight there are some who have thoroughly assimilated the spirit of our age and believe that the world is quite all right as it is and that they themselves are probably just a little better than their fellow-men; if there should be some who feel the restlessness and insistence of a prodding conscience; some who are troubled with the failures and shortcomings of their lives and want something fast and firm and unshaken upon which they can rebuild and reshape their careers; or again, if there should be some who are definitely troubled by the conviction of special, repeated, and depressing sins; some who in the torment of their souls cry out in the words of the great apostle, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”—may they not let this night pass without coming before their God with a full and unreserved admission of their own unworthiness, but with the courageous conviction that we are “justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Amen.

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

Date: October 23, 1930?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.Joshua 24:15

NOT long ago a large newspaper in London offered a prize for the best definition of the word home. More than five thousand replies were received, offering as many different explanations of this momentous four-letter word, which brings up before our mind’s eye some of the noblest conceptions and some of the most treasured memories of which human thought is capable.

More than five thousand different interpretations of this short word home! Yet tonight, as we broadcast this radio message, dedicated to the youth of this North American Continent, a program that is financed and supported by that splendid young people’s organization, the Walther League, we should find indeed, if we could inquire, that the young men and young women of America are likewise divided on the question as to what constitutes a happy home. Take young people as you meet them in all parts of the land and ask them what their conception of an ideal home is, and you will receive many and varied answers. Some—and I fear a large number—will say, “My picture of an ideal home is one that does not feel the pinch of poverty and privation, a home in which there is plenty of money, which contains all the conveniences and attractions and comforts so essential to a happy and complete home.” Others will tell you, “Education and culture produce the ideal home. It is only when people are enlightened that they can attain to happiness in their family relations.” Still others will answer your question by saying, “Affection is the greatest contributory factor to any happy family. When husband and wife love each other, when children regard their parents, and parents regard their children, with affection and devotion, then you have everything that is necessary for happiness in the home.” And there will be those who say, “In addition to all this there must be religion, a creed of some kind. When a home has religion, it has the one power which can make it ideally happy.”

Yet these opinions, which you can read repeatedly in “uplift” magazines and find described in the apparently endless number of books that are being published on the question of the home, fall far short of giving the one and only correct description of a truly ideal home. Wealth is not essential to family felicity. You can go down to the hovels that rise in your city slums, and in some of those poverty-pinched families you will find more real happiness than in many of the aristocratic mansions in the exclusive residential sections, where perhaps a dissolute father, an unfaithful wife, or an ungrateful child has used the money that so many people today regard as essential to blast away every vestige of peace and love. Neither can education and culture alone produce a happy and helpful home-life; for a college degree is no charm against family troubles, as repeated instances in the divorce courts show, and the childless families of the intelligentsia in our country are not only working misery in such homes, but are weakening the physical, mental, and spiritual power of our nation. And love? It is true that there can be no real and full happiness without love; but affection alone cannot guarantee the continuance and growth of happiness in the home. Many a son and many a daughter has been ruined by too much love or by the wrong sort of affection. There must be something else combined with love to purify and strengthen it, something else indeed, if love is to have the right impulse and the right power.

SERVICE TO GOD IN CHRISTIAN FAITH MAKES A HAPPY HOME.

That something else is faith in Christ, the service of the Lord, to which Joshua pledges himself and his household in our text. Mark you, I insist upon Christian faith, because mere religion, any kind of creed, will never satisfy. Over in Africa there is plenty of religion in the kraals of the natives, but it is a religion that tells them to insure the happiness of their homes by murdering the little, helpless babes that are born as twins or by carrying their aged parents and grandparents out to the jungles and leaving them there as prey for man-eating lions. In our country likewise there are many homes in which there is a superabundance of some kind of religion, but the false kind, which permits a father to stand over the prostrate form of his child and refuse to call a physician because it is against his religion; or that vicious brand of religion parading under the name of Modernism,—although it is as old as the hills and the idolatry and immoral worship that was practised on the hills,—which preaches the weakening of the marriage relations, the illegitimate control of offspring, or other satanic delusions, which, if carried through, would spell complete disaster for our country.

If, then, our own home individually is to radiate happiness, if it is to be a haven of spiritual refuge for those who are sheltered within its walls, it must be dedicated to the service of the Lord, it must be pervaded with faith in Christ and with His renewing Spirit. I submit this tonight as a very definite principle, that the first and foremost requirement for the service of the Lord in the attainment of home happiness is the sincere conviction, firmly accepted by every member of the household (which, I pray God, may be in the hearts of all who are listening in tonight), that Jesus Christ is their personal Savior; that, recognizing fully and without any self-justifying reservations the sin and the selfishness, the greed and the envy, the baser impulses and desires that express themselves only too frequently in their lives, they come with contrite, yet trusting hearts to the never-failing, overflowing source of their soul’s redemption, the Cross, and thus consecrate themselves to the Lord’s service. I do not say that there cannot be a certain sort of happiness in the home-life of those who have not answered the charge of sin by pointing to the grace of Christ; but I do say that, just as the joy of life and the happiness of death is known to none but the Christian, so in our family relations there can be no hope of permanent, abiding, satisfying, spiritual happiness without the all-pervading faith in Jesus and without faithful ser­ vice to the Lord.

Now, this is not merely my personal opinion; it is the declaration of Him whose Word is the unalterable, unerring truth and who tells us, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” If you want to realize the absolute certainty of this statement, examine the evidence that crowds in upon us in this day and hour. Why is it that last year more than 200,000 decrees of divorce were issued in our own country? Why is it that our nation is being inundated by a flood-wave of juvenile crime and that our enlarged prisons are being filled with youthful criminals? Why is it that the police radios of our country daily broadcast the names of hundreds of missing young men and young women? Why is it that there is such a rude disregard of the requirements of purity and chastity on the part of young people that even newspaper writers are beginning to throw up their hands in horror? Is all this not finally to be traced to the ugly power of sin and to the fact that many homes, calloused and stolidly indifferent because of cold commercialism and endless pleasure-seeking, have crowded Him out who says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”; that they have not emblazoned this truth in their innermost hearts, “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener to every conversation”?

