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Date: December 25, 1938

Prayer for Christmas Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

GLORY TO GOD FOR THE CHRIST-CHILD!

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

I

GLORY TO GOD THROUGH OUR CHRIST-CENTERED FAITH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

GLORY TO GOD THROUGH CHRIST-DIRECTED LIVES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: December 18, 1938

A Pre-Christmas Petition

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPARE TO MEET JESUS

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

I

PREPARE TO MEET THE CHRIST WHO CAME IN HUMILITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

PREPARE TO MEET THE CHRIST WHO WILL COME IN GLORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: December 11, 1938

Plea for Persevering Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FACE TO FACE WITH JESUS

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

I

THE GLORY OF SEEING CHRIST FACE TO FACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

THE PROMISE OF SEEING CHRIST FACE TO FACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: December 4, 1938

Prayer for the Savior’s Grace

O Christ, our Savior and our God:

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

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

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

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

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

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

JESUS CHRIST OUR SAVIOR AND OUR GOD

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

I

JESUS OUR SAVIOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

JESUS OUR GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

With might of ours can naught be done,

Soon were our loss effected;

But for us fights the Valiant One,

Whom God Himself elected. . . .

And there’s none other God,

He holds the field forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 27, 1938

Supplication for the Power of True Prayer

Our God, Thou who hearest prayer:

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

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

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

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

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

What a Friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

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

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

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

PROFIT IN PRAYER

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

I

PROFIT ONLY IN TRUE PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

PROFIT ALWAYS IN TRUE PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 24, 1938

Thanksgiving Praise

O God of all goodness, grace, and gladness:

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE HIGHER GRATITUDE

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

I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

IT IS GRATITUDE “ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 20, 1938

Entreaty for Christ’s Presence in the Home

O Christ, blessed Savior of our souls:

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

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

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

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

CHRIST-BLESSED HOMES

enriched by His presence, sustained by His strengthening love.

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

I

THE SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS OF CHRIST’S MERCY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

THE TEMPORAL BLESSINGS OF CHRIST’S POWER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 13, 1938

Praise for the Preservation of the Bible

God, our Father:

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BOOK THAT BLESSES

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

I

IT BLESSES WITH DIVINE TRUTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

IT BLESSES WITH DIVINE GRACE AND STRENGTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 6, 1938

Prayer for Peace

O Christ, Thou Prince of Perfect Peace:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PERFECT PEACE

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

I

CHRIST GRANTS THIS PEACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

TRUSTING FAITH APPROPRIATES THIS PEACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: October 30, 1938

Thanks for Our Reformation Heritage

O God of Grace and Light and Truth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And take they our life,

Goods, fame, child, and wife,

Let these all be gone,

They yet have nothing won;

The Kingdom ours remaineth.

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

JESUS CHRIST, OUR ONLY SAVIOR

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

I

NO SALVATION WITHOUT CHRIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II

FULL SALVATION WITH CHRIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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