Date: June 11, 1931?

Now are ye clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.John 15:3

ONE of the most noteworthy distinctions of this remarkable age and of this remarkable country is the unparalleled development of cleanliness and sanitation. This is the cleanest age in history, and the United States is the cleanest nation in the world. With all the cleaning devices, unknown a generation ago, that are employed today in our American homes, with our antidirt campaigns in modern industry and our clean-up and paint-up movements in our residential communities, America is riding on the crest of a great wave of purity propaganda that involves the annual use of three billion pounds of soap and accounts for ten cents of every dollar spent by our average family.

Surely one would be entitled to conclude that, if there is any truth in the old maxim about the proximity of cleanliness and godliness, this outward purity must have produced a corresponding spotlessness of the heart and stainlessness of the soul. With all our abhorrence of dirt, with the nation-wide battle against germs and infection, we might suppose that proportionate attention would be paid to guarding our inner life against the contamination of sin and the filth of immorality.

But what are the actual facts? Merely these: Today some of the foulest forces that have ever threatened the moral life of the American people are feverishly at work. While we have always had garbage literature, it has never been as cheap and as attractively garnished as now. When could you go into the five-and-ten-cent stores and purchase a special “love” magazine with all the cheap display in word and pictures that chokes off the clean aspirations for which Jesus Christ stands? In Theodore Roosevelt’s administration an exponent of the cult of physical culture was arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced for disseminating lascivious literature. Today that man’s name is found on the cover of a group of magazines which distribute their destructive influence in millions of copies every month. Our parents and grandparents deplored the influences of the theater in their day, twenty-five and fifty years ago; but when was the whole gamut of passions presented with such seductive allurement, on so colossal a scale and relatively at such small cost as in our age, which so often has employed the fine invention of the motion-picture, the most popular form of amusement the world has ever known, to blast away every vestige of personal purity? I hold no brief for the past; but where, in the decades that have preceded us, has any generation been confronted with a moral blight such as meets us on all sides in the sophistication of our age, when a premium is placed on impurity? A quarter of a century ago men who dared to teach that man is a glorified animal and that the concessions to his animal passions are unavoidable and not of serious consequence, aired their blasphemies largely before atheistic societies and organizations which the average man regarded as rather disreputable. Today teachers’ conventions greet these self-styled apostles of enlightenment with a salvo of applause, and ministerial groups invite them to explain their theories in clerical atmosphere.

You can understand from this and from the deluge of other depressing facts which confront every thinking observer that in this age of outward cleanliness, but of inner decay, what we need above all is the consciousness of the present low ebb of morality and the confidence in Christ’s promise of tonight, “Now are ye clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.”

“NOW ARE YE CLEAN.”

When I repeat that our present age needs the happy transformation implied in our Lord’s declaration to His disciples and to us who believe in Him, “Now are ye clean,” I know, of course, that my words are diametrically opposed to the lines drawn by the apostles of optimism, who think that human progress can be measured by modern plumbing, by university degrees, and by bank accounts. I know, too, that people today are not attracted by the emphasis on sin, that is, their own sin. They are quite ready to admit the gross and open forms of sin—in others. They are willing to discuss narcotic traffic and racketeering and the gruesomeness of the latest murder; but when you mention their own sins, the thinking of impure and covetous thoughts, the speaking of unholy and damaging words, the performance of selfish and injurious acts, you will find that the short, three-letter word sin has been deleted from many modern vocabularies and that the short, three-word sentence “I have sinned” is one of the hardest confessions to wring from proud human lips. With social service substituting for Christ’s service, with preachers rising up in their pulpits to tell their congregations (and I am now quoting verbatim from a recent sermon) , “All talk of man’s needing an atonement is an insult to God,” you can understand why there are so many modern Pharisees who thank God that they are not like the common herd, who are satisfied with cleaning the outside of the cup and the platter,—“whited sepulchers,” outwardly beautiful, but inwardly “full of dead men’s bones.”

But who is there in this audience tonight who, knowing the all-seeing eye of God, which penetrates even into the deepest recesses of a hidden heart; who is there who, hearing the scathing indictment of this sweeping word of Scripture, “We are all as an unclean thing”; who is there who, hearkening to the accusing voice of conscience, can still insist upon his own purity and the stainlessness of his own character? Who is there indeed who can take a true inventory of his life without admitting with Isaiah, the greatest preacher of Christ in the Old Testament, that his lips are unclean; without craving for purity of soul with penitent David and praying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God!”?

But remember tonight that our Lord, who transformed His disciples and told them, “Now are ye clean,” will answer our prayers for clean hearts. You who are living on in the sordid smirch of sin; you who are suffering from the consequences of secret iniquity; you who are leading double lives; you young people who think that purity is out of date and out of place in our modern advancement; you elders whose souls are shrinking under the withering touch of the sins of unfaithfulness, of grasping greed, of hypocrisy and lies, of hatred and envy;—when you find, as you must find, that sin is the hardest of all hard masters; when you learn from bitter experience, as you will learn, that the worst delusion on earth is this, that sin can make you happy; when you cry out from the depths of your soul for something to clean and purify you, knowing only too well that no sinner can stand in the sight of the holy God,—here is the promise, not my fallible opinion or the faltering conjecture of any other human being, but the divine and unalterable pledge of Him whose truth is higher than the heavens: “Now are ye clean”

“THROUGH THE WORD WHICH I HAVE SPOKEN UNTO YOU.”

Do not delude yourself into believing that you can cleanse yourself; for as God told Jeremiah: “Though thou wash thee with niter and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before Me.” Do not think that you can remove the stains of sin by the application of the score of theories through which men have tried to improve human character and minimize sin. They have used reason and argument; they have employed education and training; they have tried punishment and prison; they have taken recourse to psychology and surgery; they have experimented with changed environment and changed diet; but all this, at best, has proved as inadequate as an attempt to empty the Atlantic with buckets. For though men may alter the course of rivers, move mountains, and separate continents, this change from impurity to purity is too subtle to be graphed or charted and too elusive to be recorded by the seismograph which catches the convulsive tremors of a shaking world; too soul-deep to be sounded by endless fathoms, too exalted to be touched by earth’s highest reaches.

But thank God that you have the promise of the text, “Now are ye clean.” How? “Through the Word which I have spoken unto you.” That Word of Jesus, these purifying, restoring promises of the Scripture, and these alone, offer to all, however disfigured and discolored they may be with sins that shriek unto the highest heaven, this precious, priceless promise of purity, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” That Word which calls out tonight to all the sin-laden who sincerely and unreservedly repent of all their sins, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”; that Word offers to all who trustingly accept its truth and believe its promises the purging power of Christ’s precious blood, so potent that it can do what the strongest chemical can never do, cleanse the human heart forever of the stains of sin, yes, of the sins themselves.

Have not the centuries borne out the stupendous truth of this promise of Christ? While He has exposed as no other the defiling sin of the human heart, His pierced hand has directed the life path of His children from the quicksands of sin to Himself, the solid Rock of Ages. Think of the molding influence of His Word in history. A hundred years ago the London Missionary Society sent its first workers to Madagascar, where polygamy, unspeakable vice, the sacrifice of human beings, in fact, all the corrupt practises of heathendom and none of the alleged virtues (of which the opponents of mission-work speak so glibly) reigned in unchecked sway. As soon as the Word of God was translated into the language of the island, the purification which Jesus promises, began its miraculous work, and the natives were transformed in soul and changed in their lives. Then came a period of bloody persecution, in which their faith and Christlike life was to be tried by death and torture. The converts to Christianity were stoned, beaten, speared, poisoned, hurled over precipices, persecuted by a thousand fiendish inventions; but that Word of Christ, the Savior, which had been preached to them had so thoroughly cleansed their hearts that amid the agonies of the greedy flames more than one of these martyrs cried out, as faithful witnesses have recorded, “O Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”

This transformation to purity of heart and life which Christ’s Word has effected has left the monuments to its power all over the globe and throughout history in the lives of millions of twice-born men and women. Christ speaks to persecuting Saul, and he becomes persecuted Paul. Augustine, the son of a heathen father and a saintly mother, hears the Word, comes under the conviction of sin, takes the Bible, and is changed from a sensualist to a saint. Luther, collapsing under the crushing weight of unforgiven sins, pages a Bible, and his astonished eyes read, “The just shall live,”—not by their own virtues or the accomplishment of others, but “by faith,” and that promise turns him from despair to the indomitable confidence that marked his gigantic faith.

Today that Word has not lost its power; it still purges and purifies. Show me a sweet, unselfish girl who takes an interest in her home, extends a helping hand to others, leads a clean and cheerful life, and is able to meet temptations fairly and squarely, and I will show you that that girl has a Bible in her room, that she is a faithful attendant at church, and that her prayers mean something to her. And conversely, show me a young man who has sowed his wild oats, who spends his evenings away from home, whose conversation is sprinkled with profanity, whose associates are discreditable, and who has lost a real interest in the finer and nobler things of life, and I will show you that that young man never thinks of the Bible, that he is through with Christ’s religion. For, as true as is the happy promise of the apostle, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” just so true, conversely, is the Savior’s declaration, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”

I pray to God that there may be no one within the range of my voice who is engaged in the disastrous tragedy of living without Christ and His saving and renewing Word. For the yesterday of your life, with its sins and weaknesses that a thousand years of human regrets can never remove, you need the forgiveness promised in His Word; for your today with its temptations and disappointments you need the strengthening that the Spirit gives you through the Word; for your tomorrow with all of its vague uncertainties you need the hope that your Bible contains in exhaustless measure. If you are not baptized, as His Word requires, you must have that washing of regeneration. If you have turned your hack on Christ, you must have this Word to show you the folly of sin and the power of Christ’s love, who as the great Good Shepherd leaves the flock of nine and ninety in the wilderness to go and seek that one stray lamb until He finds it. If the grace of God has preserved you in faith, you must have His Word and employ it as your Savior employed it in His temptations to meet the defiling allurements of a sin-soaked world. Without this Word you stand hopeless and helpless, separated from God by sordid sin; but with this Word, looking “unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” you—whoever you are, whatever you are, wherever you are—have the purity of Heaven’s truth to answer every question, to solve every problem, to lighten every burden that may trouble your soul. Amen.

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

Date: June 4, 1931?

The Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent me. Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord, thy God.Isaiah 48:16-17

MY message to you this evening is one that takes you, as it were, into the very holy of holies, a discussion which every right-minded person, conscious of his human limitations, must approach with reverence and adoration. Tonight we are to stand on peculiarly holy ground and contemplate one of the profoundest and one of the sublimest conceptions with which human thought may engage itself. Well do we hesitate, for keener minds and sharper intellects than ours have lost their spiritual balance in the contemplation of this immeasurable mystery. Well do we pause to invoke divine blessing, because merely human speculation, indulging, as it does, in the maddest extremes, leads only to chaotic confusion. Well do we turn away from the denials of men to the light and truth of heaven’s revelation in our Bible to find the answer to this most vital, most essential question of all human existence, “Who is the true God?”

I do not propose tonight to complete the demonstration of the existence of God; for there is a natural, inborn acknowledgment of that existence which is common to all humanity. No race that ever trod the face of the earth has been so low, none so illiterate or so degenerate, as to be without the realization that there is a Supreme Being. It is this that helps to separate man from beast. To behold the world with its stupendous and boundless marvels and then to claim that it came into existence automatically and without God is just as irrational as to behold a canvas by Rembrandt and to maintain that such masterpieces of the brush were produced without an artistic mind and hand behind them; or to listen to a fugue by Bach and to insist that such musical marvels are self-caused and self-created; or to stand before the Empire State Building and tell rational people that such structural heights build themselves, without architectural direction. Or again, if we study the system and the order of the universe, for example, its stellar heavens, the great clockwork of God, with all of its unerring precision, its stupendous exhibition of wisdom and planning and adaptation, and if we find no evidence of a Designer behind such design, a Systematizer behind such system, we are just as illogical as if we were to assume that a prodigious volume might accidentally emerge from a jumbled pile of lead type or that the tens of thousands of trains that daily speed over the network of steel rails run and stop as they do regardless of carefully planned schedules. Truly, as the psalmist stated three thousand years ago, only “the fool,” only the intellectual moron, only one who is impervious to conclusive evidence, can say or try to say, “There is no God.” And much of the uncleanness and bitterness of our age must be traced to the frantic and unnatural effort to dethrone the Almighty, because atheism leads to immorality. It is the atheist upon whom God’s wisdom places this indictment, “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works.”

But when we ask, “Who is this God?” to whose existence every rational being, willingly or unwillingly, pays tribute, we are confronted by a profusion of contradictory answers that is both bewildering and staggering. Men have bowed down before stones and stars and trees; they have worshiped snakes and cows and cats; they have prayed to hideous and obscene gods, that have demanded hideous and obscene rites, drunken debauches, bloody slashing and gashing, the burning alive of helpless little children; they have done obeisance even to Satan and called him God. For while men of themselves know that there is a God, their most persistent effort and most painstaking researches have not revealed who this God is. He whose omniscience fills the earth tells us, “No man hath seen God at any time.”

GOD IS ONE.

