Date: April 12, 1936

God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.1 John 5:11

O Christ, our risen Savior, Thou who on this Easter Day didst prove Thyself the mighty God, the accepted Atonement for all sin, the Conqueror of death, and the Lord of life everlasting: Be with us now as from the far reaches of this mighty congregation we gather in spirit before the open grave. If our hearts are locked in doubt, burst the seal of that unbelief. If our souls are kept from Thee by the restraint of sin, break these bonds of hell. If our lives are dominated by fear or sorrow, remove the great stone of our human weakness and bring us, every one of us, O Lord, down on our knees before Thy risen majesty, to acknowledge Thee in contrite love and confident faith as our God and Savior. Since Thou art risen, teach us to seek those things that are above, so that by the power of Thy resurrection we may find comfort for every agony of life, strength in the hour of death, and above all eternal rest and blessing in heaven. Grant us this abiding Easter joy for Thy mercy and for Thy truth’s sake. Amen.

HOPE-REVIVING, joy-instilling, death-conquering Easter! No other day in the course of the calendar floods the souls of men with such warm rays of cheering faith as does the anniversary of our Savior’s resurrection. From the Church of the Sepulcher at Jerusalem, where the day is soon done, to the craters of the South Sea Islands, where the morning has just broken; from mountain summits to the rims of yawning canyons, where millions have breathlessly awaited the first flash of Easter sunrise; from the Old World, where despite jeering atheism persecuted believers repeat the Easter-greeting, “Christ is risen,” and joyfully respond, “He is risen indeed,” to our New World and its crowded sanctuaries, Christians of every land pay their tribute to this decisive truth, that He whose cold and lifeless body was taken from the cross on Friday rose again on that first and ever-blessed Easter morn.

No other tomb proclaims the deathless message of life that this grave of the Savior’s Arimathean benefactor brings to every trusting heart. The Great Pyramid with its 2,300,000 giant blocks of limestone required the labor of 100,000 workers for at least twenty years; yet in its sand-swept loneliness it marks nothing but the failure of a selfish Pharaoh. In India the Taj Mahal, acclaimed as the most beautiful tomb in all the world, holds the remains of a Mogul emperor and his favorite wife; but this dream in marble leaves no heritage of blessing for India’s downtrodden masses. At Westminster Abbey the British nation has enshrined in honor and gratitude the last resting-place of its illustrious sons; but these heroes and geniuses live on only in memory and solve none of the problems that disturb us in these heavy hours. At Arlington Cemetery the tomb of the unknown soldier commemorates the sacrifices which sent regiments of American youth into horrifying death; but at the unknown and unmarked grave of the risen Christ the world well pauses today to worship Him who conquered sin and hell, death and decay. Here, at Joseph’s sepulcher, the official seal broken, the massive stone rolled away, the military guard prostrate, life and death assume a new meaning. Eternity, vast, immeasurable, inscrutable eternity, becomes a reunion with Christ, a never­ending blessing in the prepared places of the heavenly mansions.

To bring this hope of immortality into wavering hearts and to strengthen our confidence in the Savior’s promise of life after death, I ask you to stand

WITH CHRIST AT THE OPEN GRAVE

and to learn the blessing that St. John (First Epistle, chapter 5, verse 11) has recorded in this resurrection promise: “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”

“GOD HATH GIVEN TO US ETERNAL LIFE”

I do not propose to argue or debate at length the truth of Christ’s resurrection. The evidence of the empty grave is overwhelming. The ten recorded appearances of the risen Savior, doubtless only a fraction of the evidences granted to His disciples, make the Easter victory one of the best-attested facts of ancient history. The women returning from the sepulcher, the five hundred brethren on the northern mountain, the disciples,—on the Emmaus road, in the upper room, in Galilee and Jerusalem, and finally at His ascension on the Mount of Olives,—all these are unimpeachable witnesses to the fact of the resurrection. If the Easter victory, prophesied in the Old Testament, predicted by the Savior Himself, and recorded in more than a hundred different passages of the New Testament, is not history in the full and literal sense of the term; if the open grave, the multitude of witnesses, and the heaped Scriptural statements do not record the absolute truth, then there can be no assurance of the past; then we can doubt whether the forefathers of this nation ever signed the Declaration of Independence; then we can contest even the more recent events of the World War.

With the writers of the New Testament we cast all doubt aside as we hear the angel challenge: “Why seek ye the Living among the dead?” Rather are we vitally concerned about what St. Paul calls “the power of His resurrection” in our lives. We want to hear once more the sacred truth that by His Easter victory Jesus proved Himself the almighty God; that the open grave endorses and vindicates every act of Christ, every promise of His grace, every anguish of His suffering, every blessing of His death. You and I are destined to return to the dust, whence our race sprang. In God’s time our lifeless remains will be consigned to the grave, and those terrifying words “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” will sound too plainly the death and decay of our earthly frame. But He who could not be “holden of death” “saw no corruption” and on the third day rebuilt the broken temple of His body to show Himself the Lord of life and death, the God of all power and might.

The open grave means more. When Christ broke the restraint of that sepulcher, He sealed the truth of the ten thousand promises with which His Word cheers and strengthens men’s souls. His Easter triumph was Heaven’s evidence that His atoning blood had not been shed in vain; that the one sacrifice of His holy body for all human sin had not failed of its purpose; that His death, the cross, the grave, were not the end. He “was delivered for our offenses,” the Scriptures proclaim, but they continue to exult: “and was raised again for our justification.” Easter—and let us treasure this truth amid the toys and trivialities of the day, above the questions of clothing and apparel, beyond the beauties of reawaking nature—Easter verifies the forgiveness of every sin; it accepts the Savior’s ransom for our souls; it answers the Good Friday appeal “Father, forgive them” by speaking this peace and pardon to your soul and mine: “Thy sins ARE forgiven.”

With sin removed, the paralyzing grip of death has been broken. Our text summarizes: “God hath given to us eternal life,” and in the light of this promise the Christian knows that his existence is not a flame that can be blown out forever by death; that man is not a cog in a cosmic machine, doomed to quick displacement and ruthless discard; that God, who made men as the masters of creation, did not call us into being so that cruel fate could play with us, mock our best efforts, thwart our ambitions, and then, suddenly cutting the sinews of our strength, cast us on the human scrap-heap. Let atheists deny it; let rebellious spirits protest; let skeptical scientists draw huge question-marks,—here is the truth that defies all gainsaying: “God hath given to us eternal life.”

How I wish for words of living power to draw you in faith toward the blessings of this eternity! Dwarfed and stunted as is our human intellect, we are too often dazed by the glories of the heavenly homeland. But the little we can understand of heaven should make us cherish these pledges of eternity as the most glorious of all blessings. Eternal life! No more sin, but the holiness of the Lord, the pure, stainless robes of white! No more sorrow, but the fulness of supreme joy that “eye hath not seen nor ear heard”! No more strife, but perfect peace and unbroken harmony! No more parting, but the raptured greeting of those who have gone home before us and those who will follow us in that eternal reunion with the “whole family in heaven”! No more unsatisfied longings, no more knowing in part, no more disconsolate “why?” but a seeing face to face, a knowing “even as we are known.” This is the blessedness of eternity! This is the glory of Easter!

You may be a Lazarus, a castaway, sick and sore; but a compensation of blessing awaits you in heaven. You may be a prodigal, feeding on the husks of life, but through Christ you can look for a glorious return to your Father. You may be battered by “the sufferings of this present time”; but when you see your Savior face to face, you will know that all human anguish is “not worthy to be compared with the glory” that will then be revealed in you. You may be shocked by swift disaster and grope for an answer to your adversities. But the Christ who tells us: “What I do thou knowest not now” will give you full and blessed knowledge in the hereafter.

“THIS LIFE IS IN HIS SON”

Our text answers all who ask, “How can I find this eternity?” by the assurance: “This life is in His Son.” The greatest of our treasured blessings is the free gift of God’s love; eternity is not in our power of reasoning nor in human merit or understanding, but in Christ and His compassionate love. If we hear Him promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” and believe this with all our hearts; if we read His pledge: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and with all our souls seek to come to the Father by Him; if, as we listen to the words of His prayer on the night of His betrayal: “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hart sent,” and with all our might trust in His atoning love, the blessings of heaven are ours.

We cannot explain our resurrection nor plumb the depth of eternity. But if we stand dismayed by the enigmas of this life, why not trust God for the secrets of the next? We cannot account even for the relatively trivial, everyday mysteries that surround us on all sides. Why, then, should reason balk at the impenetrable truths of the resurrection? If the seed that has been sown by man’s hand decays in the black earth only to sprout forth in new life, why should we not believe that our bodies, created by God for everlasting life, may be sown in corruption only to come forth in incorruption, in new and heavenly existence?

Even if this logic and these pictures do not convince us, remember the words: “This life is in His Son.” We rest our hopes of eternity not on fraudulent slate writings, tilting tables, or weird messages, alleged communications from the next world. We look for the resurrection of the body not because men have always and instinctively believed in a future life; not because, as our philosophies have insisted, there must be beyond the grave a reward for suffering and sorrows, a retribution for injustice and injuries; not even because without this belief in a second life the pillars of virtue and morality would totter and men would descend to the beast in their riot of self-indulgence. We need more for the assurance of life to come than the message of reviving spring, the beauty of flowers blossoming after an ice-bound winter, the symbolism of the butterfly emerging from its cocoon; we must have a stronger foundation for our hopes than ancient yearnings and modem conjectures.

When life hangs by a slender, unraveling thread and eternity looms ahead at but a few moments’ distance, we can find small comfort in the fact that even the Zulus in Africa believed in another world; that the Greeks placed a coin into the mouth of every corpse to pay the fare across the river into eternity; that the Hindus taught the transmigration of the soul; that the Indians buried their dead with arrow-heads and earthen vessels for the happy hunting-ground. When that thread of life snaps, we must have a faith founded on bedrock, a conviction surer than life itself, a truth that can never waver.

This rock-grounded conviction is granted by God’s Son, the risen Christ. So positive and invincible is this fact of eternal life through His resurrection that in His name I promise you: Walk along the shores of the Atlantic, you, Christ’s own, who live on our eastern seaboard, and as the ageless ocean breaks into spray at your feet, know that long after the high seas have subsided and disappeared forever, you will be with your Savior in fulfilment of His promise: “Where I am, there shall also My servant be.” Stand at the foot of the Rockies in our Northwest and in the Canadian highlands, you on the western frontiers who worship the Savior with us; and as you gaze up to these massive monuments, the “everlasting hills,” be assured that long after their granite sides have been pulverized in destruction, you will continue to behold your Savior and to sing the new song before His throne. Step out under the dark heavens on this Easter night, you, my friends, in the four quarters of the land; recall that above you in the all but limitless reaches of the heavens there may be, as science tells us, a thousand million stars or perhaps twice that almost incredible number. Yet, if you have Christ, long after the hosts of these heavenly bodies have run their course and lost their brightness, you will live in heavenly radiance and blend your praise in the eternal hallelujah, “as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings.”—All these blessings in their immeasurable joy and unspeakable bliss are ours, “in His Son” through the power of the risen Christ. As soon as we kneel in full faith to acknowledge the Savior of the pierced side, the riven hands and feet, as Lord and God; as soon as we triumph in the exultant confidence of Job: “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” we can face the annihilation of the grave with this exultant cry: “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.”

Yet we must not think of Easter only in terms of the hereafter and in visions of eternity. “As Christ was raised up from the dead,” the apostle reminds us, “so we also should walk in newness of life.” In the First Church, Easter Eve was the most favored time for baptism, and on Easter morning large congregations assembled in new white robes to give evidence of the cleansed heart and the renewed spirit,—the strength and blessings of Easter faith. May the resurrection Gospel today charge sorrow­filled lives with joy as it once cheered the hearts of the women who had come to anoint their Savior! May it supplant doubt with firm and resolute knowledge as it once strengthened wavering Thomas! May it kindle a holy fire within us and fan into flame the love for Christ and His Church as the Easter-message once burned within the hearts of the two grief-stricken disciples who had met their risen Lord on a Palestinian road. May you, baffled, distracted and worn out with weary conflict, come to the open grave and learn that through faith earth’s deep-grained tragedies become but transient gloom; that our “light affliction,” the sieges of enervating sickness, the weakness of old age, the repeated distractions and recurrent dismay, staggering losses and shattering sorrows, and all the burden of grief that we may be called upon to endure, through Christ “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”!

The relentless flow of time has brought us with this resurrection Sunday to the close of this season’s broadcasting. How appropriate that we part on the day that pledges reunion forever to those who accept Christ as the ever-living Conqueror of death! The short span of your life and mine, the many intervening miles that separate us, will prevent me from meeting personally the many millions who have worshiped with us. What a privilege it would be to clasp the hands of the tens of thousands who worked and prayed for this Gospel broadcast! But what greater hope and glory to know that by the promise of Easter there will be a far more blessed homecoming! Life holds many uncertainties for us. Who knows the course that our lives may take before these broadcasts are resumed in the fall? Who knows whether in all the fog and shadow of our present pilgrimage you and I will be among the living? But one supreme truth you can know,—this resurrection promise that I ask you to keep in adversity and prosperity, in sickness and health, in waking and sleeping, at home and at work, inside the church and outside, with friend or foe, through life and even death,—this promise of the eternal, unerring Word: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” saved for the eternal Easter, where, pray God, we may all meet in the resurrection and the life everlasting. This I ask in the name, through the grace, and by the promise of Him who “rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Amen.

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

Date: April 5, 1936

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

O Christ, ever merciful Redeemer, Thou who on the cross didst bear the sins of all the world: We thank Thee that in the darkest hours of Thine agony Thou didst compassionately behold Thy mother and in providing for her home didst hallow our homes. We acknowledge to our shame that too often our doors have been closed to Thee and that we have sometimes forgotten the one thing needful,—firm, trusting faith in Thy mercies. But look graciously upon us, O Christ, in spite of our sins and envies and selfishness, and with Thy quickening, strengthening Spirit enter into our homes. Dwell with us day by day to make parents mindful of their sacred responsibilities and children obedient to their fathers and mothers. May Thine unfailing companionship cheer the widows and orphans, sustain the afflicted, and radiate peace and joy throughout our homes, so that every one of us may have the assurance of higher and holier blessing in the eternal homeland with Thee, the Father, and the Spirit. Guide us as Thou hast promised. Amen.

HAVE you ever stopped to ask yourself how the cross, an instrument of lingering torture and agonizing death, could become the most beloved and revered sign of all ages? Who today would take the electric chair, cast its form into precious metals, stud it with costly gems, and then exalt that ghastly instrument of judicial killing? Who would make miniature reproductions of the gallows or the hangman’s noose and proudly display them as the symbol of his faith? Who would place replicas of the guillotine on the spires of religious buildings or mark the last resting­ places of beloved ones with an executioner’s block and ax? Yet masterpieces of art worth fabulous millions; the preeminent poetry of nineteen centuries; the most beloved of all sacred songs; the magnificence of architecture,—all pay their highest tributes to a crude, repulsive instrument of death. In the swirl of the centuries human ingenuity and resources have not been able to create a power as mighty, as universal, as essential to progress and individual happiness as that exerted by the two timbers on which slow and terrifying death takes its toll.

How did this cross of death become the promise of life and its hideous vengeance the pledge of joy and peace forever? How could a public execution in ancient Judea change the entire course of history? By what power does it grip hundreds of millions of lives in our present-day world as no other force ever can? Why must the cross, rough-hewn and blood-soaked, be the most vital and decisive factor in all experience?

These are questions that must concern every one of us. Calvary and its cross demand more than study, more than wonder, more than pity, more than admiration, more than protest; they demand your decision. When you face the cross, you cannot be neutral. The unavoidable alternative reminds us that we are either for Christ or against Him. And because these words may reach the heart of some whose sin or pride or unbelief has mocked the mercies of God; because others who in the earlier years may have welcomed Christ as their Prophet, Priest, and King, waved the palm branches of their faith amid their hosannas and hallelujahs, now shriek the sentence of doom: “Away with Him!” because even the most zealous disciples may sleep during the agonies of their Savior’s torture, flee in the hour of His trial, deny Him before His persecutors, and betray Him into the hands of His enemies, I ask you, with the approach of Good Friday, to stand

WITH CHRIST AT CALVARY

and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find the lessons of the Cross for your life in that pointed summary of Gospel truth recorded in Rom. 5, 8: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This appeal to watch with Christ at Calvary will be one of the last that I shall address to you; but it comes as the climax and summary of all these radio messages. May God in His power and grace keep the blessings of the Cross, the redemption of the Crucified, forever uppermost in your life and in mine!

THE SAVIOR’S DEATH RECALLS THE CURSE OF OUR SIN

Well does the apostle remind us that “we were sinners”; for we cannot glory in the fulness of grace until we have been crushed by the press of sin. Not until we know in a personal and intimate degree the body-breaking, soul­destroying power of sin in our lives, can we understand what Christ means to us and why His cross is the evidence of Heaven’s highest love. During the sunlight you cannot see the myriads of stars that stud the heavens until you descend into deep shafts; and the grace of Heaven remains concealed until you sink down on your knees in depths of sorrow and contrition over the iniquity in your heart and life.

