The Saving of the Nation
November 18th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
2 Chronicles 6:13
THE SAVING OF THE NATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Chronicles 6:13
11-18-84 10:50 a.m.
And welcome, the great multitudes of you who share this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Saving of the Nation, the Healing of the Nation. It is a patriotic message delivered in keeping with this unique season of the year. A thanksgiving feast day, a national holiday, dedicated to expressing our gratitude to God as a peculiar and unique institution of the United States of America. And it is a joy inexpressible and unspeakable for us, as a people of God, to share in that national dedication to the Lord of heaven.
As a background of the message, we turn to the Book of 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament. The Book of 2 Chronicles; and we begin reading at verse 13 in the sixth chapter. 2 Chronicles, chapter 6, beginning at verse 13, the story reads: "Solomon made a brazen scaffold, . . . and upon it he stood and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven." This is a most unusual posture for an Oriental monarch; he never kneeled before anyone, much less on a high scaffold before the people. But Solomon did. He kneeled upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven and said:
O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like Thee in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keeps the covenant, who shows mercy unto His servants, those who walk before Thee with all of their hearts.
– verse 19 –
Have respect therefore to the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which Thy servant prayeth before Thee.
– Now, verse 40 –
Now, my God, let, I beseech Thee, Thine eyes be open, and let Thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.
… Arise, O Lord God, into Thy resting place, Thou, and the ark of Thy strength: let Thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let Thy saints rejoice in goodness.
O Lord God, turn not away the face of Thine anointed.
– Now, the next chapter, chapter 7, beginning at verse 12 –
And the Lord appeared unto Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer.
– Verse 14, one of the most famous passages in the Old Testament, in all the Bible, and in all literature –
If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Thus the title of the message: The Healing of the Nation, The Saving Of The Nation.
In the history of America, in the early seventeen hundreds, there was a spiritual phenomenon – a providence of God in the life of our American colonies – called the “Great Awakening.” It was led by Jonathan Edwards and by George Whitefield. They and the other ministers of our Lord were so blessed of heaven in their appeals for Christ, that there were hundreds of thousands of Christian converts added to the churches and to the faith.
It was an incomparable period in the life of America. The people of the colonies found a common communion and commitment in a spiritual devotion to our Lord. And they were bound together by a unifying force called the Christian faith. It prepared them for the dark days of trial that came in the American Revolution, and the Revolutionary War left the people of America a Christian nation.
Could I contrast that for a moment with a revolution at the same time that occurred on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in France? In France, the believing Huguenots were slaughtered, and persecuted, and hounded out of the country. The assembly of the French people formally passed a resolution avowing there is no God. Upon the high altar of the cathedral of Notre Dame, they elevated a prostitute and bowed down and worshiped before her as the goddess of reason. There followed thereafter a carnival of blood-letting that amazed mankind, and it left France an infidel and atheistic people.
May I return to America? In the early years of the 1800s, there was poured out upon our people another remembrance from heaven; under Charles G. Finney, a great revival swept the states of the Union. Just an example: Rochester, New York, in that time had a population of fifty thousand people. In the revival led by Charles G. Finney in Rochester, there were one hundred thousand people baptized in the churches. All upper New York turned to the Lord. That was just one of the great movings – mighty from God – upon the people, under Charles G. Finney alone.
A typical example of what happened in those days is in the story of J.C. Lamphier, a layman hired by the Fulton Street Church in New York City. All of the other churches had left the downtown – moved out, quit – but this church remained. And they hired a layman, J.C. Lamphier, to invite people to attend the congregational services and to hand out tracts.
In great discouragement, he went to the house of the Lord, the Fulton Street Church, and bowed down in prayer for an hour and a half. He announced that he would do that at noon for a week. And the next week, there were six people who joined him. The next week, there were twenty. The next week, there were forty. He announced, then, that they would meet every day at high noon for an hour of intercession. The church was packed. And other churches in New York City were packed. And that great intercessory movement swept through America. A visitor from Nebraska, in a meeting in Boston said, “I have seen a prayer meeting two thousand miles long.” And that tremendous outpouring of the spirit of intercession and revival upon our people prepared us for the awesome War Between the States.
It is an astonishing providence to me that both sides of that army, whether it was Federal from the North or Confederate from the South, both sides of that army appealed to God for intercession, for intervention, for remembrance, for help from heaven.
In 1863, in the darkest hour of the war, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution petitioning President Lincoln to set apart a day of national prayer and fasting. President Lincoln responded promptly with this following proclamation. I quote: “Now therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring with the views of the Senate, I do by this proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer.”
And the people faithfully observed the appeal. On the other side of the army – I cannot help but refer to it as our side; my grandfather was a physician, he was a doctor in the Confederate Army, and my mother was an unreconstructed rebel all the days of her life – on the other side, in the Confederate forces, there was no less an appeal to God for the outpouring of His Spirit. Encouraged by the great Christian leaders, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, a revival spread throughout the troops of the armies, and more than a third of all of the soldiers in the Confederate armies became praying, interceding Christians.
