LAND OF THE LIVING DEAD
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
"I preach as never sure to preach again,
- Richard Baxter.
My mother carried two little paperback books in her purse till the day she died. She read them over and over until the pages were tattered and falling apart. One of them was titled The Book of Presidents and the other, The United States of America Reference Book (Both by Orville V. Webster, Los Angeles: JBG Publishing, 1990, 1991 respectively). She was reading these books the night before she went into a coma. As I took them out of her purse tonight a flood of tears ran down my cheeks.
Mother was born in Panama, Oklahoma - right across the state line from Fort Smith, Arkansas. She was from the heartland, and America was always in her heart. Mine too. I learned it from her.
Tonight I took my wife to the Hollywood Bowl for an Independence Day concert and a display of fireworks. But I was unmoved by it - utterly. You must understand that this was unusual for me. I have always felt great emotion at such events. Three years ago we attended a Dodger game on the Fourth of July and my eyes filled with tears during the fireworks, as the people in the stadium sang "God Bless America" and the National Anthem. At the Dodger event the crowd was made up of young people. Few of them were white. I was deeply moved by the singing of our old patriotic songs by the Hispanics, Orientals and other races, who made up most of the throng. As they were singing I thought, "The country belongs to them now."
But it was different tonight. My wife and I sat in expensive seats at the Hollywood Bowl. We were surrounded by wealthy white people. Hardly anyone sang as the orchestra played those songs. We came away from the event with the sad thought that they seemed no longer able to feel the passion, tragedy, and splendor of the American experience. For them it was stale and insignificant, just a concert and a display of fireworks - nothing more.
As we walked back to our car we passed a man who was preaching on the sidewalk. The fellow in front of me, a white man about my age, yelled an obscenity at the preacher and made an ugly gesture with his finger. I looked at the faces of the people leaving the concert with us, and saw that they agreed with his crudeness. Sensing what I was feeling, my wife said, "Robert, they're reprobate." I said, "Yes, I'm afraid you're right. I think abortion has done that to them. It has destroyed whatever spark of life was left in their souls."
You cannot give consent to abortion and still be moved by the glory of American freedom.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
If you deny those human rights to more than forty million children, the basic meaning of our nation becomes tasteless, barren, and defunct. The hearts of our people died with those children, under the abortionist's knife. They may have continued living physically, but they committed spiritual suicide by condoning this Holocaust. They live on like zombies - shuffling across the land of the living dead.
Our country is being turned over - literally - to the kids I heard singing at Dodger Stadium. They were not white, but they were moved in their hearts by things that once moved us. Now we stagger on toward the end of our civilization - while they pick up our flag. I hope they do a better job than we did.
The other night I heard a preacher say, "America, with all her faults, is still the greatest nation on earth." I had heard that many times. But I didn't believe him when he said it. "The greatest nation on earth?" In what way? My wife comes from the tiny country of Guatemala. Abortion is against the law there. I wonder if her country may not actually be greater in the sight of God than our blood-drenched, God-forsaken land. I wonder if it may not already be too late to save America.
"But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy" (II Chronicles 36:16).
Surrounded by Hostile Pagans
Back in 1971 Leonard Ravenhill gave a strongly prophetic statement in his book, Sodom Had No Bible:
Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, when editing "Christianity Today," posed the following question to some twenty leading Christian thinkers: "Sighting the final third of the Twentieth Century, what do you think it offers the church?" The answer of Dr. Elton Trueblood intrigued me, and here it is: "By the year 2000, Christians will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant militant paganism" (Sodom Had No Bible, Bethany House Publishers, 1988, p. 13).
Ravenhill went on to say:
For a while I chewed over that statement and swallowed it, but the result was spiritual and mental indigestion. Meditating on it a bit more, I could see that his assessment also fitted the very day in which we are now living (ibid.).
Although Trueblood took a far more liberal stand on many issues than I would, his words already had a ring of truth to them in 1971, and his prediction has been totally fulfilled since then: "By the year 2000, Christians will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant militant paganism." Whatever you may think of Elton Trueblood, you must surely agree that he accurately foretold the state of society in our time. What he said troubled Leonard Ravenhill and it ought to trouble you. The future does not look bright for our churches.