It should require no elaborate argument to show the truth of the Scriptural verdict “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But with increasing numbers many have sidestepped the fact of sin and avoided it as distasteful. One of the reasons why the modern pulpit has often failed is its silence in the matter of human depravity. Too often the learning and the logic and the eloquence of the preacher produce the back-slapping, hail-fellow-well-met type of sermon that drugs the hearers into pleasant reveries, deletes sin, and refuses to cry in warning against the deadly peril of the sinner. Modern unbelief, enthroned in the pulpits of wealthy and influential congregations, has lost consciousness of sin. Materialistic science has labeled it as a hangover and survival of brute instincts, from which the processes of evolution will ultimately purify “the human animal.” Educators tell us that sin is passe and obsolete; that the old standards of morality are outworn and threadbare. The sensual novels, which boldly glorify personal impurity; irresponsible newspapers, which cater to the sordid passions of life; the tawdry motion-picture, which unconcernedly glosses over hideous adulteries; sacrilegious radio programs, which ridicule the Word of God and bring suggestive stories into Christian homes,—these are the agencies that are coaxing millions into the fatal delusion that there is no sin or, if there is, that we need not concern ourselves too seriously about it.

But God’s Word is adamant: “All have sinned.” “We were sinners,” St. Paul declares in his all-inclusive verdict. And in no age of history should the depravity of our race be more apparent than in this day of emphasis on human goodness. In spite of our pride and pretense of culture and advance our world is separated at times by only a hair from savagery. A long-drawn wail of misery rises from the four corners of the earth, where men are trampled by the sin and greed of their fellow-men. The cry of war has become a menacing drone in our ears, and we know full well that only a few sparks of inflamed hatred are required to set the world afire with the greedy blaze of war. Only the poison of well-spread propaganda, only the blast of bugles, only the waving of flags, and in all countries veterans of past wars and those who have been drafted for a new conflict go out to shoot dum-dum bullets into the hearts of their fellow-men!

In our own richly endowed nation grievous sins have destroyed the happiness of millions. If our blessed Lord, who once wept over Jerusalem, were with us today to behold our nation in panorama, how copiously His tears would fall! Twenty-seven lives the daily toll of murder and manslaughter! A twenty-five-billion-dollar loss, during ten years, in the purchase of worthless stock! Dishonesty and graft in every level of business! Shameless corruption in American courts! Frequent exploitation of American workers! The annual collapse of 150,000 families through divorce! Wilful repudiation of parenthood! Commercialized appeal of easy morality and its resultant debauch of youth! These are some of the unmistakable rampant iniquities that sullenly stare us in the face.

Now, intelligent people are willing to concede the guilt of the slums and the sweat-shops, of political debauch and prostitution, of war for conquest and general wickedness. They are ready to cry for the blood of murderers and kidnappers, to hurl their contempt on harlots and thieves, and, in general, to judge the sins of others. Yet they are rarely open and honest about their own pet sins and favorite vices. There are few harder sentences in the English language than the unhesitating confession: “I am a sinner.” Yet it is that admission which, I pray God, may be wrung from your hearts and lips as from mine today when we approach the cross. Sharply does God’s Word pronounce this distressing truth: “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” Pointedly does the apostle warn us: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” It is not a pleasant task to stand before this microphone in St. Louis and to tell men and women full of confidence in themselves, many outwardly honorable and exemplary, that they are outcasts, assassins of their own souls. It would be inestimably easier and far more attractive to speak honeyed pleasantries and to cover the purple patches of our iniquities with a smooth, silken disguise. But what of the indictment of God’s holy Word? What of the voice of your own conscience, which opportunely reminds you of your disobedience to God, your covetous thoughts, your impure desires, your mean and ugly words, your open sins that have brought the reproach of God and man upon you, robbed you of your peace of mind? What of the tormenting evidence of your sin and mine that cannot be hushed or ignored or laughed out of existence,—“the wages of sin,” death, that comes to us, as it comes to all, to warp our hopes and steal our happiness?

Only part of the penalty of sin comes with death. “Your sins will find you out,” the eternal Word shouts in warning; and how relentlessly our iniquities pursue and overtake our wreck-strewn lives! Poverty, pain, loathsome disease, shattered. minds, crippled bodies, defeated ambitions, thwarted plans, are only a few of iniquity’s tragic consequences. What shall we say of that inevitable reckoning before the bar of Heaven’s justice? “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” is God’s blanket verdict upon all unforgiven sins. Eternal death, everlasting separation from God, the terrors of hell, never-ending hopelessness,—with these penalties a just and holy God marks the transgressions of His truth and righteousness.

No wonder that men, in seeking a release from sin and escape from the terrors of the grave, have resorted to desperate extremes. Lashed by the vengeance of their conscience, they have been ready to sacrifice everything precious in life, to surrender their ambitions and their treasures, to offer their children, their wives, their own fear-ridden bodies, for atonement and pardon! Aghast at the thunder of divine retribution, proud scoffers who have publicly taunted God in their last moments have cried out, in horror of hell, for God’s light and hope or have ended their days in blank despair.

THE SAVIOR’S DEATH EXALTS THE BLESSINGS OF GRACE

In His infinite and eternal goodness and mercy God has done what no man, no superman, no legions of angels, could ever do. He has solved the problem of sin through the cross of Christ. “While we were yet sinners,” the text assures us, “Christ died for us.” Here, with the Savior at Calvary, the burden of sin is taken from our souls, the curse of sin removed from our lives, and the penalty of sin fully paid by the atoning Redeemer. It is nothing but the summary of the Gospel’s old story that we find in these four words, “Christ died for us”; but a score of large-sized volumes could not contain all the details of the promise which this short sentence conveys. “Christ died for us,” for every one of us, in the non-exclusive, all-inclusive mercy that embraces saint and sinner, the respectable and the outcast, the paragon of civic virtue and the prisoner in the penitentiary death-house. “Christ died for us,” for every transgression, from smaller envies and jealousies to depraved crime and degenerate iniquity. “Christ died for us,” for complete pardon, so that our sins became His sins, our punishment His punishment, our death His death, and His resurrection, His life, His eternity, thank God! our resurrection, our life, our eternity. “Christ died for us,” for the full and free salvation that paid the entire price of our redemption, removed the whole burden of our sins, wiped out the wide stains of our iniquities, so that we need earn nothing, bring nothing, offer nothing, pay nothing, to be blessed by His sure mercies. “Christ died for us,” for the final assurance of heaven, so that we can do more than yearn for salvation, hope for it or pray for it; we can grasp it, by Jesus’ promise, in the grip of victory which makes heaven ours, not only in longing thought, but also in true reality.

His death grants us the riches of this grace. With Christ at Calvary we hear above the rumble of the death scene His majestic plea: “Father, forgive them,” and we know that this appeal grants us freedom and deliverance from sin’s tyranny; we hear His faltering lips speak this pledge of mercy to the dying penitent: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise,” and we believe that the same paradise regained is ours if we, too, turn to the compassionate Christ and pray: “Lord, remember me”; His breaking voice gasps, “It is finished,” and we assuredly believe that His toil and travail for our salvation are completed forever.

“Christ died for us”; that forgiving love steels us for the stern and bitter hours of life. Without the light and hope radiated by the cross, men are doomed to a stupefied helplessness, which finds itself trapped by the miseries of life. But with Christ we learn that our sorrows may be but part of a stirring symphony of God’s love, that the trials which would tear us down may build us up, and that the visitations that would rob us of our money can enrich our souls. Take the cross out of our hearts, and we become helpless molecules of humanity. But restore the cross, and even in the rush and press of adversity we learn that we are Christ’s; that with Christ we can defy the storm troops of hell with the battle-cry: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

This question remains that I must ask you now: What does Christ and His sin-destroying love mean to you? I want you to decide now, during these days that commemorate His death agonies. Next week, next month, next year, may be too late. Approach the cross now with contrite heart; and in answer to your prayer “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” this blessed assurance will strengthen your soul: Christ died for you; His blood was shed for your sins; His life was given for yours. Jesus has never failed any one; He will not—I promise—fail you.

Tenderly, pleadingly, does the Savior call us. Once He rode through the gates of the royal city; but now He seeks entrance into our hearts. May our acclaim be constant and unbroken; may our lips be touched with holy fire, so that our Palm Sunday chant “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” may never lose its fervor! May the boys and girls who this morning on bended knees promised to be true to Christ and to suffer even death rather than deny Him, remain steadfast in faith! May the memories of a pledge once spoken on Palm Sunday awaken in the hearts of unfaithful disciples the resolve to return immediately to Christ and His Church! May the Savior’s love with which He loved us to the heart-breaking end on that Black Friday constrain every one of us, particularly the ambassadors of Christ and the messengers of His Word, to spurn all temptations, disavow all cross-purposes, and continually proclaim this message of the Crucified: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Let a new wave of devotion to Christ sweep over our land, a new love of His redeeming presence bless our homes, and a new and stronger faith in the cleansing power of His blood purify our hearts and sanctify our lives. We ask this in His blessed name. Amen.

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

Date: March 29, 1936

“Behold thy son! . . . Behold thy mother!”John 19:26-27

Father of endless grace: How can we thank Thee for that unmerited mercy by which Thy Son took upon Himself the guilt of all sin in all history’s ages and patiently, lovingly, victoriously bore the punishment of human iniquity? Grant that with contrite hearts we may daily strive to make our lives monuments of sincere thanks for these unspeakable blessings. With Thy Spirit strengthen our message of this mercy, so that sinners, convicted of their sin, may turn to the saving grace in Jesus. Shed the comfort of this love throughout the land, so that we may be saved from despair, strengthened against indifference, and preserved from ingratitude. Particularly do we ask Thee to look down compassionately upon the homeless victims of last week’s flood and disasters, and do Thou, whose hand can restrain the rushing waters, check the terrors of these swollen torrents. Prove Thyself the God of all power, all wisdom, and all love in Christ, in whose name, by whose promise, and for whose glory we ask this. These petitions we direct to the throne of Thy mercy through Him who came not to be ministered unto, but to give His life as a ransom for many. Amen.

IF I were to sum up in one concise statement the supreme need of this nation or of any other nation, I would offer this plain prescription for a better tomorrow: “Put Jesus Christ into the homes of the people.” Let legislators write new laws for this new age and our statesmen conclude new and effective treaties; let our engineers build dams to restrain floods in the East and let them check the dust-storms in the West; let our bankers suggest new financial policies and our business men offer new industrial programs,—the best that Congress, geniuses of statecraft, and scientific experts can offer will prove inadequate unless supported by God-fearing homes.

Again, if we were asked which human agency can most effectively help the Christian Church to move towering mountains of unbelief, check the ravages of indifference, shake off torpid sleep, and call a halt to the organized betrayal of our faith, we would declare: “Put Christ into the homes of the Church.” No matter how high the spires of stone cathedrals, how impressive the names on the church rosters, how powerful the personality of the preacher, how large the resources of the congregation,—unless the work of the Church is supported by the Christian home, its best efforts will fall woefully short of their full blessings.

If you should ask once more what you and millions of others need for quiet, comfort, unfailing direction, we would still say: “Put Christ into your homes.” Though you build pretentious dwelling-places, though you include all the appointments of modern house-planning, if you leave Christ out, you have built on sand. Only too suddenly can the mad tumult of human passions and overreaching selfishness exile all happiness from a Christless house, while a modest home, a room or two blessed by the presence of Jesus Christ, can be a refuge from the noise and brunt of daily battle, a haven of sustaining comfort in the day of trouble.

Endow our land with families blessed with the fear of God and the love of Christ, with homes where the atoning Christ is daily invoked in prayer, His guidance sought in the Scriptures, and His teachings translated into earnest, Christian lives, and you have created a defense stronger than army divisions and naval armadas; you have transfused new life-blood into anemic churches; you have brought God and His peace close to weary, pain-racked lives. Build the home with Christ, and you build souls with love, churches with power, nations with blessings.

So vital is the Christian home that our Savior in His dying hours, torn by the agonies of His crucifixion and the immeasurably greater anguish of His soul, had time and thought for its blessings. He left no legacy of money; the soldiers had robbed Him even of His clothing; yet the holy example of His love for His mother has become a heritage so priceless that this afternoon I would commemorate

HOMES BLESSED AT THE CROSS

and ask you to hear and apply to your home-life this sacred command of our dying Lord: “Behold thy son! . . . Behold thy mother!” John 19, 26. 27.

MARY’S HOME BLESSED AT THE CROSS

Four women cowered at the Savior’s cross, terrified, yet faithful, unto His end. Four women and, as far as we know, only one of the twelve disciples! The weaker sex, as an old Church Father reminds us, was the stronger at the crucifixion; and women have been stronger and of firmer faith in unnumbered crisis hours since Calvary. In thousands of homes a Christian mother’s godliness and prayer bring her children to Jesus and help to keep them with the Church, while the father lacks courage to confess the Savior even before his own flesh and blood. In countless churches the untiring zeal and sacrifices of consecrated women have, under God, mightily helped to spread the cause of the Kingdom. Four women to one man under the cross of the dying Christ and about the same proportion today in many churches that exalt the Cross of the living Christ! As though there were not in the Gospel a virile appeal to the bravery of red-blooded men! As though the strongest souls who ever walked the face of the earth were not humble followers of the Crucified! And as I say, “God bless the loyalty of Christian womanhood,” I also plead, “God seize and change the hearts of you fathers and sons who think that you can rest on the faith of your wives or mothers. God charge you with His Holy Spirit and show you the sin of denying Christ and the blessing of confessing Him. While the Church needs your support, energy, and leadership, a million times more you men need the Church and its Christ.”

Of the faithful four at Calvary the heart-torn mother of Christ holds our attention. Thirty-four years had passed since Mary, the village maiden, was startled by the angelic “Blessed art thou among women!”—more than a third of history’s most blessed century. Standing under the cross, she who treasured every turn of her divine Son’s destiny must have recalled those inexpressibly happy years at Nazareth and its busy carpenter’s shop; the unfolding of perfect youth; the obedience and love which hallowed that Galilean home; and then that awe-filled day when Jesus, her Son, laid down His tools and set out to bring the kingdom of God to men. She remembered the Magi who brought their royal gifts and called the cradled infant “King”; but where was His Kingdom now that His bleeding head was crowned with a mocking diadem? She recalled the miracles that had proved His heavenly power; but where was His miraculous might with that milling crowd singing its taunt song “He saved others; Himself He cannot save”? She lived again those moments of majesty when Jesus, her son, spoke words of life and strength and hope; but where was the penetrating power of His appeal now that His parched lips pleaded, “I thirst”?

Do you, the mothers in this radio assembly, know what it means to lose a child in death? Those who have kept ceaseless vigils at the sick-beds of a son or daughter and have prayed as they have never prayed before that, if it were God’s will, their child might be spared, only to be stunned by the inscrutable Wisdom that took their child to Himself and to His heaven, know that profound sorrow, that indescribable emptiness of life, that strength-draining, hope-breaking numbness which creeps over them when death enters their home, even though they have sought the best medical help and surrounded their loved one with every attention. How much more deeply the agonies of Jesus’ death must have cut into Mary’s heart when, fever­ racked, her Son pleaded for cooling water and she could not grant even this dying request; when the blood dripped from His pierced hands, His feet, His lacerated head, and she could not staunch those wounds nor wipe that pallid brow! As we behold Mary, suffering as no mother has ever suffered, we do not see a superhuman, immaculate mother,—for the Scriptures know nothing of a sinless Mary,—but it is a human mother, a great heroine, as your Christian mother or mine, struck by the depths of Christ’s suffering and looking to the cross for an answer to this divine mystery.

Never perhaps was Jesus closer to His mother than in this dying hour; for He who on that cross bore the sins of all the world even then proved Himself the High Priest “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” His compassion remembers His mother, the arms that nestled Him close, the lips that sung sweet lullabies, the eyes that sparkled with radiant love. And as He beholds Mary, her grief, her dreary, solitary path of life, the glance that brought repentance to Peter and paradise to the penitent now brings comfort to His mother. In His last testament Jesus provides for her support and comfort. “Behold thy son!” He says, referring to John, and turning to His beloved disciple, He adds: “Behold thy mother!” As death and its deliverance approach, Jesus creates and blesses a new home for Mary.

OUR HOMES BLESSED AT THE CROSS

Today hundreds of self-constituted doctors look at sorrowing homes in the United States and Canada to offer a hundred different remedies; thousands of radical books are published with revolutionary proposals for the family; our universities tolerate men and women who brand marriage and the home as outworn institutions; atheistic Communism is dedicated to destroy the family. Never before have as many conflicting opinions on the home clamored for adoption, and never before has it become as necessary to proclaim that our homes need Christ, above all else, first and last.

To have Christ and the power of His blessings for ourselves and our homes, we must believe and trust in Him as the divine, love-sent Savior of our souls; we must acknowledge beyond all reserve or hesitation that without Jesus we are poor, lost, sinful, helpless; that we cannot find recognition and reward before our God almighty and all-holy by our tears or toils, but that by the shedding of His holy, precious blood, by His dying that sacrificial death, He appeased the divine wrath and paid the price of sin.