The Richmond Christian Advocate wrote, and I quote: “Not for years has such a revival prevailed in the Confederate States. Its progress in the army is a spectacle of moral sublimity over which man and angels can rejoice. Such camp meetings were never before seen in America. The bivouac of the soldier never witnessed such sights of glory and days of splendor.” And our United States of America survived that awesome altercation, and became in later years a more Christian people.
We come now to the latter part of the 1800s and the early years of the 1900s of our century. Dwight L. Moody – who died in 1899, in a revival meeting in Kansas City, Missouri – followed by Billy Sunday and Gypsy Smith, with many, many others, brought a great revival to America.
And not alone in the English-speaking peoples of our North American Continent, but across the sea in Wales, in Ulster, in England, in Scotland, there was a tremendously beautiful, soul-saving outpouring of the Spirit of God.
For example, in 1905 and in 1906 – up and down the streets of the English speaking world over there – they marched singing this song, and I have copied it down. Joining hands, going through the streets of the city, up and down the streets of the villages and towns, they sang:
Where e’er we meet, you always say,
Whats the news! Whats the news?
Pray, what’s the order of the day?
Whats the news! Whats the news?
Oh, I’ve got good news to tell,
My Savior has done all things well,
And triumph’d over death and hell;
That’s the news, that’s the news!
The Lamb was slain on Calvary,
Thats the news! thats the news!
To set a world of sinners free,
That’s the news! that’s the news!
Twas there His precious blood was shed,
Twas there He bowed His sacred head,
But now, He’s risen from the dead;
That’s the news, that’s the news!
His work’s reviving all around –
That’s the news! that’s the news!
And many have salvation found –
That’s the news! that’s the news!
And since their souls have caught the flame,
They shout Hosannas to His name;
And all around they spread His fame –
That’s the news! that’s the news!
And in that period of great revival, I grew up as a boy. I have seen as a child – people shout all over the little town in which I grew up – and it prepared us for the awesome trials of the First World War, and the Depression in between, and the second global conflagration.
We come now to our present day and the trials that face America; I think of them in terms of three categories, the days that unfold before modern America. One of them is economic. Unless there is an intervention from heaven, America is going to see a depression like unto which the world has never seen before. The Depression of the 1929 to 1939 days will seem a slight recession compared to the depression that awaits America, unless there is an intervention from heaven. There is no such thing in the economic laws of Almighty God as any people, anywhere, living beyond their means, and not finding and facing a payday some day.
That holds true with the church. A church that goes in debt constantly will find itself spiritually frustrated, congregationally destroyed. That’s true with the home. Any time there is a home where the father or the mother, the wife or the husband, go beyond their means, they are headed for domestic disaster; I don’t care how much they love each other, or how much they are devoted to the house.
That holds true for the city; that holds true for the state; that holds true for the nation. We are now spending thirty-five million dollars every day just to pay the interest on our national debt. And the debt rises and the deficit increases; we are living off of our children’s heritage. We are borrowing from the future, from the tomorrow. But somewhere, some day, some time, there will come an inevitable and inexorable reckoning. And when it does, I don’t think we have the moral strength to face it. I think when that day of reckoning comes, I think you’re going to see roving crowds of gangs up and down the streets of our cities and of our towns, breaking the show windows where our merchants display their wares, and looting those stores. I don’t think today we have the moral strength to go through a disastrous depression.
Unless there is a great revival, a great turning to God, a great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon us, I think America is headed for economic disaster. Instead of revival, instead of soul winning, instead of prayer, instead of reading and searching the mind of God through His holy Word, what I read, and hear, and see – on radio and on television, in the papers – is an abomination to the Lord God of heaven. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is this: the trial that awaits America. This is not something new, as though I were broaching it for the first time. Nor is it something that has not been propagandized and publicized for years and decades throughout the whole communist world. Russia has announced from the beginning that her strategy is to surround and isolate America – not to confront us with battle cries, and space ships, and bombs, and tanks, and guns – but to surround us and to isolate us and thus, finally, to destroy us. She has announced that. That is her open, public program of military conquest and superiority.
And we live here; we read, and we see, and we hear, and we talk to our missionaries . Just beyond the border of where we live – if you want to get on a plane, you can be there in a few minutes – just beyond the border of where we live, and just beyond the tip of our beautiful state of Florida, you will find the communists in control of the country, building up arsenals of tremendous military conquest. And one, by one, by one, their purpose is to subvert Central and South America; just take it up, one at a time, one at a time.
And we face that challenge. And how do we face it? In great spiritual strength and in great commitment to God? There’s only been two times that America has ever stood up and said, “Thus far and no farther!” just twice. One was under President Kennedy when he said to Cuba, “You will take these Russian missiles out or you prepare for war.” That was one time.
