Elmer L. Jorgenson (1886-1968)

Elmer L. Jorgenson (1886-1968)

The following article came from the January 1946 “Missionary Messenger.” 

NINETEEN HUNDRED FIFTY-TWO years ago – there being an error of four years in our common calendar — there was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, the Saviour who is Christ the Lord. The angel of heaven spoke of peace and good will at his coming, and representatives of the human classes, Plebian and Patrician, the shepherds and the wise men, came to adore him.

What kind of a world was it into which the Saviour was born? What was the need that the son of God should come incarnate, and what was the moral and spiritual state of mankind? Three solemn facts will tell the story.

  1. All had sinned. There was not a man or a woman in the world, a boy or a girl of accountable age, that had not done that which was wrong in the sight of God. This is the dark background of Paul’s gospel in the book of Romans:

“There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one . . For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”

  1. The second thing is this, that sin had wrought fearful consequences in the lives of men. Sin was finding men out — in their consciences, in their minds, in their bodies, in their children, in their homes, and in the hopeless dying hour.

It is said of Athens, though at a certain time almost every man was intellectually fit to be a senator, the city was at its lowest moral ebb. It is said that in Rome unspeakably filthy things — things which still occur in the world, but which in our land of Bibles have been driven somewhat under cover by public opinion — it is said that these occurred upon the stage before the public gaze. In many parts of the civilized world woman-kind was but little thought of; and the baby born, if a girl, would often be thrown to the ash heap. It is still so in parts of our modern world, where Christ and the missionaries of the Cross have not gone. For Jesus Christ is especially the woman’s Saviour — not only in the spiritual and eternal sense, but in the social sense. It is not strange that the woman is often more religious than the man, for it is Jesus Christ who gave her a place beside man in the social world. The strange thing is that any woman can lie down to sleep at night without first bending her knees in adoration to Him who lifted her from the dung-hill to the pedestal that she now holds among men.

Such, briefly, were the conditions of society at the first Advent.

  1. There was no one to save. Angels and prophets there had been in the world, philosophers and teachers of morals and ethics there were; but there was no one who could cope with the element of human weakness and moral depravity. Their fingers were not long enough, their arms were not strong enough — there was no one who could help.

In such a scene and such a state, in the long ago and the far away,

“In the beauty of the lilies,

Christ was born across the sea,

With the glory in his bosom,

That, transfigures you and me.”

 “He shall be great,” said the angel Gabriel, “and shall be called Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.”

And again the angel said, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.”

There are teachers, and preachers, and doctors, and lawyers, and men who get things done; but here is a God-man who was sent to be the Saviour of the world.

“God,” said a black man to Dan Crawford, the African missionary — “you are always talking about ‘God’; who is this God? And is that his name, or his business?” The startled missionary had to think before answering that one: “Why, after all, that is his business. His name is Jehovah, ‘I Am That I Am,’ his holy covenant name; but ‘God,’ that represents what he does.” And here we have the name “Jesus,” which means “Saviour.” It stands not so much for his name as his business. He has undertaken the work of salvation for us — salvation from the guilt of sin; salvation from the power of sin; and salvation at last from the scenes of sin.

There is, first, salvation from the guilt of sin. The guilt of sin is our past record of wrong-doing. It is this thing that burdens the heart and conscience, and that damns the soul at last. Against our awful guilt, Christ offers his abundant pardon. He said, “The son of man has power on earth to forgive sins”; and even now, in heaven, he has that same power — through the simple terms of the gospel message which he left for acceptance in the hands of his ambassadors on earth.

Then there is, second, salvation from the power of sin. “Everyone that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin. If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36.)

“He breaks the power of cancelled sin

And sets the prisoner free;

His blood availed for all our race,

And it avails for me.”

I was standing on a certain corner of this city years ago, waiting for a country car. Beside me, also waiting, was a man carrying certain pumps and other curious paraphernalia that I didn’t understand. As we fell to talking, he explained that he was a cistern cleaner; and I could see that he felt very highly of himself in that line. But almost every other word was an oath, and the air around him was blue with blasphemy. At last I asked him why he must so take God’s name in vain. He answered that he hated it, but it was a habit he could not break. That was my chance to tell him of One who could deliver him — whose very business it is to deliver men from the power of sin, as it was this poor man’s business to clean cisterns.

But finally, there is salvation from the scenes of sin. Of that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God — the saints’ eternal home — that house of many mansions that stands beside the crystal sea — of that blessed place we read:

“Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates to the city. Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and everyone that loveth and maketh a lie.”

“And there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the lamb’s book of life.”