Put that message of the crucified Savior into the hearts of any family, and it will express itself in their lives. We warn young people against marriage with unbelievers, which creates a house divided against itself and too often tears the believing husband or wife from Christ. Don’t say that love conquers everything and that you hope to win the unbelieving, scoffing, Christ-denying young man or woman for the Church. If even mixed marriages between members of various denominations are often marred by unhappiness, how can there be any lasting joy in a union between belief and unbelief? Unless you are honestly convinced that you and your life-partner can stand beneath the cross and hear Jesus say in approval: “Behold your wife! Behold your husband!” there is a radical mistake in your marriage plans.

To secure and preserve the Savior’s benediction, every family should unite daily in Scripture-reading and prayer, so that Christ may be sincerely welcomed into the home circle and His love invoked for our problems and opportunities. God knows that we have drifted far from the safe moorings of past generations, when few Christian families would think of beginning or ending the day without prayer in Jesus’ name. If I could ask each of you into whose home this radio message has penetrated whether the family altar has been erected in your midst, disheartening numbers would be forced to admit that they have time for the trivialities of life, but no time for Christ. No time for family prayers because we do not make time for this sacred privilege; because we have not been stirred deeply enough in our hearts to know “what a privilege” it is “to carry everything to God in prayer”! Notable homes that have been overcrowded with honors and obligations have met Christ in prayer. It was the custom of George Washington to read the Bible and religious writings to Mrs. Washington while on journeys or at home. In one of his last letters Lord Roberts, Field Marshal of Great Britain during the World War, wrote to Lord Curzon: “We have had family prayers for fifty-five years.” Martin Luther, for whom every day brought new and vast responsibilities, declared: “This I do: when I rise up with the children, I pray the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, and some psalm besides.” When hindered from attending church, he prepared and preached special sermons for his family.—Who are we that in the relatively small issues of our lives we cannot find ten minutes a day to rest in the sacred company of the Savior?

When Christ is enthroned in the home, there may still be hours of sorrow and anxiety, but these adversities will serve only to bring us closer to His love. As His dying compassion strengthened His mother, so His love helps us in our troubles and fulfils His promise: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you.” The bereft and the lonely are close to the heart of Christ. Widows are under His special care, and the blessings which He showers upon them prove His never-failing help. He is a Staff in the weakness and infirmity of declining years; and while He offers no lavish old-age pensions, His promise of sufficient grace is renewed every morning. If some invalid father or some mortally sick mother who hears these words has been worrying about the support of helpless children, soon to be orphaned, let them behold the cross in the full radiance of its heavenly love and believe with all their hearts that the Christ of mercy, who “loved us unto death and gave Himself for us,” will find a way for these children, just as He found help and support for His mother.

His loving care for the home has not ceased. He still calls out to the youth of the land: “Behold thy mother!” “Behold thy father!” and pleads for filial love and honor. As St. John, who provided for Mary, enjoyed long life and many blessings, in fulfilment of the one commandment with promise, so you who hold the ties of parenthood sacred will experience the bounteous love of God in your own careers. Today few tragedies mar the lives of young people more deeply than their thankless conduct toward their fathers and mothers. That ingratitude helps to swell the ranks of our criminal population; it fills our penitentiaries; it is one of the fastest ways to misery. And if it should now be my opportunity to speak to sons and daughters who have turned their backs upon aged parents, forsaken those who gave them life and protected them during the perils of their infancy, may God’s Spirit touch these ungrateful hearts, so that they penitently behold the Savior providing for His destitute mother and resolve to follow Him.

To fathers and mothers the Savior repeats His command from the cross, “Behold thy son!” “Behold thy daughter!” And how pointedly this appeal speaks to parents who have not stopped to consider that their children have immortal and preciously bought souls, for whose spiritual destiny they must render an accurate accounting! The millions of children outside the Sunday-school who grow up as heathen; the neglected young people who do not know God, Christ, the Bible, and who have never been baptized, all because an irresponsible father let them drift toward hell or a flighty, hare-brained mother thought more of their clothing, their tap-dancing, or their theatricals than she did of their immortal souls,—these youthful paganized millions constitute a menace to the welfare of this nation’s tomorrow. All the CCC camps and all the National Youth Administration projects, with their splendid objectives, will not be able to compensate for the spiritual loss which hundreds of thousands of youths sustain because parents have shirked their divinely imposed duty.

You fathers, charged by God to bring up your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” must accept Christ as your Savior and let the Word of Grace “dwell among you richly” and join patriarchal Joshua in making the resolution: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” You mothers, who to a larger degree than you realize are molding the destiny of the next generation, give up everything that takes time from your children and makes you neglect the care for their souls. Realize the sacredness of Christian motherhood. Try to understand how your child’s characteristics and attitudes are shaped, long before it is born, by your faith and your habits. And resolve with Hannah of old that your child shall be given to God—in Baptism, by leading it to Jesus, and in the devotions of your home. You sons and daughters, who, please God, may once have children of your own, as you behold the compassionate Christ and His love of His mother, believe me when I tell you that there can be no satisfying happiness in your life until you have knelt in repentance before the Savior, found forgiveness in His suffering, pardon in His punishment, life in His death, and then have extended His spirit of love and care to your parents.

How much of quarrel and misery could be avoided, how many blighted lives and shattered hopes spared their crushing sorrows, how much abiding peace and deepening love could be found in the millions of homes on this continent if they were built and blessed at the cross! Heavenly Father, we ask not for large homes nor for brilliant families, not for famous parents nor for renowned children; but give the nation, give Thy Church, give us individually, Christ-blessed homes, Christ-strengthened families, Christ­conscious parents, Christ-centered children. We ask this in His name. Amen.

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

Date: March 22, 1936

Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.Luke 23:43

God of all grace and truth: We come before Thee to receive comfort for this troubled day. Penitently do we confess our own unworthiness and acknowledge our failures, our compromises with sin, our wavering inconsistency. But clinging to Thine eternal promises of grace through the blood of our Savior, we beseech Thee to grant us not only pardon and forgiveness, but also the renewing power of Thy Spirit, so that, with a clean heart and a renewed, right spirit within us, we may daily walk more closely with Thee; and particularly when our faith would falter, our resistance to evil weaken, our sorrows dishearten us, we would find and trust the evidence of Thy love and of Thine almighty guidance. Bless this broadcast, heavenly Father, so that men may be turned to Thee and strengthened through faith in Thy Son, our only, but all-sufficient Redeemer. Whatever our need of body and soul may be, supply it according to the riches of Thy grace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

PARDONED in the hour of death! What a chain of tense and dramatic scenes these words produce: a death-bed reunion reconciling an estranged father and his dying son; grim, gray prison-walls and breathless messengers arriving with official release only a few moments before the execution hour; a tall, gaunt figure in the White House placing his signature below a presidential reprieve that grants a court-martialed sentry escape from death before the firing squad!

But wherever on the face of this wide earth men have heard and believed the story of Jesus Christ and His cross, there hearts have been wondrously gripped and souls mightily moved by the most startling of all last-hour pardons of a soul saved for eternity as the cold grip of death strengthened its paralyzing clutch. This record of eleventh-hour forgiveness helped to bring a condemned British murderer to divine mercy a few moments before he walked the death-walk to the gallows. It reached the hearts of Italian robbers and broke up their marauding bands. It challenged the scoffing atheism of Russia in revolt where a physician ministering to the Red soldiers testifies that these uncouth killers, murderers even of women and children, pleaded to have this message of mercy (taken from the New Testament that they had sought to destroy) read as their valedictory to life. In all Christian centuries, in all Christian lands, in all Christian hearts and hopes, this last hour promise of peace has charged desperate lives with joy and brightened the enshrouding darkness of death.

That pledge of pardon takes us, not to stately executive mansions, not to staff headquarters of army battalions, not to hushed death chambers, but to a bleak, skull-shaped hill near Jerusalem and to a cross between two other crosses. There above taunt and turmoil the Son of God, His life­ blood ebbing away, His lips white in the compression of death, hears the thief crucified at His right hand plead: “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom”; and in the greatest and most glorious promise of forgiveness known to men that Savior speaks this

PARDON FOR THE PENITENT

(Luke 23, 43): “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

THE ALL-INCLUSIVE PARDON

This penitent thief was the first and only defender of Christ among the multitude at the cross. At the outset he, too, nailed to his own cross, had raised his voice in ridicule. But gradually he began to behold the silent, majestic Galilean on the central cross in a different light. There was about this Jesus of Nazareth the impress of innocence and an unmistakable guiltlessness; and when the one crucified robber continued his hymn of dying hate and railingly challenged our Lord: “If Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us,” this penitent unhesitatingly protested: He “hath done nothing amiss” and thus became the first who publicly declared the Savior’s innocence. In his dying hour the condemned felon did what none of the disciples dared to do.

He was the first and only soul in that multitude to acknowledge the crucified Savior as Lord and King. Pilate had ridiculed Christ’s kingship; the unbending churchmen had rejected it; the disciples had questioned and misinterpreted it; but that dying thief, pleading in his last-hour prayer: “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom,” became the first to proclaim the divine kingship of his royal Redeemer.

He was also the first and, as far as is recorded, the only witness of the crucifixion who pleaded for the dying Savior’s mercies and received the promise of pardon. Confessing his own sins, acknowledging his own punishment as the due reward for his crimes, but appealing to the compassion of Christ, his prayer for merciful remembrance is answered in this deathless promise: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

No wonder that wherever men have heard of this dying penitent, they have gained new strength and courage to face the indictment of sin. Think of the all-embracing love revealed by this promise. The first convert of the Cross a criminal who had to pay the death penalty,—what magnificence of mercy this crucifixion truth should convey to us! Directing you to this same wide, all­inclusive grace I call out through the vast reaches of this radio congregation to say that no man has ever fallen too low, strayed too far from God, lived too long in sin, to find the same blessed pledge of pardon; that no sin, no matter how destructive to health and happiness it may be, no matter how often and how repeatedly it may gain the mastery over our lives, no matter how completely it may rob us of our self-respect and of the esteem of our fellow­men, is too wicked, too vicious, too execrable to be forgiven by the mercy that promised a crucified criminal the blessings of paradise. While we thank God for all the mighty intellects, the great leaders of men, the heroes of noble hearts and unselfish lives who through Christ will be gathered into “the whole family in heaven”; while we exult over the Christian faith of great scientists and statesmen and leaders in human achievement, Christian conquerors like William Gladstone, Prime Minister of Great Britain and recognized by many as its greatest statesman, who declared: “All I think, all I write, all I am, is based on the divinity of Jesus Christ, the central hope of our poor, wayward race”; Michael Faraday, the pioneer in electromagnetics, who, asked on his death-bed, “Mr. Faraday, what are your speculations?” answered: “Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. ‘I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day’”; David Livingstone, who, alone in the heart of darkest Africa, wrote: “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee”; Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, who never sang “I know that My Redeemer Liveth” without asking the Savior to bring this truth to at least one soul in her audience; President Benjamin Harrison, who pointedly maintained: “Not scholarship, not invention, . . . not to these, but to the Word of God and the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ we must turn”; Allen Gardiner, pioneer missionary to Tierra del Fuego, who, starving, freezing, dying, on that tip of South America, penned these last lines with shaking hand: “Yet a little, and through grace we shall . . . sing the praises of Christ through eternity. I neither hunger nor thirst, though I have been for five days without food. Marvelous kindness to me, a sinner”;—while we rejoice that on the Great Day when we shall see Jesus face to face, we shall be brought into the sacred company of these and many more mighty spirits whose lives were spent in service to their fellow-men, we rejoice with heightened exultation that there, before the throne and among the ransomed saints in white, we, in spite of all our sins and selfishness, shall find lives,—here on earth crude, carnal, steeped in sin, and stained with vice,—there cleansed, purified, polished, as bright and sparkling jewels in the diadem of Christ.

A cruel industrial system may deprive men of their livelihood; the swirling waters of raging torrents may impoverish hundreds of thousands overnight and leave tens of thousands of families without shelter, nourishment, and protection (demanding our quick and generous financial aid); nations may gather to discuss new warfare that will rob millions of their lives, their possessions, and their happiness; but by that holy, blessed mercy which opened the portals of paradise we know that all the powers of sin and Satan together cannot take this pledge of grace from any weak, helpless, defenseless soul that looks, as did the malefactor on the cross, fully into the face of the crucified Christ and, reading above the cutting crown of twisted thorns the true title to His royalty “King of kings,” pleads for remembrance in His Kingdom of Glory. Sweeping aside all the selfish barriers that restrict men to class or caste, the eternal mercies of Christ offer hope and heaven to all men, from the untouchable pariahs of India to the unapproachable aristocrats of America; from the doddering illiterates to the Titans of intellect; from the scorned and hated of life to the idols of lavish hero-worship;—all men of every race and color, white and black, red and yellow; of every age of history’s past, present, and future, all have this universal promise: “Whosoever” (O blessed “whosoever”!) “shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”; all can find strength in the assurance that, if a dying Christ promised never-ending bliss, a living Christ can fulfil that promise and grant to all men the blessings of paradise regained.

May this firm, faith-founded conviction of the endless, timeless, limitless mercy of God in Christ be ours as we recognize in the criminal on the cross the symbol of our own sin, our impure thoughts, our greedy desires, our passionate impulses; and as we stand beneath the cross of the holy Christ and feel the weight and the guilt and the shame of these sins, let faith overcome fear, and let us exult:—

Chief of sinners though I be,

Jesus shed His blood for me.

American churches may well pause to reflect upon the fact that the :first convert at the crucifixion was a criminal. A hue and cry is being raised throughout the land by radical and atheistic elements charging that the churches are capitalistic institutions, that they fight the battles of the wealthy, yet turn deaf ears to the workingman; that they build magnificent cathedrals, amass bulging treasuries, and then desert the down-and-outer. God knows that this is a vile and vicious defaming of the labor and love of thousands of Christian pastors who, with little financial reward and social acclaim, have tried to become “all things to all men”; but you and I know that the catering to power instead of the striving after souls has helped to promote in three great nations communistic upheavals against all churches. Let the churches of America learn their lesson in time, the lesson that banishes class consciousness under the vital appeal of soul consciousness. Let the work of the Church be extended, not only in the suburbs and the exclusive residential sections of the better communities, but let us uphold the Cross at the busy crossroads of life, let us bring Jesus into the tenement districts, into the slums, into the depression colonies. Let Christians forget social ratings, bank accounts, family names, and welcome the poor, the shabbily dressed, the socially insignificant. Let American churches be houses of prayer “for all men,” but particularly for the destitute and distressed; for in this way we must follow in the footsteps of Him who was the Friend of sinners, who ate with despised publicans, received great sinners, and in His last earthly hours gave His most glorious promise to a murderous thief: “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

THE ALL-MERCIFUL PARDON

Let me remind you now that this pardon is granted to the penitent without any demands, any conditions, any prerequisites, any provisos, but that here at Calvary that central, basic foundation truth for which Christ lived and died: salvation by faith alone, heaven as the gift of God’s grace, was set forth in all its gracious power. We know of course that great church gatherings have officially damned the teaching “that we are justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law” and that today from hundreds of pulpits in this land come messages of salvation by character, by achievement, by merit, by reward, by anything else than the shed blood of Jesus Christ. But you can’t argue the penitent thief out of the Bible. You can’t ignore the full, free mercy of Christ’s promise of paradise. You can’t contradict the fact that the blessed Savior here grants the assurance of heaven to a wretched sinner who had committed capital crimes and who in the few remaining hours of his tortured life could not perform a single virtuous act. On the morning of his death-day that thief was still caught in the grip of sin; at noon he was safe in the grasp of grace; at night he was brought into the gleam of glory. A swift change—and bewildering to human reason; for that man of crimson sin, poised on the edge of hell as he was, could do nothing to earn heaven and offer nothing to buy his salvation. He turned to Jesus, and that sin­confessing, mercy-pleading faith, which found in Christ—above all the lowliness and the misery and the never-to-be­fathomed agonies of the crucifixion—the sin-bearing Lamb of God, which took away his sins, that true, trusting faith, and that alone, was “counted unto him for righteousness.”

My friends, I ask you before God as we stand in spirit beneath the Savior’s cross: Have you this faith that makes Christianity Christianity, by which a man becomes a Christian, no matter what his denominational badge may be, through which our Christian reliance stands or falls, and without which there is no hope from the heights of heaven to the depths of earth? My constant prayer is this, that whatever you keep in your hearts and lives of these weekly messages, you may, with the help of God’s Spirit, retain and enlarge and increase this trust in the all-sufficiency of the Savior. Forget anything else if you must; but let your soul be saturated with this dominant and victorious doctrine, so that, when sin assails you, when your conscience prods you, when remorse overwhelms you,—and believe me, my friends, when I tell you that you cannot perpetually side-track sin nor escape its direct indictment,—you can remember the penitent thief and claim for yourself the same grace that snatched him as a brand from the burning.

