THE FAMILY AND THE NATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Psalm 33:12; Proverbs 14:34
5-28-89 8:15 a.m.
And God bless the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Family and the Nation. Our staff asked me if between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I would prepare a series of messages on the home. Because this is a Memorial Day weekend, it gave rise to the subject of the godly family, the Christian family, and the destiny of our nation.
I have two background texts. In Psalm 33, out of which you just read, verse 12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord—whose God is Jehovah—and the people whom He hath chosen for His [own] inheritance” [Psalm 33:12]. And the other is in the Book of Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”
A few days ago, the leadership of our Dallas YMCA asked me to come for a conference over there at the downtown Y. And they outlined for me a tremendous program by which they are seeking greatly to extend and to expand the ministries of the Y. And they had a brochure, beautifully prepared, by which they were introducing that appeal to the citizens of Dallas.
And I’m going to read the first two or three paragraphs of that brochure. Quote:
In the first decade of this twentieth century Theodore Roosevelt said, quote, “We cannot, as a nation, get along at all if we haven’t the right kind of home life.” This is as true today, at the dawn of the century’s last decade, as it was then. The family is the cornerstone of society. In the family, we learn how to be citizens, to belong, to contribute, to share, to anticipate needs, to care for other people.
But Dallas has the highest rate of pregnancy of unmarried teens in the nation. More unmarried teens in our city than in any other city in the United States—that includes New York, includes Los Angeles. Over six thousand teenage mothers gave birth here last year alone. In Dallas six out of ten of the teenage mothers are on welfare, and one out of every four who had a baby last year will have another one this year.
There are more pressures on the family today than ever before. Remember when the father went to work and the mother stayed at home to care for the children? That era is over. Today only seven percent of Dallas families could be called a traditional family. Over fifty percent of our children come home to an empty house each day—there is nobody home.
Then when we look at our nation as a whole, there is no doubt but that there is an alarming increase and turning to a criminal life. We as a nation spend three dollars on crime for every one we spend on education. We spend twelve dollars on crime as compared to one dollar for all religious cause. People spend eight times more hours at the movies than in Sunday school and one hundred times more before the television.
A major crime is committed every twenty seconds and a murder every thirty minutes. There are seventy suicides in our nation every day. Five out of ten who started as social drinkers end up as drunkards. There are one hundred and ninety state and federal prisons with a population of more than six hundred fifty thousand.
We Americans spend forty billion dollars every year for gambling, thirty billion dollars every year for crime, twenty billion dollars for alcoholic beverages, nine billion dollars on tobacco, and three-one hundredths of that amount on all religious causes.
Only one in twelve persons in America attends church. Seven out of eight children quit church and Sunday school before they’re fifteen.
Six hundred teenagers in New England prisons gave these startling facts as to why they were in that condition. Six out of ten had fathers who were drunkards. They had as many mothers in the same condition. Three out of four were permitted by their parents to come home at any time in the night. And seven out of ten had homes where no group activities were ever enjoyed.
This is America. And it is increasingly becoming a household of violence and crime. If you ever take time to go to a movie, which I don’t do, but the thing is full of promiscuity and vulgar and filthy and four-letter words. And if you bother to look at television, what is on television today is unthinkable in terms of the moral fabric of our nation. It is being absolutely destroyed. Now who is at the cause of all that? Who’s at the basis of all that? It is the fathers and the mothers and the elders in the home.
A teenager in a high school wrote a poem entitled, “Don’t Blame the Children.” And this is that poem:
They don’t make the movies, they don’t write the books
They don’t paint colorful pictures of gangsters and crooks.
They don’t make the liquor, they don’t run the bars,
They don’t make the laws, they don’t make the cars.
They don’t peddle the drugs that addle the brain;
That’s done by older folks . . . greedy for gain.
Delinquent teenagers; oh how we condemn
The sins of a nation and blame it on them.
By the laws of the blameless, the Lord made it known
Why look at children to cast the first stone?
For more likely—
it’s sad but true—
The title “Delinquent” fits older folks too!
[quoted in Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Charles R. Swindoll, 1985]
And I was amazed to read this. The inmates of the Missouri State Penitentiary came up with twelve ways in how to make a child delinquent, and they published it in the prison journal of the penitentiary. And here’s what the crooks and the scoundrels and the convicts in the penitentiary say. This is the way to make our children delinquent:
One: begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants.