SERVICE TO GOD IN CHRISTIAN LIFE MAKES A HAPPY HOME.

But because the home should be the basic unit in our modern life, because the Church will never, humanly speaking, be able to rise above the home level, our American homes, blessed above all others, as they certainly are, should hearken to the words of the Savior and the words of His Scripture, which tell us how we must serve God in the daily, practical issues of our home-life. And while there is much that I could say to parents, especially to those who do not show the proper interest and concern as to where their sons and daughters are and what they are doing; while the Seattle Juvenile Court is undoubtedly right in saying that eighty-five per cent. of the young people brought before that court would have been spared this humiliation and disgrace “if the fathers and mothers of these children had safeguarded them with a reasonable amount of affectionate companionship,”—tonight I am speaking especially to young people, and it is to them particularly that I present the constructive suggestions which the Scriptures offer for the service of the Lord and the attainment of happiness in their present as well as in their future homes.

First of all, our young people are told to “obey their parents in all things”; and they are assured that “this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.” Any young man or young woman who knows that until the thirtieth year of His perfect manhood the divine Christ was subject to His earthly parents should also know and believe that through faith in this Jesus there is given to them the power to put into practise that love and devotion to which God has attached such importance that the commandment, “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother” is the only injunction of the ten bearing a promise, “That it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Then, the Bible tells us that children are to love their parents, to “requite” them, that is, to repay their kindness; and again we are told, “That is good and acceptable before God.” It may be up to date for a young man to absent himself from his home until the early hours of the morning, enjoying the intimacies of automobile rides, late dinners, and amusements of a doubtful nature; but it is hard to see how this can be really enjoyable when a care-worn mother, who rarely has the pleasure of enjoying her son’s company, stays at home, forlorn, lonely, and anxious. It may be attractive for a young lady to blossom forth periodically in the latest style of dress; but it is an attraction of a very questionable kind when her father has been obliged to wear his clothing shiny and threadbare to enable her to keep pace with fashion’s demands. When young women spend most of their salary for personal adornment and for useless, but expensive luxuries and never think of the joy that a little gift of love and gratitude would bring to their mother’s heart; or when young men lavish no insignificant part of their salary upon the young lady of their choice for candy, flowers, and entertainment, without ever stopping to think that no father or mother ever grows too old to appreciate gifts of filial love with double gratitude; when young people show their attractive qualities outside of their homes and reserve their less amiable traits for the family circle,—they are guilty not only of a sad lack of consideration, but also of a plain disregard of the divine will.

No, every young man or young woman who has made the pilgrimage out to Calvary, has stood beneath the cross, and witnessed the deep devotion to His prostrate mother which the crucified Redeemer evinced when He cried out, “Son, behold thy mother,” “Woman, behold thy son”; all those in whose ears this thunder of the wrath of God has echoed, “The eye that mocketh at his father and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it,” all such do not need special days and outward celebrations and formalities to remind them of the love and devotion which, through the spirit and power of Jesus, they must extend to their parents.

And to both, Christian parents and Christian children, the Savior looks for a home-life that will be a constant expression of faith in His holy name and that will show the deeper meaning of Joshua’s promise, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Remember there can be no completely Christian home where the family altar has not been established and where the members of a household do not unite in prayer to God, beseeching Him for His comfort and courage and thanking Him for His immeasurable love and bounty. There is something missing in that home where the Book which claims to be, and which we believe to be, a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” remains closed and sealed, where the Bible, with the solution which it offers for all the problems and perplexities of any household, is not read in the quiet devotions of the family circle. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” The humble cottage that is pervaded with the spirit of the Lord Jesus means more in the sight of the just and holy God than the palatial mansions that have accommodations for everything that spells comfort for the body, but are too crowded for Him who provides for the eternal welfare of immortal souls.

Yes, a home where the story of the Cross finds its abode and the message that “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” than the name of Jesus Christ, is heard and believed by the whole family, that home is indeed blessed and is endowed with the power that makes “Home, Sweet Home” more than a mere song—a blessed reality. In such a home, marriage is something high and holy, not a mere temporary arrangement, which may be discarded as soon as it proves inconvenient. In such a home both husband and wife realize the divine wisdom and love that prompted the all­wise Creator to tell all the generations of men, “Be fruitful and multiply”; children are regarded as the gift of God’s grace, as the objects of special care and affection, and there is no unwillingness to assume the responsibilities and duties of parenthood. In homes that are thus blessed the eternal Redeemer Himself is enthroned, and it is His Spirit of peace and helpfulness and love that can quiet the tempests that arise and adjust the misunderstandings that may crop out as long as human nature still asserts itself.

Give us young people who in the spirit of Jesus Christ will make Joshua’s resolution theirs and dedicate themselves to their Father’s service, and the dawn of a new and happier day will break upon our country, a day in which the home ties will be strengthened, the home influence increased, and the home blessings intensified, especially through the establishment of the family altar, through the uplifting power of family prayer and Scripture-reading. Even more, such young men and young women will be prepared to lay the right foundation when, following the command of God and the impulse of their nature, they enter married life and, taking Jesus with them as the Third in their covenant, build their own homes, where peace and love and comradeship help to make this life of ours as nearly worth living as it ever can be.

Their home may not attract the attention of men; it may not be noted for its luxurious appointments and facilities; but it will have another glory: it will have Christ, the blessed Redeemer Himself—Christ as the Guide and Counselor of husband and wife, Christ as the Guardian and Protector of all who dwell within that home; Christ to share in joy and happiness; Christ to soothe in sorrow and distress; Christ to receive the little children that are born to bless that home; Christ to wipe away the tears that come when a dear one is carried into the heavenly home; Christ first, Christ last, Christ forever uppermost! May this Savior be the crown and glory of all our homes! Amen.