But don’t abuse the long-suffering grace of Christ and postpone your repentance and acceptance of Jesus until the last moments of the eleventh hour. Life was never as uncertain as it is now. Every day that we live more than four thousand men, women, and children in our country and Canada breathe their last breath. Accidental death takes a new high toll every year. A hundred lives are snuffed out every day through motor accidents alone. The past week has graphically proved how necessary it is for all thinking men and women to be prepared “should swift death this night o’ertake us.” Constantly do I receive letters bringing the sad news that a member of this great radio congregation was unexpectedly called home.

“Delay not, delay not!” is the repeated warning that should reecho in the souls of the aged and the infirm who have traveled far along life’s highways and who, as the years of their pilgrimage reach or exceed threescore and ten, should realize that every day they approach more closely to the end and to the inevitable reckoning. It is tragic enough when young men and women are unconcerned about their spiritual welfare; but it is double tragedy and double folly when, with only a fragment of life remaining, men and women of whitened hair and furrowed brow postpone accepting Christ. In His name I ask you, particularly my elderly friends, to grasp the sustaining hand of Jesus for the homeward stretch, so that you can hear, even now, that whisper of divine hope for your journey’s end: “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

Mark the force and power of this pledge “verily.” Only here in the seven sacred words from the cross does this certainty add assurance to assurance. Human promises, even signed and sealed international treaties, government pledges, the covenants of friendship, are insecure and only too frequently broken; but Christ’s Word, which never fails, since “all the promises of God in Him are yea and in Him amen,” is here strengthened by an oath to give us the ingrained confidence that through Christ heaven is ours. “Verily I say unto you,” Christ declares to us. How can any one doubt when the Christ of truth died to seal that promise of paradise with His blood?

Hold fast to the rich comfort of this “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” “Today” leaves no time or room to linger outside of heaven after death. It recognizes no intermediary stage, no place where departed souls may be purged and prepared for heaven; it speaks of the only entrance into heaven that the Scriptures know, the immediate winging of the soul to the blessings of paradise.

This promise of paradise should sustain and strengthen us even in our darkest moments. For with our eyes fixed beyond the dim leagues of life, through the twilight that opens to a brilliant dawn, we see that life is no blind alley; that in Christ you and I are more than the playthings of a morbid fate; that the grave is not the ultimate goal nor the tomb our final destiny; that, though this body, with all its weakness and blemishes and marks of sin, collapse and return to the dust from which it was taken, it will not molder forever in eternal discard beneath the clods of heavy earth, but that in God’s good time it shall come forth in its resurrection glory, purified for paradise.

To all who believe in the death-destroying, life-giving love of the crucified Savior, death is more than “sunset and evening star,” more than “putting out to sea,” more than “crossing the bar.” It may be all this, but above these vague pictures the Christian’s death is the instantaneous entrance into the heavenly mansions; it is the immediate translation into the eternal companionship of Christ in fulfilment of His last promise: “Thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” And even if you and I cannot understand the grandeur of heaven; even if the Bible itself, in describing the grace that eye has not seen nor ear heard, must use pictures of sapphire walls and gates of pearl, we can understand what it means to be with Jesus. It means rest, holy rest, after the sweat of the turmoil here below; peace after the undeniable harshness of earthly warfare; love after the embittered lovelessness of this life; a seeing face to face instead of a distant believing; a reunion with our beloved in the faith after earth’s tearful partings; vibrant doxologies and hallelujah choruses before the throne instead of the “Crucify Him, crucify Him” of human hatred or the weak strains of our highest earthly praises. As we look beyond the sorrows and “sufferings of this time,” which “are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us”; as we raise our hearts to Jesus and plead: “O Thou sovereign Savior of our souls, enthroned in Thy Kingdom of Power and Glory, remember us in spite of our sins and ingratitude,” the selfsame lips that spoke pardon to the penitent speak this promise to us: “Verily I say unto you, in the today of eternity you shall be with Me in paradise.”

Heavenly Father, grant us all this blessing by the merits of our crucified Savior. Amen.

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

Date: March 15, 1936

As they led Him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.Luke 23:26

Most gracious God: In obedience to Thy holy Word we are met to proclaim the wondrous mercies of Thy grace in Jesus Christ, the full and free pardon of all sins through faith in the atoning Savior and His cleansing blood. Grant that Thy penetrating Word, sharper than a two­edged sword, may find its way into hardened hearts and break down the ramparts of resisting unbelief. Remove the scales of blinding sin, so that many may find the hope­building, life-bestowing grace that radiates from Calvary over all the world and all its darkened ages. Teach us all to know and believe that without Christ we can do nothing, but that with Christ we have a world-conquering faith and can bear our crosses with patience, with love, with hope, with thanks to Thee, and with the blessed faith which assures us that through Christ even our sorrows may be turned to gladness. This we plead for our blessed Savior’s sake. Amen.

IN the entire tragedy of our Savior’s crucifixion one, and only one, of the many men who participated is mentioned by name. The soldiers who led Christ, the executioners who nailed the Son of God to the cross, the Roman legionaries who cast lots for His unseamed garment, the morbid spectators who sneered and jeered, the penitent thief on the one cross, who begged for remembrance in paradise, and the impenitent thief on the other, whose dying breath taunted Christ—all these witness this climax of world tragedy and remain unnamed. To focus our attention on the cross, to rivet our vision on the Savior and His sin­atoning love, other names are passed over in silence. As the deep darkness of Good Friday falls upon Calvary and enshrouds that murder scene with the mantle of its blackness, the four evangelists draw only a drab and indefinable human background to the crucifixion. This record of unspeakable horror and deepest depravity runs its blood-marked course without the addition of human names.

Yet one name has been immortalized; and that does not commemorate the fearsome disciples who ventured to return, not the centurion who found in Christ the Son of God, not any of the titled and prominent in that darkened day of sin’s triumph. The one name deemed worthy to be preserved for all the centuries of history is that of Simon of Cyrene, the bearer of the Savior’s cross.

I cannot read the word of today’s text: “As they led Him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus,” without feeling that perhaps Simon’s name has been preserved to impress us with the powerful lessons that his bearing of the cross of Christ would teach the world today. For here, as we behold the Cyrenian lifting the heavy timber on which the Son of God was to be transfixed, a mighty appeal should pull at the heart-strings of every man or woman who has never confessed Christ; here, in this cross-bearing along all history’s bitterest pathway of pain, is help, courage, victory, for the sorrowing, the bruised, the impoverished, who bear their crosses and wonder how God can be merciful when the crushing weight of their unexplained burdens seems to increase with the dawn of every new day. Here, as we see Simon, the cross-bearer, follow where his Savior leads, even though it be to the place of public execution, is the ringing challenge to all American and Canadian Christians, in whatever church or denomination they may find themselves, to take the reproach of Christ’s cross upon their shoulders in this day of damning unbelief and of organized opposition to the Almighty, to follow in His footsteps amid taunt and hatred, disguised as it may be beneath chasubles and cassocks and clerical robes, supported, as unbelief always is, by ungodly minds and unholy money.

To assure you of these blessings, let me speak to you this afternoon on

BEARING THE CROSS WITH CHRIST

and by the help of the Spirit bring faith into unbelieving hearts, courage into desperate lives, and loyalty into wavering discipleship.

SIMON, THE CROSS-BEARER

It was about nine o’clock on that Black Friday, almost immediately after Pilate had pronounced His infamous sentence, that Jesus began the death march to Calvary. After the worst miscarriage of all justice comes this added monstrous cruelty that sends Jesus forth at once to the slaughter. We read predictions that at some time in the near future the countrymen of our Savior, appalled by the injustice of His death-sentence and the corruption at His judicial hearings, will institute a new trial and reverse the sentence which that blind and raging hatred hurled against Christ. But no trial no matter how brilliant, how lengthy, how exacting in its judgment, can undo that shrieking violation of justice, retract that perjury and conflict of lies, recall that self-imposed curse: “His blood be on us and on our children,” retrieve that arch-cruelty of the ages which in fiendish haste sent the Christ to His last agonies.

Today, when our tempered justice demands the full penalty of death, we seek to make the execution quick and humane. But the venom that marked Christ for death planned to prolong and to intensify His agony by forcing Jesus to bear the cross that would soon bear Him. The heavy timbers, the post and the beam, are laid upon His beaten, bleeding back, and He stumbles out on His last journey. But before the death procession reaches the city gate, the Savior begins to stagger under that crushing weight. Weakened by the horrible scourging, exhausted by a sleepless night, racked and tom by the ordeal of three trials, lacerated by the lash, and bruised by buffetings and blows, His physical strength is utterly broken. But below and above this exhaustion of His body is the sinking weakness of His soul crushed by the weight of a world of sorrows. Heavier by far than those two pieces of wood is the burden of men’s sins, the pressure of all iniquities, the load of all history’s vices and crimes. Oh, it were tragic enough if today the vilest criminal would receive this treatment in his last hours. Yet here, tottering under the coarse timbers, lashed by the furies of punished sin and the hatred of hell, half blinded by tears and blood, half dead in soul terror,—here is no criminal. His shrewdest enemies could not produce a single substantiated charge. Here, at the head of this death-march, is no mere martyr of heroic and unselfish mold suffering for His friends; for every page of Jesus’ life is unmistakably inscribed with His devotion to a far greater task. Here, my friends and fellow-sinners, above our puny powers of understanding; here,—I am not arguing this truth, I am not analyzing it, I am simply declaring it as the holy, inviolable, unchangeable truth of God, the everlasting, ever-valid, ever-glorious verity from heaven itself,—here in that driven Christ is the eternal Son of God, yes, God the Almighty incarnate, collapsing under the appalling load of human sin, the terrifying total of all earthly iniquity.

It must have been the impatience of the soldiers that sought a stronger back for the cross and a quicker pace to Calvary. Yet no one volunteered to perform this one last act of humane help. The self-respecting citizens of Jerusalem now had no concern or no compassion for Him whose every pathway in their midst had been marked with mercy upon mercy. No help for Him who had help for all! The cross which we exalt as the highest symbol in heaven and in earth on that death day was a repulsive and revolting instrument of death; and Jesus of Nazareth, cursed by the high priests and condemned by the Sanhedrin, was regarded as a seducer and blasphemer. Contact with Him and His cross made one unclean. I think that we can see lines of the curious spectators recede when the company with the cross stops near the gate and the irritated soldiers look about for some one who can be pressed into the defiling and despised service of carrying the cross.

Just at this moment, it seems, a stranger approaches, a man who never before was mentioned in the Bible—“one Simon” the text calls him. He was a stranger, having come from distant Cyrene, a flourishing Jewish colony on a remote shore, on the North African coast. He had traversed these eight hundred miles by sea (or more than 1,100 miles by land), so we may well believe, for the same purpose that annually brought thousands of his fellow­countrymen to Jerusalem almost from the ends of the civilized world—worship at the solemn Passover Festival. As he comes up from the country and is about to reach the goal of his pilgrimage,—how wonderfully the providence of God operates!—he happens to pass by the spot where the death-march to Calvary has paused. Had he come a half hour earlier or a half hour later; had he entered the city at some other gate, he would have missed Christ. But he came by Heaven’s own destiny and in God’s perfect time to the very spot of Christ’s collapse under the cross. Entirely ignorant of the deep tragedy enacted before his eyes, he draws close, too close, for he is rudely seized by the soldiers and forced to carry that heavy, unclean, and accursed cross. A moment before, Simon was unconscious of Jesus. A moment later he stares bewildered into the blanched face of the beaten, bleeding Christ. Unexpectedly the great crisis of His life has arrived.

MODERN CROSS-BEARERS

Some of us are brought face to face with Christ by the same startling guidance of God. As these words are hurled across four thousand and more miles, they penetrate into homes where some strangers to Christ, some unfaithful disciples, some lukewarm Christians in name, may have turned to our broadcast, apparently by chance, but in truth by the loving providence of God. A thousand factors could have combined to keep them from their radios at this hour; another thousand could have led them to dial some other program; but here they are, separated from me in some cases by days of arduous journey through roads made impassable by snow-drift or flood or thaw, and the Word of Christ, the solemn warning that without Christ they are “dead in trespasses and sins,” lost in human helplessness, but that with Christ, with faith in His all-forgiving, all­ atoning, all-compassionate death on the cross, they are eternally alive in spirit, they have been found and brought into pardon and peace, hope and happiness,—this Heaven-sent appeal that asks all men, murderers of their own souls, as they are, destroyers of their own happiness, as they have proved themselves to be, to be reconciled with God through the atoning blood, to accept the sure, unquestioned, positive blessings of Heaven offered to us by the mercies of the cross,—that message speeds its way over thousands of miles; it leaps over barriers of mountains and rivers and lakes; it pushes its way through forests and the labyrinth of crowded city streets, cuts its course through walls of wood and brick and stone, and is now before your heart and soul. Twenty minutes ago you may have been thinking thoughts that were remote from religion and unconcerned about Christ; but now the Spirit of God has led you, as nineteen centuries ago it led Simon the Cyrenian, into the presence of Christ. Twenty minutes ago you may have turned the dials of your radio in search for amusement, entertainment, distraction, for the rhythm and swing of loud and clashing music; and yet when you were greeted by the strains of our hymns, there was some force that kept you from turning away, so that in the name of the cross­bearing Savior I could ask you to make Christ, once despised and lowly, but now triumphant and ever-glorious, your Substitute and Savior, the Lord of lords and the King of kings, in your heart and soul.

Don’t think for a moment that your meeting Christ must be a formal ceremony within the walls of some sacred edifice and that, if you don’t go to church, you need make no decision either for or against Christ. Simon met his Savior at a time and a place that he least expected, near a busy city gate. Jesus came to another Simon while that Galilean fisherman was engrossed in his daily toil. He came to Matthew while that publican was gathering tax­money. He came to avowed enemies of the Church as they sought to blast His Gospel from off the face of the earth. Blood-lusting Saul met Christ on the Damascus road. Sneering skeptics in the early Church who crowded the blood-stained arenas to scoff at the faith and the loyalty of the Christian martyrs remained to pray, to meet their Christ, and in astonishing heroism to offer themselves as living sacrifices to His holy name. Luther, who lashed his own back bloody in the attempt to earn heaven, who became a beggar, a pilgrim, a penitent, found the true Christ, the loving, self-sacrificing Christ and Savior of his soul, in a cloister cell as he feverishly pored over the great Magna Carta of our freedom through justifying faith, the Epistle to the Romans. Lew Wallace tells us that, when he started to write Ben Hur, he was an agnostic; yet as he read the Gospel-story of Christ, he met his Savior, and as he followed every footstep of that eternally blessed Redeemer, he heard the call of Christian discipleship and by the grace of God accepted it. Charlotte Elliott, who had lived with the world and for the world, came unexpectedly upon her Christ at a social gathering, where a minister asked her whether she was a Christian. Irritated by this pointed inquiry, she refused to discuss the matter; but her restless soul gave her no peace. Before two weeks elapsed, she came to that clergyman with the question: “How can I come to Jesus?” The answer which she received, “Come just as you are,” suggested the faith which she put into the lines of her hymn:—

Just as I am, without one plea

But that Thy blood was shed for me

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Some of you, too, have today met Christ unexpectedly at your radios; for He comes to us in His Word, as His means of grace, every time we hear the story of His love. In His name I ask you to come just as you are. “Now is the accepted time”; and if this appeal by the Spirit of God has lighted even a spark of desire for the Christ in your souls, I beg you, Don’t delay! Don’t give the evil spirits that will attack your longing for Christ the opportunity of mustering their forces. But as Jesus in this moment asks you to believe Him, to confess Him, to glorify Him, to take up your cross and follow Him, may you like Simon, the cross-bearer on the way to Calvary, raise your hearts to God and pledge yourself to Him in undying loyalty.

This radio broadcast has no shrines to erect except the sanctuary of your hearts dedicated to Christ. It has no monetary program; it grants no room to political ambition; but it has the intense desire—and may God, in His power and by His promise, grant its rich fulfilment!—that by the plain message of the sinner perishing without Christ, but the sinner saved with Christ, men and women, young and old, may be cleansed by His sacrificial blood and saved for eternal life by His substitutional death.

My friends and fellow-redeemed, you who have now met Christ, you who have seen His arms extended to you, will you not come? If you have turned away from Christ, will you not turn back to Him? If you have been faithless, will you not from this day on, God helping you, be faithful? Will you not write us today, so that we can give you counsel for your new Christian life and commit you to the care of true Christian pastors?

From the experiences of Simon, unexpectedly drafted into the Savior’s service, comes a wealth of comfort for all cross-bearers who know Christ. The evangelists do not record the feelings of the stranger from Cyrene as he braced the timbers for the cross. We may well believe that a mighty protest welled up within him. His pride was assailed. His plans were shattered. Instead of joining the holiday throng in the Holy City, he had become a public spectacle. Yet we have every reason to believe that almost boundless blessings were heaped upon our suffering Savior’s cross-bearer. Strong indications point to his conversion. The picture of the faltering Savior, the imprint of the crucifixion, the quaking earth, the darkened heavens, the echo of the agonizing cry “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” but above all the recollection of that plea of pardon, “Father, forgive them!”—all this seems mightily to have touched his heart and molded his life. Mark tells us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus, two men who are mentioned as Christians with whom the original readers of his gospel would be acquainted and who were doubtless brought to Christ by their father’s faith. Some of the earliest congregations in the Church were established in distant Cyrene, and it is doubtless more than tradition that ascribes this planting of the Gospel to Simon, the cross-bearer.

