The inexcusable ignorance of the present day is leading thousands of people into infidelity. Not to catechize our youth will lead them to practical atheism.
A sermon from Simon Peter Long, delivered in 1903.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Sanctify us, O Lord, through Thy Truth: Thy Word is Truth. Amen.
Dearly Beloved in the Lord: –
There are few people in the world who realize that the great public school system is the child of Dr. Luther’s catechism. The public schools of America can trace their origin to the Mayflower, over to England and Scotland, down to Wittenberg, to 1529, when Dr. Luther wrote his little catechism and established schools for the masses, that they might read and study it. We have no time today to go into detail as to this history, but are thinking of the thousands of children who are wending their way to the public schools, and of religious instruction which they as catechumens should now receive from the Christian Church. Our text is a loud call for people to prepare to meet their God. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” May the Holy Spirit direct us today, while we extend
A Call For Catechumens.
We will notice:
I. What it means to catechize. II. What it means _not_ to catechize.
(I) To catechize means to work as Jesus worked; to teach what Jesus taught; and to teach as Jesus taught.
(1) In the days of the Reformation the Church of God educated her children, and no one thought of receiving members into church without thorough instruction. The time came when the great revival system swept over the world, and ministers of the Gospel discovered that they could receive members with less work and in a shorter time. Ministers are flesh and blood, the same as other Christians, and are only too willing to get rid of some work. To educate the little children as Jesus would have them educated, means to work as He worked. During His ministry Jesus did nothing but work in that ministry. He never rested nor slept, except when it was absolutely necessary. You do not find Him riding on the boat simply for pleasure, but He sleeps during the storm; you do not find Him sitting on the well of Jacob doing nothing, but catechizing the woman of Samaria. Wherever you find Him, He is about His Father’s business. To educate the children of one family is a great task; how much more to educate the children of seven hundred families! It is no small task to take your children and instruct them during the week in the Word of God. To catechize means, however, to work with them as Jesus worked with His disciples.
(2) It also means to teach what Jesus taught. Open the New Testament and you will at once find that the first chapter is Bible history; read Luke, and you will find a chain of truths taken from Bible history; read the seventh chapter of Acts, and you will find that Stephen had been well versed in Bible history. For three long years the Savior taught the Bible, referring to the Old Testament and showing plainly that He was the promised Messiah, the God-man. It is our duty in catechization to drill the children well in Old Testament history as well as in New Testament history. We also must teach them the chief parts of the Catechism as Jesus did. The text of the day is taken from the Sermon on the Mount, the first chapter of which deals largely with the deeper insight into the Divine law. The Ten Commandments in the days of Moses were to be taught to the children morning, noon and evening, in the house and on the highway; that same law stands yet today and is the foundation of all true Christianity. It becomes our duty therefore to teach what Jesus taught.
He not only taught the Divine law, but He taught the substance of the Apostles’ Creed. He taught the world that God was His Father, and that only through Him could His Father become our Father; He taught them that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary; that He would suffer under Pontius Pilate; that He would be crucified; that He would die and that He would be buried; that He would rise again on the third day; that He would come again to judge the quick and the dead. He taught them of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, and when He would come He would convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. He taught them of the Church resting upon Himself, so that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. He taught them the forgiveness of sins; He taught them the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. So you see that we are to teach our children what Jesus taught them – the Apostles’ Creed.
When His disciples came to Him asking how to pray, He taught them the most beautiful prayer – the Lord’s Prayer. By His own example at the table He taught them to give thanks to God for what they ate and what they drank. His life upon the mountains, while others were sleeping, was a life of prayer. It becomes our duty to teach our children from infancy to pray, to have sweet communion with their God.
The Savior also taught His disciples on the great subject of Baptism, by being baptized Himself when He began His ministry. In the midst of His work He taught Nicodemus the necessity of being born again, and showed Him how this could be done, namely, by water and the Spirit. After He was dead and buried, and rose again, before He ascended on high, He called His disciples together once more and gave them the final command: “Go ye into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
What Jesus taught His disciples, it becomes our duty to teach our children. Why is it that so many people do not know whether there is any other form of baptism than immersion? Why is it that so many people do not know whether they should have their children baptized or not? It is due to the fact that they have not been properly catechized; that they have not been taught what Jesus taught.
