THE CANCER THAT CONSUMES US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-2-80 12:00 p.m.
The theme this year has been patriotic; the first time I have ever done anything like this. It is "God Speaks to America." On Monday it was War in the Will of God; yesterday, The Red in the Flag is Blood; tomorrow, Slavery or Freedom; Friday, The Saving of the Nation, and today, The Cancer that Consumes Us. I have just a little one sentence explanation about the message today. When I preach, it will always be a "Thus saith the Lord, this is what God says." I do not invent the message; I am an echo, a voice. But the message today is an interpretation; in nowise do I say or affirm that the persuasion I present today is infallible. It is my interpretation of the meaning and the message of God’s will for us who live in America.
In the Book of Proverbs, in chapter 14 and verse 34, is one of those beautiful gems that stand out in a book of precious stones. Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." One of the phenomena of all history is the splendor and glory of America. Her material prosperity and affluence is unrivaled among men. Her advancements in technology, in academic, educational achievement is beyond compare. Her industrial might is almost immeasurable, and her military strength and power is unrivaled in the earth. Nebuchadnezzar, looking over his golden city of Babylon, said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?" [Daniel 4:30]. But the golden empire of Babylon is a molehill compared to the mountain, soaring and towering, of the strength of America.
The foundation of that strength lies in the Christian commitment of our people. It is not founded upon resources; if it were, Africa would be greater. It is not founded upon vast populations; if so, India would be greater. It is not founded upon ancient culture and civilization; if so, China would be greater. But the tremendous spectacle of the glorious, brilliant rise of America is found in its spiritual commitments.
I think of three. One is our reverence for God. Even though most times we don’t act like it, it is still true that the great vast sweep of our people believe in that motto on our coins, "In God We Trust." And our Constitution, our judicial laws, our government is built upon the Bible, the Mosaic legislation, and the Christian Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. Not only reverence for God, but reverence for the human soul, for human life. To America, men are not mere cannon fodder, but a man is a soul for whom Christ died [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And third: not only reverence for God and reverence for the human soul, but reverence for work. Usually you will read it referred to as "the Puritan ethic," that is, the spirit of self-reliance, of personal responsibility; the right and the freedom and the duty to achieve, to work, to strive, to excel. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." The last four alphabetical letters in the name of America have profound meaning, "A-m-e-r..i-can,i-c-a-n." These are the things that have been foundational in the building of the great towering nation of America.
But in our day and in our time, we are witnessing a marked decay in that national spirit. In the lexicon of the new generation, bigness is badness, success is failure, and forward is backward. We have lost our spirit of self-reliance and responsibility, our spirit of self-respect, of achievement, of pride in our work, and in the excellency of the labor of our hands. We’re a different people and becoming increasingly so from what we have been in these generations past. This is seen in the decay of our citizenship. There is a new idea among us, namely, the idea of public welfare as a way of life. There is a new right that I never heard of before: the right to public dole.
Never in the earth can I forget the first time I ever heard that idea and that right presented. I was the guest of Joel Sorenson, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Stockholm, Sweden. A brilliant and gifted man, he also was a senator in their national parliament, deeply, greatly, highly respected by all the people of Sweden. He said to me, as I visited with him, he said to me, "By right of birth every Swede, every citizen of Sweden ought to be given a stipend, a dole, an income from the taxable wealth of the nation."
I said, "Would you explain that to me? Would you say that again?"
And he repeated it: "Because a man is born a Swede, by virtue of his birth, the government owes him a living."
And I said to the distinguished senator and pastor of the church, "You mean without his working, without his trying, without his striving, without his laboring, that the government of the nation owes the man a living, an income?"
He said, "Yes!"
I had never heard the doctrine before. And it is diametrically contradictory to the inspired and infallible Word of God! Listen to the Word of the Lord: in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 3, verses 8 through 10:
Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we had not the right, but to make ourselves an example unto you that you follow us. For when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat!
[2 Thessalonians 3:8-10]
The idea of a public welfare as a way of life, a doctrine of government, and the implementation of the idea, the right to a dole from the public treasury is a new idea to the world and to America.
On the wall in my study is a picture of my great-great-grandfather’s household family and his home, the first one built in central West Texas. The first Baptist church in West Texas was formed in that house with that family. He stands there, my great-great-grandfather – and his wife is out in front with an apron on, feeding the chickens – and there are two daughters in the picture, my great-great-aunts. And when I look at that picture, everything in it was made and contrived by the hands of that family. The clothing they wear, that you see in the picture, all of it was woven by their hands. The sheep and the cotton from whence the fiber came, was raised on that farm. That house was built by their hands out of logs, and the barns and the fences were all made by them. If they could rise from the dead and listen to this new doctrine today of the "right of dole and of public welfare," they would be ashamed of us, their succeeding generations of children. The decay of the citizenship: that without working, and without contribution, and without toil and labor, "the government owes me a living," a new idea.
Second: the decay of our cities. That kind of a political aspiration and hope that we can achieve without working, and that we can succeed without laboring, and that we can be given a living without trying, striving, is seen in the hordes that are covering, with increasing desperation, our great cities – all of them. I remember when Times Square was looked upon as American, a great white way; those tall, towering skyscrapers, those thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people that were there any hour of the day and of the night. I can also remember the indescribable shock I sustained when I went back to Times Square after the passing of years, and looked at its unbelievable decay; filled with pornographic X-rated movies, the whole thing in shambles, and the people afraid at night. The mugger, the robber, the pimp, the procurer, all of them plying their trade over the great heart of that vast city.
But not just New York; well do I remember walking down the street in the heart of Atlanta, and a policeman stopped me, and he said, "What are you doing? Where are you going?" Well, that was an unusual thing to begin with, just walking down a city street, stopped by a uniformed officer, "What are you doing here? Where are you going? Who are you?"
