Date: November 27, 1938

Supplication for the Power of True Prayer

Our God, Thou who hearest prayer:

Hear us now as we beseech Thee for a living faith in the eternal mercies of Thy Son, for whose advent into the flesh our hearts now sing their songs of praise to Thee. Teach us all the blessed, Spirit-granted lesson that, with our sins removed through the cross of Christ, our consciences purified by the cleansing blood, our lives blessed by His death, we can come to Thee in prayer and find all that we need for earth and heaven in Thine assured answer. Show us why prayer is not to be reserved only for emergencies, but is to be our continual communion with Thee, in which we learn to thank Thy bounty for our manifold blessings. Guide us to the understanding that our petitions are not to be restricted to ourselves and our personal problems but that our entreaties are to wing their way heavenward in behalf of others, particularly for the spreading of Thy kingdom and the glorious conquests of Christian missions. Above all, help us to pray always in Jesus’ name, in full reliance upon His blood-sealed promises, so that we may never question His pledges nor minimize His power. Since we are often blind and stubborn, give us at all times that humility to direct our petitions to Thee in accordance with Thy good and all­discerning will. Then—and this is our promise, heavenly Father—shall we glorify Thee with the thank-offering of our lips through Jesus Christ, our ever-blessed Savior! Amen.

What profit should we have if we pray unto Him?Job 21:15

If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.John 15:7

FEW young people have ever seen their hopes of happiness crash as suddenly as did Joseph Scriven. A graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, he came to Canada at the age of twenty-five to seek his fortune in the New World. Before long he met a splendid Christian young woman whom he learned to love deeply. When he asked her hand in marriage, his joy at being accepted was exceeded only by the happy determination to make the new home a Christ-blessed dwelling. Repeatedly did they both kneel before their heavenly Father to entrust their future to His loving-kindness in Christ. As they built their dream home, step by step with God, they resolved that prayer should prevail in every family crisis and that in any misunderstanding or difficulty each would individually take the issue to God and await His answer.

The happy months sped on, and the day before the wedding finds Joseph Scriven in his room, preparing for the joyful tomorrow, thanking God and beseeching His blessings upon the home to be established within a few hours. A sharp knock at the door interrupts his meditation; a foreboding envelope is thrust into his hand; he tears it open and learns—his bewildered mind cannot believe the message that his tear-filled eyes reread a dozen times—that his best-beloved has been drowned! In the shock and conflict that followed, when doubt, tearing at his heart, demanded: “Of what good were your prayers when God permitted this cruelest of all blows to strike you?” Scriven, recalling the resolution to lay all sorrows at the throne of God, poured out his heart to the all­knowing Father. He prayed as few men have ever pleaded. For three hours he begged for light, guidance, strength; and the Christ who answered fortified him with such courage that later Scriven, blessed with the deeper wisdom and the greater grace of Christ, wrote these words that have since sung their Spirit-winged way into sorely tried hearts:

What a Friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

As I seek to offer a modem answer to Job’s ancient question (chapter 21, verse 15): “What profit should we have if we pray unto Him?” I point once more to that grief-stricken bridegroom, whose faith, triumphing over anguish, sings:

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

May God give you all the same heroic faith by which you, too, can find that

PROFIT IN PRAYER

which our Lord Himself offers His trusting children in the promise of Saint John, chapter 15, verse 7: “If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

I

PROFIT ONLY IN TRUE PRAYER

At the outset we must be agreed on one vital truth: profit and blessing are found only in true supplication. When Jesus declares: “If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you,” He clearly outlines the first requirement of prayer with promise: it must be based on abiding faith in Him.

The Christian’s petition to his God is not an address to the woods and the waters, a eulogy of the birds and the bees, a plaintive cry to an unknown and unknowable Deity; it is rather prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus, with abiding trust in His grace. There are not a dozen gods to whom we can address our pleading, nor a dozen saviors who can redeem us, but in all earth and heaven, for all ages, one God and one Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. Since that royal Redeemer of a race self-estranged from God brought us back to our heavenly Father, as children and therefore heirs of all that God possesses, it is our privilege, blood-bought, cross-gained, grace-bestowed, to approach the Almighty with all our needs. If you are praying in any other way; if you try to come before God without trust in the atoning love of Christ; if you seek to stand at the throne of eternity in your own name or some one else’s name, stop! Save yourself the lost energy and the shock of disappointment!

Learn to pray in Jesus’ name! Not the oratory and the choice of words in your petition; not the geometry of your supplication and the measure of its imposing length; not the arithmetic and the startling number of your pleas; not the logic and the keen-minded argument of your entreaties, count before God; it is rather the repenting, trusting, childlike faith in our blessed Savior by which we can boldly beseech Heaven’s grace. In a current issue of a popular magazine two travelers who penetrated deep into Africa’s Cameroons report that all who approached Rei-Bouba, the Bantu monarch of that territory, had to prostrate themselves on the ground, cry piteously in a hideous falsetto scream, and remain stretched on the hard-packed earth until the tyrant was pleased to indicate whether he would hear the suppliant. But—praise to the eternal mercy of Christ!—when we draw near to God in His name, we have full access to all of Heaven’s blessings.

As our Lord here stresses abiding faith, we must remember that, if our requests are marked by insincerity, so that we insult God by making our lips move in address to Him while permitting our thoughts to stray irreverently, we have absolutely no hope of divine response. If we spoke a thousand Lord’s Prayers every day; if we read through a large devotional book every twenty-four hours, unless each petition were distilled, drop by drop, from humble faith in Christ, these multiplied intercessions would be so many words wasted, so many motions lost.

Abiding faith, as the requisite for soul profit, cannot countenance the weak-kneed, indifferent, colorless praying which secretly distrusts God’s ability to hear His children. “According to your faith be it unto you!” is the rule of eternal Truth. “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” is the Savior’s own standard; and while many pleas are profitless because they doubt or even deny the possibility of answer, the victorious communion with the Father is the confident cry of the soul which knows that God could not be God if He did not answer every true prayer spoken by every trusting heart.

Nor should we arrogantly try to secure divine favors while our hands are stained with sin and our lips are marked with iniquity. In Isaiah’s days God warned Israel that, though they made many prayers, He would not hear them because, He said, “your hands are full of blood”; and today, too, we cannot hope that God will grant our appeal “Forgive us” unless we add “as we forgive.” We shall not receive mercy unless we are ready to grant mercy. If any of you are engaged in an enterprise that causes injury or loss to your fellow-man; if any of you husbands and wives are secretly disloyal or openly unfaithful; if some of you are nourishing hatred in your hearts, your petitions are profitless before they start. Your loudest and longest pleading will only echo its empty defeat. What a startling warning to many in this audience who are keeping God out of their shriveled souls because they have exiled love and enthroned hatred!

If, as our text reminds us, Christ’s Word abides in us, our prayers—and this is one of the hardest lessons—will be submissive to His will. “This is the confidence that we have in Him,” Saint John writes, “that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” God alone knows how many pleas are unanswered because they are contrary to His divine will, and that means out of harmony with our own best interests! Examine any instance in which your requests were not answered, and if you are Christ’s, you will discover that God’s mercy prevented you from nullifying His higher plan for you. If only we could speak the Third Petition, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” with a heroic faith that fully believes in God! Through that higher trust we can have the undaunted conviction that, if we pray for money and it is not granted us, this is for our best. If we have asked for health and still linger on sickbeds, God has a higher purpose in view for us. If some of you Christian wives have begged that God would bless you with children and you are still empty-armed, remember, though you cannot understand it, that God is dealing with you according to His mercy, that His will must always be the best. If you fathers have repeatedly besought God to keep you working, only now to receive the dreaded notice of discharge, do not accuse the Almighty of injustice; but behold the cross and realize that, if He loved you so much that He sent His only Son to sacrifice Himself for you, our Father certainly will direct your life along the best paths. In His all­knowing power He may have permitted you to lose your work only eventually to give you a better position. Under His guidance you may find employment tomorrow; and if not, be sure that God has some deeper design to weave into the pattern of your life. Some write me in bewilderment that for twenty years, day after day, they have pleaded persistently asking God to release their husbands from the clutches of drunkenness, only to find their entreaties unanswered. They should realize that God can still free their loved ones from this disgrace and that during these twenty years He has been trying to teach them the higher lessons of faith in the school of suffering. Later surveying their hardships, they will discover one constructive purpose running through them all—their spiritual growth, their walking more closely with Christ. Even when your anguish-laden “Why?” resounds through homes visited by death and you demand to know the reason for God’s calling a beloved one home, remember that, while we cannot now see far enough to discern the hidden purposes of God, in the fuller light and more glorious revelation of heaven we shall be able even to thank God for taking to Himself the one whose death now seems so cruel.

As you ask for the faith to bow before the will of God, pray ceaselessly, since it is God’s rule that men ought “always to pray and not to faint.” If America’s most publicized prisoner has devoted his many years behind the bars to repeated pleas for freedom, should we not, “praying always,” seek our freedom from sin and fear and worry in Jesus’ name? Let us not make the mistake of telling God how and when He must answer our supplication. Sometimes He hears us before we call; sometimes He delays, but His time of answer is always the right hour. If Sir Isaac Newton waited sixteen years after he saw the apple fall before he proved and published his discoveries in the law of gravity, can we blame God if, instead of giving instantaneous answer, He sometimes lets us wait to test our faith and strengthen our reliance on Him?

II

PROFIT ALWAYS IN TRUE PRAYER

When you beseech God through abiding trust in Christ, according to His Word and will, the unshaken conviction is yours that He will hear you. For here is the promise of our text: “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

Ask the skeptical scientist Job’s question: “What profit . . . if we pray unto Him?” and he will shrug his shoulders, suggest some laboratory test. Ask many of our psychologists, and they will frown on the idea of bended knees and folded hands. Particularly do they denounce the thought of teaching our children to pray, because, they say, this robs them of their self-reliance and makes them dependent upon God,—as if childlike trust in God were an unforgivable sin! Ask the Communist this ancient question: “What profit . . . if we pray unto Him?” and his lips will move in filthy blasphemies. Ask the man who is through with religion, to whom the Christian creed is a crass superstition, a drag on progress, and in his smug pride he will hurl back the snarling reply: “There is no profit in prayer, no profit whatever!” Now ask the Christian, who abides in his Christ, and deep in his Spirit­cleansed heart the personal pledge of answered prayer and the guarantee of granted grace will enrich him with a living trust in God’s power to respond to his pleading. We know through Christ that our God, far from being an indefinite, distant being, is rather the personal, almighty, all-knowing, ever present Creator, Redeemer, Light-giver. As the exploring eyes of our Christian faith penetrate high over our heads to the mysteries of the universe about us and find in the vastness of the planets, the billions of the stars, the overpowering dimensions of those heavenly reaches, the work of God’s fingers, requiring less exertion on the part of the Almighty than the molding of a small clay figure by the hands of a potter; as the reverent minds of God’s children survey the world of wonders beneath their feet, the mysterious, innumerable miracles that crowd every square inch of land and sea, their faith tells them that, if the mighty God could do the greater thing in producing these myriads of awe-inspiring wonders, His love can do the lesser thing and solve the smaller problems of our circumscribed lives. The child of God hears the angel tell Mary: “With God nothing shall be impossible,” he remembers that Jesus Himself in His infallible truth asserted: “With God all things are possible,” he listens as the host of the eternally redeemed sing: “Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth,” and the adoration that leaps from his lips is the confidence: “I know that Thou canst do everything.” “Nothing is ‘too hard for the Lord.’”

Yet the believer does not stop at God’s omnipotence. His heavenly Father, he knows, is not only able to hear prayer; in His limitless love for us He wants to heed our pleading. Few pledges are more constantly repeated throughout the Scriptures, by the prophets and the apostles, in the psalms and in the epistles, in the Old Testament and in the New, than this assurance from the lips of Jesus: “Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Remember that, if every statement of Christ is the truth of God, errorless, changeless, then this promise of answered prayer in every word and syllable of its meaning must be the intensified truth, since Jesus (perhaps because He knew how much these precious promises had to be strengthened for a contradicting world of suspicious men) frequently repeated the same assurance. If our blessed Savior had told us in only one isolated passage that He would fulfil the desires of those who abide in Him, that single golden guarantee should suffice to destroy all uncertainty. But hear Him, in His Sermon on the Mount, as He crowds these six assurances into two short verses: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Turn to the last days of the Savior’s life, with the agonies of Calvary looming close; listen as He comforts His disciples with a double oath and a double promise: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. . . . Ask, and ye shall receive”; and between that earlier public assurance of answered prayer and this later private promise find heaped passages of the same glowing confidence, multiplied for our assurance.

Decisive evidence that God, who can hear us and who wants to hear us, in blessed reality will hear us is offered by the unquestionable fact that millions of prayer requests have been granted by our heavenly Father. If every radio station in this country were to feature the details of each answered prayer in broadcasts that would last twenty-four hours a day, there would not be time enough, even if this sin-encrusted world of ours were to stand long centuries more than it will, to enumerate the miracles of requests fulfilled in the lives of Christ’s redeemed.

At a time when the hue and cry of unbelief demands: “Prove the power of prayer, and we will believe it,” we ought to think of the remarkable demonstrations, even outside our Bible. A hundred years ago, for example, a young minister, George Muller, crossed the British Channel to begin work in England. He found many of the Christians in his charge weak of faith, often unwilling to take God at His word. With an intense desire he longed to remove this lack of trust, to set before the world a convincing demonstration that God is faithful and still hears prayers. After much deliberation he decided that he would build an orphanage by prayer; and in the first volume of his writings he declares: “If I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith, obtained, without asking any individual, the means for establishing and carrying on an orphans’ home, there would be something which, with the Lord’s blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God. . . . The first and primary object . . . was that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all that they need without any one being asked by me or my fellow-workers.” Today in the high-powered, high-pressure business methods often employed by the churches, this plan of George Muller might be greeted with headshaking and shoulder-shrugging. But what happened? Convinced that God wanted him to establish the orphanage, he began to pray that God would send him the means, and money began to pour in from various sources. He could write: “Without any one having been personally applied to for anything by me, the sum of £84,411, six shillings” (about $400,000), “had been given to me for the orphans as a result of prayer to God.” The work increased until in 1875 “two thousand children were lodged, fed, and educated without a shilling of endowment, without a committee, without organization.”

Can any normal man or woman doubt the power of prayer after an overwhelming answer like this? If you, the self-styled superior mentalities in this audience, object: “Well, after all, George Muller belongs to the days of Queen Victoria,” then let me, in reply, state not only that every year many in this radio assembly write us personally to testify to the fact of answered prayer in their own lives, but also that clear-cut instances proclaiming the effectiveness of true entreaty are enacted before our eyes. Let me cite an outstanding example from the range of my own experience. Eight years ago, in the city of Saint Louis, a handful of Christians, eager to strengthen the kingdom of God in an overcrowded but underchurched district, took their problem to God. The building most appropriate for their purposes was for sale at $65,000; but they had no available funds. Besides, predictions were freely made that no Christian church could ever flourish in the community selected. Yet through prevailing prayer all obstacles vanished. Without public or private solicitation, thousands of dollars were contributed for the purchase of the church; the price was cut in half; more than $20,000, again unsolicited, was joyfully given for repair and equipment; and the church, which in the opinion of many could never be established, after eight years has a baptized membership of eight hundred souls; it has purchased two additional pieces of property, one for expansion, the other for a Christian day-school, and it faces an encouraging future,—because the founders took God at His word and were not disappointed in their trustful reliance on His power to answer prayer.

You, too, can enjoy the divine profit from your own petition. Communion with God through Christ will tap the reservoirs of Heaven’s blessing and send streams of strength into any weak and barren life. Prayer will open the treasury of God to enrich the poor in spirit, the destitute of hope. It will lead you into the armory of superhuman weapons by which you can repulse sin and reject temptation. It offers you the key to the storehouse of your heavenly Father with its inexhaustible supply of everything essential for your soul and body. When you bow your head before the Almighty and like the publican, not daring to lift your eyes toward your Father, penitently pray: “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”; when in your frailty you flee to God’s omnipotence as the dying thief appealed to Christ, then, as truly as God lives and rules the world, you, too, will experience a heart-lifting response—full and free forgiveness, the promise of Paradise itself. True prayer will strengthen you to overcome evil habits and conquer destructive sins. It will transform your sickbed into a haven of peace. It will fortify you as you cling to the Rock of Ages, while the tempests of adversity sweep over your defenseless head; it will help you check selfishness, forget your trampled feelings, return good for evil. For as you reach out your hand to God in faith, He, the Giver of “every good and . . . perfect gift,” will grant that blessing which makes your heart lighter, your soul happier, your afflictions less painful, your joys more hallowed.

Congregations on their knees in petition can accomplish vastly more than church groups with social and political programs. Many of the tragedies of failure, retrenchment, and deficits in modern Christianity are to be traced directly to anemic prayer-life. May God give us—not larger, costlier, wealthier churches, but—prayer-loving, prayer­exalting churches!

Equally blessed is the profit for the home. Descendants of John Scudder, a promising young physician in New York City and later a missionary to India, have given a total of almost six hundred years of missionary service to that benighted country. When Dr. Scudder was asked to account for this outstanding missionary zeal, he replied: “The only explanation I can give is that the children were literally prayed into the Kingdom by their mother. She was accustomed to spend the birthday of each child in all­day prayer for him. And God answered her prayer.” Fathers and mothers of America, are you pleading for your children? Sons and daughters of this land, are you interceding for your parents? If you husbands and wives want to make your marriage happier; if you desire peace; if you need special strength for particular sorrows in your family life, pray to God! Trust Him! Try to attain the full measure of faith, making your home a house of prayer!

Must I remind you of the glorious advantages prayer offers our nation? If in great crises of American history imploring hands were raised to God, if Washington knelt at Valley Forge and Lincoln prayerfully paced the White House study, should the nation not have the same support of supplication at this time when we are bidding farewell to much of the old order and are still groping in the bewilderment of the new? If penitent pleas saved proud Nineveh from immediate destruction, how much more can millions of Christian hearts, united in intercession for our country’s welfare, avert national defeat and decay! If prayer helped destroy the army of Sennacherib, as 185,000 Assyrians were killed within twelve hours, what power of national defense the true petitions of America’s millions would erect! Give us the benefits of diplomacy, the astuteness of statesmanship, equitable legislation, judicial reform, all the Congressional action necessary in days like these; but let us give God the honor of our prayers and the thanksgiving of our hearts! Erect all the national defenses this uncertain hour demands,—but may the prayers of America’s Christians build a wall around us that can protect us more securely than all the latest defense devices.

My friends and fellow-redeemed, have faith in Christ! As many Christian churches throughout the land begin a new church-year, commemorating our Savior’s advent into this world of sin, I ask you: Abide in Him, humbly yet courageously; and as His Word abides in you and you, too, learn to know: “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” there will come to you from heaven, over all affliction, question, contradiction, bereavement, and death, the glorious power of faith, by which you will see that even in this cold and sinful world God gloriously answers all true prayer in His own time and manner according to His Word and promise. May He grant you all this blessed assurance, this living faith, His highest gift, through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Amen.

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

Date: November 24, 1938

Thanksgiving Praise

O God of all goodness, grace, and gladness:

Humbly we come before the throne of Thy mercy, and thankfully we bow before Thy presence on this day of our national gratitude, because Thou hast again proved Thyself the heavenly Provider, the constant Guardian of our people. With rain and sunshine in summer and winter, by day and by night, Thine endless mercies have enriched us. When we labored, Thou didst graciously look upon our efforts, and when we slept, Thy sleepless eye did protect us. Above all nations of the earth didst Thou prosper us, and despite wide poverty and unemployment Thou didst preserve peace unto us and remember our country with manifold endowments of Thy providential love. If for our correction Thou didst withhold Thy bounties, teach us in Christ to view our reverses as the manifestation of Thy love and find forgiveness by Thy promise in our precious Savior. Especially do we thank Thee that Thou hast preserved the Gospel of His grace unto us and our children; and, though we have not deserved it, protect Thy Church against all its enemies! Continue Thy love particularly to the afflicted and bereaved!  Today many throughout the land are seized by grim discontent as they behold their losses and sorrows. Teach them, heavenly Father, that, if they have Christ, they can count all earthly gain loss and every affliction an advantage if only it brings them nearer to His refining love. Bless every searching heart today and bless us all as throughout the nation this mighty Thanksgiving assembly comes before Thee in Jesus’ name! Amen.

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:20

THE first recorded public Thanksgiving on our North American continent was not, as is popularly supposed, held by the Pilgrims at Plymouth. In 1578, forty­three years before the Massachusetts colonists assembled to raise their voices in gratitude to God, the members of the Frobisher expedition landed on Newfoundland to observe a lonely thanksgiving after a peril of six weeks’ storm and ice. In their own words they recount: “We highly prayed God and all together upon our knees gave Him humble and hearty thanks.” The chaplain, as this record continues, preached, “exhorting all especially to be thankful to God for a strange and marvelous deliverance in such strange places.” Surrounded by unnumbered dangers, confronted with the fear of sudden attack by savage Indians, the only white men on the entire northern part of this continent still assembled to praise their God!

In 1610, likewise before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the little colony in Jamestown, Virginia, reduced in numbers from the original four hundred to only sixty, defeated by sickness, hunger, and death, were returning to England when, scarcely off the American shore, they met the relief ships sailing to their rescue. Gratefully they returned, disembarked, and knelt in the sand for a thanksgiving service.

Then came the well-known Pilgrim thanksgivings. The celebration in 1623, for instance, was likewise held in a fear-weighted crisis. Crop failures threatened new disaster for the coming winter. The relief ship was long overdue. Despondency seized the survivors. When finally the colonists agreed to set aside a day for fasting in which they could speak their complaints to God, hope suddenly triumphed over fear. Encouraging news arrived, and instead of a day of fasting, a day of thanksgiving was celebrated despite numerous unsolved problems.

I have given you the details of these three early American thanksgivings because we need the same spirit of praise in our country today. In the face of unparalleled efforts for the relief of suffering and the many billions of dollars spent to provide destitute masses with food and clothing and shelter, multitudes of my fellow-countrymen may be inclined to face this day with resentment. Now it is

THE HIGHER GRATITUDE

the rejoicing even in adversity shown by these early Americans, that I would discuss with you. Speaking across the broad stretches of this God-blessed nation, I ask you to raise your hearts in praise to our heavenly Father, even in these days that may be hard and empty for many of you, to show that spirit of acknowledgment which the great Apostle Paul urges in his heroic words (Ephesians, chapter five, verse twenty): “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I

IT IS GRATITUDE “IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST”

As a nation we have enjoyed benefits so overwhelming that we should fall on our knees in ceaseless recognition of God’s bounty.

We have peace,—blessed peace, while only a few weeks ago the world trembled at the rumors of a bloody European war, which eventually might have engulfed this country. These dark clouds have been dispersed, and although we do not yet know whether the price paid for that truce was too high, today, as the smoke rises from a hundred devastated cities in China, the nation with one accord should look to heaven and say, “Thank God for this peace!”

Our farmlands, gardens, and orchards have yielded bounteous harvests, in some cases the largest on record, so overwhelming that hundreds of tons of cherries, thousands of crates of oranges, vast acreages of vegetables, and other fruits have been destroyed or left to rot. As we ask God to forgive us this wanton waste and unholy destruction, should not the mighty anthem swell its way heavenward: “Thank God for this bounty!”?

From the four quarters of the earth ships carrying heavy gold bullion and cargoes of silver have steered straight to our shores; hidden safely away in underground fortresses, and stacked in national treasuries, we have more bars of precious metal than the rest of the civilized world combined. Though we realize that this may be the cause of future difficulty, yet for the grace of our God, who has enriched us above measure, let this chorus of praise ring throughout the nation: “Thank God for this munificent blessing!”

Ours is a representative government, without the terrors of tyranny; and as we contrast our liberty with the persecution suffered by millions in Europe, must we not glorify the Ruler of the nations and exult: “Thank God for the heritage of this freedom!”?