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

Date: October 16, 1930?

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He? They say unto Him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How, then, doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? If David, then, call Him Lord, how is He his Son?Matthew 22:41-43

IN the current issue of one of our magazines which is noted for its liberal point of view two modern authors whose writings have been pronouncedly antichristian answer the editor’s inquiry as to the outstanding dates in history by assuming that among the greatest of all great historical events the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is unparalleled in importance. Their opinion is representative of that generally held by fair-minded men today; for if the question of our text, asked by our Lord Himself when He turned upon the intriguing churchmen of His day, “What think ye of Christ?” were directed to the people of our country today, we should find that almost everyone who is guided by an unbiased historical perspective would be ready to concede—whatever he might think of the teachings of the Lord Jesus—that no one who has ever lived upon the face of the earth has left a more indelible imprint upon the hearts and lives of human beings than He.

HE IS NOT ONLY DAVID’S SON.

How can there be any reason to doubt or to minimize this absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ? Think, for example, of His influence upon the various human arts, music, literature, architecture, and their allied branches. Is it not true that in the deathless masterpieces of Bach and Handel their sublime symphonies are but the musical echo of our Lord’s sublimity and grandeur? Are not the paintings of Da Vinci and Correggio, the statuary of Michelangelo and Thorwaldsen, creations of an art that has been inspired by the greatness of Christ and the power of His love?

Or pause for a moment to hear the anthem of praise that rises up to the magnificence of Christ from the more practical aspects of our daily existence. Jesus was neither a statesman nor a diplomat; He strenuously rejected the overtures of those who sought to elevate Him to a reestablished throne in Israel. Yet His ideals of political life, His insistence upon loyalty and allegiance to the governmental powers that be, His emphasis upon the clean cleavage that must exist between the government and His Church, have, more than anything else, helped to make the United States what it is today. And when men reject Him and repudiate His principles, the confusion and chaos, evident in heathen empires, in atheistic Soviets, and in forgetful republics, bear tragic testimony to the folly of excluding Christ and His Word from human affairs.

Again, take modern business. Jesus was not a business man, an organizer, nor a student of political economy; and the treasury of His twelve disciples concerned Him so little that at least once it was necessary to replete it by a miracle. He had to requisition the beast that was to bear Him on His triumphal entry into the Holy City. Yet not only did He establish the world’s oldest and greatest organization, His Church, but he also gave to modern business the only code of ethics which can ever successfully begin to cope with the problems of capital and labor and correctly emphasize the mutual responsibilities that exist between employer and employee. The disregard of the nobility of labor, the exploitation of the public, and the sullen, hate-heavy dashes between organized labor and organized capital demonstrate the hopelessness of all industrial efforts that determinedly set Christ aside.

Or let us consider the influence of Christ in modem education. He Himself wrote nothing, as far as we know, except a few characters scratched into the Palestinian soil, before a stone-throwing mob. But more books have been written about Him and His work than about an aggregate of hundreds of others who have been enshrined in the halls of human fame. On the corporate seal of the oldest and greatest university of the country is the motto, “For Christ and the Church”; and there can be no well-founded doubt that Christianity has been the energizing factor behind the spread of popular education in its elementary and in its higher forms. There can, of course, be education without Christ, but where the fear of God that He inculcated is not the beginning of wisdom, there you have that cold, calculating materialism in education that has left its blight on so much of our intellectual endeavor.

Once more, picture the molding impulses Christ has given to our home-life. He had no home of His own; He told His disciples, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” Hard-minded bigots drove Him out of their city gates. Yet think of our Christian home-life and the finer, nobler forms of mutual devotion between husband and wife. Think of the sanctity of holy matrimony, the love for children, and the respect for parents, the ideals of purity and clean living, which faith in Jesus Christ, and that power alone, has given to the world: compare all this with the insistent efforts of liberalists and extremists to endorse licentious arrangements, which often amount to nothing more than free love in its promiscuous forms; and human reason, as limited and as fallacious as it so frequently proves itself to be, will bring us to the conclusion that, if Jesus did nothing else than to bequeath to the world the ideals of Christian marriage and home-life, He would, for this one reason alone, be regarded as the Superfigure of all history.

Small wonder, then, that even those who reject the authority of the Word of God have paused to pay their unhesitating tribute to Christ by acknowledging His supremacy in the affairs of the human race. The French Orientalist and Bible critic Renan declared, “Whatever will be the surprises of the future, Jesus will never be surpassed; all ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is none born greater than Jesus.” John Stuart Mill, British economist and radical, admitted, “About the life of Jesus of Nazareth there is a stamp . . . which must place the Prophet of Nazareth even in the estimate of those who have no belief in His inspiration in the very first ranks of the men of sublime genius of whom our species can boast.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, the New England transcendentalist, declared, “Jesus is the most perfect of all men that have yet appeared.” James Anthony Froude, historian, yet skeptic, confessed, “The most perfect being who has ever trod the soil of this planet was called the Man of Sorrows.”

And yet, if this were all, as these and a host of other men outside the pale of Biblical Christianity admit, that Jesus was simply the Greatest of the great; if the answer to the inevitable question, “What think ye of Christ?” were merely that of the Jews in our text, who declared the Messiah to be “David’s son,” a mere mortal therefore, although of pretentious power and position, we should be constrained to declare “Poor Christ!” reflecting as we must upon the agonizing death which He suffered when blasphemous hands nailed Him to the cross; and we should echo “Poor humanity!” confronting ourselves with the tragic picture of a world decaying in the sin to which every honest-minded mortal must plead a hopeless “Guilty.”