There may be some doubt as to the further life of Simon and his final exchange of the cross for the crown, but in your life and in mine, once Christ is the beginning and the end of our faith, there can be no doubt that our cross-bearing is the expression of His love, a strengthening of our weak and wavering faith. How many of you within range of my voice this afternoon are not discouraged and distracted by some apparently cruel and unexpected change and shattering of your plans? You walked through life with confidence; sorrow and sadness seemed distant from your door; head and hopes high, you scanned the future with calm security. And then a cross loomed up with sobering suddenness, and then another, and still another, until some of you wonder now whether your battered, broken hearts will survive, and you ask yourselves where you can find strength to carry the burdens which seem to increase from day to day.

In broken health, in protracted sickness, in all the misery that age, ache, pain, and deformity can lay upon life; in the severe losses that this unfortunate age has brought into millions of homes, where investments have proved stark disappointments and the opportunities for industry and honest labor have been woefully restricted; in all the heart-breaking tragedies that may come upon you in your life through sorrow, unfaithfulness, or even death,—when your affairs come to the breaking point and above and below and on all sides you can see yourselves surrounded, overwhelmed, by miseries and new and unfathomed afflictions, remember that “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” Hark back to the Savior’s own word “He that taketh not his cross and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me.” Believe with all your hearts that the chastenings of God are for the strengthening of your faith, the purifying of your life, the refining of your hopes,—just as Simon first followed Christ’s footsteps to shame and death and then to glory and life. And if you cannot understand the guiding love of God, you can trust it, you can believe it, you can follow it with the joyful confidence that at one time, when tears are dried forever and sorrows have eternally passed away and partings are no more, you will sing this hymn of thanksgiving: “Thou hast done all things well.”

Come, then, you millions throughout the broad sweeps of this continent and, Christ in you and you in Christ, accept this blessed privilege of serving as cross-bearers with the Savior. With skies bright or overcast; with “fightings within and fears without”; with the joy of life increased or decreased, day after day, as you walk in firmer faith in those blessed, blood-marked footsteps of the Savior, tell your soul, tell your world, tell your Christ:—

Jesus, I my cross have taken,

All to leave and follow Thee;

Destitute, despised, forsaken,

Thou from hence my All shalt be!

God make us all cross-bearers for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

Date: March 8, 1936

Friend, wherefore art thou come?Matthew 26:50

Almighty God, our heavenly Father: Awaken by Thy Spirit the conscience of many who have denied, forsaken, and even betrayed their Savior. Show them how terrifying it is to face eternity without the pardon and cleansing of all our sins offered by the bleeding and dying of the true Christ, Thy Son, our blessed Redeemer. Draw before the eyes of scoffing, calloused men and women the picture of the pleading Savior as He perpetually seeks to lead us from sin to salvation, from death to life. And today, as these words speed over an enlarged network and cross new international boundaries, grant us a double measure of Thy Spirit for the sake of the wayward and the unfaithful, the poor and the oppressed, the broken in body and crushed in spirit. Break down the barricade of sin, so that today again lost souls may be reclaimed by the merciful Christ, in whose name and for whose glory and honor we ask Thy continued blessing upon our radio mission. Hear our prayer and bless us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

AS long as men live on this earth and even a spark of loyalty and honor glows within them; as long as the feelings of the human race are higher than the low lusts of the beast, there will be one wretch of all depraved wretches whom even vicious criminals disavow and disown, one act of satanic treachery from which even dastard and diseased minds recoil. That arch-traitor—you have recognized him—is Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of our Lord and Savior, that crime of all the centuries. If ever there was a moment when we might have expected a stab of jagged lightning to hurl a miserable life into deepest hell; if ever there was a screaming sin of ingratitude that should have halted the earth in its course, it was that basest of all betrayals.

Yet, as monstrous as was this appalling crime, it was not so damnable that it could not have been forgiven had Judas penitently sought forgiveness. The magnificent mercy of Christ and His limitless love, which offers grace and pardon for every sin and for every sinner, did not exclude the greedy, silver-loving informer. The blood that paid the full and final price for all crimson, scarlet, shrieking sins could have wiped away the guilt of that smirking kiss and forgiven the shameful bargain and its price of blood. Even in that crisis moment in the Garden when Judas stood face to face with his serene and majestic Lord, that Christ, merciful Savior of all depraved souls that He is, offered His traitorous disciple one last warning, pleading appeal of divine love.

Today, as our special Gospel network has been enlarged by the addition of Station KFYR in Bismarck, North Dakota (and for this we thank particularly our Canadian Christians in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan), so that, by the grace of God, this broadcast is received by many thousands more than ever before, let me tell this vast international audience that our North American continent, our entire sin-ridden world, cannot hear too much of this all-patient, all-suffering, all-enduring love of Jesus Christ. For the sin of Judas, the clutching, greedy itch of money, the worship of the dollar, the money-mad selling of one’s soul, is the sin of our day. It has stunted the lives and shriveled the souls of men and women today who once knew the divine outpouring of grace in the love of Christ, but who surrendered to the glitter and the glamour of gold, turned their backs upon the Savior and betrayed Him with the treachery of Judas. And this afternoon I call those selfish, shrunken souls back to Christ. I plead—and may God help me!—with those who have become untrue to the Savior, disloyal to the memory and the faith of a Christian father and mother, unfaithful in the solemn pledge of allegiance to the Church; and in His name I implore them: Come back to the Savior! Get right with God again! Repent and return to His sure mercies! What a blessed privilege is mine that I can proclaim to the millions from the Canadian Rockies to our sea-swept eastern shores

THE PLEADING LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST

found in the Savior’s words to Judas at the moment of the betrayal: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Matt. 26, 50.

THE DEPTH OF HIS PLEADING LOVE

The more closely we study the betrayal, the more clearly its enormity impresses itself upon us. Here was a man who had been blessed as only eleven other men in all history: he had been the companion and disciple of the Son of God. Of this distinguished group he was the only one who, like his Lord, was a native of Judea; the other eleven came from less-favored Galilee. He was the disciple entrusted with the funds—meager as they were—by which Jesus and the Twelve maintained themselves. For three years at his Master’s side, he had traversed the Palestinian hills and plains. For three years he had witnessed grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy, as Jesus offered His loving help for crushed souls and broken bodies. For three busy, crowded, teeming years he had been privileged to witness with his own eyes what all the prophets of God before his day had seen only dimly from a distance,—the powerful proof that Jesus of Nazareth was the eternal Son of God, the promised Messiah, the great Redeemer of the world.

Yet in spite of miracles and wonders, the healed sick, the cured cripples, the resurrected dead; in spite of the sacred utterances of Jesus which, as they fell from His divine lips, should have moved a heart of stone, Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver. Less than twenty dollars in our money! The indemnity which the old Hebrews paid for a slave that had been gored by a bull! Hardly enough to purchase a distant and undesirable field where the unclaimed dead might be thrown into unkempt graves! Only thirty pieces of silver for Him to whom all power, all riches, all wealth, in heaven and on earth are given!

If in the moment when the betrayer approached the betrayed one glance of Christ’s power had transfixed Judas and paralyzed his traitorous lips forever; if one angel of the twelve legions at the call of Jesus had annihilated the faithless disciple on that very spot, all men would feel that the traitor had met his just fate. But Jesus would have mercy and not justice; instead of the curse of withering scorn He asks in one final plea of His long-suffering compassion: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?”

Let us linger for a moment on this word friend. No other disciple is ever addressed by this term, which really means companion, comrade. A single, short word, but what wealth of memories it would speak into the black soul of the informer! It was as though Jesus had said: “Oh, Judas, friend on the pathways of My pilgrimage, companion through these years that have brought the kingdom of God dose to men, comrade of My daily joys and sorrows,—My poor, blind, selfish, greedy disciple, ‘wherefore art thou come?’”

I need hardly tell you that Jesus knew the hellish purpose that had sent Judas to Gethsemane. He had warned him personally but a few hours before as they sat at the table and dipped into the same dish. His question now was to arouse within the sullen heart of the betrayer the consciousness of his terrifying sin, repentance, and renewed faith. Others might have addressed Judas “thou servant of Satan,” “thou traitor from the deepest hell,” “thou devilish betrayer of innocent blood.” Others might have screamed curses and invoked quick destruction; but not Christ. All-merciful, all-compassionate, even to that bitter, heart-breaking end, He asks this pointed question of pleading love: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?”

The Judas spirit has grown through nineteen centuries, and the insatiable craze for money still drives great masses of men and women away from Christ. It is the greed for gold that incites warfare and sacrifices the world’s youth on the glittering altars of Mammon. It is the grasping after money that fills our penitentiaries with extortioners, forgers, swindlers, embezzlers, kidnappers, blackmailers, smugglers, white slavers, highway robbers, and forty forms of other thievery. It is selfishness and avarice that disrupts thousands of families and banishes love and makes the home a house divided against itself. If we ask why there is so much suffering in nations large and wealthy enough to provide for the comfort of many millions more than they now have, why men and women of frugal industry have worked and saved only to lose their home, their farm, the hard-earned accumulation of a lifetime, invariably you will find that somewhere some one has turned from God to gold. And in our own lives you and I daily feel the tugging, coaxing lure of money that breeds disloyalty to Christ.

We can deny Him in a thousand other ways; and when a thousand temptations ask us: “Art thou one of this Man’s disciples?” we, too, can curse and say: “I know Him not.” Yet amid betrayal and denial, amid sin and slander, amid impure thoughts and unholy actions, the pleading love of Christ seeks to win our souls and to bring us back to grace. Oh, how I wish for the facilities of every broadcasting station in all the world to proclaim in every language that men speak this blessed, basic truth that, no matter how often we are ashamed of Jesus, He is never ashamed of us; no matter how low we may sink in the scale of human estimate, Christ, who “sticketh closer than a brother,” Christ, the holy, sinless, stainless Son of God, still calls us “friend.” You may not have another friend on earth; yet once the grace of Christ dawns above the horizon of your life, you can have that Friend of friends who “will not leave you nor forsake you.” Men may cruelly berate you for your sins; they may be ready to cast stones upon you; you may drop lower and lower until you have fallen into the gutter of life; you may even lose your own self-respect and wonder why you were ever born,—but once you have beheld the cross and have heard that the crucified Lord of Love pleaded with Judas and would have saved him had he not stubbornly resisted His grace, you know that your soul, abused, wasted, weakened, broken as it may be, is “precious in His sight”; that He who once called this arch-criminal of all history “friend”—hear these words and believe them with all your soul and never let any power in earth or in hell rip them out of your hearts—calls you His friend and proves His friendship with that greater love by which “He laid down His life” for you and for me.

As His pleading love puts this question squarely before the conscience of Judas, “Wherefore art thou come?” so today that Savior looks down upon this world of sin and penetrates the dark recesses of your heart and mine; and as He beholds there some scheming sin that would dishonor God, distress our neighbor, or destroy our own happiness, may our eyes be opened, so that we can behold His pallid face and hear the pleading of His Savior-love, “Wherefore art thou come?” If some of you are living in sin and in disregard of God’s holy commandment of purity and marital faithfulness; if you are planning some step that may break up your home and some one else’s home and cast a blight upon innocent lives, then, as you come closer to Christ, in His Word and in His Church, this pleading entreaty asks, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” If some of you yield to the control of drunkenness and debauchery and bring untold misery upon your family and yourself, every cross that you behold on a church spire, every mention of the holy name of Jesus, every Bible, is a monument to this love that everlastingly asks your conscience, “Wherefore art thou come?” If you are cheating and stealing; if you are lying and defaming; if you are oppressing the poor and victimizing the helpless; if your jealous heart covets the property and possessions of your neighbor, Christ, pushing aside all false excuses and hypocrisy, asks you to repent, to realize that unforgiven sin always involves unrelieved sorrow, to come to His endless mercies, His universal grace, His eternal forgiveness, His all-enduring and all-embracing love.

THE BLESSINGS OF HIS PLEADING LOVE

Judas refused to answer Jesus’ question and sealed his own doom. In those Thursday midnight hours, we may well imagine, his avaricious hand played gleefully with the jingling silver. But toward morning the enticement vanished, and each piece brought back to a terrified memory the Son of God whom he had betrayed. In a moment those pieces of silver became millstones that dragged him down to the depths of despair, blood-money that sent his soul into hell. Early on Friday terror-stricken Judas hurried to the high priests and elders confessing: “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood”; yet all that the condemned wretch heard was the answer of satanic sarcasm: “What is that to us? See thou to that.”

Sin is still the most heartless of all taskmasters, and there is no folly so fatal as the delusion which seeks happiness without Christ and against the Savior. Too many believe that, if they run away from Christ and turn against God, if they mutiny against morals and become religious anarchists, they can enjoy the brimming fulness of life. But too often they heap money upon money and pile treasure upon treasure only to sacrifice every shred of truth and love and happiness. As the neck of the turncoat Judas snapped in suicide while the scorn of hell laughed, “What is that to us?” so those who have rebelled against Christ and find themselves confronted by the blank wall of hopelessness or even self-destruction learn that sin never pays, but that the sinner always pays. If the full payment is not demanded in this life, in the next there is that inevitable reckoning before the judgment of a holy God. Doubt, if you will, the everyday truths of your own experience; refuse to accept the verities of history; but, I plead with you, do not commit the most tragic of all human errors by denying that “your sins will find you out,” by disputing the fact that “the wages of sin is death.”

Don’t try to save yourself. Don’t build on your own character and accomplishments. Don’t trust in forms and ceremonies. Don’t believe that the externals of church­membership and a name inscribed in the church register is the pledge and promise of Heaven. For God wants your penitent, prayerful, believing, trusting heart; He recognizes the full and perfect mercy of Christ, not the frail and faulty merits of men. And as I now tell you that there “is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” but the name of Jesus Christ; as I promise you by the mercy of God that, “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous”; as I assure you that we are saved, not by fasting and penances and pilgrimages, not by our own good works, our good intentions, our good resolutions, not by the performance of rigid rote and rule, but that we are saved by grace, as the undeserved, unmerited gift of God, will you whose lives have been too crowded for Christ, whose hearts have been too small and selfish to welcome that Friend of friends, whose homes have been too cold and preoccupied to hear Him say: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him,”—will you not see this Savior in His suffering and, as His pleading love asks you, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” answer: “My Lord, my God, my Savior, I come to Thee to be Thine and to serve in Thy kingdom, with Thy help, faithful until my end”? And as the angels in heaven rejoice over the lost soul that has been found, you will find your faith in His pleading love the holiest and happiest blessing you have ever known.

And what can I say to those of you who are Christ’s and who know only too well how the forces of unbelief work early, late, and overtime to tear us from the faith? It is my earnest prayer that by daily strengthening your souls in private and family reading and study of God’s Word, by repeated and fervent prayer, by active, energetic membership in the true Church of Christ, you continue in the strong faith, which enables you to face the temptations of life, no matter how attractively disguised and alluringly arrayed, with that uncompromising command before which the legions of hell must recede: “‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Today, more than ever before, the cry is not for hyphenated allegiance, but for unswerving loyalty to the Cross of Christ. As we see the twentieth-century Judases assail the Savior by false and infamous teaching, let us pray, let us work, let us fight with the cry and resolution: They shall not take our Christ away from us! Let us draw the sharp boundary-lines of His kingdom and serve notice to every skeptic and unbeliever, no matter how richly subsidized or loudly applauded: You shall not pass! Before the Cross no one can remain neutral. We are either whole-heartedly, gratefully, loyally, for Christ, or we are against Him.

In the midst of the desertion and forsaking of Christ when many walk no more with Him, His love asks us: “Will ye also go away?” May we be granted the strength, the vision, and the courage to answer as Simon Peter did: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” God grant us this blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

Date: March 1, 1936

He loved them unto the end.John 13:1

God of all mercy: Our hearts are raised to Thee this afternoon to thank Thy grace in Christ for the souls that have been won, the hearts that have been braced, the lives that have been lifted to heaven, by Thy Spirit during these moments of our weekly worship. And now, at the beginning of the Lenten season, when we can approach most closely to Calvary and find in the Crucified Thy Son and the divine ransom for all human wrong, Heaven’s complete answer to earth’s every problem, grant us a firmly rooted faith, so that, beholding the cross, sinners may be turned from their evil ways, impure hearts cleansed by the purifying blood, cheerless lives comforted, destitute homes enriched, weakened bodies strengthened, the unfaithful called back to Christ,—all through the unmerited mercy that knows no limits, no restrictions, no exceptions. We plead with Thee for souls. Be with us for the sake of Him who on the cross died the death of all men, Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

YOU and I, my friends of this vast radio family, need above all else the personal and heart-deep assurance of Christ’s eternal love that these Lenten weeks offer in the cross and the Crucified. More than any other age we have witnessed the swift decay of all that is earthly and human; and over our failure and follies, our broken hearts and embittered lives, the faith and conviction should dawn that for unfailing strength, unchanging hope, unending love, we must turn to the everlasting mercies of God in Jesus and pray this Lenten litany: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.”