The Lord was very careful to teach His disciples the Lord’s Supper. It was His last will and testament. Wills and testaments are not written in poetry, nor with squinting construction, but the language must be plain – so plain that it cannot be misunderstood. The Lord Jesus told us plainly in His will that we should eat His body and drink His blood. Why is it that so many professed Christians do not know at all what Jesus did say about the Lord’s Supper? Why is it that some people actually think that He used the word “represent” instead of “is?” It is because they have not been properly catechized. They are living without the proper instruction. It is our duty to teach what Jesus taught.
How many Protestant churches know anything about the doctrine of the Office of the Keys? Yea, how many ministers of the Gospel never say one word about this office? When Jesus spoke to Peter He said, “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” In order that Peter might not think that this was a special privilege given to him only, after His resurrection the Lord Jesus appeared before all the disciples and said to them, “Peace be unto you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained.” This is what Jesus taught, and this is what children ought to be taught in the present day in order that they may understand the peace which God wishes to proclaim to them through the Office of the Keys.
(3) To catechize means not only to work as Jesus worked, and to teach what Jesus taught, but to teach as Jesus taught. With questions and answers, by personal contact, Jesus spent most of His ministry. We have the record in God’s Word of only one sermon that He preached. During most of the time He was questioning and answering, all about the Father’s business”. We find Him catechizing Nicodemus in the midnight hour; we find Him catechizing the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well; we find Him catechizing the malefactor on the cross, and long after He had ascended into heaven, He cried out from the heavens to Saul, on his way to Damascus, and catechized him, until he became His greatest apostle. How many times during the preaching of a sermon the hearer would like to ask this question or that, but the opportunity is not given. Sometimes it seems to me it would be well if we would catechize the whole congregation. This personal contact between a pastor and his people is the same as Jesus had with His disciples. Those who have come into the church under a special service have a warm feeling for that pastor who showed them the right way; how much warmer would that feeling be of the catechumens who for years have enjoyed the personal contact of a man of God, showing them the way that leads to heaven! Let us therefore imitate Jesus, and teach not only what He taught, but teach as He taught. Let those who think that catechizing takes too long a time remember that Jesus step by step instructed His disciples for three long years. They did not go into the ministry directly from the plow, or from the fisherman’s boat; but they took instructions, and even after listening to the great Teacher for three years, they still were, very ignorant of many things that He wanted them to know, and He sent the Comforter that He might bring to their remembrance all things that he had taught. The method therefore, of catechizing should be to lead our youth, and even adults, step by step, to that knowledge which will make them without excuse on the great Judgment Day. We do not claim that all catechized people will eventually be saved. Judas was as well instructed as John, but John laid his head upon the Savior’s breast and was faithful to Him until death, while Judas gave Him the betraying kiss and “went to his place.” Thus members may be in the same catechetical class and receive the same instruction; some may be saved and others will not; but if we teach as Jesus taught, we shall make them without excuse on the great Judgment Day.
(II) Having thus shown you what it means to catechize, let us notice what it means not to catechize. We will enter more fully into our text now by noticing that not to catechize means more idolatry, more infidelity, and more insanity.
(1) “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” From these words we notice clearly that the Lord Jesus observes that there is too much idolatry among the people. He has just told them not to lay up for themselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but that they should lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. Instead of obeying this command, the people were trying to worship the unknown god, the god of mammon. When Paul stood on Mars Hill he saw there an altar to the unknown god. Ever since sin has come into the world there has been an inclination on the part of sinful men to get a god that had no ears to hear, and no eyes to see. In the days of Elijah, as we have just heard in our Sunday school lessons, the people worshiped Baal, and you will remember that Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and addressed the wavering people by saying, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” It was decided on that mountain by fire from heaven that God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is the true and living God; but the people were again worshiping Baal, and they have worshiped him ever since. Today we have in our own country the same unknown god. Three classes of men meet to form an organization; it must have religion or it cannot stand; consequently there must be a vow, or an oath, and certain prayers and forms of service to bury the dead; a constitution must be drawn; conditions must be mentioned on which people can become members. These three classes come together; the one is represented by the minister of the Gospel, the Christian; the other is represented by the Jew, who denies Christ; the third is represented by the agnostic. One question all three classes can positively answer: Do you believe in a Supreme Being? To this question each of the three classes can answer, Yes. Let us now investigate more fully what this means. Let us ask the preacher: Do you believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Yes, sir. Do you believe that the Bible is God’s Word from beginning to end? Yes, sir. Then you believe in a Supreme Being? Yes, sir. You may be a member of this organization. In comes the next. To what nationality do you belong? I am a Jew. Do you believe in a Supreme Being? Yes, sir. Do you believe in God the Father? Yes. Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God? No, sir. Do you believe that the New Testament is a part of the Bible? No, sir. Do you believe in the Holy Christian Church as represented by the. Protestants of today? No, sir. But you believe in a Supreme Being? Yes, sir. Then you can become a member. The atheist need not come, for he does not believe in the existence of a God, but such a man can not be found. In comes the agnostic. Do you say there is no God? No, sir. Do you believe that the Bible is God’s Word? No, sir. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World? No, sir. But you do believe in a Supreme Being? Yes, sir. Then you can become a member of this organization. Now this organization must have a chaplain. Why not select the preacher? This organization needs prayers, for some chaplains cannot pray. Now let the prayers be formulated. The report is now given by the committee; the prayer is completed. Let us hear the prayer. O God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost “Stop!” says the Jew. “Stop!” says the agnostic; “We do not acknowledge that we believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; we simply acknowledge that we believe in a Supreme Being.” Well, this prayer can be fixed up to suit everybody; we will leave out the name Christ; we will simply address ourselves to the Great Architect of the Universe – the unknown god. Baal worship today exists in America as much as it did in the gardens of Jezebel. The unknown god is worshiped in thousands of organizations where the name of Jesus Christ dare not appear. Why is it that many even ministers of the Gospel, and well meaning Christians, are guilty of being members of such organizations? It is because they have not been properly catechized. They have not learned to distinguish between “a Supreme Being” and the true and living God. Why do we have such organizations? It is sometimes mentioned that they are here for charity’s sake, but the real truth of it is that people join them for the purpose of making money. The appeal to them is on the ground that they need these organizations for themselves. No man can get help unless he pays for it, and if he fails to pay his dues he will not get any help. The secret of the whole movement is the god of mammon. Is there any country on the face of the globe that has more millionaires than our country has? Can a United States senate, with millionaires as members, make just laws for the poor? Is it any wonder that our young people are praised for having their minds on wealth? Why are all these things? Because the people have not been properly catechized, and are running after the unknown god – the god of mammon. How shall a child obey his parents when the father says Do this, and the mother says Do it not? How can a young man be true to his wife, and to his own mother, when the mother and the daughter-in-law are opposed to each other? How can a man be a true member of the Christian Church, and at the same time be a member of the worldly organizations worshiping the unknown god, and be true to both? “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
(2) Not to catechize means not only more idolatry, but more infidelity. How many Church members there are in the present day who cannot comfort themselves with the Word of God if they do not have the Bible before them; they cannot repeat a single beautiful hymn without the hymn-book; they do not know the necessary doctrines of the Word of God in order to be intelligently saved. The inexcusable ignorance of the present day is leading thousands of people into infidelity. Not to catechize our youth will lead them to practical atheism. The little bird which can neither plow, sow, nor reap, sings songs of praise to the Heavenly Father, and when night comes, flies to its little limb, puts its head under its wing, and sleeps, perfectly satisfied with the Father’s care. Are not people worth more than little birds? Does not God say, “How much better is a man than a sheep?” Why is it that people are asking the questions, What shall we eat? and What shall we drink? and What shall we wear? The truth is that people acknowledging the existence of a god, act as if there were none. Theoretically, we all believe in God; practically we act like atheists. No wonder Jesus cried out,
“O ye of little faith!”
(3) Not to catechize leads not only to more idolatry and more infidelity, but to more insanity. Isn’t it insane to worry? Isn’t it insane to neglect salvation? The Savior does not want us to stop thinking, but He does want us to stop acting as if we thought He were dead, and as if we thought that He would not take care of us, as His dear children. He does want us to stop worrying. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Why should people worry? If anything has happened, and we can help it, let us go and help it, and stop worrying. If we cannot help it, isn’t it insane to worry? We have before us in our text pictures of insanity given most beautifully by the Savior. When you go to an insane asylum you will find some patients sitting down before well laden tables, saying, “What shall we eat?” You will find some standing before good drinking water, saying, “What shall we drink?” You will find some well clothed, thinking they are not clothed. We call these people insane.