If Christ is not divine,

      Then lay the Book away

And every blessed faith resign

That has so long been yours and mine

      Through many a trying day;

Forget the place of bended knee

And dream no more of worlds to be.

If Christ is not divine,

      Go seal again the tomb;

Take down the cross, Redemption’s sign,

Quench all the stars of hope that shine,

      And let us turn and travel on

      Across the night that knows no dawn.

HE IS DAVID’S LORD.

But I thank God this evening that I have the unusual privilege of employing the far-reaching facilities of these thirty-five stations, the sixty thousand miles of wire that connect them, their power and their frequencies, to tell you that Christ is divine. I invite the world to look up to the cross of Christ and to believe that He who languishes there is not a misinterpreted hero, a misunderstood reformer, a mistaken idealist; for all of these interpretations of the Christ of God which are being popularized today as never before fall hopelessly short of giving an adequate estimate of the essential Christ and what He means to you and to me today. No; above all this He is, beyond all possibility of human question and doubt, the Incarnation of God, the Only-begotten of the Father, at once true God and true Man.

You ask for proof, and I point you first to the words of our text, which emphatically repudiate the delusion that Jesus is only human. We read that Christ spurns the customary theological opinion of the pride-blinded Pharisees, who held that the promised Messiah would be only an earthly descendant of Israel’s greatest king and that the fallen throne of a Davidic dynasty would be reestablished by a hero of David’s lineage. He challenges these churchmen with the words, “How, then, doth David in spirit call Him Lord?” In other words, how can the Messiah be David’s son when David, than whom Israel’s history knows none greater, acknowledges Him as his Lord? And to show the blinded theologians of His day that David did call the Christ his Lord, Jesus quotes the opening words of the 110th Psalm, where King David says, “The Lord said to my Lord” (the Messiah), “Sit Thou on My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Now, the unexpressed inference of Christ is this: The Messiah, far from being a mere descendant of David, is David’s Lord, honored, revered, and worshiped by that king as his God and Savior.

That claim is amazingly sustained throughout the Scriptures, of which Jesus said, “They are they that testify of Me.” On the very day that He was born He was called “Christ the Lord.” The disciple whom He loved, pointing to Him, said, “This is the true God and eternal Life.” He Himself told the world, “All men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” And His mightiest missionary declared Him to be “God, blessed forever.”

But Jesus not only accepted such divine names and titles, He also laid unmistakable claim to divine nature, power, and lordship. Is God omnipotent? So is the Lord Jesus; for He declares, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth,” so that “all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Is God eternal? So is the Lord Jesus, for He told His followers, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Is God omniscient, all-knowing? So is the Lord Jesus; for when He told Peter the secrets of His heart, that disciple declared, “Lord, Thou knowest all things”; and St. Paul echoes, “In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Is God sinless? So is the Lord Jesus. Publicly He invites His bitter opponents to show the world a single instance in which He has been guilty of sin; but only stolid silence greets this challenge. Is God merciful and compassionate? So is the Lord Jesus; for it is He who tells conscience-stricken men that His is the power to forgive sins on earth, He who pronounces the absolution of peace upon their sin-burdened souls.

Remember how manifestly He gave the evidence of these and other high and holy claims. When He healed the sick, miraculously fed the hungry, restored the sight of the blind, raised the dead, suspended the laws of nature to carry out the purposes of His kingdom, He gave to the world a demonstration of His godhead, so powerful that even His opponents could not successfully contradict it. And when, in deep humiliation, He bowed His head into death and cried, “It is finished,” later triumphantly to burst asunder the bonds of the grave, all this, and particularly His victorious resurrection, to which more than one hundred passages of the New Testament lend their inspired testimony, was conclusive proof of the divine lordship which makes Christ the most essential goal for humanity today, its only hope for time and for eternity. Now, the divine lordship of Jesus Christ is no vague abstraction that leaves your life cold and untouched. It is rather the most intensely essential truth that life can hold out to you. For the purpose of His incarnation, the great love that made divinity humanity, the Son of God the Son of Man, was to tell us what the golden verse of Scripture proclaims, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is in this way that Christ comes to us tonight with a twofold message as we are asked, “What think ye of Christ?” First, realizing the immensity of this sacrifice of the great and glorious God and acknowledging that the sins which He bears in His holy body are not His sins, but the sins of every man, woman, and child that ever lived or that will live upon the face of this world to the end of days, we must cry out, “Oh, how appalling are the consequences of my manifold sins, sins that brought the almighty God down to suffer and die in my stead, as my Substitute and my Redeemer! Oh, how terrible is the iniquity of my transgressions that has separated me from my God, attached my heart and my desires to that which is unclean, selfish, and degrading, and then led the pure, holy, sinless, stainless, divine Christ, my Lord and my God, to take all these iniquities upon Himself!”

Yet, because Christianity is essentially a religion of happiness and rejoicing, I ask you to glance through the pages of your Bible and to behold Mary Magdalene in restored love before her Savior, to find the centurion confessing Christ, to see the dying thief forgiven, cleansed, and strengthened by the promise of paradise, and to gain assurance in the conviction that our blessed Savior seals to you the forgiveness of every shortcoming, every inconsistency, every sin that expresses itself in your life. I ask you to believe with the conviction of an undaunted faith that you, having been made a child of the heavenly Father through Christ’s constraining love, will share in that deathless inheritance that fadeth not away, but abideth forever in heaven, throughout the endless reaches of a triumphant eternity. Slaughtering Saul, prostrate on the Damascus road, looks up to heaven as though to pierce through the mist of his blindness to the mysterious heights from which the heavenly voice speaks to him. Stirred to the depths of his soul in the anxiety of that crisis, he calls out, “Lord, who art Thou?” And tonight, if any of you, staggering along the pathway of life, baffled by the enigmas of your existence, and burdened by the load of sin that bears you down to the dust, likewise look up to heaven and cry out, “Lord, who art Thou?” remember that this searching question of the ages has been answered by the assurance of Jesus, “He that seeth Me seeth the Father.” I pray not that yours may be a keen and analytical vision of human affairs and activities, nor a comprehensive survey of business and industrial conditions, nor a far-sighted outlook into the shrouded vistas of the future. But I do pray that your vision may be divinely directed to the God-man Jesus, the Christ, and that, as you hear the voice of divine authority ask, “What thinkest thou of Christ?” you may kneel down and, casting all doubt out of the temple of your heart, declare in the immortal confession of St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Amen.