If, then, we would know God, God must reveal Himself to us. And God has granted us this revelation. In the words of our text this evening we read that the God of the Bible answers the age-old search by this definite and decisive statement, “I am the Lord, thy God.” Contrary to the crude extravagances of heathen worship with its immense pantheons of hundreds, yea, thousands and tens of thousands of gods, there is, as all Christendom confesses on the basis of plain Scripture-passages, but one God, infinitely exalted and immeasurably supreme, above the strongest, the best, the purest, the greatest, and the most permanent that earth and heaven combined contain. Contrary to the refined speculations of a skeptical age, in which God is held to be an idea, an impersonal force, a mere abstraction found in fragrant flowers and blue skies, in laughing waters and wooded groves; contrary to all the loose, hazy, doubtful, shallow thoughts of God that are so popular in our modern books and periodicals, He who tonight tells every one of us, “I am the Lord, thy God,” is an absolute personality, an individual, definite, personal God; a God who wills and works; a God who plans and directs; a God who creates and sustains; a God who bears a very vital and personal relation to every human being that has ever walked the face of the globe.

GOD IS TRIUNE.

But when we have acknowledged God as the one personal, definite Being, this by no means exhausts the Biblical statements in regard to His essence and nature. For in this personal unity there is a blessed, holy Trinity, to which our text, one of the many foregleams of the Old Testament touching upon this Trinity, pays reverent and direct tribute. Note the sharp distinction of the three persons in these words, “The Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me.” The promised Messiah, whom the second part of Isaiah’s prophecies pictures to us so vividly, is speaking. And He specifically refers both to “the Lord God,” Jehovah, the Father and Creator, and to “His Spirit,” the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. And what the pages of the Old Covenant tell us here and in other passages which mention God, His Son, and His Spirit; what this remarkable passage of Isaiah indicates when it speaks of God in this threefold designation, “the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One,” is emphasized on the pages of the New Testament with convincing clarity. We stand on the banks of the Jordan and behold Jesus in the hour of His baptism. A voice comes from heaven, the voice of God the Father, declaring, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And while we look, “the Spirit of God,” dove-shaped, descends from on high. If there is no Trinity here when one Person speaks from heaven, the second stands on earth, and the third spans the distance between the two; or if there is no Trinity in the promise of Jesus, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, . . . even the Spirit of Truth”; if there is no Trinity in the last and sacred commission of Christ, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”; or finally, if there is no Trinity in St. Paul’s apostolic benediction, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all,”—then surely the sacred writers have been guilty of blasphemy and malicious misrepresentation; then, truly, they have consciously or unconsciously fostered the most disastrous form of idolatry. But, thank God, from the very first chapter of Genesis, which pictures to us God the Father as Creator, God the Son as the Word, and God the Holy Spirit brooding over the face of the deep, until the last pages of Revelation, with its beatified vision of the Spirit and the Lamb and the Father, the entire Biblical picture of God presents to us this glorious, ineffable, and most holy and sacred Trinity, the one true God revealed in the Scriptures as Three Persons, as our text of tonight puts it—“the Lord God,” His Messiah, and “His Spirit,” or, “the Lord,” “thy Redeemer,” “the Holy One.”

THIS TRINITY IS DIVINELY SUFFICIENT FOR ALL HUMAN NEEDS.

Have you ever paused to consider how sorely you and I need this Triune God in the perilous paths of our individual lives? We have but one life to live, and what a cruel, cold, and at best enigmatical existence it so often seems to be! You who write to tell me of troubles in your family, of conniving at divorce, of bitter, rankling hatred between husband and wife, of misunderstanding between parents and children; you who in the hours of despair have been driven to the very edge of self-annihilation; you who have suffered from financial and industrial reverses, trembling under the varied adversities of life, you—all of you—need a God who can offer you a father’s love and a father’s guidance. And here in this Trinity is, first of all, as Isaiah tells us tonight, “the Lord,” of whom the infallible Record testifies, “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” You need the assurance of one whose omnipotent guidance is able to control the hostile forces of an unsympathetic world and to direct the destinies of His children along the paths of peace and comfort. And here in this Trinity, as we chant our believing “Holy, Holy, Holy” is the “Lord, the Lord God, merciful, gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin”; the One of whom we confess, “Thou hast been our Dwelling-place in all generations”; the One with whom “nothing shall be impossible”; the One whose works are “all done in truth.” Look to Him tonight, and no matter what your individual problems or sorrows may be, remember that “He is not far from every one of us”; no matter how hopeless and helpless the future may seem to you, read these sacred pledges of the Lord, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you”; no matter how hazardous the unveiled paths that lie before you may seem, believe the promise of the Lord, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” He has told you that “the very hairs of your head are numbered.” He has asked you, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” With this assurance we can appropriate, even in days of modern depression, the majestic acknowledgment of Luther: “He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, defends me against all danger, and guards and protects me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” Oh, blessed heavenly Father! Oh, thrice-blessed Trinity!

But every day that we live makes us crave for another assurance. Our sins rise up before us, and with the common yearning of all men of all ages, conscious of our own unworthiness, we raise our hands to grasp a God who will forgive us our trespasses, who will still the insistent accusations of our conscience, and subdue the rumbling thunders of outraged and divine justice. Sad and repeated experience has shown us that the most profound and the most versatile of all human plans have never been able to offer a release from sin. People can tell you that sin is not serious or even insist that it is out of date and old-fashioned; they can ask you to “eat, drink, and be merry,” entirely oblivious of tomorrow and its tearful dawn. At best they can lead you to a thousand different manmade propositions by which, in common with the heathen of all lands and ages, you must do something, give something, eat something, wear something, say something, pray something, in short, perform some good and meritorious works by which a just God may be appeased and peace and harmony be established between Him and you. Yet all this falls far short of giving to you and to me that indelible, everlasting, irremovable assurance that our sins have been forgiven and that we have been restored to grace.

But here, in this Trinity, we also have, as our text emphasizes, the Christ of God, sent by His Father and the Spirit, the Redeemer, the Second Person of this unfathomable and transcending Tri-Unity. I ask you, then, to believe that He—inconceivable, yet glorious mystery that it is—became man to save you. I ask you to read the old, but ever new climax of His infinite love, the story of stories, Calvary and its Cross. And you especially who write me that you cannot find peace and happiness; you who have become dissatisfied with yourselves and dissatisfied with the best that life can offer, I beseech you in the name of that Christ of Love to kneel down before His cross and in the immortal words of the greatest preacher of pure grace since the apostolic days to pledge yourself to this faith:—

“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.” O blessed Redeemer! O thrice-blessed Trinity!

But there are those whose faith has weakened, the flame of whose devotion has flickered low. There are those who are driven to write that they have left the Church, have fallen away from grace, and traveled along the highroad of spiritual indifference and worldliness. There are those who live on in appalling ignorance of those great and vital truths without which there is no hope of heaven. Now, all such, indeed all of us, since by our own reason and strength we cannot believe in Jesus Christ, or come to Him,—all of us, I repeat, need a God who can enlighten our carnal minds, who by regeneration can make us children of God, who can renew our faith, and by His power enable us to lead a godly life. Again, human methods and external agencies have failed to reveal this God. Every merely human program for the improvement and uplifting of men has led to dire disappointment. But thank God again; for here in this Trinity, this “Spirit” of God in our text, we have a God who meets all these requirements. We have the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, the Light-giver, the Sanctifier, the promised Comforter, who, coming into the deep recesses of your heart by the Word and the Sacraments, brings you to God, breathes new life into your cold heart, and gives you “the peace of God that passeth all understanding,” the joy that knows no end, the happiness that echoes into heaven. He it is, this Holy Spirit, called God and accepted and honored as divine in the pages of Holy Writ, who now knocks at the door of your heart to make you a child of God or, if you have that holy distinction, to strengthen your faith. O blessed Spirit! O thrice-blessed Trinity!

Let me tell this truth again, my dear friend and fellow sinner: Wherever these words find you and however they find you, they are an invitation to believe God’s Word concerning Himself when “the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,” tells you, “I am the Lord, thy God.” People may doubt and scoff, as Arius doubted and as the very contemporaries of our Savior scoffed when the message of the ineffable Trinity was preached to them. But I make no appeal to reason or science tonight. A thousand other things, even in the commonest experience of our everyday life, are beyond the reach of our analysis and our explanation, and yet we see the demonstration of their force and fact before our very eyes. And so, though we stand in silenced awe and in hushed reverence before this mystery of mysteries, let us remember that the blessings of faith rest upon those who believe firmly and everlastingly. Yes, let us with uncounted hundreds of millions raise our hearts tonight before this day of grace closes, in the sincerity of gratitude to God the Father, who created us, to God the Son, who redeemed us, and to God the Holy Spirit, who still sanctifies and preserves us, the blessed, thrice-blessed Trinity. Amen.

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

Date: May 28, 1931?

Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice.Philippians 4:4

A FEW weeks ago a new religious sect was organized in Hungary. Its chief tenet was this, that salvation could be gained by laughter. But when a group of those who professed this creed of boisterous happiness put their doctrine into practise, they laughed so uproariously that they were committed to court as public nuisances.

Their conception of Christianity as an ecstatic religion of unbridled hilarity is, of course, a defiant contradiction of Biblical truth, and it is symptomatic of that fitful, jerking, convulsive degradation of worship, too frequent in our own country, that has brought reproach upon the fair name of the Church. Yet it is not as harmful and destructive as the wide-spread delusion, promoted by atheists and milder opponents of Christianity, which pictures the religion of Jesus Christ as a joy-killing, pleasure-stifling creed, built up on dark and dismal denials, with no room for happiness and laughter. Indeed, within the Church there have also been those who have insisted that the ideal Christian life is the life that isolates itself from happiness and that the perfect pattern of holiness is to be found in severing all possible connection with the world and in retreating to the severe solitude of a hermit’s hut or within the high walls of a cloister. And so we read of terrible caricatures of Christianity, of misguided fanatics who lash their backs until they stream with blood, who have solemnly pledged themselves to perpetual silence, who deny themselves the bare necessities of life, eking out an existence hardly better than a living death, and who do all this in the name of that religion of love and happiness that Jesus gave to the world!

Now, this deplorable misrepresentation of the true character of Christianity has its peculiarly disastrous effects in the lives of young people for whom the quest of happiness is a natural and necessary part of their existence. As a result, too many young men and young women today regard the Church merely as a negative, crepe-hanging institution, which continually demands, “Thou shalt not do this, and thou shalt not do that,” a creed that everlastingly opposes every desire and impulse in which the throbbing, surging life of youth may express itself.

WHY THE CHRISTIAN REJOICES.

But tonight the Word of God calls out to us in the message of happiness, “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” and as though it would emphasize to all heavy-hearted and low­spirited men that here at last is the end of their search for happiness, the apostle repeats, “And again I say, Rejoice.” On the basis of these words I hope to show you tonight that a Christian can be the happiest of all human beings and that in particular the springtime of youth, which separates carefree childhood from the furrowed struggles of adult responsibilities, these years of overflowing energy and vitality, must he the happy years in every normal Christian life.

How can it be otherwise? When people today acknowledge Jesus Christ as their own loving, merciful all­sufficient Savior, they have the real basis for all true happiness, “the joy of salvation,” in their hearts. We can understand why a deluded Hindu, living on in unrelieved torture, can drive all happiness out of his life by lying on a bed of spikes or by imbedding into his quivering flesh great hooks by which he is swung high into the air. He wants to have the inner assurance that he can acquire merit to balance the sins that abound in his life. But his is a religion of unrelieved doom and unmitigated terror. We can comprehend, too, why people in our remarkable age who do not know God and do not know the Bible can be the unhappiest of all creatures, even with all the beauties of nature surrounding them and with all the attractions of modern life at their disposal. Their Christless, godless, hopeless creed destroys every bit of that inner happiness without which there can be no permanent joy in life. But we cannot explain why there can be a perpetual gloom and protracted pessimism in the life of a Christian. For here, in the Father’s invitation of divine grace, which tells us that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” is the power that first touches at the root of all unhappiness because it touches at sin, the responsible cause for sorrow in all of its many forms, and then offers the only power in all the world that is strong enough to remove sin, the saving, cleansing, redemptive power of Christ’s blood.

We know, of course, that people claim to find happiness serenely by disregarding “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,” in money, in human associations, in the acquiring of distinction and honor. But when they are confronted with the real issues of life and death, this shallow happiness vanishes, dissipated into nothingness. Why is it that people who apparently seem to enjoy life to its fullest often end in the terror of despair? Why is it that, whenever a sudden catastrophe overwhelms people, when a crowded public building is destroyed by fire, when a ship founders on the high seas, or when a tornado cuts its devastating swath through a community, people who have enjoyed the most complacent, self-satisfying, and undisturbed life cringe in abject fear and horror before the thought of the final reckoning? Why is it that men who during their lifetime boasted that earth held no terrors for them have breathed their last as the most wretched and unhappy of all men? Why all this if not because the fundamental rule of life which has been expressed on every page of human history is this, that without the peace of conscience, without the assurance of forgiven sins, there can be no real and lasting happiness?

See how Jesus emphasized this connection of happiness and forgiven sin. They brought to Him a young man sick with the palsy; and in performing the miracle of healing, Jesus said, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” And the rule of human experience demonstrates that, as there can be no real and permanent happiness when the claims of a violated conscience are unanswered, so, when Jesus pronounces His benediction of peace and forgiveness upon a sin-sick soul, then, and then alone, you, every one of you, can be sure of a satisfying, soul­changing happiness.