Only this love of Christ endures. Men seek abiding strength in money. But if you stop to think that all the gold, in coin or in bars, which all the nations possess could be placed into a cube less than thirty-three feet in each dimension, you can realize what hopeless insanity this worship of money is that has cut deep-grooved tragedies of misery and slaughter throughout all history. And suppose that you owned this thirty-three-foot cube of bullion, how much peace and pardon would it purchase for your soul? For how many sins could a hundred similar blocks of pure gold buy forgiveness when God Almighty, who made that glittering yellow metal, will receive only one ransom: the precious blood of Christ?

Some, again, have sought release in human strength; but they forget that the 1,900,000,000 human beings populating the globe are so small and helpless that every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth could be placed into a packing-box coffin only one half of a mile in length, breadth and height. And with every form of energy known to man, how much of fear and terror, how much of death and decay, could be removed from our lives by the calloused hands, the tired arms, and the sweat and groans of a world in restless toil!

Others have turned from brawn to brain. If Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of England, confesses: “I wonder if there is any one who can really direct the affairs of the world or of his country with any assurance. The difficulties of these times are so vast and so unlimited that I approach the subject not only in ignorance, but in humility. It is too much for me”; if this leader, who has been called “the world’s greatest statesman since the war,” cannot find the way out of mere business problems and doubts whether any one else can, how dare we hope that our brain power will discover an exit from the more staggering perplexities of our soul—the sins that drive peace from our hearts, the losses and disappointments that leave us chilled and desperate?

While all else fails, the love of our blessed Savior offers eternal pardon for sin, everlasting healing for earth’s bleeding wounds, never-ending hope for weary, threadbare lives. Will you not, then, let these weeks, set aside for the reverent study of Christ’s suffering and death, bring you closer to His never-ending, never-changing compassion? I pray God that a mighty host of you who do not know the gracious Christ or who have turned against Him will draw near to Calvary with us this afternoon to hear and believe this promise of

UNENDING LOVE

that St. John (chapter 13, verse 1) records as he begins his account of Christ’s suffering in the words: “He [Jesus] loved them unto the end.”

HE LOVED US UNTO THE BITTER END

It was the zero hour of all history. The hands on God’s clock had crept through the centuries toward this moment when the Son of God would start the death march to Calvary. Although, as St. John assures us, “Jesus knew that His hour was come,” no terror of torture, no dread of death, could weaken that love for which He had lived and which constrained Him to suffer and die for the world of sinners. In words of eloquent simplicity we read that, “having loved His own which were in the world, He [Jesus] loved them unto the end.” He foresaw the bleeding agony of Gethsemane, the base betrayal by one of His Twelve, the triple denial by the disciple whose rock faith would turn to quicksand. He whose all-penetrating wisdom read the thoughts of men from afar foreknew that He would be deserted by His own followers, captured by the malice of His own countrymen, arraigned in a mockery of justice before His own high priest, whose jealousy and unbending pride determined him to condemn Him to death. He who prophesied the destiny of others knew His own. He could see the reed scepter, the crimson robe, and the lacerating coronet. He could hear, above the deep-throated “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” the frenzied “His blood be on us and on our children!” the death-lusting “Away with Him, give us Barabbas!” the snarl of the priests, the cynical utterances of Pilate, the moaning of the women who lined the Via Dolorosa, and above and beyond all this His own cries of anguish, the stinging taunt of the morbid crowd milling about the cross, and the blasting echo in the rumble of the angry heavens. He could visualize the lash, the grip of the tightening bonds, the blows struck by cowards called soldiers. He whose deep emotions had been wrung to tears only a few days before, as He beheld the royal city in its stubborn rejection of overflowing mercy, could feel in advance the sinking weakness of the Garden, the back-breaking weight of the cross as He staggered and collapsed under its ponderous burden, the crush of blunt iron nails through His nerve-torn flesh into the hard, resisting cross.

But there was an immeasurably greater pain. It was the punishment of all human sins that He was to pay with His blood and cancel with His death. A world of agony, all history’s sorrows, all humanity’s sins, were concentrated in the five or six hours during which He hung suspended on the cross. Even with our most reverent love, in the holiest hours of our devotion, we cannot begin to measure and understand the most infinitesimal part of Christ’s suffering. It has been said that since the beginning of history some thirty-six quadrillion human beings have lived upon this earth. Who knows how far this astonishing figure may be from the truth? Who knows how many billions more may live and die before this sin-cursed world hastens to its final destruction? This truth we can know,—and it is my prayer that you know it,—that Christ suffered for every sin of every mortal who has ever lived, who now lives, or who ever will live; that His anguish was greater than the total of all the sorrow and heartaches, all the pain and agony, known on earth; that in bearing my sins and your sins He suffered that abysmal God-forsakenness which would have been beyond endurance if He had been only a man and not also true God.

He could see, He could hear, He could feel, all this as on that Thursday night sorrow’s shadows began to trace the outline of foreboding death; yet with every avenue of escape, with a majesty that could send the soldiery prostrate in a single glance, with more than twelve legions of angels, more than 72,000 holy, mighty, heavenly spirits, at His call;—with all this invincible power the Christ, who moves the ebb and flow of the tides, who holds the stars to their courses and the planets to their orbits, refused to escape all this suffering and even death. He set His face steadfastly toward death; He “loved His own”—through His bleeding, His gasping, His thirsting, His dying—“unto the end.”

Only once as this terrifying baptism of death overclouds His mind does He cry out: “How am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Yet in a moment He shakes off this horror and resolutely faces His trial by fire. Only once as He wrestles in the dark agony of Gethsemane does His grief-torn heart cry out to His Father: “Take away this cup from Me”; yet in the same breath He adds: “Not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” Only once in the death throes of the cross does His wounded soul ask the inevitable “why?” as He pleads: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” A few moments later He commends His soul into His Father’s hands as the faint flicker of life burns out. He loves His own “unto the end.”

HE LOVES US UNTO OUR BLESSED END

With this undying love, deeper than the abyss of all human misery, wider than the broad reaches of this curse­laden earth, why is it that our eyes do not fill with tears of joyful thanks every time we behold His cross? Why is it that we do not bow our knees at every mention of that precious “name which is above every other name”? when—hear and believe this promise of grace—His love, which was stronger than death, perseveres through sin and sorrow until our end.

Though you betray your Savior, He still loves you; His endless devotion will warn and plead as He warned Judas and called him “friend” when the traitor approached with his lying kiss. Though you deny Christ and your actions tell the scoffing world: “I know Him not,” He still loves you and looks upon you with that penetrating appeal which shook Peter with convulsive sobs of penitent anguish. Though you desert Christ and flee from acknowledging Him publicly, as did His timid disciples, He still loves you and asks you penitently to believe His holy promise: “I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.” Though sin may be heaped upon sin and sorrow upon sorrow until it seems that the breaking point has come, yet, my friends and fellow-sinners, hear this word of forgiveness; and you, the sick, the aged, the mentally oppressed, the spiritually beset; the forsaken, the bereaved; the needy, the destitute, the crippled, the helpless, and the desperate hear and believe this word of divine assurance that gleams above the cross in imperishable letters of God’s own truth: As He then loved His own to His end, so today He loves His own unto their end. Look with eyes of faith to the Rockies rising above plains to their clouded heights, turn to the hills skirting the Atlantic seaboard, and then believe with all your heart that, even if those Western mountains, gigantic and immovable as they are, could depart, and though those Eastern hills and their thousand-mile range could be removed, nevertheless the kindness of God shall not depart from His own, neither shall the covenant of His peace wrought by Calvary’s eternal love be removed from your believing, trusting soul.

That love can be strongest in our weakest hours. The darker the skies, the more brilliant the luster of the starry heavens; and the blacker the night of sin, the more radiant Christ, the bright and Morning Star. The higher the stony heights, the more commanding the sweep of our view, and the steeper the painful slopes of life, the clearer and closer our vision of the cross-sharing Savior.

Now, in the tears and toils of these unhappy days it may too often seem that the strengthening love of Christ does not abide with those who are His own. We pray for the help of His sustaining hand, and as delay and reverses beset us, we may protest bitterly and even charge God with cold indifference. Because our Father does not always answer where, when, and how we want His answer, we may think that His love has left us. But a deeper, purer faith, more rigidly focused on the cross, teaches us to await the Lord’s hour, to know that our “strength is to sit still,” neither to question nor to indict the ways of God’s love, but to read, in His own Book of promise: “Blessed are they that wait for Him,” and to wait with patience for the help that His love and wisdom will offer at the time and the place most opportune to increase our faith and our blessed Christian hope.

Besides, the love of God is often most clearly shown in the trials that purify and temper our lives and help us draw others to the love of Christ. Think of the iron ore that is mined in the depths of the earth. Under terrific heat it is smelted and separated from the dross. Again and again the purified metal is refined by fire till its strength is fully developed. Carbon is added, and the iron becomes steel. An electric current passes through the steel, and it becomes a magnet that attracts and holds iron. In a much higher way the love of Christ takes us with all our imperfections and impurities, refines us by the successive trials of life, and charges us with a “new and right spirit”; and not only do we emerge from the chastenings of His love truer and purer and stronger, as the tempered steel, but drawn to the cross by the lodestone of His love, our lives may become magnets that can draw our fellow-men, as does the crude iron, to the Christ that lives in our souls.

Today as you hear this pledge of unending love that the Cross offers to all by the free, unrestrained, unconditioned mercies of Christ, “harden not your hearts,” but hear the call to repentance that reechoes from Calvary over our world. Before the cross of Jesus let all our pride and pretense vanish. Let us remove all false excuse. Let us spurn all self-righteousness. Let us probe deep down beneath the surface of our lives and admit with the ancient prophet that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” and that we need “Jesus’ blood and righteousness” as our beauty and our glorious dress. If we have never been moved by an inner, intimate, and personal feeling and knowledge of God’s hatred of sin and of His greater love for the sinner; if we have never realized the soul-destroying power of our natural and acquired iniquity, nor the soul­saving power of the precious blood of Christ, then may God lead us to the cross,—and, O Father, if there be no other way, lead us through sorrow and affliction, but lead us to the cross!—there to behold the appalling price that Christ paid for our ransom, there to find the divine mercy that loves us as Christ’s “own” “unto the end.”

You and I, ransomed fellow-men, may never meet face to face here on earth; it will never be my joy and privilege to clasp hands individually with the millions from our crowded cities to the frontiers of our North American civilization who have worshiped with us. But after this span of our short, problematic years, the one and only life that we have to live in the flesh, draws to its close, I know that we can meet, every one of us, by the grace of God, before the throne of the Lamb in a new and better life—if we love Him unto the end who first loved us unto that bitter, earth-moving, heaven-darkening end.

The sure mercies of Christ have now been brought to you. No one who has now heard this promise of Christ’s endless love can ever plead ignorance before the bar of eternity. What will you do with Jesus? What must you do if you want heaven, hope, happiness, pardon, purity, peace, life, light, blessing, if not, as you hear Jesus promise: “I will love Thee unto the end,” to kneel before the cross, to accept Him as your Savior and to pledge in return the never-ending loyalty and devotion that promises:—

Thee will I love, my Strength, my Tower,

Thee will I love, my Hope, my Joy,

Thee will I love with all my power,

With ardor time shall ne’er destroy.

Thee will I love, O Light Divine,

So long as life is mine.

Amen.

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

Date: February 23, 1936

Fight the good fight of faith.1 Timothy 6:12

Shepherd of the Church’s youth: We thank Thee that Thou hast preserved for us the dew of Thy youth and hast blessed young lives with the bright, sparkling, life­sustaining faith in Thy forgiving mercies and Thy renewing strength. Watch Over these young people amid the avalanche of temptations that rush down upon them. Send Thy Spirit in Word and Sacrament, so that they may be fortified in faith, advanced in Christian knowledge, steeled for the assaults of life, refined by the fires of trial and affliction. Check the satanic schemes of those who would overthrow the ordinances of Thy Word and its divine truth and morality. And as youth faces the world of sin and its heritage of accumulated problems, be Thou with them and lead them, as this week Thou mayest lead all contrite and repentant, to the Christ of Calvary, who shed His holy, precious blood, to cleanse every one of us, to make us His own, and to bring us into His endless kingdom of life, peace, love, and happiness. For these gracious gifts we beseech Thee with confidence, since we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

AMID the many tributes that are being paid to the memory of the Father of our Country, one of Washington’s greatest distinctions is usually disregarded. I refer to his open and avowed faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior, a loyalty repeatedly expressed during his young manhood. Long before he had attained to any degree of preeminence, before he had reached his twenty-first birthday, he copied into his manuscript book with painstaking care a series of prayers that were to guide his life. When we read this youthful plea:—

“Mark not, I beseech Thee, O Lord, what I have done amiss. Remember that I am but dust and remit my transgressions, negligencies, and ignorances and cover them all with the absolute obedience of Thy Son; . . . guide us this day and forever for His sake who lay down in the grave and rose again for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord”; when we hear these Christ-centered petitions, we discover the true key to his greatness. Others may exalt Washington as the soldier, the general, the executive, the statesman; but let us this afternoon pause before the picture of the young Virginian laying the foundation for his future greatness on his confident faith in the Cross of Christ.

For is it not this prayerful trust in a merciful Savior that the nation and its youth, the trustees of America’s tomorrow, must have in our shadow-clouded day and the new age that is in the making? Probably never before, not even in the dark days of the American Revolution, have the tides of adversity swept more furiously over the youth of our country. With 20,000,000 of their fellow-countrymen fed, clothed, and housed by public relief; with Government officials openly declaring that millions of young people are doomed to a hand-to-mouth existence, the glittering dreams of many young men and women are changed into all too realistic nightmare. They face a future saddled with pyramided billions of public debt and confronted with increasingly complex problems. And as they see the foundations of morality weaken, hear the vicious spit of the machine gun that laughs justice to scorn, behold the assaults on the Christian home and the unbelief in modern churches, thoughtful young people wonder whether they are “the surplus generation,” in danger of being plowed under by adverse conditions, just as cotton and wheat acreages were destroyed in the price-stabilization program.

With selfishness, immorality, and irreligion clawing and grappling for supremacy, our young people must turn to Christ as Washington turned to his Savior. Everything else fails. Schools that train the mind, but leave the souls untouched; political programs that play the rhapsodies of prosperity with the quick abolition of poverty, the banishment of unemployment, easy money, and the luxuries of life; the explosive promises of Communism that find ready reception among the unemployed and dissatisfied,—all these are the rockets of failure that flare up for a moment’s display and then leave the heavens blacker than before.

But there is permanent help in Christ. Give to Christ America’s youth, the 40,000,000 of tomorrow’s fathers and mothers; let the sons and daughters of our American homes find in the cross and the Crucified Heaven’s forgiveness for earth’s sins, the divine answer to every human problem, and we have an unfailing pledge of God’s power for every crisis moment of life.

It is with this appeal, the plea for a

YOUTH EMBATTLED FOR CHRIST

that I come before you in the name of God. With St. Paul, who wrote to young Timothy: “Fight the good fight of faith,” 1 Tim. 6, 12, I ask the rising generation in our land for a militant loyalty to Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, the Savior of the race.

CHRIST’S YOUTH ARRAYED AGAINST POWERFUL FORCES

This first word, “fight,” shows that there is no pacifism in Christ’s creed, no shaking hands with sin, no making covenants with iniquity. It was the Savior Himself who, as He viewed the endless battle between right and wrong, cried out: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Let any young man or young woman come to Christ in answer to the Lenten appeal that the Church issues this week: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem”; let them trace the heavy footprints on the pathway of the Savior’s suffering until they come to Calvary; there let them focus every power of body, mind, and heart upon the heights of God’s sin­destroying love and on the depths of the Savior’s sacrifice as He offers Himself for our release from sin; let them in the laboratory of their own inner life discover the sins that nailed Christ to the accursed tree; and as the presence of the Savior lingers in their lives, as the power of His blood cleanses their hearts and minds, and as the imprint of His cross is pressed upon their lives, the fervor of their faith will tell them that without fear or favor, in season and out of season, always and everywhere, they must fight “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” that encircle them on every side.

Has any generation ever been drawn into conflict with as many and as powerful antimoral and antichristian forces as the young people of our day? Survey, if you will, the far-flung attack upon the citadels of youthful purity, and you will find printing-presses drafted into the service of hell, placing into the hands of adolescent America the vilest books, magazines, and pamphlets that the most degenerate minds of this age and the debauched centuries of past history have produced. Again, the nation’s youth, affronted day after day with towering and attractive displays of liquor, moves in a world in which intoxicants are dispensed with freedom and applause.

