A Sermon by
Dr. Walter A. Maier

"Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips."---Psalm 45:2

God of All Grace and Glory:
 Gladden our hearts with the divine assurance that in the Lord Jesus Christ everyone of us can find pardon despite our sins; peace with Thee, though war surround us; courage even if the sorrows of affliction threaten to overwhelm us!  Mercifully look down on all troubled souls throughout the land!  Answer their prayers!  Supply their needs!  Turn them to Christ!  Recall them to Thy love!  Father, as we ask Thy Son's guidance for our own souls and bodies, we entreat Thee with our whole hearts to direct our beloved nation along the paths of truth and righteousness, to bless all in authority with the deep desire to follow and please Thee.  We have not deserved Thy consideration, for we have too confidently leaned on the arm of flesh, instead of putting our trust in Thy grace.  Penitently we pray: Forgive us our transgressions for Jesus' sake and help us in every hour of need!  We ask it in the Savior's glorious name.  Amen.

 On a fatal September day in 1939 a weary man stood before the House of commons to explain why England had declared war.  In a halting voice he protested desperately, "Everything that I have worked for, everything that I have hoped for, everything that I have believed during my public life has been crashed into ruins this morning."  This pale speaker was Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, marked for death even as he spoke, for he lived scarcely a year longer.  Yet his song of sorrows still goes on, intoned by millions who today cry --- and some of your voices swell this lament --- "Everything that we have worked for, everything that we have hoped for, everything that we have believed in has crashed into ruins."

 How different the haughty self-assurance a quarter century ago!  Then "revolution" was the watchword; "We are on the way up!" the slogan; "On to the golden age!" The marching cry; "No more war!" the rosy pledge.  But at the height of this overconfidence the earth was ripped by the explosion of international hatred' and when the smoke of four years' struggle lifted, 8,500,000 corpses were counted on the field of battle.

 If men without God were not stark mad, the prohibitive price paid for World War I would have stifled the lust for blood.  But just as jungle beasts slink back into their lairs to lick their wounds and regain strength , so men waited for a new generation; and then, only twenty-one years after the "war to end all wars," World Conflict II began.

 We ought now be honest enough to admit that the boasting catch- phrases exalting human advance are cruel lies. Whatever progress this generation sees, is largely scientific or mechanical, not spiritual or moral.  We boast of stratosphere flights streaking across the continent in less than twelve hours; but the airplane also helps a criminal commit forgery in Los Angles before breakfast, bigamy in Chicago before lunch, murder in New York before dinner, all on the same day! The radio is marvelous; yet how dangerous it can become when used by unscrupulous interests to teach children crime-tactics, to introduce young people to temptations, and to stupefy nations with poisoned propaganda!

 As the scope of war increases, taking its toll on civilians — their homes blasted away before their eyes; on sailors, their ships torpedoed at high sea; on women and children, barely existing on starvation rations; on innocent hostages, fifty shot to avenge an assassinated Nazi general; — where in all this hideous hatred and sin can we find beauty for the soul, peace for the mind, happiness for the heart?  Certainly not in modern education!  If culture were the key to peace and progress, would ours be the only generation which has witnessed two world conflicts — at a time when we have more learning and laboratories, more culture and colleges than ever before?  Not Zulus, Hottentots, Congo pygmies or Australian bushmen are leaders in this aggression, but highly civilized people.  Neither can we discover the radiance of a better day in legislation (if larger law books meant increased happiness, our statute-burdened age would be the most joyous), nor in any religious creed that sets the full Gospel aside.  As we thank you for the remarkable response to last Sunday's message, the largest for any opening broadcast in these nine years, let me point, high above the ugliness of sin, the squalor of human vice, the specter of increasing bloodshed, the scarecrows of human fears, to our "fairest Lord Jesus,"


 concerning whom we read this ancient record in Psalm Forty-five, verse two, "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips."


