1925 Synod Convention Essay
Introductory Remarks by G.A. Gullixson
The Bible teaches that God expects growth and progress in His church. Christian life is not stagnant. It is active, progressive in the individual as well as in the congregation. In John 15:8 we read: “Therein is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples.”
We remember the parable of the mustard seed, Matt. 13:31, and of the leaven, 13:33. All this shows us that God’s people should and must not be satisfied with stagnation.
We have the Word of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation. Possessing this in its truth and purity there rests upon us a tremendous responsibility. \Ve have been called to make use of it.
In the gift of God’s Word we have a completed masterpiece of God. No additions, no development in this revelation are to be expected or tolerated. We teach with our brethren in the Synodical Conference: “That by His revealed Word God has spoken so plainly to us and to all men that we can and should know all that He would have us believe, teach, and confess; that, therefore, while greater enlightenment and a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures is attainable and should be sought after, there can be no true development of doctrine nor a justifiable doctrinal incompleteness in the Church; and that consequently, true unity in the church is not only desirable, but attainable and commanded by God himself, yes, for the sake of keeping out and combating error and guarding the salvation of souls, necessary. (Prof. Fritz Ebenezer, p. 171.)
In the past years we have seen evidences of retrogression in doctrinal consciousness of Scandinavian Lutherans that can only startle and amaze every true Bible Christian, and yet it has been done in the name of Christian progress. If you ask, in what do we find such evidence? I will refer you to the Lutheran Church of Sweden where a modernist has been elevated to the highest office in the Church, in the person of Archbishop Soderblom and also to the fraternal reception given him on his recent visit to this country by the Lutheran Augustana Synod. In the Lutheran Church of Norway we have seen how the modernist, Gleditch, has been ordained by a bishop of the Lutheran Church of Norway to be Bishop of Trondhjem. We have seen in our Norwegian press how Bishop Lunde of Norway boastfully announces that he has made such progress above the ministers of fifty years ago, that he can fraternize with Methodists, while Lutheran pastors of fifty years ago wrote lectures and sermons against Methodism. These are evidences of retrogression.
Many of us remember how slow Dr. Koren was even in his day to invite and fraternize with officials of the State Church of Norway, when its Lutheran confessional status was far better than it is today. But now we see how many who stood firm then are silent when fraternal relations with the State Church of Norway are cultivated by the exchange of representatives between it and the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. What is this but back-sliding in doctrinal consciousness? Further evidence of retrogression in doctrinal consciousness and loyalty for the sake of outward progress is found in the doctrinal compromise known as the “opgjør” and the sacrifice of the truth that led up to its adoption by the majority of the old Norwegian Synod. From this kind of progress we pray God to save us.
True Christian progress is given only by the Holy Ghost. We believe and confess that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. True progress consists in coming to Christ and growing in fellowship with him. “I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5. This is true of the individual and it is true of the congregations and Synod.
The progress in Christian awakening at the time of Luther was just such a mighty growth given by the Holy Ghost, when souls were dying from spiritual starvation. The sunlight of God’s love and grace in Christ was clouded by the man-made doctrines of work-righteousness and idolatrous worship of saints. The Holy Spirit claimed for His own the soul and heart and mind of Martin Luther, the humble monk, the miner’s son and consecrated the whole man to his service. The spiritual starvation in which he had lived and from which the Holy Ghost saved him, formed a dark background upon which the radiance of God’s love in Christ shone even brighter and brighter. In that love for Christ, who had saved him from despair and damnation, there arose a spirit of gratitude and personal devotion that held him captive in loyalty to Christ before all the obstacles that arose in the mighty work which he was called by and under God to perform.
In his work as the reformer we find him following the same lines as that in which he himself had been saved, proclaiming Christ and Him crucified as the only Savior of mankind.
In his battle against foes within and foes without we find him battling with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God and nothing else. How I do not know of any example in Church history after the times of the Apostles that better exemplifies true Christian progress than the time of the Lutheran Reformation, and I wish that our Synod would take a deep plunge in these historical waters and come out refreshed, invigorated in its historical consciousness of being true followers of Luther.
Every true student of Luther and the Lutheran Reformation is impressed with this fact, that Luther’s work was not to invent new doctrines and find expression for the theological or religious inventions of his time. No, his work was blessed so highly because, led by the Spirit to see the intrinsic value of the Bible as the means of saving souls, he fought all the dross of superstition and heresy that centuries had covered over it under the rule of the hierarchy of Rome.
This progress in doctrine was backward, back to the fountain head of all true spiritual life, back to the Apostles and the Prophets, back to Christ in His Holy Word, back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “which is the power of God unto salvation for every one that believeth.” And in doing that, what progress? What triumphs over the most powerful organizations that were pitted against him in Church and State? What progress in the emancipation of souls held in the bondage of superstition and work-righteousness? The message of the Gospel of Christ flew like wild fire and ignited the souls of millions in all the countries of Europe in an astonishingly short time. How could this be done? Because the Holy Spirit was in that Word and revealed to dying sinners the Savior of mankind, the Christ of God, and herein we have the answer to the question: How may true Christian progress be attained? Some say: By Methodistic revival meetings and special sensational evangelists, preferably laymen, roaming about at random advising the people by sensationalism, and generally turning the ordered congregational life topsy turvy, progress must be attained. But there is no example from Reformation times that encourages this method. No, the example of Luther and his times points us to the God given fountains of life given in his word and sacraments, administered in the congregation decently and with order. In these means the Holy Ghost is present. Through these means He regenerates man and sustains all true Christian life. It is our calling, then, with all true Christian zeal to fight away the dross that covers the true Word of God in our own hearts as well as in the hearts of our fellow men, so that this may come with all its power and grace into these lives and produce progress.
Here we must brace ourselves for a battle royal, if we shall make progress. For in our times we have just as many, and in some ways more subtle, attacks of Satan and his allies than in the days of Luther.
In the I Epistle to the Thessalonians, in the 5th chapter 19th verse, the Apostle Paul admonishes the Christians, with these striking words. “Quench not the Spirit.” The Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, is spoken of under the simile of fire. As fire purges and penetrates and destroys all combustible substances, so the Holy Spirit in sanctification, when He enters the human heart, burns up the inward dross of our sins and corruptions. As fire the Holy Spirit refines, purifies, sanctifies. As fire produces warmth and light; so the Holy Ghost in the gift of the new Spiritual life of faith gives Christian love and true Christian enlightenment.
It is this indwelling of the Holy Ghost with all His gracious work of renewing and sanctifying that gives progress, in family life as well as in all church life. Where He dwells, the virtues of true Christian life prevail, and the life of the individual as well as the life of the congregation and Synod are lifted to the higher levels of Christian virtues. The very fact that the Apostle with such force and directness admonishes the Christian: “Quench not the Spirit,” teaches us that it is possible for man to stifle His influence, nay, even to quench the flame of the Spirit entirely or drive Him away from our hearts. Like fire may be quenched, put out by water, so the Spirit is quenched by sins of malice. Where willful sins are cherished and indulged in by the human heart, the Spirit of God is quenched. His influence ceases. He is grieved and departs, and with His departure peace and Christian hope die. It was so with David, “the man after the heart of God.” Even this strong Christian fell in atrocious crimes against God and man. His life was like the parched sands of the desert for a long season. He sought to conceal his crime and to keep silent about it, and had he died in this condition he would have been condemned forever. But the faithful servant of God’s Word, Nathan, heard of the crime of his king and confronted him with a parable so adroitly put, that we feel the power of God’s Spirit beneath it, and when David had passed judgment upon a parallel case with that of his own, the prophet undoubtedly raised his finger and pointing at him said: “Thou art the man!” The great king and psalmist crumbled before the power of the spirit in the law — acknowledged his sins in deepest contrition, and then the Holy Spirit came to him again in His Word of the Gospel by the mouth of the prophet saying: “The Lord also hath put away thy sins, thou shalt not die.” I fear that many of our beloved people are quenching or grieving the Holy Ghost by personal sins that cut off His blessed gifts and guidance, and hence, where there should be hearts fired with holy zeal for the Savior and His Kingdom, there are cold hands, selfish hearts, unwilling hearts and hands to do God’s work. Never imagine that you are beyond temptations. We carry with us passions and weaknesses that subject us to dangers at all times. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle specifies such sins that quench the Spirit. He says: “Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Let him that stole steal no more.” The Christian who allows himself the habit of lying quenches the Spirit. For the Spirit is the Spirit of truth, the enemy of falsehood. A wrathful heart, an uncontrollable temper that is indulged in, is of the devil, and quenches the Spirit. When deceit and dishonesty, so often practiced as smart business measures by the world, are indulged in and made a practice by a Christian, he quenches the Spirit. When a dollar, dishonestly made, is worth more to a man or woman than a good conscience, it shows that the Spirit is quenched in such a heart. It is like pouring water upon the inner flame of spiritual life.
To make progress, a Christian must be honest. Yes, he must hate sin. The Spirit is also quenched by worldliness. Just as you can quench fire by covering it with earth, so is the Holy Spirit quenched when a worldly spirit is cultivated and tolerated by the Christian. The Savior speaks in the parable about “The cares of this life” that choke the growth of the good seed. Worldly-mindedness, love for pleasure, love for the brilliant, bewildering spectacles of the world, gay company, love for honor and riches, pleasure madness, which is growing in leaps and bounds and is ready to sacrifice the most sacred things in life for its indulgence, is driving the Holy Spirit away from the hearts of many of our young people. True Christian progress cannot be made hand in hand with worldly-mindedness. This spirit of the world steals in so subtly, so unobserved, that we can hardly notice it until its deadly work has led some Christian soul away from Christ’s fold.
This worldly Spirit is imbibed from childhood in many of the materialistic principles inculcated in our schools throughout the land. Materialism, the natural offspring of the “Evolution theory,” is one of the most powerful means of retarding Christian progress, because, in fact, it is a form of idolatry. It steals the heart’s devotion to God. To the materialist, this world is heaven, and in order to have happiness here, man must have money or power. So money and power becomes his god, and thus we find often with nominal Christians that no religious duty is permitted to interfere with their chances to make money. Where such idolatry of mammon exists the Spirit is quenched, and the result is hypocrisy, or open apostasy. Another worldly toy that steals away spiritual life, and fills the hearts of men and women with worldliness, are the oath bound secret societies or lodges. Many have driven the Holy Ghost from their hearts by thoughtlessly entering into compact with the world and its vanities through joining the lodge. How often the pastors see good church members suddenly grow cold and indifferent to the active life of the church, and then discover that the one time fervent, earnest, Christian has joined the lodge and is worshiping at a strange altar with the world: Yes, worldly cares quench the Spirit of God.
Another effective way of quenching fire is to withdraw the fuel from the fire. And so in Christian life. God’s Spirit has ordained and provided fuel by the use of which His presence and power remain in our hearts. This fuel is His Word and Sacraments, entrusted to His Holy Church. The Spirit does not work without means. He comes in and through the Word and Sacraments. They are given us by the Holy Ghost. The Bible was written by men, who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. It is the product of the Holy Ghost, hence God’s own Word, powerful and effective. Those who despise it or neglect it are not Lutherans. It was Luther’s conviction that God had spoken to him and continues to speak to him in His Word. That was the secret of his strength and progress. To neglect God’s Word and preaching, as well as the use of Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar; is to use the surest methods of quenching the Spirit and driving Him from our hearts, thus hindering Christian progress.