Our churches can carry on their work for the kingdom of God without governmental interference. Think, however, of the fiendish rebellion against Jesus Christ that has locked many thousands of religious buildings in Russia or dragged ministers and priests before Soviet firing-squads. Remember the vast army of atheists across the sea systematically molding the plastic minds of children by the patterns of their bestial creeds, and you, too, will honor the Almighty by declaring: “Thank God for our religious liberty!”

We have our American homes, far more comfortable than those in any other nation; and as we witness the hellish program of Communism seeking to destroy the family, does not a higher urge within us, seated as most of us are at this time in congenial family circles, demand that we bow before the Lord and say: “Thank God for the preservation of our home-life!”?

True, this picture has another, less attractive side. Some of you men will tell me that business is poor, that taxes are high and prospects of improvement low; but as you look at the facts, will you not agree that industrial conditions are better in this country—with all the disturbing factors—than in England, France, or Germany; decidedly more hopeful than in Russia, where the state has absorbed all private business? Some of you farmers feel like answering me and saying, “No matter how many others had good crops, we in this dust-bowl or in this drought-stricken belt harvested less than the seed we planted in the spring.” Yet, did ever a nation do as much for the farmer—whether in the wise way or not—as our Government with its vast agricultural relief program? About twelve million of our fellow-Americans, with the high ambitions shared by many of them, still cannot find steady work and earn enough to support their families. But how many have actually been homeless, without clothing, deprived of shelter? A report that some time ago escaped the rigors of censorship tells us that 5,000,000 human beings died of starvation in the Ukraine during a single winter, so that the watchword of the mothers in the hunger-stricken towns became: “Better not to have children than to see them die of hunger.” Eyewitnesses in the famine-stricken areas of China report cannibalism, frantic children chewing bark off trees or other scenes too horrible to mention. On the other hand, billions of American dollars are spent for public relief, so that no one in this country need be hungry, helpless, shelterless. Admitting the prevalence of sin in our land today, conceding the failure of many plans suggested for our return to prosperity, with allowance for corruption in high and low governmental and judicial circles, without minimizing the intense seriousness of all the dangers confronting us, I do not hesitate to say that we are living in the most lavishly endowed nation in the world. Particularly because God has bestowed these signal blessings upon us although we have not deserved them the emphasized appeal of this Thanksgiving Day is: “All glory to the almighty and all­loving God!”

It is easy enough, of course, to give thanks when all goes well. No moral courage is required to praise God if you can sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy a fare so sumptuous that tables of crowned royalty itself two or three generations ago could hardly have equaled it. If you are healthy and happy, if business is good, troubles trivial, and a roseate horizon frames the view, it will not be difficult to hold your head high and sing lustily, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.” But if everything goes wrong; if you are sick in body and sad in mind; if your unpaid bills are accumulating, your money diminishing; if you are lonesome, misunderstood, and slandered; if your conscience is restless because of disturbing sins, it will take something more than the recitation of these national benefits to give you a sense of thanksgiving.

Peace and praise will never be found in the folly of fatalism, the desperate lie according to which you and I are controlled by unbreakable laws of nature and are helpless grains of humanity ground on the eternal millstones of a heartless destiny. What ray of hope can cheer a man on Thanksgiving Day if, as he staggers under the impact of adversity, some skeptical Doctor of Divinity suggests, “Others have suffered the same thing; it just happened to strike you. Cheer up because you can’t escape it anyway”? That doctrine of despair leads to suicide. Again, you cannot discover cause for thanksgiving in yourself, in your determination to meet misfortune courageously, to rise after every defeat. Will it help a person suffering a heart-breaking loss to be told: “Show your will power! Grit your teeth! Square your shoulders!”? All this bravado cannot take away the numb, aching pain in his bereaved heart.

For comfort at the height of affliction and in the depths of sorrow we must have—and this is the heart of my Thanksgiving message—the blessed assurance that our heavenly Father is a God of Love, that in Jesus Christ, as our God and Savior, we can find that higher gratitude which rejoices even in adversity. Looking at Thanksgiving from God’s own revelation in His errorless, faith-imparting Bible, we should believe that God who created us in His image, as the masterpieces of His omnipotence; God who loved us with such devotion that He provided a bounteous world for mankind, enriched with all the resources His provident power could create; God who, when we had sinned and banished ourselves from His presence—came down to this earth for that most glorious demonstration of mercy, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are saved freely by faith in His grace, saved fully, with all sins atoned, saved eternally, with all doubts removed. On Thanksgiving His cross testifies that God loves you, and from the moment you penitently acknowledge Him your Savior, He graciously provides for you, and guards your precious soul with heavenly vigilance as He preserves it for a blessed eternity. All this Saint Paul puts into our Thanksgiving text when he speaks of “giving thanks . . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, with faith in the power of His holy, precious blood.

Think what this love of God means to us! His divine heart lavishes such care upon every one of us that, when we turn off the right path, He often permits sorrow to overtake us and lead us back. When we become self confident and tell ourselves that we do not need God, He often humbles us to show how small we really are. When we incline toward sin or stretch our hands toward wrong, He frequently permits sudden reverses to rebuke us. For we are His, and His promise “Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” assures us that Christ watches over us by day and by night, so that we are not destroyed by ourselves, so that our joys, sorrows, and everything He sends us becomes part of a divinely rounded program for our spiritual growth. As a child of God in Christ nothing can come to you by pure accident. Nothing merely happens in your life, for Christ is with you always. If sometimes He restrains or withholds, if occasionally He uses sickness, poverty, loneliness, affliction, even death itself, still for His children His ways are always the right ways and His direction the cause for unceasing praise. Think of Christ Himself rejoicing in spirit only a few hours before the agonies of sorrow almost kill Him in the Garden; Saint Paul in a prison-cell singing hymns of praise through the dark midnight; the martyrs entering the blood-soaked arenas with hymns of thanksgiving on their lips; remember others who triumphed over sorrow and pray God for the same trust in Christ by which you, too, can praise Him even in adversity.

II

IT IS GRATITUDE “ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS”

Those of you who think that there can be no sorrow like yours, whose hearts on the day of national Thanksgiving are steeped in bitterness, approach the cross once more to see how the Crucified there died for your glory, peace, and salvation. Trusting Him, you can hallow your suffering and follow our text in “giving thanks always for all things.” Many of you are worrying about operations, grieving over the loss of your health; with Jesus you, too, can give thanks. Sixty years ago Elizabeth Prentiss, a chronic invalid, died in Christ. The days of her earlier life that were free from pain were few. As the years went on, sleeplessness added its burden; yet looking to her Redeemer, she could join Saint Paul in thanking God for her affliction. In the depths of her sorrow she wrote her famous book Stepping Heavenward to strengthen others with the glory of this higher gratitude. As new burdens were added, her thoughts winged their way to her Savior, and she penned the beloved hymn of trust “More Love to Thee, O Christ!” In the same spirit, if you who are weak in body and despondent in heart will put your trust in the divine Physician, you may find health, if health be for your ultimate good; but always, without exception, you will find rest for your soul.

Some of you complain because of financial hardships; and while I would be the last to make light of the tragedy on account of which many of you fathers and mothers do not know how you can provide your children and yourselves with the necessities of life, I assure you in the name of God that, if with all your hearts you seek Christ and His kingdom, everything you need will “be added unto you.” While I cannot do what others have done in the name of religion, dazzle you with the promises of earthly benefit and money gains derived from faith in Christ, I can promise you something higher. With Christ in your home, though it may be small and empty, you will be able to give thanks “always for all things.” With Christ you will be, to use the words of eternal promise, “poor, yet making many rich, . . . having nothing and yet possessing all things.”

Others among you approach thanksgiving with resentment because you feel yourselves the victims of men’s hatred and prejudices. I think of many Negroes, for example, who with much reason may feel that their white neighbors have taken advantage of them. To those who have suffered discrimination I wave no red flag of revolution that promises the abolition of private property. Instead I point them to the Savior, who draws no color line. Here in Saint Louis a Negro woman of culture and refinement, her husband and children, all college graduates, felt keenly the enmity toward her race. In addition, she was without spiritual foundation; but when the light of Christ’s Gospel broke upon her, that resentment disappeared. She told her pastor, “The old Gospel is all that I and my family needed. In Christ and His Church I have found peace, beautiful peace!” She made hers a life of outstanding service to her afflicted fellow-men. By the same faith you, too, will be able to thank God “always for all things.”

Those who view Thanksgiving with the deepest misgiving are the bereaved. How crushing to endure earth’s most cutting anguish at a time when joyful hearts are to echo the praise of thankful lips! You whose homes have been touched by the plight of death need more than the hazy, ill-defined hope of a “beautiful isle of somewhere.” With Christ you can have positive assurance. Believing that Savior, you can dry your tears, stifle ugly suspicions, and thank God “always for all things,” especially for a blessed death in Jesus. Harriet Beecher Stowe had that faith. She not only wrote of others’ sorrows in her immortal Uncle Tom’s Cabin; she experienced deep heartache in her own life. During a fatal cholera epidemic that swept through Cincinnati her youngest son, a baby, was snatched away. Not long afterwards her eldest son, a freshman at Dartmouth, was drowned. A few years more, and a third son, wounded in the head at Gettysburg, had his mind permanently injured. Yet later, recalling all this grief, she could write: “I thank God that there is one thing ringing through all of these from the time I was thirteen years old, and that is the intense, unwavering sense of Christ’s educating, guiding presence and care.” She thanked God “always for all things,” even for death.

You, too, my fellow-redeemed, may have the same joy of heart by which you can give thanks “always,” even in the darkest hour, “for all things,” even for the grinding harshness of life since the same promise of sustaining grace is yours in Christ. If your conscience is burdened by the wrong in your life, lift up your eyes to the all-merciful Savior and trust Him when He pledges that through faith your sins with all your guilt are forever removed. If you feel deserted, a solitary pilgrim on a lonely path, remember that His never-to-be-broken promise “I am with you alway” was meant especially for you. If it seems that you have suffered everything with which a heartless world can burden life; if you think that you have lost all that makes the battle worth the fighting; if you tell yourself that you have destroyed the last hope that can cheer your fear-gripped soul, then in the name of our God of love I plead with you on this Thanksgiving Day—and what a blessed day for a return to our heavenly Father!—Take Christ at His word! Make Him yours! Rise above darkness and disappointment, pain and penalty, sin and sorrow, wretchedness and wrong! Find at the cross “peace . . . which passeth all understanding,” joy for your aching heart, strength for your weary soul. Beholding that blessed Savior’s grace, even through eyes misty with tears, you, too, can give “thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” May this be the higher gratitude of your Thanksgiving Day, for that Savior’s sake! Amen!

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

Date: November 20, 1938

Entreaty for Christ’s Presence in the Home

O Christ, blessed Savior of our souls:

Come into our homes with Thy love, so that our earthly dwelling-places may be hallowed foregleams of our heavenly home. We need Thee in our family circles to forgive us our many sins, to help us advance toward unselfishness, to strengthen us for every sorrow that may come upon us and our loved ones. O Thou, who in the days of Thy flesh didst enter the homes of the high and of the humble, send Thy Spirit with these words that many parents and children throughout the land may now hear Thee say: “Behold, I stand at your door and knock,” and may be led to open their hearts to Thee with the warmth and welcome of sincere faith. Teach us to recognize that the glory of our homes consists not in their size, attractiveness, location, equipment, but in that intangible and immeasurable blessing which is ours when the high standards of Thy Word regulate our family relationships and the regenerating powers of Thy Gospel continually elevate our souls. We ask not for wealth, fame, or power, but we come before Thee, Thou who hast said: “Ask, and it shall be given you,” to plead for homes that through Thy presence may be havens of happiness in the midst of a strife-torn world. O Christ, our God and Savior, hear this invitation, come to us just as we are, abide with us and bless us, for Thy truth’s sake! Amen.

The Ark of God remained with the family of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that he had.1 Chronicles 13:14

AMERICAN homes should be the happiest in all history; yet in cold reality how much of our family life is blessed by the joy of peace and love? No government has ever spent the billions offered by our Federal administration for home-building, purchasing, and repairing; still we cannot buy family happiness, even with national subsidies. No people has ever had the help of as many far-reaching studies on domestic problems and the guidance of as numerous books on home decoration, family finances, child-study, parent-training; nevertheless, if the one Book is missing, the shelves of a large library cannot guarantee any household true contentment. No homes are guarded more carefully than ours, with policemen and firemen ready to protect our property by day and night; yet how often has not love turned to cold ashes and sin stolen all confidence in homes without the divine protection against cruelty and selfishness? No architects have ever built homes as attractive and commodious as ours; but how true has been the psalmist’s warning when applied to the maintenance of happiness in the family, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it”! Of what good are the finest furnishings if no love be left for Christ? Of what benefit are the comforts of air­conditioning if the atmosphere is charged with contention? What profit is there in modern lighting if the soul without Christ remains dark, suspicious, fearful?

We ought to come to this definite conclusion, self­evident to the Christian mind, yet somehow ignored by many domestic experts and social workers, that the one thing needful for a blessed home, the precious element which offers earth’s highest joy, even in poverty, sickness, sorrow, the one all-essential endowment without which even the multiplied advantages of an imposing mansion cannot bring full happiness, is faith in Christ Jesus. Let physicians insist on healthy homes; psychologists investigate the minds and habits of the family; psychoanalysts emphasize the intimate relations of marriage; bankers stress savings and investments, the fact remains, particularly in this age when we are gripped by tomorrow’s uncertainties, that first we need homes built on Christ, the solid Rock, and gladdened by His protection. In a day when Communism cries, “Away with the home!” “Down with the family!” we must reply, “God for our homes!” “Christ for our families!” When Fascism demands, “The children, the parents, the household, belong to the state and exist for the state,” we must insist, “They belong to Jesus Christ!” In a crisis when the domestic ideals of millions are being shaped by schools, books, magazines, motion-pictures, newspapers, radios, the cry of the hour must be: “Back to the code of family life established by God’s own Word!” For loyalty to God in the family offers us the guarantee of

CHRIST-BLESSED HOMES

enriched by His presence, sustained by His strengthening love.

To show you what faith in God can do for your family, let us go back to the days of early Israel and find the lesson of our text in I Chron. 13:14: “The Ark of God remained with the family of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed­edom and all that he had.”

I

THE SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS OF CHRIST’S MERCY

The preceding verses remind us that King David, having established Jerusalem as his capital, resolved to bring to Mount Zion the Ark of the Covenant that had led the children of Israel through most of the desert, the Ark that had brought victory to God’s people at Jericho, after it had helped part the waters of the Jordan. That sacred object in Israel’s worship was of oblong, chestlike construction, overlaid inside and out with pure gold. Covered by a lid, likewise of solid gold, on which rose the figures of two angels, this holy chest, containing the two tables of the Law, was regarded as the evident proof of God’s presence; for the golden cover and the space between the two angels was the mercy-seat, from which God gave direction to His people.

When David and the solemn caravan bearing the Ark set out for Jerusalem, an incident occurred which invoked the displeasure of the Lord, and one of the leaders died on the spot. Unwilling to risk incurring God’s wrath a second time, David stopped the procession and deposited the Ark in the house of Obed-edom. We know nothing of the man selected for this distinction. Perhaps he was not even a native Israelite, since the description of him as a “Gittite” may point to a Philistine origin. One truth is emphasized in our text, however, that from the day the Ark of the Lord came into that family circle, God richly “blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that he had.” By making his home a tabernacle, a church, of the Most High, he had shown honor to the Almighty, and now God honored him. Obedience to the first of the Ten Commandments within that mysterious Ark brought happiness to Obed-edom. The God of grace, who spoke pardon from that mercy-seat, bestowed divine peace upon all that was Obed-edom’s.

This is an Old Testament story, but it has a glorious New Testament counterpart. We have no Ark today, for we need none. In the “liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” all this Israelite cultic worship, with its emphasis on Sabbaths and festivals, approved food and drink, sacrifice and temple-worship, is passed forever. How much false teaching, how much suffering under the yoke of the Law, uncertainty in the souls of millions, could be removed if all who call themselves Christians would regard the ceremonies, sacrifices, holy days of the Old Testament as mere shadows and believe that with Christ as their High Priest, and Himself the one perfect Offering for all times, these ancient practices have been set aside forever by the new covenant of God’s grace in Jesus!

Though we need no Ark in our houses, we do need the presence of Christ; and it is the glorious fact of our faith that the blessed Savior, who even now knocks at the door of every dwelling-place into which the radio brings this message, will by His own pledge enter any home that welcomes Him. Have you ever taken time to picture the family circles into which Jesus entered during His earthly ministry? He whose throne was established forever in the holiness of heaven drew no social lines. He Himself was reared, not in a royal palace at Jerusalem, but in a laborer’s abode at derided Nazareth. As He had a heart for the problems of the poor and did not disdain to stay overnight in crowded Galilean quarters, so today, His mercy multiplied for all underprivileged, He seeks the warmth of welcome in homes facing a winter filled with financial misgivings. On the other hand, as He did not despise middle-class dwellings but found rest and retreat in Bethany with Lazarus and Mary and Martha; as on occasion He entered the upper-class residences and ate with the wealthy, what encouragement is this for all who hear His message in your own comfortable home, surrounded by all the appointments that money can buy,—so today the Savior also seeks His place among the financially secure. Since He came to save all men—and raised His voice in particular appeal to sinners; since He invited Himself into the home of a publican whom the self-respecting sharply avoided, none of you need fear the Holy God will shun you in your unholiness. The Savior who could rejoice in a peasant’s cottage at Cana of Galilee and miraculously supplied the wedding wine; the Christ who could weep in homes of sorrow before He brought His heavenly comfort; the compassionate Jesus who often, without a home of His own, slept beneath Palestinian skies,—that Savior has thoughts of sympathy and strength for every home in this radio congregation, and especially for all the homeless.

The presence of the Ark in the family of Obed-edom invoked divine benediction upon that household; and to an indescribably higher degree the presence of Jesus Christ will bring blessing into your home. You ask, “What blessings?” Some of you who think that home happiness must be written in terms of $30-a-week pensions and improved living conditions, increased incomes and decreased difficulties, will be disappointed. For Christ starts where every approach to happiness must begin, with the human soul and our sinful human nature. His foremost blessing is faith in that forgiveness of all sin which He Himself purchased with His blood on the cross of shame. Whether you realize it or not, this is an incontestable truth: lasting happiness is impossible with unforgiven sin. As long as you serve iniquity and the charges of transgression are heaped against you in the courts of eternal justice, you can never be truly happy in this world, and are doomed to misery in the next. Husbands, who boast that you are leading full, virile, red-blooded lives when you ruthlessly break every one of God’s marriage laws, remember you are not only blazing a swift trail to hell for yourselves, but each one of you causes untold agony to the woman you once promised to love, honor, and protect. Wives, with smug outward respectability and secret affairs, do not forget that, as long as sinful desires captivate your heart and leave no thought of a penitent return to God in Christ, you are juggling with your eternal soul, helping to throw your home and others into deep sorrow. Sons and daughters, who overconfidently boast of your affairs and brag of your conquests but forget the father and mother who, under God, gave you the opportunity of life, refuse to honor and support them with love and instead cause them tear-filled hours, sleepless nights, and years of suffering, keep this in mind, that the Word of God, at which you may smile but which shall remain unchanged when your scoffing turns into despair, threatens a terrifying penalty unless you come back to your Father’s house, as the prodigal once returned, and confess, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee.” I repeat, for this is a universal fact: Any home still ruled by sin, it may be a river-front hovel or the mansion of one of the sixty-one families that last year recorded an income of more than $1,000,000; it may be the quarters of an illiterate or of a university president,—any house where sin and selfishness direct the affairs of the family and deliberately exclude Christ from the hearts of parents and children, must forfeit all hope for inner peace. Investigate the cases where unfaithfulness has been punished by horrifying diseases, homes formally broken by divorce, disrupted families that have never appeared before a domestic-relations court, but in which all love and trust has been blasted away by cruelty, drunkenness, unspeakable vice,—and in an overwhelming number of instances you will find that these have been Christ­denying homes!

Look at the other side and consider the Christ-controlled families, where there is time and interest for Bible­reading and family prayers. I will not say that these homes are perfect, for, as long as we are in the flesh and are surrounded by a world that hates good and nurtures wickedness, our passions, not entirely subdued, will flare up and our all too human hearts will seek selfish expression. I do say, however, that homes with reverence for Jesus, as Obed-edom’s enshrined the Ark of the Covenant, will have unnumbered spiritual blessings. In Christian families no husband will think it smart to deceive his wife and live a perpetual lie; for he has seen Christ on the cross and learned to know the ransom paid for his sin in the agony that shook the earth and darkened the heavens. In Christ-dedicated homes no wife will be misled by the sensual appeal of best sellers and best-attended amusements; for she will have knelt at Calvary to understand that she has been “bought with a price” and that she must now “glorify God in” her “body.” Where faith actually reigns,—and I do not mean the thousands of fringe families that are sometimes seen in church but that have no heartfelt, triumphant faith in Jesus,—Christian young people will not be moved by the revival of pagan philosophies that disregard the requirements of chastity before marriage. Instead, as they hear the shriek of Jesus pierce the rumble of the crucifixion, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” they know how crushing the load of sin is, since it could be removed by nothing less than the death of God’s sin-bearing Son.

Can you not see therefore—and I mean particularly those who are saying to themselves, “Why does he always work up to the Cross of Christ?”—that, if there is no blessing for the family on earth or in heaven without Jesus, I must center my appeal on this Savior? I cannot avoid asking you, in the interest of your own salvation, to make this Christ yours if you have never acknowledged Him before; to begin anew in His name if you once confessed Him but later rejected Him; to serve Him with the fire of a holy zeal if you have been indifferent to His pleading love. Some of you are dissatisfied with life because your consciences are not at rest, suspicious of your fellow-men, or, worse, distrustful of your own family since your heart is not right with God. Others of you try to sidestep the responsibility of answering for your sins, drown the protest of your inner voice in alcohol and drunkenness, only to add misery to misery. To all of you, once the boastful transgressors of God’s holy law of purity, but now the disillusioned victims of your own vices, I appeal in the name of that Savior who refused to cast a stone on the disgraced adulteress and earnestly ask you not to look to yourselves for help nor trust in men and their character­building promises, but to come penitently, confidently, to Christ as the Savior, to enthrone Him as King in your heart, and from this day on to bring Jesus into your family life.

II

THE TEMPORAL BLESSINGS OF CHRIST’S POWER

With this inner blessing and the perfect peace that comes from the knowledge of forgiven sin and the assurance of Christ’s presence, you will have earthly blessings for your family life. I cannot promise you that, as soon as we are Christ’s, we can begin to write new pages of prosperity and financial gain for the home; but I do say that from the moment Christ is enthroned in your family life, His power and providence will grant everything you need in your home. If you can stand the test of money and use it properly, He may give you wealth; but if you need a much reduced income to help steel your faith and keep you from sin, God will withhold riches. If health will not make you proud and self-confident, He can preserve you sound in bodily strength; but if you require time for meditation on the mercies of God and must be halted in your overbusy rush and God-forgetfulness, He can bring sickness into your home. He can bless you either by prosperity or adversity; for here is His promise: “All things”—in our individual lives and in our Christian homes—“work together for good to them that love God.”