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

Date: October 9, 1930?

Thy Word is truth.John 17:17

CAN an enlightened, modern American mind still believe in the Bible? Can we still hold that Scripture is what it claims to be, namely, the inerrant, complete, and inspired revelation of God to mankind; or must we join the increasing ranks of those who reject the Bible as a disappointing relic of a superstitious age, now happily removed by the tremendous conquests of human learning? Is the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, upon which hundreds of millions of human beings down through the ages have based their hope for time and for eternity, still the power of God unto salvation, or is it simply tradition? Is the Bible merely human, or is it gloriously divine?

In answering this alternative (which, I pause to remind you, is the basic issue in the religious battle now being waged in our country), we declare our conviction that the Bible is the Word of Truth and Power. We believe that this position, far from being mere sentimentality, is based upon the most conclusive evidence and that the case of the Scriptures in our modern day rests upon reasons so convincing and considerations so forceful that, unless the investigator is hopelessly biased and permanently prejudiced, he must come to the realization that the Bible today is what it professes to be, namely, the power of God unto salvation, earth’s highest truth, heaven’s perfect verity.

THE SCRIPTURES CLAIM TO BE THE TRUTH.

There is, first of all, the testimony of the Bible concerning itself, certainly the most direct and definite evidence. Here we are confronted with the unavoidable fact that the Holy Scriptures, as no other book, claim to be the literal Word of God,—“Thy Word,” as Jesus calls it in our text, taken from the sacred intimacies of His high-priestly prayer. We are assured that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God”; we read in thousands of passages, “Thus saith the Lord”; we find Holy Writ again and again called “the Word of God”; in short, thousands of Bible statements definitely and repeatedly claim that, unlike the 12,000,000 books which men are said to have written of and by themselves, this Book, “the one Book,” as Sir Walter Scott called it on his death-bed, is of divine origin, with every word inspired by the love of God, every warning written by the command of God, and every promise preserved by the grace of God.

But this claim is not merely an idle or fanatical boast; the Word of God demonstrates its divine origin by an examination of its contents. It is the “truth.” I must pass by tonight the evidence for the absolute truth of the Scriptures, not only in spiritual matters, but also in history, geography, the sciences, and other branches of learning. Because these utterances come from God, they, too, must be infallible and raised up above the possibility of correction; for the Bible not only contains the truth, as our Lord Himself tells us tonight,—it is the truth. When in more than four hundred passages He, the faultless Teacher of mankind, either quotes, or refers to, the Scriptures of His day as infallible and authoritative, who is there, with a full knowledge of what Jesus Christ means to the world and to the individual, who can believe that in more than four hundred instances our Lord has made a vain and misleading appeal? Or who is there that can hear Him promise that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law till all be fulfilled” without realizing that Jesus believed what we believe, namely, that the Scriptures, being God-breathed, verbally inspired, cannot successfully be charged with error?

THE SCRIPTURES COME FROM THE TRUTH.

But we insist that the Bible comes from God and that it is divinely true because it contains and reveals that stupendous truth which God alone knows and which men, with the limits and restrictions of their intellect, can never know or understand of themselves. For thousands of years men who knew not this Word have groped in tragic blindness, not knowing a definite and positive answer to the fundamental questions of life, involving God and man, life and death, salvation and perdition. They have given their choicest brain power, they have sacrificed their most precious possessions, in the attempt to satisfy a holy God, to find a positive solution to the depressing question of sin, which all the world recognizes, and its punishment, which all the world fears. Yet all that human ingenuity could suggest in such superhuman issues was a maze of conflicting speculations, each one more hopeless, more depressing, than the other.

Now, here is a Book that helps us in all these human uncertainties. We yearn to know who God is. Now, if God does not offer this revelation Himself, in His own Word, who will or who can, when the altars to the unknown god that have been erected, not only on Mars Hill, but also throughout the entire Christless world, stand as a symbol of humanity’s abysmal ignorance? Even if the cold and calculating processes of reason can demonstrate the existence of a God, it requires the revelation from God Himself in the Bible to present to us that sublime conception of the divine Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We ask again, “Whence came man?” But again, if God does not give us the definite answer to this question, for which, in the very nature of the case, there can be no human solution, where else can we find it? Certainly not in the scientific textbooks of today, which will be worth only their weight in paper tomorrow, nor in any of the conflicting arrays of theories which make man a glorified animal or a puppet in the hands of a cruel fate. Only in the record of divine truth can we find the authoritative statement of Him who made man that you and I have been placed into the world by the master hand of Him in whose perfect image of holiness the human race was created. When we realize that this holiness has been lost, and when the ravages of sin rise up as horrible, accusing specters, we inquire further under the lashing scourge of our conscience, “Can God, perfect, holy, just, forgive the long catalog of sin and wrong abounding in every life?” Now, we cannot find an answer to that universal question in the highest achievements of human wisdom; for does not even Socrates admit, “It may be that the gods can forgive sin; but how I cannot tell”? But we can find in God’s Book what even the largest libraries and the most voluminous speculations of men cannot offer, that is, the Christ of the ages, the very literal fulfillment of those golden promises that leads men, beyond all the glitter and glamour of a tinseled and tarnished world, out to the radiant love of Him who hung on the cross, brings them down to their knees in grief and repentance before that overpowering spectacle of love, and makes them cry out with hearts that have been filled to overflowing with gratitude, “O my Savior, Thou hast suffered for me, Thou hast died for me; but, praise God, Thou art risen again for me to make me Thine, to strengthen me by Thy Spirit, so that I may overcome the forces of sin and hell and face eternity with the triumphant cry of victory, ‘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.’”