Now let us look at our own people. How many there are who are beautiful as to their physical structure; the garments they wear cannot make them more beautiful. When they are properly and cleanly clothed there is nothing in all the world that can make them more beautiful, and yet they are putting the question, What shall we wear? There are some homely people, deformed, – all the clothing in the world could not make them more beautiful than they are, and they are still asking the question, What shall we wear? Isn’t this a state of insanity? Isn’t the body more than raiment? Is not life more than meat? When we go up street we see little children playing, little girls, wearing their mothers’ skirts, in order to appear older than they are, or taller than they are. We call it child’s play. When those little children take off those long skirts, they find they are neither an inch taller, nor a day older. How insane it would be for us older people, who cannot add one cubit to our stature, to try to take the place of God! “Which of you, by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” It is insane for us, who have not the ability to make a grain of wheat, or a drop of water, to constantly ask the question, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? Our duty is to plow and sow, and reap, and pray, and save, and let God take care of us. Why should we ask the question, “What shall we eat?” when the world is groaning under the weight of the great harvest? Why should we ask the “question, “What shall we drink?” when three-fourths of the earth is covered with water, and the springs and rivers are flowing down the valleys? Why should we ask the question, “What shall we wear?” when God is clothing the little birds with feathers, and is painting the most beautful pictures on the lilies? “They toil not, neither do they spin.” There is no painting in the world as beautiful as the lilies, which are cut off in the morning and burned in the afternoon. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” Why are we asking these questions? Because we are not sufficiently catechized in the Providence of God.
And isn’t it insane, as stated before, to neglect salvation? The great king of the East who rode his valuable horse after a hare, and shot the hare, while his horse stumbled and killed himself, was not as insane as the man who runs after gold and mammon and forgets his God and his Church, and his soul, and plunges into eternity – lost. Isn’t it a mark of insanity for a man in this enlightened age, in this Christian world, to live and die a lost man, when he might have been saved, and should have been saved? “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” In an insane asylum in our own State a maiden lady sixty years of age wept, and in explaining why she wept, she said she thought that if she had a little child, and that child should grow up to walk, and would run into the fire it would burn up. She did this because she was insane, not thinking that it would be impossible for her to have that child. And yet, in our own midst we have the same class of people. They are borrowing troubles which never will come. God wants us to know how to live one day at a time, laboring, praying, and saving, and let the days of trouble in the future go, until they come. “Take, therefore, no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”
In conclusion, may this call for catechumens now be extended, with power from on high, for children and adults. Remember that we are to seek first the kingdom of God. The first thing that you are to do, parents with your children, is to have them properly instructed in the saving knowledge of God’s Word. If this is the first duty for children, how much more must it be the first thing for adults who are yet in the bonds of sin. Let all old people who are not yet baptized and identified with the Christian Church, remember that they are already far too late in preparing to meet their God; they have not another moment to waste; their time is short; they, too, must come and seek the kingdom of God.
This call must be accepted, dearly beloved. I stand here in the name of my God. It is not my business; it is God’s business, that now calls upon you to become catechumens, and send your children for instruction.
Not to accept a call in the name of God means certain destruction. Lot’s family received a call from an angel on high to escape from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; some of them laughed at the call, but they laughed too long. The fires that fell and destroyed these cities also destroyed them. In the days of Christ, Jerusalem heard the message, but did not obey. In a very short time the city was destroyed. It is impossible to disobey a command of God without suffering the consequences here in time, and hereafter in eternity. May God, who has spared us until the present hour, lead us all to accept this call, and to learn more of His Word, so that finally when our last hour shall come, we may rejoice in that day when the catechumens were called, and we accepted the invitation. Amen.
Heavenly Father, we ask Thy Divine blessing to rest upon this great Word of Thine, which comes with power to our souls in this morning hour. We pray Thee, O God, that Thou wilt help us to understand that nearly two thousand years have passed since Thou hast made these things so clear and plain, and yet today we are going on in the same path of folly; we are still asking the same insane questions; we are still lacking trust in the true and living God. O Heavenly Father, may the little birds preach to us this morning, if we will not listen to men; may the lilies of the field, beautifully painted by Thine own hand, which are reaped in the morning and cast into the fire in the afternoon, teach us that we, who are more than the fowls of the air or the lilies of the field, are under Thy protecting care. Help us to stop worrying. If there is anything we have reason to worry about, and we can help it, help us to help it; and if we cannot help it, help us to be satisfied. We pray for a strong faith in Thee, Father in heaven, help us to remember that Thou art a rich Father. Son of God, help us to remember that Thou art the only Heir of Heaven, and that we are by faith in Thee, Thy children. O Holy Spirit, Thou who didst brood upon the waters of creation, do Thou give us the new birth, and strengthen us for the battles of life, and help us to be faithful until death. O Lord God, send souls to be instructed in Thy Word, that they may be saved. We ask it all in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven: Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us, this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
From Long, Simon Peter. The Great Gospel. 1904. “Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity. A Call For Catechumens. Matt. 6:24-34.”