But most evangelicals are not ready to acknowledge our wretched plight. They are still in a mental mode of "denial," a term which psychiatrists use to describe a dying person who is not prepared to face reality. Most of us aren't willing to accept the fact that our churches are just a gasp or two away from death. Leading Christians clutch at almost any false hope to keep from admitting the overwhelming horror of our condition.
A few Sundays ago, a well-known preacher cheerfully told us, "There's been a change under Bush. Things are looking up." This may encourage the young and the nave - but not me. My memory is too long.
Back in 1963 I heard them say, "We have a Protestant president now. Billy Graham even led his inaugural prayer. Things will be all right now that we have a Christian like Lyndon Johnson in the White House." But it soon became apparent that Johnson was almost as morally bankrupt as Kennedy, and he led us into the quagmire of Viet Nam as well!
Then in 1968 they said, "We have a Christian president at last. He even attended a Billy Graham crusade." The newspapers showed a photograph of him standing next to Graham, his head bowed and his hands folded in prayer. Preachers all over the country were sure that Richard M. Nixon would make things right again. Then Watergate exploded! Don't get me wrong. I believe that Nixon was a gifted president who was hounded out of office by his enemies. Only in the future will a new generation reevaluate him as a better man than the liberals made him out to be. But those preachers were wrong in 1968 when they said he would make things right. Richard Nixon did not save us.
Again in 1976 I heard them say, "Jimmy Carter is a real born again Christian. He's a Southern Baptist deacon, teaches Sunday School, and reads his Bible every day, you know. Things will be fine now." Then double-digit inflation hit, and the hostages were locked up in Iran! Carter presided over the most inept maladministration of modern times.
But there was no stopping them. Their bright and brainless predictions went right on in 1981. One of them went so far as to say, "With Carter there was no hope. With Reagan there is hope."
I sat with Francis Schaeffer in his living room the morning Ronald Reagan became president. But Dr. Schaeffer was far too wise to say anything breezy and positive as we watched the inauguration on television. And by this time I myself had been disillusioned enough times to stop putting my hopes in anyone at the White House - even Reagan. This good man's moment came - and went. America was not "turned around." No revival or "spiritual revolution" took place. The years dragged on, and soon Bill Clinton occupied the White House.
None of these "Christian" leaders did America the slightest bit of good morally or spiritually. If you think I'm being too negative, ask yourself - are we better off than we were forty years ago? Or are we worse off?
The other Sunday night I was skeptical when that lighthearted preacher told us, "George W. Bush is President now. Things are looking up." I thought to myself, "Bush only won by a handful of votes. We aren't even certain he can hold on to the Presidency four years from now, much less 'save' the nation!"
The idea that the President can change things is "denial" - a terminally sick nation grasping at a fanciful dream to keep from admitting the awful truth - our way of life is ending - right now!
The Third World Takes Over
Over forty million children have been exterminated since abortion became legal in 1973. Our country has been overrun with aliens as a result. Time magazine has a cover story titled, "Welcome to Amexia: The border is vanishing before our eyes, creating a new world for all of us" (Time, June 11, 2001). You simply cannot kill off forty million children without somebody coming to take their place in the work force a few years later.
Time went on to say that "Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S., transforming cities large and small" (ibid., p. 47). A map accompanying this article shows that they are taking over America. The map gives the percentages of Hispanics now living in several of our cities:
Los Angeles has 47%.
New York has 27%.
Chicago has 26%.
Dallas-Fort Worth has 36%.
Dodge City, Kansas has 43%.
Dalton, Georgia has 40%.
St. James, Minnesota has 24%.
Rupert, Idaho has 35%.
The Hawaiian Islands have 10%.
From coast to coast, and in the islands of the sea, another culture is replacing the Americans who were killed off by abortion. Don't get me wrong. I'm not against the Hispanics! As I said, my own wife is from Guatemala. I'm simply giving you the facts. Norman Rockwell's America is gone. The Dallas Morning News reports that the State of Texas will be over 50% non-white within four years (May 14, 2001, p. 1).