We do not know how God favored Obed-edom for his protection of the sacred Ark; but we do know what the earthly blessings are with which Jesus enriches homes that show faith in Him and reverence for His Gospel. When Christ rules the home, He ennobles the family, exalts the relations between husband and wife, promotes the regard of parenthood and childhood as nothing else can. Do you demand proof? Think of the glaring contrast revealed by history when, for example, we consider childhood without Christ and with Christ. In ancient Rome the Twelve Tables, the cold-blood legislation of those days, authorized fathers to abandon their children or even kill them if they preferred to avoid the responsibility of rearing their own flesh and blood. Glance through the long treatises of Roman philosophy and law, the many thousand lines of Latin poetry, and you will search in vain for verses that deal with the sacredness of childhood. In Greece, with all its shining temples and intellectual brilliance, we find that teachers like Aristotle and Plato, whose images are now carved into the entrance of New York’s most publicized church, openly approved the brutal exposure of newborn children. At Sparta, before the altar of Diana, boys and girls could be whipped by their own parents until the lifeblood ran down their backs. Into that world of horror, where children were often sold into slavery or prostitution, came the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Savior who lovingly embraced little ones, who, pointing to the boys and girls in the streets of Jerusalem, said, “Of such is the kingdom of God.” That Christ of all mercy who earnestly reminded His hearers: “Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me”; the truest Friend of childhood who ever trod the earth, whose own infancy at Bethlehem and whose exalted standards for their training have given every boy and girl in America, whether Christian or not, the greater part of their blessings,—that Savior brought a new day for all childhood and new responsibilities for parenthood. If you think that these conditions in Greece and Rome belong to ancient history and that the world, rising in the moral advance of which we hear much and see little, has shaken off these degrading practices, I ask you why it is that children still suffer indescribable handicaps in Hindu India, in black Africa, and in other vast areas where the Gospel of Christ has been rejected, for instance, in Russia, where, soon after the beginning of Communism, several millions of neglected and disowned children roved the country in bands, supporting themselves by begging, robbing, and atrocious crimes. To the boys and girls, whose interest and letters I deeply appreciate, let me say that you especially must be thankful to Jesus for the blessings of parents, homes, and schools that together with the Government are working to give you advantages that no children in the ancient world ever enjoyed. And to show your thanks to God, be sure, my young listeners, to pray in Jesus’ name, read your Bibles, attend Sunday-school, church services, and, if possible, also a church-school, so that Christ can help you the more deeply to love your parents, the more quickly to obey them, the happier to make your home.

In essentially the same way Christ raised the position of women, who in classical Greece were placed halfway between the slaves and the free men; who in far-off Babylonia could be divorced when the husband pronounced this simple sentence, “You are not my wife,” yet, if they said, “You are not my husband,” could be strangled to death; women in ancient Rome without legal rights; in paganism often valued less than a sacred cow; women whom Mohammedanism excludes from the paradise of the next world; whom Communism tries to make the common property of all men,—these mothers, wives, and sisters were raised to the highest pinnacle of all history when Jesus was born of a woman, when His Word proclaimed that in Christ there is neither male nor female, and when husbands are commanded: “Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it.” There should not be a woman in this audience who does not breathe a prayer of gratitude to God for the freedom and esteem in our present-day family life. Make no mistake about this—these blessings are not the product of human enlightenment; they have come from Christ.

Inviting Jesus into your home will also help bring harmony within the family, where, of all places on earth, we are entitled to expect peace. Analyze the difficulty in your own home, and below every word or deed that estranges a husband from his wife you will find some form of selfishness, some cutting disregard for others. The one cure for selfishness and therefore the effective antidote to family trouble is the cross of Jesus Christ. Modern social science has much to say about family location, plumbing, ancestors, income, and other externals. If you want to live in peace and joy, accept the Christ, who unselfishly went into death, whose example has become the power in the lives of those to whom He gave the new commandment “That ye love one another.” This is not theory but actual fact. For a long time a family in Chicago was kept unhappy by the attitude of the husband, an open scoffer, who vehemently refused to attend church. He had a Christian wife, however, who believed in prayer, and nothing that I can ever say will do full justice to you Christian wives and mothers whose pleas are continually before the throne of blessing in behalf of an unbelieving husband or an ungrateful son or daughter. One day, when alone, this self-satisfied husband tuned in our program. As he listened, the power of God gripped his black heart. He fell down before his radio in tears, and when his wife returned, she had to summon her pastor at once so that her husband could make his peace with God. From that day on their life was altogether different; and if you who are missing the greatest earthly joy that God can give you, the happiness of a peaceful, loving family circle, will write us, we shall be happy to send you—no questionnaire—but the divine direction of God Himself for happiness in your home.

With Christ you will have the comfort of His strength, even though the blessings of money be limited. Perhaps no home ever was happier than that established by Martin Luther, when by his example he restored the Christian family to its rightful place. Do you know that a careful historian has placed the total value of all household property which Luther and his wife had at their marriage at only twenty gulden, about ten dollars in our own money? Yet God provided for him, and with Christ you can be sure that the Father who “spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all” will “freely give us all things” we need.

The presence of Christ blesses our homes also in sickness. If you who are inclined to raise skeptical eyebrows at these promises could read the letters that constantly flow to my desk from sufferers in Christ who have been invalids for more years than many of you have lived, you would realize that I am not speaking in hazy generalities but definite truth. Think of Charles Lamb, the English essayist, who showed his reverence for our Lord by saying that, if Shakespeare entered the room, we would rise in recognition, but that, if Jesus Christ were to come, we would fall upon our knees and worship Him. His home-life was overshadowed by a dread terror which, I feel sure, has few parallels in this audience. His sister, in a fit of insanity, stabbed her own mother to death; and rather than have her committed to one of the ugly, vice-breeding insane asylums of his day, Charles Lamb himself promised the courts that he would be responsible for her. For many long years, during which her diseased mind went its erratic way, he found courage in the presence of Christ. As I remind you of the fact that with morning and evening prayers in the family, you can commit your whole household to the protecting Christ at a time when accidents and sudden death have assumed startling proportions, let me also assure you that, if for your best God sends you illness, in Christ, who “bare our sicknesses” and “carried our sorrows,” you will find love, sympathy, healing, if healing be the will of God, and—above all this—everlasting blessedness if that sickness be unto death.

What radiant promise for the questions of tomorrow is pledged by the Christ who abides with us! Nothing can give our sons and daughters more spiritual and moral strength than the faith in Jesus which they acquire from God, through their own fathers and mothers and see exemplified in their own parents’ lives. One of the most famous commentaries on the Bible is Matthew Henry’s. Do you know how it was written? Philip Henry, the father, kept the inviolable custom of assembling his family, the guests, and the servants to expound to them chapter after chapter of the Scriptures. Painstakingly did his son Matthew or others in that circle record his interpretations, and these notes became the basis of that commentary which, I believe, has been more widely distributed than any other exposition of the Bible. May this example be followed by many American fathers who cannot speak an appropriate prayer with their children and by the thousands of young mothers who are more concerned about making juvenile stars of their daughters than bringing them to Christ! Missionaries returning from foreign fields have reported that family prayers are regularly spoken in the homes of converted cannibals. Here in America we are often too busy, too preoccupied, too unconcerned, to take ten minutes a day for the Christ who gave His lifetime for us!

Home religion can mightily contribute to the work of the Church, and the time has come when our churches should pay double attention to family life and spend much time, thought, and money in offering young people systematic training in the Scriptural teachings concerning domestic questions and home worship. Build the family altar, and you build the Church. Two hundred years ago in Scotland, Thomas Boston, a powerful preacher of his day, spent his early ministry in the slums of a Scottish city. His church was empty and seemed to exercise no influence. In the depths of his discouragement he resolved to bring Christ into the home, for he felt that then he could bring the home to the Savior. With tireless efforts he went into the family circles of these poor, neglected people. He taught them how to pray, how to read in the Scriptures, and for three years, night after night, he helped to establish family altars in these crowded tenements. And the result? His church began to revive and flourish as it had never grown before. I pray to God that our American churches, instead of squandering their time, as some do, on trivialities, sometimes even on certain stage performances and entertainments and raffles that can never be God­pleasing, will go to the homes of the American people and with the help of God spread the spirit of Obed-edom after these thirty centuries.

The family altar is one of the nation’s greatest safeguards against upheaval and moral decadence. The United States was the strongest when family prayers were most frequent, when children were trained in the Christian religion, and parents showed concern over the spiritual life of their sons and daughters. Can you not picture with me the lavish flow of blessings upon this land if prayer to God and the love for His Word were guarded in every home as zealously as Obed-edom protected the Ark? May the Lord in this day of unrest, spiritual tyranny, and cruel persecution give us a God-fearing government, adequate defense of our shores and homes but especially this support,—far stronger than any fleet of super-dreadnaughts, any army of mobilized millions, any armada of the air,—homes and hearts that have Jesus.

Will your family display this interest in the presence of the living Savior which Obed-edom, an otherwise unknown and unmentioned figure of the Old Testament, showed to the Ark? Dozens of pleas direct themselves to you in our agitated day, but this appeal comes from God. It is my prayer that our heavenly Father, speaking to your souls through Christ, will strengthen you for Joshua’s resolution: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Amen.

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

Date: November 13, 1938

Praise for the Preservation of the Bible

God, our Father:

Accept this thank-offering of our souls as we come before Thee to praise Thee for the protection by which through the centuries our Holy Bible has been preserved to us. For all who have studied, toiled, faced persecution and martyrdom, as they translated, published, and distributed Thy two Testaments, we thank Thy mercy. Send us, we beseech Thee, Thy Spirit, so that we may love Thy Word and daily find on its pages the glorious message of mercy in Jesus Christ, who on the cross gave Himself as Heaven’s ransom for human vileness. Put this devotion to Thy sacred Scriptures deep into our hearts, securely into our homes, victoriously into our churches! By Thine almighty power frustrate the plans and change the hearts of those who today would oppose Thy Word and destroy Thy Church. These enemies of Thy mercy are many and powerful; they labor with the avowed attempt to wipe the Bible off the face of the earth. Rise up with Thy bared arm, O Lord of hosts. Put them to shame by Thy divine strength, so that the Word which we have received from our forefathers in the past may be transmitted to our children for their future. Without Thee we can do nothing, but with faith in Thine atoning Son we are more than conquerors and have the promise of the victory which overcometh the world. O Thou Triune God, who hearest prayer, hear us now as we plead for Thy Word, our most precious heritage. We ask it in Jesus’ name! Amen.

Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.Luke 11:28

FOUR hundred years ago a royal decree was enacted that has gained inestimable importance for the hundreds of millions in the English-speaking world. In 1538, only two years after William Tyndale was strangled to death and then burned at the stake because he dared to translate the Bible into the English language, King Henry VIII, in one of the most startling reverses of history, ordered the publication of the very translation that had sentenced Tyndale to death. Before he breathed his last, this martyred scholar gasped: “O Lord, open Thou the King of England’s eyes!” and with the same speed and power by which the Almighty can answer your prayers, the eyes of England’s sovereign were opened. An age of Bible publication and distribution began which, please God, will never stop!

These first English Bibles were so large and costly that copies were limited to churches, where, in convenient places, they were chained to reading-desks. A new interest in the Word of God was created by the open, translated Bible—a zeal so startling that sometimes the discussion around these chained Bibles was so animated that the preacher in the pulpit could make himself heard only with great difficulty. After four hundred years we realize that it is not the eager debate on Biblical questions that disturbs the modern church but the complete supplanting of God’s Word by man’s.

As evidence of the deep-rooted hatred directed against the Scriptures by the churches themselves and, almost as though it were planned, as a counter-attack to this anniversary celebration a leading Modernist writes a large volume that masquerades as a guide to the Scriptures. Think of this unbelievably appalling contradiction! The author, regarded as the spokesman for Protestantism, first of all brazenly admits in the preface that to him the Bible is neither the inspired Word of God nor the infallible truth; then he proceeds to claim that within the covers of our Scripture we have mythology, folklore, legends, mistakes, misrepresentations, and contradictions,—a volume with elements of savage immorality and indecent ethics.

Here is a preacher hailed and quoted in hundreds of radical pulpits, mimicked and imitated by an irresponsible fringe of the clergy that is unwilling or unable to think or act for itself, a minister who is supported by America’s leading plutocrat; and in a book advertised as an aid to deeper spirituality he deliberately denies that the Bible is the errorless Word, that Christ is the Son of God, that His blood offers full and free atonement for all sins through faith, and faith alone; denies a dozen other heart­teachings of the Scriptures. That man, who broadcasts this unbelief over an entire network, and broadcasts free of all charge, has made the Book of Life a book of death. In the face of this vaunting unbelief even within many churches, but with the joy of gratitude for four hundred years of the sacred Scriptures officially published in English, let me show you the Bible as

THE BOOK THAT BLESSES

I take for my authority Jesus Christ Himself, who speaks the words of our text (Luke 11:28): “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.”

I

IT BLESSES WITH DIVINE TRUTH

A remarkable occasion called forth these words. The Savior, who, as frequently, had busied Himself with healing the sick, was speaking on the power of wickedness, when a certain woman in the crowd before Him, carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment, raised her voice to exclaim how blessed the mother of Jesus must be with such an illustrious Son. Jesus hears her first without any comment, for indeed His mother was “blessed . . . among women”; but when she finishes, the Savior turns to her with a mild correction. “Yea, rather,” He says, “blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” Forcefully does He teach that there is a blessing more exalted even than this unparalleled glory of being the mother of Christ—the benediction of trusting faith in the eternal Word. Greater, Jesus says, than all the lavish gifts of money, the endowment of the brain, the prominence of power; higher than all the recognition that we may deserve; more glorious in the sight of God even than being the mother of the Messiah, that preeminence earnestly desired by many a Jewish maiden, is the blessing which flows from the reverent study of God’s Word.

For us the “Word of God” spoken by Moses and the prophets, revealed especially by Jesus and His New Testament writers, is found in our Bible; and because that Bible is not the word of man; not just a book but the Book; not a volume that contains the truth but a volume that is the truth; not pages of noble and exalted opinions but pages with divine and heavenly revelation; because the Bible does what no other book can do when it brings us the truth of the living God, it is the source of benefits too glorious to be measured.

The entire Christian faith, the work of the whole Church of Christ, the eternal hope of millions for their salvation, stands or falls with the claim that the Bible is the errorless, divinely inspired “Word of God.” Attack this basic truth, and you are undermining the foundation upon which all Christianity rests; put a question-mark behind the words of Christ in our text, and you make every promise of the Bible doubtful; alter the assertion of Jesus “Thy Word is truth” so that it reads: “Thy Word is half truth and half error”; change the promise “If ye continue in My Word, . . . ye shall know the truth,” and make it read, “If ye continue in My Word, ye shall know something of the truth,—perhaps,”—and you will lead millions from the rock of their assurance to the swamps of uncertainty.

It is tragic enough if churches differ in some of the less vital portions of the Christian faith; but who can describe the fatal results of the growing rejection of the Bible that has become the curse of our day? Bible-questioning churches, Bible-ridiculing divinity schools, Bible-blaspheming Communism, and Bible-neglecting homes threaten to overwhelm our age. If ever in the history of our country the alarm had to be sounded to rally men for the defense of the Bible, that day has dawned on us, as we confess to the shame of American Christianity that there are only a few of the large church-bodies that are not infected with the denial of the Bible. Many of you Christians in the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches, even some of you in certain branches of the Lutheran Church, and vast numbers in smaller groups are supporting preachers and teachers for whom the Bible is just another book. If you want to see your churches even less effective than they now are, keep on permitting your pulpits to feature moral pep talks, drippy, sugary, all’s-well-with-the-world essays, amateurish appraisals of political movements in Europe or America! Maintain your silence! Continue paying fat salaries to proud-minded enemies of God’s Word!—If, however, you want blessing for yourself and for your children, then with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might testify to the truth of the Scriptures, demand loyalty to God’s Word!

When Christ today pointedly upholds our Bible as the source of richest blessings because it is the Word that comes errorless, without contradiction or mistake, from the perfect holiness of our God, His verdict eliminates all debate and argument. For those reborn by the Spirit of Christ the most convincing testimony to the heavenly origin of the Bible is the claim of Christ Himself. For those not yet convinced of the absolute truth of everything that Christ says let me emphasize that the Old and New Testaments themselves contain the unimpeachable evidence of their own veracity. Where is there a single passage in the more than 31,000 verses of Scripture which can be proved false or misleading? Every year I utter a public challenge to the radio audience, with all the skeptics, the churchless, the scoffers, the atheists who listen, as their own letters reveal—I ask them to produce any statement of the Bible that can be advanced as falsehood. In more than five years of national broadcasting the only answers I have received are the overworked claims that unbelief has raised through the centuries, though they have been answered scores of times. The more sober-minded among the critics of the Bible are cautious in crying, “Error!” They know the dozens of passages which a hundred years ago were branded as erroneous and have been proved accurate by archeological discoveries in Bible lands. In the most recent book on this subject Sir Charles Marston, who devotes page after page to show how the results of the latest excavations support the Scriptures, calls Biblical science true science and affirms: “Those who have shaken popular faith in the Bible and have undermined its authority are in turn undermined themselves by the evidence that has been brought to light.”

We have, in addition, one proof for the truth of the Scriptures that ought to convince the most skeptical minds. To know beyond all doubt that the Bible is divine, that it can do what no other book has ever done, you need no laboratory tests, no penetrating scientific investigation; you need look only into the Old Testament with its prophecy and into the New Testament and later records of human history with their fulfilment. In numerous passages the doom of godless cities and empires is precisely foretold; and, impressed on the subsequent pages of human affairs, is the stamp of history’s endorsement. It is said that the Old Testament in 333 prophecies predicts the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. According to the law of compound probability the mathematical possibility that these 333 prophecies could be fulfilled in one person is only one out of eighty-four, followed by ninety-seven ciphers, a number so inconceivable that mathematicians know no specific name for it. Can any one believe, in the face of this overwhelming ratio, that only by accident the life of Jesus agrees with these Old Testament statements? And if it is not by chance; if the pages of prophecy clearly foretold the deity, the virgin birth, the vicarious death, the victorious resurrection, of Christ and predicted dozens of details in His life of love, must we not bow before that Word as the truth of God?

We can find further unmistakable testimony to the power of God’s Word in its influence throughout the centuries. What was it that “turned the world upside down” in the days of the apostles and since then has prompted the highest human progress? What power raised men from the degeneracy into which they had sunk during the first centuries of the Christian era? What elevating influence promoted the love of men toward their fellow-men, ennobled womanhood, exalted childhood, crushed slavery, dignified labor, built hospitals, asylums, and institutions of mercy, checked the ravages of hatred, thwarted many plans for war? What benign power promoted popular education, fought superstition, challenged bigotry? The answer is not to be discovered in the delusion that man is rising from the monkey to majesty, nor only in the wise leadership of great men. The best in life today comes from souls enlightened by the Bible, hearts cleansed by its purity, lives reborn in its Christ. Record this as an outstanding fact of history: The Bible that Jesus calls the truth, and the Spirit of God proves the truth, the Book that no one has ever successfully convicted of error,—that sacred, divinely inspired, divinely preserved volume, which today has been issued in 1,008 languages and dialects, despite attacks by atheists, heathen emperors, misguided churchmen,—that book is the blessed truth for you.

And still churches and church-leaders turn their backs to the Scriptures! We must learn the power of protest, remembering the duty finally to come out and be separated from those who place the Bible beside the Koran and the other sacred books of the East. You pastors who write me that your conscience is burdened because you belong to church-bodies that reward unbelief with high positions, begin to ask yourselves now whether the cause of Jesus Christ would not best be served by complete loyalty to every statement of the Scriptures, so that eventually we shall have only two major groups in the Protestant churches of America: one that has set the Bible aside; and the other group, it may be numerically smaller, less wealthy, publicized, and important in the eyes of men, but nevertheless the only Church in the eyes of God, because it accepts every command of the Scriptures as His will, every promise as His pledge, every teaching as His inviolable doctrine.

Do not be disturbed if, in an increasing degree, from the unreliable sectors of the so-called cultured circles, voices are raised to ridicule the Scriptures, as though modern research and the oracles of God were hopelessly out of harmony. You can find courage in knowing that the profoundest teachers have often been the most reverent in their appraisal of the Bible. Go down to the unseen floor of the ocean and the marvels of the submarine world, as the currents of the seas glide along their mysterious paths. Ask the great scientists in this domain whether the Bible is true, and in answer I direct you to Lieutenant John Maury, one of the world’s leading oceanographers and one of the few Americans whom Cambridge University honored with a doctor’s degree, a scientist whose marine investigations have been recognized and applied in all parts of the civilized world. He wrote: “I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes and is therefore of no authority. I beg pardon; the Bible is authority for everything it touches. When I, a pioneer in one department of this beautiful science, describe the truths of revelation and the truths of science, reflecting light, one upon the other, each sustaining the other, how can I, as a truth­loving, knowledge-seeking man, fail to . . . rejoice in this discovery? And were I to suppress the emotions with which such discoveries ought to stir the soul, the waves of the sea should lift up their voices and the very stones cry out against me.” Look from these lowest, hidden depths to the unmeasured heights in the heavens above, the overwhelming reaches with their stupendous stars and planets that make this earth seem minute and each man on it only an infinitesimally small grain of human dust. Ask whether famous astronomers have accepted the Bible or whether their researches have revealed the Scriptures as faulty. Sir John Herschel, prince of astronomers, exults: “All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truths contained in the Scriptures.” Between these heights and depths many scientists—and I mean not the beginners, but the experts—have placed one hand on the book of nature and the other on the Bible, and though they could not always understand their discoveries nor interpret the mysteries of creation and revelation, they have found a glorious harmony that always redounded to the praise of God’s Word. Michael Faraday, eminent in electrical research, pointed to his Bible and asked: “Why will people go astray when they have this blessed Book to guide them?” John Locke, noted English philosopher, spent most of his last fourteen years studying God’s Word and confessed: “The Scriptures have God for their Author, strength for their object, and truth without any mixture of error (in doctrine and in fact) for their subject-matter.” Sir Isaac Newton, whom many consider the greatest of all scientists, calmly asserted: “I account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy.” These and a mighty army of other brilliant intellects have found in the Bible the whole truth of God.

II

IT BLESSES WITH DIVINE GRACE AND STRENGTH

My chief concern, however, is not that I show you how and why others have bowed reverently before the Bible. Instead I ask you individually to cling to the Scriptures, defend them, build your faith and life upon them, so that you may enjoy the radiant fulfilment of Christ’s promise “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” When a profit-seeking world asks: “Well, what do you get out of your Bible anyway?” “What profit is there in its creed when that Book puts a curb on your desires, says no when your heart wants to say yes, insists that you travel along the straight and narrow path, deny yourself and take up your cross?” “How can any one be blessed by that Book?” We have only one answer: Our Bible, with a glory that makes the angels sing exultantly in their holy heavens, gives us first and last the blessing of Jesus Christ, our Savior. To show you how overabundant His promises are, I restrict myself to a single chapter, the second in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Those eighteen verses present Jesus Christ to us as the great God, “by whom are all things and for whom are all things.” They tell us that He whose realm was the glory of heaven came down to the misery of this earth, partook of our flesh and blood, became man even as one of us; that, though tested and tried in all points as we are tempted, nevertheless He, the virgin­born Son of Man, was perfect and knew no sin. In this second chapter of Hebrews, as we penetrate more deeply into its sacred truth, we learn that He lived and died on this earth not to save men by His character or ours, not by His commands and our obedience nor by any moral gospel, social gospel, philosophical gospel; but that He died His lonely death of anguish that by the grace of God “He should taste death for every man” and become “the Captain,” the Author, the Leader, “of their salvation.” He was resurrected, this chapter continues, and He was crowned,—no longer with cutting thorns but with divine “glory and honor.” He became our eternal High Priest, mercifully making “reconciliation for the sins of the people,” so that—all praise to His name!—He brings many to eternal glory. All this—and much more—is found in only one of the short chapters. What a wealth of lasting comfort the almost twelve hundred chapters contain! If men have devoted intense study to discover one sentence that could positively be said to have been written by Shakespeare, how much more should not you and I devote our thoughts and our energies to “hear . . . and keep” the Word of God Himself!

Believe this Book, when in scores of passages it convicts you of sin and sentences the unforgiven sinner to eternal death; but believe it with redoubled trust, when it tells you that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Believe it without fear or question when page after page underscores the love of God, the all-merciful suffering, the all-atoning death, the all-renewing resurrection of Christ! Put your unwavering confidence in every one of these promises, purer than silver, more radiant than polished gold, which offer Christ’s redemption, not in exchange, payment, or reward, for anything this world of two billion human beings could earn or achieve, but that grant all this by the pure, unmixed mercy of Jesus through trusting faith in the power of His blood to save to the uttermost.