With the joy of this radiant faith, Christianity offers the joy of happy freedom. Contrary to every other religion, it offers release from sins free, by the purest grace, without penances or pilgrimages, without the sacrifices of animals, without the payment of money, without the imposing of physical hardships or the suffering of bodily torture. Contrary to other religious systems, it prescribes no particular mode of dress; it has no diet rules to tell people what they must eat or what they must drink; it enacts no laws that demand the unmarried state of its followers as a particularly holy and God-pleasing condition. Contrary to a thousand different infringements on the liberties of the individual which tell people what they should do and what they must not do with their time and their money; contrary to the spirit of the blue-laws of which we read and hear so much when teachers in the outward Christian Church insist upon the Old Testament spirit and legislation, the glory of Christ’s Gospel is expressed in the Savior’s promise, “The truth shall make you free,”—free from the terror of sin, hell, and death; free from the stifling letter of man-made laws, which kill off the deeper spiritual truths; free to lead and regulate a life in definite harmony with Christ’s highest ideals, the only permanently happy life of which men have ever known.

That is why the greatest Christians have been the happiest Christians. They tell us that Jesus did not laugh; and I do not know whether He did, for the Scriptures contain no reference to His laughter. What with the sins of all humanity of all lands and ages weighing down so heavily upon His soul, it would be surprising indeed if the thought of that agony left Him a moment for laughter. No wonder that long before He went the way of the cross, anticipating the grueling agony of Gethsemane and the crushing cruelty of Calvary, He shuddered at this ordeal and cried out, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how shall I be straitened until it be accomplished!” Yet we do read that the soul of Jesus rejoiced; and we cannot picture our Savior, in those intimate moments when He took the little children into His arms, without a smile on His divine countenance that reflected the laughter of those little ones; we cannot see Him at Cana’s festive marriage board sitting apart in stiff aloofness from the spirit of that happy occasion; we cannot picture Him at Bethany with Lazarus and his sisters without being thoroughly happy in the quiet hours of that friendly circle.

That happiness of soul has radiated itself into the lives of His followers. Think of Martin Luther, with all the crushing cares of his titanic task, singing happily in the midst of his family circle, while his embittered foes vainly sought to destroy him. Think of Charles Spurgeon, the great London preacher, walking through an English meadow, kneeling down in the grass to thank God for the gift of laughter and happiness. Think of all the great heroes of faith of whom posterity has preserved a detailed record, and you will find them enjoying the happiness of friendship, enriched by the pleasures of music and literature, happy, exuberantly happy, in the hours of recreation amid the beauties of nature or surrounded by congenial associates. And as their Christian faith led them to that abundant and happy life promised by the Savior, so, as our heavenly Father would lift up our hearts from care and sorrow, His messenger calls out to every one of us tonight, “Rejoice; . . . and again I say, Rejoice.”

HOW THE CHRISTIAN REJOICES.

But we must not overlook the essential fact that the apostle says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” There are, of course, many young people today who actually believe that they can find the thrill of happiness along forbidden paths, in the fringe of hazy, shady sins that begin just beyond the limits of morality. In the present-day sophistication of sin a good time often involves a fracture of the moral code, and pleasure is just another word for indulgence in “lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eye, and the pride of life.” Young people frequently think that a full, happy life must embrace the plucking of forbidden fruit, the overriding of conventions, the casting aside of what they like to call old­fashioned morals. And so we see blind, misguided young men and young women, unmindful of the pleas and the warnings of their parents, rush on in the mad pursuit of the kind of pleasure that pulls down the Scriptural ideals of purity, honesty, and truth and paves the road to ruin.

For sin, no matter how carefully it may be disguised, no matter how attractively it may be decorated, is always ugly, brutal, and degrading; and inevitably it proves itself to be a relentless and tyrannical taskmaster that “can destroy both body and soul in hell.” Think of the characters that have been ruined and the virtues that have been violated in this mad chasing after the frivolity of sin; think of the terrible consequences this poisoned pleasure strews in its path; wrecked bodies, stunted mental growth, loathsome diseases, the utter bankruptcy of self-respect,—these and a hundred other curses that leave a stain too indelible to be removed by long and frantic regret, a lurking shadow too black to be dispelled during an entire life. And if tonight there should be within the reach of my voice any young man who thinks he can defy God’s order of purity and decency and find happiness in secret sin and secret relations, or if there is any young woman who, unbeknown to her parents, is planning on some step that will take her away from the path of purity and truth that she has been taught to follow in her Church and in her home, let me plead with them tonight to stop in their sinful course, to learn a fundamental rule of all human experience, that sin never makes any one happy, that it always drags its victims down to disgrace and despair, and that the only true happiness comes when you get right with God and follow the appeal of the apostle, “Rejoice IN THE LORD,” that is, rejoice in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, your Friend of friends, your never-failing Companion, your never-ending Source of strength, purity, and power.

WHEN THE CHRISTIAN REJOICES.

Rejoicing stimulated with that divine impulse will shine through the darkest clouds of sorrow and adversity and tribulation. It is easy enough to be happy when things come our way, when we have plenty of money, when we enjoy good health, and when the flow of life runs on in a smooth and even course. But here is a power that leads us to “rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS” and enables us to find happiness in sorrow and rejoicing even in affliction. That glorious faith animated the first Church when the hunted and despised apostles could rejoice “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name”; when St. Peter could write to the scattered and persecuted believers, “Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”; when the humble and antagonized Christians in Rome could join St. Paul in declaring, “We glory in tribulation.”

That victorious faith holds out the same promise for us today. Are you depressed by the thought of the weaknesses and impurities that abound in your life? Come to Christ, ask Him for a clean heart and a right spirit, and He will give you the joy that comes with a twice-born, Christ-centered life. Are you distressed by worry and anxiety? Are you concerned about conditions in your home, your resources, your work, your health, your personal problems? Here is the promise, penned by inspiration for you, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Here is His sacred pledge, “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ.” Here is Christ, just before the ordeal of Gethsemane, asking His Father for His disciples and for you that His joy might be fulfilled in you. That joy of Christ, that rejoicing “in the Lord alway,” which God offers to you tonight is earth’s highest happiness, and the faith in Christ makes this life, as disappointing and as disillusioning as sometimes it may be to many of you, so eminently worth living and so blessedly worth dying.

Then up, my heart, rejoice and sing,

A cheerful trust maintain;

For God, the Source of everything,

Thy Savior will remain.

Amen.

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

Date: May 21, 1931

Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.Jeremiah 6:16

NEXT Sunday the oldest, the greatest, the happiest organization in the world celebrates its birthday, when Christians in all corners of the globe come together to commemorate Pentecost. On that day, nineteen centuries ago, the Church of Jesus Christ began its blessed work, when the Holy Spirit, in tongues of living fire, descended upon the first disciples, and when they, endued with that power, preached the message of sin and grace into the hearts of three thousand converts.

For nineteen hundred years the Church has had the same sacred commission of bringing Christ to men and men to Christ; for nineteen hundred years the Church has been directed to push through to the very ends of the earth and bring its message to all colors, creeds, and classes; for nineteen hundred years the Church has been challenged to sound forth in clear, clarion tones the one message that can save and transform the souls of men by its priceless, peerless, timeless, endless pledge, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

While it would seem that these nineteen centuries have been long enough, and the work of the Church during this period impressive enough, to ingrain into the living consciousness of all who are called Christians this truth, that the saving of souls by the preaching of the shed blood of Jesus Christ should be the plan and program of the Church today, there are unfortunately wide-spread and far­reaching influences at work in this novelty-seeking, innovation-craving age that would revolutionize the work of the Church, introduce what people like to call “modern messages” and “twentieth-century methods,” and desert the time-honored roads along which the saints of God have plodded on their path to glory.

IT IS STILL THE OLD PATH.

But tonight, as we approach the anniversary of the founding of the Church, the Word of God calls out to us, “Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.” And I think it would be difficult to find a message that is more sorely needed in the churches of America today than this command of God for a revival of the old, but ever new principles upon which the Church is built. People today have forgotten the most fundamental facts relative to the Church and its work. They have forgotten that the very word church comes from a Greek expression which means “the house of the Lord.” They have forgotten the real significance of Pentecost and its message to the Church today. And the result? Oh, if St. John in the Apocalypse was driven to write his seven letters of warning and encouragement to the churches of Asia Minor, how much more sorely do we today need the inspired message from God to remind us of the follies that have helped to deform the modern American Church!

Among the 232,000 church-buildings in the United States there are uncounted hundreds that are anything but houses of the Lord. They have degenerated into mere houses of men, where human theories, with all the inconsistencies of their ever-changing philosophies, rule out the Word of God as too antiquated for our 1931 brand of enlightenment. With preachers in American pulpits who are not sure of the existence of God, but who are sure that the Bible is not the inerrant and divine revelation; with teachers in American divinity schools who with genial condescension ridicule the fundamental doctrines of Christian faith; and with the lavishly financed away-from-God movement to support all this, unnumbered churches in our own country have given up the old paths and sought new ways; sacrificed their spiritual integrity, forfeited their right to existence, and loaded upon themselves the iniquity of stifling men’s souls into hopelessness. In this hour of apostasy we must utterly condemn this high treason against God Almighty on the part of those who claim to be His ambassadors and tell them, “You have made His Church, the house of the Lord, a habitation of darkness and death.”

But within the ranks of those who still claim faithful adherence to the Bible there are many churches in which the virile ideals of Biblical Christianity have surrendered to the spirit of modern sensationalism, churches which, forsaking the old paths, have degenerated into social centers, where bizarre novelties and sensational attractions have invaded the sanctuary in order to attract large and curious congregations. Thus we have preachers with more zeal than knowledge who have sought to denounce evolution by pulling a mangy, wriggling monkey into their pulpits; others who have taken the time which God has given them to work on men’s souls and used it to smash whisky bottles or denounce liquor laws in what they call the house of the Lord. Or, far worse, there is the prostitution of the bride of Christ, by which churches compete with theaters, featuring drama services, vaudeville programs, and motion pictures instead of the Word. Glance over your newspaper on Monday morning, and you will find accounts of barefooted girls dancing in pagan tableaux in the house of the Lord; professional pugilists boxing in the house of the Lord, seven- or eight-year-old child preachers, girl ministers, and other similar flagrancies in the house of the Lord. You will find that too frequently the preaching of the Gospel to the sin-sick world is so completely overlooked that there is as little room for Christ in these churches as there is in a Mohammedan mosque or in a Hindu shrine. And against all who thus in any way contribute to tear the Church from its spiritual basis and make the sacred edifices, once dedicated to the worship of the Almighty, mere centers of social functions, the Savior, were He with us in the flesh, would utter this indictment, “Ye have made My house, the house of the Lord, a worldly house of worldly men.”

Or there is the new path taken by the commercial Church, the Church which tries to sell salvation in an endless chain of money-making enterprises, which ruthlessly disregards the law of the land by instituting crude forms of gambling; the Church which the Savior condemns in His warning of old, “Ye have made My house a house of thieves.” There is the police Church, which thinks it has been called into existence to make this country a Christian nation by force, to promote political lobbies in the effort to carry through a political program, or to employ here, as it has employed in other countries in ages past, rack, fire, and sword. Let such churches ponder over the Savior’s warning, “They that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” as He says, in effect, “Ye have made My house, the house of the Lord, a police court of inquisition.” There is, among the new types of churches, one that is more dangerous than all of these, the cold, self-satisfied, fashionable, and elite Church with its aristocratic aloofness, the Church that takes its talent, the golden opportunities that God has placed before it, wraps it up in the napkin of exclusiveness, and buries it in the cemetery of self-conceit. To such churches the Savior, of whose devotion to the Church the Scriptures prophesy, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up,” would say, “Ye have made My house, ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ a cold and closed assembly of a chosen few.”

Against the encroachment of these and a dozen other innovations that sap the vigor of the Church and chill its ardor, twentieth-century Christianity must hark back to the old paths, to the spirit of the first Pentecost. Today we do not need new architectural features and new cathedral-like edifices; we do not need new liturgies and the pomp and pageantry of new orders of service; we do not need the new Bibles which a score of publishers are endeavoring to foist upon the Church in the form of modern translations and special edition; we do not need new systems and modernized methods; we do not need new ideas in the pulpit and new opinions in the pew. We do not need anything new.

But what we do need is the old path, the path that leads backward past all the failures and fancies of modern and deluded minds, through all the tinseled attractions and tarnished novelties of this vauntingly modern present day, back to the first Pentecost. As the Holy Spirit descended upon those disciples, so, after nineteen centuries, the Church must realize that its strength still comes from above, a gift of the Holy Spirit. As Peter and the first preachers of the Church were filled with that Spirit, so today the minister of the Gospel must be filled, not with Shaw and Dostoievsky, not with sociology and psychology, but with the Holy Spirit and the intimacy of His illuminating and renewing presence. As the message of that powerful Pentecost sermon in the second chapter of Acts was based on the full Word of God, so today pulpits that have been transformed into agencies for militaristic or pacifist propaganda, churches that have sold their birthright for a pottage of unholy publicity, preachers who have produced a ministry of dry bones, feeding their followers stones of sensationalism instead of the living bread,—all these must cast off this masquerade Christianity and consider prayerfully the thought-provoking admonition of St. Paul, “Preach the Word.” As Peter preached the Law in all its blighting severity, telling his hearers that their wicked hands had nailed Jesus to the cross, so today sin, hideously rampant in this godless age, yet strangely unknown in many man-pleasing pulpits, must be denounced by fearless men of God, who call out to this forgetful, self­indulgent generation, as Peter called out, “Repent!” But as that first Pentecost sermon preached the pure promise of that boundless grace to sixteen national groups assembled in Jerusalem, and as all could hear and understand that Jesus died for their sins and that this full and free salvation was sealed by His victorious resurrection, so today, by following this old path, wherein is the good way, through the debris of disintegrating society to Golgotha’s brow, men must be told that they are saved for time and eternity, not by their character, not by their money, not by their brains, not by the best that they have and the best that they are, but, thank God! by the profoundest sacrifice of which history knows, by the love of Christ, who “humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”; by that love of which the Scriptures testify to every one of us tonight when they tell us, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that ye through His poverty might be rich.”

