Moving America Toward the Master

Moving America Toward the Master

April 7th, 1982 @ 12:00 PM

Psalm 9:17

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
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Dr. W.A. Criswell

Psalm 9:17

4-7-82    12:00 p.m.


The theme this year, as Mr. Bristow has announced is “America, Meet The Master.”  What matters to America?  What matters to me?  What matters in moving America to God; moving me toward my Lord and the marvelous message of Jesus?  And the middle one today, Moving America to the Master.  

There are two background texts.  One is in Psalm chapter 9, verse 17. Psalm 9:17:  “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”  And Proverbs, the next book: chapter 14, verse 34.  Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Moving America to the Master: it is with just pride and godly gratitude that we look upon our beloved nation, our native land, stretching from side to side as wide as the continent is wide.  A beautiful nation, a beautiful country with its teeming cities, and winding rivers, and broad prairies, and snow-capped mountains that reach up to God in heaven.

Some years ago, I made a mission tour, a preaching mission around the world.  I was gone four full months, a long time for me, then.  And I so well poignantly remember how I felt in my heart when coming back home to the west coast.  In the middle of the night the captain of the airplane, speaking over the PA system said, “The next lights that you see on the left side of the plane will be those of California.”  And having been gone four strenuous months, those words sounded like an announcement from heaven to me.

It is the spirit of Sir Walter Scott in his “Lay Of The Last Minstrel”:

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, mine native land!

Whose heart within him never burned,

As homeward his weary footsteps turned,

From wandering on a foreign strand.

If such there breathe,

Go mark him well;

For him no minstrels’ raptures swell.

And looking at the worlds then, and since, and now, there is a vivid contrast between other nations and our beloved home of America.  I felt that, beyond any way I could say it in syllable or sentence, in my first visit to Russia.  We landed in the middle of the night in Leningrad.  We were taken to the Europa Hotel, and the next morning, eager to see the city, I walked out the door into the street, then to the large boulevard at the next block.  And when I stood on the corner, I saw there across the street, a beautiful church house, a beautiful building.  It had been converted into a railroad station.

I walked up that avenue, found another one of those onion-domed churches.  It had been turned into a granary.  I walked up that same avenue, I saw another beautiful church house; it had been turned into a warehouse.  I kept walking up that avenue, and I came to the famous Kazan Cathedral.  When I walked inside that beautiful edifice, it had been given over to displays of atheism.

The next day, I visited St. Isaac’s Cathedral where the czars worshiped; the most beautiful and the largest cathedral in Eastern Europe. Where the high altar once stood, on one side was a picture of Titov, on the other side a picture of Gagarin, their two first astronauts.  And underneath, written in Russian, and in German, and in French, and in English, were these words, “We have searched the heavens, and there is no God” [Nikita Khrushchev].

As I looked at that and remembered my country, not only a beautiful land of rivers, and mountains, and prairies, and cities, but a land also of open churches, of worshipping congregations, of Christian institutions, of Christian schools such as you boys and girls represent this solemn noontime.  I feel a rise in my own heart when I think of our country and the freedoms and the liberties we enjoy here.

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,

A flash of color beneath the sky:

Hats off!

The flag is passing by!

Sign of a nation, great and strong,

Toward her people from foreign wrong:

Courage and glory and power,—all,

Live in the colors to rise or fall.

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;

And loyal hearts are beating high:

Hats off!

The flag is passing by!

[“The Flag Goes By,” Henry Holcomb Bennett]


Our beloved America; our colonies struggled to build this nation and to write its Constitution with the help of Almighty God.  In 1787, there were fifty-five brave, noble men who met in Independence Hall in Philadelphia to write the Constitution of those thirteen original colonies.  On the desk in front of them was one Book, the Bible.  A British visitor said, “Which one is General George Washington?”  And the reply was made, “When they go to prayer, the one who kneels is General Washington.”  And they forged an instrument that has blessed their sons and daughters and the generations since down to us in this present day.

They were looking for an instrument that would guarantee rights and liberties to the people, and to be a bulwark against tyranny and oppression.  For a model, they first turned to Spain and found there that the rights and liberties of the people were guaranteed by a monarchy.  But, said our founding fathers, if a monarchy can guarantee rights and liberties, that same monarchy can take them away.

They turned next to England for a model, and found there that the rights and liberties of the people were guaranteed by a Parliament.  But, said our founding fathers, if a Parliament can guarantee rights and liberties, the same Parliament can take them away.

They turned next for a model to France and found there that the rights and liberties of the people were guaranteed there by a majority.  But, said our founding fathers, if a majority can guarantee rights and liberties, the same majority can take them away.

It was then that our founding fathers, in writing the Constitution of our nation, turned to God and found that the rights and liberties of a people were guaranteed, and founded in, and centered in, the character of Almighty God.  And our country and our nation has been built upon its Christian inheritance, its Christian families, its Christian homes.