So “hear the Word of God and keep it.” Read it to yourself, not skeptically but as the truth of God! Read it in your home circle with fervor, with reverence for its holy origin! Read and hear it in a true church of God, not simply by force of habit or to please your wife and give a good example to your children, but because you know that without this Bread of Life and this Living Water your soul, parched and starved, will die! Study and meditate on this Wisdom day and night, so that the Holy Spirit of God, working in your heart through the Scriptures, may use this divine Word to create within your souls repentance for all your sins and the assurance of their removal through Christ.

I like the answer given by Schmidt, one of the bravest generals of Frederick the Great, when that skeptical, worldly king asked him: “Why do you believe the Bible?” Slowly and reverently that military strategist replied: “Because the Bible reveals to me a Father who numbers the very hairs of my head; because the Bible reveals to me a Savior who expiated every one of my sins; because the Bible reveals to me a heaven where I am to spend an everlasting and blessed existence.” This thought of heaven has made men in their last hour turn from every other volume and ask for the Bible. Sir Walter Scott on his deathbed requested not his Lady of the Lake or one of his own novels, but the one Book. Sir Isaac Newton, dying, laid his hand not on his Principia but on his Bible. The only promises that have brought light for the darkness and joy in death’s sorrow have been passages of Christ’s comfort taken from this blessed Volume.

Yet the Bible is the truth for every trial of this life. As multiplied millions in this country have seen their hopes shattered, they think dark thoughts, they charge Heaven with unfairness, they even question the existence of God. They should follow the example of General Robert E. Lee! When the cause of the Confederacy collapsed and he returned with his troops to the devastated farms of the Southland; when it seemed that all was lost, he found confidence in his Bible and stated: “The Bible is a Book in comparison with which all others . . . are of minor importance and which in my perplexities and tresses has never failed to give me light and strength.”

Many minds are disturbed by deep-rooted fears concerning things that are to come, and desperately they grasp for manmade assurances for light in the darkened future. They can learn a powerful lesson from history. In 1804 England faced disaster. Business was disappointing, commerce restricted, manufacturing paralyzed, the masses unemployed, hunger spread wide,—all because across the Channel in France, only twenty miles away, Napoleon had mustered his conquering regiments to invade England. In that crisis a group of far-sighted men turned to the Bible, resolving to spread the Holy Scriptures, not only in England, but to help circulate it throughout the world. Laying the foundation for the British and Foreign Bible Society in those dark days, their interest in the Word of Truth helped to cast the beams of divine light on their disquieted country. Many are praying that these doubtful years may bring a mighty movement to put the Bible into every American home and heart! What a tremendous check that love for the Bible would be to dishonesty, impurity, the murderous rising of man against his fellow­men, the blaspheming of God, and all the other sins that have brought reproach to our country!

Thoughtful minds are disturbed by the spiritual bankruptcy that marks the work of many churches and their failure to influence the masses of our country. If the churches are to experience new blessing, they must constantly follow the program maintained by the only power that reformed the Church, when four hundred years ago the Bible, translated into the language of the common people, restored New Testament Christianity. Put that same Bible into the churches of this land, remove from Christian pulpits all antichristian teachers, and this age will experience a religious uplift and a conquest for Christian faith far beyond what we have ever seen.

Our heavenly Father alone knows how many of you are troubled with unhappiness in your home, which above all other places should be a haven of peace, locking out all the noise and the hatred of the world. What blessing if in these homes where husband and wife live and work at cross purposes, where children are ungrateful and disobedient, the Word of God could be heard and heeded! This year we celebrate the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, which is distinguished by the fact that only the Bible has been translated into more languages. He tells us that, when he married, he was destitute; to quote his own words, he and his wife had “not . . . so much household stuff as a dish or a spoon betwixt us both.” Yet his wife was a deeply Christian woman, and as her dowry she brought two books explaining the Christian faith in the light of Biblical truth. With this help theirs was a happy marriage, even in poverty and imprisonment. When those who live in homes of misery instead of happiness or who are surrounded by jealousy instead of joy acquire this trust in God’s Word, they have comfort and peace, even in sin-marked homes and hate-filled families!

Truly, blessed are they that “hear the Word of God and keep it,” blessed in their sickness, as the German philosopher Hegel was, who on his bed of illness would have no other book read to him than the Bible; blessed in the midst of opposition and calamity, as Abraham Lincoln, who, stooped and furrowed by the superhuman responsibilities of the Civil War, wrote to a friend: “I am profitably engaged in the reading of the Bible. Take all of this book upon reason that you can and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a better man”; blessed in weakness and fear, as Luther, who, placing all his trust in the Bible, successfully challenged the world in arms against him.

May we all, standing on what Gladstone called “the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture,” knowing that there is scarcely a passage, from the description of the earthly Paradise to the picture of the heavenly, that has not given comfort and courage to some one, resolve not to doubt the Word, contradict, ignore, or neglect it; but with God’s help to cherish it, to study it, to defend it, to spread it as the only hope for our souls, our world, and our age. Turn to the Crucified and repeat this dedication of yourself to His grace: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God!” Amen.

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

Date: November 6, 1938

Prayer for Peace

O Christ, Thou Prince of Perfect Peace:

Look down upon this hate-filled, sin-choked world, we beseech Thee, to rebuke all the unholy forces that promote international hatred and would hurl this generation into bloody strife. Especially do we entreat Thee, forgive us our many and repeated sins! Have mercy upon us in our weakness and selfishness and by Thy Spirit create within us a new, God-pleasing heart! In this way bless us with heavenly peace, happiness on earth, and, above all, with the assurance of our blood-bought salvation through faith in Thine atonement. Bring many to believe in Thee as our true God and only Savior, so that they, too, may receive the inheritance of Thy peace and in Thy love find comfort for sorrow, strength for life’s weak moments, light for darkness, spiritual health in bodily sickness, consolation in bereavement, life in death itself. Thou knowest how much discord and strife has marred our homes, industries, racial relationships, and our entire self-enlightened age; and Thou dost understand how easily our hearts, when not guided by Thee may be incited by envious passions. Teach us that new commandment, then, which Thou, O Christ, didst exemplify in Thy holy life, so that with Thy help we may learn to serve our fellow-men through loving Thee, who first didst love us. Grant us this prayer and bless throughout the land this invitation asking all who labor and are heavy laden to come unto Thee for grace, peace, the promise of heavenly rest, and glory. Hear us for Thy truth’s sake! Amen.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.Isaiah 26:3

ONE of the scars on our age is the continued failure to find peace. To our utter dismay we must realize that this generation, which has agitated most for peace, has produced the most wars. The movements for international understanding have been many and far-reaching but their failures often colossal. At the beginning of 1914 no fewer than 160 major peace movements were in active operation throughout the world; yet even that number was not large enough to prevent history’s deadliest war. Today a single fund for the endowment of peace has established 800 organizations,—still not enough to insure tranquility.

So when a national committee representing 6,000,000 American women officially announces that the end of all war is not only possible but certain, we shake our heads and recall many other futile promises of a peace-crowned world. In 1909, only five years before the outbreak of the World War, the editor of Shield’s Magazine pointedly declared: “There is no further doubt of it; . . . war is a thing of the past.” In 1911, only three years before the bloodiest of all slaughters, a contributor to the Sunday-School Times optimistically prophesied: “International peace . . . is coming . . . because the world is becoming civilized.” In 1913 the president of Leland Stanford University calmly maintained that no great conflict would ever be fought, since the cost of large-scale hostilities would be prohibitive. Early in 1914 the secretary of the National Peace Council confidently asserted: “War, the product of anarchy and fear, is passing away.” What happened? Within a few months civilization was hurled into four years of cruel and costly bloodshed. Even then these rosy pictures of a warless world did not end. A President of the United States promised the nation that out of the agonies, the blood, the crippled bodies, the sunken morals, the staggering billions lost during that international struggle, glorious blessings would evolve. The blood-drenched battlefields of Europe, he declared, were a part of a war that would end all war. That was in 1918. What happened? Today we pass in disheartening review over a long list of hostilities, one for each of the twenty years that have elapsed since the signing of the armistice.

Similarly disappointing has been the search for peace in other fields, for example, in labor relations. We have more labor unions, committees on industrial organization, employers’ councils, labor legislation, and labor boards than ever before but at the same time more strikes and industrial warfare, more unemployment and destitution. We find the same absence of peace in class hatred and racial conflict, with its emphasis on Jews and Gentiles, whites and blacks, Nordics and Semites, capitalists and the proletariat—all this despite the multiplied efforts to establish a brotherhood among men. Even in the more intimate circles, in our American family life, we see many homes broken by dissension, although our age has featured an unparalleled study of the family and provided as never before a corps of experts to solve domestic problems.

In the face of this evidence we must conclude that, if with all their brains and culture men cannot stop regiments from killing each other on battlefields, keep State troopers from shooting strikers and strikers from attacking other workers, they assuredly cannot help groping minds discover that inner peace of mind and joy of the spirit without which there can be no lasting happiness and permanent blessing. If modern science cannot establish external peace in industry, in our homes, in our nation, when it deals with commodities that one can see and touch and feel, how can the most advanced scientific thought create inner peace for the soul that no man has ever seen, that no instrument can measure or describe?

Only God can grant this peace; and in our text, a word of God written in disturbed days, the prophet Isaiah (chapter twenty-six, verse three) promises

PERFECT PEACE

and with it strength, comfort, light, and guidance to every one of us. Here is a divine pledge, an unchangeable truth. Accept it, trust it, as the prophet, addressing God, promises: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

I

CHRIST GRANTS THIS PEACE

There can be no peace within a single soul or among nations until the cause of strife has been removed and human nature is completely changed. Say what you will about the nobility of the race; advance all the theories that modern unbelief parades in its attempts to show that we are constantly climbing the ladder of culture, rung by rung, upward to the higher and better things of life; draw all the pictures you wish about the beauty of mankind, the stubborn fact remains that you are dealing with a black delusion. Look at humanity in the raw; examine the human heart under a spiritual microscope of penetrating power; classify the lusts and the cravings of men’s souls, and you can understand why Isaiah, the master prophet of the Old Testament, in the opening of his mighty oracle asserts that man can sink even below the level of a beast. Selfishness instead of self-denial; greed rather than helpfulness; cruelty for mercy; falsehood displacing truth; hatred above love; pride crushing humility; a sneering at God and ridiculing of His holy name,—these are the dark, destructive passions within every man’s heart which, unless restrained, will choke off all possibility of peace.

We like to think that the days are gone forever when Nero destroyed the followers of Jesus Christ by infernal torture; but did the antichrists of Moscow and Leningrad not kill more witnesses to the Savior within the last twenty years than any degenerate, demented Roman emperor during his entire reign? We like to pat ourselves on the shoulders and say that the Dark Ages are over when Genghis Khan cut a bleeding swath of agony through the heart of a continent and massacred 1,600,000 in a single city; but what are they doing in China and Spain in this very year of our Lord?

No human agency, system, or program can bring peace by checking human sin and remodeling human nature. Of course, fear can restrict the fires of human passion. A man can stop his hand as it stretches out for his neighbor’s property or avert his eyes as they linger on his neighbor’s wife,—simply because he fears the consequence, the exposure, the shame, the disease, the punishment, that may follow; but remove that restraint, and every repression will be cast to the heedless winds. We build penitentiaries to curb crime; but though we have erected larger, more formidable, more numerous prisons, have they effectually checked sin and promoted a better understanding among men? Examine the long list of second offenders! We enlarge our colleges, with the high ambition of making culture the antidote to sin and a developed mind the foundation of a peaceful life; yet has it not been our disheartening experience that particularly since the beginning of this century a dangerous sector of our public education has worked hand in hand with demoralizing influences, so that our college graduates have sometimes been more clever than honest, more suave than sincere, more head-trained than heart-trained? And now many are seeking peace in a new social order as voices that ten or twenty years ago spoke only in subdued whispers today scream in loud chorus to tell the discontented, unemployed, ill-paid, underprivileged masses of this country that they must find peace away from God and close to Communism. Let us not indulge in the superfolly of laughing off the inroads that this unholy ruin has already made into the ranks of American youth, American education, American labor, American officialdom, and—may God be particularly merciful to us!—into American churches! It is much more than a political issue, this question of atheistic Communism. It clutches rather at the vitals of religion, at the foundation of our faith, the promise of peace within our hearts; and before it is too late and this satanic assault on everything Christian and American rises in mastery, let me plead with you to withstand this terror in all its uncurbed bestiality,—the scourge of hell itself, that will blow up our churches, kill our clergy, destroy our homes, make our wives common property, our children wards of the State, spread misery and suffering wherever its venom is spewed.

Thank God, however, that where men have failed God has prevailed! Searching for true peace, we must stand with Isaiah in our text before God, high above the wrecks of man’s hope for peace, and say, “Thou, God, canst give us peace.” We must approach the crucified Savior and believe with all our soul that “He is our peace,” that by bearing our sins and carrying our iniquities He destroyed forever the hostility separating the sinless Father from His sin-weighted children.

There have been outstanding leaders in the search for peace; but can the most distinguished be mentioned in the same breath with the divine Prince of Peace, who established harmony, not temporarily between nation and nation, but eternally between heaven and earth? History knows many peace treaties, 8,000 someone has said, within the last thirty-five centuries; but put them all together, and they are as pebbles beside Mount Everest when compared with that one peace treaty for all ages concluded at Calvary and sealed by the suffering and bleeding Christ. We recall the notable peace pleas of the centuries, Edmund Burke, for example, begging Parliament for the reconciliation of Great Britain with the American Colonies and other voices raised against unnecessary war; but they are hushed into whispers when we hear the dying Savior raise His voice earnestly to plead: “Father, forgive them.” World War veterans in this audience will recall the armistice message that twenty years ago, at eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, flashed through the trenches; but how inestimably more important is the message that rings through the ages and to the ends of the world: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid!” Uncounted peace monuments dot the world; but in their totality they will be dwarfed by the cross of Christ, that imperishable memorial of eternal tranquility which God through His Holy Spirit offers each age. Magnificent, too, have been the blessings of earthly peace, our liberty and progress after the War of Independence, a race emerging from slavery after the Civil War; but greater beyond all measure is the benediction of freedom from sin, from hell, from eternal death, which Christ secured for the world when on the cross in His own holy body He suffered the pain of all sin, the punishment of all sin, the curse of all sin, so that we might have peace with God, peace with our conscience, and peace with our fellow-men.

It is no exaggeration when our text speaks of “perfect peace”; for though the best international agreements may become scraps of paper, the peace that comes with Christ will never change. In deathless truth His Word assures us: “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed.” It is the “perfect peace” for every conflict of life. When we begin to understand, as far as the limits of our intellect permit us, how profoundly Christ loved us, how He stopped short of nothing in the endless devotion of that Savior-love and bought us with a price so astonishing that we stand awestruck before the compassion that meant His death for our life, we have the inner calm and self-possession that He will keep us as His own, protect us by His love, guide us by His wisdom, strengthen us by His power. If you are Christ’s, no sorrow in earth’s endless variety of griefs can tear you away from this “peace which passeth all understanding.” Outwardly your life may be restless and continually disquieted; but just as wave after wave rises and falls on the surface of the sea while deep in its many-fathomed depths the mighty ocean is quiet, so inwardly, your vision directed to Christ, your faith trusting in His promises, your hope built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, you will have Heaven’s riches in your earthly poverty, spiritual health in your physical weakness, a calm and serene confidence amid encircling noise and tumult, a penetrating insight into the love of God despite blindness, and peace, blessed, uplifting, courage­instilling peace, in the face of misunderstanding and hatred. Let especially those cling to Christ’s pledge whose lives have been overshadowed by dark sorrows. Let the peace promise of Jesus find joyful acceptance by the many destitute that have lost everything, even the opportunity of working. The blessed Christ would speak comfort into the many depressing sieges of sickness that have made some of you suffer for twenty, thirty years and more! He offers His gracious benediction upon the maimed and the crippled, the blind and the deaf, who complain that they have lost the joy of life. You wives who write of unspeakably cruel husbands; you parents bowed down by the thanklessness of children; you, the young men and young women, whose lives have been embittered because your ambitions have crashed and your plans for achievement, for marriage, for happiness, seem to have been shattered; you of whitened hair and sorrow-seamed faces who wonder why you are still alive when day after day brings only heaped disappointments,—all of you, hear and believe today’s promise of “perfect peace”! Join in this glorious song of victory that Saint Paul sings: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”! Know that in this peace we can begin to love what God loves and to hate what He hates; you can walk with Christ and talk with Him in prayer and gain the unfailing conviction that He is all you need for earth and heaven!

Christ’s is a “perfect peace” because it offers complete freedom from despondency. Once you know that your life is “hid with Christ,” every feeling of despair and loneliness will be conquered. Instead of looking at life in listless, sullen protest, you will have with Christ this gift of contentment: “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” You can rest assured that “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

With this “perfect peace” no room remains for secret fears to crowd in upon us, each one intent upon destroying our confidence in God: the fears of our past sins and future needs, the fear of loss, disgrace, suffering; those hideous phobias that are provoking an unparalleled number of nervous breakdowns, inducing mental disorders, making men cringe before unseen terrors instead of rejoicing in Christ. “Perfect love casteth out fear,” the infallible Word reminds us; and if yours is a fear-burdened life; if you are undermining your health with useless anxiety, proving your lack of trust in God by your continued fretting and worry, see how many times He says: “Fear not!” “Be not afraid!”—how repeatedly He greets His disquieted followers with the calm assurance, “Peace be with you!” Turn to history to see how Christian martyrs overcame every semblance of fear. A famous letter written in the days of the early Church describing these doomed witnesses to Christ says that some of them “went out rejoicing, glory and peace being blended in their faces, so that even their bonds seemed beautiful ornaments.” A church historian testifies that the Christians who were on trial “appeared most courageous in prospect of their suffering, while the judges trembled; and they went exultingly from the tribunal, rejoicing in their testimony.” As you read God’s Bible and man’s history, believe with unflinching faith that the same Savior can banish fright from your heart and enrich you with surprising courage.

We find this “perfect peace” in Christ, since His are all-inclusive blessings, extended to every nation, to every class of men, and to every individual No one is excluded from this harmony of Heaven unless indeed he excludes himself; for the Christ, who spent long days in healing the sick and who Himself suffered indescribably great agonies, is the Soul Physician for all who trust in Him. The Savior, who fed the five thousand and fasted for forty days, knew the pangs of hunger Himself; He is the Bread of Life to sustain famished spirits. Jesus, who helped the poor and knew poverty in His own life, by divine compassion offers every one of you, as hard as your financial road may be, the riches of His grace. The Good Shepherd, who leaves the flock of ninety and nine to seek the one stray lamb which is lost and who Himself knew the crushing pains of loneliness as He knelt in the Garden, will prove Himself the Guide and Counselor to you who stand alone, having lost your direction in life. The blessed Lord, who recognized our human weaknesses and showed to doubting Thomas the nail marks and the spear wounds, will help each one of you turn the chill of every doubt into the warmth of a radiant faith. The all-merciful Savior, who forgave the contrite woman kneeling in tears before Him; the Christ of endless compassion, who promised the penitent thief immediate entry into Paradise; that ever-blessed Redeemer now, in this moment, stands before every one of us to offer the peace of pardon, the peace of Heaven, and the peace that you who are Christ’s, with the Spirit’s help, must show in your life.

Enriched by these blessings, you cannot harbor contempt of your fellow-men. You cannot hate a Jew, despise a Negro, shake your fist at the wealthy, or sneer at the poor. With this peace, which is the fountain of all the immeasurable blessings of Christian civilization, the blessing which has prevented the world from becoming a madhouse and the human race from degenerating into a pack of assassins, you and the millions who come to Christ with you have the one power which can hold out high hope for the future. As the attack on Christianity increases, we shall do well to recall the words of James Russell Lowell to a group of British doubters: “When the microscopic search of skepticism, which had hunted the heavens and sounded the seas to disprove the existence of a Creator, has turned its attention to human society and has found a place on this planet ten miles square where a decent man can live in decency, comfort, and security, supporting and educating his children, unspoiled and unpolluted; a place where age is reverenced, infancy respected, manhood respected, womanhood honored, and human life held in due regard: when skeptics can find such a place ten miles square on this globe where the Gospel of Christ has not gone and cleared the way and laid the foundation and made decency and security possible, it will be in order for the skeptical literati to move thither and ventilate their views.”

II

TRUSTING FAITH APPROPRIATES THIS PEACE

Now, this peace in Christ is the “perfect peace” above all because it is offered freely by the pure grace of God. Here is the rich promise of our Scripture: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” Note that the great evangelist of the Old Testament does not offer peace to his hearers if their hands have worked for God or their money has paid the price of peace; if their splendid character has earned the reward of peace; but in this divine mercy He does everything, goes the whole way, removes all the obstacles; God gives His peace to every one “whose mind is stayed on” Him.

We must not pass too lightly over this one word “mind.” For it shows us that with all the stress laid upon the outward side of religion; the stately buildings dedicated to Christ’s name; the magnificence and wealth by which His name is honored in objects of rare gems and precious metals; the costly robes, the imposing processionals, the appealing music that marks much of our present worship, the one and only aspect that counts with God is the heart and mind that believes. Let us build glorious churches to the name of Christ, but before that let faith be built within us! We should bring the offering of our hands in a far more literal way than stingy churches have in the past; we should speak with our lips the confession of our faith and sing with our mouths the songs of praise and hallelujah; but first of all give us the sincerity of Christ­mindedness. For what good are prayers mumbled by the lips while the thoughts of the mind roam to remote pleasures? Of what avail is the singing of many hymns if our interest turns from the throne of God to our individual cares and delights? Of what benefit is the greatest sacrifice we can make, the largest church-building we may erect, if all this is not accompanied by trusting faith in God’s mercy?

May God give us a humble mind that dares not exalt itself but bows before Christ with the one plea, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” May He grant us a sound, reverent mind, so that our faith is more than an emotion and does not degenerate into an unsound and absurd creed that brings reproach to Christ! May God strengthen us with a courageous mind to banish the fear and flabbiness from many churches today that are straddling the most vital issues, shaking hands with unbelief, surrendering when they should march on to victory!

Particularly may the God of all grace give us a childlike, unquestioning, believing mind! The other day I came across the last will of that eminent French statesman François Pierre Guizot, who served his country for very many years with almost unparalleled zeal. His was the confident faith that I ask of you; for listen to him as he writes: “I believe in God and worship Him without attempting to understand Him. I see His presence and His action not only in the unchangeable laws of the universe and in the secret life of the soul but in the history of human society and especially in the Old and New Testaments, those records of revelation and of the divine action of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of the human race. I bow before the mysteries of the Bible and of the Gospel, and I refrain from discussions and scientific solutions by means of which men have tried to explain everything. I have a firm faith that God allows me to call myself a Christian; and I am convinced that, when I shall, as will soon be my lot, enter into the full light of day, I shall see how purely human is the origin and how vain are most of the discussions in this world concerning the things which are divine.”

Above all, may the Holy Spirit give you minds “stayed on” Christ,—not the weather-vane Christianity that alters its direction with every gust of the wind, not the hot and cold faith that constantly changes the strength of its devotion; not the mind that says, “Try it and see what happens!”; not the mind that looks backward and says, “I was baptized years ago,” or that looks forward to trust in a deathbed return to God; not the mind that is in harmony with God on Sunday and in enthusiastic agreement with the world from Monday till Saturday. Rather may God give you His mercy,—and now I summarize all the hopes and prayers I have ever spoken to God through this microphone,—bless you, every one of you, with humble, trusting, courageous, Christ-directed minds that are “stayed” on the one hope for earth and heaven, Jesus Christ, Lord and God, Savior and Redeemer, King of kings, eternal High Priest, everlasting Prophet of endless mercy, and with Christ—O Father, hear us now—peace, “perfect peace!” Amen.