Progress, then, is attained by following Luther’s example — back to the Word of God. Fighting for progress means that we by the help of God and through His grace tear away the things that cover up the Word in our lives and hinder the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. The battle must be carried in to our personal Christian life in our homes, in our congregations, in our Synod at large.
May the Holy Ghost bless our further deliberations, while we discuss.
I. True Christian Progress in Home Life.
II. True Christian Progress in Congregational Life.
III. True Christian Progress in Synodical Life.
We pray that the Holy Spirit will claim us individually and collectively as His own and consecrate all our minds, hearts, souls, our energies and our strength to His cause, the Holy Christian Church, and thus make us true Lutherans indeed.
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True Christian Progress
- What it is.
- How it may be obtained.
- Introductory remarks – G.A. Gullixson
- True Christian Progress in Home Life.
- The family altar; Christian reading matter – C.J. Quill
- Child training; Christian schools – N. Madson
- The family pew (church going) – H. Ingebritson
- True Progress in Congregational Life.
- Worship — use of word and sacraments by pastors and members – J.A. Moldstad
- Congregations meetings — use of members in personal missionary work – S.C. Ylvisaker
- Congregational finances; measures for charity, etc. – Chr. Anderson
- Young People’s Societies; Women’s Societies; Men’s Societies; Choirs – Emil Hansen
- True Progress in Synodical Relations.
- Deeper consciousness and sense of responsibility for maintaining pure doctrine (doctrinal discipline) – J. E. Thoen
- Missionary Zeal – H. Tjernagel
- Christian higher education – O. Harstad
- Fostering fellowship and cooperation with orthodox synods; avoiding false alliances, at home and abroad – M.F. Mommsen
- Spreading pure Christian literature, books, periodicals, church papers – H.A. Preus
- Synodical finances – A.J. Torgerson
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True Christian Progress in Home Life
The Family Altar
Christian Reading Matter
The primeval institution is that of the family. It precedes all human institutions and shall outlast them, if we are right when we speak of the redeemed in heaven as a family with God as the gracious Father.
The family has been designated as the beginning and foundation of all society and order. The family, the beginning! How important! In everything there must be a beginning without which nothing would be. The family, the foundation! How important!
Foundation means that on which anything stands and by which it is supported — the basis. How much depends upon the foundation! Every masterbuilder in every department of human activity knows how much depends upon the foundation. He will do everything and neglect nothing that will construct, and do everything and neglect nothing to discover and avoid whatsoever will destruct or forbid a foundation that is safe, sure and secure.
Everything depends upon the foundation, for thereon is built the superstructure. When we look upon the family as the beginning and foundation for the highest and purest type of society and order among men — The Christian Church — do we realize its stupendous importance? Do we realize what the character of the family must be? Do we realize what the family must have, to be a foundation for the Church of Christ and the glory of true Christian progress? Not until we realize, in some measure at least, the importance of —
The Family Altar.
What do we mean by the family altar? We mean family worship.
Let us begin where God begins and have a church in every house. Let the divine seed there germinate freely and grow and develop into its God-intended possibilities.
As the family, so the church, the state, the nation. A church in the house means a church in the church as a necessary consequence.
That the Church of Christ may be in a healthy state and ever continue to grow and develop, the family must be consecrated. I repeat it with all the emphasis and earnestness I possess — The family must be consecrated.
A beautiful picture comes to us from the far-off time, the picture of the patriarch Abraham’s household. When he removed his tent he renewed his altar. Every home, whether cottage, mansion or palace, should have its altar, whereon may be offered the sacrifices of praise and of prayer.
Is it well to have a commodious home? It is better to have a commodious heart open to communication from the eternal Spirit.
Blessed a thousand times in a thousand ways the family which constitutes a church. But the family altar should be built when the home is first established. Begin right. Start out in the right direction. As the life of the home and the family begins, so it will generally continue. Ways grown into a habit may become permanent. Therefore, it is vitally important that the ways and order of the family life begin in conformity with truly Christian ways and order. That means daily devotions. If Jesus is to dwell in the home, he must be invited. There must be prayer. And that Word must be used in which he requires to be sought and found.
The home in which there is no prayer, where the Word of God is not used, can not be a dwelling place for Christ. However refined and respectable be the ways of the home, Christ does not dwell there.
It will not suffice that the individual members of the family read the Word of God and have their private prayer. If the family life with its versatile character is to be lived in the Lord and blest of the Lord, there must be family worship, where all unite in the reading of Scripture and in prayer. And the father as the God-appointed head of the family will conduct the worship with due diligence and authority. He will have a set time for the quiet hour when all the members of his household will gather at the family altar for family worship. This is the sacred duty of his position, to indoctrinate and discipline his household.
Many parents seem to be anxious only to feed and clothe and help their children for this life. Are their children brutes? Are they to perish like the beasts? Or, have they a soul? To whom do they really belong? If our children be the Lord’s, they must be educated for Him. If they be His, they must do His work. What hypocrisy to dedicate our children to God in baptism where the vow is made to renounce the devil and his works and all his ways and to believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and then to take no care that it be fulfilled.
Gather from Scripture and observe the sad consequences, the family curses, that come with — no family altars. Intemperance, prodigality, indolence, dishonesty, strife, hatred; the displeasure of God and His curse on all we do; beggary and want; prayers rejected; abandoned to God in affliction and hardened by them, we go on in darkness and go down in the ways of the wicked one.
Gather from Scripture and observe the blessings that spring from — The family altar. Temperance, frugality, industry, peace, quiet, love, harmony, the favor, care and protection of God, his direction and aid, all necessaries — Ps. 37:25; Matt. 6:33 — prosperity as far as is good for us, prayers heard; afflictions sanctified and we supported under them; progress in the ways of God and finally meet in His immediate presence to spend eternity’s neverending bliss.
Christian fathers and mothers, do you have family worship? If not, why not? How can you be without the family altar! Nothing will bless the home like the Church in the home. Nothing will make the family one, bound up with the tender ties of their sacred relationship, rooted, not in creation, but in God, like family worship.
Nothing will cultivate family affection, the flower that fills the world with choicest fragrance, and bring out a beautiful spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood, like family worship.
Nothing will smooth away or adjust difficulties and differences between members of the family like family worship.
Nothing will leave such a blessed indelible impress upon the child-soul as the quiet hours at the family altar. When father is gone, mother is gone, home is gone, we still have with us on our way the priceless treasure, which nothing can take from us, the unspeakable legacy of the quiet hour charged with immortal sacred memories.
Christian fathers and mothers, do you have family worship? If not, why not? How dare you be without the family altar! Is not the Christian home in constant danger? Is it not surrounded and besieged, day and night, by the dreadful hosts of death and hell?
Why are so many homes and families within the pale of the church disrupted and disintegrated, given over to the enemy, some slowly, some suddenly? Why are so many parents, once so happy and hopeful in the sunshine of their children’s smiles, later languishing in the shadow of their children’s sins? Why are so many fathers’ hearts, mothers’ hearts, bleeding, breaking, broken, as they behold their boy or girl wandering astray on the highways and byways of sin and perishing in the dark and sickening atmosphere of unbelief? Why?
There is a reason. The warning, “Safety first,” has not been heeded. Safety is alone in the Lord. The Lord is in His Word. “Train up the child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. Abide in the Word of God and be safe; depart from it and be sorry.
Hear, ye fathers, ye heads of the home and the family, the solemn words of the Everlasting God: “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the doorposts of thine house, and upon thy gates; that your days may be multiplied and the days of your children.” Deut. 11:18–21.
The worship at the family altar should include hymn-singing, that wonderful, powerful aid to true Christian progress. “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his.” Ps. 30:4. “Sing forth the honor of his name.” Ps. 66:2. “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee, and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.” Ps. 71:23.
What has become of the hymn-singing in the homes? We are suffering a tremendous loss. Is it gone? Beyond recall?
Friends, back to the Reformation spirit! Back to a more diligent use of the Word of God; back to hymn-singing souls in the home and we shall not only rejoice in healthy Christian progress, but have a future sure, for ourselves, our children, and our church.
In conclusion a few words concerning
Christian Reading Matter.
What do you read in your home? “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are,” applies here. Will not the kind and character of the reading matter in the home tell you, in a large measure, the kind and character of the home?
What books should be found in a Christian home? First and above all, The Book of Books, — The Bible. And the best possible edition of it should be found in every Christian home. Not only that. Every member of the family, especially when able to read it, should have his own Bible. It should be the main book in the home, and the main book at the family altar. Next to the Bible, the best possible devotional books for the home. Herzberger’s “The Family Altar”; Laache’s book of “Family Prayers”; Zorn’s “Crumbs,” are some that have been suggested by our church paper. (See “Tidende” for Dec. 10, 1924). “The Book of Concord,” containing the symbolic books of the Lutheran Church, should be in every home, and be read.
Religious books for the home should be selected with utmost care and conscientious concern. Books may be bad as well as good, enemies as well as friends. Beware! Do not buy religious books from anybody and everybody, if you want to safeguard your home and your dear ones. Be careful!
Our own church papers and publications should be in every home and be read. Can we love our church, can we care for it at all, if we do want to know what our church is doing; keep informed about it; hear what it has to tell us?
We must have a “Daily,” of course, which costs several times as much as our church paper, and we say nothing about it. There is too much newspaper reading and home-destroying, soul-destroying literature. What do you read in your home? Think it over.
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Texts Mark 10:13–16.
“A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.”
In that well-known couplet we have the reason given us why so many men will continue to act contrary to better knowledge. When we are told that “knowledge is power,” we must remember that this statement is only conditionally true. Knowledge will have power only in so far as you have the will to do that which your knowledge has taught you. What will it help you to know that by falling upon your sword will kill you, if you have not the will to refrain from doing yourself violence? Doesn’t the drunkard know that drink is his ruin? Doesn’t the adulterer know that the harlot’s house is in the way of hell, going down to the chambers of death? Or doesn’t the miser know that when he dieth he shall carry nothing away? Yea, indeed, they have the knowledge, but lack the power.
If mere knowledge were all that is necessary to prompt us to wise action, we should not have all the folly and misery in the world which we now meet with on every hand. What is it then which lacks the drunkard, the adulterer, the miser, when evidences on every hand speak in unmistakable terms of the end of their folly? It is the will to act according to their knowledge. And what is it that determines your will? It is usually that which your heart desires. It is for that reason that Scriptures admonish us: “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
No one who has ever heard or read the text before us lacks knowledge of the Saviour’s will regarding our children. It is one of the most beautiful scenes pictured in the Scriptures. And yet, friends, I dare say that there are few Bible passages which are being so little heeded by professed followers of Christ to-day as just this passage. For while it has indeed been used as a proof passage, and that with all justice, in the doctrine of infant baptism and has therefore been given a place in our baptismal ritual, it is not only through baptism that Christ would bless the little children. His great commission includes the two words, baptize and teach. But oh, the sad neglect in obeying the second injunction of that command. Since, then, the Church knows the will of the Saviour in this matter, the question naturally arises:
“Why is it that so many who would be His disciples, also to-day hinder the little children from coming to Jesus?”
We shall the better be able to answer this question by considering these gospel words in their context. Both in what goes before and in what follows immediately after we are given the answer. 1. Hardness of heart. 2. Love of money.
Hardness of Heart.