My wife was driving our teen-age boys through Beverly Hills this morning. They pulled up beside a classic Rolls Royce and saw TV personality Jay Leno in the driver's seat. They also noticed there weren't any other white or black people in sight. My wife said it looked like a street in Mexico, filled with Hispanic workers.
This is Beverly Hills - home of the movie stars! By creating a "minefield" of absolute contraception, and aborting any baby that happens to "make it" through alive, these people have virtually sterilized themselves, and are in the process of turning over their burned out city to a more fertile civilization.
A Cultural Death Wish
At the same time that we are experiencing this influx of immigrants, our own traditional families are disappearing. The Washington Post reports, "Married-with-children Still Fading. Census Finds Americans Living Alone in 25% of Households" (May 15, 2001, p. 1).
What do these figures mean? Very simply, they show that black and white Americans have stopped having enough children to maintain our way of life. The country is being overrun by people who tend not to have abortions or use contraceptives on the scale we do. This trend is also happening in the United Kingdom and in Europe.
In the very near future our culture will be dominated by people from another background, with another language. White Americans will age, and our nation will no longer be led by them.
The Christian News reports:
By 2025 half of the American population will be of Hispanic descent. They don't believe in abortion, at least not at the rate at which the white European middle class has accepted itThe future of this country belongs to them. It's just that my children, and particularly my grandchildren, will be a minority in AmericaLife belongs to those who want to live and to those whose children will follow them (Jack Cascione, Christian News, January 31, 2000, p. 15).
When America ceases to have a white majority in about 2025 several things will happen. Medicare, MediCal, Social Security, and other benefits will dry up or be overturned by the new majority in the voting booths. Those who replace us will say, "Why should we pay the bills for those old white Americans?" The "Boomer" generation is in for a rude awakening. No Medicare. No MediCal. No Social Security check.
As a result of our cultural "death wish," these aging Hippies face a very dangerous and uncertain old age.
You simply cannot abort forty million children and still expect them to be here to pay your bills when you want to retire. And you can't expect the new alien majority to support you either. You sowed the extermination of forty million babies and you will reap poverty and terror in your old age as a result. They won't be here to take care of you! "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
Will the Mormons or the Muslims Take Over?
Did you know that Mormons "eat" one Baptist church every week in the State of Texas alone? Yes, they take in about three hundred Baptists a week there. At their current growth rate they will pass the Southern Baptist Convention and become the largest non-Catholic group in America within twenty-five years. Calvary Contender reports,
Mormons Make Converts From Baptists. Mormons claim that they have more converts from Baptists than anybody else (May 15, 2001, p. 2).
SBC President Paige Patterson agreed that "it could be true" (ibid.). All across the U.S. the Mormons are after us.
They aren't the only ones. With the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, America abruptly entered what will probably be a very long war with militant Islam. Columnist Don Feder says, "Wherever Islam seeks to advance by force, it must be resistedAmerica is caught up in a world war" (Don Feder, townhall.com, September 14, 2001, p. 2). Do we have the will to win a prolonged war like this? I have my doubts.
I can picture our burned-out civilization replaced by the strident forces of Allah. "They said that if we didn't convert to their religion, they would cut our throats," one girl reported (Feder, ibid). That's pretty strong stuff for a culture like ours, that gets its ideas about religion from Oprah Winfrey and Homer Simpson, and its morality from Howard Stern and Jerry Springer. Who can say whether Islam will defeat and dominate our culture some day?
Tonight I noticed a striking title as I browsed through a bookstore in Burbank, California. It was called Our Emptying Churches. Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, compares the church to the Titanic. "It is large, elegant, and sinking fast" (Focus on the Family Newsletter, August 1998, p. 2). Dr. Woodrow Kroll, director of Back to the Bible, states that "Between 3,500 and 4,000 churches close their doors each year in the USA. In 1900, 66 percent of the American population belonged to Bible-believing soul-winning churchesYet it is predicted that [in a few years] there will be only 33 percent of the American population who belong to a church" (Woodrow Kroll, The Vanishing Ministry, Kregel Publications, 1991, pp. 31-33). The percentage of people attending conservative churches was cut by half in the 20th century.