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

Date: October 30, 1938

Thanks for Our Reformation Heritage

O God of Grace and Light and Truth:

Our hearts are lifted to Thee in thanks for the wisdom and love by which in days of spiritual darkness Thou didst raise up valiant witnesses to Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, and didst help them restore to the world the open Bible and with it the glorious Gospel of worldwide atonement through faith in the reconciling Cross. We praise Thy holy name for all the other benefits of the Reformation, notably for the freedom to worship Thee according to Thy Word, the separation of Church and State, the blessedness of the Christian home. Above all, heavenly Father, we ask Thee, fully aware of our unworthiness, preserve unto us and our children the priceless heritage of a Christ-centered and Bible-grounded faith, so that the enemies of Thy Church may not prevail. In this critical hour, as the world hastens towards its end, send Thy Spirit into our hearts to enrich us with more of the loyalty to Thee which our fathers in the faith repeatedly showed. Strengthen us with that readiness to sacrifice by which they left home and earthly happiness for the privilege of worshiping Thee in truth. Bless us with the moral courage required to confess Thee unflinchingly before men and with a sacred zeal to make known Thy mercies in Christ, so that many, looking ever to Jesus as their only Savior, may find in Him comfort, strength, guidance, and finally eternal life. Grant us this prayer, for His sake! Amen.

Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.Acts 4:12

THE battle against Jesus Christ and His Church continues to run its bloody course. In Russia, for example, far-reaching plans are even now being made to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Red rule. As an outstanding feature of this celebration the teaching of atheism in all Russian schools is to be increased, and special courses are planned in which teachers are to be shown the most forceful methods of denying the existence of the Almighty. This anti-God program is only a prelude, not to a five-year plan of infidelity but a twenty-five year anti­religion campaign, so that—and this is the avowed determination of the Soviet authorities—by 1967, in the golden jubilee of Red Russia, that country will be entirely godless, with churches and cathedrals remembered only in a hazy, casual way.

These threats seem impressive until we remind ourselves that ever since the Savior’s day one misguided prophet after the other similarly predicted the end and ruin of Christ’s Church. Down through the ancient ages to the time of these pride-swollen songs of victory which Russian atheists are chanting over the Christianity they think is dead, we can see the powerful revenge the Scriptures have taken on their enemies. In London, on the very spot in Earl Street where almost four hundred years ago fanatics burned every copy of the Scriptures they could secure, the headquarters of the British and Foreign Bible Society was built; and the Scriptures that were to have been destroyed by fire are now translated into more than one thousand tongues.

These attacks on Christianity have often proved disguised blessings that have purified and strengthened the churches. History knows a more effective way of destroying a Church than by persecution, sword, and fire,—the slow poison of unbelief administered by church-leaders and the polite pulpit denial of Christ as Savior of the race. If the churches lose that faith, they are doomed; and all the money that they bank, all the millionaires they number among their patrons, all the political influence they may wield, will never save them. If, however, the churches keep Christ and His salvation, all the regiments of human hatred and the storm troops of hell cannot overcome them.

The same warning goes out to every one of us in an age when the world seems headed for disaster and a grim darkness is settling over cultured lands. Statesmen recognize the perils confronting us as they behold the tyranny of might and the fatal race in military expenditures. Financiers see disaster as they witness a few of the rich becoming richer and the masses of the poor being driven into deeper poverty. Above all, the Christian understands the dangers of the hour as he hears voices screaming defiance to God and sees blasphemous hands reaching out to tear the halo of Christ’s deity from His “bleeding head and wounded.” It may be too late even now to restrain the forces of disaster and avert catastrophe. If the worst comes; if our age, our God-blessed yet God-forgetting nation, is to totter into bankruptcy and sink to ruin; if our cities are devastated, our homes destroyed by fire; if godless mobs surge through our streets and, mad with power, loot and wound, rape and kill,—as long as we have our Christ and trust that He, and He alone, can save to the uttermost, they cannot harm our souls nor remove the joy of our salvation. Though we lose home, money, family, clinging to Christ, we cannot lose the promise of His redemption. Rather we exult:

And take they our life,

Goods, fame, child, and wife,

Let these all be gone,

They yet have nothing won;

The Kingdom ours remaineth.

Martin Luther wrote these lines, and it was he who under God restored Christ as the only but complete Savior of the race. Because tens of thousands of churches throughout the world are commemorating his reformation of the Church, let me go back to the living heart of our Christian Creed, to that blessed power of the Reformation, to that divine truth which will save the churches from their bloodiest enemies, preserve us for the glories of eternity—to the keystone of our faith and the cornerstone of our hope, to

JESUS CHRIST, OUR ONLY SAVIOR

and with our text (the Book of Acts, 4:12) repeat the immortal declaration of Peter: “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”

I

NO SALVATION WITHOUT CHRIST

If there ever was a heart and soul that yearned to find the true way to God, the one sure escape from sins, it was Martin Luther’s. Although he never had a Bible in his hand until he was twenty years old, his was a deeply religious mind, a searching heart, and a pleading soul. He went through all the prescribed methods by which the churches of his day sought to give him comfort; he joined the monastic order; he prayed incessantly; he called on all the saints in general and on his favorites in particular; he bowed before all the relics, genuine and fraudulent; he made pilgrimages to so-called holy places far and near; he fasted by day and kept himself from sleep at night. Although a Master of Arts and one of the outstanding professors at the university, he taught and believed that man could earn God’s favor and forgiveness by humiliating himself, becoming a beggar, pleading for food from door to door. In all the biographies I have ever read I have never met any struggling soul that has tried harder to work his own way into heaven than Brother Martin, who, because of his holiness of living and zeal in doing the will of God, was known for miles around as the incredibly holy monk. Repeatedly he was found prostrate in a dead faint on the floor of his cell. Summarizing the long catalog of his own good works, he writes: “I wore out my body with vigils and fastings and hoped thus to satisfy the Lord.” A friend testifies: “Often when he thought of the anger of God or the remarkable instances of divine punishment, he was seized with a terror so violent that he was well-nigh bereft of life.” Indeed, Luther himself declares: “I suffered such agony . . . that no tongue could express or pen describe it. If these spells had lasted a minute longer, I would have died then and there.” Yet all pleading, all hunger, all weariness, all the forms and ceremonies, all the saviors that he had hoped to find among men and saints and angels, failed, and through the night of his sleepless sorrows we hear him scream, “My sins, my sins, my sins!” Despite his deep religious craving, Luther had not learned the lesson of our text “Neither is there salvation in any other.” He heard the name of Christ, of course, and saw multiplied images of Jesus; but even as he gazed up to the many crucifixes, he did not know Christ as his one Savior, only Redeemer, the sole Ransom for his sins.

Luther’s problem is every man’s problem; and I pray to God for strength and wisdom to make clear to you the truth that he experienced, “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” but the name of Jesus Christ. Remember, your salvation is not granted in your own name; for who of us would dare approach the holy God with the record of unholiness that stains our hearts, our lips, and our hands? This salvation is not in your Christian wife’s name; for every one of us must individually account to God. It is not in your parents’ name; for no faith of your father, no prayers of your mother, can pray you out of hell and into heaven. Your salvation is not in your family name; for what is a man profited if his grandfather was the founder of a church and he himself has no thought of Christ? This salvation is not granted you simply because you are a member of a Christian congregation and attend a church; for Christ Himself warned: “Not all that say unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This salvation comes, not because you are Protestant or Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed; for some churches in these groups are not teaching the one way to salvation, and outward membership even in a true church is not enough. Your salvation is assured not through the merit of any saint or any army of saints nor through the holiness of any angel or legion of angels; for here in unmistakable clearness is the verdict of Heaven that can never change: “Neither is there salvation in any other.”

Need I emphasize that reliance on Christ alone is not a popular creed today? Our times want a colorless, effortless, Christless religion. People like to believe that all creeds are good, that all finally lead to the same goal. The Mohammedan encircling the black stone at Mekka, the Jew lamenting before the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Christian worshiping his Christ, our present-day pagans restoring the cult of Wotan and Thor in Germany, the Apache Indian dancing his ceremonial rituals, the Zulu crawling in the dust before his hideous idols,—all, we are calmly assured, are bound for the same ultimate destination. Each one merely takes a different way. Jesus, however, insists, “I am the Way,” and He adds, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Or we are told, “It does not matter what a man believes; the decisive factor is what he does.” Once more Jesus warns, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.”

Only an intolerant creed, you may object, can raise this claim that there is salvation in none other than Christ. Would you dare to call the physician intolerant who hands a mortally sick patient the only remedy for his disease and pushes all mistaken cures aside? Would you brand an experienced guide as intolerant who points the hunter to the only way out of the forest and says, “Follow me, for there is no other way to safety”? Would you call truth itself intolerant when it rejects every error?

Keep this clearly in mind: The claim that Jesus Christ is the only Savior, Christianity the only way, the Cross the only pledge of pardon, is not a human assertion subject to contradiction, a theological guess that may be changed, a hit-or-miss proposition that may or may not be true; for whether you like it or not, whether you agree or disagree, this verdict “Neither is there salvation in any other” is the eternal, immovable Word of God. Whatever you think of that Word will never change its truth.

Mighty minds have turned humbly to Christ as their only Hope in life and in death. Think of Louis Pasteur, whom a fellow-scientist called “the most perfect man who ever entered the kingdom of science” and who clung to the cross as he died in the glorious climax of an achieving life of science and faith. Recall great physicians like David Hayes Agnew, who wrote in one of his last letters: “Christ to me is all”; leading engineers like Graf Zeppelin, who, kneeling in an unpretentious chapel, prayed: “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins, . . . and I pray Thee for the sake of Thine infinite mercy and of the holy, innocent, and bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being”; master inventors like William Schmidt, with more than two hundred major patents of his own discoveries, crowding his diary with statements like these: “Only Christ saves us. If man rejects God in Christ, humanity . . . is doomed to destruction”; great statesmen like Daniel Webster, who five weeks before his death proclaimed: “My heart has assured me and reassured me that the Gospel of Christ must be a divine reality.”

If you are not ready to believe in Christ as your only Savior, as these leaders in human accomplishment have accepted Him, perhaps that unbelief needs to learn what Christian faith is, what it asks, what it promises, and what it bestows. In the second century after Christ, Athenagoras, a renowned Athenian philosopher, was so bitterly opposed to the Christian doctrine of redemption that he determined to write a book in which the claims of Jesus would be destroyed once and for all times. How little he knew of Christ! As he gathered the material for his volume and was forced to study Jesus’ utterances, the Holy Spirit convinced him that Christ, and He alone, must be the Savior of his soul. Instead of penning a poisonous attack, he wrote an elaborate and still extant defense of Christ. Alexander Hamilton tells us in his own words that he had persistently attacked Christianity, but that once in the sudden stillness of the night the thought had come to him, “What if the Christian religion be true after all?” His conscience disturbed, he finally determined to give Christianity a fair trial, and he sent for a number of books that expounded its facts. What happened? He says: “I read them, and the result is: I believe the religion of the Christians to be the truth, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He made atonement for our sins by His death and rose again for our justification.” In much the same way large armies of scoffers who set themselves against their Lord in ignorance and misunderstanding have been converted by a real study of Christ and a personal searching after His truth. May the Holy Spirit who touched these hearts remove the scales of unbelief from your eyes if you have not yet seen Christ! May you be given the heavenly direction to come to your God in His Son Jesus, to find that there is salvation in “none other name,” to write if you want spiritual guidance and safe direction, so that we may put you in touch with one of the thousands of our ministers of Jesus Christ throughout the United States and Canada. They will thank God for the privilege of explaining to you why all human religions, all attempts to open the gates of heaven by your own goodness and strength, must fail.

II

FULL SALVATION WITH CHRIST

With the conviction that there can be no salvation without Christ, the text implicitly pledges complete redemption in Him. This glorious truth made Luther the God­blessed Reformer when in the darkness of his groping the first light of Christ’s deliverance shed its warming rays. Remember, the supreme glory of that Reformation and restoration four hundred years ago is not this, that the blessings of marriage and home-life were reinstituted, liberal arts and education promoted, freedom of worship restored, and the foundation for representative government laid. Incomparably higher is the truth for which all ages will join in praises to God, that Jesus Christ was given back to mankind as the Son of God and the one Mediator between heaven and earth. The keynote of Luther’s restoration was the pure Gospel message that Christ’s life of love and His death on the cross offer every child born into this world and every soul that leaves this world not merely the hope of salvation but a blood-sealed pledge; not a redemption that asks the sinner to meet his Savior halfway but a mercy that goes all the way; not an unfinished redemption but a completed deliverance; not a promise of heaven that can be bought or acquired as a reward but, praise be to that merciful Savior! a salvation that is granted freely, unconditionally, unreservedly, to faith.

What glorious comfort and strength lies in this word “salvation!” Periodically people try to find the greatest and best word in the English language, and they offer such terms as “love,” “mother,” “home”; but I submit to you this afternoon that the surest hope, the most penetrating comfort, that man can ever find is offered through faith in this one word “salvation,” the redemption that comes through Christ. It means to expect everything for our eternal life from our heavenly Father and to expect nothing from ourselves. It means turning away from the thought that culture, power, wealth, a new age, a new social order, can be the source of our greatest blessing, and finding in Christ the grace that is wider than the world, deeper than our miseries, higher than our hopes. Salvation means heaven. It also means something of heaven’s blessedness even here on earth in the constant companionship of Christ. That Savior never disappoints those who come to Him. Sometimes He may seem to be beyond the range of our lives and the reach of our pleas, but in every emergency He will stand closely by our side to fulfil the promise “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Sometimes He may delay; then what divine wisdom, what seasoning and strengthening of our faith, we discover in His postponement! Sometimes He may test our faith in the school of sorrows, only to have it become a blessed training, as the shadows of life make His radiance, the Light of the world, shine more brightly!

Despite the glorious blessings offered by faith in Christ as the only but all-merciful Savior, thousands of American churches have turned from this crystal-clear Water of Life. Discontented, spiritually parched hearers send me excerpts of the drivel sometimes preached to them from pulpits once dedicated to Christ. These disappointed church­members protest against the gambling mania that has forced its way into some of the churches. They are disheartened by the pathetic attempts at pulpit humor and the lurid sensations that crowd out the Word of God. They see a neglect of the poor and a catering to the rich, a glossing over of sin, and a reluctance to speak out clearly in behalf of the Christ of the cleansing blood. All the regret in the world will be of little avail unless those who love the Lord Jesus and know that He is the only Way are ready to act, to demand that the redemption of Jesus be the glorious hope expressed in every sermon, and to protest individually and in an organized way against every attempt to remove this cornerstone truth of the Christian faith in all lands and all ages. Without that sincere, active, militant support proud cathedrals and imposing church-buildings will exert no more lasting influence than pagan temples. The hordes of the hungry and neglected masses may yet storm these wealthy, heavily endowed, financially secure churches unless a twentieth­century reformation goes back to the principles of the sixteenth-century Reformation and repeats, “Only Christ for spiritual understanding, only Christ for the assurance of peace eternal in our souls!”

Who knows where this infidelity will stop as it assails particularly our youth? One hundred and fifty years ago the waves of the French rebellion against God, as slow as they were in reaching America, swept over our colleges with disastrous results. At the beginning of the last century most universities in America were dominated by infidelity, profanity, and ridicule. Harvard students scoffed at religion as superstition, and an observer reported only one professed Christian in the four classes. At Yale only four or five students publicly acknowledged Christ, and on Communion Sunday the others cut pieces of bread in the college dining-halls to celebrate a mock Communion. At the close of the Revolution, Princeton had only two students who confessed themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ. Today the atheism of Europe travels faster. By swift liners and cable flashes, short wave and long wave, organized atheism and satanic philosophies are quickly hurled across the ocean. Once more our colleges and intellectual circles are to be enlisted in the attack on God, His Word, and His Christ! Unless churches resolve with new power and a new faith and a new willingness to testify and to sacrifice, they will fail to withstand the greatest offensive ever directed against them.

I hope that you who love the Lord Jesus and who know in your hearts that every syllable I have spoken is the truth will exert yourselves in defending Christ and proclaiming His grace. If you object that you have no theological training, let me remind you, as the verse following our text emphasizes, that Peter and John were both “unlearned and ignorant men” and that the council before which they had been summoned marveled and knew that they had “been with Jesus.” When you have knelt with Christ in the Garden and stood beneath His cross; when you have walked with Him in His resurrection glory, then a fervent flame of holy zeal should burn within your heart; then your faith should tell the world that you, too, have “been with Jesus.” May God grant us more of the spirit of Henry Martin, missionary to the Mohammedans, who entered the field of his labors with the prayer “Let me burn out for God!”

Every one who has heard these words stands before a decision. You must either accept Christ or reject Him; you either build with faith, or you destroy with unbelief. With Christ you have the inviolable pledge of the greatest blessing that even God Almighty and the resources of Heaven can bestow; without Christ you are “without hope and without God in the world.” If I had only one more minute to live, and if I were asked to fill those sixty swift seconds with one final appeal; if this were the last radio program ever to be broadcast and in it the nation were to be told the most vital of all truths, what else could I say than with all my heart to plead that each one of you would find this salvation that is in Christ Jesus, and in Him alone?

God give you this supreme blessing for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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

Date: October 23, 1938

Opening Prayer

O God of Glory, Power, and Mercy, Thou ever-blessed Trinity, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer:

Humbly do we approach Thee, when now, at Thy command and with the promise of Thy benediction, we once again take up the testimony to the grace of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, His sin-removing death, His life-bestowing resurrection. Bless these messages, so that they may convict men of their sin, and then teach them to find forgiveness, salvation, and heaven through faith in the atoning blood! Let Thy Spirit accompany our messages, prayers, and hymns, bringing Thy pardon and comfort into desolate souls, despondent hearts, unbelieving minds, impoverished homes, so that many from the east unto the west may turn away from themselves and every disappointing human hope to see Christ’s outstretched arms, hear His pleading promises of life and light, and believe the assurances of His beseeching love. Strengthen us, give us courageous hearts and wisdom from on high, so that this mission of the air, glorifying the Cross from coast to coast, may bring multitudes to Thee. On all sides we are surrounded by those who oppose Thy Word and assail the pledges of Thy grace. Stand by us with Thy help, so that they may not successfully restrain us and hinder the free course of Thy Truth. It is a large task, and costly, this broadcasting of Thy mercy. And we ask Thee to open many hearts and hands for the support and completion of this blessed work. Hear us, as Thou hast promised to answer those who pray in Jesus’ name! Amen.

We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, Be ye reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:20

ONCE again, for the sixth broadcasting season, we begin this mission of the air in the name of the almighty, all-merciful God, dedicating the facilities of our sixty-three stations to one supreme objective: bringing Christ to the nation. Six months have elapsed since I last spoke to you, and for many they have been hard, discouraging months. For all of us the burdens under which our age labors and the dangers that threaten us have multiplied.

We are not speaking primarily of the swollen ranks of the unemployed, still twelve million strong, or of the widespread poverty that now makes one third of all American families exist on an annual income of less than $500. Nor are we here concerned with the staggering national debt and our mounting money problems, as cruel as many of you have found your losses. Though these tragedies cut deeply, they are not fatal. Incomparably more disastrous than the inflation that many fear, the financial breakdown that economists predict, the unemployment that millions will continue to suffer; immeasurably more destructive even than the coming world war which some leaders foresee despite peace treaties that failed to destroy a single rifle, is the spiritual and moral crisis into which this nation has been hurled. Shattering the hope that prolonged years of personal reverses and money restrictions might bring us penitently back to God, millions in America are drifting farther from Him. The revolt against the Almighty, led by both uncouth scoffers and brainy atheists, has grown in scope and power since these broadcasts began. The assault on heaven, encouraged by hundreds of branches of Communistic societies, has steadily become bolder. The anti-God and anti-Christ campaign waged on the campuses of some institutions of higher learning is winning new sectors on the cultural front.

Hand in hand with this hatred of God another destroyer stalks through the land. It is easy morality, love of lust, gilding of sin, the trampling of those standards of right and wrong which God has imposed upon every nation. Our prisons are overcrowded despite the frequent breakdown of justice. The radio, the motion-picture, the printed page, teach our children the fine points of crime, the technique of the underworld and the master criminal. Young people grow up in an age when purity is laughed to scorn. Since our country according to Federal records has become the most crime-ridden nation in modern civilization, we have reason to shudder before the thought of God’s retributive justice.

These are not pleasant facts, but they are necessary truths crying for restatement, particularly because the voice of many churches that should be raised in warning and appeal, instead preaches the smooth and easy way of life, hums sweet lullabies to the conscience, seeks to satisfy human vanities. Our course in these broadcasts, then, is clearer than ever before. We can have only one ultimate message. Unbelievers laugh at it, skeptics question it, pulpiteers in Christ-denying churches belittle it, our own flesh and blood opposes it; but here it is, the heart of the Old Testament and the New, the theme of the early Church and the twentieth-century Church:

THE DIVINE APPEAL TO A BURDENED AGE: “BE YE RECONCILED TO GOD,”—

the same message to which Saint Paul committed himself when, writing to the Corinthians (second letter, chapter five, verse twenty), he announces: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, Be ye reconciled to God.”

I

AN APPEAL OF MERCY AND BLESSING

When the Apostle calls himself one of the “ambassadors for Christ,” he affirms that he is no servant of men, no agent of a human empire, but that he represents Jesus Christ, speaks in His holy name and by His divine authority. To Saint Paul’s trusting faith Jesus was more than Reformer, Prophet of a new age, Champion of the masses, Pioneer of advanced thought, mystic Master of love. The depths of his Christ lay far deeper than these shallow answers that men give today to the inevitable question “What think ye of Christ?”—just as the height of his Christ rose above the towering greatness of this earth to reveal Jesus as nothing less than the everlasting, ever powerful, ever glorious God.

The Gospel to which the great apostle, as an ambassador of Christ, dedicated his many-sided genius, was not the vague hope that somehow and somewhere beyond the reaches of this world there was some one or something called God who might help men if they could only find Him and earn their way to Him. Instead, Saint Paul saw only the cross of Christ and the suffering, gasping, dying of his Redeemer as the pledge of his salvation.

To the apostle, men were lost without Christ. By their coarse lusts and grasping greed, their endless inhumanities, their infinite cruelties, they were destroying their own souls, perverting their fellow-men, and encrusting their world with heavy wickedness. He may have read much in the Greek literature of his day about the goodness of man and the nobility of the human race; but he knew that these lofty sentences were barrages of falsehood, satanic camouflage covering the ugliness, the filth, the moral deformities, of mankind.  True, he saw glistening temples of carved alabaster columns, but he knew the orgies of lust wantonly practiced within their marble walls. He read biographies of the great who had enthusiastically acclaimed man’s goodness, but he knew that only too often the private lives of poets and philosophers revealed unnatural sins. In a more personal way, as he stood before the holiness of God while the secrets of his own heart were laid bare, he felt that conviction of his own sin, that despair of earning his own forgiveness, that made him scream: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Without arguing the complete depravity of the human race, which the Christians in Corinth, perhaps above all places except Rome, had to witness daily in that city of notorious vices; without pausing to convince his hearers of the sin in their lives, Saint Paul had only one basic appeal, the plea of our text, “Be ye reconciled to God”; only one focal point to which he trained the eyes of faith, Calvary’s cross of shame and glory; only one cleansing power to remove the vivid stain of sin, the purifying “blood of Jesus Christ”; only one offering to satisfy divine justice and reconcile God to man, that self-sacrifice on the gory altar of Golgotha, where trusting faith beholds “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Neither persecution nor applause, sickness nor health, shame nor good repute could swerve the great ambassador of Jesus Christ from this loyalty to his crucified Savior. Hear him as he states his life purpose: “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Listen to him as he earnestly declares: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Pay close attention as he lays down the guiding principle of his courageous career: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.” In the same spirit this reconciliation, pardon, forgiveness, reunion with God, which the Cross offers must be the keynote, the victory cry, the beseeching invitation, of all these broadcasts, the foundation message of every true Christian Church.