You will see, as you analyze the forces opposing youth, those strongholds of commercialized entertainment, the roadhouses and the public dance-halls, robbing young people of their purity and their virtue; of the sensual stage, the destructive motion-picture, and their seductive portrayal of the forbidden path; the free and easy spirit of our day, the I-don’t-care attitude, which laughs at chastity and ridicules the clean-minded truths of Christ’s teaching.

In all these assaults Christ commands: “Fight!” Fight the filth of printed poison! Fight the treacheries of intemperance that break homes and turn men and women into drunken beasts. Because the happiness of any young person, the blessing of any family, and the progress of any nation depend, under God, upon Christian morality and purity, the battle-cry of the Church to its youth repeats this pointed appeal: “Keep thyself pure!” Break off any dangerous friendships! Resist the very beginnings of temptation! “Flee youthful lusts!” Remember that in the sight of God the transgressions of the commandment of purity are labeled by their right names as damning, soul­destroying sins; that the violation of this ordinance is penalized by appalling punishments; that of all vices impurity is the quickest to choke off the love of God and to stifle the voice of conscience. And as you hear the plain pronouncement of God’s infallible Word: “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven,” resolve to fight a continued, unsparing, relentless battle against the lust that works day and night in the unholy attempt to tear you away from God.

Youth must battle not only for itself; it must fight for Christ and His kingdom. Do you not know that more than a billion immortal souls on this planet have never heard one word of this glorious Gospel promise: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”? Do you know that sixty million people within the borders of this country have never acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin and death? Do you know that in a large city like Chicago more than a million and a half of our fellow-men have never gone to Calvary to find peace and pardon for their souls? What a privilege for Christian youth to strengthen anemic churches by a transfusion of healthy, youthful blood! What a challenge for eager, hopeful young people to offer their talents, their gifts, their time, their testimony, for the Savior and the winning of blood-bought souls!

“Fight the GOOD fight,” our text appeals, and nothing less than the strongest, bravest battle we are able to wage for Christ will meet the problems and the opportunities of this hour. If the first of all the commandments demands: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might,” let there be nothing of veneered dishonesty in our loyalty to the Cross. Just as one of David’s warriors could not release his hand from his sword’s hilt after a bloody day’s battle against the Philistines, so our hands should be perpetually locked about the sword of God’s Word. It is not enough that we belong to the Christian Church; not enough that we draw nigh unto God with our mouths and honor Him with our lips; not enough that we cry, “Lord, Lord”; there must be a soul-deep sincerity, a spirit-filled earnestness.

That good fight should be the battle of youth, not only of old age, when, softened by hard experiences, aged and world-weary souls turn to Heaven for guidance on the short paths of their remaining years. Christ wants the fresh bloom of youth, and the Church needs its hope, optimism, and courage. A disgruntled world needs young champions of Christ like Gustavus Adolphus, who was hardly twenty­one years old when he began his military career that was to make Europe safe for the Cross of Christ; like the Great Reformer, who in his early thirties undertook the restoration of the New Testament Church; and like other youthful conquerors for Christ. The Savior Himself completed the redemption of the world before He was thirty­four years old, and as He walked the roads of Palestine, He was followed by twelve young men who were to help win the world for Him. Young Timothy is encouraged: “Let no man despise thy youth,” and so, in the name of our Lord, I ask you: with unstudied bravery, with unflagging zeal for Christ, your fellow-men, and your own better selves, “fight the good fight.”

CHRIST’S YOUTH STRENGTHENED FOR VICTORY

But how can we fight this good fight when temptations surround us and passions surge within us? This is the question asked repeatedly by young men and young women who want to rise to the heights of a clean, achieving career. It is the query voiced in many letters from disturbed young hearts that want to live farther from sin and closer to God. It is one of the most frequent and insistent questions of youth.

As every other problem, so also this question is answered by the wisdom and power of God’s own Word; for no human process can successfully counteract the force of sin in our lives. It has been shown that a dozen evil thoughts are able to present themselves to the human mind in more than 479,000,000 combinations and changes. To combat this bewildering attack, there must be a superhuman energy; and that, thank God, is given us in our Christian faith. “Fight the good fight of FAITH,” the command of God directs us. And when we turn to the glory and strength of our creed and ask what Christ offers the youth of America for a better and nobler life, we learn as we penitently turn to the Cross that Jesus begins His purifying work in us first of all by removing the guilt and stain of our lives with the benediction “Thy sins are forgiven.” To seal that promise with everlasting validity, our Savior died on the cross. In the most exalted love which Heaven could bestow that death answers our appeal for forgiveness by granting us pardon fully and freely, without any merit or worthiness on our part, and without aid or cooperation from human agencies, solely by the Savior’s eternal mercies. More positive in its power than thousands of the accepted truths of science, more convincing than the facts of history, is this fundamental promise to all the contrite: “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”

The Savior’s love does more than remove sins. Faith in His forgiving mercies grants power for the attainment of a cleaner, finer life, which, while it never reaches perfection, ever strives to follow more closely in His footsteps. If, as these words speed out into the homes of the nation, they come into the hearts of young men and young women who have never accepted the free mercy of Christ, may you pause at this very moment, gaze upon the Savior’s cross as you pray: “If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,” and then rise with the assurance that Christ is not only able to forgive iniquity, but that He also has the power to create and strengthen purity and chastity.

When inquiring voices are raised pleading, as did certain Greeks in the days of our Lord, “We would see Jesus,” and find in Him strength for purity, we direct them to “the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up,” to the Bible. For when the psalmist asks this age-old question: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” he answers concisely: “By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.” We read of shipwrecked passengers who drown though life-belts are attached to their bodies; of airplane pilots who crash to terrifying destruction with the ripcord of their unopened parachutes clutched in their fear-frozen grip; of derelicts who die of thirst and starvation only a few feet from stores of nourishment and strength. But these pictures of disaster with help within close reach are not as tragic as the frequent surrender to impurity and sin while the sustaining Word, the Bible, remains neglected.

The Church’s counsel to all young people who search for purity is the direction which the Scriptures themselves offer: Take your Bible! Read it daily! Read it with reverence! Read it with a prayer for enlightenment and the indwelling of God’s Spirit in your souls! Read it attentively, remembering that every syllable has been spoken by your Father’s heart of mercy and written in letters of everlasting love for your increase in purity and holiness.

Our Christian faith also offers us the resources of Heaven stored in the reservoirs of fervent prayer. “If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it,” the Savior solemnly covenants, and these promises include especially those petitions that ask for the pure, Christ-centered life. Let us “fight the good fight” by prayer. Let our thoughts during each busy day repeatedly fly heavenward. Particularly for our wrestling with the treacherous forces of our baser selves and of an alluring world let our prayer be the echo of those heroic petitions which we find in the lives of God’s greatest men, the victorious pleadings which push their way to the Throne of Mercy, there to receive divine answer and blessing.

When we fight that good fight of faith, reinforced by the Word, supported by prayer, and guided by the unfailing companionship of our blessed Savior, life will assume a new and holy meaning for every one of us. We shall be able to meet hostilities and tragedies and failures with the unswerving confidence that we are “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” We shall be happy, as soldiers of Christ, to fight for the Captain of our salvation, to work for the growth of His kingdom, to labor that souls may be brought to Him in ever-increasing numbers, to serve and to sacrifice, so that new triumphs may be recorded for the Cross, new moral strength bestowed upon our nation and its leaders, a deeper spiritual power built into the walls of our American homes, a holier vision granted to young and old, through Christ and for Christ, to whom “be honor and glory forever and ever!” Amen.

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

Date: February 16, 1936

God knoweth the way that I take. When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.Job 23:10

Our God, who art Love and Truth: Grant us patience, strength, courage, to bear the crosses of life and in penitent faith to follow the footsteps of Him who, as He bore His cross to Calvary and offered Himself as the eternal sacrifice for sin, hallowed our sorrow, and lightened our burdens. Send Thy Spirit into darkened souls, faltering under the weight of agonies that they cannot bear alone. Teach us, O Father in heaven, that we cannot come too often to the outstretched arms of Christ’s mercy; that we cannot come too close to His never-failing love. Break through the clouds of sin, so that today as these words of eternal comfort speed through the air, the Sun of Thy righteousness, with healing in its wings, may arise to warm cold hearts and to thaw out frozen faith. Bless us mightily during these moments of our worship and by Thy Spirit convince empty, destitute souls that to know Thee and Him whom Thou hast sent for mercy, strength, and peace is life, the true abundant life here and the blessed, eternal life hereafter. We offer this prayer in the name and relying on the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“WHY must I suffer?” “Why do miseries crowd in upon my life?” “Why are my ambitions always crushed to the dust?” These bitter, resentful questions that men have asked since the cradle days of humanity have never been repeated in more piteous protest than in the baffling discouragement of these tragic years. All around us cringing, spiritless men and women, beaten in the conflicts of every new day, pushed from prosperity to poverty by the greed of their fellow-men, are crying: “Why must we sulfer?” “Why are the joys and sorrows of life measured out unequally and unfairly?” The sick and the maimed, who face dismal prospects of long and unrelieved suffering, exclaim with impatient bitterness: “If there is any justice in earth or in heaven, why are we the victims of these endless miseries?” The frugal, God-fearing folk who have worked and saved, hoped and prayed, only to have their plans shattered in a heartless moment, demand: “Why does the scourge of God beat us with its cutting lash, while the overflow of plenty heaps up money and pleasure for the open enemies of God?” A bereft mother crushes the lifeless form of her only child in a last embrace and screams: “If there is a God in heaven, why did He break my heart and rob me of my baby when millions of wives refuse to become mothers or neglect their unwanted children?”

There is one, and only one, true, sustaining answer to this everlasting “why” of humanity’s sorrow: the solution found in God’s never-failing Word. That light for the darkness of our pain and affliction comes to us with practical everyday force from the Book of Job. Here was a man of affairs, a patriarch of renown and riches, in his day, as the Bible assures us, “the greatest of all the men in the East.” He numbered his sheep and cattle and camels by the thousands as they roamed over his far-flung pasturelands. He was blessed with seven sons and three daughters. Prosperity had indeed smiled upon Job, the upright and God-fearing. But suddenly disaster swooped down upon his house and his lands. His flocks, his herded cattle, his drove of three thousand camels, were taken from him on a single day. And before that sunset a breathless messenger of doom brought the terrifying announcement that his children had been killed. Men have lost their reason and taken their lives for tragedies far less grievous than the ruin that came to Job between dawn and dusk. And well may he, bereaved and stripped of his wealth, have asked himself: “Can there be a more harrowing sorrow than these agonies?” But he had not yet drained the cup of his suffering to the bitterest dregs. Pain and torture gripped him. He was afflicted, we read, “with sore boils from the sole of his foot to his crown,” with an agonizing form of leprosy; so hideous and repulsive was this skin cancer over his entire body that the ancients hesitated to speak the name of this incurable curse. As he sits in his agony, isolated in some remote ash-strewn comer, feverishly scratching the fiery ache of his ulcered body, the taunting sneer of his wife demands: “Dost thou still retain thine integrity,” thy faith in God? “Curse God and die!”

But Job did not die. And although assailed by fierce despair, he turned to God and found the solution to the problem of his suffering. Let me, under the guidance of God, offer the same help to every distressed soul that may question the “why” of human sufferings. Let me bring you

THROUGH TRIAL TO TRIUMPH

with the immortal words of Job’s ageless, deathless faith (chapter 23, verse 10): “God knoweth the way that I take. When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

IN TRIALS WE TRIUMPH: “GOD KNOWS THE WAY!”

In Job’s own reason and strength there was no gleam of sustaining hope for his ulcerated body and his plundered possessions. Even his friends sat before him with closed lips, stunned into speechlessness for seven days. But when God was invoked, the courage of the sufferer showed the strength of iron; as the roots of Job’s faith struck deeply into the fulness of divine promises, he rose up to cry in triumph: “God knoweth the way that I take.”

Today a blinded world, staggering under the impact of one savage onslaught after the other, adds to its miseries by pushing God aside. An Indianapolis mother writes me that a few days ago her daughter, a child of tender years, brought home from grammar school a book which the teacher had asked the children in her grade to study. It pictured a pair of baboons swinging from branch to branch; and the title of this lurid jungle scene was “Our First Ancestors.” As I read the indignant protest of that mother, I wondered how much longer we will tolerate the brazen dethroning of the Almighty and the glorification of the gorilla in public schools that are prohibited by the State and national laws from undermining the Christian faith. Has it come to this, that public tax funds will be used to choke Christianity out of the hearts of our youth and load young lives with a heavy surrender to animal despair? Let there be no misunderstanding on this one basic fact: If we are to contradict the Bible and to believe that there is no sovereign God in the heavens above; if we are to contradict Christ and to hold that this world is only the haphazard result of an ancient accident in the solar system; if we are to contradict the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed and admit that you and I have come up from the amoeba and the ape, all by chance, then there is no key to the mystery of sorrow and suffering; then you and I are but the pitiful playthings of cruel fate; then, though we scream piercing prayers into the black night of despair, the empty echo of our failure reminds us that we are only hopeless atoms of humanity, caught in the riptides and the whirlpools of life’s cross-currents. Destroy faith in God, and life becomes a roulette wheel, with mankind inevitably the loser. Wipe out Christian hope, and logically you arrive at the despair leading to suicide. Extinguish the light of God’s Word, and men grope and stagger and fall until death casts them into eternal discard.

But if with Job we look beyond the turmoil of earth’s agonies to our ever-living, ever-compassionate Redeemer, we, too, shall find in His cross God’s own answer to the perplexities of human pain. If God loved us, weak and sinful as we all are, and loved us with the everlasting mercy of the sacrifice that nailed His Son, our Savior, to the cross; if our heavenly Father not only wants to be merciful, not only can be merciful, not only may he merciful, but in Christ Jesus is everlastingly merciful to all His children, how can we doubt that His love will direct the lives of those who penitently accept the mercies of Christ? “If,” as the apostle puts it, “God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things,” including His guidance for every turn of human affairs?

In the radiance of the cross and in the light of its love we, too, can raise our trusting eyes to God above and exult: “He knoweth the way that I take.” God, whose hand moves the spheres of the universe and directs the course of all history, whose eyes sweep the world and see the path of life before life begins,—our God knows the way that you and I take. Once we are Christ’s, once our penitent, pleading faith says: —

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee,

God takes our hand and guides us along the paths of His righteousness. Not a day passes that His watchful love does not guard and bless our progress toward heaven; not a night draws its cover of darkness over land and sea but the vigilance of Him who neither slumbers nor sleeps pierces the darkness to keep watch over us; not a moment of sorrow, not a single temptation breaks over us in which He, the constant Companion of our lives, does not speak to our souls and say: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”

God knows the way that we take, though we ourselves cannot know it. Has He not told us in plain and unmistakable words: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My way”? Sometimes when God leads us through a barren wilderness, we may dispute His leadership and question His wisdom. Sometimes His guidance seems cruel, and in our short-sighted human vision we may be ready to rise up and accuse God. Yet His paths, far above our poor powers of comprehension, are always the right paths.

Many years ago, in Western Montana, a stage-coach was caught in the grip of freezing cold (such as our country is experiencing these days). A mother and her infant child were the only passengers. When in spite of extra wraps and coverings the fatal drowsiness that precedes death by freezing began to steal over the mother, the driver took away the baby, dragged the mother out on the frozen ground, shook her violently until she was partly awakened, and then, springing to his seat, drove off, leaving the distressed mother alone in the middle of the road. But when the woman saw the coach speeding away with her child, the horror of losing her baby banished her drowsiness, and she started in mad pursuit. Her blood began to circulate, and when the danger of her freezing to death had passed, the driver slackened his speed, took her back into the coach to her unharmed child, and later reached warmth and refuge. Without that apparently cruel and inhuman extreme the mother would have died.

In much the same way, when the drowsiness of sin overtakes us and deadens our spiritual senses, when our love of God and our faith in Christ are in danger of being chilled to death, God may adopt a sudden terror as a means of sure and quick rescue. Sometimes it takes a shock, a misfortune, a deep-grooved sorrow, to shake us out of our soul’s lethargy and to arouse us from our sleep. Though we may not understand it, God’s mercy saves us from ourselves.

Again, we are prone to blame God as we impatiently mark time and wait for the removal of obstacles and misfortunes; but God knows our way better than we, and His time for help is always the right time. Even if we cannot penetrate God’s hidden purposes here, where we see “through a glass, darkly,” we shall see “face to face,” and we, too, shall know, because the Savior Himself promised: “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” Then with Christ, when the scales of sin have fallen from our eyes, we shall discover the answer to the perplexing “why” that we have asked when our wishes were denied, our plans overturned, our happiness interrupted. In that full vision many will be able to see that God permitted their money to be taken away that their souls might be wrenched from avarice and greed and the love of money might not become the root of multiplied evils in their lives. We shall be able to understand how the sudden death of a promising young man became the means of bringing his father to repentance, to Christ, and to salvation; how long and weary years of sickness and deformity provided opportunity for prayer and spiritual growth; how family trouble and the breaking of homes may save a believing husband or wife from unbelief.