Leonard Ravenhill came to our country from England, but he understood the problem in our churches. He laid much of the blame for their weakness on worldly preachers:
A worldly clergyman is a fool above all fools, a madman above all madmen! Such vile, infamous wretches as these are the real ground of the contempt of the clergy. Indolent clergymen, money-loving clergymen, praise-loving clergymen, preferment-seeking clergymen - these are the wretches that cause clergymen in general to be contemned. Worldly clergymen are the pests of the Christian world, the grand nuisance of mankind, a stink in the nostrils of God (Leonard Ravenhill, Sodom Had No Bible, Bethany House, 10th printing, 1988, p. 120).
The churches are powerless to help our crumbling society because too many of them are led by ministers who are so worldly that they don't seek the true conversion of their members. Our decaying churches are filled with lost people as a result.
Back in the 1940s Bob Jones, Sr. estimated that 50% of church people were lost. Dr. W. A. Criswell felt that 75% of the members of his church were unsaved. A. W. Tozer and Southern Baptist consultant Jim Elliff gave an even gloomier picture. Both of these men said that 90% of evangelical church members are unconverted (see The Church That Will Be Left Behind by R. L. Hymers, Jr., Hearthstone, 2001, p. 3).
Why has this dismal situation occurred? Simply because many of our leading pastors are too worldly to care. They bring junk music into their churches. They preach fifteen-minute "motivational" messages. They close the Sunday evening services. They allow their young people to come to church dressed like the neo-cretans in our failing culture. They have even brought dancing into many so-called "fundamental" churches. What's next? Anything goes - simply because these "big" preachers don't care about the souls of their people.
Oh, I know the arguments these pastors use. I know they are reacting to the Phariseeism and hypocrisy they saw when they were young. But they have rebelled the wrong way. Instead of seeking the reality of God, they have turned to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Instead of turning from Phariseeism to God, they have turned to the world, the flesh, and the Devil. They have poisoned our churches instead of getting our people truly converted. As Dr. Tozer put it, they preach sermons that contain a
flabby Christianity, intellectually impoverished, dull, repetitious [that] to a great many persons are just plain boring. This is peddled as the very faith of our fathers in direct lineal descent from Christ and the Apostles. We spoon-feed this insipid pablum to our inquiring youth and, to make it palatable, spice it up with carnal amusements filched from the unbelieving world. It is easier to entertain than to instruct, it is easier to follow degenerate public taste than to think for oneself, so too many of our evangelical leaders let their minds atrophy while they keep their fingers nimble operating religious gimmicks to bring in the curious crowd (A. W. Tozer, The Set of the Sail, Christian Publications, 1986, pp. 67-68).
The Pests of the Christian World
What is the motive behind this kind of ministry? The answer is simple enough. These "progressive" preachers are in the main men who have never been converted. Most of them were "church kids" who grew up in the stuffy mildew of a dying religion. They raised their hands or came forward at "invitation time." They were instantly pronounced "saved" and baptized into the fellowship of the church. They grew up snickering in the pews, passing notes, and telling off-colored jokes after Sunday School. Some of these "church kids" were then manipulated into going to Bible school or seminary, where they were taught to manipulate others, the way they themselves had been manipulated. As a result, these unconverted "church kids" now lead most of the larger congregations in our nation into every hare-brained scheme of human manipulation that comes along. You name it: vapid music, insipid Bible versions, mawkish preaching and "touchy-feely" professionalism on the one hand - and Ruckmanism, incompetent evangelism, and cold Phariseeism on the other. The "church kids" of the sixties and seventies are taking over our pulpits - and killing our churches. As Ravenhill said, these "clergymen are the pests of the Christian world, the grand nuisance of mankind, a stink in the nostrils of God."
We need something better than what they offer us with their dry-as-dust "expository sermons," with hackneyed ideas culled from the modern writings of a few shallow authors. We need something better than their superficial form of evangelism and refusal to personally counsel the lost. I say that we need something better than these Philistines have given us!