The glory-crowned heights to which the old paths lead were shown on that first Pentecost Day when three thousand acknowledged Jesus as their Savior and were baptized. Three thousand men and women won for Christ without any pulpit gymnastics, without any sensational sermon topics, without any high-powered publicity, without theological or philosophical doctors in the pulpit, but simply by the plain, direct testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Therein lies the Church’s power today; therein lies an appeal to that part of the American ministry that has left the main issues of the King’s business and dedicated its energies to the passing fancies of a fleeting hour. The only successful churches today are those which are soundly confessional, conscientiously loyal.

IT IS THE PATH TO SOUL REST.

For, according to our text, by taking the old path, we have the promise, “Ye shall find rest for your souls.” And when you husbands who have your religion in your wife’s name, you young folks who think that you are getting along quite well without Christ and without the Church, you fathers and mothers who keep on postponing the day when you are going to come to church with your children and to give your stifled souls a chance to come out of the cramp into which you have pressed them, when you ask, “Why should I join the Church?” “What can the Church do for me?” let me tell you tonight, as I ask you who have never acknowledged Christ to join with us, and plead with you who have left the Church to return and stand shoulder to shoulder with us, that the Church will bring you the biggest and best blessing that can ever come into your life. It will give you rest because it will lead you to the rest-giving Savior, who tonight calls out to you in the tenderness of that beautiful invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I ask you: Do you need rest from an accusing conscience that heaps up before you the mountain of sinful impulses and emotions that abound in every life? Do you crave for rest from the overpowering forces of the unsympathetic and relentless world in which you are fighting a losing battle to maintain your self-respect and self-preservation? Are you desperately in need of rest from pain and sorrow, from weakness and disappointment, from bruises of the body and bruises of the soul? Remember, human agencies are but broken reeds and human remedies but false consolations. Men have given their most priceless possessions in the search for soul rest; they have offered up their own flesh and blood; they have made their life a long and painful series of penances; they have tried to purchase rest. But humanity alone has never found rest. Here, however, in the Church of Jesus Christ, in its prayers, its hymns, its reading and exposition of the Scriptures, its Sacraments, its messages of comfort in bereavement, of happiness in sorrow, you have the fulfilment of this sacred promise, “Ye shall find rest for your souls.” You have the soul rest in the same promise which Jesus repeats six hundred years after Jeremiah’s time, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

If some of you within the range of these words tonight live in an area in which the Church of Jesus Christ is not represented; if some of you have access only to churches that do not dispense this rest and peace and comfort; and if you want to have the blessings of the Gospel and be identified with the Church,—the great body of Lutheran Christians maintaining this radio ministry will consider it a privilege to bring this message of rest to you if you will but send us particulars. In thus offering you the divine source of all rest and happiness on earth this message will prepare you for the one rest that yet remaineth for the saints of God, the serenity and restful beauty of Christ’s glorious heaven. Amen.

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

Date: May 14, 1931

And while they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.Acts 1:10

SOME of the most tragic of all human experiences have been the moments of farewell, the leavetakings of great leaders from their followers. We think of Socrates, philosopher and teacher, drinking the hemlock potion and then vainly endeavoring to banish the despair of his moaning disciples. We remember Alaric, the Goth, who sacked the city of Rome and utterly destroyed the power of that empire, only to be buried at dark midnight beneath a riverbed, while the screams of slaughtered slaves and the shrieks of sacrificed horses mingled with the funeral chants of his lamenting followers. We recall Savonarola, the lone monk who tried to stem the tide of worldliness in Italy, but who, crushed by the churchmen of his day, left his helpless adherents these last words, uttered on the gallows as his body broke in a convulsive snap, “Christ has suffered much for me.” Or, more recently, we are reminded of Lenin, dictator of Red Russia, piteously helpless in his last moments, bereft even of the power of speech, entangled in a network of intrigue, surrounded by jesting physicians, dying in a tortuous agony, as the reins of the godless power that he had created slipped from his nerveless grasp. We think of these and other valedictories to life given by leaders in human affairs whom men may revere or revile, and we agree that their farewells, tinged with failure as they all are, have left a numbing and depressing sorrow in the lives of their followers.

But today is the anniversary of the glorious ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and tonight, as we dedicate these moments to the memory of that marvelous exhibition of His divine power, we shall behold the most wonderful, the most blessed farewell in the teeming annals of history, a departure which brought joy instead of sorrow, hope instead of despair, victory instead of defeat.

It was not quite six weeks after His bodily resurrection on Easter that Jesus appeared to His disciples for the last time. Although their risen Lord had made nine distinct appearances to human eyes and had been touched by human hands; although some of the disciples had walked with Him and talked with Him, all this had not cured the Eleven of their doubt and unbelief. So, revealing Himself once more to strengthen their faith, He leads His wondering followers out of the city gates along the road to Bethany. Familiar scenes unfold themselves as they walk together for the last time. Now they are crossing the Kidron, the stream over which Jesus had passed on that memorable Thursday at the beginning of His suffering; now they are opposite Gethsemane, the olive-shaded garden, whose shadowed recesses beheld that agony too intense for human comprehension; now they are at the foot of the Mount of Olives, the little hill east of Jerusalem, immortalized in the reverent memories of Christendom by the long nocturnal vigils that Jesus held on its wooded slopes as He poured out His heart to His Father; and now they have ascended the slopes of Olivet, and the journey, the last journey, is ended. Gazing upon the world in the lingering glance of farewell, perhaps riveting His eyes for a moment in the direction of the Place of Skulls, Jesus utters His last words to His disciples. He lays upon their conscience the royal commission to go into all the world and “preach the Gospel to every creature”; He strengthens their questioning souls with the promise of everlasting companionship; He raises His hand in a last blessing, and even as He pronounces this benediction, He is taken up, silently, but gloriously, and a cloud receives Him out of their sight—a divine climax to a divine life.

Now, no one can thoughtfully read the account of this majestic departure without realizing that it exerted the most profound effect upon the life and the faith of the disciples. We read that these same eleven men, who after the death of their Lord had concealed themselves behind locked doors, the very men who in this hour of parting, asked in human ambition when Jesus would establish His kingdom on earth, were transformed and that “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Instead of hiding in dejected sorrow, they were, as St. Luke assures us, “continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God”; for the Savior’s departure is the only farewell in history that has been attended by such happiness and that has exerted such salutary effects.

Tonight, under the enlightening guidance of the Holy Spirit, I want to tell you that this ascension of Jesus must have the same effect in our modern lives. Although it occurred nineteen long centuries ago; although it took place in a small and politically insignificant country, separated by mighty oceans from our shores, that ascent to heaven and Christ’s sitting at the right hand of the Father has a most direct and decisive bearing upon every one of us in this 1931st year of grace.

WE MUST SEEK THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE ABOVE.

We read the words of our text, “And while they beheld, He was taken up”; and we see that in accordance with the plain prophecies of the Old Testament and in harmony with the repeated predictions of Jesus Himself the resurrected Christ did not remain on earth. The religion that He gave to the world, the grace that was offered to men by His resurrection, finds its glorious culmination,—not on earth, not in the temporal affairs of men, not in the institution of an earthly reign, which would remove sorrow and want and sickness and all the other ills to which the flesh is heir,—but in heaven, in the spiritual joy of an everlasting life that lives beyond the grave.

It is this truth, that Jesus is enthroned in the glories of heaven, that needs frequent and emphatic repetition in our materialistic age, when men try to despiritualize religion, to remove it from the realm of the soul, and to make it serve the body. Christ’s last and sacred commission to His followers is to preach the Gospel, to tell all men in all lands and in all ages that Jesus died on the cross,—not to give them social distinction nor to assure them of success in their business nor to offer culture and cleanliness,—but, thank God, to take away their sins and to bestow upon them Heaven’s blessings.

But when American churches feature sermons on such topics as: “Is Mussolini the Man of Destiny?” “The Meaning of Dimension,” “The London Naval Treaty,” “Psychometric Reading”; when people go to church to hear addresses on the minimum wage, the adequate housing of the poor, the regulations of moving pictures and dance­halls, the benefits or the defects of the Volstead Act; when Sunday-school children have the few moments of each Sunday which should be devoted to their spiritual life taken up with lessons that tell them how to keep the streets clean, how to avoid forest fires, and how to become junior traffic policemen,—you will agree with me when I say that the tragedy of modern American church-life is this, that too frequently it gives the body preference over the soul, that too often it has permitted the priceless spiritual privilege of saving souls to be side-tracked and vitiated by political activities, by social ambitions, by industrial programs.

To counteract all this, Ascension Day comes to remind us that Christ has been taken up from the earth, that His is a spiritual kingdom with a spiritual program and a spiritual blessing. He who in the days of His flesh refused to accept earthly power has left temporal dominion and civil authority to no Church and to no individual or group of individuals within any Church. He who told His disciple, “Put up thy sword,” teaches us by His victorious ascent that the weapons for the spreading and the protection of His kingdom are heavenly—His Word and His Sacraments. He who refused to yield to popular clamor and be crowned as king tells His Church today that “the kingdom of God cometh not with outward observation,” so that we can say, “Here it is,” or, “There it is,” as one points to the boundaries delineated on a map and says, “Here is Canada, and there is Mexico.” No, He who answered Pilate’s cynicism with the uncompromising “My kingdom is not of this world” tells us, “The kingdom of God is within you,” in the soul that has been convicted of its sin, that has heard and believed and trusted the Gospel of God’s boundless grace in Christ.

The message of Ascension Day, then, especially to you who have permitted your soul life to be dwarfed by care and worry, is the appeal of the great apostle: “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” And the remarkable blessing which ensues is this, that, when men humbly and reverently thus keep first things first by seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all else is added to them. All the fine and ennobling forces that improve the outward aspects of life and make the world a better place in which to live and to die, all the civilizing and cultural influences, which are the by-products of Christianity, all these are offered to men by Christ as they are offered by no human agencies.

WE MUST FIND A PLEDGE OF GOLDEN PROMISE.

When we ask again, “Why did Jesus ascend to the Father?” He tells us in His own words, “In My Father’s house are many mansions,” beautiful, spacious havens of joy and rest and peace, the unnumbered dwellings of a blessed eternity. Remember, he adds, “I go to prepare a place for you.” And when in soul-deep yearning for the unspeakable blessing of that new Jerusalem we venture to ask, “For whom?” He repeats, “For you”; for “where I am, there shall also my servant be.” This pledge gives me the privilege tonight to send broadcast through the confines of this mighty nation that golden, glorious, supreme promise of the ages, that Christ today ascended to the highest heavens to prepare a place for you who serve Him in love and gratitude; for you who believe in Him as the Beauty of God incarnate, as your Redeemer; for you who trust in Him as the “Friend that never faileth.” Here is the promise of Heaven’s truth, “I go to prepare a place for you”; and in these words Jesus speaks to you for whom life otherwise holds little happiness; to you who feel yourselves crushed by poverty and loss; to you who linger on in the wearisome siege of incurable diseases; to you at whom men point the finger of scorn; to you who write me that the barriers and obstacles in your lives are so overpowering that you wonder how much longer you can really carry on. To every weary and heavy-laden soul in my audience tonight Christ gives this promise,—and never let any powers of earth or hell tear it out of your hearts,—“I go to prepare a place for you.”

Think of what this means for your own farewell to life. Instead of sinking down into the fatalistic delusion of annihilation after death; instead of accepting the destructive theories of modern Spiritism, which paint the hereafter as a place of dark, depressing surroundings and influences; instead of facing eternity with the blank question-mark of modern philosophy and modern skepticism,—after nineteen long centuries you can be strengthened by the divine assurance that Jesus, victoriously and everlastingly enthroned in eternity, will vitalize in your life after death His rich promise of eternity, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” To you who in faith can understand and believe the spiritual meaning of the visible ascension of Christ which the Church celebrates (or should thankfully celebrate) throughout the world today, life, instead of ending in a shriek of unholy despair, will close with the peaceful anticipation of the immeasurable blessings that await you in the happy reunion with the ascended Christ in paradise.

We are told in our text that a cloud received our Lord out of the sight of His apostles; and in our lives there may be many and varied clouds that would interpose themselves between our Savior and us to obscure the foregleams of the heavenly mansions. There is the haze of doubt and uncertainty that rises from the unbelief so rampant in our day; there is the smoke-screen of modernistic delusion by which the verities of our faith disappear in the black barrage of human speculation. There is the heavy pall of sorrow and personal misfortune that prevents tearful eyes from directing their gaze upward to the hills whence cometh their help. There are the storm clouds of sin, heavy with their rumbling thunders, flashing with the lightning that stabs our conscience. But the eyes of faith can penetrate all this enshrouding gloom; and for you who pray, as the blind man on the Jericho road, “Lord, open thou my eyes,” there is the divine promise that your vision will be strengthened, that the Sun of resplendent glory, the everlasting Word of promise, will dissipate these misty clouds. And with St. Stephen we shall behold the heavens opened by Christ’s redemption and see Him, the Son of Man and the Son of God, sitting at the right hand of the Father, enthroned in the immeasurable majesty of unlimited eternity—our God and Savior.

