THE HOPE OF AMERICA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-28-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Hope of America. The reading from God’s Book is in the thirty-third Psalm. Psalm 33 and beginning at verse 8:
Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect.
The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.
The Lord looketh down from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of His habitation He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.
He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works.
There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.
A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy;
To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waiteth for the Lord: He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in Thee.
And the text, verse 12, Psalm 33, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” [Psalm 33:12].
God who governed history and the nations in these ages past is the same Lord God who guides and rules over the nations today. The only difference lies in this: in the days of the Bible, there were prophets whom God inspired to write out for the people what God was doing [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21]. And the message of the Lord was very plain, succinct, sharp because there were prophets then to write it down and to deliver it to the people.
Our histories today are not written by prophets. They are written by economists or politicians or educators. And we do not have an inspired servant and messenger of God to write out for us today and to point out for us in our generation as in these days of the Bible what God is doing. And yet, though I am not a prophet, nor am I inspired as these who wrote Holy Scripture, yet there are some things that to me are very patent and very plain in modern history and especially as it concerns our nation of America.
One is this; in the sovereign grace and mercy of our Lord, God blocked off the North American continent from the Spanish conquistadores, and the Italian Columbus, who sailed under the Spanish flag, never set foot on the soil of North America. The continent was shielded by Cuba and by the West Indies. And when Columbus came to the New World what he saw was the West Indies. And when he was followed by the Spanish conquerors, they were enticed by the gold of Montezuma and by the fabled riches of the Aztec Indians in Mexico and in Peru, with the consequence that the Spaniard turn southward in search of gold and treasure and riches.
Then in the providence of God, a second thing: on the cold and inhospitable shores of North America there came colonists, and they were men who were seeking homes, who were seeking religious worship, who were seeking a new life in the New World. And among those first settlers in the cold and inhospitable time of the North American continent, there were a few men who were dedicated to the great freedoms that have blessed our souls and in the building of this nation—Roger Williams, Obadiah Holmes, Dr. John Clarke men who were given to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and freedom of soul. And the foundations of the North American civilization were not laid in men who were seeking riches and treasures, but those foundations were laid in men who were seeking God and the building of a new world.
As the days continued and the years multiplied, a third marvelous thing that developed in modern history: those first pilgrim colonists who came to the shores of North America to build homes, to raise families, and to worship God, those men pressed forward and always onward across the Alleghenies to the great heartland of America, across these vast prairies and finally to the Pacific ocean.
And wherever they went, they were preceded by the pioneer preacher. He was a man with two books. He had a Bible and a hymn book. He forded rivers over which no bridges had been built. He followed Indian trails, for there were no roads, no roads. He lived a hard life in the cold of the winter and the heat of the summer. He knew not where his next meal would come from or where his next lodging would be. He was untaught and uneducated, and his speech was rough and rude. But he preached the gospel of the grace of the Son of God, and he laid in the heartland of America the foundation for the churches and the institutions and the government under which we now live.
And from side to side and from sea to sea in the vast expanse of this continent, those men built this nation, the largest unfortified frontiers in the earth and a nation in which we have never experienced outside invasion and the horrors of foreign war.
What a beautiful and glorious hymn, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” Today, America stands as the strongest, greatest nation in the earth. With seven percent of the world’s population, we own more than seventy percent of the world’s wealth. God has blessed beyond any nation in recorded history the devotion, the work, the zeal, the consecration of our American republic.
What is the secret of that tremendous strength? And why and how is it that the nation was brought to such a pinnacle of unbelievable power? Is it because of our great resources? If resources were the strength of our nation, we would not compare to Africa. Is it because of our ancient civilization? Compared to China we are a babe just born. Is it because of our teeming population? Compared to modern India we have no vast population. What is the secret of the tremendous strength and power and glory of America? What is it?
This brings to my mind an oration that some of us memorized when I was in school and declaiming. We memorized some of the great orations of the past and had scholastic trials in which we vied with one another in declamation. And one of those marvelous perorations of the days past that we memorized in those days when we declaimed in school; one of those orations was by the Southern orator, Henry W. Grady. And I would think most of you can remember it.
He described the strength of America, the secret of the glory of our American republic. And he said he looked upon the vast outlay of our navy in Hampton Roads and said, “Surely the strength of America lies in its navy.” Then after that, he said, he saw the marching armies of America on the shores of the Potomac, and he said, “Surely the strength of America lies in its great armies.” Then after that he said he visited the Congress and watched the democratic processes of the United States under the dome of our Capitol in Washington, and he said to himself, “Surely the strength and glory of America lies in its democratic processes.”
Then in a way as only that incomparable Southern orator could describe it, he visited a friend in a farm home in Georgia, saw the man in the eventide gather his family around him, read God’s Word, and bow in prayer. And that night, Henry W. Grady said the great armies and the great navies and even our great Capitol dome and its democratic processes passed away and he said he saw that the strength of our nation lies in its godly people. You don’t hear orations like that anymore or perorations like that anymore. But men who had a prophetic touch once spake of the strength of our nation in terms of its godliness and its Christian commitment.
All you have to do, even in a cursory summary way, is to review the mighty movements in these generations past that have moved and molded our people. Did you ever look at a McGuffey Reader? The kind of a thing that they taught our children a hundred, or a hundred fifty years ago, did you ever read them? Those readers are filled with Bible stories, and all kinds of stories about the Lord, and about the commandments, and about character, and about strength. Why, you couldn’t have a book like that in the modern school. It would insult the material and secular spirit of our modern age.