I said, "Sir, I have been traveling many hours in an airplane, and I’ve arrived here in Atlanta, and I’m staying in that big hotel right there, and just to get the wooziness out of my head, I have thought I’d walk down the street and back."
He said, "Sir, you go back to your room. You go back to your hotel; it is dangerous for you to be out on the street in Atlanta at night!" I turned and went back to my room.
Not just Atlanta: Dallas! My dear people, when I came here to Dallas thirty-six years ago, every night was teeming with people on these downtown streets, they were there by the thousands, they were everywhere downtown. It was a light, it was a life; Dallas was a beautiful city in which to live downtown! Today, you don’t walk downtown. Today, in the last six years, more than three hundred thousand white people have left the city of Dallas. They have gone north, and they’ve moved out east, and they moved out west, and they’ve gone down south, but they have left the heart of the city. Why? It is decay, and they’re fearful. Why, I remember when we hired the first security officer here at our church, and I remember the session when we decided to light every building on the outside with floodlights. And I remember through the years as we have increased the security officers that patrol this church day and night, and these great lights that light up every part of these buildings, lest there be some kind of an incident that would frighten and terrorize the people of God who come here just to call upon His name: the decay of our cities.
And third: the decay of our national government. I never read a statistic in my life that surprised me more than this one: that there is a greater percentage of crime, of indictment by grand jury, by trial and sentencing to the penitentiary, there is a greater percentage of crime in the Congress of the United States than there is in the blackest, darkest ghettos of Detroit – congressmen, senators, men in high places of government who are accused, and indicted, and tried, and found guilty of bribery and corruption – false to the confidence of the people.
And one other thing: these men of government stand in their places of elected responsibility, and looking over a nation that is facing economic chaos – just now the Chemical Bank of New York City, one of the great banks of the world, has announced a twenty percent prime rate, twenty percent! They stand there and look over this nation, and they point their fingers and say, "You see that big oil company, they have caused it." Or they stand in their places and say, "You see that big corporation, they have caused it." And they stand there, and they point to all of the other facets of American life and say, "They do it, they use it, they cause it." That’s what the politician does! All he has to do is to draw a circle around himself and point to himself; it is one little, simple thing: in order to dole out billions, and billions, and billions of dollars, they call the Bureau of Engraving and say, "Print it, print it, print it," and they print those dollars by the billions and the billions. And the politician doles them out by the millions and the millions. "Because," he says, "I won’t get elected if I don’t dole out this vast amount of money." In order to win a primary in Wisconsin, yesterday the chief executive of our nation promised the farmer and the dairymen of Wisconsin they shall have one hundred percent full parity on all of the products of that central northern state. And who pays it? We can be taxed so much, and beyond that, they print it, and print it, and print it. And inflation is nothing but a legal way for the government to steal from the poor, and the pension, and the elderly, and the old, and the sick, and the helpless! Inflation is robbery.
My heart goes out to the old, and the poor, and the sick of our nation; save and strive and work, and then come to the end of the way, and what you’ve saved, and what you’ve strived for, and what you’ve tried to work for comes to dust and ashes in your hand. That is modern America. I must conclude.
We need a new day, a new birth. We need a renaissance. We need a revival, a new spirit. As General Douglas MacArthur said, "It must be of the spirit if the flesh is to be saved." We need not an anti-, but a pro-spirit: pro-America, pro-God, pro-church, pro-Lord, and pro-work, and pro-achievement, and pro-striving, and pro-laboring, and pro-saving; and pro-self-sufficiency, and self-responsibility, and self-sustaining! We need the spirit of Paul: "I can do!" [Philippians 4:13]. I can do my assigned task. By the Word of God, I believe the Lord has a program, and a plan, and a calling, and an assignment for each one of us. And if it is God’s will and plan for me, I can do it. I can do God’s assignment for me, whatever that is. It may be mammoth; if it is, I can do it. It may be menial; if it is, I am to do it. I can do God’s assignment for me, and I can face the future triumphantly in my Lord. Ah, what a foundation upon which to stand; a Rock immovable, eternal forever! [1 Corinthians 10:4]. I can do triumphantly in Christ what God assigns for me [Philippians 4:13].
In Essex in East England – in Colchester, a city in Essex – I stood there before the monument to all of those martyrs who had been burned at the stake. And out of all of them, one especially caught my eye; his name? John N-o-y-e-s, John Noyes; and as they lit the fire and he began to burn at the stake, he lifted up his face to heaven and said, and there it is in bronze letters, "Blessed be God, who hath thus thought me worthy of the high honor that I thus die for Thee."
"Worthy of the high honor that I thus die for Thee," burned at the stake. Not bitter against a cruel providence! Not envious of others who remained alive while he died in the flame, but that triumphant spirit, "Bless God, who hath thought me worthy of such high honor that I thus die for Thee." Those were the Pilgrims, and those were the Baptists, and those were the Puritans who, in the confidence of God’s elective purpose, came to America, worked – achieved, poured their life into the building of this nation – and we, their children, are blessed by the fruit of their godly hands.
Our Lord in heaven, may we not give away in apathy, and indolence, and indifference, what these fathers and mothers of our generations passed bought for us with blood and tears and toil, in our Savior’s name, amen.
THE CANCER THAT CONSUMES US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Greatness of America
America’s greatness founded on spiritual commitments
1. Reverence for
2. Reverence for
the human soul
3. Reverence for
The decay of the national spirit
1. In the lexicon
of the new generation, bigness is bad, success is failure, forward is backward
2. Loss of
self-sufficiency and self-respect
3. Decay of the
Rebirth, renewal of the nation