THE SCRIPTURES PROVE TO BE THE TRUTH.

With this divine and superhuman truth comes the evidence of a divine and superhuman power. Men like to call Christianity and the Bible a failure. The fact of the matter is that, while everything else has failed, while all the processes which human ingenuity has advanced for the improvement of the world have turned out to be only pitiful and disappointing subterfuges, while educationalism, intellectualism, fraternalism, the study and application of the sciences, legislation, and theories of political economy as well as other similar methods and agencies have left the human heart unchanged and have done little or nothing to raise the moral tone of humanity, the invincible, everlastingly victorious force of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the one transforming power in the history of the world that has tamed the wild passions of men, subdued their self-centered greed, and given them an outlook on life which has perpetuated the ideals of the Master in the practical forms of institutions of charity, enterprises for the alleviation of suffering, work for the restitution of the downtrodden multitudes that have fallen by the wayside and lie hopeless and helpless in the slimy gutter of life. Babylonia, Greece, Rome, each in turn built up a civilization stupendous in proportions and lavish in wealth; but the fundamental conceptions of merciful charity and a sympathetic regard for the needs of one’s fellow-men—all this was quite foreign to their culture and quite unknown in their grandeur. And if you want to visualize the pervading power of the Gospel, picture to yourself the madhouse into which this country would degenerate if every trace of the influence of the Bible would be removed.

What was it that transformed some of the South Sea Islands and changed them from cesspools of cannibalism and heathen hideousness into garden spots of the world? What was it that wrought such a fundamental change in the life and habits of the people of Tierra del Fuego, who, when Charles Darwin visited them on his scientific journey around the world, were found to be so depraved and degenerate that they could hardly be classed as human beings, but who through the efforts of Christian missionaries became so utterly transformed that the so-called Father of Evolution gave the most eloquent possible tribute in the form of a subsidy to the Patagonian Mission? What is it that shook the stolid Eskimos of the frozen North, dwarfed in body and in soul, as they tried to kill their intrepid Christian missionary, Hans Egede, poison his dogs, and destroy his food caches, but who learned to substitute truth and love and justice for falsehood and hatred and murder? How can these things be, we inquire? And once again plain common sense, without making any higher appeal, tells us that these twice-born men have not found this newness of life because of any delusion or fairy-tale, but because of the miracle-working truth of God. That is the power that our own America needs. No truer word has ever been uttered by human lips than this warning of Daniel Webster, “If we continue in the teachings of the Bible, our country will continue to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its teachings, then no one can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all of our profound glory in obscurity.”

But the greatest demonstration of the power of the Gospel, overshadowing all this, and the clearest proof of its divine nature is shown to us in its influence upon the souls of men. I challenge any system of human invention, any modern and enlightened conception of religion that sets the Bible aside, to give to mankind a definite and satisfying answer to the supreme issue of life, “What must I do to be saved?” When the destiny of our immortal soul hangs in the balance; when a ruined life totters on and on, goaded ceaselessly by the ruthless demands of an aroused conscience; when a sin-born mortal stands before the yawning abyss which ultimately confronts every one of us, where is the truth, the light, and the hope that definitely gives him the power to face these veiled uncertainties confidently and unflinchingly? Death-bed confessions of unbelief and the moanings and cries of despair of infidels and skeptics in their dying hours reveal to us that this power cannot be found in any branch of human attainment, even in its highest form. It cannot be found in the modernistic creed which is being proclaimed in Christ-denying churches, where the great questions of sin and salvation are answered with a suave question-mark or with a polite denial of the Bible. But it can be found and will be found as long as men trustingly raise up their eyes to the hills of divine truth in God’s Word.

The power of this Word is operative whenever and wherever it is read and heard and believed. Let the host of modern infidels reject the Bible by rehashing the threadbare arguments advanced by unbelief since the Savior’s day, we have evidence of its truth. If this Word has come down through the centuries, triumphing over organized opposition and mobilized wealth, then we can gain renewed assurance through the conviction that, if the treasuries of heathen empires, the tortures of royal fiends, and the efforts of giants of human intellect have utterly failed in halting the march of progress of this deathless truth, so that today the Holy Scriptures are annually distributed in more than 36,000,000 copies, then the puny efforts of modern minds to revive this old opposition will be doomed to even more dismal failure. Let us not worry about the Bible. Its divine truth is amply able to safeguard its continued existence; for here is God’s promise, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away.”

So I ask you tonight to take this truth, to read it, to study it now, and you will find between the covers of your Bible the divine cure-all for the ills and woes, the problems and anxieties, that may crowd themselves into your life. If you are out of work; if you have faced disappointment upon disappointment; if you have trouble and misunderstanding in your family; if you are weakened by sickness and disease; if you have not a friend in the world nor a penny in your pocket, find help and cheer by reading what this Book tells to those who believe it, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Hear the word of comfort Christ has given those who believe in Him for times of distress and tribulation: “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh away from you.” “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” If you look down deeper into the recesses of your heart and find enthroned there the idols of money and pleasure and impurity and selfishness and greed, and you hear the warning of the Judge of eternity, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,” and the terror of judgment strikes your heart, then, by the grace of God’s Holy Spirit, come with a contrite heart to the truth of this priceless volume and learn to know that there is one—and only one—“Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” “who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Hear His pledge, given through the mouth of His prophet, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Here, in this ageless, priceless, deathless volume, you have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem that may arise in your life; for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” Amen.