Did you ever stop to realize that Christ could have remained on earth, that He could have continued His visible presence among men to lead the victorious forces of His Church on from triumph to triumph and to employ the miracles of His divine power to extend the Kingdom? But what a tremendous challenge there is in the fact that Christ has ascended and that we have the privilege of perpetuating the work for the salvation of immortal souls in His name, in His stead, and with the assurance of His abiding presence! For, though Christ has ascended, yet—wonder of wonders!—He is with us in His Word and with His power, not only for three years, as during His ministry on earth, not only for thirty-three years, as in all the days of His flesh, but, by His sacred promise given in the hour of His departure, “unto the end of the world.” Through all the storm and strife below, through all the pain and anguish on earth, through all the disappointments and anxieties here in time, Christ is with us. His presence—praise be to God!—shall abide until He returns to take His children (among whom, pray God, every sin-born soul listening in tonight may be numbered) to the realms of that happy homeland of the soul where in a higher and nobler light we shall see Him face to face. Amen.

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

Date: May 7, 1931

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord.Psalm 127:3

THIS week the nation pauses—and it does well in pausing—to observe its annual Child Health Week. Wherever childhood is neglected or retarded; wherever a people exposes its infants, as in China, drowns its baby girls, as in India, sells its offspring into slavery, as in Africa, or takes its children out of the home and socializes them in a Communist nursery as in Soviet Russia, there we have one of the major causes contributing to the sorrows and disasters that must inevitably overwhelm that nation. And because in our own country, as in every country, the history of tomorrow will be written by the youth of today, we ought to thank God with all the fervor of heart-deep gratitude that such intelligent and wide-spread interest is displayed in the proper development of America’s 35,000,000 children and that specialized attention is focused upon the ten million of these who for one reason or another, either because they are improperly nourished, because they are mentally or physically retarded, or because they are delinquent and offer behavior problems, need the special care of intelligent and loving watchfulness.

Yet, while laying this commendable stress on the physical well-being of our American boys and girls, we dare not be indifferent to the far greater concern of their spiritual welfare and the development of their souls. We want and we need healthy and happy children; but it is even more imperative for our domestic and national well-being to have morally healthy and spiritually happy children. So tonight, on the basis of this striking statement of the psalmist, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord,” let me emphasize some of the fundamental teachings of the Bible concerning childhood and show you that God looks to American fathers and mothers, present and future, for a profound appreciation of the privilege of parenthood and for a corresponding readiness to bring up their children, as required by the Scriptures, “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

A DIVINE HERITAGE—IN SPITE OF MODERN DISPARAGEMENT.

When our text calls children “an heritage of the Lord,” that is, the gift of love which a bountiful Father bequeaths to His sons and daughters, it takes an attitude toward childhood which is directly and determinedly opposed to much of modern thought. Today, in our era of diminished families, when the graduates of our select women’s colleges exclude themselves from motherhood and when all the modern theories for the looseness of the marriage relation are built up on the idea of childless families, children are frequently regarded as inconvenient restrictions and unnecessary hindrances in life. Only in this way can we explain the motive behind our steadily decreasing birth-rates and the corresponding diminution in the number of the fine large families so frequent a generation or two ago.

Now, I know that it has been only a few weeks since a large body of American churchmen gave to the press of the nation what is virtually an endorsement of birth control, as that term is popularly understood. But I would not want my hearers to think for a moment that this or any other similar disparagement of the divine gift of children and the nobility of parenthood settles the issue either from the point of view of morals or of Christianity. I like to hark back to that lone Friar of Wittenberg, standing before the assembled powers of Church and State four hundred years ago, declaring that Church Councils and Church Fathers have erred and made mistakes. In the same spirit I say tonight that, if that endorsement of birth control were signed by every church-body in the country, it would simply be a nation-wide misinterpretation (to put it mildly) of the plain statements and the emphatic spirit of the Word of God. For here is the very first command that God gave to the human race, the injunction issued to the first parents, but binding under normal conditions upon every subsequent husband and wife, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Here is the statement of our text, “Children are”—not nuisances, not the means of impoverishing their parents, not a sign of low and common family ideals, but, according to that Word that never made a mistake and that never will make a mistake—“an heritage of the Lord.” Here in the 128th Psalm is the description of the happy man, with his wife and children round about his table, as branches of the verdant olive-tree. Here in the 38th chapter of Genesis is the tragic sentence of displeasure pronounced and executed by God Himself upon a man who refused to accept the privilege of parenthood.

But I hear some one say that times have changed and that today the wilful limitation of offspring gives the only child in a family a far better chance in life than that child would enjoy if he had four or five brothers and sisters. I will not question the sincerity of this objection because people may be sincere and still be mistaken; but I will content myself merely with pointing out that God’s dispensations to His children are always for their benefit and blessing and that the child in the large family has the better chance in life according to the investigation of research workers at Yale University, according to the very definite proof in the Hall of Fame in New York, and in the long list of eminent men and women of America. The single child has patently labored under a disadvantage, while the boy or girl with brothers and sisters has found such relationship to be helpful and stimulating.

Again, some one objects that bringing children into the world takes its toll in a mother’s health and happiness and that therefore they can hardly be called “heritages” in the full sense of this term. But this, too, is just another of the modern perversions by which a selfish tendency tries to justify its selfishness. On the very contrary, when motherhood is deliberately and systematically avoided, by following methods that are despicable, no matter how exalted the endorsements may be which are placed, upon them by men of medicine and men of religion, there you have the direct origin of many of the physical failings of our day and of the weakening of the bodily constitution of many of our American women. And if you want to hear what God says about this, open your Bible at 1 Tim. 2, 15, and you will find the divine statement that women “shall be saved in child-bearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety”—and thus find their greatest happiness in life.

Some one else suggests that, when a mother is obliged to spend her time with her children, she is immediately cut off from all social and professional activities and that the pursuit of her career is restricted. Now, in this age of advanced feminism, when the line of demarcation that separates the activities and the habits and the pastimes of men from those of women is being obliterated by a steady and pernicious process, it will certainly sound puritanical and out of date to tell the women of our nation that, if the alternative that confronts them is either cradle or career, under normal circumstances they can serve their own interests, the happiness of their home, and the welfare of their communities best by mothering the precious mites of humanity that are given to them as the heritage of God. I say this without the slightest disparagement of the fine accomplishments in all walks of life that have been recorded by noble, talented, or self-sacrificing women in those isolated and exceptional instances, when Divine Providence has employed the extraordinary abilities of this wife or of that mother for far-reaching and constructive purposes. But in the usual conditions of the average home we must be guided by that evident principle of Scripture that woman’s highest glory, her field of sublimest distinction, lies not in the froth of human glory nor in the tinsel of social preeminence nor in the fading mirage of commercial or industrial distinctions, but in the privilege of being a faithful wife and a good, cheerful, loving mother of good, healthy, happy children. And next Sunday, when we bring our tributes to the mothers who gave us our lives, whose loving care protected us during the perils of infancy, and to whose prayers and intercession for our soul’s welfare we are inexpressibly indebted, all this is in direct harmony with that Scriptural picture of the happy Christian mother whose children “rise up to call her blessed.”

Here, then, is the fundamental attitude of the Scriptures toward children: They are the gift of God’s love, “an heritage of the Lord.” Remember this, you, the Hannahs and the Sarahs of modern life, to whom, in the unsearchable ways of God’s love it has not been given to cuddle on your breast a child of your own. Remember this in that fervent, effectual prayer that “availeth much,” so that, if it be the will of the Father, who “doeth all things well” and with whom “nothing is impossible,” you may be given this happiness. Remember it also when you behold a child, orphaned and bereft of the greatest human gift in life, a mother’s love. And as you think of the happiness that your affection, the warmth that your comfortable home, could extend to that child, may you hear the Savior, as He raises His arms in benediction, tell you: “Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me.”

A DIVINE HERITAGE THAT MUST BE GUARDED.

Now, this priceless heritage must be guarded with the most vigilant and painstaking love. It will not be necessary for me tonight to emphasize that such concern embraces the bodily care and the physical growth of the children. For that is something that is instinctive, even in irrational creatures. You have all seen a mother robin feed and protect her fledglings and hover over them with chattering anxiety. You have all read of the maternal fury into which a lioness may be lashed when an approach is made toward her cubs. What a perversion of nature, then, when parents shirk the responsibilities of providing for their children because of avarice or lack of love for their own flesh and blood!

Neither must I speak at length on the parental duty to help children to advance mentally and socially. If it were possible to speak personally and individually to you fathers and mothers in my audience tonight, I am sure that you would tell me that you have high and hopeful plans for the development of your children. Arthur is to be an engineer. You are stinting yourselves on this pleasure and denying yourselves that enjoyment, so that Helen may remain at college. Even in this depression you are trying to make arrangements, so that little Henry can have a few weeks in a boys’ camp this summer. And the love behind all this is commendable, provided your interest in your children is not restricted to this, so that you neglect the one thing that is supremely needful and turn a deaf ear to the invitation of that gentle Savior who took the little ones into His divine arms and declared, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.” The apostolic admonition to modern parents in this twentieth century is still, “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” They, too, need the comfort and the blessing of knowing and believing that in Jesus they have an all-powerful and all-sufficient Savior, who removes their sins (and children have sins) and who guides them through life. They need to fold their tiny hands and bend their little knees and open their baby lips to pray to Him for forgiveness and strengthening and leadership, just as all of us—you in the care-free years of youth, you in the prime of an active, productive existence, and you who have passed the proverbial threescore and ten—need the cleansing, fortifying power of His blood.

But what a terrifying guilt those parents load upon themselves who refuse to regard their offspring as a heritage that must be brought back to God! We read that Jesus was sore displeased with those who tried to keep the little children away from Him. But how withering would be His displeasure today if He were visibly with us to speak to those fathers and mothers who are utterly unconcerned about the soul life of their children! They let them stand for an hour, if necessary, in those long queues that coil around city blocks and then lead into some cinema sophistication; they send them to dancing-school; they are solicitous about their dress and appearance; but when you speak of religious training in the home or in the Sunday­school, they are both uninformed and uninterested. To them the Savior says, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.”

During the last twenty-four hours 7,000 children have been born in this country. Strenuous efforts are being made to give them the best advantages that any children have ever had. But will they be given the strengthening of the Christian religion? Will they be led to their God and Savior? Will they be regarded as heritages of the Lord? These are the questions which modern parents must answer before God. Remember that the right answer to these vital issues must be given in the home. If the Word of God does not reign there, if the parents are so preoccupied that there is no time for prayer, no room for the Bible, no thought of Christ, their children will very likely grow up indifferent to the claims which Jesus has upon their soul. But remember, too, that the right answer also includes the Christian education of our children outside of the home, in the Sunday-school and in the church.

To these two agencies the Church that I represent has added a third, the Christian parish-school, which gives the child his entire grammar-school education under pronouncedly Christian atmosphere and which takes the three conventional R’s and adds a fourth capital R, Religion, the happy, saving religion of Jesus Christ. Almost 80,000 of our children receive their daily instruction in over 1,300 day-schools erected and maintained by my Church. Probably there is a Christian day-school of this nation-wide system in your vicinity; it will welcome your child and regard it as a heritage of the Lord and, in leading it to Christ, prepare it not only for that intelligent Christian citizenship which our country so sorely needs, but also for the citizenship in heaven, which causes rejoicing among the angels. Amen.

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

Date: April 30, 1931?

The Lord God formed man.Genesis 2:6

“CLOSE your eyes and think of some muddy gutter or frog pond full of stagnant water, with a scorching sun glittering down on the green slime which floats among the bullrushes and swamp weeds. These cesspools”—I am quoting verbatim from a current popular account of the origin of man—“were the cradle of life on earth.” For millions of years, to cite the opinion of another book, which for many months was a best seller throughout the country, this jellylike mass floated about aimlessly. Some of its cells preferred to move about and became fish. Some of the fish gradually adapted themselves to live on land, and they became the first reptiles. Some of the reptiles began to live on the tops of trees, covering themselves with feathers. They developed into birds. But other reptiles adopted hair instead of feathers and became the first animals. And now the climax, which I quote from the bland statement of the original: “One animal in particular seemed to surpass all others. . . . This creature, half ape and half monkey, was your first manlike ancestor, a very ugly, unattractive mammal. His head and most of his body was covered with long, coarse hair. His hands looked like those of a monkey. His forehead was low, and his body was like the body of a wild animal.” There you have the modern, popularized account of the origin of the human race, an account which is essentially the same as that which has been taught to most of the army of young people who in these weeks graduate from our American colleges.

THE BIBLE CLEARLY AND REPEATEDLY ASCRIBES OUR CREATION TO GOD.

As contrary to this as any two irreconcilable extremes may be, we have this simple, but sublime record of the Scriptures, which tells us that “the Lord God formed man.” This is the revelation of Heaven, which assures us that the human race was called into existence by a very direct act of God, so that you and I must trace the beginning of human existence, not along the path which leads from some primitive life cells upward to the bleary-eyed, coconut-munching, trapeze-swinging baboon, but directly to the creative hand of God, who formed man as His masterpiece, in His own divine image.