May I not ask you to whom life offers little and who are tired with the weariness of it all to lift your eyes “unto the hills from whence cometh our help” and, above all, to the central hill of all history, our Savior’s Calvary? As you touch the footprints of His suffering and behold “the bleeding Head and wounded,” believe with all your heart that, if you are Christ’s and Christ is yours, every thought of God toward you is for your ultimate peace and blessing. Remember, the lamp of God burns for you through every night of sorrow. The love of God shares your burdens; the mercy of God tempers the winds of adversity; the paths of God lead, as the Savior’s own suffering, from trial to triumph, from fighting to victory, from cross to crown.

AFTER TRIALS WE TRIUMPH: “I HAVE COME FORTH AS GOLD!”

Job knew that this triumph through trial would be his, and confidently he proclaimed: “When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” In our lives, too, every adversity may be a glorious strengthening. Just as the purified gold comes out of the hissing, roaring, cracking furnace, so our faith may be purified by the refining fires of affliction. Just as every fruit-tree is pruned, in the words of the Savior, “that it may bring forth more fruit,” so the unproductive elements of our life must be removed if we are to show forth the increasing fruits of faith. Just as the diamond must be cut into designs of many facets so that it may sparkle in its greatest beauty, so you and I need the friction of sorrow to add spiritual luster to our lives; and as the famous Kohinoor diamond flashed with more brilliance when it was recut and reduced by eighty carats, so deep material losses often help us gain in faith and lead us to join St. Paul in his cry of victory: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.”

Here, then, is gain through loss, strength through weakness, triumph through trial. Those who have listened to these broadcasts for three seasons know that we have never held out to you any program of money-making, currency improvement, or financial profit. We leave that to those who promise the high hills of ease and comfort, but who always trap themselves in ravines of failure. Jesus never attracted His followers with the magnet of money, and neither do His disciples today. But He offered comfort for the soul, and so should we in His name. And because He promises: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you,” I ask you to open your hearts and to gain that calm of Christian hope, that peace of purified faith, which Heaven itself has always poured into the troubled souls that answer the plea of the compassionate Christ: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” by dedicating to Him your heart, soul, and mind.

You can take your hymnal and find practical evidence of the refining, purifying power by which we “come forth as gold” from the fires of affliction. Have you a sensitive, high-strung mind? Are you obsessed with fears and afflicted with melancholy doubts? Turn to William Cowper who twice in one day tried to commit suicide, yet whose faith ultimately triumphed and inspired his immortal lines:—

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform.

Are you out of work? Cross-burdened Paul Gerhardt paid for his loyalty to Christ by persecution and loss of his position; in addition he was bereaved of his wife and several children; nevertheless his faith broke forth in jubilant thanksgiving as he exulted:—

I will sing my Maker’s praises.

Are you on relief? Are you down to your last dollar? Remember George Neumark, who lived at a time when there was no dole, during the Thirty Years’ War, a long­drawn religious butchery, and who, on the verge of starvation, had to pawn his viola; yet his victorious faith gave the Church the hymn of Christian resignation and courage:

If thou but suffer God to guide thee.

Are you one of the unfortunate business men to whom the last six years have brought collapse and ruin? There is a lesson for you in the life of Thomas Moore, who overnight found himself liable for the sum of $30,000. Yet he soared on the golden wings of sacred song to the heights of faith that we should reach when we repeat his lines of loyalty to Christ:—

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,

Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel;

Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;

Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.

But lay your hymnal aside and let me ask whether in the midst of your sorrows you are singing songs of praise. I know men and women, brave, triumphant souls, whose sickrooms have become chapels of God’s grace through their trust and confidence. I know weak and quavering voices of invalids that preach Gospel sermons as powerful as those of the most eloquent pulpit orators. They have turned pain into joy, affliction into devotion, trials into triumph. What better can you do than “casting all your care upon Him” (“for He careth for you”), to find this purifying power of pain, through your own suffering to deepen your sympathy for the sorrows of others, to be reminded, through your grief, of the immeasurably greater anguish by which the Savior paid the ransom-price for all sin and for every sinner?

When our faith has been refined in the crucibles of sorrow, we have been granted the blessed courage that makes life worth living and death worth dying; the comforting hope based on the divine assurance “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”; the eternal triumph, which, rising above hunger and poverty, sickness and pain, hatred and persecution, fear and doubt, crashed hopes and crushed ambitions, shattered promises and broken hearts, shouts the Christian’s hymn of victory: “All things work together for good to them that love God.”

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

Date: February 9, 1936

God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of Jesus Christ, our Lord.Galatians 6:14

Eternal God, merciful and almighty: Into the chill of this spiritually cold world send, we ask with all our hearts, the warming rays of a firmer, stronger faith in Thy Son, our ever-merciful Savior, who on the cross paid the fearful price for all human sin. Touch us, O heavenly Father, with Thy Spirit’s fire, so that our indifferent hearts may be stirred into flame for the cause of the Cross, for the happiness of our suffering fellow-men, and for our soul’s growth. Remove carnal blindness, soften hardened hearts, break down the pride and pretense of life, so that the sinner may be converted to Thee from the error of His ways. Make the Cross and the Crucified the balm and healing for earth’s endless sorrows. Strengthen the aged and support them in their declining days. Remember the tempest­tossed, the broken-hearted, the world-weary, and guide them by Thy Spirit to Him who alone can lift life’s crushing burdens. All this, as every other need of soul and body which we commit to Thy fatherly love, we ask confidently; for we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

A HUNDRED YEARS ago an English merchant, sailing down the China Sea toward Macao, was startled to behold on an island shore a gigantic bronze cross, sharply etched against the sky. It had been placed there almost four hundred years before by Portuguese explorers; and though all else had collapsed, there stood the cross, defying the ages, triumphant over decay and ruin. It was a gripping, never-to-be-forgotten sight, that sacred symbol of Christ’s redemption, as it loomed high over China’s shores; and within a few moments the British trader, John Bowring, penned the hymn which has sung its way into millions of hearts:—

In the Cross of Christ I glory,

Towering o’er the wrecks of time.

The years moved on, and destiny was kind to John Bowring. He was knighted by a grateful king. Honors to which few men attain were heaped upon him. He became a respected statesman in Parliament and in British foreign affairs. A man of letters, he wrote thirty-six volumes. A renowned linguist, he spoke twenty-two languages fluently and was able to converse in a hundred different tongues; in his business he was blessed with prosperity and the applause of men. Yet throughout his successful public career the cross and the Crucified remained the climax of his hope and strength. Deeply chiseled into the memorial granite at his grave, large letters testify to his faithfulness in the heroic words of his own hymn:—

In the Cross of Christ I glory.

Long centuries before Bowring’s day this tribute to the Cross had been spoken by that mighty witness Paul of Tarsus, the apostle of Jesus Christ. Judging by human standards, his life lacked almost all the blessings that abounded in the English statesman’s career. St. Paul suffered blow upon blow through the deep-rooted hatred of his fellow-countrymen; he was persecuted to the blood; his head was the price of his loyalty to Christ; yet his faith refused to waver, and in his magnificent Letter to the Galatians (chapter 6, verse 14) he takes a solemn oath as he exults: “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

This afternoon I ask all of you to make this resolution of

GLORYING IN THE CROSS

your own, to look to the Crucified for the healing of your souls, the purifying of your hearts, the strengthening of your lives.

WHY WE GLORY IN THE SAVIOR’S CROSS

We glory in the Cross of Christ not because Jesus gave us the Golden Rule, proved Himself the Superman of all history, the Preacher without parallel, the Servant of the lowly, not even because He led a sinless life; for there is more to the heart and center of the Christian faith than this. Nor do we glory in the Cross of Christ because of any human force or influence which men have repeatedly sought beneath that cross. When the early explorers came to the North American shores, the cross advanced with them, but too frequently it was a cross of bloody violence. Their own records tell us that within the shadow of the crucifix they would “torture the Indians and hang them in ropes high off the ground with weights on their feet and in other cases throw burning wax on them and whip them unmercifully,”—the same spirit that today attempts to use the cross as a sword, as a police measure, as a means for satisfying political ambitions of misguided clerics.

Above all the haze and confusion with which men have beclouded the cross one dominant glory shines as a radiance which nothing can dim. The cross is the evidence of God’s all-forgiving love, the highest and deepest devotion with which our heavenly Father could bless the world of sinful, ungrateful children; that priceless love for which all the hidden jewels and the secret treasures of the earth could offer no worthy payment, yet which is extended to us by the Father’s grace “without money and without price”; that divine and deathless love which tells us that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” that He, the Holy One of God, “who knew no sin,” moved by a love before which our human senses falter and fail, took upon Himself my sins and yours and on that cross paid the full price for our redemption, so that our sins become His sins, our agonies His agonies, our death His death, and, praise God! His life our life.

We glory in that all-compassionate love because of the wide sweep with which it invites all the children of men to peace and pardon. Our Government keeps undesirables from its shores and a Western city bars the destitute; but in this love, which knows no limits, there is mercy even for the lowliest, the poorest, the most repulsive of all sinners. The man who financed the war may indulge in the folly of exalting the leisure class as the saviors of America and indicting the hard-working, self-sacrificing mother who brings up her children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” While plutocrats may make these distinctions, Christ always championed the cause of the poor, the down­ trodden, the forsaken.

If we stop to remind ourselves that the cross is the one constant, all-enduring fact of history; that, while political programs and legislative acts are altered from year to year, the message of the Cross has never been amended and that not one iota of its promise has changed as centuries have piled upon centuries; if we recall the absolute certainty of this love, so that, though mountains depart and hills be removed, nevertheless the kindness of God’s mercy in Christ shall not depart nor the covenant of Calvary be broken; if we summarize all these cross-riveted blessings, what is there in life that can stand even comparison with these free mercies, these world-wide promises, this ageless grace, this unconditional love of the Cross?

We glory in the Cross of Christ, the Gospel, because that barbarous cross to which He was affixed has become the greatest moral force in all the world. Have you noticed how frequently honest Modernists have confessed their failure to grip human hearts, how repeatedly college men and women have admitted the inability of modern education to raise moral standards? And if you want to convince yourself of the building power of the Cross, close your eyes for a moment and picture this nation without Christ, with every trace of His Cross, His Bible, His Church, wiped off the face of the earth, and you will see a reign of unbridled lust, a chaos in which only the fittest survive, a nightmare in which men leap at one another’s throats and the stronger stamp their heels on the broken backs of the weaker. Erase that picture and behold this nation saturated with the Gospel, glorifying the Cross from coast to coast, and you will see a nation of inner progress and happiness, a law-abiding people that lives the truly abundant life, with a peace and quietude utterly unknown to millions in this distressed day.

Even unbelief has conceded the truth of the apostolic statement: “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Charles Darwin, who distinctly taught that we are descended from an apelike creature, visited Tierra del Fuego on his scientific voyage aboard the Beagle. He found the Patagonians there so low mentally and morally that he could hardly classify these degenerate and depraved creatures as human beings. Years later he returned, and to his astonishment, he found virtue, kindness, education, instead of vice, cruelty, and ignorance. What had produced that startling transformation in a few brief years? Missionaries of God had brought the Cross to Tierra del Fuego, and Charles Darwin, skeptic though he was, showed that he, too, recognized the regenerating power of the Cross by sending an annual donation to the Patagonian missionary society.

We glory in the Cross of Christ because of its sustaining comfort. Jesus tells us: “Fear not.” He promises: “I will not leave you comfortless.” He pledges: “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” He entreats us: “Let not your heart be troubled.” He assures us: “Your sorrows shall be turned into joy, . . . and your joy no man taketh from you.” And when we stand beneath the cross and gaze up to Him, we realize that Christ died to prove these promises to all men, that faith breathes a hope, a joy, a consolation, that only God can give. Take the Cross away, and there is no answer to human suffering, no solution to the problem of sorrow, no antidote to the poison of worry, no freedom from the tyranny of fear. But keeping the Cross and the Crucified in a living faith and rising above the worst that the world can heap upon us, we can exult: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

Now, this is not mere theory or a pious wish. A woman in this radio audience writes me that her youngest child has tuberculosis of the hip and ankle and that her husband lies in a sanatorium, suffering from tuberculosis of the throat and lungs and praying for the end. What comfort can any Christless creed give that woman? Whisperings of mercy killing, suggestions of divorce, a dozen other faulty proposals? Yet what does Christ offer her? In her letter, which shows a type of bravery infinitely higher than that which we reward with medals and Congressional citations she writes: “Even though there are times when the loneliness of being separated from our beloved husband and father is almost unbearable, when it seems so hard to understand why our baby has to suffer so, I am glad God has picked me out for this particular trial. I hope I may be found true and tried and that we all may be purged by this fire for whatever plan Christ has for us.”

Three days ago I stood beside the casket of a young Christian mother of five children who had been suddenly snatched out of life. When death came to serve its summons, what comfort could there have been without Christ in those parting hours? At best a few stumbling, halting generalities like the empty echo of Ingersoll’s well-known funeral oration, a flowery array of hopeless hope. But how the Cross blessed her dying moments! Fully aware that her last hour had come, she bade farewell to her husband and the five children, adding: “This is the last time that we say goodbye.” And triumphing even over death, her faith exclaimed: “But what a happy reunion we shall have in heaven!” As we carried the lifeless remains to God’s acre, I prayed that, with death following us at every step, every one in this vast radio family would find that same sustaining comfort, which our holy, ever-blessed, eternally glorious Savior offers to every one of you.

HOW WE ARE TO GLORY IN THE SAVIOR’S CROSS

If the Cross grants all these blessings, it is not enough that we merely respect it, that we admire it, that we accept it in an indifferent faith. Ours must be an unquenchable ardor, a holy enthusiasm for the Cross. We must believe in it heroically.

In a day of spiritual lukewarmness, when too many are neither hot nor cold; when many fires of Christian heroism have burned to cold ashes; when people have time for bridge parties and oyster suppers and theatricals, all in the name of the Church, but no time for that personal, insistent testimony to the Cross, we need fearless champions of the Savior who ask no quarter in their loyalty to the Crucified and give none. If we pause to picture to ourselves how red-blooded Christian loyalty could capture one stronghold of sin after another in this nation, restrict the debauch of our young people through commercialized vice, banish the publishers of erotic, sensual books and pamphlets, cleanse the corruption of American politics, check the bribery of American courts, restrain the tragedies of home-wrecking, check the dishonesty in American business; if above and below all this you can envision these Christians testifying to the Cross and bringing to Christ thousands who might otherwise be lost forever; and if you can contrast with this the Christians—and their number is truly legion—who have never raised a little finger or spoken even in a whisper of the Savior’s death that promises our life,—then you can understand that the appeal of this critical hour is for Christ-centered heroism: “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If, by the grace of God, you ask how your faith and fervor may be strengthened, let me suggest, first of all, that you study the cross, the meaning of those two pieces of wood, those four nails, those seven sacred words, that you may learn what priceless, immeasurable pledge of God’s holy, heavenly love is granted through the sin­removing self-sacrifice of Christ.

And when you have come to the cross and cry out: “O my Savior, on this cross Thou hast suffered for me; here Thou didst die for me to make me Thine,” you cannot hide the cross or neglect its message. You must talk of that message; you must testify to its power; you must remember the Savior’s injunction “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.” Translated into the problems and opportunities of this new age, this exalting the Cross of Christ means that you share its blessings with others; that, unashamed of Christ and confident of His help, you seek to win some helpless soul for the joy of salvation. I can understand why people who have repeatedly closed their hearts to Christ can discuss the sordid topics of the day without speaking a word for Christ; but I cannot understand why Christians, well informed in regard to the latest crimes and scandals, can seal their lips in silence when the salvation of souls is at stake. God, give us soldiers of the Cross who by word and testimony will lift its glory high until its world-wide radiance brings many souls to Christ!

A sullen hatred of the Cross creeps into newspapers and spreads over magazine pages. It raises its voice on the radio and makes itself heard in our schools. It invades our American churches and enthrones itself securely in many theological seminaries. I ask you: Can we glory in the Cross without voicing an unmistakable protest against all this? Can we stand by idly when unbelief seeks to tear out the heart of Christianity? Let this one basic truth sink deeply into our Christian consciousness: unless the spirit of protest is strengthened; unless we believe in militant Christian preparedness and are ready to enlist in an aggressive defense of the Cross, the blessings of God may be snatched away.

We must live the Cross, too. High above the campus of our Seminary, on the antenna of this radio station, almost directly above me as I now speak, is a huge cross which, with its electrical illumination at night, dominates a great part of St. Louis. Most of you cannot lift the cross to these heights; but however restricted the circle of your influence may be, you, too, can raise the cross. If men eagerly exhibit the emblems of a thousand societies, should we not be ready to display the holiest symbol of all history? To remind them of their Savior, to bear testimony to His grace, millions of Christians wear a cross. A hundred thousand of our great radio family are happy to own the miniature golden cross which has become the emblem of our radio crusade for Christ. Today I am asking many more thousands to accept this cross, not as a charm, but as a token of their living faith, a constant reminder of their Savior’s suffering, a pledge of His undying love.

For when we glory in the Cross and in the love of the Crucified, then the highest joys of heaven and earth are ours. Come, then, “for all things are ready.” Amen.

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