And in these days past the nation has been molded by the moving of God’s Spirit in great revival: the Great Awakening in the 1700s under Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield; then the tremendous revival movement in the early 1800s under Charles G. Finney; then the mighty sweep of the nation God-ward under Sam Jones in the South and Dwight L. Moody in the North. Then we come to this century and finally to this present generation and this present hour. As I turn the page of American history, and as I look at the modern American thought, I wonder if it is the same people, and if it is the same place, and if it is the same nation.
All of our cities, our great cities, on Sunday are emptied, and compared to the vast populations of those cities there is a mere handful worshipping God and calling on the name of the Lord. It is not a holy day; it is a holiday, and it is advertised and presented as such. And in the pulpits of those churches in those great cities, there are theologians standing and facing their congregations and avowing that God is dead.
And when these students pick up the novels, and the fiction, and the dramas, and the literature of modern American authors, it is salacious and filthy beyond compare. It is blasphemous in its attitude toward all the virtues and all the godly foundations and standards by which our nation was conceived and built in the generations past.
And the life into which we are being introduced by modern psychological and sociological definitions is unspeakable and fearful in the extreme. Riot and arson and murder in the open daylight, but the officer is by no means to employ the use of the force at his command to stop the criminal who is burning down a man’s house or burning up a man’s business or murdering the shopkeeper. But under the new psychology, he is to remember that these are the products of forces beyond their control and are to be considered as people who are sub-marginal and dispossessed. And their murder and their arson and their violence is to be extenuated and overlooked. And the poor shopkeeper whose life savings is burned to the ground is to take his tragic losses as a part of a so-called sick society. This is the new America!
Last week while I was gone, somebody described to me a sweet, precious woman in this church walking down that street, and two men attacked her, and thrust her to the ground, and stole her purse, and ran away in broad daylight. But they are not to be looked upon as criminals or as thieves, for the new psychology teaches that they are not accountable for their deeds. They are the products of some sub-marginal group and are not responsible.
Where is that in God’s Word? When God teaches me that I am accountable and am responsible for what I do, however poor my father or my mother may have been, and my mother and my father were poor. When a man violates God’s law and when a man violates the laws of the nation, he is accountable according to the Word of God, however his background or his environment or his people. One of the major tenets of the Word of God is this, that the individual soul is responsible for what that individual soul does. I am not accountable for the sins of my fathers, but I am accountable to God for my sins [Jeremiah 31:29-30].
Last week I spoke at a civic club of about two hundred men. I rarely turn aside from preaching in a church or in a stadium, giving an appeal. I rarely turn aside to share in any other work, but because of the exigency in turn of that hour, I agreed to speak to the civic club. I hadn’t attended one for several years. I had just about forgotten how it turned; fine men, noble men, patriotic men, salute the flag, repeat our devotion to our country and our flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing “God bless America.” I love to hear them sing it, and I love for our children to be taught it, but as they sing it, and as I look at our nation, I wonder why should God bless America?
Is it because we have more crime in our nation than any other nation in the earth, is that the reason God should bless America? Is it because we are getting ready with every ingenious way that we can to bring organized gambling and drunkenness into our cities and towns and state, is that why God should bless America? Is it because we have more barmaids than co-eds by a dozen to one, is that why God should bless America? Is it because we have more open saloons by five to one than we have churches in America, is that why God should bless America? I pray, I sing, I hope, I intercede, but I wonder why God should bless America.
I must close. In the days when the prophets lived, Jeremiah raised his voice in Jerusalem and in Judah and said, “Repent, repent!” [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And the Babylonians came in 605 BC [Daniel 1:1-6], and Jeremiah raised his voice in Jerusalem and in Judea and cried, “Repent, repent!” And the Babylonians came in 598 BC [2 Kings 24:11-14; Ezekiel 1:1], and Jeremiah lifted his voice and cried yet again “Repent, repent!” And the Babylonians came in 587 BC, and there was no need for the Babylonians to return again; for they destroyed the city and the nation and left it in heaps and in shambles [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21]. And Jeremiah cried in one of his lamentations,
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold upon me.
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
We stand at the crossroads in America. We stand at the crossroads in our history, and our hope lies in a great revival. Lord, send it! Do it, Lord! Do it! And if it please Thee, let it begin right here.
May we pray? Our Lord, Thou hast said in witness and testimony, “Heaven and earth may pass away: but My words will never pass away” [Luke 21:33]. We will never outlive the commandments [Psalm 119:89], nor will we ever outlive the sovereign judgments of Almighty God [Psalm 119:160]. If we are to be saved, we must be saved in Thy grace [Ephesians 2:8], and mercy [Titus 2:5]. If we are to be delivered, we are to live in the hope and the blessing of the Lord God [Romans 8:23-24]. Oh, that we might claim this precious promise; “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” [Psalm 33:12]. And in every home and in every heart, may the Lord God Jesus our Savior be King. Oh, that every man would turn and trust our blessed Savior [Ephesians 2:8]. And in that revival, in that mighty turning, may the Lord continue to bless us and our children, this generation and the generations that are yet to come. In Thy grace, in Thy Spirit, and in Thy holy name, amen.
Now while we sing our hymn of appeal, you, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, to give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church, you come and stand by me. Decide now, do it now, right where you are seated; then when we stand up in a moment to sing, stand up coming, “Here I am preacher, here I come.” Do it now. Do it this morning, while we stand and while we sing.