In acknowledging confidently and gratefully, as we do, this revealed truth, we are, of course, not unaware of the fact that the animal origin of man has been announced to the world as an established fact. We know that the curator of our National Museum at Washington unhesitatingly claims, “It has been definitely established that man originated from the anthropoid [manlike] apes,” and that a German authority, with equal positiveness, asserts, “We do accept the theory of evolution now as the foundation of all our teaching of biology and social psychology.” But such confident pronouncements, intensify them as you will, cannot decide the issue. Produce all of the endorsements for this frightful insult to God that you can; compile all possible statistics showing the number of teachers in our American high schools and colleges who accept evolution; bring on all the reconstructed ape-men, these exotic masquerades of scientific madness,—and all of this, multiplied to the thousandth degree, cannot begin to outweigh this divine summary of revealed truth, to which the Scriptures repeatedly lend such pronounced and emphatic endorsement, “The Lord God formed man.” This is the conviction of the psalmist, who declares, “Know ye that the Lord, He is God; it is He that hath made us.” No room for natural selection there nor for the theory of oozy life cells clinging to a rock in mid-ocean! This is the humble confession of the evangelist-prophet Isaiah, “We are the clay and Thou our Potter; we all are the work of Thy hand.” No accidental origin and ape ancestry in such statements! This is the unwavering assurance of St. Paul, who says that Adam was the first man, not the Java ape-man, that mythical missing link reconstructed from two mysterious bones and two equally questionable teeth found at different times and different places and withheld from scientific men in a most significant manner; nor the Southwestern Colorado man, built up three years ago from part of a set of ancient teeth, but torn down again when it was found that the teeth were those of an old horse; nor the more formidable Hesperopithecus Haroldcookii, built up from that notorious million-dollar Nebraska tooth, which distinguished scientists described as the molar of an American ape-man, but which is now admitted on all sides to be part of the dental equipment of a wild pig. That sublime truth, that “the Lord God formed man,” is finally crowned with the endorsement of the highest of all authorities, my Lord Jesus Christ, who in the nineteenth chapter of St. Matthew directly declares His Father to be the Creator of both man and woman in the beginning. And Christ’s Word, even in things scientific, is always the unimpeachable truth of heaven.

“But,” some one says, “is it not true that the theory of man’s animal ancestry, accepted by some of the greatest scientific minds of our age, rests upon convincing evidences and demonstrations of fact?” In answer to that challenge we simply declare: The history of human research is replete with similar enthusiastically accepted theories, all heralded as proofs of Biblical inaccuracy, which have become mere punctured pretenses. When God has spoken, men’s contrary guesses cannot disturb us. When the Word of God is contradicted by the word of man, it does not matter how important or authoritative that man may be; his theory, even if it has the endorsement of learned societies and scientific bodies, is unprovable. Every argument ever advanced to show ape ancestry,—the argument from the similar skeletal structure of animals and men, from fossil remains, from the developing embryo, from blood tests, from geographical distribution, useless organs, transmutation of species,—these and a host of other theories, drafted for the defense of this godless doctrine, have been considered by reputable and internationally known scientists, and their repeated verdict has been decidedly negative. It is usually the second-rate mind, the blatant atheist, the cynical scoffer, who rushes in where more conscientious investigators fear to tread, the dubious D. D., who, preaching in a pulpit erected by Christian faith, calls evolution “God’s way of doing things” or poetically insists:—

Some call it evolution, and others call it God.

But among the very greatest of the great, a formidable number of truly scientific men have bowed reverently before the truth of our text, “The Lord God formed man” and declared, in effect, with Pasteur, “Posterity will someday laugh at the foolishness of modern materialistic philosophy. The more I study nature, the more I am amazed at the Creator.”

When a long list of experts, eminent in the scientific world, denounce the claims of this delusion that is being taught to our boys and girls in tax-supported institutions of higher and lower learning, intelligent Christians dare not accept blindly the unguarded statements that slip into our Sunday newspaper supplements and our popular magazines and that repeat, parrot-like, the unfounded fiction of the master minds of misrepresentation. This is tragic evidence of a human perversion, which dissipates its energy in the futile task of shooting infidel peas against the Gibraltar of this divine dictum, “The Lord God formed man.”

ONLY FAITH IN OUR DIVINE ORIGIN INTERPRETS HUMAN PROBLEMS ARIGHT.

No, the truth of our text remains; and what a world of moral and spiritual strength the belief in this divine origin must produce in every human heart! It means, first of all, that you and I are not the mere results of inexorable fate, that we are not here by animal chance, but that we have consciously been placed into the world by the loving-kindness and far-sighted providence of a heavenly Father, who “doeth all things well.” Humanity is not an accident, a chemical coincidence, but it is God’s supreme masterpiece, created after a counsel of the divine Trinity.

And the natural conclusion which every child of God is entitled to draw from such conviction is this: If God made me and all creatures, if in Christ I can truly call Him my Father, then surely all the changing fortunes of human existence, all my own questions and doubts and the sorrows of life may safely be entrusted to Him. He would not have given me, His child, life and existence only to desert me and to permit me to fall victim to the overpowering odds with which my life is surrounded.—For, while the delusion of man’s materialistic origin leads to the blank, insurmountable walls of despair and so frequently produces suicide, the acknowledgment of God’s creative love is the pledge to everyone who believes it that no battle in life will be too hot and hard, no combination of misfortunes too crushing and calamitous, to destroy the relation that exists between a loving Father and His beloved child.

We believe in our divine origin because that belief, and that alone, shows us our individual moral responsibility and our duties to our fellow-men. If there is nothing divine in man, if he is only a refined form of the beast, then all the ideals of clean, constructive living are shattered. If, according to the materialistic theories of the origin of man, millions of years ago (how many millions is not important in the lavish recklessness that finds nothing easier than the production of immeasurable aeons of time), that from which you and I are supposed to have descended was a mere blob of protoplasm which came into existence by accidental chemical action; and if, later, after the lapse of myriads of other years, this ancestral blob, by the merest chance, became a jelly-fish; and if this change has been repeated in an interminable series of evolutions, each one an accidental process, so that you and I can trace our descent, not from the creative hand of God, but from the grinning gorilla, then the best philosophy of life for you and me may be this, that we rob and steal and maim and cripple and carouse and chase from the satisfaction of one lust to the fulfillment of another vicious desire. If there is no God in heaven who has placed you and me into this world for a high and holy purpose, then down with law and order! Away with purity and honor and virtue! That is the tragic, yet, logical consequence to which the doctrine of a beast beginning leads. And if you wish to know the dire extremes to which some apostles of evolution have descended, describing life, as they do, as a fierce battle in which only the fittest survive, in which aged and invalids are to be removed from the land of the living, then read Nietzsche’s description of the superman, in which every vestige of helpful and sympathetic regard for the needs of one’s fellow-man is ruthlessly cast aside.

But because God—thanks be to His holy name!—created man as a moral and responsible creature and revealed His will to man in the divine Law, you and I have a conscience, you and I know what is right and what is wrong, you and I are aware of our duties to others, you and I know the terror of sin and its devastating force in our own lives. Godless writers can laugh sin away or brand it as an animal inheritance and claim, as a recent writer did, that the tramp who meets a child on the highway, murders her for the few pennies that she clutches in her little hand, and then throws her body into the ditch is not responsible for his fiendish brutality. Modern educators can continue to heap up the iniquity of our present age by ridiculing individual responsibility and making light of the moral breakdown in the present era of our nation. The theory of chemical, mechanical, accidental human origin can deny the depravity of the human race and claim that men are steadily rising to higher planes and gradually approaching a gilded Utopian age. We look into our own hearts and round about us, and we see, with all the progress and advancement of our age, unmistakable signs of degeneracy, unquestionable evidences of moral and physical collapse; and knowing God as our Creator, we know by the plain statement of His Word that we cannot avoid the responsibilities of meeting the demands of His holiness and perfection and that at an appointed time all who remain in their sin will be gathered around His judgment-seat to answer the charges of a broken law.

But because the God who made us is the God who does “not delight in the death of sinners,” because He is the Lord whose boundless mercies are fresh every morning, the life that He bestowed upon man is so vital, so priceless, so precious in His sight that He gave the only potent and saving solution to the problem of sin that the world knows. He who created us has not left us as staggering, perishing victims of our own vices, but has given us—O precious promise of God’s unfailing truth!—His own Son as the payment for the overpowering debt incurred by our sins. He who created us, not as glorified animals and high grade simians, but as reflections of His own holy image, regards you and me as of such surpassing importance that in order to restore that image of holiness and reestablish the relation of loving Father and beloved children, He paid the greatest price that earth or heaven could offer, the holy, precious blood of Jesus Christ, shed, poured out, not for descendants of apes, but for God’s lost children, to offer to every sin-harassed soul that may hear these words tonight the full and free forgiveness of each and every sin that would separate it from God.

His Cross, with everything that it implies,—a personal God, a loving God, a forgiving God, a redeeming God, a dying, but also a victoriously risen God,—is the seal and assurance of every other truth of Scriptures, also of that truth which we gratefully acknowledge tonight in the words of Martin Luther, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them.” Any other conviction can produce only distrust and despair and look forward to nothing but dismal annihilation and destruction. But with God as our Creator, with His Son as our Redeemer, and His Spirit as our Renewer and Sanctifier, you and I are invited to look for truth and beauty and happiness here, in the assurance of our divine origin and hereafter in the blessed promise of divine destiny, the new and better life created by the same gracious Father. Amen.

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

Date: April 23, 1931?

If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.John 8:31-32

IT has been one of the favorite pastimes of unbelievers and scoffers to predict the number of years that will elapse before the Church will have completely repudiated and discarded the Bible. Starting with the French infidels in the eighteenth century and continuing down to this very day, these self-styled apostles of enlightenment have relieved themselves of prophecies which, while differing as to the length of life they concede to the Bible, have this prediction in common, that the Scriptures are inevitably doomed to quick and ignominious extinction. How strange, in view of these confident assertions, that at a time when atheism has organized its opposition along far-flung and highly systematized lines, when the cancer of infidelity has so thoroughly eaten its way into the vitals of American Christendom that some of our American churches openly print and promote attacks upon the truth of the Bible, we find, in the midst of the cut-throat assaults on the Bible, that the Book of books is now annually sold in 14,000,000 copies in the United States alone and in 36,000,000 copies throughout the world, the highest peak of Bible distribution that history has ever known.

THE GLORIOUS CONTENT OF THE SCRIPTURES.

So tonight let me tell you more about this deathless volume and show you what it is and what it can do for every one of you. And because I want the Bible to speak for itself, I have based my remarks on the very words of our Lord Jesus, “If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

This promise centers about Christ’s Word, His divine utterances in the four gospels. But His Word embraces also the rest of the New Testament, with the dazzling light it sheds on Christ’s sinless Saviorhood, and the Old Testament, with its three hundred foregleams of Christ, the ancient Scriptures, of which Jesus says, “They are they which testify of Me.” That is Christ’s Word, the entire Scripture, composed by almost half a hundred writers, completed in fifteen long centuries, written under the most varied circumstances,—this vision on the seashore of a lonely exile, this letter in the confines of a martyr’s prison, this history on a caravan wearily jogging its way across the desert, this psalm under the starlit heavens of Judah, this song in the captivity of far-off Babylon,—a Book to which many men and many countries and many centuries have contributed, but which, from the creation of Genesis to the beatified visions of paradise in the Apocalypse, is pervaded with a marvelous unity, the dominating message of sin and grace, the assurance of a loving Father’s gracious redemption of His children.

Now, it is fundamentally vital that we realize that this Bible is Christ’s Word, God’s Word, a divine Book; that, unlike the 12,000 different volumes published in the United States last year, here is a book that came into existence not “by the will of man,” but, as the apostle tells us, by the immeasurable and unending love of God to give His weak and inconsistent children a positive and unfailing guide through the perplexities of the here into the hereafter.

Externally, of course, the Bible has much the same appearance as any other volume of its size and proportions. But because it is God-breathed; because, as we are expressly assured, “all Scripture is given by inspiration”; because the men who wrote the various books of the Bible “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” we believe that the Bible, as 2,600 different passages of the Old Testament and 526 different references in the New individually claim, presents to us the Word of God, written by men who were chosen and supernaturally endowed by God for that purpose and who, through the divine process of inspiration, were given the exact, literal messages they have recorded for us.

Now stop to think what this means, that within the covers of the Bible you have Christ’s Word. Christ is the only one who ever came down from heaven to tell men of God and of the hereafter. What “eye hath not seen nor ear heard” is revealed in Christ’s Word, and in that Word alone. And so, when Jesus tells you who labor under the sorrows and anxieties of a disillusioning world that He has gone to prepare the heavenly mansions for you; when His Word assures you that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” in you, then rest fully assured that, unlike misguided fanatics of our day who claim personal revelation from God, unlike philosophers and scientists who speculate in vague theories as to the hereafter, Jesus alone reveals authoritatively the divine facts of the life to come, on which every sin-harassed soul can safely rest its hope.

Christ is everlasting and unchangeable, “the same yesterday and today and forever”; and that means that His Word likewise is not subject to the fluctuations of human learning and experience. There is not a recognized institution of higher learning in our country today that employs the same textbooks in natural sciences, for example, which were used at the beginning of this century,—so changeable and vacillating are the best products of the human brain. But here in the Bible, because it comes down from Him “in whom there is no variableness neither shadow of turning,” we have a changeless Christ for a changing world, a Book of sacred promises which is never out of date and which, according to the Savior’s own pledge, shall survive the relentless flow of devastating time.

Christ is holy. His challenge, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” has remained unaccepted through nineteen centuries of human hostility to Him. So, likewise, His Book is the echo of His holiness and of His infinite beauty and excellence. Even the unparalleled language seems to be conscious of its high privilege in being chosen as the vehicle of this divine beauty. It was Lord Macaulay, who knew the Bible well from his childhood and whose writings are replete with references to it, that said, “The English Bible—the Book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.”