Two: when he picks up bad words or dirty words, laugh at him.
Three: never give him any spiritual training until he’s twenty-one, and then let him decide for himself.
Four: by the same logic, never teach him the English language. Maybe when he’s old enough he’ll want to speak Bantu.
Five: avoid the use of the word “wrong.”
Six: do everything for him.
Seven: let him read anything he wants.
Eight: quarrel frequently in his presence
Nine: give him all the spending money he wants.
Ten: satisfy every craving of the youngster.
Eleven: take his part against policemen and teachers and neighbors.
Twelve: when he gets into real trouble, always defend yourself and say, “I never could do anything with him.”
That’s what the convicts say—how to make delinquents out of our children.
We have a great call today; and how vital is our church, and our Sunday school, and our ministries, and our staff. How vital it is that we address this tragedy that is overwhelming our families, and our nation, and our children, and our people. And the answer lies in Christ.
Some people think that miracles all happen long ago
And some folks say the Holy Bible really isn’t so.
They say it’s just a fairy tale; that science doubts the Word.
But since Jesus came into our house, a miracle occurred.
Since Jesus came to our house, our dad no longer drinks.
You’ll find no empty bottles smelling up the sink.
Now when we gets his paycheck, no tavern sees his face.
Since Jesus came to our house, our home’s a better place.
There are no quarrels at our house since Jesus is our guest.
And mom, she burned the playing cards, the ones she loved the best.
Now when she calls out supper, and everyone’s in place,
There’s joy around the table, as daddy says the grace.
Every Sunday morning finds us at Sunday school again
Where folks are warm and friendly and our blessings never end.
Then we listen to the preacher, then our heads we gently bow,
Since Jesus came to our house, our lives are different now.
Our home is like a heaven, and our hearts are filled with love,
And the circle won’t be broken in that mansion up above.
When the saints are called to glory, we’ll all gather around the throne.
Since Jesus came to our house, we’re a blessed Christian home.
The answer lies in God, and it doesn’t lie any other way. I tell you, as I said a thousand times here in this pulpit, the penitentiary never turns anybody. They’re just taught there how to be hardened, and how to be more mischievous, and how to do things that are ungodly and unlawful. If there’s any turning, it lies in turning to God.
If I lived a thousand lifetimes I’d never forget a service down here at our church. In the days when Ira McAllister was the leader of our outreach ministries, we had a big, big, big dinner, jammed Coleman Hall, with those people over there in West Dallas where we have two or three or four missions. And the program was those men and father’s in the homes stood up and said what God had done for them since they became Christians. I sat there and wept three hours, three solid hours. One man after another, after another stood up and described his life out of Christ, how his wife dreaded for his coming home when he’d beat her up, and how the children hid from their father in terror when he came home. Then describe how he is now that he’s found the Lord, and what a job he now keeps and makes a living for the family; that went on for three hours. You can’t imagine how God can turn a family and a home when they just open the door and say, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart and come into my house.”
Just anyone can build a house
Within a month or two,
Start with a couple deep in love
And home is anyplace.
Give them a roof snug overhead
And a smiling baby face.
To raise that baby to a man
Will take a lot of care.
A house is built of nails and wood,
But a home is built on prayer.
God help us as we call our people to a renewal of dedication to the Lord God who made us and some day before whom we shall stand [Hebrews 9:27].
When we think of our nation, our beloved America, we have in God’s hands the greatest gift of any people who have ever lived. This America is the incomparable gift from heaven. And it began, whatever these infidels say to the contrary, it began in prayer. It began in the Christian home. It began in that little church. And the family is the unit and the background against which all of the government and the life of our American people is portrayed, is cast, is historically contained—written.
I think of those days when the Pilgrims came and when our Baptist forefathers came and when the life of the nation and the life of the people were centered around the church, and the Lord’s Day, and the preaching of the gospel, and the commitment of our homes to Christ. And the leadership of the nation was cast in that kind of a mold and defined in that kind of worship before God.
I just review just for a moment these things that are so well known by our kids that go to school. Sessions of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were opened with prayer on motion of Benjamin Franklin and the fathers who laid the foundation that drew the inspiration from God. Benjamin Franklin, as you remember, made the motion that they begin every one of those Constitutional convocations with prayer.