The Saviour had just had an encounter with His bitter enemies, the Pharisees, who had propounded a question by which they sought to tempt Him. The question was regarding marriage. “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?” And when Jesus referred them to Moses, they tell Him that Moses permitted the writing of a bill of divorcement and putting her away. What did Jesus answer? “For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female, — What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
And, friends, there are all too many to-day who want to be the bride of Christ, hut not too closely bound to Him. They want the privilege of writing Him their letter of divorcement, at least on certain questions where His demands seem a little exacting. When we consider the history of the Norwegian Lutherans in this country, we must with shame admit that they have divorced their heavenly Bridegroom in the matter of providing for the education of their children. When God in His righteous wrath has not taken from us the light of His blessed Gospel, it is not because our neglect in this matter has been pleasing to Him. No, He has borne with us, even as with adulterous Israel of old, because of the hardness of our hearts.
The matter of providing for the training of the child is by the great majority of church members considered the sole duty of the State. They have become so used to the order of things in the immediate world in which they live, so inoculated with the spirit of the times, that they are like the Pharisees of old. Even as they imagined that divores were perfectly proper because they were popular, so many church people to-day believe it perfectly proper that their children shall be educated in an institution where, by the very nature of the case, the Gospel of Christ must be excluded. That which their Lord and Saviour has admonished them to seek first they are satisfied in relegating to a place of minor importance.
To be sure, they want a little smattering of religion. The child shall be sent to Sunday school or have a little instruction besides, as circumstances may permit. But that the congregation should actually consider it its sacred duty to provide for the child’s whole training, they can see no necessity for that. “Why, aren’t conditions all right just as they are? Others seem to get along with it, why can’t we? And haven’t even eminent men in the church said it was all right?” Moses had suffered them to write a bill of divorcement, say the Pharisees. But what does Jesus say? Moses had been forced to do so because of the hardness of their hearts. From the beginning God had meant it quite differently with regard to the marriage state.
And when we go back to the beginning in the matter of the child’s training in the household of faith, what do we find? Does it matter who is to teach my child or what it is being taught? Let me quote just a few passages in support of the statement that it is the congregation, the Church of Christ, which has the sacred responsibility of educating its youth.
Having repeated the laws of the covenant made with Israel on Mount Sinai, God, by His servant Moses, calls upon His people in the following words: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deut. 6:4–7.
Says Solomon, to whom the Lord had granted a greater degree of wisdom than to any other mortal: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6.
Says the prophet Isaiah: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord: and great shall be the peace of thy children.” Is. 54:13.
When the crucified and risen Lord, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, had questioned the repentant Peter regarding the apostle’s love for the Saviour, and Peter had assured Him of his love, we have this touching command from Christ: “Feed my lambs.” Joh. 21:15. Jesus wants His precious lambs to be taught only by such as can truthfully say that they love Him.
And what does Paul, the great apostle to the gentiles, have to say on the question? Listen to his warning words: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4.
Can any enlightened Christian plead ignorance of God’s wish in the matter of providing for the proper training of the child? No, it is not the lack of knowledge which all too often stands as an hindrance, but rather the will to act according to that knowledge. What the head must admit the heart denies. That Jesus, his only Saviour, will be displeased because of his hindering the little children from coming to Him, does not concern him half so much as what the unbelieving world will say about his ideas of education. And not only the world and the devil stand allied against him in this vital question; his own sinful flesh also objects. It costs so much of that which is dearer to his heart than eternal life. And what is that? The answer will be found in the words immediately following our text.
Love of Money.
Here we are told of a certain young man who came to Jesus with a serious question: “Good master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” When Jesus answers him: “Thou knowest the commandments” etc., the young man answers that he has kept these from his youth. And when Jesus continues by telling him: “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me,” what happened? “He was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” He wanted to be saved, but when it involved the sacrificing of his possessions in this world, he would have nothing further to do with Christ. Jesus was too unreasonable.
And, dear hearer, is there not the same fuming away from Christ to-day when He makes known His demands in the matter of training the child? You would like to save the soul of your child, but are you willing to sacrifice to the extent which Christ demands? The Saviour tells you in our text that it is in the impressionable years of childhood that the kingdom is gladly received. There is no time in life when it is easier to accept Christ in humble faith than in the days of your childhood. Isn’t it with the soft clay that the potter works? Isn’t it in the spring of the year you plant your corn? Isn’t it as the twig is bent the tree will grow?
What impression does your child receive of the value of spiritual things from the nature of its training? The child soon learns to understand what is considered important and what is only secondary. Can you expect that your boy and girl shall become enthused over a thing which is treated more or less as a side issue? Why is it that there are among the Norwegian Lutherans so few who to-day are willing to enter the ministry, become missionaries? Can you justly expect that the public schools shall furnish us with workers in the vineyard? Doesn’t the sad state of affairs in the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America give us food for serious thought? With a membership approximating 500,000 souls, how many young men did it the last year send to its seminary? THIRTY ONE. Isn’t it plain to every thinking man and woman that the future of our church lies hidden in the Christian day school of to-day? Truthfully has it been said by one of the brethren: “The church which does not provide for the proper training of the child doesn’t have to worry about the future; it has no future.”
We shrink hack in horror when we read about the sacrificing of infants to the gruesome idol, Moloch. But there are children, countless children, being sacrificed in so-called Christian homes and congregations to-day to an idol as cruel and destructive — the god of this world, whose high priest is the love of money.
Unless we would have our children, our church, our posterity in generations to come, robbed of the blessed light of the Gospel, we must be ready to suffer with Christ, carry the cross which true discipleship ever brings with it. Yea, we must do it for our own soul’s sake. For does not Paul expressly state: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us”? II Tim. 2:12. We must here with David humbly pray: “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” Oh, may the gracious God, through His word and Spirit of truth, so enlighten us in this vital question that every member of our Synod may truthfully confess: “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Phil. 3:8.
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The subject assigned to me in this group of papers is “The Pew.”
The pew is a piece of furniture placed in the church for the convenience of church-goers. Webster’s dictionary offers this definition for pew: “A compartment in a church having seats for several persons.”
The object of this paper is not to discuss the style, cost or size of the pew, but the proper use of it.
The word pew, family-pew, has been used in the church to designate certain places for groups or families. The pew naturally, then, would be characterized according to its occupants. Hence, we have the terms prayerful pew, critical pew etc. In this paper we will confine our remarks principally to the occupied pew and the unoccupied pew.
When the members of an orthodox Lutheran congregation build a house of worship, furnishing it with pews as well as pulpit, they do so intending that the pews as well as the pulpit should be occupied. From the pulpit the message of the Lord goes forth to the pew, to be accepted in meek and believing hearts. The church is not built nor furnished for entertainment or as a place where idle hours are to be spent.
Jesus calls it a place where he is “about His Father’s business.”
The ideal pew is a pew whose occupants are, in the first place, fully aware of the fact that the office of the ministry is divinely instituted. When Christ commanded, Mark. 16:15, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel,” He also meant that all should hear the preaching. Without the pew, the pulpit would be superfluous.
Jesus also says to the disciples, “He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me.” Hence the ideal pew hears the voice of the Lord in the preaching. It is only to be expected then, that such hearers of the Word are prayerful, devout, earnest in their meditations, ready to accept reproval and corrections as well as consolation and help.
The pages of the Bible refer to many examples of dutiful and diligent worshippers in the house of God: Hannah, the mother of Samuel, I Sam. 1 and 2; Luke 2:25 fol. We are told concerning Anna that she departed not from the temple but served God with fasting and prayer day and night. Mary, Joseph and the Christ-child, Luke 2:41; Psalm 84:2. “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord, My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God”; 27:4. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” Psalm 42.4: “I pour out my soul in me: for I have gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise with a multitude that keep holy day.” Psalm 26:6–8: “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house and the place where Thine honor dwelleth.” Of the first Christians we read, Acts 2:46: “And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”
In the ideal pew there is consciousness of the presence of the Lord in grace and mercy according to His promises. “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them.” Where His word is preached according to His command and the Sacraments administered according to His institution, there the Lord is present.
The family pew would without a doubt be an ideal arrangement in the church also in our day. What a blessing if families in groups could gather for the public worship — parents and children, young and old. The children could thus be trained by the parents not only to go to church and have a place of their own in the church, but also be taught to really worship when in church. It is not difficult for a child to form a habit of going to church and really to worship. They do, however, need the help and guidance of pious parents. Nature does not lead the child to perform such duties. It must come through training. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6. Our duty as parents is to train the children to go to church — to sing and pray in the congregation as well as to listen to the preaching.
In the occupied pew will be found, however, not only prayerful and meditative minds; but also critical minds bent on criticizing and scrutinizing everything and everybody save themselves; and frivolous minds, seeking nothing in particular. These last will be amused at anything and everything, detracting their own thoughts as well as the thoughts of others from the word and worship. Against such we are admonished. Eccl. 5:1. “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.”
The Unoccupied Pew.
While the pew occupied by regular worshipers is a sign of strength and life in the congregation, the vacant pew is usually a sign of stagnancy and decay.
The complaint of vacant pews is very general. In the Reformed, as well as many of the Lutheran churches, efforts have been made to bring back-sliders back to the pew by organizing various activities within the congregation. Men, women, young men, young women, big girls and little girls, big boys and little boys have their own organizations. Lunches and amusement is used, to attract the disinterested to attend these meetings. Many who take an active part in such organizations nevertheless remain absent from the pew.
The unoccupied pew usually tells us the sad story that its occupants have become indifferent to the voice of the Lord.
Possibly many of these absent ones never found a place of their own in the church. They always had a feeling of being strangers and visitors in the pew. They have never been touched by the spirit of Psalm 26.8: “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house and the place where Thine honor dwelleth.” They never could say, according to verse 12, “My foot standeth in an even place; in the congregations will I bless the Lord.” It is likely in such cases that they have never been trained to worship regularly. Instead of following the call of the Lord to worship with fellow-believers, they have followed the temptations of the devil, the world and their own flesh, and thus have been led away from the pew. The way to the pew is beset with thousands of temptations. That was the case also in the days of the apostles. Therefore the apostle admonished Heb. 10:25: “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.”
The Lord’s day is used by many members of congregations in our day first of all to satisfy their desires for amusements and pleasure. The automobile has placed nearly every family in our country within easy reach of places of Sunday-amusement, where thousands gather every Sunday to spend the day. Often one car will carry a part of the family in one direction, while another car will carry others of the family group in another direction; or while some go to church other members of the family go out pleasure seeking. Such conditions work disastrously on the pew. The temptations are so strong and numerous that even the regular and habitual church-goer will at times yield. When one is disinclined to go to church excuses come easily. Following might serve as examples:
“I can read a sermon or my Bible at home.”
“I can take in a good sermon by radio.”
“I have read the Bible, I don’t need to go to church.”
“I don’t see that those who go to church regularly are better than others.”
“No one is saved by going to church.”
“I have often gone to church without perceiving any blessings from it.”
Then there are such excuses as for instance: being tired; bad weather; bad roads; company at home, etc.
These and similar objections all breathe more or less disregard (some of them even contempt) for the ordinances and holy Word of God. There is only one way effectually and rightly to over- come these temptations, and that is to go to the Scriptures and search out the way and the will of the Lord. Then to meet all temptations and excuses presenting themselves with the Word, “it is written.”