 Right at the outset some may ask why we believe that this psalm speaks of Christ, when He lived long centuries after these lines were written.  We should recall, however, that the forty-fifth psalm is a a prophecy centering in the Lord Jesus because it is so quoted by the New Testament, in the first chapter of Hebrews.  The Bible does what no other volume has ever achieved — prophesy future events with accurate truth.  If you yourself need a convincing demonstration of the Scriptures' power; if you want to persuade some skeptic that the Sacred Volume is the errorless truth, take recourse to the proof furnished by fulfilled prophecy.  The Bible must come from God, for only He knows the future; He alone could reveal, centuries in advance, the startling course of our Savior's life, death, resurrection, as well as scores of other events in the histories of individuals and nations.  While I appeal to you, my fellow-clergymen, to preach with increasing force this unanswerable argument from fulfilment, I also plead with you not to mislead your people by predicting that after the war a golden age of peace and plenty will reign.  On the contrary, we ought to be prepared, at the conclusion of hostilities, for heavy hardship.  Do not deceive yourself or your hearers by promising that the struggle will bring our country closer to God!  History clearly teaches that international strife has never built the Church or produced a widespread acceptance of the Lord Jesus.  War tears churches down.  The worldliness, vice, irreligion that every conflict, no matter how completely justified, provokes, creates unspeakable damage of Christ's cause.

 When the Hebrew psalmist in prophetic vision sees Christ and says, "Thou art fairer than the children of men," he plainly implies that Jesus is more than a man.  Hold fast to this cornerstone truth!  If Jesus were merely a human being, as your and I, though He were the best truest,  noblest man ever to walk the face of the earth; if He came into this world as we did and left it as we shall, he could not be the Savior, and our reliance on Him would be misplaced.  "Put not your trust in man," the infallible Scriptures warn.  The deep-rooted trouble with these tangled, twisted years is this, that our age has placed its confidence in mortal guides who, with their broken promises and frightful failures, have become blind leaders of the blind.  For help in trouble, for the lightening of burdens, for the removal of sin, for life after death, you need a Helper, a Burden-bearer, A Redeemer, a Victor over the grave who is almighty, unlimited in power.  Eternal praise be to His holy name, our Jesus is God in the full, unrestricted sense of that glorious term.  He taught that He was God and proved that he was.  Do not argue, question, or object!  Instead, accept, believe, trust!  Take Christ in faith as your God, and He will manifest His divine power in your life!

 I know, of course that thousands of churches once built on this Foundation have shifted to the quicksand denial of His deity.  But no matter how prominent or persuasive the teachers who seek to pull Jesus from the throne of His Godhead, I ask you who are His to uphold this truth with prayer, testimony, action.  A man who denies that Jesus as his God is not a Christian and has no place in the Savior's Church.

 Now, what does the text mean when it declares, "Thou art fairer than the children of men"? Was our Lord, as he walked the pathways of Palestine, handsome, commanding, godlike in form?  Today millions of pictures of political candidates are scattered throughout the land before elections.  Men in public office are honored, even during their lifetime, when their portraits are hung in conspicuous places.  Admittedly, however, we know little about Christ's appearance, for we have no drawing, paintings, statues or detailed descriptions of His person left by those who were blessed in beholding Him.  On occasion there may have been about Jesus something kingly and commanding.  He was faced by a mob of murderous enemies with rocks in their hands, ready to stone Him to death; yet displaying His divine power, He could stride safely through their midst.  Even when Jesus permitted Himself to be captured, one glance from him was enough to cast heavily armed soldiers helpless to the ground.  Usually, however, Christ went about as an ordinary traveler, a typical working man.  The Son of God and the Redeemer of the race was often unnoticed during His life and despised, disgraced even during the anguish of His death.  In that suffering we must discover the real, saving Christ, the only Redeemer who can ever assure us of heaven.  When we follow Pilate's direction "Behold the man" and see our thorn- crowned Savior; when — on, my fellow redeemed, drop everything now to concentrate your thought on this crucified Christ — we find Him on the cross, His wounded countenance marked by the blood and sweat and tears, not of a statesman, but of the world's most agonized Sufferer, we must confess with the prophet Isaiah,"He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is not beauty that we should desire Him."

 How, then, can the text say of Jesus, "Thou art fairer than the children of men"?  To discern Christ's true radiance, we must fall on our knees in penitent faith before Him.  A scholar once entered the Lutheran Church in Copenhagen to view Thorwaldsen's world-famous statue of Christ.  At first he seemed critical, dissatisfied. Then a child, aware of his disappointment, explained, "You must kneel down and look up into His face."  The visitor followed the child's direction, and, kneeling, he saw the marble masterpiece in a new, glorious light.  He found a countenance of heavenly beauty directed toward him. Similarly, when we humble ourselves before the Lord Jesus as our only Redeemer from sin, when we become as nothing and He looms before us as everything, He becomes "fairer than the children of men."  Christ's beauty, then, as our Scripture testifies when it continues, "grace is poured into Thy lips," is His grace — and what inexhaustible treasure, what unlimited mercy, what endless love are contained in that short five-letter word, grace!

