My Country

Psalm

My Country

June 29th, 1986 @ 8:15 AM

Psalm 33:12

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
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MY COUNTRY

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Psalm 33:12

6-29-86    8:15 a.m.

 

The title of the message—and we welcome the multitudes of you who share this service on radio with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled My Country.  It is an extenuation of Psalm 33:12:  “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.”  Psalm 33:12:  “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

With what pride and gratitude can an American look upon his native land, stretching from side to side, wide as the continent is wide, a nation of beauty, and charm, and glory, and power; from ocean to ocean, with its towering mountains, and its broad prairies, and its vast forests, and its winding rivers, and its teeming cities.  In these years gone by, something I would never do again, I was on a four-months preaching mission around the world, from the first of August to the last of November.  And so poignantly do I remember the pilot announcing over the P.A. system in the plane, “The next lights you see will be those of California”—four months gone, visiting the mission fields of the world, under the sponsorship of the Foreign Mission Board, and then coming back home.  Like Sir Walter Scott wrote:

Breathes there the man with soul so dead

Who never to himself hath said,

            ‘This is my own, my 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 minstrel raptures swell;

[adapted from “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” by Sir Walter Scott]

All of us feel the uplift and the tug of a patriotic service, a patriotic song, and a call to thanksgiving and remembrance for our native America.

So much in the symbolism of our American flag:  and look across the front of our sanctuary today.

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

To ward her people from foreign wrong:

Glory and honor and power, all

Live in the colors to stand 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 nation was founded upon a prayer-answering God.  If you have ever been in Valley Forge, you have seen there the heroic statue of General George Washington down on his knees praying for God’s blessings upon our Revolutionary War.  In the cold, dark winter of 1777, he faced inevitable defeat; and found strength and refuge in God.  Ten years later, in [1787], an assembly of representatives of the colonies met in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, there to write out a Constitution for the new republic.  On the table in front of the presiding officer was one book:  the Bible.  A British visitor said to a friend, “Which one is General George Washington?”  And the American replied, “When the assembly goes to prayer, the one who kneels is George Washington.”  The assembly sought a basis and a guarantee for the rights and privileges of her people, a bulwark against tyranny and oppression.  They first looked to Spain and found there that the rights and privileges of the people were guaranteed by a monarchy.  “But,” said our founding fathers, “if a monarchy can grant rights and liberties, that same monarchy can take them away.”  They turned next to England, 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 grant rights and liberties, the same parliament can take them away.”  They then turned to France, and there found that the rights and liberties of the people were guaranteed by the will of a majority.  “But,” said our founding fathers, “if a majority can grant rights and liberties, that same majority can take them away.”  It was then that our founding fathers turned to Almighty God and found in Him the guarantee of the rights and liberties of her people; for before the law and before the state, they said, God had created all of us equal [Job 34:19].  It is a nation founded upon the church and the Christian home.

All of our school children are taught the truth that the conquistadores came to America seeking gold, but our Pilgrim Fathers came to America seeking God.  And the nation they built is the greatest and the noblest in all the earth.  If expanse made a nation great, Siberia would be the greatest in the earth.  If resources made a nation great, Brazil would be the greatest nation in the earth.  If ancient civilization made a nation great, China would be the greatest nation in the earth.  If population made a nation great, India would be the greatest nation in the earth.  But the greatest nation under God in this earth is God-blessed America:

For a nation is not made great by its fruitful acres, but by the men who till them; not by its great forests, but by the men who use them; not by its rich mines, but by the men who exploit them; and not by its vast transportation systems, but by the men who build them.  Lyman Abbot said, “America was a great land when Columbus discovered it; but Americans have made of it a great nation.