If the way of the Lord is found, and His word taken to heart, one will gain strength and courage to overcome all temptations, finding that the most pleasant hours and the most blessed hours are those spent in the habitations of the Lord.
One will go to church for God’s sake, for one’s own sake, and for the sake of fellow-men.
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True Christian Progress in Congregational Life
The goal of true Christian progress is fully expressed in the words of St. Paul (1. Tim. 2:4).
“God our Saviour will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
To attain the salvation of all men He has founded His Kingdom of Grace, the Holy Christian Church, upon earth. The one great mission of the church is to save souls through the means of grace. God’s word, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In order to accomplish this the church must do three things: (1) It must keep the Word of God and the two Sacraments pure and unadulterated. (2) It must use them diligently for its own spiritual upbuilding. (3) It must bring these blessed means of grace to all who do not yet belong to the Kingdom of God.
To guide and lead and conduct the work of the church in preaching and teaching the word of God and administering the sacraments, God has instituted the office of the ministry. Ephes. 4:11 and 12:
“He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Paul writes of himself to the Romans, 1,1:
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.”
And again in 2 Cor. 5:19b and 20:
“God hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
The pastors of to-day are not as St. Paul apostles; but they are like St. Paul to be the servants of Jesus Christ and “separated unto the gospel of God.” To them also God has committed the word of reconciliation. They are ambassadors for Christ. They are the prophets, the spokesmen through whom the great prophet Christ Jesus beseeches men. They are separated. They are not to be farmers, or business men of any kind, neither merchants, bankers, miners, agents, real estate men or politicians. They are separated from these things. Neither are they to be the janitors of the church, the financial or business agents of the church, or the general errand boys of the congregation as so often happens in these days. Nor are they to give up all their time to the social or sociological or humanitarian or charity work of the congregation. All these things are a waste for pastor and congregation. God has separated the minister from these things. Others can do them, and do them better.
The pastor is “separated unto the gospel of God.” — Therefore St. Paul also writes to Timothy, 1. Tim. 4:16:
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine, continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
The minister shall remember his calling, his office, remember that he is separated, watch and pray. He shall remember that he is a servant, an angel, a messenger, a prophet speaking for God. He shall take heed unto the doctrine, and continue in it. He shall not teach his own wisdom but God’s doctrine, God’s teaching. Therefore, he must know God’s doctrine. He must pray and study, pray as though all depended on God, work and study as though all depended on himself, as Luther says. — This will make for true inward progress in the minister and in the congregation.
But the congregation must also co-operate. The congregation should first of all see its minister in the right light as the servant of Jesus Christ and as separated unto the gospel of God. Every member of the congregation should remember that its minister occupies an exalted and peculiar position as the prophet and spokesman of Jesus Christ.
The congregation should therefore most carefully and jealously guard, preserve and protect its minister, his person, his health, his reputation, his time, his ability, his efforts, his message and his labors.
The minister is the congregation’s greatest and most precious temporal possession. Conservation of its minister should be the congregation’s chief concern.
This is done both materially and spiritually:
(1) Materially. — When the congregation, every member doing his part, sees to that the minister is separated as much as possible from worldly duties and cares. Every task that others can do should be taken away from the pastor. Do not let him do such things, even if he wants to. Provide him with what he needs, so that he may be free from temporal cares and worries. Such are a great waste. A hard-up, worrying minister is a congregation’s poorest investment. God is not mocked. If you starve the minister, God will punish. Jesus says: “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” (Luke 10:7). St. Paul says, 1. Cor. 9:14: “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” Gal. 6:6 and 7: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” You are to share all good things with your pastor and therefore to keep him as well as you keep yourself. This is of great importance to true Christian progress; but that which is of far greater importance is the spiritual conservation of your pastor.
How shall this be accomplished?
1. Pray for your pastor daily and regularly. Pray God to protect and keep and bless him.
2. Show him and others that you receive him as the servant of God.
3. Be present regularly at every service. Take an active, earnest part in the worship, the prayers, the hymns. Receive the Scripture lesson and its exposition in the sermon as a message from God to you personally, and keep it and treasure it in your heart, and make application of it in your life.
4. Watch over your pastor. He is human; he may err. Do not sit filled with the spirit of criticism; but receive the message and then go home and compare it with the word of God. Be like the Bereans of whom we read Acts 17:11:
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
Thus you also should search the Scriptures daily for your- self.
5. All these things should find their spiritual climax in a frequent and devout use of the Sacrament of the Altar. Most assuredly much of the weakness of Christendom to-day is due to the great neglect of the Lord’s Supper. Luther is so strict on this point that he says, he cannot consider the person a Christian who does not receive the Lord’s Supper at least four times a year. What would Luther say of most of our members to-day?
Of the members of the first Christian congregation in Jerusalem we read Acts 2:42:
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer.”
May God help us, both pastors and church members, to follow their example, and so to make real true progress in Christian congregational life. Amen!
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The Congregational Meeting; the Use of Members in Personal Mission Work
God calls a Christian by various names, each with a significance of its own. We are called the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the temple of Christ, soldiers, pilgrims, elect, heirs, saints, children. Not one of these names would we forego, for each one implies privileges and glories. Though we may at times feel that the expression “child” reflects on our matureness and our years, still it means this to us that we have sole right to call God our Father. Though “saint” seems an impossible and incredible dignity, yet it is confirmed by the mouth of very God, and every true Christian is a true saint in the sight of God for Christ’s sake. “Heirs” implies that an inheritance, and that as a free gift which we have not earned, is bestowed upon us by God, a heavenly inheritance, the glory of which we only faintly realize. “Soldiers” implies hardships, dangers, battles, long and weary training; but “soldiers of Christ” brings with it the idea and firm assurance of victory, for our Commander has already gained the victory and proclaimed it throughout the abyss of hell. “Pilgrims” implies longings, privations, weary wanderings; but “pilgrims of Christ” signifies a happy and abiding goal, not distant, but already in sight and beckoning wondrously.
Christ says: “Ye are mv friends … I have called you friends,” (John 15). It is as the “Friends of Christ” we would consider our relation to the congregational meeting and personal mission work.
We may say that friendship is formed by the mutual affinity of two or more persons. There is something in each which involuntarily and naturally attracts the other. Friendship may also be formed by the one seeking the other. In forming friendship one would make sure that the other is a worthy object of his confidence and regard. To form friendship with an unworthy person will reflect on our own character, and such friendship does not have abiding quality. But if we have discovered a person with whom we would like to associate on the intimate ground of friendship, because of certain qualities he has, we will also be obliged to show him that we are worthy of his confidence and esteem.
Christ explains how the friendship between Him and the Christian was established. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.” In this case, then, the one party has sought the other. Would we say that it was because the Lord Jesus needed us that He sought us? Would we say that He looked carefully and inquired into the worthiness of our person and character before He chose us and ordained us to be His friends? Is it in pride we stand before God and say: God chose me to be His friend like Moses and Abraham (2. Chron. 20:7) and Lazarus; how much He must love me in preference to the many who cannot be called the friends of God! We, whom God’s own word has condemned as unworthy “of even the least of all the mercies, and all the truth” which He has showed us (Gen. 32,10)? The centurion confessed: “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof” (Matt. 8:8); and John Baptist: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.”
There is a friendship where one seeks the other, because the one who is sought needs the one who seeks. The rich benefactor does not need the beggar whom he clothes, feeds and starts off on a new road to happiness. The kind physician does not need the friendship of the little crippled child whom he has taken pity on and cured at his own expense. But a strong bond of friendship has been established between that rich man and that beggar, that physicians and that child. It was pity inspired by love that moved the benefactor to help him who was in need, and by this act of love the one who was in need turns in love and gratitude toward his benefactor. The woman who out of love and pity adopts a little waif and tenderly cares for it will soon find that her love is returned to her and that a bond of friendship has been formed by this act of love. The Bible says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” and has thereby explained how the friendship between God and us was established. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. … We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4). This, then, the ground for the friendship.
The term “friend” expresses the truth. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Not many days after Jesus had uttered these words, He willingly and calmly did this very thing. If we at any time are tempted to doubt the fact that we are the friends of God, being troubled by this that we may be lonely, and apparently forsaken by even God Himself, tempted because one calamity seems to follow the other in quick succession in our life, then let us take this passage and let its words cheer and assure us anew: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends.” There is the everlasting proof: the death of Christ assures me of the fact that I am a friend of Christ.
God Himself has no greater proof than this. But He adds this: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” When Jesus had spoken in parables to the people, the disciples “came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. … But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” (Matt. 13). And therefore the Apostle Paul can say: “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1. Cor. 2,10). And the same Apostle says: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1. Cor. 4). The proof of friendship lies on the one hand in the degree of willingness to sacrifice, on the other in the degree of intimacy which prevails between the persons concerned. In both Jesus has spared nothing.
To this extent our God and Savior Christ proves His friendship toward us. Shall it go unrequited, unrewarded? Does the benefactor who befriends the beggar have no right to expect the expression of loving thankfulness in return? Does the woman who has adopted a little waif and showered upon it her love and lavish care, does she not long for the first expression of love returned? Thus Jesus says: “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth much fruit, and that your fruit should remain. … This is my commandment that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” Jesus has done everything which true friendship demands. He might have a right to except and demand and even force our abject service as slaves; but He says: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.” And we read: “As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry: Abba, Father.” The service He asks of us is as from a friend, as from a living branch on a vine; in other words, a service rendered in the thankful spirit of a friend, in the loving spirit of a child, and as inevitably and naturally as a living branch on a living vine brings forth the fruits which the vine ordains.
In the face of this relation between the Christian and God, it is difficult to understand the apathy of most Christians toward the congregational meeting and personal mission work. God has invited us to be friends, partners, coworkers in His business; He has pointed out the way to show that friendship, saying: “do whatsoever I command you.” But the application of this, — how listless! The congregational meeting is a sacred institution where every word that is spoken, every resolution passed, even the very atmosphere should be charged with the holy love of God and His Word and the sacred purpose of carrying out that divine commission to the congregation of believers: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” No secular business would stand, not to speak of flourishing if it were conducted in the disinterested spirit of most congregational meetings. Few souls would be saved if mission work were left to the majority of members. How many Christians think of visiting those who live in their immediate neighborhood for the express purpose of inviting the unchurched whom they may find, to their church?
Certain difficulties are there, it is true, to be overcome. He who forgets the meeting of the voting members may be reminded by a card from the secretary. If the men are tired after the day’s work, let the meeting be well planned and carried out in the spirit of enthusiasm and vigor, closing at a reasonable time. If a person is disinterested, let him not be condemned at once, but let him continue to hear the gospel and the privileges it affords; let him be informed as to the work of the congregation and the church at large: let him be given something specific to do corresponding to his talents and training; let the life of the congregation as revealed in the congregational meetings not be stagnant so that it repels rather than attracts; let the young man be made to realize that he is needed and that his problems are a real concern of the congregation. If a Christian hesitates because of his years, his education or his peculiar circumstances to go out alone on personal mission calls, let a general canvass be made where two and two may go together and having received definite instruction beforehand. If other difficulties are present, let them not remain a hindrance, but let them by prayerful study and deliberate effort be overcome.