But this literary grace is only a vanishing shadow of the great spiritual beauty portrayed by the gracious promises of love. Christ is Love, Love in its highest, deepest, broadest reaches, and never have human eyes read a volume that abounds with the singular tenderness of the love which the Bible extends to every sorrowing soul. Behold its consideration for the sick and the suffering; its provisions for the outcasts and the destitute; its hatred of persecution; its rejection of injustice and oppression and its corresponding emphasis on mercy, peace, and love; its tenderness even for dumb animals, which forbade the removal of the mother bird from her nest. But remember that this is merely a weak echo of the most beautiful theme that human ears have ever heard, the holy beauty of the divine grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, who, “having loved His own that were in the world, loved them unto the end,” that heart-breaking, earth-shaking end at Calvary, with a love that knows no bounds and that demands no payment, but that would make the sin-stained souls of all men pure and white in the sight of God.

Christ is the universal figure of history. His transforming love addresses itself to “all who labor and are heavy laden.” And so His Word, the only truly universal Book, has hurdled the barriers that divide men into different and opposing races, castes, and colors and crashed through the walls of the artificial caste systems that selfish men have erected. Because the Bible is the Book for all lands, from the tropical climes of darkest Africa to the frozen wastes of the frigid North; because it is the Book for all people, the cultured and the illiterate, the wealthy and the impoverished, the mighty and the humble; because it is the Book for every need in every human heart; because, in short, it is God’s Book for humanity in its entirety, it has been translated into approximately nine hundred languages and dialects and has brought men to God all over the world. The nearest approach to that universality is Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which has been translated into 171 languages. And that hymn is largely a poetic reproduction of the 46th Psalm.

Christ gave the world a complete redemption. When He cried, “It is finished,” and when He rose again to seal the power of His shed blood, God’s plan of salvation was perfected. His Word, too, is complete. The closing verses of the Bible place a curse upon those who take away from, or add to, the revelation of God. And in a day when men either take out of the Bible parts that do not appeal to their natural pride and ambitions or tell us that we need something to supplement the Bible, a mystical key to its interpretation or the traditions of the Church Fathers or the so-called assured results of science, we rest assured that this Book would not be God’s Book if it required the additions of human theories and human opinions to make it complete.

Christ is eternal. He, humanity’s everlasting contemporary, comforts us with the assurance that He is with us “alway, even unto the end of the world.” And His Word is imperishable. In moments of doubt we may sometimes think that the missiles of hatred may mar the Word; but then, through the Spirit of God, we are reassured that these loud-mouthed and overconfident enemies of the Bible are simply raising a tissue paper barricade to restrain the onrushing flood of God’s Word. Their names and their delusions are “writ in sand.” A wave laps lazily over them, and all is destroyed. Let us not worry about the Bible. Here is Christ’s sacred pledge, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away.”

THE SACRED PROMISE OF THE SCRIPTURES.

And when you now ask, “What can this deathless Book do for me?” the words that I read before tell you, “If ye continue in My Word,” that is, if you accept the Bible as the guiding principle of your life, cling to the message of its Cross as to the veritable Rock of Ages, and in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and health, in employment and unemployment, in life and death, find in it Christ as the great Friend and Savior that He is, “ye are My disciples indeed.” Remember, that pledge is contingent upon a faithful, consistent, and unwavering continuance in Christ’s Word. It is not a matter of reading the Bible today and setting it aside tomorrow; not a worshiping on Sunday and a denying on Monday; not an automatic, passive, indifferent acknowledgment of Christ’s Word, but a living, vitalizing, constant devotion to the Scriptures, through daily and unintermittent study of the Word. Only in this way can you enjoy the glorious distinction of being enrolled shoulder to shoulder with the host of Christian soldiers who, following in the footsteps of the Twelve and in the pathways blazed by the apostles, are marching on in endless procession and under the leadership of the great Captain of their soul’s salvation. There can, of course, be an outward show of Christianity without this Biblical basis. In a day when the largest and most imposing churches are often built up on anti-Scriptural foundations, when doctrinal demarcations are steadily being obliterated; when church-membership is made so easy that no statement of faith or pledge of conduct is seriously demanded, it may be well to remind ourselves that our Savior is speaking of His disciples “indeed” and that there can be no real and sincere discipleship that is not loyally pledged to Christ’s Word.

The blessing of such discipleship is this, “Ye shall know the truth.” Think of it: In Christ’s faith you have “the truth.” Why, protracted centuries of research have been unable to reveal the truth even in some of the simplest affairs of our everyday life. Our whole existence is wrapped up in lies, with lies in our courts, lies in our business world, lies in our social relations, lies in our politics. But here, thank God, in this pure and perfect Word, is an infallible and unerring truth, which never can make a mistake because it came from Him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Here error-bound humanity is offered the truth absolute, the truth concerning human origin and human destiny, sin and grace, life and death, the here and the hereafter; the truth concerning the practical issues in life, your success and your adversity, your happiness and your sorrow, your soul and your body; the truth concerning your home, your business, your country; the truth concerning such modern questions as war and peace, capital and labor, crime and its cure; in short, the basic truth to answer every question in life, particularly and predominantly the soul-searching inquiry, “What must I do to be saved?” Trust that Word, believe in that truth, accept its promise of the forgiveness of your sins; for every merciful assurance of the waiting arms of your heavenly Father, every pledge it offers you for the solution of the besetting difficulties of life, has been written in the blood of Christ and sealed with His glorious resurrection.

That truth, our text continues, “shall make you free.” Freedom and liberty have always ranked among the highest and noblest aspirations of men. To free their fellow men from bondage, 300,000 soldiers laid down their lives in our Civil War. To preserve their liberties, as the soldiers on both sides of that bloody conflict were told, eight and a half million combatants went down to death in the World War. But the tragedies that have followed in the wake of that stupendous conflict have emphasized to an increasing number of thoughtful people the ghastly disappointments which millions have met in their longing for political and national liberty. Yet our text promises higher and nobler freedom; for all the blood that flowed at Antietam or at Chateau Thierry, swollen by the gory streams of all human battles for liberty and independence, cannot remove from humankind the thralldom of that superhuman tyranny which blights our lives and our happiness—the domination of sin. For that emancipation we need the holy, precious blood of Him who “Himself in His own body bare our sins on the tree” and His divine benediction, given to all of us who love and trust Him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” the heavenly declaration of our independence from sin, hell and death.

Have you accepted this declaration? As I repeat the question and ask, “Have you accepted Jesus as your own Savior and His Word as the promise of your salvation?” may God give you His grace, first to realize that you have heard the question of paramount importance in human life and then to answer this question with a ringing conviction that in Christ’s truth and freedom the search for your happiness has found its goal. Amen.

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

Date: April 16, 1931?

And there arose another generation after them which knew not the Lord nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served Baalim. And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers.Judges 2:10-12

THESE words tell us of two successive generations of the same people, living in the same country, of the same heredity and the same environment, but two generations that spiritually were as divergent as any two opposing extremes can be. The one was the first generation of Israelites to occupy the Promised Land, the multitudes that had marched under Joshua through the blistering heat and the sandstorms of the desert and had been the witnesses of Jehovah’s omnipotence; the fathers and mothers who, prompted by a grateful recognition of God’s merciful providence, served Him all their days in love and gratitude. And the other generation was made up of their own sons and daughters, who had begun to enjoy the easy and undeserved prosperity of the land that flowed with milk and honey, the smugly self-satisfied generation, which found the desert and these Exodus stories distasteful; the second generation, “which knew not the Lord nor yet the works which He had done for Israel,” which forsook the God of their fathers and served Baalim, the idols of production and fertility, in the sensuous and degrading worship of their degenerate neighbors. And the result? Our text tells us, “They did evil in the sight of the Lord”; they inaugurated a period of debauchery, of which the moral lapses in the following chapters of the Book of Judges offer tragic record.

IT IS A FORGETFUL GENERATION.

I have never been able to read the account of this stupendous change in two successive generations without drawing almost an unconscious parallel with a notable change that has come over the American people. You may search the records of the century and a half in which our God-blessed nation has enjoyed its independence; you may go back another century and a half to the Colonial days, when the Pilgrim Fathers first set foot on the forbidding shores of New England; and never in the three hundred years of our national existence will you find two generations that even begin to differ as those two generations do that have formed history from the days after the close of the Civil War down to the present moment. Never has there been a change as startling and deplorable as the contrast that has made this age the generation that has forgotten God.

Think of the remarkable parallel and repetition of history. As those conquering Israelite armies marched into the Promised Land, so the last three decades of the past century, the years in which the fathers and mothers of many who are listening in tonight grew up in these United States, brought more than 12,000,000 immigrants from Europe to the Promised Land of magic America. During the same period practically two-thirds of the United States, the country west of the Mississippi River, began its real and lasting growth, being settled by the sturdy pioneers who went out from the seaboard and the Central States in their creaking covered wagons to stake their claims within the confines of twelve territories that are now flourishing States of the Union.

And because they believed that God had led them across the Atlantic or across the plains and the Rockies as He had led Joshua’s men through the trackless wilderness, they served God. They organized most of our Christian congregations; they built the majority of our church edifices. They gave the impetus to much of the mission-work at home and abroad. They established many of our Christian schools, as did the founders of my Church, men with university distinctions, who, before they had lived a year in the hinterland of Missouri, cut down the trees that were to build the walls of a backwoods divinity school. That generation had its faults, frailties, that everlastingly mark the moral feebleness of humanity, and we do not make the mistake of showing reverence to the past simply because it is so far distant that its shortcomings may be glossed over and minimized. But with all necessary concessions one definite and unalterable fact stands out sharply and distinctly—the generation of our fathers and mothers knew God; it recognized His providential deliverance, the certainty of His judgment, and the boundlessness of His grace.

And then there arose this generation, this cynical, sophisticated, self-satisfied generation, which so largely knows not the God of its fathers and prides itself in this ignorance, which so frequently has set up the modern counterpart of the ancient Baalim, the idols of mass production, grinning Mammon, the false gods of material, selfish, sensual worship, with the tragic consequences that we are living in the greatest away-from-God movement that the country has ever known.

See how all this has been demonstrated, for example, in the delusive and destructive attitude which men have taken toward the foundation of our faith, the Bible, the revelation of God to man, which is “able to make us wise unto salvation,” coming to every one of us with the Savior’s own benediction, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” We know, of course, that throughout the centuries there has always been opposition to the Word of Truth; yet such opposition came almost entirely from men who were without the Church and who laid no claim to the title “Christian.” In the age of Roman imperialism it was a brutal heathen, Diocletian, who set himself the futile task of destroying the Bible. In the eighteenth century it was professed infidels of the type of Voltaire and the French Revolutionists. In the past generation it was the like-minded scoffers, such as Ingersoll, together with a growing number of outspoken Bible critics in European universities. But in this generation it is the liberal church­ men and the highly paid instructors at poorly attended theological seminaries who are fighting in the very front ranks of the anti-Biblical forces.

While I am grateful for the privilege of speaking to you as a representative of that Church which still bows unconditionally before the authority of the Word of God, and while I thank God especially for the millions in other churches who still refuse to bend their knees before the Baal of modernistic unbelief, a survey of the outward Christianity shows that this opposition to the Word is found within many Christian churches and that even those denominations which were founded on Christian and Biblical principles and which during the past generation contended for the divine truth have frequently been moved and controlled by unholy and destructive forces. Not long ago a questionnaire was sent to some seven hundred representative pastors of the various Protestant churches, and do you know that almost forty per cent. of these religious leaders did not hesitate to declare that in their opinion the Bible was not the infallible truth of God? The tragedy of modern American church-life is this, that, like the generation after Joshua, it refuses to recognize the God of truth and love.

But how can conditions be different when some of the oldest and wealthiest theological seminaries in our country, schools which in their charter are dedicated to the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, have studiously and completely rejected the Bible as the inspired guide of humanity, in direct fulfilment of Peter’s prophecy condemning “the false teachers among you” who preach “destructive heresies, denying even the Lord that bought them and bringing upon themselves swift destruction”? What else can we expect when you can go into churches that claim membership in fundamentally Christian denominations, churches that were built by believing and trusting fathers and mothers, and hear the members of these churches complacently tolerate a rejection of everything essential to a Christian’s confidence in the Bible and listen without protest to a denial of Christ that could well be uttered in a Jewish synagog or in a Confucian temple?

IT IS A SIN-SCARRED GENERATION.

And the result of all this? We heard before that a moral breakdown followed in the wake of Israel’s forsaking the Lord God of their fathers. And you can all see the modern parallel in our own country. Millions of Americans are forgetting or ignoring God in our political life, in our home-life, in our business life, and in every walk of life. And this forgetfulness helps to account for the supertragedy in our American life that in this new era of radio and television, of 102-story sky-scrapers and around-the-world fliers, voyages into the stratosphere and submarine cruises to the poles, we have brought upon ourselves the unenviable distinction of having broken more records in our departure from morality than any age in this country before us. With more comforts, more conveniences, more attractions, more opportunities, more blessings of all kinds than in any former generation or in any other country of the world, our overcrowded jails, our mounting crime waves, our unmistakable growth of unhappiness and cynicism, emphasize a depressing contrast and should shock us into the realization that, while our twentieth-century generation may say more and know more about everything than any of its predecessors, it actually says less and knows less about the verities of the soul and the hope of its salvation than any previous age in American history.