When I was a youth, when I was in the ninth grade, in high school, I won a silver loving cup in a state declamation contest.  And one of those declamations I could never, ever forget:  a brilliant address made by the silver-tongued orator of the South, Henry W. Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution.  He was describing the secret of America’s greatness.  He first said he looked upon a display of the naval might of America, on Hampton Roads in Chesapeake Bay, and on the land, the marching armies of the American republic; and as he looked upon the army and the navy, he said, “Surely, the strength and might of America is found in her armed forces.”  He then said he was under the capitol dome in Washington D.C., and saw there the democratic processes of the American government.  And as he watched our lawmakers in constitutional process, he said, “Surely, surely the secret of America lies in its democratic government and in its legislative processes.”  Then, he said, he was the guest of an old friend on a red clay farm in Georgia.  And when the evening came, the father gathered his children and the family around an open Bible and led in a family devotion.  And, he said, as he looked upon the kneeling figure of that father in the home, “The armies and the navies of America faded from sight; the great Capitol dome in Washington D.C. faded from sight; and he said, “I saw in that kneeling father the secret of the strength and the might and the glory of America: it lies in her Christian homes and her Christian families.”

When we face the future of our country, our destiny lies in the imponderables of Almighty God.  The shores of history are strewn with the wrecks of kingdoms and empires who have forgotten God.  And what shall be the destiny of our nation and of our people?  As Rudyard Kipling wrote at the end of the reign of Queen Victoria:

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 boasting as the Gentiles use,

Or lesser breeds without the Law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

[“God of Our Fathers, Known of Old,” by Rudyard Kipling]

Our nation cannot live in drunkenness and debauchery and desecration.  We have an increasing drug traffic to tear our bodies apart.  We have immoral TV and movies to tear our homes apart.  We have terror and crime on our city streets to tear our cities apart.  We have secular humanism to tear our schools apart.  We have sodomy and AIDS to tear the moral fabric of our people apart.  We have cults, strange and weird, to tear our churches apart.  What is the hope of our nation in the unfolding days that lie before us and our children and our children’s children?  It lies in a turning to Almighty God!  We have no other hope!

I lived as a boy on a farm in New Mexico next to the Texas line, in the far northwestern Panhandle.  I have seen the earth turn to iron and the heavens to brass.  I have seen the pastures turn to desert and heard the lowing of thirsting cattle.  I remember standing with my father in the door of our farmhouse, and he raised his hands to heaven and shouted to the top of his voice in thanksgiving to God.  My father was very retiring and timid, and I was astonished as a little lad to see him shouting to the top of his voice.  And looking up into his face, I said, “Daddy, why are you shouting so?”  And he replied, “Son, God has sent us rain.  God has sent us rain.”

Oh, for the floods on the thirsting land!

Oh, for a mighty revival!

Oh, for a fearless, sanctified band,

Ready to hail its arrival!

The need of the land is revival,

A freshen of grace from above;

Repentance and prayer and forgiveness,

More trusting in Christ and His love.

[“Abundant Life”; William Leslie]

 

But if the nation is to turn to God, it can only do so in its people.  A nation cannot repent if I do not repent.  A nation cannot turn if I do not turn.  A nation cannot believe if I do not believe.  A nation cannot confess if I do not confess.  A nation cannot be baptized if I am not baptized, and a nation cannot be saved if I am not saved.  It is we who make up our republic.  It is we who make up our nation.  And it is we in whose hands lies its eternal destiny.

Upon Thy people, Lord, may Thy love and mercy aboundingly be poured out, and may it begin in me, and in us, and in this hour, and in this church.

In this moment we’re going to stand and sing an invitation appeal.  And while we sing the song, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me and here I stand”; some accepting Christ as Savior, opening hearts to heaven and to God; some coming into the fellowship of our dear church; some answering God’s call in your heart and life; as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make that decision now.  Make it now.  And in this moment when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, on the first note of that first stanza, that first step will be the most meaningful you could ever make in your life.  In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, and there’s time and to spare, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me and I’m on the way; here I stand.”  A thousand times welcome; and may the angels rejoice with you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.