When I was a boy in high school, like you young people here, I used to declaim.  A declamation is a beautiful, and effective, and mostly patriotic address made by some great American; and then we would memorize it and deliver it.  I won a silver loving cup in the state, winning a declamation contest.  Some of those declamations I remember as vividly now as I did in the days when I memorized them and delivered them.

One of them was by Henry W. Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution; one of the silver-tongued orators of the South.  To capsulate it, to summarize it, it went like this: the great orator said he stood upon Hampton Road, upon a July fourth celebration, and saw the might of America pass by in review; in its navy, in its Marines, and on the seashore in its armed forces. And as he looked upon the mighty navy and the great marching armies of men he said, “Truly the strength of America lies in its armed might, its navy, its Marines, its army.”   Then the orator said, later he was in the capitol in Washington D.C. and he saw there those congressmen and legislators representing the people of America.  And as he saw them legislate and deliberate, he said, “I thought, truly the strength of America lies in its democratic processes, in its great Congress and its legislators.” Then in an eloquent and poignant turn, he said he was later invited to spend the night with a friend, whom he’d known in boyhood days, on his farm in Georgia.  And after the chores of the day were done, that godly man gathered his children around and with his wife, read out of God’s Book and bowed in prayer.  And the great orator said, as he looked at that godly man kneeling in prayer before an open Bible, the great armies and navies of the nation melted away.   No longer did he see the processes of government under the capitol dome.  There just remained that godly man on his knees before an open Bible.  Then he said, “I learned that the strength of America lies in its godly people, in its Christian homes, in its praying parents.”

We pause now for just the remaining moment to look at the future.  Whether we live or whether we die lies in the imponderables of Almighty God.  The shores of history are strewn with the wreckage of great empires and mighty nations, these who have forgotten God.

Under our view and under our gaze, we have seen the dissolution and the decay of the greatest empire the world ever saw.  It belonged to Britain.  Britannia rules the waves.  On the Union Jack, the flag of Britain, the boast: “The sun will never set.”

In the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in this last century, there was paraded before the world, a might and a power that the earth had never seen.  And at the end of that Diamond Jubilee-Victorian Celebration, one of their poets, Rudyard Kipling wrote the stanzas of the “Recessional.”

                        God of our fathers, known of old—

Lord of our far-flung battle line—

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the nations, spare us yet.

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that hold not Thee in awe—

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

Or lessor breeds without the law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

And England turned aside from God.  One of their pastors said to me, “There is not one in one hundred in my city of London who even attends church.”  The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” [Psalm 9:17]. 

Nor is America an exception to the judgments of the Almighty Lord.  We are seeing a decay in our country that is frightening and terrible.  We have drugs to tear our bodies apart; promiscuity to tear our families apart; crime to tear our cities apart; humanism to tear our schools apart; secularism to tear our Christian heritage apart; cults to tear our churches apart.  And our country is beginning to bleed and to hurt; wounded and decaying.  That’s why we’re here, and that’s why this church with its steeple pointing to God, and that’s why these services of appeal, that we might open our hearts to a great intervention from heaven.

When I was a boy, we lived on a farm just beyond a little town in the Texas Panhandle—dry, burned up, wind-swept.  And I remember standing in the back door of our farmhouse with my father, and he was shouting to the top of his voice.  As a little boy I looked at him in amazement and astonishment!  My father was very quiet, reluctant, almost shy, and to see him and hear him shout to the top of his voice was amazing to me.  And looking up into his face I said, “Daddy, why are you shouting so?”  Putting his hand on my head, he said, “Son, the rain!  Look!  God,” he said, “has given us rain!  God has given us rain!” It meant food for our hungry mouths.  It meant clothing for our naked backs.  It meant life for our weary pilgrim way.  “God hath given us rain!”

                        Oh, for the floods on the thirsting land.

Oh, for a mighty revival.

Oh, for a fearless sanctified band

To hail its arrival.

The need of the land is revival,

A freshen of grace from above.

Repentance toward God and forgiveness,

More trusting in Christ and His love.

The need of the church is revival,

More praying for those who are lost,

More fullness of spirit and witness,

More zeal without counting the cost.

[“Abundant Life,” William Leslie]

God send it in our day, and let our eyes look upon it.  And our Lord, in that spirit of prayerful intercession, may each one of us find himself strangely moved to open heart, and soul, and life, and hand, God-ward and heavenward.  Visit us, Lord, from above.  In Thy saving, keeping name, amen.


Dr. W.A. Criswell

Psalm 9:17, Proverbs 14:34


With gratitude, pride we look upon America

No colonists struggle with the deity of God

Founded upon the revelation of God

Founded upon the Christian home

Whether we live or die is in the imponderables of God

A.   Shores
of history strewn with the wreckage of great empires

B.   We
have witness the dissolution of Britain

C.   We
cannot survive our current decay

A turning to God is needed