Many of you will be disappointed when I rededicate this coast-to-coast broadcast to the same Gospel. The restlessness of our age wants something new, as the mushroom growth of a hundred recent cults throughout the land testifies. But can anything keep more closely abreast of human needs than the grace of Christ, renewed every morning? Is there any fact more up to the minute than the reality of human treachery? A single issue of a Saint Louis newspaper recently contained accounts of multiplied murders, adulteries, robberies, divorces, assaults, kidnapping, suicides, judicial corruption, political dishonesty, perjury, slander, criminal neglect, and smaller crimes too numerous to detail,—all against the world background of war and international hatred. Add to these the sordid accounts of human vileness printed in the 8,500 other newspapers of our country, as well as the far greater catalog of crime never revealed in the press, and the case against sin becomes too overwhelming for debate.

Forget the front-page crimes, the headline sins, and the public wrongs! They can easily arouse indignation and protest! Let us center our investigations on our own lives! Too many like to behold themselves not as they are but as they think they are or as they want to be. We condemn murder but pass over hatred. We denounce gross lusts and brazen impurity but nurture secret desires and illicit hopes. We spurn deliberate theft, but give room to covetousness. We forget that God in His holiness so hates and punishes sin that the unforgiven sinner, however secure and prominent he may be, is robbed of the peace in this life and excluded from heaven in the next. Because the sin in our own lives is the starkest earthly reality; because human ingenuity will never be able to find a way of escape from its consequences, as sin ravages the body, poisons the mind, grapples the conscience, heaps sorrow upon hearts and homes, and sends men to hell; because in all the world there is only one power that can break the shackles of Satan, free men from sin, cleanse them from its guilt, and that is the holy, precious blood of Christ, our paramount plea is: “Be ye reconciled to God!”

Some American preachers, however, far from being ambassadors of Jesus Christ, play the part of ambassadors for special interests, partisan politics, subversive movements, and destructive unbelief as their churches continue to lose hold on the masses. In protest I pause in this initial broadcast to ask for an increasing number of pastors in the churches who will stand under the cross, clasp the Scriptures in one hand, and raise the other in allegiance to the true, divine, redeeming Christ.

Can any promise offer greater grace and more manifold mercies than this divine plea for reconciliation? Behold the love of Christ from whatever point of view you will, and its glory beams in radiant brilliance. This is sure mercy, with every question-mark destroyed. It is positive reconciliation; for when Jesus bore your sins and paid their penalty, they were canceled forever. Christ’s is universal love, offering forgiveness to all, even those spurned by their fellow-men, promising pardon for every sin, even those whom men refuse to forgive. It is personal grace, this reconciliation that writes our names in the Book of Life and says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name.” Above all, this pleading “Be ye reconciled” offers the freest grace that Heaven itself could decree. Christ went the whole way to bring us back to God. He paid the full price for our redemption. He met every demand, fulfilled every obligation, left nothing unsaid, unearned, unfinished, and in the majesty of His devotion to us He brings us back to the Father’s arms, justified by faith, and by faith alone.

Yet God’s grace is even greater. The mercies of His father heart were not exhausted by that supreme sacrifice on the cross; with a devotion that exceeds our grasp God pleads with us; and though we often reject Him, He still begs for trust. He might have said on that first Good Friday when the lifeless body of His own Son was removed from the cross, “I have done everything, a million, million times more than ungrateful men could expect; but now I am through.” God might have told the world, “I have given you My own Son, but now I will do no more,” and we would still have to adore the mercy by which He condescended to redeem us. Yet, Father of endless compassion that He is, besides completing His plan of salvation in Christ, God patiently and lovingly pleads that we come to Him in penitent faith. God, the Unsearchable, for whom the vastness of the planets is but the star dust of His magnificence, who surveys the sweep of the universe in a twinkling as though its length and width were only a handbreadth,—that omnipotent Designer, Creator, and Sustainer of all life stoops to plead with His stubborn, willful creatures of clay! That sinless God before whom even spotless angels can only chant their “Holy, holy, holy,” bends low to ask, “My son, My daughter, be reconciled to Me.”

Remember how Jesus pleaded. Earnestly He raised His holy arms with the invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He pleaded that little children be brought to Him. In effect He pleaded that the adulterous woman might not be stoned. He pleaded with the rich to follow Him and with the poor to find comfort in His Gospel. He pleaded with His own countrymen, and when the royal city rejected Him, the tears coursed down His cheeks, and the dirge of His wounded love raised its plaintive cry: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . . how often would I have gathered thy children, . . . and ye would not.” History knows of many heart-moving entreaties; but when in the Old Testament God cries out to those who spurn His mercy: “All day long I have stretched forth My hands,” and when in the New Testament those hands of God, now nailed to the cross, are stretched high over a sin-bound world, this beseeching love of Christ completely blocks out all human imploring.

With that unparalleled mercy come unparalleled blessings even here on earth. When the human heart is at peace with God, life, dark and heavy as many of you know it, finds divine consolation. Without this blessed hope even brilliant intellects and philosophical minds have been shorn of all comfort. Henry Sidgwick, widely known British agnostic, entered the home of a bereaved friend, and standing beside the casket of the young daughter, he sought some word of sustaining cheer. Yet despite his advantages of culture, Sidgwick had to confess, “I have no consolation to offer.” And the bereaved father, a like-minded agnostic, replied, “I know that I cannot get any comfort.”

Contrast with this dark despair the triumph in the lives of God’s reconciled children. Death enters their homes, too; but because they have the living Christ in their hearts, they can see, far beyond the grave, the eternal reaches of that “better country” where there is no death. They, too, meet reverses, sometimes, it seems, in overwhelming number, as sorrow piles upon sorrow; but when the last dollar is spent, the last friend has proved unfaithful, the last thread snaps; when it seems that the breaking point has been reached and God’s children are stunned in realization of the most crushing agonies still to be endured, even then those who are Christ’s can be strong because they are reconciled with God and live in their Savior.

II

AN APPEAL FOR ACCEPTANCE AND TRUST

Now, in all this there is an appeal pointedly directed to you. When Saint Paul brought the Gospel to the Corinthians, he begged them, our text reminds us, to believe that God Himself was beseeching them; and when, this afternoon, we “pray you in Christ’s stead, Be . . . reconciled to God,” remember that who and what I am need mean nothing to you, but that what I say to you in the name of Christ, by the power of His blood and the blessings of His Spirit, must mean everything. So I ask those whose lives have been lived in ignorance of God, in misunderstanding of His mercy, in rebellion against His grace, to focus their attention on the Christ who now stands before them with His outstretched arms and asks, “Be . . . reconciled,” come back to God! Can you remain unmoved by that beseeching love?

May God forgive those of us who blindly follow the decrees of men, yet carelessly spurn the entreaties of Heaven! A few weeks ago four men who could not speak even a common language, met in a hasty conference as the world seemed to stagger on the abyss of war. Four men, short-lived, mortal men, susceptible to error, came to a quick international agreement in Munich; and as though the words they spoke and the few sentences they wrote were charged with mysterious power, at their instruction a nation began to dismember itself, armies were disbanded, air and naval forces were demobilized. If only men would bow before the pleading of God for the eternal peace of their souls!

When God beseeches you, “Be . . . reconciled,” do not turn aside from that mercy with the haughty objection “I do not need reconciliation.” As long as you have a conscience within you that marks the difference between right and wrong; as long as you examine your conduct in the light of the standards set by the holiness of God and appraise your thoughts and actions, not as you want them to be but as they are, just so long your soul cannot find its rest, and you will not know the peace of pardon. You may boast that you are above the necessity of getting right with God; but some time and in some way the thought of an eternity without Him will freeze your soul in cold terror. Poison­tongued atheists, blaspheming skeptics, shoulder-shrugging agnostics, gripped by the fear of a gruesome hereafter, have moaned for reconciliation with God. Seventy-five-year­old Herbert Spencer, keen-minded British unbeliever, confessed that he was so terrorized by the thoughts of eternity that he habitually shunned the subject. Huxley, internationally acclaimed agnostic, who taught that men were accidental descendants of apelike ancestors, admitted that, the older he grew and the more frequently the picture of the grave flashed across his mind, the more he was plagued with such horror that he would a great deal sooner be in hell than thus to be tormented. Now, if these men of letters and the sciences were clutched by harrowing fears, how can you hope to escape when experience and the Word of God combine to warn us, “Be sure that ‘your sin will find you out’”?

On the other hand, do not object that you have fallen so far from grace and have so repeatedly and shamelessly abused the mercies of God that even the wide love of Jesus cannot reach you. It is the glory of His promise that, though our sins be red like scarlet and crimson, faith in Christ can make them spotless as the new-driven snow, white as washed and bleached wool. If Saint John could close his gospel with the opinion that all the books in the world of his day could not contain the detailed record of Christ’s miracles, then I believe that today, even when “of making many books there is no end,” not all the libraries in the world could record the miraculous conversions of sin-marked people and the cleansing of blackened souls. As an ambassador of Jesus, in His name and by the promise of His Word, I can pledge you, laboring under your sins and sorrows: “If ANY man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He is the Propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world!”

Again, as Christ pleads with you, “Be reconciled,” do not say that you can neither understand His salvation nor explain His Gospel. At Cambridge University in England, George Romanes raised this objection, and in enthroning reason over revelation, he fell so far in his unbelief that he denied all faith in a personal God. Because he could not account for his heavenly Father by analysis and argument, he wrote a formidable book designed to overthrow every claim for the existence of God. But in later years, blindness threatened him, and as afflictions have often proved notable blessings in many other lives, so with sightless eyes he began to behold more than he had ever seen before. Under this new vision he decided to write another book to show the weakness of his first arguments. Supported by the prayers and love of his Christian wife,—God bless that faith of Christian wives and mothers and sisters!—Romanes came back to Christ and on a blessed Easter Day approached the altar to share in Holy Communion. Faith had triumphed over reason, and he exulted, “It is Christianity or nothing!” May it be Christ or nothing in your life, too, when despite all arguments and demands for proof you experience the demonstration of Christ’s power in your soul! As brilliant leaders in human thought, kneeling with implicit trust in Christ, have restrained their reason and recognized its frailty, so may we all find in our faith the blessedness of those who believe even though they do not see, who worship Christ though they cannot explain Christ.

It is a precious moment when God pleads for your repentance and your faith in Christ. Among all the follies of which careless men are guilty, none can be more fatal than that disastrous indifference which postpones the acceptance of God’s peace treaty. Surrounded as all of us are by the grim uncertainties of life, we must remember that “now is the accepted time,” that “a convenient season” may never come. The all-absorbing question demanding an answer now is not, “What career shall I follow? Whom shall I marry? Where shall I live? What clothes shall I wear? What investment shall I make?”; not, “How can I pay the rent, the coal, the taxes?”; not even, “Will I have work tomorrow?” “How can I regain my health?” “How can I reestablish myself?” Before you find the solution to these questions, you must ask yourself, “How can I meet my God?” and discover Heaven’s answer in this beseeching love of Christ. All is at stake for you: your eternity in heaven or hell; your reunion with your beloved ones who died in the faith or your endless separation; a calm, lifted spirit amid the hurricanes of life or a restless fear and suspicion in the warming rays of prosperity. Once more, then, as though God Himself were pleading with you, as though the blessed Christ in this moment were speaking to no one but you and the entire power and appeal of His love were focused on you, I beg you: “Be . . . reconciled to God!” Amen.

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

Date: April 17, 1938

Prayer of Thanks for Easter Blessing

O Christ, our resurrected, ever-living Redeemer:

Ceaseless praise, eternal glory, and adoration be Thine since on this day Thou didst break the power of death, prove Thyself the mighty God, and show to all ages that the redemption of our souls from the tyranny of sin has been accepted by Thy Father! Through Thy Spirit grant that the Easter triumph may fill our hearts with faith in Thy sin-destroying mercies and help us build an unwavering trust in Thy power to save to the uttermost. Teach us to find in the empty grave the pledge of Thy never-failing guidance and the promise of our own victory over death. Give us a sacred vision, so that, our sins removed and our salvation assured by Thy limitless compassion, we may see, far beyond the turmoils of life, the glories of heaven, with “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Be with us, Christ, our Life and Light, as this season’s broadcast draws to its close and in the many hearts bless eternally its testimony to the full Gospel of Thy grace. Into the hands of Thy compassionate and all-powerful love we commend ourselves and this mission of the air. Bless us and keep us all in faith until in Thy time and by Thy guidance we are permitted to resume this public glorification of Thy redemption and resurrection. Hear us, Christ our God, our Savior, our Sovereign, as Thou hast promised! Amen.

Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death.Revelation 1:17-18

AS I extend to all of you across the continent, in the Canadian provinces and Mexico, aboard vessels on the Atlantic and Pacific, our prayerful good wishes for rich blessings that are yours through faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I remind you that the Savior’s victory over death is the divine cure for the darkest fears that haunt the human race,—the deep terror of existing without the assurance of a living Savior and of dying without the guarantee of a blessed eternity. The most destructive of all fears, the fright that has turned men’s hair white in a few hours and makes them chatter in uncontrolled and unintelligible syllables, is the dread of death, the horror of the grave. Almost any pain, any depths of poverty, any infirmity of old age, any collapse of mental power, will be preferred to death, which ends all and leads to Judgment. It is not the physical anguish of dying that makes men shudder in abject terror during their last moments. Investigators assure us that, while the heathen show much bravery in the matter of suffering, they are seized by a terrifying dread when they contemplate the hereafter and its Judgment. In our own cultured country, too, despite outward bravado, this gnawing fear of the things that are to come may turn self-sufficient men and women to trembling cowards.

By an astonishing contrast, however, those who cling to Christ in life and death are strengthened by a joy that a proud world can never know. In the testimony of dying martyrs and in Christian burial-places within the catacombs you can find expressions of remarkable rejoicing in death. William Wilberforce, who led the fight for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, breathed his last with these words: “I never knew happiness until I found Christ as my Savior. . . . Read the Bible! Read the Bible!” When an ill-fated vessel of Sir John Franklin’s arctic expedition was discovered with its frozen, spectral crew, a book of devotions in the cabin showed a series of questions and answers that seemed to be Sir John’s personal confession of faith. The passage marked read: “Are you not afraid to die?” “No.” “No? Why does the uncertainty of another state give you no concern?” And then the blessed answer: “Because God has said to me, ‘Fear not for I have redeemed thee; . . . when thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.’”

It is Christ’s blessed “Fear not” with which the Easter evangel would enrich every one of us. As He once greeted His disciples cowering behind locked doors with the “Fear not,” so in the words chosen for the text of the last message in this series (Rev. 1: 17, 18) Jesus says to us today: “Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death.”

In the light of this Easter-passage let us study more closely

THE EVER-LIVING CHRIST

and at the open grave draw comfort, truth, and guidance for this life and for the blessed eternity to come.

I

HE IS OUR STRENGTH FOR THIS LIFE

This exultation of Easter glory was spoken by the Savior Himself when on lonely Patmos He appeared to His exiled disciple, Saint John, no longer the Christ of the thorny crown and the bleeding cross but the resplendent Victor, the Christ of glory, the Conqueror with resurrection radiance, the King in eternal majesty. His voice, no quavering plea as on Good Friday, but instead, “the sound of many waters,” terrifies the distracted apostle, so that he falls to his feet as though dead. Then it is that the crucified Savior lays His right hand on John, soothes Him with a calm “Fear not,” and assures him, “Fear not; . . . I am He that liveth and was dead.”

May Christ Jesus on this Easter-day touch us with His right hand and repeat this triumphant cry “I am He that liveth and was dead.” For the fact of Easter, that Jesus could not and did not remain in the grave, but that on the third day, after the grief and death of Golgotha, He rose again, is the basic truth of all history. If Christ is in the center of all the centuries, then His death and resurrection are the pivotal point within that center.

Take the resurrection out of Easter, and what remains is a paganized festival, well symbolized by rabbits and chicks and ducks, unfolding flowers and reviving nature. Explain away the open grave, and you have eliminated the hope of the hereafter, pulled the keystone from the arch of our Christian faith, the cornerstone from the temple of our hope for heaven, stifled the ageless cry “He is not here but is risen.”

I shall not debate the truth of the Savior’s bursting the bonds of death; for the preacher of God’s grace cannot thrive on acrid argument. He is to proclaim the eternal verities, not to dispute with a gainsaying world. Is it not noteworthy that the New Testament disdains to employ human reason to support the resurrection truth? It accepts the Easter victory without question! Can we doubt it when we survey the abundant proof with which the Spirit gives witness to the resurrection miracle? It was prophesied in the Psalms that the Messiah would not see corruption, that His throne was eternal, that He would rule forever and ever. It was forecast in the prophets that He was to be the Father of eternity, that after death His days would be lengthened, and that of His kingdom there would be no end. The Easter triumph was foretold by Jesus Himself, who promised to raise the broken temple of His body in three days and who found in the experiences of Jonah a symbol of His own burial and resurrection. The Savior’s victory over death is recorded in detail by the four gospels and in the two supplementary accounts; it is exalted in scores of passages in the epistles. We have more and better documentary evidence for the fact that Jesus rose again on the third day than we possess for Columbus’s discovery of continental America and a hundred other occurrences in antiquity that today are accepted without question or doubt. What gave the first Church its astonishing power? Was it not, under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the assurance that the Christ who died had returned to life as the ever-living Lord? Why did the disciples emerge bravely from behind locked doors to lay down their lives for the Gospel? They knew with a conviction that could stride majestically over all opposition that their Lord was not dead and buried in an unmarked grave, but that He lived, triumphant and eternal.

Whatever unbelief may say, Jesus in our Easter text declares: “I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen.” And that “Amen” now reechoes across this continent in thousands of believing hearts and Christian homes where the Word of Jesus and the conviction of His Spirit are strong enough to repel hostile critics.

Yet, while Christians on five continents today are united in paying worshipful tribute to the living Christ, many in this audience are not sure in their own minds whether Easter rests on historical fact. I ask those who have this complex of Thomas to read without prejudice the simple narrative of the Bible and give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work in their hearts. It may be that, as a noted infidel who once dedicated himself to the unholy task of discrediting the resurrection of Christ was brought to faith in Jesus by a study of the Easter-story, so God will open your hearts and eyes to the truth which the holy angels daily proclaim.

Do not think that this is merely a theological question, this matter of Christ’s resurrection. If it is true—as we know it is—that we have an ever-living Savior, can you not see what vital influences faith in that fact must exert in our lives? If above the turmoil of earth and the anguish of a troubled existence we know that Christ lives and rules, what glorious strength we can discover by allying ourselves with Him, by enlisting His conquering heavenly power for our battles! The reason many of you are groveling in the dark and damp ravines of life instead of climbing to the heights of inner joy is this, that you have never learned to realize in a personal manner that your Savior lives in His Kingdom of Power and Grace; that by the Easter miracle He wants to prove Himself your Counselor and Guide; that in every hour of opposition and affliction you can behold Him sitting on the right hand of God the Father as your Advocate and Deliverer.

May this living Christ be enthroned in your hearts, “the First and the Last,” as He calls Himself in the revelation to Saint John, timeless in His eternity, complete in His all-pervading power. Consciously does Jesus lay claim to His deity in this title, “the First and the Last”; for that is the repeated title of God in the Old Testament. With a divine and living Christ, who is the Beginning and the End for us, what more need we crave in life? Keep Jesus as the First in your thoughts in the morning and the Last in your prayers at night; as the God who begins the work of your redemption and who on the cross and in Joseph’s grave completes it; the Author and Finisher of your faith; Jesus, the Alpha in our desires, our gifts, our sacrifices, our endeavors, and the Omega, who lingers with us when friends turn away, fortunes vanish, health fails; Jesus first, from the very beginning of our new spiritual life, and Jesus last, when in the final moment of life all else recedes and Jesus alone remains!

II

HE IS OUR ASSURANCE FOR THE LIFE TO COME

Through the riches of His resurrection the ever-living Christ on Easter gloriously displays His quickening victory over all graves. Hear Jesus, as Saint John heard Him exult, “I have the keys of death and hell,” that is, the divine power to open or close the doors of death, to lock or unlock the gloom of the grave, release the gates of hell or swing wide in heavenly welcome the portals that lead to everlasting glory. Only Jesus has these master keys; only at the open grave can we find the surety of the open heaven; only in the Easter light, revealing truth for the dark mysteries of death.

Ignore the Easter Christ, and you push aside the assured answer to the question of eternity. Despite our outstanding advance and the marvels of human achievement in this age, when surety is to be found for the next life, we must humbly bow before the Redeemer and repeat the plea of His disciples, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” We cannot go to our scientific schools and research laboratories for truth regarding the hereafter. What right has a physicist to pronounce on the question of immortality? His knowledge is limited to the material forces of life, and even these are often beyond the power of his penetration and analysis. By what claim of intellectual honesty can a biologist discredit the resurrection? His field is the body, not the soul. We like the attitude of a large number of American scientists recently expressed by one of their leaders at Princeton, who insisted that most scientists are qualified to speak on only one branch of learning, and then with guarded reservation. In his opinion, the more a real scientist learns, the humbler he becomes.

Again, we cannot resort to the Spiritist for an answer to Job’s searching question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” These self-styled “mediums,” the go-betweens allegedly maintaining communication between this life and the next, have often been revealed as frauds and charlatans. They are condemned by the Word of God; they have proved themselves menaces to the morality, the happiness, and the salvation of their duped followers. They ought to be banished from the land as public enemies instead of being coddled by newspaper editors, university leaders, and society matrons who reject the Bible but gullibly swallow all the sacrilege of deceptive séances.

Easter dawns upon the world to remind us that no mortal mind in itself has the keys to the power of death. No philosopher with his theory of justice and compensation after death for the wrong and the sufferings of life; no historian with his claim that, because all nations throughout antiquity believed in a future existence, there must be one; no naturalist with his picture of the seed planted and decaying in the earth which blossoms forth in nature’s resurrection with the beauty and power of new life;—none of these can give us the assurance that all does not end with the grave. The untrammeled truth that robs the tomb of its horror can be found only, yet always, with Him who before the empty tomb repeated the refrain, I “have the keys of death and hell.” Eternity to the Christian is not a subject of scientific investigation; it is an article of holy faith, the sacred climax of our trust in Christ, by which we triumph over assault and contradiction and join Saint Paul in declaring with confidence, “He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus.”

How tragic that blundering men will play with shiny, counterfeit pennies, paste, and glass when the riches of heaven and the crown jewels of faith can be theirs in Christ! Not long ago a religious magazine asked a group of notable men and women to give the basis for their hope of immortality. What pitiful answers, what flimsy, futile reasons were offered by these distinguished contributors! A writer, now a member of Congress, replied: When we look upon the dead, “we have a feeling that, while the body is still there, something has taken wing and flown away.” Suppose that feeling is wrong? A newspaper editor tells of a funeral with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, and with this musical background he draws the conclusion that the soul of the departed “was flaming in eager joy upon some other dawn.” How, without that Christ whom the editor does not mention, can he find a guarantee that the soul has not been annihilated in eternal darkness? A British authoress founded her faith on the life to come on this premise, “Nothing that is pure, . . . nothing that is good, can die.”  What about the conscience that underscores our sins and reminds us that our impulses and desires are often impure and evil? A college president, presiding over an institution founded for Christian culture, finds proof for perpetual existence without reference to God, Christ, or the Bible in this colorless statement, “It is far easier for me ‘to believe’ than not to believe in immortality.” Tell that to a dying man and see whether it provides strength for his last moments. Besides, some people find it easier to believe than not to believe in suicide. A preacher, the recognized leader of modern, Christ-denying unbelief, declares that he accepts immortality. Why? Here are his words: “I believe in . . . man as the son of God, with capacities to become superman and then again superman, rising on the stepping-stones of his dead self to higher things.” Nietzsche had one superman; it has remained for apostate Protestantism to create the double superman—with double despair.