As we look back upon our personal life and individual opportunities for mission work, we can only pray to God to have mercy on us for our neglect. As we look back upon lost opportunities and sinful unconcern in our congregational life as exhibited in our congregational meetings, the cry goes up to high heaven again: Have mercy on us! How many a Christian “friend” of Christ has not proved with Judas that “the friend of the world is an enemy of God” (Jas. 4,4), having forsaken the friendship of God for the friendship of the world.
True progress in our congregational meetings and in the use of our members in personal mission work will be recorded only when true progress is made in the friendship with Christ. The friends of Christ are the co-laborers with Christ; the cause of Christ is their cause; the command of Christ is their greatest privilege; the glory of Christ their highest aim and purpose; the love of Christ is their greatest happiness; the revelation of Christ is their greatest treasure; the other friends of Christ their greatest concern. Let the friendship with Christ be the keynote in our congregational meetings, the impelling force in our missionary activity.
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In our day such great progress has been made in caring for the finances of the Church, that in many churches the question of finance has become the all absorbing topic. And some of the members in our own churches seem to be able to discuss only this one phase of our church work. It might seem to some therefore, that this question ought to be barred from a discussion of true Christian progress.
And yet it is important to include this in a full discussion of the subject before us. It is necessary to look after the financial end of our work rightly, if we are to be successful, and right here among us we need to make true progress in this phase of the work.
The Bible frequently speaks of money in connection with the Church and its work. The Bible very clearly teaches that Christian giving is both a Christian privilege and a Christian duty. It records beautiful examples which are to encourage Christians to bring liberal thankofferings to the Lord. It promises great blessings to cheerful and liberal givers; and it pronounces a curse upon the slothful servants who fail to return to the Lord that which is His own.
In the old covenant definite laws were given for the purpose of providing the means needed in the worship of the Lord. The Israelites were required to give a tenth of their earnings for this purpose, and instances are on record that tithes were given twice and even three times. The first born in each family, if it were a son, was to be offered unto the Lord, to serve Him directly in His worship. And later, after the whole tribe of Levi had been designated to lead the worship of the people, a sacrifice was to be offered for each first born son of the other tribes sufficient to care for the members of this one tribe.
In the new covenant all these definite ceremonial laws have been abolished; but we have not thereby been released from the duty to build up and support the Church of God. God also now requires our service, though it has now become a free service governed by the law of love as the highest law. Christ Himself sat by the treasury of the temple watching with much interest the gifts that were placed therein. And our God and Savior keeps a record also to-day both of the size of our gifts and of the spirit in which we give them.
When the people of the old covenant neglected to pay their tithes, they were accused of robbing God, and His curse was pronounced upon them. He says, Mal. 3,7–9: “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.”
God will judge us likewise to-day. When He has blessed the labors of our hands, He expects us to use the means given us for our spiritual as well as for our temporal welfare. He thereby demands but His own. And if we hold back some of the earthly goods entrusted to us, which should serve to promote our spiritual welfare, we rob God of that to which He is clearly entitled for the building up of His Church on earth.
For what purpose are the gifts of the Christians required in the congregation? We need places where we may gather for worship and school buildings for the Christian instruction of our children. Equipment is needed for church and school. And these buildings and equipment ought to be in keeping with the means of the members. David recognized this duty, when he wanted to build a temple for the worship. He says, 2. Sam. 7,2: “I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.” God says by the prophet Haggai, 1,2–4: “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”
The curse of God is pronounced upon the people who neglect to fulfill this duty. We read, Hag. 1,5–11: “Now, therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord d hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men and upon cattle, and upon all the labor of the hands.” Thus will the Lord at all times deal with those who call themselves His people, but revel in the enjoyment of all conveniences in their own homes, and leave the Lord’s house lie waste. It is plainly the duty of every Christian congregation to equip itself as far as possible so as to he able to use all the opportunities offered to edify young and old with the blessed means of grace.
And it is the duty of the congregation to give its pastor and teachers sufficient support to enable them to do their work properly, with joy and not with grief. These servants should not be forced to be burdened with cares for this life, so that the efficiency of their work will be hampered thereby. We read, Gal. 6,6–8: “Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Christ gives the following instruction to His apostles, when they are about to go out on their mission: “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat.” Matt. 10,9.10. In 1. Cor. 9,14 we read: “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” The pastor and teacher should receive support in keeping with the means of the members of the congregation. These servants should not be forced to continue to labor under the difficulties of pioneer times, after the members have become prosperous and enjoy all modern conveniences.
But besides this, every Christian congregation should make provision for those of its own members that are in need. The Church in Jerusalem sets a splendid example in this respect. We read Acts 4,34–35: “Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet; And distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” While God does not require that we sell all our property for this purpose, He does require that same helpful, self-sacrificing spirit for the benefit of our brethren. Our own brethren in faith should not be permitted to become the object of the charity of others. But we should on the contrary make provision for helping others in our own neighborhood that are in need, besides taking care of our own brethren.
God requires of all Christians that they prove the sincerity of their love to the Lord by contributing of their earthly means for the cause of His Kingdom. The old custom that the father pays the church contribution for the whole family is not Biblical. Every communicant member ought to be a regular contributor to the treasuries of the Church. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him.” 1 Cor. 16,2. “Every man, according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give.” 2 Cor. 9,7.
And we are all to give according to our means. Christ praised the widow that brought her farthings into the temple treasury. Her gift was very large because she gave all that she had. The large gifts of the rich were not spoken of so highly, because they were not by any means in keeping with their ability. God demands that we give according to our ability. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold gifts of God.” 1 Pet. 4,10.
Finally, it is quite important for the welfare of the Church that there is the right system in our finances. God wants everything to be done decently and in order in His Church. “God is not the author of confusion.” 1 Cor. 14,33. In the Old Testament God Himself had established the tithing system. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul writes: “Now concerning the collection for the Saints, as I have given order in the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” 1 Cor. 16,1–2. We see here that Paul had introduced systematic giving in the churches of Galatia. He now asks the Corinthian church to introduce the same system. His system was this, that each one should lay aside on the first day of the week an amount in keeping with his ability, so that sufficient funds would be on hand to meet any contingency. Then they would not need to scramble for these funds for every need that might arise.
A similar system is being widely used in our churches to-day, the envelope system. Many city congregation composed mostly of laboring people would not be able to meet all their heavy expenses without such a system for regular contributions by all the members. But even most congregations in the country at the present time would profit by introducing a system of this kind.
A wonderful promise of rich blessings is held out to all cheerful and liberal givers. Luke 6,38: “Give and it shall be given you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” 2 Cor. 9,6: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Many give sparingly because they imagine that they cannot afford to give more. What a mistake! On the contrary, we should feel that we cannot afford to give little. God says: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house; and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room to receive it.” Mal. 3,1O.
May God fill our hearts with zeal to be about our heavenly Father’s business also by cheerful giving of our earthly possessions for the glory of God’s name and for the salvation of souls!
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Ladies’ Aid Societies — Men’s Societies — Young Peoples’ Societies — Choirs
In order that there may be real progress in our congregational life, there are many who claim that the church must not only teach and preach the Word of God, but it must also take an active part in municipal affairs. The Church must be a social center, and it must be politically active. It must also seek to provide good entertainment for the people. Hence there must be clubs for men and clubs for boys and clubs and societies of nearly all descriptions. Now I do not mean to say that it is wrong to have certain dubs and societies in the congregation, yet I fear that the society and club business is being overdone in many a church to-day, and that there is a tendency to overestimate the value of these activities in the Church. I fear that there is too much eating and drinking in connection with our church work. I am not opposed to entertainment and sociability, but let us not carry those things too far. Let us emphasize more the one thing needful, the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. Furthermore, if the pastor is to be able to teach and preach the Word effectively and attend to his real important duties, it will not do for him to spend a great deal of his precious time attending clubs and society meetings. Yet it would hardly be wise to go to the other extreme and say to our church people, We don’t want you to have any societies in your midst. There are some societies which I believe have been a blessing to many a congregation, and if properly conducted, can be of considerable service to the church. — There is for instance, the Ladies’ Aid Society. Our Ladies’ Aid Societies certainly have been a blessing to our congregations. They have been instrumental in raising thousands and thousands of dollars for the church. In Luke 8 we read, that when Jesus went about through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of The Kingdom of God, there were certain women who followed Him and ministered unto Him of their substance. Following the example of these good women our Ladies’ Aid Societies are serving Jesus in a similar manner. Their work is to be commended, and in order that the service which they are rendering may in every way be pleasing to God there are a few suggestions I would like to offer to the members of our Ladies’ Aid Societies. Do not make too much of the lunch. It is not necessary, and if the lunch is too elaborate, it will make the poorer members feel that they simply cannot afford to entertain the society. In entertaining the society, your main object should not be that you can take in an extraordinary large sum of money, so that you can have the honor of having done better in this respect than most, if not all, of the other members. Your object should not be self-glorification, but to glorify Him who became poor for our sakes, that through His poverty we might be rich. Furthermore, don’t invite people to your society, who belong to a church which is of a different faith than your own. You will feel in duty bound to return the favor, when the party you have invited entertains her society, and you have no right to give your dimes and quarters or even nickles toward the support of a church which is of a different faith than your own. Then make much of the devotion. If the pastor cannot be present, let some member conduct the devotion by reading a portion of Holy Writ and leading in prayer. Or let her read a piece from Laache’s “Book of Family Prayer” or some other good book of devotion. Some societies have adopted the custom of making a number of articles, which are either sold for the benefit of the church or given to some institution of charity, which the church is maintaining. Much of this work is being done at their meetings. This is very commendable and all our societies would do well in following this custom.
Another society which deserves our support is the Men’s Society. This society affords a splendid opportunity for studying and discussing the various doctrines of the Church. And in view of the fact that it is the men especially who are to be the leaders of the congregation, it is of the greatest importance that they become thoroughly familiar with all the doctrines of the church to which they belong. If, however, a men’s society does not have this as its object or does not aim to render some real service to the church; if those who constitute the society get together merely for a social time, or perhaps for the purpose of having a debate on some subject which has really no connection with the church, it has no right to exist as a society of the Church or within the congregation. The question may also be raised whether the pastor’s time could not be better employed, if instead of attending the men’s society, he would devote this time to studying God’s Word, so that his sermons might be as instructive and effective as possible. However, a men’s society when properly conducted certainly can be a means of furthering the cause of God’s Kingdom.
Besides the two societies we have briefly discussed, I wish to mention one more, namely, the Young People’s Society. This society is of such a character that more attention should be given to it than any other society in the church. A young people’s society, if rightly conducted, may be a great blessing to a congregation, but if it is not rightly conducted, is very apt to do a great deal of harm, and in that case the congregation would be much better off without it. It should be always borne in mind that a young people’s society has no right to exist for a purpose of its own, but its purpose should be to serve the Church and should be in complete control of the local congregation. The main purpose of the young people’s society should be to acquaint its members and those who come to its meetings with Christian Truth, so that their faith may become more firmly rooted and grounded in God’s Word, in order that they may stand firm in the temptations surrounding them at all times. The object of the young people’s society should thus be identical with that of the congregation. It cannot therefore do better than to have regular Bible study at its meetings. A second purpose of the young people’s society should be to promote Christian fellowship among its members, to make the fellowship of fellow-church members so agreeable that there is no desire to seek other company. Besides the educational feature there should therefore also be some sociability at the meetings of the young people’s society, thus giving the young people of the church an opportunity to keep acquainted and united in Christian fellowship and sociability. I therefore also believe that there are certain games which our young people may be allowed to play at their meetings. I have in mind games of the character recommended by Prof. Engelbrecht in his splendid book on Young People’s Societies, which I would advise the young people and pastors to secure. If care is taken to eliminate everything of an objectionable character, I can see no harm in this. We must not give our young people the impression that a Christian cannot be joyful, for a Christian can and should be joyful at all times, and this should especially be the case with the young people. Finally is should be the object of the young people’s society to assist in works of charity, in work for the Church, in raising funds to further some worthy cause of the congregation or the Church. However, the great goal which must always be kept in view in all the activities of our young people’s societies should be the salvation of our young people and the glory of God.