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

Date: October 2, 1930

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.Psalm 14:1

IN accepting the unique privilege of establishing the most extensive radio-broadcasting chain ever supported by one Church, a chain that embraces thirty-six stations and extends from coast to coast, the Lutheran Laymen’s League is conscious of but one purpose, actuated by but one impulse: the consuming desire to hold up the Cross of Jesus Christ to the 120,000,000 people of our divinely blessed nation as the only, but all-sufficient source of salvation, both spiritual and temporal. Every Thursday night at this time, over almost 60,000 miles of wire, through a network of stations with a power aggregating about one-sixth of a million watts, and with frequencies that will reach not only into every nook and corner of this country, but through two auxiliary short-wave stations also to the very outposts of civilization throughout the world, a constructive and stimulating message will come with a heart-to-heart directness which, please God, will bring into uncounted myriads of homes a positive statement of Christian faith and with it the God-given solution of the problems and issues of our day as they affect the spiritual life of the nation.

These Thursday evening messages, sent out by the oldest Protestant Church (very appropriately in the year in which the world pauses to observe the four-hundredth anniversary of the first Protestant statement of faith, the Augsburg Confession), are not to be speculations which misguided men like to call modern, yet which, in principle and often in detail, are nothing but twentieth-century restatements of ancient, hoary fabrications of heathen minds; not a series of pessimistic lamentations on the sordid and sensual materialism of our mechanical age; not a program in which blatant bigotry and narrow sectarianism can raise a selfish voice; but a succession of uncompromising and unhesitating messages, which without fear or favor will offer an unshaken acknowledgment and glorification of a changeless Christ for a changing world.

This evening, then, we are to dedicate the message of our first broadcast to the fundamental and basic conviction that there is a God, that the great and infinite Father of the entire human race, who has revealed Himself in many and remarkable ways, is no fantastical formation of superstition, no creature of childish tradition, no will-o’-the-wisp of religious delusion, no vague and indefinite idea; and that atheism, materialism, agnosticism, skepticism, and all of the many other similar theories which deny or question the existence of God or set up as a supreme being a conception which is contradictory to the revelation of God and His Word, are not only irrational, deficient, and disappointing, but also anti-Scriptural and therefore thoroughly destructive from every point of consideration.

ATHEISM DENIES CONVINCING DEMONSTRATIONS.

In completing the demonstration of the existence of our God, I proffer cogent and convincing reasons that emphasize the truth to which the psalmist gives expression in the words of our text, when he asserts that it takes a fool to say in his heart, “There is no God.” Atheism is folly because there is, first of all, a natural revelation of God, demonstrated by the universal belief in a Supreme Being and the universal religious instinct. The great apostle writes of the Gentile world, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them,” and the universality of that belief in the existence of a Supreme Being is all-comprehensive in its sweep. In the census of India taken in 1911, when the religious affiliations of the 300,000,000 plus children of Mother India were tabulated, it was found that only seventeen persons described themselves as atheists; in other words, that less than five-millionths of 1 per cent. of that nation of ancient and profound philosophies denied the existence of a Supreme Being. Cicero’s question still awaits an answer, “What people is there or what race of men that has not, even without traditional teaching, some idea of the existence of God?” 1,500,000,000 people cannot be wrong, we say, adopting the advertising phraseology of our day, particularly since the Scriptures assure us that there is inborn in every human being a natural knowledge of the existence of God, accentuated by the conscience, which attests the moral lordship of God.

But the modern denial of the existence of God is a folly of the first magnitude because it contradicts the witnesses which God has given to His power and His existence. St. Paul tells us in the introduction to his Letter to the Romans that the created world, God’s second book, Nature, is an eloquent testimony to His divine existence and omnipotence. Even the heathen, the apostle concludes, are “without excuse” if they question the existence of God because His eternal power and Godhead may be clearly understood in the realms of creation. Who is there indeed that can gaze upward to the mysterious heights of the heavens with their 700,000,000 charted stars and the uncounted hosts of the other heavenly bodies beyond the searching reach of the most penetrating telescope without being overcome by the conviction that behind the immensity of those overpowering reaches there is a master mind of One, whose glory the heavens declare, and of whose greatness, even in their immensity, these starry heights are but weak reflections? Or, to descend to the microcosm, who is there, again, who can hear that modern physiology shows that the human eye has 800 complementary parts of the most exquisite fineness, arrangement, and combination without coming to the natural and instinctive conclusion that the temples of our bodies have been fearfully and wonderfully made by a superhuman and divine Architect?

Even cold and calculating reason assures us that the stupendous marvels of nature in and about us cannot be the result of mere chance. You can take ten keys on your piano, and mathematicians will assure you that with these you can play more than 3,628,000 different combinations of notes. But how much probability is there that these piano keys will ever play the national anthem by mere chance? Surely no rational person with the ordinary quota of average common sense will shrink from the inevitable conclusion that this universe with its system, its order, its superhuman complexities, has not been called into existence by mere mechanical chance, but that it affords clear evidence of a superior design and a superhuman arrangement. Small wonder that scientists in every branch of human learning who have delved into the deep and hidden mysteries of the natural world have emerged with a definite conviction that there must be a superior an supreme being responsible for all the intricate, complicated, and inconceivably numerous processes of nature.

History also emphasizes the irrational inconsistency of the atheistic delusion. The heathen at Lystra are told that God “left not Himself without witness”; and among His witnesses the apostle enumerates especially the record of Divine Providence, “He did good and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” No student of human history can read of the rise and fall of nations or peruse the record of the varied destinies of men without arising from such study with the conviction that it is He who “upholds all things by the word of His power” and that the world does not continue to exist, and the affairs of men continue to run on, in an automatic, self-existent manner.

