A Monument High As Heaven
August 31st, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
A MONUMENT HIGH AS HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-31-88 7:30 p.m.
Once again, we welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour with us on KCBI Radio. You are a part of our First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor, bringing the message entitled, actually, A Monument to Human Vanity; A Monument High as Heaven; a monument as universal as is the human race.
Out of the passage we just read from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Genesis, in the middle of the fourth verse, there is an avowal, a hope of those who built Babel. And the phrase is, “Let us make us a name.” Human vanity; “let us make us a name” [Genesis 11:4]; it seems to be an instinct of the human race. It is universal.
We go back in the beginning, before history, in Scotland. And I speak of this first because most of us are children of ancestors who came from Scotland, or from Ireland, or from Wales, or from Cornwall, or from Brittany. They are cairns; they are remarkable stone creations that are without purpose except, as we guess, they are built in order to keep alive the memory of someone or some tribe who built them; a cairn.
The most remarkable one is in Ireland. It is 400 paces around. It is 80 feet high. It is made of 180,000 tons of stone, built before human history was ever written. In many parts of England where stones were scarce, those cairns were made of earth. But how ever they were made, they differ only in material. It is a gigantic effort on the part of somebody, somewhere, sometime, to build a name for themselves. For example, a highland suppliant could have said to his lord, “I will add a stone to your cairn”—vanity. “Let us make us a name for ourselves.” Another one of those prehistoric strange monuments, cromlech in Wales, huge stones supporting an enormous flat stone platform, and that one stone weighs more than twenty tons.
All of us are familiar with these obelisks. They are prismatic monuments of stone terminating with a pyramidal top, some of them 105 feet high. You see them in Egypt; and one of them, as you know, called Cleopatra’s Needle, was brought to America, and you have seen it in a park in New York City. And of course, the pyramids: one of the Seven Wonders of the World. They are found in Egypt and they are found in old Mexico. That Cheops pyramid in Egypt is five hundred feet high. It took 100,000 slaves, workmen, fifty years to build it.
The world looked at those for centuries and centuries and wondered what they were, and for what cause they were created. Some said they were built for astronomical purposes. Some of them said they were built to deny the encroachment of the desert. Some of them said they were built for granaries. When we finally learned why they were built—they are monuments to human vanity. The people who built them, built them in which their names could be inscribed and enshrined, in which their mortal bodies could be buried, and by which they could be remembered forever.
We can continue on with what we see in our Western civilization. The triumphal arches, they were built first as a gate. You entered into a walled city through one of those arches. Then they were detached and placed across a thoroughfare. If you want to see one of the most interesting one of them in the world, just look at the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum. There, on either side, you will see Titus’ depiction of his victory over the Jewish nation in 70 AD, and the carrying away of the beautiful furniture in the temple, such as the seven-branch lampstand, a monument to his vanity. Not very far from the Arch of Titus, you will see the Arches of Constantine. And of course, if you have ever been in Paris, down that main boulevard, you see the Arch of Triumph.
Well, in Rome, you couldn’t help but remember the Tomb of Hadrian. It is on the banks of the Tiber, 220 feet high, of immense solidarity, for no purpose at all except as a monument to Hadrian’s vanity. And one again of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Mausoleum. It was the tomb at Halicarnassus to Mausolus king of Caria, built by his widow Artemisia in 363 BC, 140 feet high, 120 feet long, 100 feet wide, and as I say, one of the Seven Wonders of the World; like the Taj Mahal. Have you ever seen that? To me, that is the most beautiful building in present existence; in Agra, India, built by the Mogul emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his favorite wife; and when you go there, there is he buried, and there is his wife buried.
So the list continues, ad infinitum; the monument to human vanity. Nebuchadnezzar built his Hanging Gardens. The Colossus of Rhodes—again, one of the Seven Wonders of the World—if you ever stood there at the entrance into the harbor at Rhodes, there it was, 120 feet high and built in 280 BC, and it stood there until an earthquake cast it into the sea, then it was dragged out in order that the iron work might be melted and used for other purposes. One of the things contributing to the doom and downfall of Jehoiakim, who reigned in Judah 607 to 597 BC, was he was trying to imitate, in his poor and Lilliputian way, Pharaoh Necho of Egypt and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
If you bring this thing up to your present reading today; if you have ever looked at Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People; Andrew Carnegie wanted to have a part in a railway system where people could eat and sleep as they travel. So George Pullman had the major hand in that railroad industry at that time. And when Andrew Carnegie went to him to seek the possibility of building such a thing, he got nowhere with George Pullman at all until Andrew Carnegie had enough sense to say, “And let’s call them Pullmans, let’s call them Pullmans,” and immediately George Pullman flowered in response. And thereafter you had the Pullman coaches on all of the old trains in America.
Personal ambition burns like fire, and it is something of the world, it is not of God. You see that most dramatically and beautifully in the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-9]; He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” [Matthew 20:28]. “And if I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet” [John 13:14]. And I have said all of my life, though I have never done aught but just look at it, in these Primitive Baptist churches, I would have no objection at all in having a foot-washing service in this church, none at all. And I would love to wash your feet. I would love to do it. Any time we do anything to exalt ourselves, personal vanity, we are exhibiting a spirit diametrically opposite from that of our blessed Lord—of the grace and purpose of God in heaven for our lives.