What blind alleys and dingy dead-ends these Christless paths to immortality prove! If you want the conviction that can make your gravestone a triumphal pillar, your last hours on earth the prelude to the first in heaven, you must believe that the ever-living Christ, and He alone, pledges you eternity. Only He could remove sin, the curse of death; only He could suffer in the sinner’s stead when on Calvary’s cross, as the Lamb of God, He bore the sins of the world, dying the death of all men. By His bleeding wounds, His cry of anguish, His sin­weighted, sorrow-crushed soul, His dying gasp, “It is finished,” and then His death of all destiny, He broke the dominion of sin and hell; He paid, “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood,” the ransom demanded for freedom from death, paid it completely and unconditionally, for all generations. To seal the power of that salvation and demonstrate that the Father had accepted the sacrifice of the Son; that Christ, as God and man, completely vanquished sin and now has the divine power over death, Jesus Himself, on that first and glorious Easter Day, tore the shrouds that covered His body, felled the legionaries that were to guard His lifeless remains.

By that Easter triumph over sin and the grave Jesus, with the keys of death and hell in His hand, promises us, “Because I live, ye shall live also,” “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Believe that, today of all days! Come close to Christ, our God of Glory, on this anniversary of His resurrection and through trusting faith in His love and power live eternally!

Let the venomous voices of unbelief ridicule your Easter confidence or, in these words of a German critic of God, carry pessimism to this extreme, “No human being can by any possibility know anything.” That man never knew Christ nor what the New Testament calls “the power of His resurrection.” Leprous Job, long centuries before Calvary and the open grave, saw the Easter victory with its pathway to perpetual life and exulted, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Though death would destroy his body, Job continued to triumph: “Yet in my flesh shall I see God, WHOM I SHALL SEE FOR MYSELF.” St. Paul is persuaded that “neither death nor life  . . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” That undaunted faith in the life to come has been shared since the days of the New Testament by heroic Christian hearts and notable leaders in national affairs. Andrew Jackson, shortly before his death, confided to a friend: “The Bible is true. Upon that sacred Volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Daniel Webster spoke these words slowly, only a few hours before his departure: “What would the condition of any of us be if we had not the hope of immortality? Thank God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light!” Will you not pay the tribute of faith to the ever-living Christ and learn to love Jesus, the all-powerful Savior of your soul? My earnest and persistent Easter plea, in the name of the everlasting Christ, is that you “seek Him and live,” live eternally, radiantly, gloriously!

Jesus promises us much more than immortality; faith in His resurrection assures us of more than a vague existence, more than a survival of personality, a continuance of the ego, a crude paganized hereafter that Spiritism likes to draw. In the words of the Apostles’ Creed, to which all Christians, Protestant and Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed, subscribe,—and thank God for that common ground!—“we believe in the resurrection of the body”; we declare that, as the body of Jesus was raised on the third day, so that He could show skeptical Thomas His nail-wounded hands and feet, the riven side, so in the new life, far from being formless shadows and fleeting spirits, we, too, shall have a resurrection body,—this human frame quickened, transformed, resplendent in the likeness of Christ’s glorious body, with blemishes removed, sickness healed, deficiencies supplied, corruption gone. “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory,” the Word of Truth assures us. “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”  No weariness or weakness; no blindness or deafness; no amputations or deformities! Instead, a heavenly body; for the Scriptures promise, “We shall also bear the image of the heavenly,” a brightness resembling Christ; for here is God’s word: “We shall be like Him; for shall see Him as He is.”

On that great Day every one of us in his individual glory, shall appear before Christ with the other blessed who have died in the Lord; and in that promised reunion, by recognition, “we shall know even as we are known.” What God-sent gift Easter brings to Christians in their bereavement! What priceless hope for widows and orphans who return from the cemetery and the last earthly resting-place of a well-beloved who was Christ’s! What consolation for you who must tread a lonely path of life until Christ calls you to His homeland and to the side of your dear ones! On the other hand, what terror and unrelieved eternity of sorrow for those who are combating the Savior and denying His resurrection to be confronted with the horrors of hell, the doom of eternal death, the specter of being perpetually separated by an unbridgeable gulf from your best-beloved! Husbands who in your self­satisfying smugness think that you do not need Christ; parents who are not only marching in the anti-God or anti-Bible processions by your indifference to Christ, but who are even keeping your own flesh and blood from Jesus; sons and daughters who have forsaken the God of your fathers and mothers to sow to the flesh and of the flesh to reap corruption, behold yourselves and your destiny in the light of God’s revealed Word; listen to the warning of that Jesus who holds the keys of death and hell and who would speak into your heart, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me”! May the Spirit of God on this Easter Day bring you to the feet of Jesus with the contrite confession of your disloyalty, but with a doubt-robbed faith that exults, “‘My Lord and my God,’ my ever-living Savior and Redeemer!”

With this blessing you have an eternal promise (and all the days of my life I shall never be able to thank God sufficiently for the privilege of broadcasting this promise of Christ to the world), you will have assured redemption, the blessed eternity, which through Christ starts even here on earth. Heaven with bliss, glory, radiance, and without sin and pain and suffering; heaven with light, life, blessing, and without gloom, death, cursing; heaven with the hallelujah of full gladness, without tears and mourning; heaven with our Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, with the prophets and apostles, saints and martyrs; heaven with Christian parents and children, Christian husbands and wives, Christian friends and companions,—this is the hallowed homeland, promised and assured on Easter to those who are Christ’s.

We read after the Savior’s resurrection, “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.” May the vision of the resurrected Christ and His celestial glory bring that gladness into the hearts of those weak in body and soul, even in spirit, cast down by their failures! May a living faith in the true Easter Gospel cool the agonies of wounded souls! May Christ’s victory over sin, the grave, and hell teach you, my aged friends, that life in Jesus extends far beyond the horizon of the threescore and ten years, into unending blessedness. The poor and destitute, enriched by our Lord’s Easter grace; the lonely and forsaken, cheered by His resurrection companionship “even unto the end of the world”; the heavy-laden and over­burdened, filled with a courageous hope at the open grave, can behold the paradise regained by Christ’s redemption and chant this hymn of victory over all trials and affiictions: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

As the last book of the Bible closes with a prevision of eternity, so today we prepare to close the season’s broadcast with this foregleam of heaven. He who this afternoon tells us, “I am the First and the Last,” was the Beginning of this mission of the air when last October we started our fifth season of broadcasting in His name with the high purpose of “bringing Christ to the nation.” Today the ever-living Christ is the End of our broadcast. We started with Jesus, we conclude with Him; and by His grace many blessed months have intervened. As I thank you individually for all that you have done in prayer, word, and deed to help spread our message; as we raise our hearts particularly to praise the holy name of God for His immeasurable mercies in bringing many souls to Christ and strengthening burdened lives through the broadcasting of His promises, we resolve that this work must continue and expand beyond our present sixty-two-station Gospel network. Under the divine blessing and with your continued help this broadcasting for Christ will be resumed. Will you not work for it, so that the Savior’s Cross will be kept emblazoned from coast to coast—and, pray God, far beyond that?

Above all, will you not so cling to Christ that amid the tempests of life His leadership will always prevail and His Saviorhood never be neglected? Beloved by millions in the English-speaking world is that hymn which pictures the course of life as a stormy sea and Christ as the Christian’s Helmsman, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.” The last stanza sings of the heavenly shore and the promise that in the storms of life and the deep waters of death Jesus will repeat the “Fear not” of our text to His storm-tossed children and say, “I will pilot thee.” Such confidence was strikingly illustrated in the life of Edward Hopper, author of the hymn. Just fifty years ago death overtook him while he sat at his desk, his pencil in hand. He had been writing some new lines on “heaven.” Thus graciously did Jesus pilot him into eternity. In the same way may the ever-living Jesus, “the First and the Last,” be with you, my friends in Christ (to whose faith, prayers, zeal, and love, under God, I owe much more than I can ever express), until we meet, if not here, then, please God, at Jesus’ feet. In the mean time, as the ship of our faith braves the treacherous seas, as it steers its course to the heavenly harbor, let our prayer, directed to the ever-living Christ, ask:

When at last I near the shore

And the fearful breakers roar

‘Twixt me and the peaceful rest,

Then, while leaning on Thy breast

May I hear Thee say to me,

“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”

God bless you all with that faith for the sake of our ever-living Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen.

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

Date: April 10, 1938

Prayer for Holy Week

O Christ, Thou crucified Redeemer of our race:

As on this day Thou didst once hold Thy peaceful and triumphant entry into Jerusalem, do Thou now enter our hearts with Thy Spirit, so that we may acclaim Thee, thorn­crowned, riven of side, nail-pierced in hands and feet, our Savior, our King, our God. Look down upon us with Thy continued mercy, so that, as we contemplate anew Thy torture and dying on the cross, our hearts may be filled with the admission of our own guilt, with the realization of the punishment decreed for all unforgiven wrong, with unfeigned faith and soul-deep gratitude for the finished and perfect sacrifice of Thyself for our sins.

Bring those who are living without Thee and against Thee to Thy cross in contrition and faith. Especially do we entreat Thee to preserve us from all spiritual disloyalty, whereby our acclaim of Thee may quickly change to the sullen rejection of Thy mercies. Keep those who know Thy blood-bought salvation faithful unto the end, so that in Thy time and by Thy grace we may all, delivered from sin, worship Thee together with the Father and Holy Spirit in the radiance of heavenly holiness. Hear us as once more we stand in spirit on Calvary; and help us by the pledge of Thy cross! Amen.

Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.Luke 23:46

Into Thine hand I commit My spirit: Thou hast redeemed Me, O Lord God of truth. – Psalm 31:5

IT is said that Emperor Ferdinand I instructed the imperial artists to paint him praying beneath the cross of Christ. When the princes of his court objected that no sovereign in his might and magnificence should ever be depicted on his knees, the emperor insisted that he be portrayed humble and contrite before the cross since he owed to his crucified Savior his scepter, his crown, and the blessings of eternity.—As this week we approach in spirit the most sacred spot in the world, Calvary with its cross, to recall the turning-point in all human destiny, the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may we be brought to our knees in penitent sorrow over our sins and in undying gratitude for our blood-bought completed salvation!

We call the death-day of our Savior Good Friday; but for Christ it was a fearful Friday, His day of dying the countless deaths of all mankind. We commemorate the crucifixion with impressive services; yet how revolting and repulsive was every act of injustice by which the Savior was nailed to the cross of His death! Six hundred million Christians throughout the world pay homage this week to the bleeding, suffering, dying Christ of God; but on that day of His death only a handful of His followers stood sympathetically beneath the cross. In many parts of the world and in large church-bodies, priests and preachers don expensive robes of ritual to read the dark record of Calvary; yet Jesus was nailed naked to the cross. Sublime songs, the masterpieces of musical art, recreate for us the scenes of His atoning death; yet on that blood-marked Friday no litanies, oratorios, sacred cantatas, resounded over ugly, skull-shaped Golgotha; instead, only the refrain of such heartless ridicule, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” Only the rumble of an earth that shook in protest! The great artists of the ages have vied with each other to produce worthy, gripping studies of the crucifixion; and the total value of these superb creations runs high into the multiplied millions; yet the real, flesh-and-blood crucifixion was so horrifying with its agony, pain, and thirst, its fever, tension, and exposure, its lacerated arteries, loss of blood, and, sometimes, gangrene, that the sun itself would no longer behold the arch-suffering of all the ages, but hid its face in heavy darkness while Christ bore the most penetrating sorrows, the suffering for the individual and total sins of the entire race. We have popularized and modernized the cross. Jewelers in our large cities advertise a streamlined cross for ninety-eight cents, and it has become a flare of fashion to display the sacred emblem; but how little do we know of that first rugged, blood-marked cross of agonies on which Jesus as the everlasting Sacrifice was offered, a cross so accursed that those who even touched it considered themselves unclean!

Jesus alone, the sin-bearing Savior, towers high above all the horror of that supercrime committed at Calvary. Hear Him as He speaks His seven last words. Only once does he mention the agonies of His body, when His parched lips gasp, “I thirst!” Only once does He give expression to the harrowing anguish of His soul when, paying the penalty of all human transgression, He cries, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Instead of shrieking in uncontrollable anguish; instead of begging some bystander to put an end to His misery; instead of pleading for an opiate or a narcotic that would deaden His pain and His consciousness, He forgets His suffering and provides for His mother. He pleads, as our blessed High Priest, for those who have caused these miseries, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” To show us that our salvation is the full, free, unrestricted gift of His love; that in His kingdom there is room for every sinner, regardless of class or color distinction, no matter how vile or vicious; that there is no intermediate state of purging for those who die in the faith, Jesus turns to the thief and promises, “Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” When His last moments approach, the Savior first places the seal of completed redemption on His work as He calls, “It is finished!” and then, the turmoil and the terror of His suffering almost over, He utters

THE LAST CRY FROM THE CROSS

His valedictory to life and the reassurance of His resurrection, the words: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Saint Luke 23:46). In commemoration of that suffering let us study these words as we also find them in the fifth verse of the Thirty-first Psalm, from which Jesus quotes: “Into Thine hands I commit My spirit: Thou hast redeemed Me, O Lord God of truth.”

I

A PRAYERFUL CRY FROM THE SCRIPTURES

It is momentously significant that the last words of the dying Savior were words from the Scriptures. When all else gave way, when the storm of His suffering was drawing to its close and His life hung on a thin thread, Jesus took recourse to the eternal, unchangeable truth and clothed His valedictory of life in the phrases of the Psalter.

We, too, need, more than anything else in our war-torn, peace-robbed age, the strength that comes to us from the Bible. As long as we have faith in the promises of God, sealed by the blood of Christ, we have an immovable basis on which our faith for life and death may be grounded and preserved.

Reports from Jerusalem tell us that the walls of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the reputed site of our Savior’s burial, are in danger of sudden collapse, while the substructure, built on a platform of solid rock, is unshakable. So in our lives, much that men build themselves will pass away, but the rock foundation of the Word will never be moved. Whether you accept Christ as your Savior or not, whether you believe or reject the Good Friday message that Jesus, His arms stretched on that cross of blood and death, died to save you from sin, hell, eternal death, it is the positive, absolute, final, unchangeable truth of Heaven itself.

The eternal power and truth of the Scriptures to which the Savior testified a moment before death sealed His lips in silence will remain even though the Bible is hated and opposed as no other book. American education, recreation, home-life,—the whole American attitude is often anti­Biblical. We are training a generation of spiritual illiterates, and in their ignorance of God’s Word we are preparing the most fertile ground for radicalism and revolution.

This week I spoke with an intelligent Christian young woman, a sophomore in one of the best-known women’s colleges in the United States. She had come from a Christian family, with a father and mother devoted to the work of the Church. She herself had been nurtured in the love of Christ; yet when she went to that college, the curriculum demanded as a required course a discussion of the Bible and of the Christian creed. In that school, founded by an outstanding attorney who was converted to Christ and who gave almost two million dollars to keep that college Christian, the teachers of religion systematically tore down the faith of that young woman, an “A” student, claimed to reduce the Bible to a mass of contradiction, described it as merely a human book, faulty, mistaken, sometimes immoral. The result? This Christian girl, with tears in her eyes, declared that her peace of mind had been robbed, that she hardly knew what to believe and what not to believe.

Because this is not an isolated instance, but part of a wide, vicious assault on the Bible led even by churches and tolerated in interchurch councils, we experience much of unrest, unhappiness, irreligion, immorality. Rejecting the Word of God, ours has become an age of human, sometimes sordid enlightenment. Four pages of pictures featured in a national illustrated weekly, which the police of Saint Louis as of many other cities have confiscated and wisely banned from the newsstands, show the callus of our times. If only in this wave of enthusiasm for spreading information on the facts of birth and life our materially minded age could be led to discuss and believe the far greater and eternal facts of the new birth in heavenly life!

Good Friday, with the Savior’s last words a passage from Scripture, must always remind those who are His of the rich glories of the Scriptures. Even Christians, it often seems, busy themselves with almost everything else except the grace and truth of Scripture, that sacred Word which is able to build them up. How many Bible-reading, Bible-searching, Bible-loving homes are there in this nation today? How many of you can truthfully say: “I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies”? Many church-members busy themselves with special meetings and special programs, suppers and socials, entertainments, dramatics, and card-playing, so that only a few incidental moments remain for the truth of Christ. It is time for a protracted period of humiliation and prayer throughout modern Christendom, so that the Scriptures may be restored to their position of paramount power.

We need the spirit of one man in this audience to whose faith I am happy to pay this public tribute. When two letters with generous contributions came to us from the vicinity of Boston, I asked a friend, one of our pastors, to call on the donor and express my personal thanks. The address was that of a very large estate; yet it was not the wealthy owner who had so generously remembered our cause; it was the caretaker! Unexpectedly he had received fifty dollars and had sent that sum for our radio mission, even though, as he admitted, he did not know whether he would ever have that amount again. The truly remarkable aspect of the Christian faith that dwelt in the souls of the caretaker and his wife was the fact that they read the Bible fifty-four times from cover to cover; that as soon as he had come to Christ, he wanted to learn more about His Savior. He bought a Hebrew grammar, dictionary, and Testament, and through long vigils of nightly study, without a teacher, he learned the original language of the Old Testament, so that he could delve deeply into the beauty of God’s Word. Then he did the same thing with the Greek of the New Testament, so that today he finds inner happiness in discovering a deeper meaning in the riches of God’s Word. That man in the gardener’s cottage near the Blue Hills of Boston shows more devotion to his Savior in this respect than some who wear clerical robes and preach from pulpits. His is the love of God’s Word that we must have today.

Christ on the cross not only quoted Scripture; He prayed Scripture, and in His dying hour showed what a privilege it is to carry everything to God in prayer. Have you ever realized as you trace the last night and day of our Savior’s life how completely His sufferings were saturated with prayer? He starts with a heart-stirring high-priestly petition to His Father and ends the suffering of crucifixion as His head drops in that life-giving death with another prayer; and between Gethsemane and Calvary, as the prophetic picture of the Twenty-second Psalm reads, His thoughts constantly winged their way from the agonies of His trial and torture to the power and love of His heavenly Father.

Need I remind you of the unused, neglected, forgotten power of prayer, of the sullen, sneering attitude twentieth­century unbelief assumes toward the Christian practice of coming before the throne of God in Jesus’ name? We wonder how erratic minds can starve their bodies, refuse to accept healing medicine for sickness; we shake our heads when we read of airplanes that have crashed because they have lost communication with headquarters and ground stations or when we hear of ships that have foundered on the high seas because they had no wireless with which to send an S O S; but is this as tragic as the failure in many lives that are wrecked because they have spurned the power of prayer, the guidance that God promises to all who approach Him in the name and by the mercy of the crucified Savior? If you have never learned to pray—I mean to pray earnestly, personally, powerfully, pleadingly—for the assurance of your salvation, for the lightening of your burdens, for a key to the mystery of your sorrow, for an answer to the questions in your life, for the power to conquer sin, to forget the hideous mistakes of the past, then may God now, in this Lenten season, direct your gaze to the cross, to its atoning Christ, to His last words, a cry of prayer; and may you learn of Jesus how to pray humbly yet confidently because you pray through faith, trusting in His life-giving grace. As the Savior’s prayer was answered when He committed His soul into the hands of His Father, so your prayer in Jesus’ name and according to His will must be answered, not always in the time, and at the place and after the manner that you select, but always according to God’s good will and in His gracious way. From Golgotha the praying Christ, the dying Christ, the atoning Christ, looks at our age with a plea for more prayer, deeper prayer, stronger prayer and with the heavenly promise of answered prayer, achieving prayer, victorious prayer.

II

A CRY OF CONFIDENCE IN THE COMPLETED REDEMPTION

Christ’s last cry from the cross is an exemplary prayer for us. As the first of those seven sacred words that Jesus uttered in this agony of approaching death, “Father, forgive them,” so the last begins with the same address of faith, “Father.” It is the glorious blessing of the Good Friday suffering that through the cross God has again become our Father; that through the merits and the substitution of our Savior we can pray, “Our Father,” and have the confidence, as the apostle reminds us, that we “are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Mohammedanism has scores of names and descriptive designations for Allah, but not once is he called “father.” Unbelief has invented many new titles for its modern concepts of the Deity; but it shies from acknowledging God as the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and from confessing that all of us, children of wrath because of our sins, can become children of grace because of Christ. When Jesus in the last hours of His life, from the long prayer on Thursday to this last prayer on Friday, repeatedly spoke of His Father; when He declared, “I ascend unto My Father and your Father,” He strengthened us in the assurance of that fatherhood of God and the eternal sonship of the believer, reestablished at Calvary, which gives us the supreme distinction of being God’s children. To have the assurance that, “like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him”; to know that in His perfect and divine fatherhood the Almighty for Jesus’ sake forgives the vileness of our lives, the impurities of our minds, the hatreds of our hearts; to take refuge, as a child turns to its earthly father, in the eternal wisdom, power, and love of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who loved every one of us with that perfect, all-powerful love that “spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all”; to call God “our Father” in this faith and to be called “His children” by this grace—can life hold any higher promise and blessing?

See how children of wealth are guarded against all possibility of harm by corps of servants and companions! No sacrifice of time or money is too large to preserve their health and happiness; parental love adopts every precaution to assure their safety and prevent injury or kidnapping. At Calvary we witness that deeper and eternal love for our sin-marked lives by which God, devoted to Christ, His only Son, as no Father has ever been bound to his child, laid all sins on His Son and by His death ordained life and eternity for us. Some of you fathers know what it means to have an only son suffer and die. Think what it would mean if you were deliberately asked to give an only child into the terrors of death for the benefit and blessing of others! Yet an inconceivably greater sacrifice was made on the first Good Friday so that God might be our reconciled Father.

Then Jesus speaks of His Father’s hands, with the power and protection they afford. The hands that stretched the canopy of the heavens and studded it with myriads of stars; the hands that called the universe into being and direct the music of the spheres; the hands that raised the mountains and dug the hollows of the seas; the hands that arouse sleeping nature for the reawakening of spring, that touch the dry bones of death and transform them into newness of life;—into those divine hands that guided the inspired writers to pen promise after promise, Christ committed His soul and now asks you to commit yours. If, as the Scriptures remind us, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,”—the hands that raze cities, destroy armies, devastate empires,—how blessed to place our souls into the hands of the loving God and know as Jesus says that “no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand”!

This is the summarized, essential message of the cross: Through Christ we can entrust our souls, sin-marked and sorrow-laden as they may be, into the care and protection of God. No treasures can ever be safeguarded with closer care in massive vaults, in subterranean storerooms like those that hold the treasuries of France, in high and wide-walled structures of stone, iron, and concrete like the depository of our national wealth in Fort Knox; for once through Christ we are protected by the hand of God, no time or turmoil, no death or disaster, can dislodge us.

The words which Jesus quotes in the Thirty-first Psalm are followed by that cry of victory over sin which Jesus did not need, but which you and I must have. There the psalmist cries, “Into Thine hand I commit my spirit. Thou hast redeemed me.” When you approach the cross with the faith which without excuse or exception pleads guilty to the indictment of sin and the charge of your conscience; when you “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” offered in the one sacrifice for all the generations of men; and when your faith triumphs, “Thou hast redeemed me” by Thy free, full mercy, “redeemed me” beyond all question or quiver, “redeemed me” from my repeated transgressions and my constant weakness, “redeemed me” from sin, death, and the power of hell, from the tyranny of sorrow and affliction, from the fears and terrors of life, then you have the faith by which you can live victoriously and die triumphantly.