 Consult your dictionaries to find its exact meaning, and you will discover that it is widely used in law, royalty, music, sports, in a dozen other ways!  But take your Bible, stand beneath Calvary's cross, and "grace" has only one ever-blessed assurance.  It is the mercy of God in Jesus; it is Christ's compassion, the love that brought Him from heaven's highest glories to be born of a virgin on this earth of evil and sorrow, to live as a man among men, yet without sin, and then, as the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," to bear in His own holy body the transgressions of every man, woman, child during the past, present, and future of all history.  Forcefully does Scripture teach — and nothing else is the Bible truth concerning our Lord's grace — that His death on the cross was the one perfect, all-sufficient, all-embracing sacrifice for human iniquity.  He left nothing undone, unpaid, unfinished.  His mercy cannot be bought, earned, or received as a reward.  It is not restricted to a few or reserved for those classified as the most unselfish or most virtuous among men. Your eternity in heaven or in hell, joy indescribable, face to face forever with Jesus, or banishment never ending, in darkness and death, this is the "either-or" that always comes with the acceptance or rejection of divine grace.

 Therefore, my fellow-redeemed, think prayerfully, contritely, trustingly of this indescribable gift and its full, free salvation, Certain great church bodies today officially teach that it is not enough to believe in Christ's compassion.  They insist that you must live so worthily that by charitable acts, repeated prayers, prescribed acts of penance you literally pay your way to heaven.  But that is a man-made creed, not the Savior's Gospel of grace.  Jesus wants hearts crushed in contrite confession of their sins.  He welcomes the sinner who cries out, "I am less than nothing in God's sight, for I am false, unclean, impure, full of transgression; but Jesus is more than everything to me, since on the cross my sins have become His; my punishment, the penalty He bore; my condemnation, the nails that riveted Him to the accursed tree."

 That merciful promise of salvation through faith is the heart of our Christian creed.  This week, as the Reformation anniversary approaches, we recall gratefully the epochal work of Martin Luther, who, as no prophet since the apostolic days, led believers in all lands and subsequent ages to the cross with the cry "Only by grace, only through faith!"   As few men, Luther had tried to earn the redemption which Jesus has fully won for everyone; he sought to pay the tremendous debt the Savior's suffering and death have canceled altogether.  He employed every available means of putting himself into God's favor, dedicating his life to the Church and entering the holy orders.  He took his monastic duties so seriously, mortified his body so systemically, practiced the rites of penance so relentlessly, that often he collapsed under this self-inflicted torture.  But all his pilgrimages and prayers, his devotion to holy relics and miracles, his fasting days and sleepless nights drove him into deeper despair.  Only when he learned the meaning of "mercy" and behold in Christ not an angry Master, but the fairest Lord Jesus, with words of grace for him; when with Saint Paul he could "conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law"; when he could exult, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God," only then did the peace of pardon completely take possession of his soul as he became the great Reformer of Christendom.

 May you have a personal knowledge of this complete compassion!  Every radiant Gospel promise which fell from Christ's grace-filled lips can be yours.  "Be of good cheer," He says, "thy sins be forgiven thee!"  Take this assurance at its full value and let the joy of salvation reign in your heart!  "Learn of Me," says Jesus, "and ye shall find rest unto your souls!"  Believe this!  Build your hope on that truth, you, the restless and distressed!  Go all the way with Christ!  Keep nothing back from Him!  Trust Him entirely, and you will find a calm, confident rest, even in these terror-filled days!  "Be not afraid," Jesus repeatedly declares.  "Let hot your heart be troubled," He adds.  If only you of small faith could catch the overflowing pledge of these words!  With the Savior you can throw off worry, assured that life's hardships and sorrows come to you as God's child from His grace, to help keep you safe and sure in Christ.  "I am the Resurrection and the Life," Jesus, the Easter Victor over death, proclaims in triumph, and no matter how blasphemously godless men contradict this promise, you who have been bereaved of a dear one, fallen asleep in faith, unshrinkingly believe that, by His grace there is a resurrection of the body and a life everlasting.

 In this heightless, depthless, endless grace of our Lord, we find the beautiful Savior.  No human loveliness, earthly brilliance, or radiance of natural splendor can be compared with Him who is "fairer than the children of men."  Well do we sing:

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flow'rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorr'wing spirit sing.