The second time was under our present president, when he said to the Communist forces concerning Grenada, “You are not going to use this little island as a base of conquest and conflict in the Western Hemisphere.”
Outside of those two instances, the soft, flabby soul of America just watches, and watches, and watches, as the Communists increasingly infiltrate our sweet, dear neighbors to the south. Where do you find the will to resist? You’ll find it in God, or you won’t find it at all. That’s the second thing that I speak of in the days that lie ahead for America.
The third is universal. It is the judgment day of Almighty God. In 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 11, the Apostle Paul says: We are now spending thirty-five million dollars every day just to pay the interest on our national debt.
Unless there is a great revival, a great turning to God, a great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon us, I think America is headed for economic disaster.
The second thing is this: the trial that awaits America.
And we live here; we read, and we see, and we hear, and we talk to our missionaries . Just beyond the border of where we live – if you want to get on a plane, you can be there in a few minutes – just beyond the border of where we live, and just beyond the tip of our beautiful state of Florida, you will find the communists in control of the country, building up arsenals of tremendous military conquest.
And we face that challenge. In great spiritual strength and in great commitment to God?
The second time was under our present president, when he said to the Communist forces concerning Grenada, “
Outside of those two instances, the soft, flabby soul of America just watches, and watches, and watches, as the Communists increasingly infiltrate our sweet, dear neighbors to the south.
The third is universal.
Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men,It is appointed unto men once to die and after that, the judgment.
Somewhere, some day, some time, each one of us shall stand to give an account before the Lord God who made us. And what shall I say? And what shall I do if I’m not saved, if I have no Lord to plead for me, no mediator to intercede for me and my soul is lost and naked before God – what shall I say, and what shall I do?
Now, in reply: there are three things that are on my heart, and as I read God’s word – review Christian history – there are three things that I pray will characterize us. First and foremost: in the sixty-second Psalm, in the eleventh verse, the Psalmist wrote: "Once has God spoken, and twice have I heard it, that power belongs to God."
The first appeal is an intercessory prayer – plea, adjuration – before God. Lord, Lord, for an intervention from heaven; the descent of the convicting Spirit of Jesus; God to look down upon His prostrate and praying people and He answers from heaven. It is remarkable to me, what I read in the lives of these saintly men, how God does intervene; how God answers prayer, how He moves in mighty power among His people. I copied this from journal of John Wesley; he dated it Monday, January 1, 1739:
Messrs. Hall, and Kinchin, and Ingram, and Whitefield – I recognize that one, George Whitefield – Hutchins, and my brother Charles – Charles Wesley, who wrote so many of the hymns we sing – were present at our love feast in Getterslane, with about sixty of the brethren.
About three o’clock in the morning – that would be so strange and foreign to us – about three o’clock in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy.
As soon as we recovered a little from the awe and the amazement at the presence of the Majesty, we broke out with one voice:
"We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge Thee the Lord.”
O Lord, what an experience in prayer! Just one other out of a thousand: Robert Murray M’Cheyne was the pastor of the church in Dundee, Scotland – burned himself out when he was 29 years old, died in 1843; to me, so young – anyway, the presbytery called him up before the counsel. There had been a great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon his people. And he was brought before the counsel to defend the response of the people to the great moving Spirit of God. And here’s what he said in his defense:
Ever since my return to Dundee, I have frequently seen the preaching of the Word attended with so much power, and eternal things brought so near, that the feelings of the people could not be restrained. I observed at such times an awesome and breathless stillness pervading the assembly, each hearer bent forward in the posture of rapt attention. Serious men covered their faces to pray that the arrows of the King of Zion might be sent home with power to the hearts of sinners.
Just a manifestation of God upon His people; Lord, do it again! Do it again! We pray, we fast, we search the mind of the Almighty, and we plead until there’s an answer from Heaven.
Number two: our answer to the trial that faces America. Number two: the dedicated commitment of our laywomen, and our laymen, and our lay people to the witnessing, soul-winning ministry of Christ. I cannot but be amazed and surprised at a little three words – a little clause of three words – that are in the first verse of the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts.
The eighth chapter of the Book of Acts begins the story of the great persecution against the church at Jerusalem that was led at first by Saul of Tarsus. And it says that at that time – in that tremendous persecution – the saints there were scattered abroad throughout all the regions, except the apostles, except the preachers. Isn’t that the funniest, strangest, most inexplicable thing you can read in the Bible? They never bothered the preachers, never touched the preachers. Apparently, it didn’t matter to them one way or the other about the preachers. They could go there and holler, and yell, and carry ndent:.5in’>These great revivals that I’ve just described, I am amazed and surprised. Most of them were lead by a mister – not a reverend, not a D.D. doctor, but a mister. Charles Finney was a lawyer – a lawyer, trained in the school of law, never in the school of theology; Charles Finney was a lawyer. Major Penn, who won so many here in our part of the world to Jesus under whom E. Y. Mullins, who is president of the Southern Seminary, was won to the Lord; Major Penn was a lawyer; he was a barrister.