But in speaking of progress in congregational life and in seeking to show how this progress may be attained, we must finally also mention the Church Choir. The activity of the Church Choir is of such a character that we should do all in our power to encourage it. While a choir is by no means indispensable to a congregation, yet if it is at all possible the congregation should aim to have a choir and as good a choir as possible. The Lutheran Church has been called the singing church, and there is every reason in the world why the orthodox Lutheran Church should be a singing Church. The Lutheran Church is the Church of the pure Gospel, and therefore, it is the best church on earth. It has to be admitted, however, that most of our congregations are not the singing congregations they aught to be, and that there is much need of progress in regard to our congregational singing. And the choir can be made a very effective means in attaining this progress. The choir can render a great service in leading the singing at the services, in the singing of the responses to the chants and in awakening interest in real church music among the church members. If the pastor is able to direct his own choir, it will also give him an opportunity to keep in constant touch with those young people who constitute the choir and of impressing upon them many an important truth set forth in the songs and anthems he rehearses with them. There should, however, be a limit to the time that a pastor should devote to the training of his choirs. While the giving of song services, cantatas and oratorios is to be highly commended, we must again and again emphasize the one thing needful — the teaching and preaching of the Word, for it is through this means alone that God’s Kingdom is built.
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C. True Christian Progress in Synodical Relations
Deeper Consciousness and Sense of Responsibility for Maintaining Pure Doctrine.
When our Synod was organized we adopted a constitution in which the purposes of the organization are set forth. One of the chief purposes is to “preserve purity and unity of doctrine.” This is a mutual agreement between the congregations constituting our Synod. By this agreement each congregation individually and all of them jointly have agreed not to tolerate any false doctrine in their own midst nor of any of the sister congregations. If any congregation permits its pastor or teachers to preach, teach or practice any doctrine contrary to or at variance with the confessions of the Church, it is plainly the duty of all the other congregations to admonish such erring congregation, pastor or teachers. In this, respect none of them can say “am I my brother’s keeper,” and continue to be a member of good standing in the Synod. It is not only our duty, however, to admonish and correct others when they err, but it is our duty to harken to the correction of the brethren. As honest men we must keep faith with one another and live up to the agreement which we have freely entered into. It is proper and right, therefore, to encourage one another to be faithful and each for himself endeavor to grow in consciousness of our responsibility for maintaining pure doctrine. To this end, doctrinal discussions are necessary as well as continual study of the Scriptures and Confessions.
When we speak of growth or progress in this connection, we do not mean to say, that our Confessions are incomplete as not containing the whole truth, nor do we mean that the truth confessed can be added to or improved, for we confess the whole truth unto salvation as it is revealed in all the Scriptures, the Bible. We confess that the Bible contains the whole revelation of God, and that the whole Bible is the Word of God. Therein we have God’s whole counsel and plan of salvation for all mankind. If we are to make any progress in this matter, it must be by growing in consciousness of our responsibility as stewards of the great treasure entrusted to us. By the grace of God, we now have the whole truth of God. We have the gospel in its full, sweet purity, and we have the law in its divine perfection, demanding an absolute and complete obedience of all men. We have also the Lutheran Confessions, a systematic exposition of the doctrines of the law and the gospel, applied in such a manner, that we have in them a safe guide in the defense of the truth.
The pure doctrine o£ the Word of God is our heritage. Our forefathers in the Church regarded it as their greatest treasure. With joyful hearts they cherished it, and invited all men to share their joy. They spent their lives in its defense. To them no labor was too great, no suffering too painful to bear, that this great treasure might be preserved to their posterity. They regarded the pure doctrine of the Church as a treasure entrusted to them by the Lord, and counted themselves as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1). They kept in remembrance the words of the Apostle: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man is found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:2). Do we respect our fathers? Let us emulate their example!
The great treasure has come into our hands. What will we do with it? Will we continue the struggle? Is it necessary in our time? There are many in our day who object to what they term “this ceaseless wrangling and quarreling,” as being contrary to Christian love. For this reason they hold that the time has come, when the struggle for pure doctrine in our church should cease. They remind us of these words of Christ; “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35). They quote the words of St. John: “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death;” and the words of Paul: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as a sounding-brass or a tinkling cymbal. And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Cor. 13:1.13). They call our attention to Gal. 5:15: “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye are not consumed one of another.” They point to the need of the Church in these last evil times in the world, and the greatest evil is the lack of charity; a united church is needed to combat the evil in the world. They say: “We, too, are followers of Christ, and are earnestly striving for the upbuilding of His kingdom. We cannot afford to stand separated. We preach charity and would exercise charity towards all men. Drop contention and join us. A united Christian Church will be a mighty army to rout the powers of evil. Drop all ‘quarrelling and wrangling’ concerning doctrines and creed, that there be no more factions among us, but a united effort to save the world.”
What true Christian is not sorely tried, when confronted with these arguments? He would live peaceably with all men as much as lieth in him. Charity is his lifeblood. He cannot live without it, and his heart rejoices in the exercise of it. It is true that brotherly love is an indispensable criterion of true Christianity. Without charity all Christian virtues are an empty show, and even the most exalted talents are unprofitable without it. It is also true that all uncharitable “wrangling and quarrelling” are productive of nothing but evil. It is not true, however, that contending for pure doctrine is uncharitable wrangling and quarrelling. The Apostle writes: “Behold, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3). Here we are exhorted to “earnestly contend for the faith,” for the pure doctrine. When God bids us contend, shall we desist? Is it charity to make peace when God bids us to carry on war? No! We must “earnestly contend for the faith which once was delivered unto the saints.” The “faith” was “delivered” unto the saints. It was not given and conveyed to them as a possession with which they could do as they pleased. They were made “stewards of the mysteries of God.” It was delivered unto them, but it remained the property of God. Is it charity in a steward to make presents to others of his masters property? Was it charity of that steward who said to the man who owed his master a hundred measures of oil, “sit down quickly and write fifty?” No, it was not charity. It was theft and robbery! He stole his master’s property, and he caused his neighbor to commit a crime and lose his soul. Is it love to God to permit human doctrine and philosophies to take the place of His Word? Is it charity to stand by and let souls starve on the husks of human reason and sentiment, when the true bread of life has been given into our hands to dispense to the multitudes? No, indeed, it is our duty to take away the husks and hand out the loaves, that men may eat and live.”
May we be faithful stewards who rejoice at the coming of the Master! Amen.
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In the first chapter of Genesis verses 11 and 12 we read: “And God said: Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” Verses 20 to 22 we read: “And God said: Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life. and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them saying, be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas; and let fowl multiply in the earth.” In verse 28 we read a similar command to man.
Thus the Creator has commanded and has given to his creatures the power of reproduction. And nature is obedient. Notice your pansies and sweet peas how they will bud and blossom as often as you pick the flowers. They are striving to propagate themselves according to God’s plan and command. You have seen the burdock the size of little trees all loaded with burrs. You have cut it down in the hope of preventing the plant from seeding. And have you not noticed how quickly the stump sets out new growth and hurries to attach and to mature if not but a few burrs? With its last strength it seeks to propagate its kind. You have observed the cotton-wood tree sowing its seed and the thistle how it sends its tiny seed on the wings of down to distant places. You have seen the birds and how it seems to be their sole ambition and joy to build a nest. And have you seen the salmon as he ascends one cascade after another, often leaping falls in order to reach the place provided as spawning place? Have you seen them, male as well as female, emaciated and dying, floating down stream after their more than strenuous journey up stream? If you have, you know what the word zeal means.
And all this is in obedience to the will and plan of the Creator, who bade them be fruitful and multiply. Sterility in plants as well as animals is evidence of an abnormal or diseased condition.
In the case of God’s foremost creature there is not only that life which he has in common with other creatures, namely temporal existence in the flesh, but there is a life into which he is born of Water and the Spirit and which is eternal. The command to propagate this life we find Math. 28,19f: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Obedience to this command is called missionary work. Through this work children of God are born and nurtured.
You all realize, for it is selfevident, that if trees, herbs and grass should persist in neglecting to yield seed after their kind, and birds, fish, animals and man should cease being fruitful and multiply, then trees, herbs, grass, birds, fish, animals, man would soon be extinct. If God’s children, who are born of Water and the Spirit, and are His children through faith in Jesus Christ, should neglect the command given Math. 28,19f and which we just heard, the result would be equally disastrous: No more children of God would be born, and in a very short time no more heirs of salvation would be found on earth.
Missionary zeal is exemplified in the life and work of St. Paul. Nothing could deter him in his purpose or dampen his zeal. Here are some of his experiences as related by himself: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” 2 Cor. 11,24–27. In spite of all he kept on with ever increasing zeal until he was beheaded in Rome.
What was the force that impelled him onward in the face of perils, sufferings and death? The answer is given in the few following words of 2 Cor. 5,14: “The love of Christ constraineth us.”
Love, love of Christ, is the charmed word that gave St. Paul his zeal and success. Without love of the crucified and resurrected God-man Jesus Christ, the vicarious Atoner, missionary zeal and success can not be attained.
Work, much work, may indeed be done among the heathen and others at home and abroad without love of Christ. Pity, sympathy may and does move tender hearts to noble endeavors and sacrifices to alleviate suffering and sickness; to civilize the heathen and enlighten the ignorant; to save infants from the red hot arms of Moloch or from a wet grave in the Ganges; to change the horrible custom of burying the widow alive with her deceased husband and of leaving girl-babies to perish and the like. But work for a general moral and social uplift is not Christian Missionary work. Such work may, as stated, be and is pushed with vigor by many errorists who are quite indifferent as to the word and teaching of Christ. And they who can fraternize with such on the mission field, in great missionary conventions and otherwise, how can they with St. Paul say: “the love of Christ constraineth us?” For Jesus says: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14,15. One of his commandments is this: “Beware of false prophets.” Math. 7,15. Another is this: “Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” A third this: “From such turn away” such, namely, as have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. 2 Tim. 3,5.
When we speak of missionary work we do not mean the kind of work just alluded to and which may be called secular missionary work. We speak of the Christian missionary whose all absorbing purpose is to bring to the children of darkness and despair “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” and which shall keep their hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.
Can it be said of our Synod that it is zealous in this work? Are you, brother pastor, filled with missionary zeal? Are you, Mr. delegate? And you, guest of our convention? If not, why not? The reason can be only one: you are lacking in love of Christ.
If we must as a church and as individuals admit laggardly effort in Christian missionary work the indictment of God’s word against us is terrible. It means nothing less than that we are lacking in love to Him who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, upon whom our punishment was inflicted, and with whose stripes we are healed.