Now, may I add one other thing? There are monuments that can reach into heaven that will please the Lord; that will bless the soul. I name three: a monumental life, a life given to God, a life dedicated to Christ. Paul writes in Philippians 3:
My brethren . . . what things were gain to me, these I count loss for Christ.
. . . And I count all things loss—
whatever they are—
for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ my Lord . . .
That I could be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness . . . but that which is through faith in Christ . . .
That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings . . .
And I press toward that prize of the mark of this high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
That is a glorious spirit, a monumental life, one dedicated to Christ. I love the answer of a man who will say, “You ask me what is my job? My job is serving Christ, and I make my living—paying expenses— selling groceries or peddling insurance or shining shoes or plowing the field. These things I do to pay my bills, but my assignment and my job in life is serving Christ”—a monumental life that reaches up to heaven.
A monumental home, a home given to Christ, a Christian home. When I was a youth, boy growing up, my mother had such unending ambitions for me. So, as a little kid, she had me take expression lessons, and then as I grew older, I was taught dramatic readings and declamations. One time, in one of the universities here in Texas, I won, as a sophomore in high school—I won a silver loving cup, declaiming those declamations, those great oratorical speeches made by patriots. And then you learn it, and you deliver the declamation—well, here is one of them, if I can summarize it. In a marvelous, oratorical address by Henry W. Grady, editor of The Atlanta Constitution, a glorious man who helped heal that terrible breach between the North and the South after the War between the States—anyway, in this marvelous, oratorical address by Henry W. Grady, he was speaking of the secret of the strength of America.
So the orator said, he stands on the banks of Chesapeake Bay and he sees there before him the great navies of America in review. And then, the marching might of the armies of America on the shore and as he looks upon that great deployment of the ships of America, the Navy and those marching men, he says to himself, “Surely the strength of America is found in her armies and in her navies.” Then the great orator says he was under the dome of the Capitol, and there in our nation’s capital, he sees those lawmakers in Senate and in House, legislating for the good of the American people. Then he says, “I changed my mind, and thought in my heart, ‘Surely the secret of the strength of America is in her democratic processes, her constitutional government.’” Then the great orator describes, in language that is incomparable, he describes a visit to an old friend on a farm in Georgia. And when the work of the day was done, and the old farmer comes into the house, and gathers his family around him, open God’s Book, reads out of the sacred Scriptures and kneels with his family in prayer, and the great orator says, “As I looked upon that kneeling farmer, the great armies and navies and military might of America passed away. And our legislative halls became indistinct in the distance, and I said in my heart, ‘The strength of America lies in its Christian homes.’”
Good night! That’s been seventy years since I have read a declamation like that, memorized a declaration like that. But the thought of that great orator burns in my heart after these scores of years—a monument high as heaven; a Christian home.
And third: a monument high as heaven, a monumental church; a monumental church like this church, God’s congregation, the assembly of the Lord’s people. You have heard me describe upon a day, when we went to the services of the great St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. And the dean of the cathedral was the preacher for that hour. And in his exalted, ecclesiastical surroundings; and in his high and raised pulpit, he stood up to deliver the message of the hour. His first point was the whales in the North Atlantic, and his distress over the fact that they might become an extinct species. That was his first point—the whales in the North Atlantic.
His second part, his second point, concerned the apartheid in South Africa. And he was greatly distressed over the oppressive government of the white people in South Africa. That was his second point. His third point concerned the Tory government, the conservative government of Great Britain. And he seemed to be very much unhappy with the conservative stance of the government of Great Britain. And his fourth point in the sermon concerned the financial district in London—a thing that I couldn’t enter into because I was not acquainted with the financial district in London. Those were the four points of his sermon. Then, they sang some kind of a ritualistic “Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen,” and we were dismissed.
Now that kind of a thing goes on all over this earth. No wonder people go to church, yawn, go out and play golf and forget to come back. What we need is a church that mediates the Word of God, has no other commitment except to lift up our Lord, to make appeal in His name, to ask God’s blessings upon the work of our hands, the forgiveness of our sins, the saving of our souls, the blessing of our children. O God, that we might be like that—a monumental church!
And that is our appeal to your heart tonight. Is there a family here who would love to join hands with us in this communion and fellowship, go to heaven with us? Is there somebody you, who tonight would love in your heart to take Jesus as your personal Savior? [Romans 10:9-13]. “Write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20] and someday, in the hour of my death, open for me the doors of heaven, the gates of glory.” Would you like to accept Jesus as your Savior tonight? Is there someone who, moved of God, would answer the call of the Spirit of the Lord in your heart tonight?
In a moment, we are going to sing us a song of appeal and I will be standing right here. If God has spoken to your heart, you’re so welcome, in the name of Jesus who died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], was raised for our justification to keep us saved [Romans 4:25]—died to save us [Romans 5:8], rose to keep us saved [Romans 5:9], to present us someday faultless in the presence of His great glory [Jude 24]. If you would like to come, I will be standing right here and we will pray together. God bless you, angels attend your way, while we stand and while we sing.
MONUMENT HIGH AS HEAVEN
Instincts of fallen humanity – monuments to self
1. Prehistoric cairns
3. Obelisks – prismatic
monuments of stone
4. Pyramids – Egypt
5. Triumphal arches
6. Tomb of Hadrian
Building a monument that reaches to heaven
1. A life given to
Christ – a monumental life
2. A home given to
3. A church given