All of his life, it was "Mr. Moody," he was never ordained, he was never a minister, he was a layman, all the days of his life. It was Mr. Moody. He started off as a shoe salesman. He started off as a teacher of a little class of ragged boys. Then, according to the custom of the church to which he attended, he rented a whole bunch of pews and he filled them full every Lord’s Day with people who needed Jesus. And he spoke to them, and he won them to Christ, and he just kept on, and he just kept on, until the throng surrounded him, and the people came to find in him a precious hope in the Lord.
I copied from Dr. Jowett, the great spiritual leader and pastor in Birmingham, England – I copied from him his description of Moody – listen to it:
Moody’s excellence was in an earthen vessel. And many doctors of divinity have wondered at the strange association. There were thousands of speakers,
– listen to what he says –
there were thousands of speakers more eloquent than Moody, but the treasure was not in them of overwhelming glory. Moody may have been uneducated, untutored, and unskilled, but when he spoke, the power of an unseen world seemed to fall upon the audience.
A layman, a salesman, Mr. Moody.
I was walking down the street – Fifth Avenue, in New York City – and I came to the beautiful Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. I tried the door; it was open, I walked up to the pulpit. I stood there and I reviewed an incident in Christian history, and I knelt down to pray.
What happened was this: Mr. Moody from Chicago was invited to New York City to lead in a revival, soul-saving effort. Nobody had ever heard about him there and least of all, the pastor – distinguished, educated – of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. But because his heart was in the appeal for souls, the distinguished pastor, learned, acquiesced in the appeal that he invite Mr. Moody to preach in his pulpit.
The day came, and Mr. Moody stood up to speak to that rich and fashionable congregation. And when he started, that learned and distinguished pastor just slumped over in an agony. This unlettered, untutored man with his ungrammatical sentences and mispronouncing of words, what would his distinguished audience think he had done? But as Moody spoke, the pastor seated there began to watch the illustrious men in his congregation. They began to lean forward, they began to sit on the edge of their seats; and before it was over there was a power from God that fell upon the congregation. As the pastor himself said, “I had never seen before.” That’s God! And that’s God using lay people.
It isn’t just “I” – "he’s paid to do it." It isn’t just I, it is we. "I’m called of God to witness; I’m saved to save others." There has to be in my heart a moving, marching spirit of outreach, of appeal.
And that leads me to my third and last: that’s why we have dedicated ourselves to prayer and fasting. Beginning in the new year there will be stated times, announced times, of prayer and fasting. We’re going to knock at the door of heaven. God says He hears us for our importunity. When God looks down, He’s going to see us in earnest; these people need their appeals and supplications.
And we are going into the homes of the people; we’re going to witness, and testify, and appeal, and pray, and read the Bible. I’ve already started. I’ve been in about four of the homes already in the last two weeks. To me, it’s like a little assembly of glory, there to sit down in a large circle in a living room and talk about the things of the Lord. I call them "evangel groups."
Spare me this one other: on Thursday, there came to see me an executive from our Southern Baptist denomination. And he said to me, “I have come to encourage you in the evangel ministry to which you have dedicated yourself and your church.” He said, “If you succeed, the power of God is upon you. First,” he says, “it will be a model for thousands and thousands of other churches who look to you and follow you. It will be a model for them. And second,” he said, “if God’s blessings are upon you, we are going to try to implement it in our denomination – an outreach, soul-winning evangel ministry in which all of us can have a part.”
O Lord! For the saving of the soul, and for the healing and the saving of America, may the Lord work with us, and astonishingly, amazingly, wondrously, heavenly bless us!
We’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, "Pastor, the Lord has spoken to our hearts and we’re answering with our lives." In the balcony all the way round, you, down a stairway, there’s time to spare, come.
A couple you, you and your wife, you and a friend, or just you, "The Lord has called me, pastor, He’s spoken to my heart and I’m coming." Do it, make the decision now and on the first note of the first stanza, that first step will be the most meaningful you’ve ever made in your life. May angels attend you and the Spirit accompany you as you respond, as you come while we stand and while we sing.
THE SAVING OF THE NATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Chronicles 6:13
I. In history, what revivals have done for the nation
1. The Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield,1700’s
2. Incomparable in the life of the early American colonies
3. In contrast to France which was an atheistic revolution
II. Great revivals of the 1800’s
1. Charles Finney
2. J.C. Lamphier
III. The future facing America today
1. Tragic terrible possibilities
a. Deficit depression
c. Judgment day for each soul
2. Moving in the strength of the Lord