Can you conceive of a normal plant neglecting to hear seed after its kind, or of a bird that does not care to build a nest, or of a salmon that is so taken up with the freedom and ease of the deep sea that he does not make the trip up some stream to perpetuate his kind? Neither is it conceivable or possible that a Christian can truly rejoice in the salvation of his soul through Jesus Christ and yet remain indifferent or negligent in bringing the same joy to others. Selfishness in this respect is abhorrent and impossible to the heart where the love of Christ dwells.
To increase in missionary zeal we must increase in love of Christ. To increase in love we must grow in faith. To grow in faith we must through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit set ever new and deeper roots into the revealed Word of God.
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Christian Higher Education
The need of higher Christian education has always been recognized by our Synod. The work that is being done at the present time is the result of the belief in such education. The history of the Lutheran Church shows that eternal vigilance is necessary even after schools have been established in order that we can remain faithful to the Lutheran doctrine and not become Lutherans in name only. Experience shows that a few years attendance at a Lutheran institution does not always produce a man or a woman that is a sound Lutheran, unmoved by the temptations that they are exposed to in this country. An eight year Parochial School course and a three year Theological course are not enough. The years from the age of 14 to 20 include the most formative period of a man’s life, and it is this period which higher Christian education covers. We have access to schools that fulfill this need. Schools that have sent from their doors men and women that are not found wanting in the qualities which we are seeking. We must judge an institution by the men and women it produces and not by the students. I make no apology for the students of these schools for they are on the whole a credit and superior to other groups of their kind. Undoubtedly these schools have their faults as well as others, and no one knows those faults better than those who are working in them, and it is their constant effort to overcome them, but these schools have the one thing needful, namely the Word of God.
The important question is, how to get boys and girls to attend these institutions of higher education. This is a question that has always troubled us. However, as conditions are, we need not feel greatly discouraged since the ratio of students to members in our Synod compares favorably with that of the Missouri Synod. We remember that they are 100 short in filling all the places that asked for pastors. Our Synod is growing more proportionally than other Synods and for that reason needs a greater number of students at the various institutions of learning. Quite naturally parents, pastors and teachers must bear the brunt of this work of getting boys and girls to attend the various schools. The parents is the first teacher and it is the parents that the children look to for encouragement in any undertaking and not the least when they choose a school. The pastor comes in contact with both parents and prospective pupil, so he has an excellent opportunity to influence the decisions of both. In a great many cases the pastor is found to be the deciding factor. The teacher can also do a good deal by visiting prospective pupils in case the pastor should desire it. The teacher can also help through correspondence by giving more particular information regarding courses, expenses, living conditions etc. In many cases it is the long continued and patient work of these three that have made many a boy and girl decide to take up the work at these schools, which will prepare them to do faithful and efficient work in the Church later in life.
A powerful influence toward giving us students are our parochial schools. When the fruits of these schools begin to appear, conditions will undoubtedly be better. In some cases the boy or girl at the age of fourteen or fifteen is not ready to say that he or she will take up the work in the Church as pastors and teachers and so for that reason decide to enter other schools. This, however, should not prevent them from entering the schools of higher Christian education later, since the course in the Junior Colleges and Normal Schools are of such a nature that credit is given at practically all State and private institutions. Then there is always the possibility that they will decide to take up the work in the church.
The one best method is, of course, the continued preaching of the Word of God and thereby bringing about a fuller realization of the necessity for more workers and of the pleasure obtained in doing the work. For instance, the example of a man who spent nine years working in the Church, and who has had much greater success financially since leaving this work, says that those nine years were the happiest years of his life in spite of sixteen years of success in other fields. If we could realize fully the blessing of the work and remember that the Word of God never fails to bring forth results, then our schools would not be lacking the number of boys and girls that they are at the present time.
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Fostering Fellowship and Co-operation with Orthodox Synods; Avoiding False Alliances at Home and Abroad.
The congregation is a divine institution. It was founded on Pentecost, and three thousand souls were added at once as a result of the Pentecostal miracle. The individual believer is the unit of which the congregation is composed. This unit, the believer, is minutely described by the Word of God. Jesus says, John 14,23: “If a man love me, he will keep my words.”
The congregation is the dwelling place, the abode of Jesus Christ. Jesus says that He will make His abode, His dwelling place, with those that “love Him.” It is his relation to Jesus that makes a man a true member of a congregation. But love does not exist without faith in Christ. Love is the first fruit of faith. The whole number of those who love Jesus is the whole number of those who believe in Him. And these are the Church of Christ and of each of these Jesus says: “He will keep my words.” Keep them, that is, retain them as what they are, and for what they are given, the Word of Truth, the Word of Life, the Word of our salvation. Those who reject this Word in unbelief are not members of the Church of Christ. But those who receive the Word of the Gospel, and keep it, believe what it teaches, confide in its promises, follow its guidance, they, and they only, love Jesus, and they are the Church of Christ.
The entire assembly of those who are baptized in the name of the Triune God and profess the Christian faith is the “Church of Jesus Christ.” Properly speaking however, the Church is composed of those only who love Jesus and keep His words, those with whom the Father and the Son have made their abode, the true believers, who have been regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit and sanctified in Christ Jesus. Consequently, the Church of Jesus Christ is an institution that is invisible. Its true members are known to God only. However, it would be a grave mistake to infer, that since the true Church of Jesus Christ is invisible, and known to God only, it is immaterial to which Church or denomination we belong, and that it is only necessary to ascertain that we are true members of Christ’s invisible Church, because the Church too, has its undeceiving marks by which it may readily be recognized. And where these marks are found, there the invisible Church is hidden, so to speak, within the visible church.
The undeceiving marks of the true visible Church are the sayings — the words of Christ. He says, John 14,25.26: “These things have I spoken unto you being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.” Christ’s abode, His Church, are those that “love Him” and “keep His words.” Love, however, is something which we cannot see, but the words of Christ are perceptible to our senses, hence the Words of Christ are the infallible marks by which the true visible Church is recognized.
The Word of Christ is His Gospel, the glad tidings of salvation, the incorruptible seed concerning which God says that it shall not return void, but shall accomplish that which He pleases, and shall prosper in the things whereunto He sent it.
Added to this, we have the blessed assurance that where the Word of Christ is preached, there also the Holy Ghost is energetically active, and sinners are born again, endowed with faith; and with the fruit of faith, love of Christ and hope of life everlasting. Hence, it follows that the words of Christ are the infallible marks of the Church of Christ. An assembly that does not accept Christ’s sayings as the Word of God, but as human traditions, is an assembly of blasphemers. To this class belong the Unitarians, Universalists, Theosophists, Spiritualists, Christian Scientists, Russellites, Mormons (Latter Day Saints) and all others who deny the Trinity. 2 Cor. 6,14–18.
An assembly that accepts Christ’s words as divine in their essential parts, but at the same time distorts this precious Word to make it conform to the dictates of human reason, is an assembly that disseminates both truth and error (a corrupted church), truth producing true members of Christ’s invisible Church, and error leading people astray. To this class belong: The Catholics, the so-called Reformed churches and some Lutheran communions. But it is the sacred duty of every Christian to seek and unite with an orthodox congregation, that is ministered unto by an orthodox pastor. For God’s Word, says Matt. 10,32–33: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven.”
Luke 9,26: For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.
Rom. 10,9–10: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart men believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Luke 10,16: He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that dispiseth you, dispiseth me; and he that dispiseth me, dispiseth him that sent me.
Matt. 10,14–15: And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than that city.
V. 40–41: He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. He that recieveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
1 Cor. 1,10–13: Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that everyone of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
Eph. 4,3–6: Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Acts 2,42–44–47: And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,
If you get into an assembly where the words of Christ are received and taught as they were spoken, where His word is proclaimed in its truth and purity and where His sacraments are administered according to His institution, then you are in the true Church of Jesus Christ.
A Synod differs from a congregation in that it is not a divine but a human institution. While the true believer is the unit comprising the congregation, the congregation is the unit composing a synod.
The Word of God does not enjoin upon us to form Synods, but because they are an organization through which the work of the churches can be most economically performed, and since some work that would not be done at all can be well done through the agency of the Synod, or synods in conjunction, it is evident that they tend to glorify God’s Holy Name and should therefore be fostered, admission to them sought by pastors and congregations for the purpose of having friendly intercourse and communion and because of the opportunities it affords in co-operating in the various activities of the church at home and abroad.
As regards the young pastor the sainted Dr. Walther says in his “Pastorale” paragraph 49, page 389: “If it be the duty of every Christian to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Eph. 4,3, then this duty rests in double portion on the pastor. He should therefore seek the companionship of his colleagues and neighboring pastors, — and should, as soon as the opportunity presents itself, join a synod, attend its meetings and endeavor by the grace of God to help make them fruitful.”
As regards the congregation’s affiliation with a synod, Dr. Walther in the same paragraph continues: “It should be his (the pastor’s) aim as a whole to further synodical affiliations with all his might and to awaken and foster in the congregation enthusiasm for the work of the church as a whole. For example; to build and maintain schools for training parochial school teachers, seminaries, contribute to the maintenance of needy students, maintaining orphanages, and old peoples homes and Home and Foreign Missions.”
However, both pastors and congregations should foster fellowship and co-operation with orthodox synods only. A synod is orthodox when all the congregations of which it is composed, teach the Word of God in truth and purity and administer the sacraments as they were instituted by Jesus Christ. As the invisible Church comprises those only who love Christ and keep His words, and since the undeceiving marks of the true Church or congregation are the words, the sayings of Christ, it is evident that, since a synod consists of an indefinite number of congregations, such a synod is orthodox only when the units comprising the same have subscribed to the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments and to the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church. Dr. Walther — in Kirche u. Amt — “Every Christian is in duty bound to flee false prophets and to shun the communion of false congregations and sects.” The admonitions and warnings when found in Holy Writ addressed to the individual child of God and to the congregation, apply also to Synods.
Deut. 13,1–3: If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them, thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Matt. 7,15: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, hut inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Matt. 24,23–24: Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Acts. 20,30–31: Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
1 Cor. 10,18.21: Behold Israel after the flesh; are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the Altar? Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils.
1 Cor. 11,19: For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be manifest among you.
2 Cor. 6,14: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Gal. 5,9: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Titus 3,10.11: A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject: knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
By the grace of God our dear Evangelical Lutheran Church has adhered to the pure Word of God and the Confessions. We know that we possess the marks of Christ’s true Church. We thank God that our Synod stands firmly on the Word of God and the Confessional Books of the Lutheran Church. We thank God for the privilege of fellowship and communion which our Synod has enjoyed with the Synodical Conference, an organization of Synods, in which the Synod is the unit comprising this body, and whose chief aim is the propagation of true Lutheranism.
Let us all, for the sake of Him who bled and died for the sins of the world, pledge faithfulness anew to the task assigned us, namely, the preservation and distribution of the Gospel of Jesus Christ — which to a great degree will include “fostering fellowship” and co-operation with orthodox synods, since this is pleasing to the Lord of the Church, and which entirely excludes false alliances beth at home and abroad, since these are strictly, repeatedly and definitely forbidden by God’s Word.
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The Distribution of Christian Literature
Often you may have seen the slogan: “See America First,” especially if you were traveling or contemplating to do so. This is the cry of the railroads and real estate promoters of vast sections of our country. Not only are they interested in your seeing the uncounted beauties and attractions of our glorious country but also in the material gain they may reap from the traveling public. They know the intrinsic value of what they advertise — to themselves indirectly and to the public which goes to behold and enjoy it and is benefited by it physically and mentally. Think of the vast sums of money spent in advertising, to induce such travel, as for instance in the Literary Digest of a week ago. This is done systematically for material gain and for satisfying temporal desires for pleasure and recreation in a land truly blessed in scenic grandeur. All this in the realm of this world.