But as human experience and the annals of human history lend a decisive voice to the existence of God, so they also emphasize the folly and immorality of atheism. Not only has there never been a great atheist, but there have been few, if any, consistent atheists. John Quincy Adams saw the failure of unbelief in his day, and in a letter to Thomas Jefferson wrote this review of freethinkers popular in his age: “Bolingbroke said his philosophy was not sufficient to support him in his last hours. D’ Alembert said, ‘Happy are they who have courage; but I have none.’ Voltaire, the greatest genius of them all, behaved like the greatest coward of them all at his death.” And this failure of the atheistic philosophy is beheld today in the moral breakdown that inevitably follows in any community where the attempt has been made to put it into consistent practice. The terrors of the French Revolution, which symbolized its supposed victory over revealed religion by enthroning a Parisian actress on the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral, are being repeated today before all who have eyes to see and ears to hear, when organized atheism, sitting in the high places of whatever government is left in that chaos which we used to call Russia, has supported with official fanaticism the greatest away-from-God and away-from-the-Bible movement that history has ever recorded, only to produce the supertragedy of modern times. For atheism always involves moral collapse and the destruction of national and individual virtue. We may well pause to survey our own country at a time in which the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, legally chartered to carry out its destructive principles, boasts of allegedly tremendous conquests and claims a constituency of many thousands; in which Societies of Damned Souls and similar godless groups have been organized at our colleges and universities; and in which the number of those who have dedicated themselves to the task of dethroning the almighty God and who disdainfully announce, “There is no God,” is legion times legion.

ATHEISM CONTRADICTS THE TRUTH OF REVELATION.

But more conclusive proof for the folly of atheism than the revelation of God in nature is the incontestable and incontrovertible testimony to the supernatural revelation of God found in His Word. The Christian does not derive his knowledge of God from the manifestations of the divine in nature; for all the wonders of the created world are ominously silent as to who this God is that has made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is. Nor does the Christian find God in the knowledge of the universal consciousness of the divine existence; for that consciousness is often beclouded with sin, too frequently weakened and dimmed by human perversity, and always incapable of revealing the full nature and identity of God. No, we must have the unfailing revelation of God Himself in our Bible. And here on its pages, first of all, all atheism is swept away, and humanity is told that the God of the Bible is the one and only God, the Lord of lords, the King of kings. In the Old Testament alone, in more than 9,000 passages, the existence of this God is definitely assumed when God is directly mentioned in His relations to humanity. In more than 2,500 instances we read the announcement, “Thus saith the Lord.” And who is there who would venture the brazen assertion that in all of these thousands of instances the Bible is guilty of misrepresentation and of the most pernicious sort of dishonesty, when the whole regenerative, ennobling, and redeeming power of this Word has been operative in uncounted hundreds of millions of lives? Men may not understand the philosophic, scientific, and moral arguments for the existence of God which profound thinkers of all Christian ages have advanced in attempting to complete the rational demonstration of His existence; hut here is proof positive, lifted up above all possibility of error; no mere human speculation, no mere personal conviction that you and I may entertain and that others may contradict, but above all this, the absolute truth.

The process by which God revealed Himself increased in clarity, until on the pages of the New Testament, as a victorious climax, comes the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, the great Scriptural and historical evidence of the intense folly of all atheistic or semi-atheistic philosophy. Here is this Immanuel, “God with us,” “in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily,” who assures us, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” of whom St. John testifies, “This is the true God,” whom St. Paul calls “God over all, blessed forever,” whom St. Thomas acknowledges as “my Lord and my God.” In Him as He walked the paths of His earthly life, as He fulfilled His mission of unfathomable love and immeasurable mercy, giving His own holy body, shedding His own precious blood, raising up the downtrodden masses of sin-sick humanity, and ushering in the happy existence of the new age that dawned upon earth when He came,—in Him the world saw God. Because Jesus Christ, before a host of unimpeachable witnesses, demonstrated His superhuman, His truly divine power in His miracles climaxed by His victorious resurrection from the dead, we repeat: The world saw God in Christ. Yes, it still sees God in the exhibition of His divine power in the lives of those who through Him can call God their dear Father, who, kneeling down before the glory-crowned cross, with the fire of divine truth inflaming even the depth of their souls with the conviction that “the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin,” hear His invitation of grace, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and answer:—

Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

This Biblical picture of God, as revealed in His Word and by His Son, is preached into our hearts by the divine power of God’s Spirit. In that Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Scriptural conception of God is completed, the entire picture of the Deity delineated for all ages as the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is this Spirit, expressly called God in the sacred records, acknowledged and honored as God by the sacred writers, who operates in the hearts of men, calling, gathering, enlightening, sanctifying them, and preserving them in the true faith, who presents the last, telling death-blow to atheistic folly. The mighty works of this Spirit, unmistakable and tangible as they are throughout history, are the Gibraltar against which the puny assaults of those who deny the existence of God are rammed to destruction. Men can live without money, without fame, without erudition; they can eke out an existence without friends, without health, or without personal liberty and the possibility of the pursuit of happiness; but they cannot live in the fullness of a life that continues beyond the grave without God. Though they repeat the age-old challenge of blasphemy by standing up before large audiences to deny the existence of God and condescend to grant Him five minutes to strike them down dead; though they speak glibly and boastfully of the freedom from restraint which the denial of God has brought them, He who is in the heavens laughs, and when the echo of His laughter transforms itself into the sterner demands of His wrath, what sorry spectacles these self-sufficient, self-existent deniers of God present! In the crises of life and in the pivotal hours of existence only the Christian, having God and with Him the assurance that no one can successfully prevail against Him, is able to carry the pressing burdens of sickness, death, financial reverses, family troubles, and misfortunes of almost innumerable kinds and degrees, to bear all this with the undaunted optimism which enables him to join in the conviction, victorious even over death, and to cry out in exultation, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Amen.

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