 But if it is impossible to describe His compassion, we dare not overlook this warning: With all its limitless mercy, His grace is not irresistible.  God will not force His forgiveness on anyone.  A hundred years ago in Pennsylvania, George Wilson, a murderer, sentenced to be hanged, was pardoned by President Andrew Jackson; but the hardened criminal rejected the pardon, insisting that it could never be legal and valid until he accepted it.  President Jackson consulted the Supreme Court of the United States, and Chief Justice John Marshall read this verdict: "It is hardly to be supposed that one under sentence of death would refuse to accept a pardon, but if it is refused, it is no pardon.  George Wilson must be hanged."  And George Wilson was hanged.  We shake our heads at such stubbornness, but some of you are even more perverse.  I have been broadcasting for nine seasons.  How much longer must I plead before some of you find in Christ the fairest Lord Jesus, with full grace for you?  How many more years will elapse before those living under God's wrath repent and return to the heavenly Father?  If you value the eternal welfare of your immortal soul, crystallize that inner urge and approach Christ now, weighed down by sins yet supported by His assurance "My grace is sufficient for thee!"  While the Spirit stirs your heart, write us at once!  Every letter will be treated with confidence, sympathy, prayer.  Thousands of pastors who preach this same Gospel are eager to bring you the Savior's message.  Grasp the blessing and strength of Christ-centered faith now, and He, fairest Lord Jesus, removing hideous sins, will make you pure, radiant, glorious in God's sight!


 For the Savior's grace not only assures us of forgiven sin, defeated death, sealed salvation, opened heaven: it also pledges us a new birth in the beauty of holiness.  His merciful words bring purity, joy and loveliness to life, for he Himself assures those who are His, "Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you," Again, it is the promise of His Scripture, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away"; — the old, repulsive rule of ruin has been broken, "Behold, all things are become new."

 God's enemies may deny the blessed change which comes through faith in Christ's assurance and the washing of Baptism, but no truth is more positive than this, that by our Savior's grace, sinners, guilty of damnable wrong, can be reborn as God's saints — never perfect and stainless, of course, but always becoming more Christlike. Unbelievers should heed the warning spoken by an old Fiji Island chief who, some years after Missionary Hunt's death, was visited by an infidel English earl.  The nobleman could not escape being impressed with the amazing changes wrought on these islands by the Gospel, but he was not willing to concede that Christianity deserved the credit.  When he attacked the Bible and belittled the missionaries, the aged native leader, pointing to a near-by stone oven, said: "In that oven we roasted human bodies for our great feasts.  If it had not been for the good missionaries, for the old Book, and for Jesus Christ, who changed us from savages into God's children, you would be killed and roasted in yonder oven, and we would feed on your body in no time."  In the same line of reasoning we declare: How ugly, sordid, blood thirsty the world becomes as soon as it rejects Christ!  Let those who would overthrow His Gospel tell us what they have done to raise the fallen, cheer the faint- hearted, banish evil, promote good!  Has Modernism, denying the Lord Jesus, improved the world, altered men's hearts, curbed evil?  Has atheism ever succeeded in beautifying an ugly, misshapen life?  But the Savior never fails.  He takes men and women who have persuaded themselves that they have no hope, that they have fallen too low ever to be restored — drunkards, prostitutes, murderers, would be suicides, victims of horrifying vices — and by granting faith in His glorious grace makes them sparkle with radiant purity.  The blessed Redeemer, and this is His promise today, has cleansing grace for all who feel that sin has crowded everything good, clean, true, honest, our of your lives, who, for years have abused your bodies, poisoned your minds, stifled your consciences, sought to kill your own souls. If you accept His pardon for sin, the Holy spirit will make you new, glorious creatures in Christ, led by hope in place of despair, truth rather than falsehood, love instead of lust, praying rather than cursing.

 You ask for proof, and with overflowing thanks to God I point you to Christ's grace manifestly and marvelously at work in these broadcasts.  A Pennsylvania woman, mother of eight children but deserted by all of them, her husband blind, her heart darkened with worry, wrote "I was about to take my life when I heard your promise of Christ.  Now, through Him I have a hold on life again."  A prisoner in Michigan testifies: "Through your broadcast Christ has brought peace, hope, and happiness to a tired, weary heart.  You have raised a soul from despair, sin, sorrow to salvation" A Minnesota listener declares: "For sixteen years I walked my own sinful way, drinking gambling, and throwing my life away.  Then, two years ago, I heard your broadcasts and saw what a lost and condemned sinner I was.  I got in touch with a Lutheran pastor, and we both got on our knees, and he prayed for me.... I am a new man."  A Connecticut mother joyfully exclaims  "Praise God, your radio messages and the pamphlets have proved a godsend to the young man we took into our home.  He was a big sinner and a drunkard.  We thank God that he has finally reformed and accepted Christ as his personal Savior."  An Iowa pastor relates how he heard the broadcast in the company of an ex- soldier, and alcohol addict, who, after the message, fell on his knees to cry: "God be merciful to me a sinner and save me for Jesus' sake!  I mean it!  I mean it!"  Though penniless, he was thank God, penitent and hopeful!  Christian prayer was offered for him; today he is a new man with a changed heart.