But we go on to another realm, not of this world, but of another, spiritual — not temporal and transient, but eternal and continuing beyond time. We refer to the Kingdom of God with its transcendent splendor “Such as the eye of man hath not seen.” It is a realm we should see first, even before America. And we learn how to see it in the far reaches that extend out to us in the present time through its agency the Church of the head of this Kingdom, Jesus Christ. This Christian Church is for eternity and elates back to the beginning of the Lord’s work among men. It was established for the peoples of a strange far off land in sin to enter into through the Lord’s way. He would have all man- kind learn to know of it. Therefore He must advertise it, which He did through His Holy Men of the Old Testament, recording and proclaiming to peoples the glories of the Kingdom, which they might enjoy partly already here in life. So His information as to the Kingdom was broadcast by these men by word of mouth and in the Old Testament records.
In due time He, the King Himself, entered into the strange land of sin, the world, among the strangers to this Kingdom, and went about among them preaching of the nearness of the Kingdom, and urging all to enter therein. He was a living promoter, advocate or advertiser of it, and when He was about to depart from it, He commissioned His confidential friends to continue, like as He did, in preaching and teaching about this Kingdom, the Land of Promise with Him. Consequently these men wrote and proclaimed to the world the truth of the Kingdom in their writings, the New Testament. What was this but Christian Literature in the Old and the New Testaments, which was for all men to read and to learn of the Land with God?
But there were forces which did not approve of this. They were then, as now also, Satan and his cohorts, who through the ages attempted to eradicate this literature or hide it in the rubbish of false or adulterated literature, advertising other ways to the Kingdom. But the Lord recognized no other way but His own through Jesus Christ, and would not permit His Literature of the Kingdom to be wiped out. He raised up Martin Luther, who utilized another of God’s great means for propagating the truth, namely the printing press. He uncovered the truth and sent it forth to the world. It appeared in print and spread like wild-fire, because of the energy propelling it.
We, the namesakes of Luther, adherents of the same truth, should follow his example in this respect as in much else. There is the truth of the way to the Kingdom in the Bible, which is distributed among nations as no other book. But it must go on still farther. What are you doing toward this end?
Furthermore, there is an abundance cf good wholesome Lutheran literature in German and Norwegian especially, which we pastors should use — others also, who will but read it. Choose wisely in this field of literature. Patronize home trade: Lutheran literature instead of straying into strange fields of Reformed church literature, which, sad to say, many younger pastors are prone to do, with baneful results to the Lutheran Church. They are, as a recent writer put it, “reading themselves out of the Lutheran Church.” Yea, breathing this atmosphere accounts for much thought and many tendencies foreign to the Lutheran Church creeping into it.
We have also a growing popular Christian literature in English, which should be used by our lay people. There is the juvenile literature carefully reviewed and selected by a competent board of men in the Missouri Synod. Hundreds of volumes are listed in a catalogue, which may be secured of Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo., or of our own Book Co. May the reading of such literature, which includes also fiction, become more prevalent than the devouring of the rubbish of the modern problem plays in books and magazines, the filth of which cries to heaven. Yea, many communities have become so nauseated thereby that they have banned many such periodicals from their midst. May our Lutheran people be above wallowing in such filth!
There is furthermore a class of literature we must stress the use of, namely the Lutheran periodicals. They present to us Christian discourses, doctrinal and devotional, also accounts of the current events in the church at home and abroad. Again we repeat, see your own first. You want to be familiar with your own country and business. How much more should this be true as regards the Lord’s Kingdom and business. Such a publication is our Tidende and Lutheran Sentinel, which may be ordered of H.A. Preus, Calmar, Iowa, or of your pastor.
We are associated with the great Synodical Conference of Lutherans with its numerous thoroughly Lutheran publications furnishing excellent popular reading. The Lutheran Witness discusses the most vital church news and topics of the day as to the progress and developments in the church in all its farflung endeavors. The Lutheran Pioneer is given more to the missions of the Synodical Conference, as for instance among the Negroes of the South. The Lutheran Layman, the official organ of the laymen of the Missouri Synod, promotes and guards the interests of the religious day school in its fight against the foes who would destroy it by legislation. This is a vital question which all Lutherans should have at heart. The Lutheran Layman will keep you posted. The American Lutheran is the advocate of Christian publicity for making our Lutheran church known and is invaluable to the church and the pastor with a vision to “let their light shine before men.” For reading of general interest to all members of the family, for old and young alike, no publication is a peer to the Walther League Messenger, the official organ of the Walther League of young people of the Synodical Conference. It furnishes much valuable material for Bible studies and other Christian work done by the Young People’s Societies. Make everybody a reader of it, and it will make better Lutherans. Pastors would be benefited by the Lehre u. Wehre and the Homiletische Magazine. There is also the graded Sunday School Literature and papers for children of various ages. All the above mentioned publications may be ordered of Concordia Pub. House. St. Louis. or through our Book Co., or by your pastor. The Northwest Lutheran, the official organ of our sister Synod, the Wisconsin Synod, is published by the Northwestern Pub. Co., Milwaukee, Wis. Time will not permit further enumeration.
Let us learn a lesson from, for instance, the Christian Scientists so active in the spreading of literature, as they do in R.R. Stations, hotels, eating-houses, libraries — nearly all public places. Behold the zeal and diligence of the Seventh Day Adventists and the Mormons in house to house canvas with their literature. Of the Mormons each member is expected to go out to canvas as a missionary with his literature of the church. When one enters their complex of buildings in Salt Lake City, a guide leads the visitor through, lecturing all the while on the history and glory of the church and its teaching, and finally bringing all to a halt in the Museum and Literature Section. There a certain number of booklets on Mormonism are distributed gratis. Many more are sold at nominal sums. Such is the intense zeal and activity in spreading literature of those who teach error. We make the claim and know that we have the truth. But how slow and sluggish are we in comparison with those protagonists of error! Let us better ourselves to similar energetic activity. The pastors endeavor to take the lead in spreading abroad our Lutheran Literature. Be peddlers of it! Pastor or congregation choose efficient individuals or committees to canvas and place Lutheran literature in every home of the church and in public places, especially in public libraries, in most of which literature of the errorists may be found, but little, if any, of the Lutheran. Distribute tracts and printed matter as to the Lutheran church in any form. Again referring to our own publication, the Ev. Luth. Tidende and Luth. Sentinel, let us recall that the cost of its publication is about $2.00 for every subscriber of whom we get $1.00 per year. We have hitherto always paid the deficit out of the Synodical treasury, which in turn is paid by your voluntary contributions. We make bold to suggest that every congregation in view of the above mentioned facts and in the face of the inevitable necessity of paying the printing bill of our Tidende and Sentinel, pay for the subscription of it to every member. Thus there will be a material increase in the number of subscribers and more funds will be received to pay for them. An additional 1000 copies will cost not over $15.00 per issue. Let us aim to make every member a reader of our paper.
If secular business and publications may be profitably advertised and sold by agents, how much more those of the Lord’s Kingdom, that Spiritual realm we mentioned in the early part of our paper, for it is the Lord’s business. And this Lutheran Christian Literature under the Bible is for the promotion of this Lord’s business. Let us therefore be up and doing, and “work while it is day.”
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Progress is an essential requisite in Christianity. In the life of a normal Christian there is a steady progress, a continued effort, a constant reaching forth and pressing onward toward the mark. The minute progression ceases retrogression sets in. There is no stagnation. Stagnation is an unknown quantity in the life of a true Christian. With the apostle Paul every follower of Christ says: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3,14.
This is characteristic of all the activities of true Christians and applies also to the financial activities of our synod. The work that we as a synod purpose to do can not be accomplished without material means. And these means must be supplied from time to time as they are needed by the individual members of the congregations. Thus it has ever been in the church. In the Old Testament church these means were obtained by assessment and free-will offerings. The members of the Jewish Church were by express divine law assessed one-tenth of their income for the support of the temple service and in addition to this asked to make free-will offerings for various purposes. Thus when David collected material and means for the building of the temple in Jerusalem and asked the people to contribute, they responded generously and gave to the amount of many, many millions of dollars in our money. And they did so willingly. David says in his prayer: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things came of thee and of thine own have we given thee.” 1 Chron. 29,14.
In the new dispensation under which we live there is no specific command concerning how large a proportion of our worldly substance we shall devote to the needs of the church. We are urged to give, but without compulsion, willingly, out of a grateful heart. All our contributions are to be free-will offerings. However — “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom. 15,4), and the liberality of God’s chosen people under the old dispensation helps us to arrive at something like a general principle for determining what constitutes a liberal donation under the new dispensation. To give a few dollars of our surplus income, something that incurs no sacrifice, no self denial, that requires no special effort, is not the response that is expected, and that should be expected of the recipients of such immeasurable gifts as we have received of our God. If we will only consider what God has done for us, the many proofs of His unbounded love, we will feel constrained to prove the sincerity of our love by giving Him of His own, and the abundance of our joy will abound unto the riches of our liberality. (2 Cor. 8,2).
Knowing that God loveth a cheerful giver we will give cheerfully, “every man according as he purposeth in his hearth, not grudingly, or of necessity” (2. Cor. 9,7). We will give liberally for “he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” (2 Cor. 9,6). We will give, not for self glorification, heeding Christ’s admonition, “when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men,” (Matt. 6,2), but we will give to the glory of God. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Math. 5,16). We will give frequently and regularly in conformity to the divine admonition to the Corinthians: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” (1 Cor. 16,2). It is scriptural to take the pocketbook as well as the hymn book along to church “upon the first day of the week.” Our thankoffering to God should be paid on the installment plan. And it is scriptural to pledge ourselves voluntarily to the giving of specified sums, to make vows unto the most High. We are admonished to offer unto God thanksgiving and pay our vows unto the most High. Ps. 50,14.
There is room for considerable progress in our synodical finances. And I would emphasize especially the need of steady progress in liberality. While we have in our synod cheerful givers who willingly give “to their power, yea, beyond their power” (2 Cor. 8,3), there are also a number of whom it must be said that they “soweth sparingly.” How many plan to save here and there in order to be able to give more? “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20,35). The very best investment that we can make is to deposit an ever increasing per cent of our income in our heavenly Father’s business. Such investment tendeth not to poverty but to affluence.
And let us cultivate regularity in our giving. Not make a spasmodic effort toward the end of our fiscal year to avoid threatening deficits, but develop some regular order of weekly or monthly contributions of stated sums. Regular and frequent donations will be a source of blessing to each individual giver, will stimulate interest and secure a capital that thieves cannot steal. And just consider what we could accomplish in the Lord’s business with a liberal capital supplied regularly. Without danger of incurring any debt we could “launch out into the deep,” make greater efforts, undertake more — and accomplish much.
The fields are ripe for the harvest. There is work to do for us all. In this work we must all put our shoulders to the wheel and co-operate with each other. For that purpose we have organized our Synod. Let us then encourage, help and strengthen one another in doing the Lord’s work. Let us humble ourselves under the gracious hand of God. And, as we have given Him our heart, let us give Him also our substance liberally and regularly.