But where can we look to find better examples and better models for ministry? I say we should look to the Puritans! These preachers paved the way for the First Great Awakening - and the Second Great Awakening - and the Third Great Awakening! And if we hope to have a real revival in our day, it is to the Puritans that we must look once again.
And there is no better place to start than with Richard Baxter, the most prolific writer and preacher of all the Puritans. I believe that the writings of Baxter are exactly what we need in our churches today. Let me tell you about this man who was highly regarded by George Whitefield, John Wesley, C. H. Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and a host of others.
Richard Baxter's Message
The best known of the Puritan preachers is Richard Baxter (1615-1691). He has been called "the most successful preacher, winner of souls, and nurturer of souls that England has ever had." Edmund Calamy called him "The most voluminous theological writer in the English language." Baxter wrote over 160 books.
Born in Shropshire into a somewhat poor family, he never attended a university and was always physically weak. Yet he acquired great learning on his own. He became the pastor in Kidderminster, a town near Birmingham, in 1647. The people who lived there were very wicked when he came. The pastor he replaced was a drunkard, who preached only once every three months! Hardly any of the church members were converted when his ministry began. During his years at Kidderminster he visited each person individually every year, among the 800 families in his church. He taught his people one-by-one. Baxter wrote about his method of pastoring in his famous book, The Reformed Pastor. John Wesley thought so highly of this book that he recommended it to his Methodist preachers. I believe it to be the greatest book on pastoring which has ever been written.
Baxter sought to mediate between Arminianism and Calvinism by advocating a form of free will, through grace. He believed that his method was a middle way, which he called "mere Christianity" (in the twentieth century C. S. Lewis used Baxter's phrase as the title of one of his popular books).
Baxter's great strength lay in his evangelistic preaching and his pastoral ability. The main purpose of his sermons was to see the lost converted. His book, A Call to the Unconverted, is a hard-hitting plea for the lost to come to Christ. The outstanding feature of his preaching was his earnest zeal. In both his writing and his sermons he put forth his belief that preachers need "the skill necessary to make plain the truth, to convince the hearersto screw truth into their minds and work Christ into their affections."
Although he preached in Westminster Abbey, before the King, and before Parliament, his favorite pulpit was in his own church, speaking to the poor people of Kidderminster.
He was put in prison in the Tower of London for eighteen months, rather than submit to the Church of England, after the Act of Uniformity was passed. He was often visited while in prison by the famed Bible commentator Matthew Henry.
Baxter's Treatise on Conversion was written in 1657. It is a wonderful book, but the wording is too lengthy and complicated for most readers today. I have condensed it, rearranged some chapters, and changed difficult words to simple ones, to reach the less literate mind of modern man. I have tried my best to convey the basic ideas Baxter presented in the original book in an interesting and readable way. I hope it is a blessing to you. It corrects the shallow preaching of "decisionism" which has overthrown true evangelism in our time.
Before you dismiss a book written back in 1657, remember these words from Winston Churchill:
"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."
Most current religious writers repeat each other's ideas with no input from an objective source. Baxter is a voice from outside the "system" - a ray of light that penetrates the social vacuum, and shatters the stereotypical assumptions of the arrogant snobs who palm themselves off as the new and progressive leaders of evangelicalism, but who actually offer only hackneyed platitudes. In stark contrast, Baxter's thoughts are so old that they spring from the page with newness of life. His message is exactly what our churches and our nation need.
I love America with all my heart. My father's father and grandfather came here from England for a better life than they had slaving in a mine shaft in Cumbria. My mother's people were flag-waving patriots from the heartland, who instilled in me a deep love for our nation which has never faded. People who know me best can tell you that there is not the slightest pretense or artificiality in this chapter. Nothing was said for "effect." I believe what I have written in the very marrow of my bones.
As I sit here alone tonight, with tears streaming down my face, I beg you - in the name of God - pay attention to Richard Baxter! Let him
speak to our dying nation!
R. L. Hymers, Jr.
The Pastor's Study
July 4, 2001
You have just read the introductory chapter to A Puritan Speaks to Our Dying Nation. You can order the complete book for $12.95 by phoning (818) 352-0452.