Now, don’t blame the war for this! Don’t blame Prohibition! Don’t blame the industrial upheaval and the depression! Beyond whatever contributions they may or may not have made to our national delinquency and to this country-wide breakdown of morals is the direct and in­ evitable connection between irreligion and immorality. Tear the fear of God out of the hearts of any people, remove the sense of sin and individual responsibility which the Bible so repeatedly stresses; let them trace their own origin and descent, not as the Bible does to the creative hand of God, but directly or indirectly to the blubbering baboon; let them set aside the divine revelation with the sacred obligations which it lays upon men, and you have the real and basic cause for the terrifying conditions that surround us. For the Word of God testifies, “The nation that will not serve Thee, O God, shall perish,”—and that means perish morally, perish spiritually, perish politically, as the voice of history solemnly warns.

But here as in every aspect of its work the true Church’s duty is thoroughly constructive and happily remedial. In the whirl of worldliness and the pandemonium of grasping, clashing selfishness with which it is surrounded it must send out in more insistent and uncompromising terms than ever before the one message which by the very promise of God can yet save the ungrateful of this generation. And that hope of modern humanity, the individual hope of every single soul that may hear these words, is not to be found in any radical departures, in any so-called twentieth-century religions, in any allegedly modern conception of Christianity, but simply, thank God, in the unchangeable, unmodified, unalterable Word of which Jesus Himself testifies, “If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Put into the pulpits of America’s churches men with the spirit of John the Baptist, who without fear or favor, but with unqualified allegiance to their God and Savior, will call out to this generation of unbelief, “Repent ye”; give us pastors and teachers who on the basis of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments will tell self-sufficient and self-righteous men that they are sinners, murderers of their own souls, and driving on to an inevitable perdition; that the best that they have, the best they can offer, the riches of the rich, the brains of the brainy, the might of the mighty, cannot work immunity or escape from the curse and blighting consequences of sin; and that we must “all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ”; give us faithful messengers of God who on the basis of divine promises will point all men, as I now direct your vision, to the love of Christ, in whom, according to the apostolic pledge, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,”—restore the Bible, and the Church and the nation will enter into a new era of hope and promise. There, in the return to God, not in any modern sociological, economic, or legislative program, not in any political, industrial, or educational reforms, lies the hope of the nation. “Seek ye Me,” God says to apostate Israel, and He repeats to ungrateful America, “and ye shall live.”

Therein lies your hope. For tonight I want to give you who may never have experienced the comfort of the Scriptures and the power of the truth that they contain a solemn and divine assurance. Conscious of the fact that these words are heard in tens of thousands of cities and hamlets throughout the nation and beyond its confines and that in these uncounted localities, as your deeply appreciated letters assure us, there are unnumbered souls listening in who can be witnesses of what I am to say, I give you this assurance on the basis of hundreds of passages of God’s Word: There is not a single trouble of soul or body that cannot be relieved; no wound or grief, no matter how deeply it may cut into the quick of a quivering conscience, that cannot be healed; no black and brutal sin or a crushing mountain of such sins that cannot be removed; no question of your soul-life that cannot be answered; no problem that cannot be solved completely and convincingly by faith in “the glorious Gospel of the blessed Lord.” Enthrone that Bible with its exalted key-note and center, the divine Redeemer, in your heart by reading it and hearing it and believing it, and if you exclaim with the great apostle, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” you will acknowledge the one power in which lies your hope and the salvation of the present generation. Amen.

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

Date: April 5, 1931

Because I live, ye shall live also.John 14:19

IN the labyrinth of life, amid the many and devious paths that lead and mislead, there is a way, at the cross-road of every human crisis, that guides us to heaven’s happiness. In the perplexities of doubt and distrust by which self-seeking men would overthrow the verities of life there is a truth that serenely overtowers all the blind and sordid gropings of sin-bound minds. Above the darkness and decay of death, clutching as it does all that is human with its cold and blighting grasp, there is a life that lives beyond the grave, that lives and loves when the measured tread of marching death is heard no more.

That way, that truth, that life, is given to us in our risen Christ and in the faith which is ours, ours always, but ours especially on this blessed Easter Day, when we find in Him a Savior who not only lived a life of love, who not only died that death of immeasurable terror, but who, thank God, burst His rock grave asunder, rose invincibly from the dead, and today, on the anniversary of His glorious resurrection, gives us this pledge of Easter triumph, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

CHRIST’S EASTER TRIUMPH: “I LIVE.”

Yes, Christ lives. Let men repeat the falsehood, now almost two thousand years old, that the body of Jesus was stolen from the grave; let them try to laugh away His bursting forth from the tomb and propose a long and conflicting list of fantastic and impossible theories which speak of suspended animation and other absurdities of unbelief; let them suggest that the people who went out to weep at the grave mistook another empty tomb for the rock-hewn sepulcher of Joseph or that, as a German blasphemer maintains, “the passion of a hallucinated woman gives to the world a resurrected God”; let them declare with much detail that due to the cool air of the tomb our Lord regained consciousness and left the grave; let Spiritists insist that the spirit of the Lord Jesus separated itself from His body at death and on that very day, not on the third day, this spirit appeared to the disciples; let unbelief blandly and openly deny the fact of the resurrection and assert with the finality that only Biblical critics can employ, “An empty grave was never seen by any disciple of Jesus”;—tonight I remind you, as we stand before the sepulcher of the Arimathean aristocrat and find its seal broken and the great stone of overconfident unbelief rolled away, that the fact of Christ’s resurrection, the very keystone in the arch of our Christian faith, is one of the most definite, most repeated assurances of divine revelation. Five hundred witnesses testifying on one day; St. Thomas kneeling before the resurrected Lord, beholding the wounds of the nail-marks and His pierced side; nine distinct personal appearances—all this emphasizes that ours is not the credulity of fanaticism, but that it is the happy conviction based on the best human testimony and corroborated by the highest of all evidence. Indeed, there is no fact of God’s merciful dealing with mankind that is more frequently and forcefully attested than that truth to which all Christendom subscribes when it confesses, “The third day He rose again from the dead.” If the Easter-story is not actual history, there is no history.

We have the resurrection of Christ predicted in the Old Testament, clearly foretold by the prophet of old in the Sixteenth Psalm, where Christ declares that He, God’s Holy One, shall not be left in death and shall not see corruption. Or there is the triumphant cry of victory by which palsied Job breaks through the hidden future, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Verbally inspired by God, these and other prophecies are so powerful and compelling that even if the later records disappeared or were destroyed, we should have the assurance that our Savior, having been “cut off from the land of the living,” would nevertheless “lengthen His days,” to use the words with which Isaiah anticipated His resurrection.

We have the promise of Christ Himself, who, long before He went the way of the cross, challenged His opponents and declared that, though they might destroy the temple of His body, yet He would raise it up again in three days; who, when the curious and incredulous came to Him and asked for a sign, told them that in truth they already had a sign, His resurrection, as prefigured by the three days and three nights which Jonah experienced within the great fish; who, in dozens of passages of comforting warmth and majestic divinity, speaks of His deathless existence in the same unqualified, positive promise and prediction that we find in our text, “I live.”

We have in addition the testimony of the holy gospels, which present the resurrection as an accomplished fact, not once, but four times in independent accounts from men some of whom were eye-witnesses of many of the events recorded. These four inspired writers with their harmonious testimony, but with details that appealed especially to their different personalities, have transmitted a record that is so convincing, merely from the human point of view, that even unbelievers have paid tribute to the historical nature of the resurrection narratives.

We have finally the overwhelming evidence presented by other New Testament writers, who mention the Easter truth in almost one hundred passages as a cardinal point of their teaching and consciously center their promises about this historical occurrence. St. Paul says with definite finality, “Now is Christ risen from the dead.” St. Peter declares, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”

Now, this truth of the bodily resurrection of Christ, so mightily demonstrated in the Scriptures, is not merely the victory of Christ and the corresponding defeat of His enemies; it is rather the necessary and blessed climax of His entire redemptive work, the seal of divine approval upon His limitless self-giving, the benediction of God upon the sacrifice on Calvary. Without Easter we should respect and honor the memory of Jesus, but only as of one who died the victim of cruel circumstances, a martyr to a futile cause. He would be a dead hero, but not a living Savior. That is what the Apostle Paul tells us when he says, “If Christ be not risen, . . . ye are yet in your sins.” But praise be to God, our faith is not misplaced. Christ’s resurrection, cementing all His gracious promises, rises up as a majestic monument to impress upon the consciousness of all men that the cross is not the end; that, as Christ suffered for all, as He died for all, so He also had to rise again for all “according to the Scripture,” to complete the divine plan of salvation, by which grace and forgiveness, full and complete, eternal and everlasting, all-sufficient and all-embracing, are offered, without condition or requirement, without money or without price, without good works or even good intentions, without distinction of rank and position, color and race, learning and culture, offered to all the myriads of men embraced in the completed records of the history of all lands and all ages.

Yes, He lives, because without Him everything good and pure and noble would die. Did you ever pause to consider what the world would be without Easter? Probably many of you to whom today has been just another Sunday and who see in Easter the annual fashion parade, the occasion for the yearly visit to overcrowded churches, or the celebration of the return of spring with all its vitalizing powers, will be ready to say that the world would be just about the same without Easter as it is with Easter, which came this morning and which in a few hours will be lost in the past of all history.

But I am here this evening to tell you that without Easter commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ the best that we have in this world would be lost and the happiness and peace of mind that millions now enjoy would be impossible. About fifteen years ago a young Oxford graduate wrote a fanciful story telling of the finding of an ancient inscription which asserted that the resurrection of our Lord was a monstrous myth. When the news of that archeological discovery was spread about, the world became a madhouse. The restrictions of morality were thrown overboard; happy communal life was destroyed; murder, crime, and violence in all their terrible forms reigned; and to all appearances the breakdown of human society was at hand. But at that critical moment it was found that the inscription was not genuine, and the world, strengthened by the assurance that Christ still lives, returned to its Easter faith and happiness. Now, this is mere romance; and while we do not prove the Easter records by the testimony of secular history, yet the regenerative power of the Easter-message and the picture of a world caught in chaos without the resurrected Christ is simply an application of what St. Paul says when he declares, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain,” and “we are of all men most miserable.”

The apostle is not playing with superlatives when he thus describes the abysmal misery of a creed that can only sob at the tomb of a dead Christ. Without a resurrected Redeemer we are destitute of Heaven’s antidote to that chilling and blighting paralysis that steals slowly and silently, but always relentlessly and inevitably, into the hearts of earth-born mortals—the fear of death. And is there a greater misery than to stand hopeless and helpless before this grinning enemy of mankind, who calls a sudden halt to human ambitions and spells an end in sorrow and distress? It has been said with much force of fact that people today often think very little of the hereafter because they are so engrossed with the hard-fisted and material concerns of the present. Yet there are times in every normal life when the hunger of the soul cries out in a cringing plea for a life that does not end with death. To live, to conquer death and death’s corruption, to be immortal and survive the horrors of the grave, that is the sum and substance of man’s strongest longing; but it is a goal which men alone have never reached. The deceptions of modem Spiritism with its fraudulent seances and spirit manifestations are vicious and destructive failures; the test-tubes and crucibles of research are useless; the philosophies and human deductions are strangely helpless. Men have argued that because down through the corridor of time humanity has been guided by an “instinct of immortality,” life after death must be a reality. They have pointed to the butterfly emerging from a decaying chrysalis; they have taken the scarab into their pyramids as a symbol of the life to come; they have been perpetual witnesses of the annual revivification of nature when the world reawakens from chilling winter to throbbing spring; and in all this they have found an analogy to human resurrection. They have insisted that life must live on after the grave; for without a future existence life would betray a criminal deficiency in justice. Truth is so repeatedly damned to the scaffold and flaunting error so secure in its rampage of ruin that there must be a compensation for outraged right and a retribution for triumphant wrong. But when life fades fast and earthly props give way, the cumulative evidence for all such argumentation fails to carry conviction. Only the Easter light can solve the mysterious turns of time. If in our own lives there is to be a triumphant note of confidence and indomitable hope; if the gruesomeness of the grave and decay are to lose their paralyzing clutch, we, too, must learn to estimate the folly of seeking the living among the dead.

OUR TRIUMPH: WE SHALL LIVE ALSO!

For, because Christ lives, the promise continues, “ye shall live also.” Because Easter is the seal of God upon the redemptive work of His beloved Son, the shedding of His blood for the removal of our sins; because Christ was victorious over death, the wages of sin, therefore we who believe in Him have the divine assurance that we are not to be thrown upon the scrap-heap of eternal discard after a few years of untimely decay, but that our bodies, the marvelous living temples designed and created by the divine and loving Father, though they may now be marred and desecrated and weakened by sin and devastating disease and though they decay in death and see corruption in the grave, are to be resurrected and to be renewed and restored in the luster of wondrous beauty, spiritualized and divinely fitted for the glorified eternities in the heavenly mansions.

So when clods of earth separate the form and features of loved ones from our view, remember that the night of darkness will vanish when we hear the call of consolation, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” With firm Easter faith we confidently anticipate the wondrous happiness of that reunion before Heaven’s throne where severed friendships are reknit and partings are no more. For we have this glorious promise, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” Therefore, when disappointments and anxieties and sorrows of various kinds and degrees all but overwhelm us, we can raise our gaze from earth to heaven and declare with the Easter conviction that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” We can lift our tear-dimmed eyes to that glorified picture of immortality envisioned by the seer of Patmos, “God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

So, finally, when the grim specter of death approaches, as the last grains of sand trickle through the hour-glass of our life, in the courage of the hosts of saints and martyrs, we are blessed with the unwavering confidence that our Savior will sanctify our last hour with the fulfilment of His promise, “Because I live, ye shall live also,” and enable us to be translated from believing to seeing, chanting the Christian’s Easter hymn of triumph, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

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