And a distinguished English visitor asked the secretary of the Constitutional Convention, “Which one is George Washington?” And the answer was, “When Congress or the convention or the convocation goes to prayer, the one who kneels is George Washington.” And I’ve read that many, many times and have it here; always George Washington knelt in prayer.
The Constitution was the child of prayer, led by devout men such as Benjamin Franklin; George Washington, who’s the warden of his church over there in Alexandria; James Madison, called the Father of the Constitution, was praying for the ministry after his graduation from Princeton, and he studied theology under the great Dr. Witherspoon. That’s where we came from.
I could not but be interested when Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as president of the United States. He prayed a marvelous prayer, I have it here. Then somebody objected, of course. Somebody objected, then there was an answer regarding Mr. Lester E. Foss’s criticism of President Eisenhower mixing religion and government. And you always have those infidels in the pulpit, in the denomination, everywhere that wants to take religion out of the government of the people. My soul, we ought to put it in. We ought to do everything we can to make our government Christian. Anyway, he says when the Constitutional Convention had come to an impasse, Benjamin Franklin addressed George Washington and said,
How has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherfor once thought of humbly [appealing] to the Father of lights? In the beginning of this contest with Britain, we were sensible of danger and we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this: that God governs in the affairs of men. I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed with business.
That’s the way America was started, the way it began.
This is a part of egotism on my part but I cannot help but speak of it. We inaugurated a governor here in the state of Texas. And the headline is “Inauguration Day Starts with Prayer,” and to the left on the front page there is a picture of your pastor and the governor as the governor greeted the Dallas pastor at the inauguration. And then in the Dallas News—and in the daily paper in Austin—and in the Dallas News is a picture of your pastor. Standing by the Dallas pastor is Speaker Billy Clayton. Those things are so appropriate: the government and our people asking God’s blessings upon our nation.
What makes a nation great?
Not serried ranks with flags unfurled,
Nor armored ships that gird the world,
Nor horded wealth nor busy mills,
Nor cattle on a thousand hills.
Nor sages wise nor schools nor laws,
Not boasted deeds and freedoms cause—
All these may be and yet the state
In the eye of God be far from great.
That land is great which knows the Lord,
Whose songs are guided by the Word;
Whose justice rules mixed man and man,
Where loves controls an ardent plan;
Where breathing in his native air,
Each soul finds joy in praise and prayer—
Thus may our country, good and great,
Be God’s delight—man’s best estate.
[“What Makes a Nation Great?” Alexander Blackburn]
I know three things must always be
To keep a nation strong and free.
One is a hearthstone bright and dear,
With busy happy loved ones near.
One is a ready heart and hand
To serve and love and keep the land.
One is a worn and beaten way,
To where the people go to pray.
So long as these are kept alive
Nation and people will survive.
God keep them always, everywhere,
The hearth, the flag, and the place of prayer.
[“Formula for a Strong Nation,” Clarence Flynn]
That’s the answer to all of the crime, and trouble, and violence, and turmoil, and anxiety that characterizes our great nation, our homeland of America.
And this service this morning is a call for us; in our part and in our house and in our homes we’re going to make it an altar of prayer. We’re going to ask God’s blessing upon us, upon our city, upon our great state, and upon the incomparable gift of God to us, our beloved America. This is our plea to the Lord as we stand at the crossroads of human history.
We’re going to sing us a song. And while we sing this song of appeal, a family to come into the fellowship of our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], a couple to regive and reconsecrate their lives to God by giving your house and your home to the Lord, a one somebody to accept the Lord Jesus as Savior [Romans 10:8-13], as the Holy Spirit of God will press the appeal to your heart, down one of those stairways in the balcony, down one of these aisles here in the sanctuary, “Pastor, God has spoken to me. My wife and I and our children are answering with our lives.” Or, “God knows my heart, I’m coming, my very own self, to stand for God and to give my life to Him.” I can’t make the appeal, Christ has to do that. But as He speaks to your heart, would you answer, “Here I stand, Lord. I am Thine and I give You my whole heart and life, and I look to Thee for direction and for victory in the pilgrim way,” while we sing our song, on the first stanza, the first verse, come, while we stand and while we sing.