 Everyone, without any exception whatever, can be blessed by the same transformation shown in these and hundreds of other radio letters.  You young people, tempted to break God's law of purity and decency, urged to throw off all restraints, to revel in immorality, realize what it cost the Lord to free you from past sins, and to strengthen you for firm resistance against future evil!  Cling to Christ as His Word appeals, "Keep thyself pure!"  Trust Jesus!  Make Him your daily Companion!  Throw away all sex novels and sex stories!  Keep a safe distance from suggestive motions pictures!  Stay out of taverns, dance halls, every disreputable place where the Savior will not accompany you — and by His grace, He will give you the joy of a beautiful, grace-filled life, and if it be for your spiritual blessing, the happiness of a future home at the side of a clean, consecrated helpmate for life!

 You older folks whose home life is marked by hatred instead of love, quarrel rather than quiet joy, give Jesus control over the family, and He will help stifle selfishness, jealousy, faultfinding!  His Spirit will show you how husband and wife, parents and children, through faith, can start over again to find harmony and contentment!

 You, the victims of drunkenness or destructive personal habits, remember, though everything else collapses, Christ's grace can always help!  There is hope for all who trustingly approach the Savior with the pleas "Lord, save us, we perish!"  He can change the blackest heart.  Give Him yours!  Let Him cleanse it and fill it with pure, holy desires!

 You business men who know that the commercial world is filled with fraud, theft, dishonesty; workingmen who during these critical years will be tempted repeatedly to misuse your organized power; servants of the government who see graft and connivance; the soldiers, sailors, airmen, unselfishly devoting years of your life to the defense of this country, against whom, however, the legions of hell work overtime and with redoubled force; all who are tempted to stoop to the hideous service of sin — to you the call at this crossroads in our national destiny re-echoes, "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel!"  Accept Jesus, "fairer than the children of men," and from Him learn the beauty of a consecrated life, strengthened to defeat temptation, guided to follow the path of His righteousness!

 Oh, how marvelous if the Savior's Gospel could be spread throughout the world and His holiness live in every soul!  Perplexed as you are by the spreading war, I tell you that the highest pledge for peace lies in the Lord Jesus.  Everyone else has failed.  Diplomacy, militarism, appeasement, international treaties, have all collapsed.  But Christ can still help.  If only trust in His grace would rule in more human hearts, the ravages of warfare would be minimized.  Let a man experience the Savior's full mercies and he will stop war-profiteering and cease enriching himself by the suffering of others!  He will renounce his lying propaganda, his mania for cruelty, his love of destruction.  Put the love of Christ into a statesman's soul, and he will not break his promises or revoke his covenants; he will follow the Scriptural appeal"Seek peace and pursue it!"

 This is an eleventh-hour plea asking that the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel of His grace cover our land.  How gleefully hell laughs at our world in flames and how restlessly unclean spirits chafe at their leashes, straining to be set loose over the land for the destruction of law, order, civic honesty, morality, religion!

 But come what may, we who are the Savior's can still have His grace within us.  We look steadfastly to the time when He will appear in His second coming or when we see Him in the resurrection of glory.  Then we shall — oh, radiant promise! — "be like Him," our precious Savior, without sin, sorrow, disappointment, death — perfect in the peace of His redemption.  Until the dawn of that heavenly radiance and bliss beyond compare, follow Him ever more closely, and as the beauty of His grace reflects itself in our reborn lives, dedicate each day to Him anew through the pledge with which these broadcasts have closed:

Beautiful Savior, King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man,
Truly I'd love Thee,
Truly I'D serve Thee,
Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.
 O Jesus, grant us Thy beauty, as Thou has promised!  Amen.

[The preceding Lutheran Hour Sermon first aired in October 1941, and is included in the book “For Christ and Country”.]