No wonder that Christians in all lands and centuries have prayed this last cry from the cross in their final hours with the calm bravery of their Savior! When death approached Ansgar, intrepid missionary to Scandinavia, he prayed, “Into Thine hand I commit my spirit,” and when his faltering lips could no longer form these words, friends, at his request, continued to repeat them aloud as long as his beating heart showed the flickering flame of life. John Huss, sentenced to death by churchmen who concluded their shameful verdict of guilty with the statement, “And thus we deliver thy soul unto Satan,” answered, “And I commit into Thy hand, Lord Jesus Christ, the soul that Thou hast redeemed.” Martin Luther, the mighty work of his reformation completed, prayed three times on his deathbed, “Into Thine hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Nicholas Ridley, sixteenth­century witness to Christ in England, was condemned to death because he taught salvation through the blood of Jesus; and when, chained to the stake, he saw the flames leaping toward him, he cried in an amazingly loud voice, “Into Thine hand I commit my spirit.” Hugh McKail, a youthful and eloquent preacher in Scotland, standing on the gallows to which he had been condemned for his loyalty to the cross, declared before he swung into eternity, “Farewell, Father and Mother! Farewell, friends and relatives! Farewell, world and all delights! Farewell, sun, moon, and stars! Welcome, blessed Spirit of grace, the God of all consolation! Welcome, glory! Welcome, eternal life! Welcome, death! ‘Into Thine hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.’” William Harvey, physician, who discovered the circulation of the blood, closed the last hour of his life by confessing: “I do most humbly render my soul to Him who gave it and to my blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Sir Henry W. Ackland, professor of medicine at Oxford, wrote these words into his last will, “I commit my soul unto my heavenly Father and the love of Christ.”

Will you not, without waiting in dangerous delay for the dying hour, behold your crucified Savior and resolve, “Into Thine hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me”? Today is Palm Sunday, commemorating the entrance of Jesus into the Holy City. What a happy and an appropriate time to have Jesus come into your heart and enter your life with His love! Thousands of children this morning knelt before their Savior to affirm their loyalty to Jesus, publicly to proclaim their faith in His redemption. May God give them the strength to remain “faithful unto death” as they pray, “Into Thine hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me.” Yet this Palm Sunday finds many of you repeating the ancient disloyalty which marked this day. It was only five days after Jesus held his procession of peace into Jerusalem that He was forced to carry His cross on the death-march out of the city! Only five days between the acclaim that strewed clothing along His way and the denial which robbed Him of the last vestige of His clothing! Only five days between the enthusiasm that cut down branches to be waved in welcome and the cutting down of a tree to crucify Christ in rejection! Only five days between His entrance as a conqueror and His exit as a condemned criminal! With the same quick ingratitude some of you have rejected the Christ of your souls. In the name of the Crucified I plead with you: Think of the penalty paid by those who helped to consign Christ to the cross! Judas and Pontius Pilate were suicides. The house of Annas, the high priest, was destroyed by the mob, and his son was murdered. After a few years Caiaphas, the other high priest, was removed from his office. Herod, deposed and exiled, died in shame. Before the generation that had murdered the Savior, crying, “His blood be on us and on our children,” had fulfilled the span of its time, the massacres which Jesus had prophesied came upon the city and the people who had rejected the Messiah. The historian Josephus tells us that during the subsequent siege and capture of Jerusalem for a long time five hundred of the Savior’s fellow-countrymen were crucified every day, until the Roman conqueror could find no more wood to make crosses and no more space to erect the instruments of torture. Ten thousands of the citizens of Jerusalem were sold into abject slavery, and by the irony of punishment the price that was paid for these captives was less even than the thirty pieces of silver for which the betrayer sold his Savior. In our own country, more than high expenditures for superdreadnaughts and air armadas, the nation needs the increased spiritual support and resources offered through intense personal loyalty to Jesus Christ and devoted membership in His Church. Millions who are totally indifferent to the message of the Cross must be reached, not only through the agencies of the ministers and church-workers themselves, but through the enlarged missionary zeal on the part of individual Christians working day and night for the evangelization of America.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked!” Every one of you indulging in the folly of attempting to live without Christ or against Christ has now heard the message of your redemption. If you have never heard it before, from this hour on you can never plead ignorance. You are either for Christ, or you are definitely against Him. If nothing has ever been able to convince you of the soul-destroying power of sin, of the weighty indebtedness incurred by your iniquity, of the wrath provoked by your transgressions, then behold Christ, the Crucified, and see the terrifying reality and punishment of all human sin visited upon Him in the agony of Calvary. If nothing has ever been able to warm your heart with the assurance of the love of God, free you from the fear of the Judgment to come, strengthen you for the adversities of life, behold Jesus once more on the accursed tree, and as His faltering lips seem to say, “All this I gave for thee; what givest thou to Me?” then may faith triumph over fear, as you—God grant every one of you—penitently answer, “I give myself to Thee. ‘Into Thine hand I commit my soul; Thou hast redeemed me,’ Thou Christ of the cross, my Lord and God, my Ransom and Savior, my Life for all eternity!” Amen!

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

Date: April 3, 1938

Praise to Christ, out King

Christ, our King and only Savior:

With heart-deep gratitude we would hail Thee Sovereign of our souls; yet how can we ever sufficiently thank Thee that in Thy sufferings the coronet of shame rested upon Thy holy brow and that we, saved by faith in Thy ransoming blood, will receive the crown of blessed eternity? We cannot fathom the depth of Thy rich mercy nor grasp the measure of Thy dying love that would bring every one of us, regardless of color or class, as the redeemed sons of divine royalty back to the Father. We cannot understand Thy hallowed devotion to us despite the hideous blotches that blemish our souls. Yet, O Jesus, once thorn-crowned but now glory-crowned, if we cannot explain Thy sovereign love, teach us by Thy Spirit to believe Thy kindly grace, to trust it, to glorify it in our lives. Come with Thy gracious power into doubting hearts, questioning souls, bewildered lives, so that, as the grass and the flowers spring into newness of life in vernal beauty, a new faith in Thy cross, as the symbol of Thy kingdom, may strengthen the loyalty of our faith in Thee. Our hope is built on nothing less than Thy precious blood and righteousness. So that we may be true subjects in Thy Kingdom of Glory, bless us richly, daily, eternally. Bless us as Thou hast promised! Amen.

The soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it on His head.John 19:2

SAFELY guarded within the Tower of London reposes the imperial British crown, worn by Queen Victoria at her coronation and later altered for her successors. It is a glittering display of gold and jewels; for almost 2,800 diamonds and 300 pearls, besides a large assortment of sapphires, emeralds, and rubies, stud this magnificent diadem. Nobody has ever appraised its exact value, but the intrinsic worth of its carefully selected, cut, and polished gems is conservatively estimated at $2,500,000. If we could place beside this the crowns of other British sovereigns: the state crown of India at Delhi, perhaps the most splendid of all, containing more than 6,100 diamonds and a lavish profusion of choice rubies; the crown of King George displaying the Cullinan diamond, the largest in the world, with its 530 carats; if in addition the crowns that have rested on royal heads throughout the centuries were added to this collection, famed coronation pieces like the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, in its gorgeous array of pearls and polished jewels weighing seven pounds; Saint Stephen’s crown, worn by more than fifty Hungarian kings; the crown of Lombard, which Napoleon placed on his own brow; the sparkling crown of imperial Russia, studded with flawless and perfectly matched stones,—this astonishing array of kingly diadems, aggregating in value multiplied millions of dollars, representing the rule over billions of lives, would appear as cheap toys or childish trinkets in comparison with the crown of which I speak to you this afternoon.

It is the ghastliest, yet the most glorious crown of all history. Placed on the brow of One who was condemned to die a criminal, it is commemorated today as no other kingly coronation. Made not of precious gold and gorgeous gems but of worthless, unadorned material; fashioned not by painstaking craftsmanship, but in a few hasty moments by a coarse soldier, this crown has been immortalized in priceless masterpieces of art. Never guarded as the crowns in the Tower of London, it has been enshrined by a sacred faith in the hearts and hopes of generation after generation. No coronation hymn was intoned when that crown was placed on its Bearer’s brow; instead, the raucous cry arose “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” “His blood be on us and on our children”; yet the most sublime of sacred songs, the stanzas of deathless poetry, sing their hallowed tribute. It is a crown of contradiction, representing cruelty and compassion, ridicule and redemption, bestial hatred and Heaven’s highest love, the punishment and the forgiveness of sin. It was a crown of death, yet for hundreds of millions it has helped to create a crown of life. For this peerless diadem which thousands of you recognize, as you revere the love that bore it, is

THE CROWN OF THORNS

laid upon the head of the world’s Redeemer in the depth of His suffering, as Saint John writes (chapter 19, verse 2), “The soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it on His head.”

I

IT IS A CROWN OF REDEEMING LOVE

Last Sunday we left the Savior before Pilate, testifying, “For this cause came I into the world that I should bear witness unto the truth.” Despite the cynical question “What is truth?” the governor is convinced of Christ’s complete innocence; and in crisp, short sentences he lets the scheming ecclesiastics know that he can penetrate their trumped-up charges. This unexpected support for Jesus enrages the priestly party, and with calculated malice they advance the one charge that Pilate cannot ignore: this Jesus of Nazareth, their crafty lies declare, is a living menace to Caesar’s rule. He has preached sedition throughout the entire territory of Judea and Galilee. The mention of Galilee suggests to Pilate the possibility of evading a decision; for that territory is under Herod’s jurisdiction. So Christ is led swiftly through the city early on that Friday morning to Herod, the governor of Galilee, who happens to be in Jerusalem; and for the fourth time Jesus, who had stood before Annas and Caiaphas and Pilate, now faces another hearing that involves His life. Again, no one arises in His behalf; none of the sick of body and soul whom His divine touch had healed dares to stand at His side; none of the disciples who had pledged their loyalty only a few hours before now makes his appearance.

The course of prejudice continues before the Galilean tetrarch; for Herod is not interested in Christ’s claim to sovereignty in an empire of men’s souls. He has heard of this remarkable Nazarene who performs unexplainable wonders, and secretly he entertains the hope that Christ will satisfy his curiosity by producing a miracle. Yet when Jesus, spurning the very thought of securing His release by a single wonder, maintains the majestic silence that fulfils Isaiah’s repeated prophecy, “He opened not His mouth,” disappointed Herod returns Him to the jurisdiction of Pilate. Through that incident the two officials become friends in much the same way that the joint hatred of Christ as the divine Savior today brings Communist and Modernist, atheist and pulpit liberalist, close in unholy alliance.

Once more, then, in His fifth hearing, Jesus reappears at Pilate’s court. A vestige of conscience remains to trouble the governor’s heathen heart. His wife, the first and only person to plead for Jesus, stirred by foreboding dreams, begs her husband not to defile his soul with any act of injustice against the “righteous” Christ; and Pilate seeks a compromise. Reminding those who accuse Christ that both he and Herod find no guilt in the prisoner, he suggests, “Why not punish Him with the lash and set Him free?” When this proposal fails, he resorts to a strategy which, it seems to him, must liberate Jesus. On the high festival each year the governor customarily pronounces amnesty and paroles a select list of prisoners; and now one of the most dangerous and brutal criminals that Jerusalem has known for years, one Barabbas, guilty of sedition and murder, is held in the imperial prison. In honor of the Passover, Pilate resolves to exercise clemency; but he leaves the decision to the Jews in the crowded judgment-hall and puts this alternative before them: “Whom will ye that I release unto you, Barabbas or Jesus?” Even his pagan sense of justice, corrupt as it is, concludes that a popular verdict will acquit Jesus. Like hungry animals the enemies of Christ have been inflamed by the smell of blood; Jesus of Nazareth must die! In the very city where five days before the cries of “Hosanna!” had greeted Christ in tumultuous welcome, the cry now swells into a discordant scream, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas!” As Pilate for the third time protests that Jesus is innocent, the soldiers once more lay their blasphemous hands on Christ. He had called Himself a king, they remember. A king, then, He must be! One of them spies a thorny bush that even today finds its way along the pathways of Jerusalem. He cuts off a long, spiny branch, twists and weaves it into a circlet, and rudely thrusts that cutting coronet on the head of Jesus.

Reverent minds have sought to learn which species of thorn desecrated the Savior’s brow. The Rabbis enumerated sixteen different kinds of thorny growths in Palestine; and the Savior’s crown may have been made of almost any of these. Far more vital for us, however, is this, that we find this circle of thorns emblematic of the blessed Savior’s deathless devotion to our perishing souls. Behind that Roman legionary who platted the caricature crown are your sins and mine. Only ignorance and self-conceit can point an accusing finger at the imperial authorities or the fellow-countrymen of Christ and say that they persecuted Christ, they crowned Him in this vile coronation, they crucified Him. Unless you know that your sins—the mean, ugly, lewd thoughts of your mind; the selfish, grasping, clutching desires of your heart; the profanity, filthiness, falsehood, uncharitableness of your tongue; the cruelty, pain, anguish, inflicted by your hands; the desecration and pollution of your body by the sins of the flesh; your rising in rebellion against God, your fracture of His holy will, your disregard of His mercies—have helped to weave that crown of thorns; unless you behold the “bleeding head and wounded” and cry:

My burden in Thy Passion,

Lord, Thou hast borne for me,

For it was my transgression

Which brought this woe on Thee,

you cannot secure the personal blessings of redemption with which the thorn-crowned Savior would enrich every penitent heart that seeks refuge in Him.

Nothing that I can tell you could enhance or embellish this paramount promise of the Lenten season that Christ suffered, bled, and died for our sins. We shall never be able to understand the love of the stainless Christ for our sin-cancered world, nor is there within us, even when the Holy Spirit enlightens our mind’s eye, the power to measure and appreciate the boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, even if we cannot peer beyond the first approach to the eternal magnificence of Christ’s compassion, let us, I plead with you, esteem this love of Jesus. As we see Him today broken in strength, white unto death in His countenance, with the blood running its crimson rivulets over His head and face, let us believe that Christ’s magnificent mercy is more dynamic even than the creative fiats that brought this universe into existence, more powerful than the curse of sin with which the toiling millions of all humanity have cursed themselves out of heaven and into hell.

Every one of you in this audience who has been blessed by a happy marriage knows no greater human joy in life than when your wife, perhaps in some moment of joy or impending problem, looks up to you and says, “I love you, my precious husband.” Would you, the Christian wives of America, whose home has been blessed by the radiance of Christ’s faith, give anything in exchange for those blissful moments when your husband has looked into your eyes to say, “I love you, my dearest wife”? Supported by that love, it seems that the weight of your burdens is cut in two and the joy of your life doubled. No earthly gladness which parents can mutually share is greater than the devotion of an obedient, God-fearing child that interrupts its work or play to say, “O Father and Mother, I love you both so much!” Yet the love with which Christ loved us unto the end is incomparably stronger, purer, deeper, holier. It is the love of all love, which will never be broken even by the grave. It is the one all-consuming power by which we can live a blessed life and die a blessed death. Today the Christ of the thorny crown speaks to the heart of every one who hears this message and says, “I have loved you with the imperishable love that made Me suffer and bleed. I have loved you with the tenderness and devotion that brought Me to the cross and the grave. I wore this crown of thorns for you that you, trusting My love, might have the ‘crown of righteousness,’ the ‘crown of life.’”

Fellow-sinners and fellow-redeemed, will you not acclaim this Savior your King? Will you not look beyond the crown of thorns to His crown of glory? Those who postpone their allegiance to Christ from day to day, those who have been neglecting their salvation from week to week or delaying the return from their backsliding year after year, will you not stand in Pilate’s court to see the sacred brow of Jesus encircled by thorns and with penitence for your past sins, your faith in His endless mercies, tear those torturing thorns from His head and “crown Him Lord of all” in your life? Why toy with postponing when the eternal welfare of your immortal souls is at stake? Throw away all excuses! Banish all doubts! Stifle all self-righteousness! Join us as from one ocean to the other we now say to Jesus: O Thou Christ of the cutting diadem, Thou, and Thou alone, art our Savior. In this moment and across this continent, not with the thorns of our sins, but with the glory of our faith, we crown Thee as the eternal King of our hearts and souls.

II

THE CROWN OF HUMILIATION

This love of Christ becomes the more magnificent when we remind ourselves that He upon whose head the crown of thorns was pressed is indescribably more than a man, even the best man, the most brilliant, the most honored, that has ever lived; that, though He walked on earth, He came from heaven; though He was held, bound, and scourged by men, all power in earth and heaven had been given to Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. That Christ of the crown was the great God of all glory.

Modern theology has done away with the full divinity of Jesus. Many of the men who preach over free radio hook-ups deny this crown doctrine. Superorganizations in Protestantism openly tolerate the rejection of Christ as God; and that attitude sickers down to the masses. If Jesus were to appear in a typical American city today and to testify to His deity, as He did in Palestine, He would be mobbed, imprisoned, attacked, even by some of our ministerial conferences; for in no chapter of American history has the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over the souls of men been opposed as wantonly as in our generation, when millions steadfastly refuse Him homage as God. Denial, doubt, and disbelief can never destroy the truth. Contradictory as it seems to our human reason, He who suffers this crowning hatred was very God of very God; for us and for our salvation He humbled Himself and patiently, lovingly, bore the indignities of that shameful crown.

We need more of that humility. Churches have waxed rich and fat. Preachers are often men of importance, with multiple university degrees behind their names. Their congregations frequently represent the best families, and incidentally the wealthiest, in the community. Churches of that prominence can be independent. They can select their membership and preach for applause of men rather than for pardon of God. Churches with that support must be heard before legislatures; their political opinions mean something (they think) and must be heard. All the while this perverted attitude which swells in pride over large numbers, big buildings, elite congregations, heavy endowments, pretty services, and a dozen other incidentals leaves the heart of Christianity untouched.

When the crusaders captured Jerusalem and Godfrey was to be crowned king in the Holy City, he steadfastly refused, stating that he could never wear a crown of gold in the city where His Savior had worn a crown of thorns. If there is one place where humility must be particularly emphasized, it is in the churches that should preach the love of the thorn-crowned Savior. Give us ministers, priests, and prophets of the suffering Savior who will forget themselves, all money-making schemes, all political ambitions, all striving for power, as they live and work and die for Christ; give us Christians who can meet the divine requirements of walking humbly with their God, men and women who understand that a Christian must be humble, since he confesses, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing,” and realizes that every assurance of salvation is granted by the overflowing mercies of Christ; give us in this age of dictators, usurpation of power, and unholy monopoly even in certain phases of church-life the humble spirit of Christ in our faith, in our life, and you will witness a new and far better day than can ever be created by any legislative, diplomatic, or industrial programs.

III

A CROWN OF GLORIFIED SUFFERING

Besides the love and the humility of Christ that crown of thorns shows the Savior’s patient, glorified suffering. In the depth of this disgrace Jesus utters not even one word of complaint or protest or warning. Let them complete this mock coronation by forcing a reed scepter into His hands and covering His bleeding back with a piece of discarded purple; let Pilate’s soldiers derisively bend their knees before Him and sneer, “Hail, King of the Jews”; let them, in the hellish climax of their blasphemy, rain blows on the Savior, spit in His countenance, and lash the thorn-crowned head of their defenseless Prisoner;—Jesus knows that these agonies are but the terrifying means to a radiant, magnificent end, the eternal salvation of human souls. With the assurance that by wearing this crown of thorns His faithful would once wear the crown of glory, Jesus, looking beyond the brutal godlessness, sees His sorrows as a blessed part of the eternal plan for universal redemption; and uncomplaining, unresisting, He continues to bear this disgrace.

We marvel at the courageous calm with which servants of Christ have met the pain and rack of persecution; of martyrs and missionaries who have joyfully faced excruciating pain and death in fiendish forms; yet we should not be too greatly astonished, for their heroism is the reflection of the Savior’s. John Huss, valiant witness to Christ and forerunner of the Reformation in Bohemia, was sentenced to be burned alive because he trusted in the justifying and cleansing power of the Savior’s blood. They stripped him of his priestly robes and placed upon his head a cloth cap painted with devils and inscribed with the indictment “Arch-heretic.” Huss made no protest; on the contrary, he murmured, “My Lord Jesus for my sake wore a crown of thorns. Shall I not wear this lighter disgrace for His sake? I shall indeed, and that right gladly.” In that spirit he commended his body to the cruel death by fire but his soul into the hands of God.

When grief and anguish arise, turn trustfully to the Christ of the thorn-crowned head and learn from Him how to suffer! In these bewildering days when allegedly civilized and cultured nations resemble nothing more than a ravenous pack of wolves, ready to spring at each other’s throats, when the very foundations of honesty, decency, truth, frugality, industry, honest labor, and the substructure on which these rest, the reverence of God and the love of one’s fellow-men, seem to totter as crime, vice, godlessness, antireligious movements increase, it may be that those who are Christ’s will be led to face sorrows such as have never before confronted this country. When people live too fast, work too little, play too long, drink too much, drop too far in home morality, and in spite of much leisure find no time for God, His Church, and His Bible, we have unmistakable signs of national crisis and impending upheaval. It may be that taunting unbelief will assume the upper hand and institute an inquisition and persecution unto the blood; yet in the name of this thorn-crowned King I say: Let the worst come, let the hurricanes of disaster sweep down upon us with their destruction; if the image of Christ thorn-crowned is pressed into your heart and mind, faith will give you the divine key to the mystery of suffering. Every human adversity, through the miracle of Christ, will be a divine opportunity. As Christ exchanged His thorny crown for that heavenly diadem envisioned by Saint John in the last book of the Bible, so Jesus has promised through faith in Him, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Some of you have lost your livelihood, your position in the community; you have suffered sickness and death in the family or met sullen opposition from those who should encourage you. Think of Paul Gerhardt! Because he refused to enter a church union, which, like many of these ill-fated amalgamations in our day, simply agreed to disagree, he was deposed from his church and prohibited from holding services even in his own home. Three of his children had previously been snatched away by death; and in the midst of these troubles, when he was left penniless, his wife and his fourth child died. Yet Paul Gerhardt had looked in faith to the thorn-crowned Christ; he had taken one of the most ancient of the Church’s hymns, that which is usually ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux, translated and reworded it, until it has come down to us in these beloved lines:

O bleeding Head, and wounded,

And full of pain and scorn,

In mockery surrounded

With cruel crown of thorn!

O Head, once crowned with glory

And heavenly majesty,

But now despised and gory,

Yet here I welcome Thee!

The impress of the thorn-crowned Savior helped Paul Gerhardt to find the strength of faith which enabled him to write 131 of the Church’s magnificent hymns and turn his afflictions into the soul’s victory. If you have acclaimed the Christ of the thorns your Savior, sickness and sorrow, disappointments and failures, tortures and agonies of life, will likewise be part of a divine and far-sighted plan by which “all things work together for good” to you because you love God.

The love that bore that cruel coronet is ready to sustain us, not only in the trials of life, but in the moment of death. Far from home, on India’s coral strands, Christian Schwartz, pioneer, self-effacing missionary, felt his last hour approaching. Gathering his native pupils around his deathbed, he joined them as they sang in their own Tamil language the closing verses of the hymn “O Bleeding Head and Wounded.” Schwartz, who knew that, while the service of Christ meant pain and affliction, it always led from cross to crown, kept singing to the last verses in this prayer:

When hence I must betake me,

Lord, do not Thou depart!

O nevermore forsake me

When death is at my heart!

When soul and body languish,

O leave me not alone,

But take away mine anguish,

By virtue of Thine own!

Then his voice broke in death; but by the promise of Christ he was awakened in heaven to sing the hallelujah of eternal praise to his glory-crowned Christ.

Should we not all strive and work and pray that we, too, in life and in death behold in faith the suffering Christ? Sometimes I become downhearted when I see, even in the churches, much of worldliness and mock Christianity, honoring Jesus with the mouth but ignoring with the heart, crying “Lord, Lord!” with the lips but “I myself, I myself!” with actions. We need a deep spiritual strengthening of our faith. My fellow-Christians, can we not change some of these deplorable situations that confront us when multitudes of those who call themselves Christians cannot find time to read and study the Word of Life, refuse to take opportunity for sincere heart-searching prayer, neglect the Lord’s Supper and its forgiving and strengthening blessings? God grant us a new and better faith!

And God grant you who are not yet Christ’s the light to see yourselves in your sins as God sees you: helplessly lost, hopelessly dead; and then, standing with the Christ of the blood-stained crown, to see yourself as you can be through faith in Him, washed, cleansed, purified, ransomed, redeemed and saved eternally! Above all else, watch and pray that, “when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away,” God grant that to you all for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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